Greece in the Roman era describes the period of Greek history when Ancient Greece was dominated by the Roman republic (509 – 27 BC), the Roman Empire (27 BC – AD 395), and the Byzantine Empire (AD 395 – 1453). The Roman era of Greek history began with the Corinthian defeat in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC. However, before the Achaean War, the Roman Republic had been steadily gaining control of mainland Greece by defeating the Kingdom of Macedon in a series of conflicts known as the Macedonian Wars. The Fourth Macedonian War ended at the Battle of Pydna in 148 BC and defeat of the Macedonian royal pretender Andriscus.
The definitive Roman occupation of the Greek world was established after the Battle of Actium (31 BC), in which Augustus defeated Cleopatra VII, the Greek Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, and the Roman general Mark Antony, and afterwards conquered Alexandria (32 BC), the last great city of Hellenistic Greece. The Roman era of Greek history continued with Emperor Constantine the Great's adoption of Byzantium as Nova Roma, the capital city of the Roman Empire; in AD 330, the city was renamed Constantinople; afterwards, the Byzantine Empire was a generally Greek-speaking polity.
The Greek peninsula fell under Roman rule in 146 BC, after the Battle of Corinth, when Macedonia became a Roman province. Afterwards, southern Greece was under Macedonian hegemony; however, some Greek poleis remained partly independent and avoided Roman taxation. In principle, the Kingdom of Pergamon (282–133 BC) was annexed to that territory in 133 BC, when King Attalus III (r. 138–133 BC) willed the lands to Rome; however, the Romans were slow in securing their claim to those lands, and a pretender to the throne of Pergamon, Eumenes III (Aristonicus) led a revolt with the help of the philosopher Blossius, which the Roman army suppressed in 129 BC, when the lands of Pergamon were divided among Rome, the Kingdom of Pontus, and Cappadocia.
In 88 BC, Athens and other Greek city states revolted against Rome, and were suppressed by General Lucius Cornelius Sulla. During the Roman civil wars Greece was physically and economically devastated, until Caesar Augustus organized the peninsula as the province of Achaea, in 27 BC. Initially, Rome's conquest of Greece damaged the economy, yet readily recovered under Roman administration in the post-war period. Moreover, the Greek cities in Asia Minor recovered from Roman conquest more rapidly than did the cities of peninsular Greece, which had much been damaged in the war with General Sulla. As an empire, Rome invested resources and rebuilt the cities of Roman Greece, and established Corinth as the capital city of the province of Achaea, whilst Athens prospered as a cultural hub of philosophy, education, and learned knowledge.
Life in Greece continued under the Roman Empire much the same as it had previously. Roman culture was highly influenced by the Greeks; as Horace said, Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit ("Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror"). The epics of Homer inspired the Aeneid of Virgil, and authors such as Seneca the younger wrote using Greek styles. While some Roman nobles regarded the Greeks as backwards and petty, many others embraced Greek literature and philosophy. The Greek language became a favorite of the educated and elite in Rome, such as Scipio Africanus, who tended to study philosophy and regard Greek culture and science as an example to be followed.
Similarly, most Roman emperors maintained an admiration for things Greek in nature. The Roman Emperor Nero visited Greece in AD 66, and performed at the Ancient Olympic Games, despite the rules against non-Greek participation. He was honored with a victory in every contest, and in the following year he proclaimed the freedom of the Greeks at the Isthmian Games in Corinth, just as Flamininus had over 200 years previously. Hadrian was also particularly fond of the Greeks; before he became emperor he served as an eponymous archon of Athens. He also built his Arch of Hadrian there.
