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

By Kathryn Lomas | Go to book overview

3

The Punic Wars

The immediate aftermath of the Pyrrhic War is characterised by an almost total silence in our sources. References are infrequent, to say the least, leaving a gap in the historical record which covers most of the mid-third century BC. Our only detailed information on relations between Rome and Magna Graecia concerns the period 215-207, the years during which many southern cities, both Greek and Oscan, abandoned their alliance with Rome in favour of Hannibal. For this reason, if for no other, the second Punic War is of vital importance for the study of Roman relations with the Italiotes in that it provides a number of relatively detailed case studies of their attitudes to Rome, their reactions to Hannibal, and the sources of any dissatisfaction with Roman behaviour.

Given that all the extant sources were composed a considerable time after the events and had a strong pro-Roman bias, 1 two important questions must be addressed. To what extent is it possible to distinguish historical facts from the literary commonplaces discussed in the Introduction, 2 and are the incidents described genuinely of the later third century or are they based on Timaean material relating to the Pyrrhic War? As already noted, there is the possibility that the historical tradition had absorbed an anti-Italiote, and particularly anti-Tarentine, bias from fourth-century historians, notably Timaeus. The concept of tryphe,3 which is particularly prominent in Pythagorean historiography, may be traceable in the handling of third-century history by later authors. However, while it seems certain that many of the features found in accounts of Greek relations with Rome had become literary topoi,4 it is by no means certain that these can all be traced back to Timaeus or other fourth-century historians.

Our principal source for the period is Livy, together with fragments of Polybios and Appian, and some isolated comments by a variety of

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