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5. Rome and the Eastern Mediterranean ca. 300 – 30

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Aneurin Ellis-Evans

on 16 October 2017

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Transcript of 5. Rome and the Eastern Mediterranean ca. 300 – 30

The Argument

Arthur Eckstein
has recently drawn on the theory of Realism from International Relations theory to try and better explain Roman imperialism.

predicts that when a situation of
interstate anarchy
prevails (i.e. when no one state is powerful enough to regulate the behaviour of all the other states), each state in the system becomes hyper-aggressive and hyper-vigilant in order to ensure its survival.

Thus, Eckstein agrees with Harris that Rome is very aggressive, but he disagrees with Harris that Rome is UNUSUALLY aggressive – in his view, ALL the relevant states (Hellenistic kingdoms, Greek leagues, Carthage, etc. etc.) are EQUALLY aggressive.

Rome is therefore not unusual in its AIMS (everyone wants to survive) or its BEHAVIOUR (everyone is equally aggressive), but rather in its CAPACITY to carry out its aims.

The reason Rome looks hesitant about its empire (esp. ca. 200-148) is because Rome sees its main aim as scaring off opponents. So, it vigorously asserts itself in wars, but then doesn’t hang around to turn its conquests into provinces because, from the Roman perspective, the job is done.
Usefulness and Problems 1: Roman Imperialism*S* (Plural!)

One of the major books Gruen is engaging with is
Ernst Badian’s
Foreign Clientelae
(264-70 BC) (1958)

Badian argued that the diplomatic instruments which Rome had developed during its conquest of Italy in the 4th and early 3rd c. BC (e.g. the system of
civitates foederatae
(‘allied cities’), the concept of
(‘friendship), the status of
civitas libera
(‘free city’), and the
system) were then ALSO applied to its conquest of the Hellenistic East in the late 3rd and 2nd c. BC. This would suggest that there was ONE model of imperialism which Rome applied EVERYWHERE.

Gruen (
Hellenistic World
[1984] chs. 1-5
) instead argues that Rome did NOT impose Roman diplomatic instruments on the Greeks, but instead adapted itself to the diplomatic instruments which the Greeks preferred.

According to Gruen, therefore, the form which Roman imperialism took in any given region was shaped by the political institutions it encountered. There was therefore not ONE experience of Roman imperialism, but MANY experiences of Roman imperialism.

As he puts it in his conclusion: “Hellas ultimately feel under Roman authority not because Rome exported their structure to the East, but because Greeks persistently drew the westerner into their own structure – until it was theirs no longer” (
Hellenistic World
[1984] 730

This approach is certainly the right one. For example,
Jonathan Prag
has recently argued that Sicily’s experience of becoming Rome’s first overseas province in the second half of the 3rd c. looks very different to elsewhere (e.g. use of native garrisons, retention of markers of local identity like civic coinage and gymnasium culture, slow absorption into the empire) and thus reflects Roman adaptation to local conditions.
Example: Roman Aristocrats (1)

In the Middle Republic (264-133 BC), the Roman aristocrats who made up the senate were trained from day one to believe that the most important thing they could do for themselves, for their family, for their country was to be successful in war.

For example, Roman funerals and the inscriptions put up to commemorate the dead constantly remind the current generation of the achievements of their ancestors and encourage them to match this (
Polybius 6.53-55
; Tomb of the Scipios –
Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 1-6
Harriet Flower,
Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture
(1996) 159-80, 326-8

When they became adults, success in war was how they progressed through the
cursus honorum
(e.g. you need to participate in ten military campaigns before you can stand for office:
Polybius 6.19

If they made it to the very top and became consul (and 1 in 4 consuls achieved triumphs), their top priority was to get out of Rome to their province and have a successful war.

Once their year was up, they wouldn’t get another opportunity to be consul for ten years, and they would only get that second chance if they had a successful first consulship.
Example of the Source Problem

Livy’s account of the
Peace of Phoinike
at the end of the First Macedonian War (206 BC) lists Ilion and Athens among the participants (
Livy 29.12.11-16
). There is no other evidence for their participation in the war, and what we know of these cities makes it very unlikely they took part.

