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Lecture 16: “The Captured Conquerer: Hellenization of Rome
“The Captured Conquerer” (The Hellenization of Rome)
I. Hellenization was an ongoing and slow process at Rome; it started well before the third century BC.
A. Roman exposure to Greek culture came early, and its beginnings are lost to us.
1. There are no starting or end dates for the process of Hellenization of Rome; it was a complex process of acculturation.
2. The Etruscans, thoroughly Hellenized, were probably the medium for early Roman contact with Greek culture.
3. The story of Aeneas, firmly rooted in Greek legend, illustrates this fact. (it was centered on the Trojan War, a centerpiece of Greek mythology and national history; e.g. The Illiad, The Oddyssey)
4. In the fourth and third centuries, the Romans moved further south in Italy and encountered firsthand the Greek city-states in Naples, Tarentum, and elsewhere.
5. Roman involvement in the eastern Mediterranean, however, hurried the process.
B. Polybius (ca. 200-118 BC) illustrates the situation in the mid-second century. (Greek historian)
1. Polybius was a rising Achaean statesman from Megalopolis in the Peloponnese.
2. He was a typically urbane and educated Greek, and he was headed for prominence in the Achaean League. Skilled in both language and oratory.
3. Following the Battle of Pydna (168 BC; 3rd Macedonian War), he was denounced to the Romans and interned without trial in Italy for 16 years, part of a group of 100 Greeks. This was partly due to a high level of suspicion of Greeks south of Macedonia as being uncommitted to the Roman cause.)
4. Polybius was no “hostage” in our sense of the word. He struck up a relationship with Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, son of the victorious general at Pydna. But, more importantly, he was the adopted son of Publius Cornelius Scipio, son of the general responsible for defeating Hannibal. Thus, Polybius was connected quite closely with two very influential Roman families.  
5. Polybius remained in Rome, as a “guest” of the Scipiones. This of course, gave him “inside” access to Roman documents, first-hand accounts, etc., all of which were important for the role he would play as a historian.
6. He traveled with Scipio extensively; Spain, Carthage (he was there when Scipio burned Carthage!)
7. His treatment and position are not atypcial for thousands of Greeks who came ot Rome as slaves in these years, hastening the process of Hellenization.
II. There are multiple symptoms of Rome’s Hellenization in the third and second centuries.
A. Education changed and a true Latin literature emerged
1. Livius Androncius, a half-Greek from Tarentum, acted as mentor to the children of a leading Roman senator in the late third century.
2. Andronicus translated Homer’s Odyssey into Latin and composed Greek-style literary works in Latin; thus, he started the history of Latin literature (his is credited with the “birth” of Latin literature).
3. Subsequent latin authors show increasing familiarity with and usage of Greek genres and modes of expression (evidence that they actually used Greek sources as their “models”)
4. Some early Roman authors composed in Greek, such as Q. Fabius Pictor, the first Roman historian.
5. The rise of Roman literature was facilitated by the Hellenization of Roman educational practices from the third century onward.
a. Many tutors and teachers in Rome were Greeks.
b. Under their influence, traditional “practical” Roman education gave way to a Hellenized, verbally focused education. Roman education had focused on knowing how to swim, to ride, etc. along with a basic literacy and numeracy in the early years. Then, around age 14, he would receive the Toga Virilis, the “toga of manhood,” marking his movement upward as a man. At this point, he would begin an “apprenticeship” of sorts with his father in the public forum, etc. Then, around 16 he would embark on a military career, a very important aspect of Roman higher culture.
6. Greek embassies and intellectuals began coming to Rome and giving public lectures. These were voluntary migrations, not the “hostage” situation like mentioned above. This marked a huge shift in education away from the highly practical and useful to the preeminence of words. The Rhetor (public speaker) was an important role in Greek culture, and it began to be so in Roman as well.
