Rome and the Western Greeks, 350 BC-AD 200: Conquest and Acculturation in Southern Italy

By Kathryn Lomas | Go to book overview

2

Roman Conquest: Magna Graecia 350-270 BC

The death of Archytas of Tarentum at some unspecified date during the 350s BC is noted by many sources as the turning point which marked the start of the moral and political decline of Magna Graecia. After this date, the Greeks, corrupted by excessive wealth, abandoned moderate government in favour of radical democracy which led to stasis and social breakdown, and in foreign policy committed the supreme folly of opposition to the growing power of Rome. The historiographical implications of this have already been discussed in the Introduction, but will be considered again in the course of this chapter in the light of the events of the fourth and third centuries. However simplistic the ancient view may be as an historical analysis, its prevalence makes the death of Archytas a useful starting point for a study of Hellenistic and Roman Magna Graecia and also for a discussion of relations with Rome, since it marks the beginning of the expansion of Roman interests in Campania and southern Italy.

The period from 350 to 270 BC is therefore of importance for our understanding both of the history of Magna Graecia and of the processes of Roman expansion. It is also of interest in that a number of features become apparent at this time which continue to be significant factors in Roman relations with the Greeks. The internal stasis in many cities, which Livy identifies as endemic by 218-200 BC, first becomes apparent in the fourth century. 1 The question of whether it was a symptom of weakness and degeneration and a cause of the problems faced by the Italiotes, as Livy and others suggest, or a product of the pressures on these states, is something that will be discussed further in the context of the Punic wars. 2 The continuing rivalries between the Greeks and their Italian neighbours are vital to our understanding of Italiote history, despite the advent of Rome as a new and important factor. Indeed, the striking thing about the history of the fourth and

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