The likely explanation is that a later Roman annalistic source (perhaps Valerius Antias in the 1st c. BC: see
Fragments of the Roman Historians no. 25
) added these names.

As Christian Habicht concludes, “The mention of Ilium is an obvious interpolation designed to make the site connected with Rome’s legendary origins (Troy/Ilium) appear an early protectorate of the republic, while the mention of Athens is intended to justify in retrospect Rome’s aggression against Macedonia in 200, by presenting it as an intervention on behalf of an ally protected under the peace agreement of 206” (
Athens from Alexander to Anthony [1997] 195-6
Examples of Rome Passing Up Opportunities for Further Enrichment

The Macedonian republics which Rome set up in place of the Macedonian kingdom at the end of the Third Macedonian War (167 BC) were taxed at half the rate which King Perseus had previously taxed this region (
Livy 45.18.7

John Richardson has argued that Roman taxation of Spain was initially extremely erratic and mostly focused on occasional exactions to support Roman armies in the field. Likewise, Rome left management of the mines of Spain in Spanish hands for many decades (
‘The Spanish mines and the development of provincial taxation in the second century BC’ JRS 66 [1976] 139-52

Rome uses the indemnities it imposed on defeated opponents as a means of political control first, of enrichment second (
Hellenistic World
[1984] 292-3
) –
Rome lowers or abolishes indemnities if states show obedience (e.g. letting Philip V off his final instalment when he agrees to join Rome against Antiochos III);
when Carthage tries to pay off its indemnity in one go in 191, Rome refuses (
Livy 36.4.5-9

Rome is happy to share plundering rights with its allies (e.g. the Treaty of Laevius with Aetolia in 211:
SEG 13.382
Problems and Usefulness 1: Defensive Imperialism Is on to Something

Harris’ response to the point that Rome never turns its conquests into provinces 200-148 is simply to look at each individual episode and explain each of them away.

However, this is failing to see the wood for the trees. It is credible that Rome might have passed up turning a conquest into a province for contingent reasons once or twice, but to do this EVERY SINGLE TIME for half a century looks rather like POLICY.

This supposition is supported by the evidence more generally for Rome making it up as it goes along (esp. in the 2nd c. BC). As John North puts it, “The Romans’ capacity to conquer did for a time outrun their will or capacity to devise means of regularly extracting a surplus from the conquered peoples (
JRS 71 [1981-1982] 2-3

North’s point is particularly clear when we look at the various opportunities which the Romans had to enrich themselves from their conquests which they passed up:
The Argument

In response to the so-called ‘defensive imperialism’ model,
William Harris
has argued that Rome was an aggressive imperial power and that this aggression was an integral part of Roman politics and society – aggression was a feature, not a bug.

The three main arguments which Harris makes in support of this thesis are summarized by
John North (JRS 71 [1981-1982] 1)
as follows:

Both the expectations and the social ethos of Romans of high and low status were geared to regular war-making; they had the attitudes and habits which go with this way of life (
Harris ch. 1

Many Romans, including all those who had a major influence on policy decisions, made, and knew they made, large profits out of warfare and out of the expansion of the Empire (
Harris ch. 2

Expansion was a publicly stated aim, uninhibited by the supposed ideology of the
ius fetiale
Harris ch. 3
Problem 1: Regurgitates Roman Ideology

Rome had an ideology of just war. For example, the
ius fetiale
(‘Fetial Law’)
was meant to ensure that Rome only embarked on just wars which would thus gain divine support.

To be judged a just war, the enemy had to have
performed wrongful and/or aggressive acts,
been given an opportunity to make good these transgressions,
received a formal declaration of war (sources:
Roman Imperialism
[2010] 97-8 [Cicero,
De Officiis
1.34-36], 112-13 [Livy 1.35.5-10]

Proponents of the defensive imperialism interpretation argue that the
ius fetiale
constrained Rome from embarking on unjust wars.