**Learning Greek allowed Romans to read Greek original literature and “adapt” it to Latin literature. As words and language became more important, it gave rise to a Latin “version” of a culture that valued words, writing, reading, and speaking.
a. Carneades of Cyrene (a philosopher from NE. Africa), head of the Acacemy in Athens, dazzled the Roman upper class with his rhetoric and learning in the mid-second century. The Academy in Athens was comparable to “Harvard” in terms of notoriety. The “Head” of this Academy, would be akin to the President of Harvard in our day! Came in 155 BC to ask favors of the Roman Senate.
b. Asclepiades of Bithynia (northern Turkey) rose to great prominence as a doctor and medical lecturer ca. 130-100 BC. Became highly respected among Romans for his medical theories about health and physiology.
B. Roman art and architecture become Hellenized:
1. Romans prized Greek works of art, and originals or copies (commissioned) circulated widely among the nobility. In fact, much of the sculpture we have are actually Roman copies of lost Greek originals!
2. Roman public architecture to this date was drab and rather Etruscan; it utilized mostly wood, mud-brick, and plain stone.
3. Successful Roman generals began building Greek-style temples in a new medium — marble. The first account of a marble building in Rome is the temple of Jupitar Stator in 146 BC. The Doric, Ionian and Corinthian style columns found their way into Roman buildings.
**It must be noted, however, that Romans did NOT simply build Greek buildings in Rome. They built Roman style buildings with Greek influence. For example, the Roman temple was known for its “frontality”; that is, an elevated “podium” type building, accessible only from the front by a series of rather extensive steps. Greek temples were NOT like this. Roman temples with Greek influence would exhibit Greek style columns, etc., but the building itself was stylistically Roman.
4. Subsequent public buildings in Rome became more and more elaborate and lavish, especially under the Emperors.
III. Roman reaction to the process was mixed and complex.
A. Many Romans exuberantly embraced the sophistication of Greek culture and language.
1. Roman aristocrats, we hear, adopted Greek dress, language and habits.
2. How much the lower orders followed suit is not clear. (Fagan believes that this was not limited to the upper classes, but that Greeks of all walks of life were moving to Rome, the new “power center” of the world, to find a new life. He mentions that we know there was a sizeable population of Greek-speaking Jews in Rome at this time)
B. There was also a “traditionalist” counter-reaction, symbolized by Marcus Porcius Cato the Censor (234-139 BC).
1. Cato was from Tusculum, outside Rome; he rose to prominence as a statesman, soldier, and writer. (he was a Senator, and part of the army that defeated Antiochus in Greece in 193 BC)
2. He valued the old traditions of Rome: severity, seriousness, devotion to military duty, hard work, frugality, lack of greed, and so on.
3. Publicly, he railed against Hellinization, especially the Greek tendency to “question” everything: truth, duty, etc.
a. He educated his own son in the traditional fashion.
b. He had Carneades ejected from Rome for undermining traditional values (organized a Senatorial decree to this effect)
c. He particularly hated Greek doctors (preferred Roman medicine, herbal and magic)
4. Privately, he was very familiar with Greek language and culture (perhaps privately he was interested in Greek culture, but disdained its overall effects on the Roman legacy)
a. He displayed an intimate knowledge of Greek literature even as he condemned it.
b. He wrote books in a rustic Latin style that consciously contrasted with the sophisticated “smooth” style of the Greeks.
C. In sum, the Hellenization of Rome should not be simplified as a one-way process starting at a certain time and ending in another. It was a long and complicated process.
D. Horace 65-8 BC; during the age of Augustus said: “Captured Greece has captured her savage conquerer.”
E. Rome underwent rapid Hellenization (the process of becoming “Greek”; the core passion of Alexander, which seems to have worked itself out even after his death!)
F. This process of Hellenization occurred at a rapid rate during the third and second centuries B.C. This process has surely begun before this time, but the expansion of Roman armies eastward and their contact with the Greek heartland accelerated the process.