Roman Patrons of Greek Cities

Roman Patrons of Greek Cities

Roman Patrons of Greek Cities

Roman Patrons of Greek Cities


Patronage has long been an important topic of interest to ancient historians. It remains unclear what patronage entailed, however, and how it worked. Is it a universal phenomenon embracing all, or most, relationships between unequals? Or is it an especially Roman practice? In previousdiscussions of patronage, one crucial body of evidence has been under-exploited: inscriptions from the Greek East that borrow the Latin term 'patron' and use it to honour their Roman officials. The fact that the Greeks borrow the term patron suggests that there was something uniquely Roman about thepatron-client relationship. Moreover, this epigraphic evidence implies that patronage was not only a part of Rome's history, but had a history of its own. The rise and fall of city patrons in the Greek East is linked to the fundamental changes that took place during the fall of the Republic and thetransition to the Principate. Senatorial patrons appear in the Greek inscriptions of the Roman province of Asia towards the end of the second century BC and are widely attested in the region and elsewhere for the following century. In the early principate, however, they become less common and soonmore or less disappear. Eilers's discursive treatment of the origins, nature, and decline of this type of patronage, and its place in Roman practice as a whole, is supplemented by a reference catalogue of Roman patrons of Greek communities.


Patronage has long interested ancient historians, who have not only treated it as part of the history of Rome from its earliest beginnings to late antiquity and beyond, but have also made it a defining theme and causative mechanism. Mommsen used the institution to explain the dominance of the patriciate in early Rome and the evolution of plebitas from non-citizenship to dependent citizenship; Badian, to characterize the attitudes behind Rome’s growth to world empire in the age of Rome’s overseas expansion; Gelzer, to explain the politics of the Roman Republic; Premerstein and Syme, to account for the fall of the Republic and rise to monarchic power of Octavian; Saller, to elucidate the workings of government and society of the early empire; Fustel de Coulanges, to explain the origins of feudalism. of course, patronage cannot be made a mechanism of Roman history without being understood in its own right, and these scholars and others have paid much attention to the social institution, both in the works cited above and elsewhere. Several studies have been devoted to patronage, the most important of which is the essay of Brunt, which challenges widely held views of the place of patronage in the politics of the late Republic.

These works focus primarily on patronal relationships between

T. Mommsen, ‘Das römische Gastrecht und die römische Clientel’, in id., rf i. 355–90.

Badian, fc, passim, esp. 42–3, 53–4, 68.

M. Gelzer, The Roman Nobility, trans. R. Seager (Oxford, 1969), passim, esp. 62–136.

A. von Premerstein, Vom Werden und Wesen des Prinzipats (Abhandlungen der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, philologische-historische Abteilung, ns 15; Munich, 1937); R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939).

R. P. Saller, Personal Patronage under the Early Empire (Cambridge, 1982).

N. D. Fustel de Coulanges, Histoire des institutions politiques de l’ancienne France, v. Les Origines du système féodal (Paris, 1890), 205–47.

e.g. Mommsen, StR iii. 54–88; A. von Premerstein, ‘Clientes’, in re iv/1 (1900), 23–55.

e.g. N. Rouland, Pouvoir politique et dépendance personnelle dans l’Antiquite romaine: Genèse et rôle des rapports de clientèle (Brussels, 1979).

P. A. Brunt, ‘Clientela’, in id., The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays (Oxford, 1988), 382–442.

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