However, critics point out that it is more likely that the ideology of just war shaped how Romans talked about their warmongering rather than actually constraining their actions. As Erskine puts it, “The fetial procedure’s primary purpose was religious; it had the potential, if used in a conciliatory manner, to promote peace but it could also become the tool of self-righteous aggression” (
Roman Imperialism
[2010] 38-9

So, Roman and pro-Roman sources will often manipulate or edit the historical record in order to show that Rome is always in the right and its enemies always in the wrong.
While the sequence of events 300-30 BC is not in doubt, how to interpret this narrative is hugely controversial.

At least some of this controversy derives from the nature of the sources.

For the 2nd c. BC we have almost no contemporary Roman sources, but we do have a contemporary Greek source – Polybius.

Polybius is clear about the fact that Rome was an aggressive and expansionist power. He sometimes views empire as a long-standing goal of Rome (
), at other times as a development dating to the Second Punic War in 218-201 BC (
, cf.

For the 1st c. BC we have lots of contemporary Roman sources, e.g. Cicero, Caesar, and Sallust. This is also the time when Livy, our major Latin source for the Middle Republic, is writing.

These Roman sources present a very apologetic account of Roman imperialism, e.g.
Cicero, De Republica 3.35
: “Our people by defending its allies has become ruler of the whole world” (further examples: (
Erskine, Roman Imperialism [2010] 35
Formation of the Province of Asia (133-129)

– Attalos III dies and bequeaths his kingdom to Rome.

– The pretender Eumenes III/Aristonikos (supposedly an illegitimate son of Eumenes II) fights Rome for control of the Attalid kingdom.

– Manius Aquilius forms the province of Asia out of the Attalid kingdom.

In the western Mediterranean:
Social War 91/0-88

First Mithridatic War (89-85)

Rome, Bithynia (Nikomedes IV) vs. Pontos (Mithridates VI), Greek cities.

– Conflict breaks out between Rome and Mithridates over control of several minor kingdoms (Bithynia, Cappadocia, Armenia).

88 (May)
– ‘Asiatic Vespers’. On a pre-determined day, Greeks murder tens of thousands of Romans and Italians resident in their cities.

– Siege of Athens (Lucius Cornelius Sulla ‘Felix’).

– Battle of Chaeronaea (central Greece). Roman victory (Sulla).

– Battle of Orchomenos (central Greece). Roman victory (Sulla).

– Treaty of Dardanos between Mithridates and Sulla.

Second Mithridatic War (83-81)

Lucius Licinius Murena invades Pontos on his own initiative. Mithridates defeats him. Sulla restores peace.

Third Mithridatic War (73-63)

Rome vs. Pontos (Mithridates VI), Armenia (Tigranes the Great)

– Nikomedes IV dies and bequeaths Bithynia to Rome (the casus belli for Mithridates).

– Lucius Licinius Lucullus in command. Major victories in Armenia at Battle of Tigranocerta (
69 BC
) and Battle of Artaxata (
68 BC

– Gnaeus Pompeius ‘Magnus’ takes over the eastern command. Defeats Mithridates.

– Pompey’s settlement of the East. Pontos and Syria (i.e. the rump Seleukid state) become Roman provinces. Judaea becomes a client state of Rome. Armenia becomes an ally of Rome.

Roman Civil Wars

– Julius Caesar defeats Pompey at Pharsalos (Thessaly).

– Mark Anthony and Octavian defeat Brutus and Cassius at Philippi (Macedonia).

– Octavian defeats Anthony at Actium (western Greece).

– Octavian annexes the Ptolemaic kingdom.
Collapse of the Ptolemies in the Aegean (204 and after)

– Ptolemy IV dies. Ptolemy V comes to the throne aged 5. Significant infighting within the court and rebellions in Upper Egypt follow.

– Antiochos III and Philip V collude in carving up the Ptolemaic Empire (
Polybius 3.2.8, 15.20

Second Macedonian War (200-197)

Rome, Pergamon (Attalos I), and Rhodes vs. Macedon (Philip V).

