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

By Kathryn Lomas | Go to book overview

6

East/West Relations: Contacts between Magna Graecia and the Eastern Mediterranean

In considering the relations of the Italiote Greeks with Rome, one is essentially considering the Italiotes as part of Italy. It is all too easy to forget that most cities in Magna Graecia retained a strong sense of their Greek identity and continued to play a significant part in the Greek world. An examination of the evidence shows that although the overt signs of Greekness disappeared in some cities as early as the third century BC, and declined in others, many continued to be conscious of their Greek background and to express this in ways adapted to their changed circumstances long after their conquest by Rome. Thus the question of the nature and extent of the contacts between Magna Graecia and the rest of the Mediterranean world has important repercussions for the study of the Italiotes and also for the way in which they interacted with Rome. Nor were the exchanges only one way. If the Italiotes actively maintained contact with the Greek world after the Roman conquest of the South, Aegean and Asiatic Greeks can equally be seen to have been involved with the cities of the West. Magna Graecia was a pivotal region with a central role in the diffusion of Hellenism in Italy.

Unfortunately the study of diplomatic and economic contacts between East and West Greece is obscured, like so much else in Italiote history, by lack of evidence. The impression given by that which does exist is that such relations declined after the Mithridatic War and ensuing massacre of Italians, but this may merely be due to changes in the nature of the evidence. It is partly offset by literary and epigraphic data for the later Republic and the Empire which demonstrates that if direct political and diplomatic activity declined after the second century BC, cultural contacts continued to flourish and even increase. From the first century BC to the second century AD, those cities of southern Italy

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