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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
March 2008
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Volume VIII of the second edition of The Cambridge Ancient History, like its counterpart in the first edition, deals with the comparatively short but eventful period in which Rome acquired effective political mastery of the Mediterranean lands. From the Carthaginians in Spain, the Second Punic War and the first Roman involvement across the Adriatic, the advance of Roman power is traced through the conquests in Cisalpine Gaul, Spain and Africa in the west and through the conflicts in the east with Macedonia, the Seleucid empire, and finally the Greeks. Interspersed with these themes are chapters on the Seleucids and their rivals and on the Greeks of Batria and India, on the internal political life of Rome, and on developments in Rome's relationship with her allies and neighbours in Italy. In conclusion, two chapters explore the interaction between the Roman and Italian tradition and the Greek world, the first dealing mainly with intellectual and literary developments, the Second Punic War and the first Roman involvement across the Adriatic, the advance of Roman power is traced through the conflicts in the east with Macedonia, the Seleuid empire, and finally the Greeks. Interspersed with these themes are chapters on the Seleucids and their rivals and on the Greeks of Bactria and India, on developments in Rome's relationships with her allies and neighbours in Italy. In conclusion, two chapters explore the interaction between the Roman and Italian tradition and the Greek world, the first dealing mainly with intellectual and literary developments, the second with the material evidence for such interaction at many levels ranging from the basis of economic production to architecture and major works of art. This new edition has been completely replanned and rewritten in order to reflect the advances in scholarship and changes in perspective which have been achieved in the half-century since the publication of its predecessor.


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  • 1 - Sources
    pp 1-16
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    The Hellenistic world was a world well acquainted with literature and literary composition, and although in the third century it had had a number of distinguished historians of its own, there followed a long period, during which it produced little major historical writing apart from the work of Polybius. Polybius of Megalopolis was one of the thousand leading men of Achaea who were deported to Italy after the battle of Pydna in 168. Naturally historical and narrative works contribute much information regarding social, economic and cultural matters, just as non-historical works of all types and of all periods contain numerous anecdotes and incidental details relating to the political and military affairs of ancient period in Rome. The main categories of non-literary evidence available to the historian of the ancient world are documents written on papyrus, coins, inscriptions, and the enormous range of material remains, from great buildings to tiny domestic articles, which are recorded and studied by archaeologists.
  • 2 - The Carthaginians in Spain
    pp 17-43
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    With the decline of Tyre the string of trading posts, which the Phoenicians founded from Gades on the Atlantic shore of Spain round to Malaca, Sexi and Abdera along the south-west Mediterranean coast, gradually passed into Carthaginian hands. A turning-point in Carthaginian relations with the Greeks was the battle of Alalia, where with their Etruscan allies they smashed Phocaean sea-power. When the First Punic War ended Hamilcar Barca remained undefeated in Sicily and was then given full powers by the Carthaginian government to negotiate a peace settlement with Rome. Hamilcar was succeeded in the governorship of Spain by his son-in-law and admiral, Hasdrubal, who was first chosen by the troops. On the death of Hasdrubal the army in Spain enthusiastically conferred the command on Hannibal, and this appointment was quickly confirmed by the Carthaginian government by a unanimous vote. Polybius condemns the Carthaginians in regard to Saguntum, but he equally condemns the Romans for their previous unjust seizure of Sardinia.
  • 3 - The Second Punic War
    pp 44-80
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    The Senate took advantage of Carthage's difficulties in the Mercenary War to seize Sardinia. Polybius rightly regarded the latter action as unjustified and the subsequent Carthaginian resentment as a major cause of the Second Punic War. The treaty between Hannibal and Philip V of Macedon clearly envisaged Rome's continuing existence after a Carthaginian victory. Hannibal left Carthago Nova sometime in May, and reached the Rhone in September. Scipio, with an army destined for Spain, arrived by sea at the mouth of the Rhone at the same time. Scipio now sent the major part of his forces to Spain under the command of his brother Gnaeus, while he himself returned to Italy. Sicily and Sardinia were the prizes won by Rome as a result of the First Punic War and its aftermath. They were finally organized as provinces in 227 but in Sicily the kingdom of Syracuse, like the city of Messana, remained an independent state, bound to Rome by treaty.