– Battle of Cynoscephalae (Thessaly). Roman victory (Titus Quinctius Flamininus).

– Flamininus declares the freedom of the Greeks at the Isthmian Games (Corinth) (
Livy 33.32.5-10
; read with
Gruen, Hellenistic World [1984] ch. 4

Roman-Syrian War (192-188)

Rome, Achaean League, Macedon (Philip V), Pergamon (Eumenes II), Rhodes vs. Seleukids (Antiochos III), Aetolian League, Cappadocia.

– Battle of Thermopylae (central Greece). Roman victory (Manius Acilius Glabrio).

– Battle of the Eurymedon (Pamphylia, SW Turkey). Rhodian naval victory.

– Battle of Myonessos (Ionia, western Turkey). Roman (Lucius Aemilius Regillus)/Rhodian naval victory.

– Battle of Magnesia (Lydia, western Turkey). Roman (Lucius Cornelius Scipio)/Attalid victory.

– Peace of Apameia (Phrygia, western Turkey) (
Polybius 21.42, Livy 38.38, Appian, Syriaca 39

Third Macedonian War (171-168)

Rome vs. Macedon (Perseus).

– Battle of Pydna (Macedonia). Roman victory (Lucius Aemilius Paullus ‘Macedonicus’).

– Partition of Macedon into four client republics (the ‘tetrarchy’) (
Livy 45.18, 29-32

Fourth Macedonian War (150-148)

Rome vs. Philip VI/Andriskos.

– This is all referred to as the ‘Macedonian Revolt’ in the scholarship (thus denying the Macedonians the status of a state) and Andriskos is often termed ‘Pseudo-Philip’ (reflecting Roman propaganda which attempted to delegitimize Andriskos).

– Second Battle of Pydna. Roman victory (Quintus Caecilius Metellus ‘Macedonicus’).

– Macedonian client republics dissolved, Roman province of Macedonia created.

In the western Mediterranean:
Third Punic War (149-146)

War with the Achaean League (146)

– Battle of Skarpheia (central Greece). Roman victory (Q. Caecilius Metellus ‘Macedonicus’).

– Battle of Corinth (northern Peloponnese/Isthmus). Roman victory (Lucius Mummius ‘Achaicus’). Results in the complete destruction of Corinth.

– Greece becomes Roman province of Achaea, itself part of the province of Macedonia until 27 BC when Augustus makes Achaea a senatorial province.

Early Contacts

ca. 230
, contacts between Rome and the East are rare.

Soon after ca. 304
– Rome collaborates with Rhodes in suppressing piracy (Polybius 30.5.6). It used to be thought that Polybius was simply wrong about this, but a forthcoming article by Nathan Badoud (
Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 139-140 [2015-2016] 237-46
) provides epigraphic evidence for its historicity.

– Pyrrhos of Epiros invades Italy (
Plutarch, Pyrrhus 21.5-10

In the western Mediterranean:
First Punic War (264-241)

Illyrian Wars

First sustained contact between Rome and Greece, and in particular with the Macedonian kingdom and the Aetolian League.

– First Illyrian War (treaty with Queen Teuta ending the war:
Polybius 2.12

– Second Illyrian War.

In the western Mediterranean:
Second Punic War (218-201)

First Macedonian War (214-205)

Rome, Aetolian League, Pergamon (Attalos I) vs. Macedon (Philip V).

– The background to this is the catastrophic defeats Rome suffers at the hands of Hannibal at
Lake Trasimene
(217 BC) and
(216 BC) and the subsequent alliance between Hannibal and Philip V (215 BC –
Polybius 7.9

– Rome allies with Aetolian League (‘Treaty of Laevius’ –
SEG 13.382
) and Pergamon.

– Peace of Phoinike (Epiros) (
Livy 29.12
5. Rome and the Eastern Mediterranean 300 - 30 BC
The basic facts are pretty simple:

– For most Greeks, the Romans are a far off people on the other side of the Mediterranean who play no role in Greek affairs.