Many temples and public buildings were built in Greece by emperors and wealthy Roman nobility, especially in Athens. Julius Caesar began construction of the Roman agora in Athens, which was finished by Augustus. The main gate, Gate of Athena Archegetis, was dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens, Athena. The Agrippeia was built in the center of the Ancient Agora of Athens by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. The Tower of the Winds was built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus in 50 BC, although it may predate the entire Roman section of Athens. The emperor Hadrian was a philhellene and an ardent admirer of Greece and, seeing himself as an heir to Pericles, made many contributions to Athens. He built the Library of Hadrian in the city, as well as completing construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, some 638 years after its construction was started by Athenian tyrants, but ended due to the belief that building on such a scale was hubristic. The Athenians built the Arch of Hadrian to honor Emperor Hadrian. The side of the arch facing the Athenian agora and the Acropolis had an inscription stating "This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus." The side facing the Roman agora and the new city had an inscription stating "This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus." Adrianou (Hadrian Street) exists to this day, leading from the arch to the Roman agora.
The Pax Romana was the longest period of peace in Greek history, and Greece became a major crossroads of maritime trade between Rome and the Greek speaking eastern half of the empire. The Greek language served as a lingua franca in the East and in Italy, and many Greek intellectuals such as Galen would perform most of their work in Rome.
During this time, Greece and much of the rest of the Roman east came under the influence of Early Christianity. The apostle Paul of Tarsus preached in Philippi, Corinth and Athens, and Greece soon became one of the most highly Christianized areas of the empire.
During the second and third centuries, Greece was divided into provinces including Achaea, Macedonia, Epirus and Thrace. During the reign of Diocletian in the late 3rd century, Moesia was organized as a diocese, and was ruled by Galerius. Under Constantine (who professed Christianity) Greece was part of the prefectures of Macedonia and Thrace. Theodosius divided the prefecture of Macedonia into the provinces of Creta, Achaea, Thessalia, Epirus Vetus, Epirus Nova, and Macedonia. The Aegean islands formed the province of Insulae in the Diocese of Asia.
Greece faced invasions from the Heruli, Goths, and Vandals during the reign of Romulus Augustulus. Stilicho, who pretended he was a regent for Arcadius, evacuated Thessaly when the Visigoths invaded in the late 4th century. Arcadius' chief advisor Eutropius allowed Alaric to enter Greece, and he looted Athens, Corinth and the Peloponnese. Stilicho eventually drove him out around 397 and Alaric was made magister militum in Illyricum. Eventually, Alaric and the Goths migrated to Italy, sacked Rome in 410, and built the Visigothic Kingdom in Iberia, which lasted until 711 with the advent of the Arabs.
Greece remained part of the relatively unified eastern half of the empire, which eventually became the center of the remaining Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. Contrary to outdated visions of Late Antiquity, the Greek peninsula was most likely one of the most prosperous regions of the Roman Empire. Older scenarios of poverty, depopulation, barbarian destruction and civil decay have been revised in light of recent archaeological discoveries. In fact the polis, as an institution, appears to have remained prosperous until at least the sixth century. Contemporary texts such as Hierokles' Syndekmos affirm that Late antiquity Greece was highly urbanised and contained approximately 80 cities. This view of extreme prosperity is widely accepted today, and it is assumed between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, Greece may have been one of the most economically active regions in the eastern Mediterranean.
The 365 Crete earthquake occurred at about sunrise on 21 July 365 in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an assumed epicentre near Crete. Geologists today estimate the undersea earthquake to have been a magnitude 8.0 or higher. It caused widespread destruction in central and southern Greece, northern Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, Sicily, and Spain. On Crete, nearly all towns were destroyed.The Crete earthquake was followed by a tsunami which devastated the southern and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, particularly Libya, Alexandria and the Nile Delta, killing thousands and hurling ships 3 km (1.9 mi) inland. The quake left a deep impression on the late antique mind, and numerous writers of the time referred to the event in their works.Apollonius Molon
Apollonius Molon or Molo of Rhodes (or simply Molon; Ancient Greek: Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Μόλων), was a Greek rhetorician. He was a native of Alabanda, a pupil of Menecles, and settled at Rhodes, where he opened a school of rhetoric. Prior to that, he twice visited Rome as an ambassador from Rhodes. Marcus Tullius Cicero studied with him during his trip to Greece in 79-77 BC, as did Gaius Julius Caesar a few years later. Perhaps it is at least partially due to Apollonius Molon's instruction that Caesar, and Cicero especially, achieved fame as orators in the Roman Republic. Molon is reputed to have quoted Demosthenes in telling his pupils that the first three elements in rhetoric were "Delivery, Delivery and Delivery." He had a stellar reputation in Roman Law courts, and was even invited to address the Roman Senate in Greek - an honor not usually bestowed upon foreign ambassadors.
