Scholia Reviews ns 19 (2010) 15.


Jesper Majbom Madsen, Eager to be Roman: Greek Responses to Roman Rule in Pontus and Bithynia. London: Duckworth, 2009. Pp. ix + 166, incl. 8 black-and-white illustrations. ISBN 978-0-7156-3753-1. UK£50.00.

Benedict Lowe, Roman Iberia: Economy, Society and Culture. London: Duckworth, 2009. Pp. viii + 230, incl. 28 black-and-white illustrations and 6 maps. ISBN 978-0-7156-3499-8. UK£18.00.

Denis Saddington
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Professor Madsen of the University of Southern Denmark has rewritten his PhD dissertation to produce this interesting discussion of a little-known area of the Roman Empire. After a preface and an introduction he deals with his topic in five chapters, Chapter 1 (pp. 11-26) 'A Governor at Work' (on Pliny in Pontus and Bithynia), Chapter 2 (pp. 27-58) on Roman Rule in the area, Chapter 3 (pp. 59-82) 'Greeks in the Roman World' (which is mainly on prominent citizens of the region who had senatorial careers in Rome), Chapter 4 (pp. 83-102) on turning Roman in the area (or how Roman citizenship was acquired and whether this implied the adoption of a Roman identity), and Chapter 5 (pp. 103-26) 'Responses to Roman Rule' (those of Dio Chrysostom, Arrian and Cassius Dio). After the conclusion come the notes, an index locorum and a general index. There is a map and several photographs of archaeological sites and objects.

The author’s major concern is whether the elite developed a sense of belonging to what he calls the Roman collectivity. He asks how deeply Roman rule modified the local way of life. In Chapter 1 he demonstrates that, from the Roman point of view, Roman rule was a partnership between the governor and the emperor and that the Roman authorities had no qualms about interfering unilaterally in local government. (He might, however, have given more attention to practical issues, such as the time-lag in correspondence between governor and emperor and even between the provincial authorityand governor at the other end of the province, especially in winter.) His defence of the authenticity of Pliny’s correspondence with Trajan is astute. Chapter 2 concerns the introduction of Graeco-Roman cities by Pompey the Great (who first organized the province) in an area previously occupied by large estates and villages. The contribution of the imperial cult is treated carefully. Chapter 3 is less satisfactory. Madsen uses the modern term of ‘war service’ of the prefectures and tribunates held by persons of equestrian status in the Roman army. But equites did not ‘enter the army’: they held brief commands (often only a single tribunate) lasting at most for two to three years each. In between there was ample time to return home and engage in local affairs.[[1]] Similarly, holding curae and provincial governorships as a senator was also episodic, allowing ample time to return to one’s home estates (contra pp. 72-3), although, of course, some opted to reside elsewhere than in their home province). But Madsen’s conclusion that the local élite regarded office-holding at Rome as a ‘superstructure to local prestige’ (p. 81) not necessarily implying a cultural metamorphosis is sound. Chapter 4 deals with the difficult problem of how Roman provincials might become. Madsen is suitably cautious. ‘Roman’ is, of course, an ambiguous term but even ‘Greek’ needs challenging. In fact, how Greek were the peoples of what is today NW Turkey? Though wealthy citizens of Pontus and Bithynia had a Greek education they had a local culture (and Pontus and Bithynia were not themselves uniform), which Madsen ignores. In nearby Galatia, what was left of the Galatian (i.e., Celtic or Gallic) culture of the Hellenized nobles (or were they still chieftains?) being Romanized in the Early Empire?

Madsen admits that he has confined his discussion to the elite. But something can be made of non-elite inscriptions, for example. To take some military ones: ISinope 100 (Madsen’s habit of quoting only by the IK number is frustrating, as one cannot from it deduce the city from which the inscription comes) is the epitaph of a navarch with an apparent Roman name. But his cognomen of Primus raises an eyebrow. Was he perhaps a freedman, as many captains in the early fleets were, or was his Roman name assigned to him on entry into the fleet? In any case he held magisterial office in Sinope and was priest of Augustus in that Roman colony on the Black Sea. Whatever his origin, in civic terms he conformed to a recognized, and respected, Roman type. As his tribus or voting constituency shows, M. Blossius of ISinope 122 was a Roman citizen. His name is typical of Campania. But he served in an Eastern regiment, the Cohors Cypria. C. Octavius in the Cohors Augusta was clearly a Roman, but not one from Italy. He came from the colony of Savatra (Yaǧlibayat) in a remote area of Galatia. How many local and Greek traits had his family adopted from their new environment? Another source of non-elite evidence is the New Testament. In I Peter the writer (1.1) addresses ‘those living as aliens in Pontus, Galatia and Bithynia’, ‘aliens’ in the sense of religiously unacceptable Christians. What was their social status? Though religious outcasts and feeling that they were ‘living in a foreign land’ they were expected to ‘submit themselves to the emperor, and to governors’ (2.13f.): in other words, to behave as proper subjects of Rome. However, the acceptance of Roman government did not make them any more Roman than Paul and Josephus who, although Roman citizens, remained culturally completely Jewish. (Madsen mentions the New Testament but does not quote this passage.)