– Rome has become the undisputed superpower of the Mediterranean world.

This was not a gradual process, but rather one which Greeks like the historian
(ca. 200 – ca. 118 BC) saw happen within their lifetime:

"Who is so worthless or indolent as not to wish to know by what means and under what system of polity the Romans in less than fifty-three years have succeeded in subjecting nearly the whole inhabited world to their sole government — a thing unique in history?" (
Polybius 1.1.5
The Argument

This interpretation holds that Rome was not a consciously aggressive state and did not aim to create its empire.

Rather, Rome got sucked into overseas wars EITHER in defence of its allies OR in defence of itself against other states acting aggressively towards Rome. As will be obvious, this is ALSO the account which 1st c. BC Romans give of their own actions.

This interpretation was first formulated by
Theodor Mommsen
(1817-1903), the great German historian of Rome, in his
Römische Geschichte
(1854-1856 – winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1902) and argued in its most detailed and persuasive form by the French epigrapher
Maurice Holleaux

While this school of interpretation is always called ‘defensive imperialism’ in the scholarship, this is NOT a term that Mommsen or Holleaux ever used themselves (
Roman Imperialism
[2010] 36-7
1. The Sources
2. Defensive Imperialism
Digression: Roman Ideology and Colonial Ideology

It’s also worth pointing out that, in the 19th/early 20th c. when Mommsen and Holleaux were writing, this kind of self-justificatory narrative about how empires expand was a popular way of explaining/justifying the imperial expansion of European colonial powers.

Sir John Seeley,
The Expansion of England
– “We seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind”.

Howard Scullard,
A History of the Roman World: 753 to 146 BC
(4th ed. 1980 [first publ. 1935]) 226
: “It is perhaps a mistake to seek too cut and dried an explanation of the policy of a people who, like the British, proverbially had a genius for muddling through”.

mutatis mutandis
Philippa Levine,
The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset
(2007) 82
: “Seeley’s elegant quip – that Britain’s Empire was acquired in a ‘fit of absence of mind’ – has influenced many interpreters of nineteenth-century British imperialism. Others, not pushing the point quite so far, see the British political establishment as dominated, especially after the 1850s, by reluctant imperialists, unwillingly annexing territory or unenthusiastically nudging local rulers into accepting British influence. Yet given the vast areas brought under British control during the course of the century and under leadership from a variety of political positions, the image of a reluctant or accidental imperialism is not awfully persuasive”.
Problem 2: Sources

The ideological politics of the Roman sources mean we have to exercise a good deal of caution in using both

While we have large chunks of both Polybius and Livy, neither historian’s work survives intact. However, it is clear that Polybius was Livy’s main source for the late 3rd and 2nd c. As a result, historians such as
have tried to reconstruct lost parts of Polybius from surviving parts of Livy.

However, this only exacerbates the problem of
pro-Roman bias
in our sources, since Livy did not mechanically translate Polybius, but altered the material to suit his own purposes and also made use of Roman annalistic accounts (e.g. that of
Valerius Antias
mentioned above) to supplement his account.

By using Livy to fill in the gaps in Polybius, Holleaux imports yet more pro-Roman propaganda from a century later into the text of Polybius.

Problem 3: Actual Roman Aggression

As we’ll see when we look at William Harris and Arthur Eckstein, there is in fact plenty of evidence of Rome being aggressive and, moreover, reason to believe that military aggression was an integral part of the Roman state. Any model which completely excludes this is therefore not giving us the whole picture.
Usefulness 1: Self-Justificatory Ideology

This approach is wrong to take the ideology of just war at face value. However, the EXISTENCE of this ideology is nevertheless very interesting –
it tells us about how Rome liked to think of itself,
it helps us to identify biases in the sources.