  • 4 - Rome and Greece to 205 B.C.
    pp 81-106
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    The Romans had had state-to-state contacts, both friendly and unfriendly, with Greek communities and kings of the Greek world east of the Adriatic for many generations before the first trans-Adriatic military adventure in 229 BC. The Roman role was essentially passive; and this will doubtless have been the case also with the earliest friendly contacts with the Greek island of Rhodes about 305. This chapter discusses the Illyrian War between Rome and Greece. No far-reaching aspect of Roman foreign policy is affected by acceptance or rejection of the Acarnanian incident. The importance of the Straits of Otranto to Roman thinking and the limited aims of the war emerge from the course of events. During the 220s, Rome was seriously occupied in Italy by the Gallic invasion; and the Senate was also observing events in southern Spain, where the Carthaginians were successfully rebuilding their influence and power.
  • 5 - Roman expansion in the west
    pp 107-162
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    Between the end of the second war against Carthage and the fall of Numantia in 133 Roman power engulfed northern Italy and vast territories in Spain, as well as defeating Carthage once more, destroying the city and establishing a province in northern Africa. In 201 there was not even a geographical expression to apply to the area which the Romans later came to call Gallia Cisalpina. On the coast Genua had been rebuilt in 203, and two years later it was partially secured by means of a treaty with the Ligurian people immediately to the west, the Ingauni. The year 182 apparently marked an increase in Roman effort in Liguria, since a proconsul as well as both consuls spent the year there, each with two legions. During the Third Macedonian War Roman governors in Spain restrained themselves or were restrained by the Senate. Under a treaty very advantageous to Rome, Rome and Carthage remained formally at peace for fifty-two years.
  • 6 - Roman government and politics, 200-134 B.C.
    pp 163-196
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    The constitutional arrangements with which Rome emerged from the Second Punic War differed scarcely at all in form from those with which she had embarked upon that great struggle. Their essence remained the threefold structure of magistrates, Senate, and assemblies of the citizen body, the structure which the Greek observer Polybius was shortly to characterize as a 'mixed' constitution. Polybius saw that in the Roman governmental system the role of the Senate was central, that his aristocratic element predominated. This chapter examines the nature of Roman politics in the period. The idea that a major source of political power was a network of social connections which tended to be passed from one generation of a powerful family to the next prompted a further influential hypothesis. The combination of oligarchic predominance and popular electoral institutions had a further consequence which tended both to reinforce the pattern as a whole and to create ample scope for political competition conceived in personal terms.
  • 7 - Rome and Italy in the second century B.C.
    pp 197-243
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    The ager Campanus have been the only territory to become Roman ager publicus in its entirety, complete with buildings, although it is thought by some that Telesia also had all of its territory confiscated. It is generally thought that Rome confiscated the best arable land and that this was usually turned into pasture, thus contributing to the destruction of small and medium-sized farms. There is undoubted evidence that this change of use did occur in certain specific areas, but it cannot be considered the norm, as the conditions and methods of farming in second-century Italy were extremely varied. During the second century BC. The establishment and spread of Rome's political predominance in the Mediterranean basin brought with it growing commercial and economic expansion as well as the benefits that sprang directly from the military victories. The transformation of society and of the agrarian economy was but the final unfolding of a situation which had been developing since the third century.
  • 8 - Rome against Philip and Antiochus
    pp 244-289
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    The Peace of Phoenice was intended to give Rome a free hand in Africa by closing the Balkan front. The peace terms seemed to secure the safety of the Straits of Otranto, therefore to protect Italy from Philip. Antiochus III was setting out to restore Seleucid control over western Asia Minor. Philip paid as little attention to Lepidus' arrogant protestations at Abydus as he had to the message of the legati sent via Nicanor from Athens. Antiochus' conquests in Asia Minor, but above all his crossing to Europe, had made him seem a threat to the main strategic Roman achievement of the Macedonian War. The Romans were thoroughly discomfited by Antiochus' consummate performance. The Roman peace was being shaken by the Aetolians. Probably in spring 193 they decided, in the absence of Roman troops, to try to upset the Roman settlement.
