Essay on How and Why the Romans Became Involved in Greek Affairs

Date:  2021-05-24 03:26:15
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In history, Greece was under the rule of the Roman Empire between 31 BC and 180 AD. This period is often referred to as the Pax Romana as it involved a Roman peace shared by Rome and the Roman Empires central areas such as the Greek East and Greece. It was a period of relative peace and security, something that make cultural and economic progress possible particularly in cities such as Corinth, Athens, Miletus, Alexandria, Smyrna, and Thessaloniki. The urban Greek elite were to re-appear as a result of the decentralized provincial administration by the Romans, and it had a number of privileges including the right to take part in the Roman Senate. The Romans were to embrace the Greek culture, with Greek and Latin becoming the empires official language. Thus, a Greco-Roman Empire emerged. This essay looks at how and why the Romans became involved in Greek affairs.

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The Romans interest in Greece can be traced back to around 275 BC, when they were starting to expand out of Italy and attempting to conquer other areas of the Mediterranean. They were to begin with an island located near Italy known as Sicily. At the time, the Romans were battling the Carthaginians. Given that the Greeks feared the Romans in a way, some Greeks decided to come to the rescue of the Carthaginians by helping them fight the Romans. The Romans were not very happy about this, and when they defeated the Carthaginians, they decided to take Greece too. Initially, the Romans acted as if Greece was independent. However, they were to destroy Corinth in 149 BC, in the process making Greece a province within the Roman Empire.

The Greeks could not resist the Roman invasion due to a number of reasons. One of the main reasons for this was that there was no unity in Greece. The geographical area of Greece at the time was a makeshift combination of city-states, kingdoms and alliance groupings. They were not united under a strong and well-known government. The Macedonia Kingdom was the single most powerful in politics of mainland Greece. While Alexander the Great was the top power in Hellas, he often faced rebellion and opposition. In addition, he got half-hearted cooperation from the older powers such as Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Thebes, as well as from newer groups such as the Achaean League and the Aetolian League. Since the domination by Macedonia was not popular, the eventual Roman settlement in Greece was perceived by many as an improvement. This was especially the case for the local elites who did not like the detailed Macedonian interference, instead preferring the fairly hands-off Roman rule.

The situation was pretty much the same away from mainland Greece. Following the death of Alexander, the Greek world became divided into warring factions led by his former generals. There were three main factions constantly antagonizing and fighting one another; the Seleucid kingdom of Syria, the Macedonia proper and the Prolematic kingdom of Egypt. None of these factions had the strength to rule with no local proxies. This meant there were several small cities and states that were always playing the major kingdoms off against one another. As a result, there were betrayals and creation of a rather unstable pattern of short-lived alliances. Related to this was the fact that mainland Greece was not comfortable with the Macedonians due to the huge amounts of money from the Ptolemies that was aimed at supporting anti-Macedonian factions.

Greek militaries did not have not competent troops of their own, something that made them rely heavily on mercenaries. Given the dynastic warfare pitting the successor kingdoms, it made sense to hire mercenaries as an alternative to recruitment. This is because these successor kingdoms did not hold sufficient sway over their subject population. For instance, Egypt and Syria societies were dominated by a tiny group of elite Greeks that governed over a larger native population. This population did not show much affection for their rulers. On the other hand, Macedonia governed societies of restless Greeks who resented their controlling rule. Rome got its troops from the large and significantly affluent Italian hinterland. Since they had a long service, they still had quite skilled soldiers who showed more commitment and hence unlikely to be bought off as mercenaries.

In the earlier years of the conflicts pitting the Greeks and the Romans, the Greek powers did have an upper hand. This was in the form of tactical and technical advantages such as advanced weaponry, better ships and more diverse tactics. For instance, they utilized elephants, slingers, archers and light troops while the Romans mainly applied medium cavalry and infantry. All in all, the Romans had the advantage of more strategic patience. Since they were more committed to their objectives, it was unlikely that they would get distracted by succession disputes among the royal families or factionalism. This meant that while the Romans could not always outfight their enemies, they could outlast them.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the Romans conquering the Greeks was the fact that Rome possessed a free hand. After they defeated Carthage during the second Punic war of 201 BC, the Romans did not have any enemies that could match their stature. On the other hand, all the Greek factions had untrustworthy and powerful enemies possessing advanced militaries. These enemies included the kingdom of Pontus and the Parthians. This made it quite difficult for them to mount a defense against a single organized threat.

The Romans ruled over Greece for a period of about half a century. Under Roman rule, Greece fared quite well. This is despite the fact that some Greeks, particularly the wealthy ones who had some influence before the invasion, were not happy about it. At around 200 AD, the Goths and the Slavs began invading the Greece from the north; with the Roman army being unable to stop them. Initially, these German did not mount raids very often. However, they had escalated their raids by 400 AD, something that made Greece poor again. The Germans later conquered the Roman Empires western half, with Greece eventually being ruled by Constantinople.

Works Cited

Potter, David Stone. Ancient Rome: A New History. New York: Thames & Hudson. 2009. Print.

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