Molon wrote on Homer and endeavored to moderate the florid Asiatic style of rhetoric. According to Josephus, in Against Apion, Apollonius Molon slandered the Jews.Asia (Roman province)
The Roman province of Asia or Asiana (Greek: Ἀσία or Ἀσιανή), in Byzantine times called Phrygia, was an administrative unit added to the late Republic. It was a Senatorial province governed by a proconsul. The arrangement was unchanged in the reorganization of the Roman Empire in 211.Battle of Corinth (146 BC)
The Battle of Corinth was a battle fought between the Roman Republic and the Greek city-state of Corinth and its allies in the Achaean League in 146 BCE, which resulted in the complete and total destruction of Corinth. This battle marked the beginning of the period of Roman domination in Greek history.Battle of Thermopylae (254)
The Battle of Thermopylae in 254 was the successful defense of the pass of Thermopylae by local Greek militia under Marianus, the Roman proconsul of Achaea, during an invasion of the Balkans by the Goths.Delphi Inscription
The Delphi Inscription, or Gallio Inscription (IG, VII, 1676; SIG, II, 801d), is the name given to the collection of nine fragments of a letter written by the Roman emperor Claudius c. 52 CE which was discovered early in the 20th century at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece.Diocese of Asia
The Diocese of Asia (Latin: Dioecesis Asiana, Greek: Διοίκησις Ασίας/Ασιανής) was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of western Asia Minor and the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. The diocese was established after the reforms of Diocletian, was subordinate to the Praetorian prefecture of the East, and was abolished during the reforms of Justinian I in 535.
It was one of the most populous and wealthy dioceses of the Empire, and included 11 provinces: Asia, Hellespontus, Pamphylia, Caria, Lydia, Lycia, Lycaonia, Pisidia, Phrygia Pacatiana, Phrygia Salutaria and Insulae.Diocese of Macedonia
The Diocese of Macedonia (Latin: Dioecesis Macedoniae, Greek: Διοίκησις Μακεδονίας) was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, forming part of the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum. Its administrative centre was Thessaloniki.Diocese of Thrace
The Diocese of Thrace (Latin: Dioecesis Thraciae, Greek: Διοίκησις Θράκης) was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of the eastern Balkan Peninsula (comprising territories in modern south-eastern Romania, central and eastern Bulgaria, and Greek and Turkish Thrace). Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv, in Bulgaria) was the capital.
The diocese was established as part of the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine the Great, and was headed by a vicarius subordinate to the praetorian prefecture of the East. As outlined in the Notitia Dignitatum of ca. 400, the diocese included the provinces of Europa, Thracia, Haemimontus, Rhodope, Moesia II and Scythia Minor.
In May 535, with Novel 26, Justinian I abolished the Diocese of Thrace. Its vicarius retained his rank of vir spectabilis and received the new title of praetor Justinianus, uniting in his hand both civil and military authority over the provinces of the former diocese, in a crucial departure from the strict separation of authority from the Diocletianian system. A year later, in May 536, the two Danubian provinces, Moesia Inferior and Scythia, where detached to form, along with other provinces, the quaestura exercitus.Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus (Classical Latin: [ˈgaː.i.ʊs ˈkas.si.ʊs ˈlɔŋ.gɪ.nʊs]; October 3, before 85 BC – October 3, 42 BC), often referred to as Cassius, was a Roman senator and general best known as a leading instigator of the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. He was also the brother-in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus, also a leader of the conspiracy. He commanded troops with Brutus during the Battle of Philippi against the combined forces of Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar's former supporters, and committed suicide after being defeated by Mark Antony.