Usefulness 2: Hesitant Imperialism

The emphasis which this interpretation places on all the times Roman imperialism ISN’T as aggressive and acquisitive as we might expect identifies a really important problem in understanding Roman imperialism – Rome’s dilatory attitude towards its empire.
Examples of 'Hesitant' Imperialism

Rome is EXTREMELY slow to establish a permanent presence in the East. Despite multiple successful military campaigns in the East, Rome doesn’t turn its conquests into provinces until 148 (when the province of Macedonia is created). Its
modus operandi
is to get a quick victory, grab some loot, make a peace settlement, and then disappear.

Even after 148, Rome is remarkably hesitant about creating new provinces (e.g. it takes them four years to accept Eumenes III’s bequest of his kingdom which becomes the province of Asia) and only after the shock of the First Mithridatic War (89-85) does Rome get serious about administering the eastern provinces.

Trying to make sense of this curiously hesitant attitude to empire is at the heart of the approaches of Erich Gruen and Arthur Eckstein which we’ll look at below.
3. Predatory Rome
Problems and Usefulness 2: The Importance of Structure

Harris talks about the Roman ‘drive’ towards expansionism (e.g.
War and Imperialism
[1979] 107
). ‘Drive’ suggests a general, STRUCTURAL cause for Roman expansionism. However, Harris instead talks almost exclusively about individual EPISODES and the decision-making which went into them.

The method is thus DESCRIPTIVE not ANALYTICAL. He tells us WHAT happened (i.e. that Rome WAS aggressive), but he doesn’t try to identify deeper causes (i.e. WHY Rome was aggressive). As far as Harris is concerned, Rome just IS aggressive, and that’s the end of it.

In pointing out this problem with Harris’ argument, John North gives two illustrative examples of where Harris has collected the evidence, but not realised that the evidence points to STRUCTURAL reasons for Roman warmongering.
Examples: The Italian Allies

Over the course of the 4th/3rd c. Rome conquered the Italian peninsula and turned the Italian cities into allies bound to Rome by treaties (

By the terms of these treaties, the Italian allies did not pay tax or tribute to Rome, they JUST provided troops for its wars. Rome therefore ONLY benefits from being the hegemonic power in Italy if it goes to war.

This system works very well for a very long time (i.e. the 4th/3rd c. down to the Social War of 90-88 BC) because it’s mutually beneficial (see
Peter A. Brunt,
Italian Manpower, 225 BC – AD 14
[1971] chs. 16-17, 22-23

The Romans got access to the vast manpower of Italy which allowed them
to sustain massive losses and yet still fight on (e.g. during the Second Punic War when Hannibal invaded Italy and defeated Rome at Lake Trasimene and Cannae) and
to fight campaigns in multiple theatres at the same time (e.g. the simultaneous campaigns in Greece and against Carthage ca. 150-146).

In return, the elites of the Italian cities paid no extra tax AND got annual opportunities to go on campaign and enrich themselves through booty.

As a result, as
John North (JRS 71 [1981-1982] 7)
puts it: “The sheer availability of the military resource constituted yet another layer of pressure on the senate as it took its war-decisions. Not to have had a war, would have meant remitting the taxation on Italy for a year. To have gone on not having wars, would have meant that the League would have lost the medium through which it existed and hence that it would itself have ceased to exist. War-making was the life-blood of the Roman confederation in Italy”.

After the enfranchisement of the Italians in 88 BC at the end of the Social War this ceases to be an issue.
Example: Roman Aristocrats (2)

Harris collects all the evidence for this in
War and Imperialism
(1979) ch. 1
. However, he thinks it just tells us about the social customs of the Romans – i.e. Romans live in a warlike society and therefore their decision-making is influenced by their warlike psychology (in a way, this is very similar to how
treats these facts in
Book 6

John North (JRS 71 [1981-1982] 6)
points out that what may have started as a series of social customs has, by the 3rd/2nd c. BC, become entrenched as a series of INSTITUTIONS which much make continual warfare more likely – e.g. military commands being crucial for progress in the cursus honorum, the association of consulships with warmaking, and so on.

Romans therefore don’t just go to war because they’re psychologically predisposed to doing so. They go to war because it’s a SOCIAL EXPECTATION, because that’s how you get ahead in Roman politics, because it’s a requirement of holding political office (compare
The Catilinarian Conspiracy
on aristocratic competition and the pursuit of glory).

