Friday, February 8, 2019


Cédric Brélaz (ed.), L' héritage grec des colonies romaines d'Orient: interactions culturelles dans les provinces hellénophones de l'empire romain. Actes du colloque de Strasbourg (8-9 novembre 2013). Études d'archéologie et d'histoire ancienne. Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2017. Pp. 467. ISBN 9782701804972. €89,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Sophia Zoumbaki, Institute of Historical Research (IHR/NHRF) (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume focuses on the modes in which Roman colonies in the East and the Greek-speaking West interacted with their surroundings, in a pre-existing urbanized and long established social, political and religious system with deep, predominantly Greek cultural roots. Although we are dealing with the proceedings of a conference, contributions are treated as organic parts of a coherent whole which includes an introduction and a concluding synthesis—both written by the editor—a general bibliography, and an index. The chapters written by the editor offer a clear, compendious image of the topic: the introduction outlines the main subject and the concluding chapter summarizes and classifies thematically the findings of individual papers. The contributions are ordered geographically—Achaia and Macedonia, Asia Minor and Crete, the Near East, the Greek West—and investigate colonies or groups of colonies in these regions.

As is evident throughout the book, a new demographic, social, institutional, linguistic and urban situation arose with the Roman colonization of the East (dated mainly to the first century BC), which served political, social and economic needs in contrast to earlier colonization of the Italian peninsula, which aimed at military shielding and establishment of garrisons. Roman colonies in the East, organized with Roman political institutions, cults, and Latin as the official language, were installed in the territory of pre-existing communities which were dissolved or replaced and only rarely survived next to the new foundations in the form of "double communities". Native inhabitants were reduced to the status of foreign residents, deprived of their political rights and landed property since land was redistributed to the colonists, and only gradually integrated –firstly the elite– into the new civic body. Colonies were Rome's effigies parvae simulacraque (Gellius, Attic Nights 16.13,9), but not static copies, since interaction with their cultural environment, Greek or Hellenized, evolved into a mixed culture. This interaction, perceptible both in tangible material traces and in immaterial ones— linguistic, institutional, social, and religious— resulted in acculturation and Hellenized or hybrid social features and thus formed new collective identities. As C. Brélaz stresses, the history of Roman colonies in the East is in fact the history of their gradual absorption by their cultural surroundings and transformation to Greek-speaking towns.

The contributions show vividly that this process was not linear, but followed different modes of assimilation and evolutions on different levels of cultural approach. Evolutions on the linguistic level reflect deeper gradual changes. Whereas the official language was Latin and Greek was used mainly in texts referring to Greek cultural fields (e.g. athletics, the gymnasion, ancient cults), Greek was gradually adopted and displaced Latin by the second/third century, even in cases where Latin prevailed in the private sphere. The co-existence of Greek and Latin resulted in remarkable linguistic interactions, including bilateral morphologic and syntactic impact. The adoption of Greek equivalents for terms defining colonial institutions (e.g. boule, polis etc. at Alexandria Troas), the parallel use of both Greek and Latin terms (e.g. ordo/boule, populus/demos at Sinope), and the translation of Latin terms into Greek (Pisidian Antioch), were not merely matters of terminology, but suggest survival or revival of Greek institutions (Greek liturgies were performed by colonists in Sinope; eirenarchia is attested in Pisidian Antioch). This mélange is further obvious in the adoption of gymnasia and Greek agonistic life, albeit adjusted to the colonists' ends (e.g. the Isthmian games, with the additional title "Caesareia"), or in the self-definition of colonies as poleis (Alexandria Troas). Three colonies (Dion, Philippi, Alexandria Troas) even belonged to the Panhellenion, primarily a network of Greek poleis. Pre-existing material elements, such as infrastructure (buildings, cemeteries etc.) and urban planning were often maintained, at least during the first decades of a colony. Even Roman-style architecture constructed later on (curia, forum, etc.), despite its Roman outlook, frequently adopted Greek techniques and forms (e.g. the forum at Philippi). On the level of onomastics social components and local substrata are evident e.g. in the merging of Roman, Greek and Thracian elements in Pella and Kassandreia, or Greek, Phrygian and Pisidian substrata in Pisidian Antioch.

Complex modes of cultural interaction are clearly visible in religious life: the survival of certain ancient cults, sometimes remodeled for Roman deities or connected with the imperial cult or Rome's ancestry (e.g. at Corinth and Alexandria Troas) or adopting the pattern of their Roman counterparts (e.g. at Dion) or maintaining local iconography under Roman names (Philippi) or gradual recurrence of ancient cults, especially in the second century AD (Pan in Pella, Apollo in Sinope). The selection of cults and historical or mythological elements that were adapted into the new reality (e.g. at Corinth and Dion) is to be seen as a deliberate choice. This is reflected in numismatic iconography where Greek symbols coexist with Latin legends (e.g. at Pella and Kassandreia). Epithets and images of divinities and the rhetoric of dedications often maintained Greek or Anatolian features (as Artemis Ephesia at Cremna). Sometimes Anatolian deities were "interpreted" in a Greek or Roman manner (e.g. at Pisidian Antioch Men is μείς/μηνός in Greek and mensis in Latin, identified with Luna). Syncretistic tendencies gradually led to a common pantheon.