Cassius was elected as a Tribune of the Plebs in 49 BC. He opposed Caesar, and he commanded a fleet against him during Caesar's Civil War: after Caesar defeated Pompey in the Battle of Pharsalus, Caesar overtook Cassius and forced him to surrender. After Caesar's death, Cassius fled to the East, where he amassed an army of twelve legions. He was supported and made Governor by the Senate. Though he and Brutus marched west against the allies of the Second Triumvirate, Cassius was defeated at the Battle of Phillippi and committed suicide.
He followed the teachings of the philosopher Epicurus, although scholars debate whether or not these beliefs affected his political life. Cassius is a main character in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar that depicts the assassination of Caesar and its aftermath. He is also shown in the lowest circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno as punishment for betraying and killing Caesar.Haemimontus
Haemimontus (Greek: ἐπαρχία Αἱμίμοντος) was a late Roman and early Byzantine province, situated in northeastern Thrace. It was subordinate to the Diocese of Thrace and to the praetorian prefecture of the East. Its capital was Adrianople, and it was headed by a praeses. The province was superseded by the Theme of Thrace during the 7th century, but survived as an Orthodox ecclesiastical metropolis until late Byzantine times.League of Free Laconians
The League of Free Laconians (Greek: Κοινόν τῶν Ἐλευθερολακώνων, romanized: Koinon tōn Eleutherolakōnōn) was established in southern Greece in 21 BC by the Emperor Augustus, giving formal structure to a group of cities that had been associated for almost two centuries.Macedonia (Roman province)
The Roman province of Macedonia (Latin: Provincia Macedoniae, Greek: Ἐπαρχία Μακεδονίας) was officially established in 146 BC, after the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon, the last self-styled King of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia in 148 BC, and after the four client republics (the "tetrarchy") established by Rome in the region were dissolved. The province incorporated ancient Macedonia, with the addition of Epirus, Thessaly, and parts of Illyria, Paeonia and Thrace. This created a much larger administrative area, to which the name of 'Macedonia' was still applied. The Dardanians, to the north of the Paeonians, were not included, because they had supported the Romans in their conquest of Macedonia.Oribasius
Oribasius or Oreibasius (Greek: Ὀρειβάσιος; c. 320 – 403) was a Greek medical writer and the personal physician of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate. He studied at Alexandria under physician Zeno of Cyprus before joining Julian's retinue. He was involved in Julian's coronation in 361, and remained with the emperor until Julian's death in 363. In the wake of this event, Oribasius was banished to foreign courts for a time, but was later recalled by the emperor Valens.Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
The praetorian prefecture of Illyricum (Latin: praefectura praetorio per Illyricum; Greek: ἐπαρχότης/ὑπαρχία [τῶν πραιτωρίων] τοῦ Ἰλλυρικοῦ, also termed simply the Prefecture of Illyricum) was one of four praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided.
The administrative centre of the prefecture was Sirmium (375-379), and, after 379, Thessalonica. It took its name from the older province of Illyricum, which in turn was named after ancient Illyria, and in its greatest expanse encompassed Pannonia, Noricum, Crete, and most of the Balkan peninsula except for Thrace.Rhodope (Roman province)
Rhodope (Greek: Ῥοδόπη, Ἐπαρχία Ῥοδόπης) was a late Roman and early Byzantine province, situated on the northern Aegean coast. A part of the Diocese of Thrace, it extended along the Rhodope Mountains range, covering parts of modern Western Thrace (in Greece) and south-western Bulgaria. The province was headed by a governor of the rank of praeses, with Trajanopolis as the provincial capital. According to the 6th-century Synecdemus, there were six further cities in the province, Maroneia, Maximianopolis, Nicopolis, Kereopyrgos (unknown location) and Topeiros (mod. Toxotai in Greece).
