BMCR 2004.09.26

Les Cités grecques et la guerre en Asie Mineure à l’époque hellénistique. Actes de la journée d’études de Lyon, 10 octobre 2003

, , , , , Les cités grecques et la guerre en Asie mineure à l'époque hellénistique : actes de la journée d'études de Lyon, 10 octobre 2003. Collection Perspectives historiques,. Paris: Maison des sciences de l'homme, Villes et territoires, 2004. 274 p. : ill., couv. ill. ; 24 cm.. ISBN 286906182X €28.00 (pb).

This volume, opened by an introduction by Pierre Ducrey, comprises seven papers given at a conference in Lyon on the subject of Greek cities at war in Hellenistic Asia Minor. It combines a tradition of military studies1 with research in the field of topography and epigraphy of Asia Minor, dominated in the past by Louis Robert. The editors, Jean-Christophe Couvenhes and Henri-Louis Fernoux, also figure as the authors of the longest papers;2 the conclusions are drawn by Maurice Sartre. The theme’s relevance, one may suggest, lies in the fact that today’s Europe, as Hellenistic Asia Minor, has not given up playing a role, however subordinate, in world power games.

Patrice Brun, “Les cités grecques et la guerre: l’exemple de la guerre d’Aristonicos” (21-54), measures the impact of the revolt of Aristonicus on the Greek cities of Asia Minor, drawing many of his observations from a rich epigraphic dossier. Unfortunately, the publication of two very important decrees from Metropolis came to late to be taken in full consideration.3 Comparing the literary with the epigraphical evidence, as B. does, one can effectively perceive that each city played an independent military role under these circumstance, adding its armed forces either to the side of the “royalists” or to that of the Romans.

The essay by Andrzej S. Chankowski, “L’entraînement militaire des éphèbes dans les cités grecques d’Asie mineure à l’époque hellénistique: nécessité pratique ou tradition atrophée?” (55-76), deals with the military training of young people in the gymnasium. Our knowledge in this field has also been greatly enhanced by epigraphic documents like the gymnasiarchical law from Beroia (Macedonia). The military role effectively played on the battlefield by young educated aristocrats is not to be underestimated: accordingly C. suggests that the ephebes could well accomplish the task of περίπολοι, patrolling the frontiers of their countries.

Jean-Christophe Couvenhes, “Les cités grecques d’Asie Mineure et le mercenariat à l’époque hellénistique” (77-113), is a detailed study of the role played by mercenary soldiers in the cities that subsidized them. It is, however, necessary to draw a distinction between those mercenary forces that were hired by the cities and those that were imposed as garrison by a king: in case of good behaviour soldiers could be rewarded by the city, although reluctantly, with the grant of citizenship. The importance of mercenaries in Hellenistic Asia Minor did not cease at all after the Peace of Apameia in 188 BC, which forbade the Selucid kings to hire soldiers beyond the Taurus. An appendix provides text and translation of the peace treaty between Eupolemos and Theangela, where arrangements for the mercenary troops involved in the war are considered.

Henri-Louis Fernoux, “Les cités s’entraident dans la guerre: historique, cadres institutionnels et modalités pratiques des conventions d’assistance dans l’Asie mineure hellénistique” (115-176), distinguishes several stages of political instability in the history of Hellenistic Asia Minor, separated by dramatic events like the Galatian invasion (278/7 BC the third Syrian War (246/1 BC and the first intervention of Rome, which was marked by the treaty of Apameia (188 BC). The essay is based on a dossier of 29 arrangements between cities: these fall into distinct categories, as some are treaties of a pure military character while others display mutual grants of either isopolity or sympolity.4

Markus Kohl, “Sièges et défense de Pergame. Nouvelles réflexions sur sa topographie et son architecture militaires” (177-198), is a study of the site of Pergamon, viewed from the aspect of military defense. The city, built on a hill at about 300 meters above sea level, was able to resist repeated attacks by several enemies under the Attalid dynasty. Archaeologists were able to single out traces of military instalments around the city, whose chronology remains however uncertain.

John Ma, “Une culture militaire en Asie mineure hellénistique?” (199-220), provides an intriguing study of the military culture in the Hellenistic cities of Asia Minor. As military prowess was a theme of frequent boasting in Greek epigrams from the motherland, M. is willing to retrace the equivalent for Asia Minor in a series of case studies, drawing especially on representations of funerary banquets (Totenmahlreliefs) on gravestones. He concludes that some cities of Asia Minor also developed a military culture: these were, not unexpectedly, those also most engaged in power politics, like Rhodes (especially), Byzantium and Cyzicus.

Guy Labarre, “Phrourarques et phrouroi des cités grecques d’Asie Mineure à l’époque hellénistique” (221-248), provides a study of the role played by garrisons and garrison commanders. From ancient historical accounts we frequently happen to know that Hellenistic rulers kept a garrison in the cities under their control. L. adds fresh archaeological evidence to the debate, especially considering the remnants of a fort near Caunos and those of another on the Samian peraea. L. also shows the special responsibility enjoyed by each garrison commander: in general he was not allowed to leave his fort to enter the city, had a mandate limited in time (especially if he was appointed by the city), and received a pay of four drachmas per day, instead of the single drachma allowed to the common soldier.

In conclusion (249-255), Maurice Sartre proclaims the ongoing state of war in Hellenistic Asia Minor even after the Roman conquest. This had a rather heavy economic impact on civic treasures, as it required the construction of military structures (walls, forts, etc.) and the payment of hired troops. In general however, he is reassuring about the capacity of the Hellenistic city to plan and execute her own wars, either in defense against superpowers or simply to enlarge her land at the expenses of weaker neighbours.


1. Represented, for example, by works of Marcel Launey, Recherches sur les armées hellénistiques, Paris 1949-1950, and Yvonne Garlan, Recherches de poliorcétique grecque, Paris 1974.

2. The editing seems perfunctory to judge from the number of misprints and editorial inaccuracies, especially in some contributions: p. 51, # 16 read πραγμάτων for πρασγμάτων; p. 83, dovma ( δόμα); p. 84, n. 41 S{t}ate; p. 85, n. 44, there’s a flying accent on the left margin (also on p. 155); p. 90, n. 69, read ἐξαγογή for ἐξαγοή; p. 91, n. 73, neocittadini (also on p. 113); p. 129 (grosso modo) and 150 (a contrario): inconsistent use of italics; p. 149, Pistoius; p. 172: <2>5; p. 174: inconsistent alphabetical order; p. 206, Totenmahlre{f}liefs; p. 211, n. 28 Stbe (also on p. 216); p. 246, Garlan, Recherche; p. 250, traité e sympolitie. Also, general inconsistency in the use or absence of spaces.

3. B. Dreyer and H. Engelmann, Die Inschriften von Metropolis, IK 63, Bonn 2003. I would add that the authenticity of this inscription is not beyond question: my doubts arise from the improper (or at least very unusual) use of some standard formulas as, for example, on line 7 of the first decree. In general see BMCR 2004.03.22.

4. On p. 121, 142, 145, 157, 162, 167 F. refers to a Mithridates, king of Pontos, constantly numbering him as IV; but he is generally reckoned as Mithridates II.