Therefore, it is evident that gradually colonies became culturally Greco-Roman (Giannakopoulos), new civic identities arose out of the Hellenic-Roman amalgam labeled "colonial Hellenism" (Kuhn), a feeling of participation in local traditions on the part of colonists was born, leading to a re-reading of local histories and thus new collective identities composed of Roman, Greek and indigenous elements. Local particularities and thus the individual contributions highlighting different aspects of this interaction, are, however, of great importance.

The two articles devoted to Corinth are characterized by originality of concept and analysis. Corinth's Hellenic past, heritage and break in historical continuity are central issues in the cultural production of the Second Sophistic. J. Goeken analyzes Favorinus' Corinthian and Aelius Aristides' Isthmian (XLVI) orations, the former regarding Corinth's Hellenism as an invented facade, the latter recognizing a Hellenic identity adaptable to Roman realities. B.Millis focuses on the perception of cultural and material heritage in the crucial first decades after Corinth's foundation. Despite indications of the colonists' indifference to the town's glorious past (including Krinagoras' lamentation, Strabo's writings about necrocorinthia, and the repairing only of temples of Olympian gods), selected historical and mythological elements were adapted in the new order stressing the colony's participation in Greek culture and moreover Rome's role as heir and steering power of this heritage. E. Deniaux's study of colonies in Albania stresses the different background as an important factor in the evolution of identities: Bouthrotos and Byllis, both former seats of local koina with preexisting Greek urban life, display greater acculturation, in contrast to the west-oriented Dyrrachium. The region of Macedonia is covered by extensive and thorough investigations which shed new light and offer a fresh insight into a well-studied region. N. Giannakopoulos investigates the slow process of political integration of indigenous individuals in Kassandreia and Pella, the clear persistence of Greek elements in coin iconography, cult, social institutions (e.g. the gymnasion), the vigorous activity of private associations, and the prevalence of the Greek language in private inscriptions. A reference to new material—otherwise hardly present in this volume—concerns unpublished graffiti of the third century AD on a Macedonian tomb (fourth century BC) in Kassandreia, with Greek and Latin names and dedications to Alexander and Kassander as heroes, verifying the connection of various social components to the royal past. The parallel examination of Dion and Philippi by C. Brélaz and J. Demaille illustrates different forms of interaction with the Macedonian past. Despite the preservation of the urban plan, survival of local cults and infrequent transplantation of Roman cults in Dion, the absence of large Macedonian tombs, the suspension of the Olympic games and reuse of the statue bases erased the hints of the past. In Philippi, tangible traces of its past were preserved in e.g. parts of the urban landscape and rural settlements (vici), apparently survivals of earlier villages inhabited by incolae of mainly Thracian origin. Hellenism survived in the local iconography of certain Roman deities (e.g. Diana represented as Bendis). The decisive factors for the choice of the location of colonies are examined by A. Rizakis, who stresses especially the opposition of various groups or political maneuvers that could lead to modification of initial plans and the foundation of "colonies of substitution" (e.g. Dyme).

Especially striking are the above mentioned survivals or revivals of Greek institutions as well as the use of Greek terms for colonial institutions in Asia Minor where Anatolian heritage survived as well. A. Kuhn vividly sketches certain elements of the pre-colonial polis In Alexandria Troas, which were adopted into the colony's identity producing a sort of continuity, e.g. pre-colonial cults, now served by the colonial elite and connected with Rome (e.g. by utilizing the Trojan legend). The past persisted also in the revival of Greek liturgies, of certain local cults and the Greek language in the Caesarean colony of Sinope (C. Barat), in the gradual adoption of Greek in Apamea Myrlea, where Latin prevailed in private life (E. Guerber), in the use of the Greek language and in the survival or revival of Greek institutions in Pisidian Antioch (H. Bru). G. Labarre stresses Hellenism's gradual integration into the civic space of Antioch along with presence of Anatolian cults, e.g. Men. All this contributed to a mixed identity composed of Roman, Greek and Anatolian elements, observed generally in Roman colonies in Pisidia (N. Belayche). This complex evolution is defined by M. W. Baldwin Bowsky as "normalization" in her analysis of three elements of material and immaterial culture in Knossos/Crete—terra sigillata, language, and onomastics— the examination of Italian tableware being especially interesting, although it is not envisaged as an expression of identity, but as an easy to adopt aspect of western material culture.