The province survived until the Slavic invasions of the 7th century, although as an ecclesiastic province, it continued in existence at least until the 12th century. The theme of Boleron covered most of the area in later Byzantine times.Siege of Thessalonica (254)
The Siege of Thessalonica in 254 was the successful defense of the city of Thessalonica by local Roman militia during an invasion of the Balkans by the Goths.Thracia
Thracia or Thrace (Θρᾴκη Thrakē) is the ancient name given to the southeastern Balkan region, the land inhabited by the Thracians.Titus Quinctius Flamininus
Titus Quinctius Flamininus ( FLAM-i-NY-nəs; c. 229–174 BC) was a Roman politician and general instrumental in the Roman conquest of Greece.A member of the patrician gens Quinctia, and brother to Lucius Quinctius Flamininus, he served as a military tribune in the Second Punic war and in 205 BC he was appointed propraetor in Tarentum. He was a quaestor in 199 BC. He became consul in 198 BC, despite being only about thirty years old, younger than the constitutional age required to serve in that position. As Livy records, two tribunes, Marcus Fulvius and Manius Curius, publicly opposed his candidacy for consulship, as he was just a quaestor, but the Senate overrode the opposition and he was elected along with Sextus Aelius Paetus.After his election to the consulship he was chosen to replace Publius Sulpicius Galba who was consul with Gaius Aurelius in 200 BC, according to Livy, as general during the Second Macedonian War. He chased Philip V of Macedon out of most of Greece, except for a few fortresses, defeating him at the Battle of the Aous, but as his term as consul was coming to an end he attempted to establish a peace with the Macedonian king. During the negotiations, Flamininus was made proconsul, giving him the authority to continue the war rather than finishing the negotiations. In 197 BC he defeated Philip at the Battle of Cynoscephalae in Thessaly, the Roman legions making the Macedonian phalanx obsolete in the process. Philip was forced to surrender, give up all the Greek cities he had conquered, and pay Rome 1,000 talents, but his kingdom was left intact to serve as a buffer state between Greece and Illyria. This displeased the Achaean League, Rome's allies in Greece, who wanted Macedon to be dismantled completely.In 198 BC he occupied Anticyra in Phocis and made it his naval yard and his main provisioning port. During the period from 197 to 194 BC, from his seat in Elateia, Flamininus directed the political affairs of the Greek states. In 196 BC Flamininus appeared at the Isthmian Games in Corinth and proclaimed the freedom of the Greek states. He was fluent in Greek and was a great admirer of Greek culture, and the Greeks hailed him as their liberator; they minted coins with his portrait, and in some cities he was deified. According to Livy, this was the act of an unselfish Philhellene, although it seems more likely that Flamininus understood freedom as liberty for the aristocracy of Greece, who would then become clients of Rome, as opposed to being subjected to Macedonian hegemony. With his Greek allies, Flamininus plundered Sparta, before returning to Rome in triumph along with thousands of freed slaves, 1,200 of whom were freed from Achaea, having been taken captive and sold in Greece during the Second Punic War.Meanwhile, Eumenes II of Pergamum appealed to Rome for help against the Seleucid king Antiochus III. Flamininus was sent to negotiate with him in 192 BC, and warned him not to interfere with the Greek states. Antiochus did not believe Flamininus had the authority to speak for the Greeks, and promised to leave Greece alone only if the Romans did the same. These negotiations came to nothing and Rome was soon at war with Antiochus. Flamininus was present at the Battle of Thermopylae in 191 BC, in which Antiochus was defeated.In 189 BC he was elected censor along with Marcus Claudius Marcellus, defeating among others Cato the Elder.In 183 BC he was sent to negotiate with Prusias I of Bithynia in an attempt to capture Hannibal, who had been exiled there from Carthage, but Hannibal committed suicide to avoid being taken prisoner. According to Plutarch, many senators reproached Flamininus for having cruelly caused the death of an enemy who had now become harmless. Although nothing is known of him after this, Flamininus seems to have died around 174.
Ancient Greek and Roman wars