  • 9 - Rome, the fall of Macedon and the sack of Corinth
    pp 290-323
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    The Greeks found in Rome a master such as Philip had never come near to being, stronger and more deleterious. The Boeotians, fearful of effecting a rupture in their friendly relations with Macedon, declined and sent an embassy to Rome, where Zeuxippus represented himself. It is as early as 175 that Livy can say anxiety about the Macedonian war beset them. In the previous year embassies had arrived at Rome from the Dardani complaining of attacks by the Bastarnae and claiming that Perseus was behind these and in league with the Bastarnae. With the loss of Livy's continuous narrative after 167 BC and the increasingly fragmentary state of Polybius' Histories, it becomes impossible to construct an account that can be full enough to be wholly satisfying. The Senate decreed that Corinth was to be burnt and everything in it sold or carried off to Rome.
  • 10 - The Seleucids and their rivals
    pp 324-387
    • By C. Habicht, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
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    The war between Antiochus III and the Romans had been decided in Asia Minor and it was in Asia Minor, almost exclusively, that territory changed hands. The territories Eumenes and Rhodes received were unequivocally a gift, which implied an expectation that both powers would act as guarantors of the new order and that both would prevent any development disturbing to Rome. Eumenes had won the alliance of Cappadocia and had established control over Galatia, though under the treaty of Apamea he was secured against an attack by a Seleucid king, who resented the loss of their freedom. Within the short span of seven years Roman armies had defeated the Hellenistic world's two powerful kings, Philip V and Antiochus III. The events that brought Antiochus to the throne moved so quickly that scholars have often assumed part or all of them, including the assassination of Seleucus, had been arranged by Rome and Eumenes, perhaps with Heliodorus the pawn.
  • 11 - The Greeks of Bactria and India
    pp 388-421
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    In the Achaemenid period, when the Persian empire extended from Greece to Gandhara, a meeting between the east and the west had taken place. Indian soldiers in the Persian army fought on Greek soil, and Greeks such as Scylax made explorations in India for the Persians. The Greeks of Bactria under Diodotus gained their independence from the Seleucids as a result of open revolt or through a gradual transition to power. Diodotus I considered himself a saviour of the Greeks in Bactria, some of his coins include the title of Soter. On the other hand, coins of Pantaleon and Agathocles are rare in the western parts of Bactria. The policy initiated by Agathocles was followed by Menander. It is generally accepted that Menander was married to Agathocleia, probably a sister or daughter of Agathocles. After Menander there began the process of decline and fall of the Graeco- Bactrian and Graeco-Indian kings.
  • 12 - Roman tradition and the Greek world
    pp 422-476
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    This chapter focuses on the Roman tradition and Greek world through the eyes of two contrasted writers, such as Polybius and Fabius Pictor. The other fact that Polybius stresses is the sheer size of the Roman military and naval effort. The manpower resources of Rome and her Italian allies were, in the eyes of a Greek from the Peloponnese, enormous; her navies in particular larger than anything a Greek power could produce. The senator Fabius Pictor, who wrote a history of Rome in the Greek language, perhaps shortly after rather than during the c, attempted to prove not only that her policy in her recent wars had been eminently just, but that she was to all intents a Greek city. The Second Macedonian War brought Rome into direct contact with the Greek world and initiated a period of unprecedently rapid social and cultural change.
  • 13 - The transformation of Italy, 300 – 133 B.C. The evidence of archaeology
    pp 477-516
    • By Jean-Paul Morel, Professor at the Université de Provence (Aix en Provence), and Director of the Centre Camille Jullian
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    The central issue in the development of Italy during the third and second centuries BC is without doubt that of its hellenization; nevertheless it would be a mistake to relate everything to this factor. Indeed, an enquiry confined to art and architecture would be unacceptable in the light of the approach taken recently by archaeology. The evidence leaves no doubt that the beginning of the third century and even the end of the fourth century constituted an intensely creative period in Italy. Models and ideas spread more vigorously in the field of art than in that of ordinary craft products, which Central Italy had no great need to import. As for Cosa, it represents an exception in Central-Southern Etruria and extends northward the expansion-zone of the great architectural innovations from Latium and Campania. Innovations were less acceptable, especially in Rome, insofar as they impinged on what might be called public morality.


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