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Chapter 6 - ‘To be magnanimous and grateful’

The Entanglement of Cities and Empires in the Hellenistic Aegean

from Part III - Hellenistic Benefactors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2021

Marc Domingo Gygax
Affiliation:
Princeton University, New Jersey
Arjan Zuiderhoek
Affiliation:
Universiteit Gent, Belgium
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Summary

In the Hellenistic period, cities were the cornerstones of imperial rule. Cities were the loci for the acquisition of capital and manpower, and imperial agents (philoi) were recruited for a large part among Greek civic elites. This chapter departs from the dual premise that premodern empires are negotiated enterprises and that they are often networks of interaction rather than territorial states. The relentless competition between three rival superpowers in the Hellenistic Aegean – the Seleukid, Ptolemaic and Antigonid Empires – gave cities a good bargaining position vis-à-vis these empires. The fact that the imperial courts were dominated by philoi from the Aegean poleis moreover meant that these cities held a central and privileged place in Hellenistic imperialism, and benefited greatly from it. Royal benefactions structured imperial-local interactions. They were instrumental in a complex of reciprocal gift-exchange between empires and cities. Empires most of all needed capital, loyalty and military support. As kings were usually short of funds, the gifts by which they hoped to win the support of cities against their rivals often came in the form of immaterial benefactions like the granting of privileges and the protection of civic autonomy.

Type
Chapter
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Benefactors and the Polis
The Public Gift in the Greek Cities from the Homeric World to Late Antiquity
, pp. 137 - 178
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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