The complex identities in Roman colonies of the Near East are highlighted in two profound articles. A.-R. Hošek distinguishes ab extra "Romanization", Roman integration in local culture stressing continuity, from ab intra"Romanization", the adoption of Roman models by local leaders (e.g. the King of Iudaea, who erected a temple of Roma and Augustus in Caesarea Maritima). She further carefully analyses mixed identities of Berytus (Roman colonists, Greek populations, heirs of the Phoenician culture, and populations in the hinterland under Iturean domination), based on a new civic ideology, Phoenician and Semitic heritage and inclusion of the sanctuaries of Deir el-Qalaa, frequented by colonists, and Heliopolis, now monumentalized and transformed into a Roman religious center (its importance shown by the foundation of a colony by Septimius Severus). The self-presentation of Berytian traders abroad shows an evolution of religious identity: in the second century BC on Delos they mentioned their patroos god, Poseidon; in AD 116 they appeared as cultores Iovis Heliopolitani Berytenses qui Puteolis consistent, since Poseidon had been replaced by Jupiter Heliopolitanus. A thorough examination of Caesarea Maritima and Aelia Capitolina in Judaea-Palestina, both displaying a Greek population alongside Roman civic administration and military forces (B. Isaac), focuses on questions related to Caesarea's colonial status, on its overwhelmingly Greek inscriptions, on its function as seat of the highest provincial officials, as the excavation of architectural complexes shows, and on the military presence in Jerusalem/Aelia Capitolina as the base of Legio X Fretensis after AD 70 and still as a colony under Hadrian.

Two contributions on the Greek West highlight the multifaceted character of its colonies. In spite of the old view of Sicily as separated into the Romanized west and Greek east, its Augustan colonies display complexity and diversity: vigorous Greek and local Italian traditions, acculturation, and bilingualism vs deliberate lack of acculturation and separation of linguistic groups (K. Korhonen). Institutions at Neapolis were typical of a municipium which possibly became a colony under Caracalla (cf. an inscription mentioning Colonia Aurelia Augusta Antoniniana Felix Neapolis). The Greek language, still used in the fourth century, along with Greek origins, cults, phratries and mixed citizenship created a "Greek identity" (E. Miranda De Martino).

The volume examines a complex issue on the basis of careful study of source evidence by specialists who revisit mainly published data, shedding light from a point of view that allows new insights. The editor proceeds to combine the results of the various articles into a useful synthesis. Therefore, the individual chapters and the book in its entirety form substantial contributions to the study of identities in antiquity.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Des communautés romaines en milieu hellénique : contacts, interactions, assimilation / Cédric Brélaz
I. Les colonies romaines d'Achaïe et de Macédoine
1. La Seconde Sophistique et l'héritage grec de Corinthe / Johann Goeken
2. Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit: Cultural Expropriation and Assimilation in Roman Corinth / Benjamin Millis
3. Les colonies romaines de l'Albanie d'aujourd'hui (Dyrrachium, Byllis, Buthrote) et l'héritage grec / Élizabeth Deniaux
4. De Buthrote et Patras à Dymè : les colonies de « substitution » ou l'expression du pragmatisme romain face aux oppositions indigènes / Athanasios Rizakis
5. The Greek Presence in the Roman Colonies of Kassandreia and Pella / Nikos Giannakopoulos
6. Traces du passé macédonien et influences de l'hellénisme dans les colonies de Dion et de Philippes / Cédric Brélaz & Julien Demaille

II. Les colonies romaines d'Asie Mineure et de Crète
7. Towards a 'Colonial Hellenism': Hellenic Heritage and Hellenization in Alexandria Troas / Annika B. Kuhn
8. La colonie d'Apamée-Myrléa : « un îlot de romanité en pays grec » ? / Éric Guerber
9. La Colonia Iulia Felix Sinope : d'une ironie tragique à une réalité / Claire Barat
10. L'hellénisme à Antioche de Pisidie à l'époque impériale romaine (langue, institutions, onomastique) / Hadrien Bru
11. Les interactions culturelles dans la colonie romaine d'Antioche de Pisidie (cultes et vie religieuse) / Guy Labarre
12. Dépasser Antioche : les autres colonies romaines augustéennes de Pisidie / Nicole Belayche
13. Normalization at Knossos: Material and Non-material Evidence / Martha W. Baldwin Bowsky

III. Les colonies romaines du Proche-Orient
14. De Berytus à Héliopolis : nouvelles identités et recompositions territoriales / Anne-Rose Hosek
15. Caesarea-on-the-Sea and Aelia Capitolina: Two Ambiguous Roman Colonies / Benjamin Isaac

IV. Les colonies romaines de l'occident grec
16. "Bande à part" : l'eredità greca nelle colonie augustee di Sicilia / Kalle Korhonen
17. L'identità greca di Neapolis / Elena Miranda de Martino
En guise de bilan: de la colonia à la polis, histoire d'une assimilation / Cédric Brélaz

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