Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Juan Manuel Cortés Copete, Elena Muñiz Grivaljo, Fernando Lozano Gómez (ed.), Ruling the Greek World: Approaches to the Roman Empire in the East. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, 52. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015. Pp. 192. ISBN 9783515111355. €44.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Aleksandr Makhlaiuk, Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod (makhl@imomi.unn.ru)

Version at BMCR home site

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[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

In light of recent research, the Mediterranean imperial state created by Romans increasingly appears as a Graeco-Roman empire in which the power was Roman, but the culture was Greek.1 The role played by Greek intellectuals and urban elites in inventing and ruling the Empire is now considered as one of the decisive factors for empire building and self-consciousness of the imperial governing class in general. Meanwhile, the interrelations between Greeks and Romans in the political and cultural spheres were a complex and dynamic process, ambiguous and contradictory in many respects. The collected works edited by three Spanish scholars (from the Pablo de Olavide University of Sevilla) are aimed at exploring various important aspects of this complexity through analyzing primarily those new possibilities that existed between the preservation of Greek political structures and cultural values, on the one hand, and new realities emerging from Roman domination, on the other.

The volume contains ten papers (one in French and the rest in English) by Spanish, Italian, French and British scholars, an editors' preface and a general index (authors and titles are listed at the end of the review). As far as I can see, it has quite a long history, being a result of two research projects supported by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad del Gobierno de España: Greeks in the Empire: the creation of a political category and Hadrian, images of an Empire,2 one stage of which involved a scientific meeting Ruling through Greek eyes held in Seville in 2008.

The first paper, "Greek Self-Presentation to the Roman Republican Power" by Cristina Rosillo-López, deals with the ways in which Hellenistic kings and Greek communities negotiated with the Roman authorities. She also traces the existence of special legislation in favour of Greeks and argues that the self-presentation of Greeks in the face of Roman power was changed by the end of the second century BC, when Greek cities lost their political power and could no longer bargain with Romans on equal terms, and only after that, in the first century BC, did the Greeks' glorious past gain some instrumental significance in their dealings with the Romans.

Elena Muñiz Grijalvo in her contribution refers to a very broad theme. She concentrates on the practice of Greek religion in the works of Greek writers from first century BC to the second century AD and shows how it provided a statement of Greek excellence and, therefore, the privileged positions of Greek local elites within the Empire, as well as keeping civic control in their own cities. It was that exceptionally venerable and old religion that helped shape the identity of the elites against their own co-citizens and before their Roman masters who could profit from it because it served as the cornerstone of common Graeco-Roman values and shaped Rome's own identity; so, for the Greeks, their religious tradition was a key device to avoid political humiliation. These considerations are generally correct, but the author seems to exaggerate the decisive role of Greek religious practices, losing sight of many other factors of identity construction, as well as the transformation of Greek religion itself under Roman or oriental influence.

Juan Manuel Cortés Copete's article, "Hellas, Roman Province," takes as its starting point the analysis of Cassius Dio's wording in 52.12.4 where the province Achaia is designated as Hellas meta tēs Ēpeirou. In the author's view, this expression should be considered not as the historian's error, but as an anachronism and as lacking in institutional accuracy. As shown in the second part of the paper, in the first century AD, there existed not merely the Greeks' identification of Hellas with a Roman province, but the assumption of the historical, cultural and ethnic Hellas as a true political reality by Rome herself.

Religious practices in the Greek East are explored in two other papers, that of Arminda Lozano, who investigates the intervention of Roman political power in the temples of Asia Minor, and that of Fernando Lozano and Rocío Gordillo, whose text deals with emperor worship in the Delphic Amphictyony. The former proposes the classification of temple typological variety, demonstrating in particular that some indigenous sanctuaries adopted characteristics of a Greek type, more acceptable to Roman authority, and reveals the lack of innovations in Roman actions towards the temples and the absence of clear Roman policies on Asia Minor temples: under the Romans, the secularization of the major influential temples peaked, and they lose their independence and political power rooted in a traditional type of Anatolian society. The latter paper, based on a reconsideration of scarce evidence, highlights the idea that the Delphic Amphictyony fell within the usual trends of the development of the imperial cult in the province of Achaia and did not differ much from the rest of surrounding cities and leagues, being an example of the inclusion of new deities in the prestigious institutions of the Greek past. Lozano and Gordillo opine that the introduction of a special priesthood probably dates from the time of Augustus and that the creation of the post of helladarches in the second century AD might be related to the imperial cult.

The chapter "Dura-Europos under Roman rule," written by Ted Kaizer, mainly focuses on the final stage of the town's history. Touching upon the issue of the identities of the town's inhabitants, Kaizer points out that if they "were becoming Roman while staying Greek… there were also nurturing aspects of a local identity which from a Roman perspective may simplistically be viewed as 'Oriental', but which rather ought to be understood as a conglomerate of cultural elements… which continued to evolve throughout the Roman period" (101).

The important questions of art history are treated in Elena Calandra's paper concerning official imperial portraits in Athens during the middle-imperial period. Through an analysis of literary and epigraphic evidence in combination with preserved imperial images, she attempts to show the importance of the self-presentation of the members of imperial families from Hadrian to Gallienus. Among the interesting suggestions, it is worth noting the author's statement that Hadrian's artistic vocation and aesthetic tastes, as well as his political purposes, may have had some direct influence on the style and details of his portraits coming from Athens. Also deserving attention is the idea that the presence at Athens of portraits of two co-regent emperors, Pupienus and Balbinus, who reigned only 99 days in 238 AD, bears witness to the very high speed with which the diffusion of imperial images was carried out: perhaps, the first few days constituted the period for promotion of imperial portraiture to the provinces.