It’s therefore significant that when Augustus turns Rome into a monarchy at the end of our period, and in the process tames aristocratic competition, the continual warfare which had characterized the Republic also calms down (e.g. the boast in
Res Gestae Divi Augusti
General Point: The Importance of Structure

If you want to show that Rome was exceptionally aggressive, then the way to do it is not so much to focus on the MARTIAL ETHOS, but rather on the INSTITUTIONS which entrench that martial ethos.

For example,
makes a big deal in
War and Imperialism
(1979) ch. 3
out of the fact that territorial expansion is a stated aim of the Roman state.

This is interesting, but not unusual – e.g. in the mid-4th c. BC the Athenian ephebes had to swear an oath that,
“I shall not hand the fatherland on lessened, but greater and better” (Rhodes-Osborne 88.9-10).

The difference between Athens and Rome is that you could rise to the top in Athenian politics without pursuing the kind of military career that was absolutely necessary for a Roman. Athenians started wars for many reasons, but they didn’t start or prolong them to get ahead in Athenian politics in the way that many Romans did.
4. Defensive Imperialism Redux?
The Argument

Around the same time Harris was working on
War and Imperialism
Erich Gruen
was writing
The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome
which came out five years later and reached very different conclusions.

Gruen argues that Rome wasn’t an aggressive state. The argument therefore has a superficial similarity to the ‘defensive imperialism’ interpretation of Holleaux and others.

HOWEVER, Gruen’s argument differs in giving a much more sophisticated account of WHY the Romans were reluctant imperialists.

Rather than arguing this on moral grounds (e.g. Rome feeling constrained by the ideology of ‘just war’), he instead argues that they were reluctant to establish a permanent imperial presence because they wanted to maintain a SMALL STATE.

According to Gruen, therefore, Roman policy towards the East in the 2nd c. BC was shaped by the desire NOT to get sucked into the Greek East and NOT to have to take on the burdens and obligations of being an imperial power.

In order to downplay the assertiveness of the Romans, he instead emphasizes the AGENCY of the GREEK states in their relations with Rome and how they actively seek to drag Rome into their politics.
Usefulness and Problems 2: Roman Imperialism as a Problem of Cultural History

By arguing that Roman imperialism was shaped by the political institutions it encountered, Gruen alerts us to the important point that Roman imperialism is also a problem of CULTURAL HISTORY.

In the East, the political institutions which the Romans encountered were
leagues of poleis, and
the Hellenistic kingdoms (whose diplomatic protocols had been shaped by a century of interaction with the poleis).

From Gruen’s perspective, Rome’s diplomatic interactions with these political institutions in the East are not just episodes of high politics, they’re also CULTURAL DIALOGUES between Greeks and Romans who are trying to understand one another’s cultures in order to communicate more effectively with one another.

This approach also allows us to take other topics which don’t APPEAR to have anything to do with Roman imperialism and interpret them as part of the ongoing process by which Greeks and Romans came to know and think about each other (e.g. Greek cities setting up cults to the goddess Rome, Greek-Latin bilingualism on Delos, the Roman reception of Greek literature, etc. etc.).

Unfortunately, Gruen doesn’t follow through on this great insight:
He mostly limits himself to cultural interaction in the context of diplomacy;
He ALWAYS wants us to believe that Greek cultural perceptions coloured GREEK interactions with Rome, but NEVER wants to admit that ROMAN cultural perceptions coloured Roman interactions with Greeks (see
108 [1987] 784
5. The Realist Paradigm
Problem 1: Ignores the Internal Dynamic

Eckstein basically thinks that one of the main problems with the debate until now has been that it focuses too much on INTERNAL issues and not enough on INTERSTATE issues.

From his perspective, whether Roman society is or isn’t geared for warfare is kind of irrelevant because the theory of Realism predicts that, in a situation of interstate anarchy, ALL states will act aggressively.

In fact, though, it DOES make a difference HOW a state is aggressive – you can’t just ignore politics, ideology and culture.

