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Clément Bady / Olga Boubounelle / Alexandre Vlamos et al.: Les cités grecques face à l’imperium Romanum. Résilience, participation et adhésion des communautés grecques à la construction d’un empire (IIe s. av.-Ier s. de n.è.) (= Dialogues d'histoire ancienne; 26), Besançon: Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté 2023, 326 S., ISBN 978-2-84867-964-8, EUR 29,00
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Rezension von:
Christina Kokkinia
Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Matthias Haake
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Christina Kokkinia: Rezension von: Clément Bady / Olga Boubounelle / Alexandre Vlamos et al.: Les cités grecques face à l’imperium Romanum. Résilience, participation et adhésion des communautés grecques à la construction d’un empire (IIe s. av.-Ier s. de n.è.), Besançon: Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté 2023, in: sehepunkte 24 (2024), Nr. 2 [15.02.2024], URL:

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Clément Bady / Olga Boubounelle / Alexandre Vlamos et al.: Les cités grecques face à l’imperium Romanum

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Resulting from a 2019 conference at the University of Paris Nanterre, this volume contains 12 papers, including the opening conference and an introduction. Uniting these papers is an emphasis on the notion that the Greek cities' resilience in the face of Roman occupation expressed itself in an active engagement in shaping the development and operation of the Roman Empire. The primary focal points include the choices and strategies adopted by Greek cities and koina in navigating Roman hegemony, the internal transformations undergone by Greek cities during Roman rule, and the roles played by Roman citizens within Greek societies. The quality of all the essays is nearly consistently high.

Jordan's paper (49-77) explores the adaptive strategies of cities in Western Asia Minor after 133 BCE and posits that they transitioned from interacting with Hellenistic rulers to navigating a labyrinth of Roman bureaucratic communications dispensed by a variety of actors. Faced with this complexity and a loss of clarity on the "rules of the game" (61), the cities responded by erecting honorific monuments to Romans as "ideological markers" (63) meant to embed members of the Roman elite into local honorific discourse. The paper is enriched by its examination of secondary topics, like the concurrent or isolated use of the titles εὐεργέτης and πάτρων in honorific inscriptions for Romans (63-65), and has a welcome focus on the agency of local entities in perpetuating Roman administrative acts. Yet, it overlooks that inscriptions are predominantly a window into the epigraphic practices of the inscribing communities and offer only a limited view of "the inconsistency of Roman practice" (53). Given the paper's reliance on understanding the style and language of communications preserved in Greek, it is disconcerting to encounter phrases like "ὁ δήμος τὸν δεῖνον τοῦ δεῖνου ἀρέτης ἕνεκα" (62). Unfortunately, errors are found in other Greek quotations too, and the English editing also leaves much to be desired. Despite these criticisms, this paper is indeed thought-provoking and contributes meaningfully to our understanding of local responses to Roman governance.

Weber-Pallez' essay (103-122) offers a compelling perspective on Argos' engagement with Rome. From its early interactions with prominent Roman figures, Argos strategically positioned itself as a center for negotiations, both politically and culturally, and succeeded in acquiring the role of mediator in the relations between Rome and the Achaeans (105-108). The author discusses how Argos took an active role in shaping its own cultural memory, collaborating with the Roman authorities to enhance specific aspects of its traditions. The local heroes Diomedes and Danaos, having been subject to Roman interpretation in earlier periods, were gradually reclaimed by Argos (114-120), where Hypermestra emerged as a symbol of virtue, linking Argive traditions with imperial aspirations to promote moral models (118-119). However, the paper could benefit from closer examination of the original texts, as demonstrated by the misprints and a translation error in the discussion of Agrippa's letter to Argos (118). [1]

Boubounelle's contribution (153-176) is devoted to the restructuring of social hierarchies in Macedonia after the Battle of Pydna, endeavoring to show that while Rome deported the pro-monarchic elites of the former Macedonian kingdom to prevent the re-emergence of a counter-power, it also, on the other hand, relied on the notables of the cities favorable to it and strengthened their role to ensure the stability of the new Macedonian state (156). Boubounelle argues that the deportation must have targeted only a relatively small number of individuals (159) and evaluates earlier studies of the onomastic evidence to demonstrate that there was no sudden replacement of civic elites in Macedonia after 167 BCE, with the exception of the royal entourage (165-166). She also revisits the case of Kalindoia, where the integration of individuals of indigenous and Roman origin within the elite appears to have been a long-term process rather than a sudden event (166-170), and reviews the evidence on the presence of negotiatores in Macedonia, concluding that in this case, too, the integration of new elements into the life of the cities was a gradual process (170-175).

In a paper rich with keen observations and fresh perspectives, Chin (201-224) focuses on the consequences of honors granted to Roman magistrates from 85 BCE to 14 CE. First, Chin examines the decades between 85 and 31 BCE, a period marked by the proliferation of honors for Roman officials. He suggests that these honors served as a way to represent Roman office-holding in civic terms (204), portraying Roman officials as potential "ambassadors" of civic interests (205). The increasing visibility of Roman euergetism and honors for Roman officials, according to Chin, encouraged a rise in honors offered to citizen representatives as a means to assert their continued relevance (210). However, since honors for Roman officials were primarily commemorations of single-year office-holding, Chin suggests that they may have gradually influenced local citizen honors, making them similarly commemorative in nature (222). This transformation, Chin terms the emergence of "memorability" at the expense of "replicability" (220). While this reviewer is not entirely convinced of a distinct contrast between the individual memorability of an honorand's deeds and "their value as a source of replicable ideals" (203), Chin's study is insightful and makes for an engaging read.

Despite some uneven editing, this volume highlights the dynamic interplay between Greek and Roman traditions during a transformative era, and the concept of resilience indeed provides a useful lens through which to study these interactions. However, the dynamics of this historical process were even more nuanced. When we discuss Greeks "facing" the emerging Roman Empire, it is worth noting that Romans, too, were engaged in an act of resistance during this period. Both Greeks and Romans were simultaneously engaged in the task of laying the ideological foundations of the new state. In this process, Romans found themselves resisting claims of cultural superiority propagated by Greek intellectuals, particularly by orator-superstars throughout the empire, including within Rome itself. While this multidimensional dynamic may not be fully explored within the pages of this volume, it remains a captivating and recommended read for those intrigued by the web of social transformations that unfold when societies integrate into larger political entities.


[1] Guilielmus Vollgraff: Novae Inscriptiones Argivae, Mnemosyne 47 (1919), 252-270, here: 263-264. Ἐμα(υ)τῷ σύνοιδα conveys the meaning of "to know" or "to know well", rather than "to congratulate oneself" or "to take pride in", as translated by Weber-Pallez (118: "se félicite").

Christina Kokkinia