The paper of Greg Woolf shifts the angle to the west, tracing when and how the city of Rome had become one of the main centers of ethnographic and antiquarian research, "a part of the academy" (150). Woolf focuses on the respective roles of Greek intellectuals, Roman aristocrats and western provincials in this process. He divides (not quite clearly, in my view) the Greek archaeologists at Rome into two wider communities. The first comprised those educated Greeks who came to Rome soon after the Mithridatic Wars and enjoyed support of wealthy and influential Roman patrons (although many Greek scholars were of lower status and less close to the aristocracy); the second was an ethnically diverse and polyglot community that included not only Greeks, but new kinds of writers, some of Roman and others of provincial origins, who composed new barbarian archaeologies using new knowledge of the west produced in provinces and concentrated in Rome.

Maurice Sartre in his paper addresses the quite old question of Greek intellectuals' opposition to Roman power and, finding his answer by comparing the attitudes of Strabo and Plutarch, defines common features and the intersections between the two authors' positions in spite of the differences in their literary backgrounds and intentions. All in all, Sartre emphasizes that from Strabo to Plutarch, Greeks' view of Roman domination had been modified; and if the former accentuates positive aspects of Rome's rule (peace, reparation of certain injustices, prosperity, etc.), the latter, without neglecting these blessings, expresses his profound disapprobation of the Roman hegemony that perturbed the civic mode of governance, corrupted the city notables and flattered ordinary people.3

The Greek vision of Roman power is also the topic of Francesca Fontanella's article in which the works of Aelius Aristides are investigated. Recent years have seen a wide range of detailed studies of this Greek writer's attitude to Roman domination.4 However, Fontanella analyzes not only the most famous speech To Rome (Or.26 Keil), but other of Aristides' writings which concern the same issues (Panathenaikos, Concerning Concord, The Smyrnean Oration, The Eleusinian Oration, Panegyric in Cyzicus); and it is this comparative view that allows her to point out some important facets of her subject matter, in particular the so called "hidden writing." The Roman empire is presented by the Mysian rhetor as a guarantee of cultural and civil supremacy of Greek cities and their prominent citizens, but, as his The Eleusinian Oration shows, when the Romans were unable to ensure the peace, Greek identity might re-emerge from "hidden writing" and become an alternative to Roman dominance.

Summing up, one can claim that the volume under review comprises various aspects and characteristics of mutually beneficial, albeit contradictory, relationships between Romans and Greeks. Inter alia, it confirms the growing contribution of Spanish scholars to one of the mainstream directions of contemporary classical studies. Every paper makes its greater or smaller investment in deeper understanding of the Graeco-Roman cultural synthesis which was achieved within the Empire.

The generally favorable impression of the book is to some extent lessened by typos, too numerous for a relatively small book, although most of them are merely lapsus scribendi.5 The list of contributors undoubtedly would be a useful attribute for the volume of collected studies of an international scholarly team.

Table of Contents

Editors' Preface (7)
1. Cristina Rosillo-López. Greek Self-Presentation to the Roman Republican Power (13)
2. Elena Muñiz Grijalvo. Greek Religion as a Feature of Greek Identity (27)
3. Juan Manuel Cortés Copete. Hellas, Roman Province (43)
4. Arminda Lozano. Imperium Romanum and the Religious Centres of Asia Minor. The Intervention of Roman Political Power on the Temples of Asia Minor (67)
5. Ted Kaizer. Dura-Europos under Roman Rule (91)
6. Elena Calandra. Official Images in Athens in the Middle-Imperial Period (103)
7. Fernando Lozano, Rocío Gordillo. A Dialogue on Power: Emperor Worship in the Delphic Amphictyony (127)
8. Greg Woolf. Greek Archaeologists at Rome (147)
9. Maurice Sartre. Strabon et Plutarque: regards croisés sur l'Hégemonia tòn Rhomaiôn (161)
10. Francesca Fontanella. The Roman Empire in the Works of Aelius Aristides (171)
General Index (187)


1.   Veyne, P. L'Empire gréco-romain. Paris, 2005, p. 11.
2.   But a Hadrianic theme sounds only in one paper of the book, that of Elena Calandra.
3.   J.M. Madsen, however, has recently convincingly argued once again that there is no solid ground to speak about serious opposition to Roman power among Greek intellectuals: Madsen, J.M. "Patriotism and ambitions: Intellectual Response to Roman Rule in the High Empire." In: J.M. Madsen and R. Rees (eds.) Roman Rule in Greek and Latin Writing: Double Vision. Leiden, 2014, p. 16–38.
4.   In addition to works cited by Fontanella, see, for example, Raúl Buono-Core Varas. "El elogio a Roma de Elio Arístides y su relación con Adriano y Antonino Pío frente al problema de la romanización." Stylos. 14. 2005, p. 7–24.
5.   There are odd prepositions, as on p. 47 ("the use of de Ἑλλάς") or p. 168 ("en en faisant"), and misspellings: 'lidership' instead of 'leadership' (54), 'sutain' instead of 'sustain' (61, n. 88), 'timed' instead of 'times' (114), 'asia' instead of 'Asia' (180, n. 34); symmachia is transliterated as summkia. I am puzzled by such an expression as "the generalization of Greek pedagogues for the children of the Roman elite" (23), maybe instead "calling in" or "employment."

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