For example, take
John North
’s point from earlier – what sets Rome apart in the Mediterranean world is not that participating in warfare has social cachet for the elite (that’s true for EVERYONE), but rather that Roman society has INSTITUTIONS which other states DON’T which REQUIRE participation in warfare in order to gain social advancement.

Another problem with Eckstein ignoring the internal dynamic is that he treats Rome as a unified decision-making entity.

In reality, ‘Rome’ is a bundle of different groups (senators, equestrians, plebeians, Latin and Italian allies), each of which has its own interests and priorities, and each of which is, in turn, made up of individuals who often disagree violently with one another.
Example: The Formation of the Province of Asia

When Attalos III bequeathed his kingdom to Rome in 133 there was a massive debate in the senate about whether to accept the bequest.

In this debate, the populists (headed by Tiberius Gracchus) were in favour of accepting because taxing the province of Asia would pay for Tiberius’ ambitious land reform legislation.

By contrast, the optimates wanted to reject the bequest because they wanted to deny the populists the means by which to make their land reform plans a reality.

The result was that the decision to accept the bequest was delayed until 132 and not actually implemented until 129.

Even then, the terms on which the province of Asia was formed were quite favourable because the optimates in charge of the process wanted to minimize the revenues available to Tiberius Gracchus’ brother, Gaius Gracchus, who had taken up his populist mantle (Tiberius had been murdered by the optimates in 133).

(NB – This is a rather simplified narrative: see
From Hegemony to Empire
(1995) 97-122

Self-interest was a major factor in this episode, but it operated at the level of INDIVIDUALS and GROUPS within Roman society, NOT at the level of the state as a whole.
There are four main stages to this process:

1) 230-200
– Rome gradually becomes entangled in Greek affairs.

2) 200-146
– Rome achieves complete hegemony over Greece and the Aegean.

3) 146-88
– Rome begins to convert its conquests into Roman-administered provinces.

4) 88-30
– In response to the Mithridatic Wars Rome formalizes its control over the whole East.

In this lecture we’ll focus on the crucial
2nd c. BC
(stages 2-3) and survey the different interpretations which historians have offered to explain Rome’s acquisition of an empire in the East during this period
Relief depicting Polybius from Kleitor (ca. 140 BC)
Silver tetradrachm of Pyrrhus
Silver tetradrachm of Philip V
Silver tetradrachm of the Aetolian League
Posthumous Philetairos tetradrachm minted by Attalus I
Silver tetradrachm of Ptolemy V Epiphanes
Silver tetradrachm of Ptolemy IV Philopator
Roman copy of a Hellenistic bust of Antiochos III (Louvre)
Gold stater of Flamininus (196 BC)
Silver tetradrachm of Rhodes (ca. 229-205)
Posthumous Philetairos tetradrachm minted by Eumenes II
Silver tetradrachm of Antiochos III
Silver drachm of Ariarathes IV of Cappadocia (minted 188/7 BC)
Silver tetradrachm of Perseus
Silver drachm of Philip VI overstruck on coin of the Thessalian League
Silver cistophorus of Eumenes III/Aristonikos dated year 3 of his reign/revolt (= 131/0 BC)
Silver tetradrachm of Mithridates VI of Pontos
Silver tetradrachm of Nikomedes IV of Bithynia
Gold aureus celebrating Sulla laying down his dictatorship in 80 BC
Mithridates as Herakles
Silver tetradrachm of Tigranes the Great of Armenia
Gnaeus Pompeius 'Magnus'
Lucius Lucullus
The Armenian Kingdom
The East in 89 BC
Polybius on Roman Funerals
Roman Conquest of Italy
Romans, Latins, and Italians
Kenneth Waltz
Arthur Eckstein
Eugène Guillaume, 'Les Gracques' (Musée d'Orsay, 1853)
Nathan Badoud
Drachm of the Achaean League
Sir John Seeley
Titus Livius
Journal of Roman Studies
(This is the 2000 ed.)
Full transcript