There are occasional infelicities like ‘possessors’ (for landowners, p. 34) or ‘campaign’ (for campaigns, p. 119) but generally the standard of the English in the book is excellent. Some issues need deeper probing, but overall this is a thoughtful and judicious work.

Lowe’s book is a reworking of his Edinburgh PhD. It opens with a short chapter (pp. 1-7) on 'Romanization and the Ancient Economy'; Chapter 2, 'Expanding Horizons' (pp. 8-53), is concerned with the economies of the Phoenician and Greek settlement in Spain; Chapter 3 (pp. 54-86) that of The Roman Republic; Chapter 4 (pp. 87-115) is on The Augustan Expansion; Chapter 5 (pp. 116-165) The Roman Economy. The notes come after a conclusion and there is a bibliography, a glossary and an index. The illustrations consist of maps and photographs of archaeological sites.

Lowe has set out to investigate the economic consequences of the Roman conquest of Spain and the economic underpinning of Romanization (p. 1). He traces how rapidly industrial exploitation of natural resources and developments in agriculture and fishing occurred. This attractive large-scale immigration from Italy. The typical Roman working and industrial villa soon appeared in Spain. Under Augustus the mining of gold and other metals, especially in Asturias and Galicia, saw an exponential increase. In agriculture there were spectacular developments in viticulture and the production of olive oil, as well as in fishing (but more might have been said about the production of garum). Following Caesar, Augustus established many Roman colonies in the peninsula. Chapter 5 gives a very detailed, site-by site account of economic activity in Roman Spain in the heyday. How Spain developed a local type of amphora is clearly described. Due attention is paid to the names of owners of businesses and of their workers where these have survived as stamps in pottery or on metal. But although Monte Testaccio is mentioned Roman-Hispanic trade connections are not treated in depth nor again, for example, the export of olive oil especially to the legions stationed on the Rhine or in Britain. Though entrepreneural names are fully listed, they are only occasionally grouped or tied to possible origins in Italy or elsewhere. In spite of a reference to Finley in the introduction (p. 4) there is no detailed discussion of the relevance of modern debates on the nature of ancient economies to Spain.

The ‘Economy’ of the sub-title thus occupies the bulk of the book: the ‘Culture’ and ‘Society’ in it get scant treatment. For example, the quasi-Roman settlement of Carteia is mentioned (p. 56), but its fascinating implications for Romanization not teased out. Romanization is, however, introduced with the first chapter but the discussion is perfunctory. Does the adoption of Roman methods of manufacture Romanize someone? (If a Korean buys a Mercedes is he Germanizing, or merely making a technological decision?) If ‘Culture’ was to be a concern of the work, an exposé of the economic background to the rise of the Seneca family would have been welcome. (Seneca had wide investments in Britain: were they financed from Spanish sources or the money he made during his political career in Italy?) The first non-Italian to become emperor was a Spaniard (Trajan), the descendant of immigrants from central Italy. Had some of his male ancestors married local Spanish women? What was the economic basis of the rise of the Ulpii Traiani in the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D.?

Lowe has given us short change on the issue of Romanization and culture. But those needing an up-to-date and a thorough almost site-by-site description of Romano-Spanish economic activity (with detailed references to often obscure local journals) will find his work of great value.

The Romans needed an ever-increasing number of men to fill their armies and to run their huge empire. Hence their ready granting of Roman citizenship to non-Romans and their absorption of the new citizens into administrative structures, but no cultural requirements were enforced. This only can properly be called Romanization. But the élite in the empire shared a Graeco-Roman education and culture. Did participation in it Romanize a provincial? There was widespread technological cross-fertilization in the empire. Did participation in it or the purchase of its products show Romanization?


[[1]] Madsen does not cite H. Devijver’s Prosopographia Militiarum Equestrium (Leuwen 1976-2001), nor, although especially relevant to his area, his article, with its valuable statistics on ‘Equestrian Officers in the East’ in The Roman Defence of the East, edd. P. Freeman et al. (Oxford 1986) 109-225, reprinted in Denvijver’s collected papers, Mavors VI (1989) 273-389.