115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Roman General in a Greek World: Scipio's Treaty with the Polis of Herakleia

Carly Maris, University of California, Riverside

When Scipio Asiaticus defeated King Antiochus in the 180's BCE, he presented his conquest as complete domination over Asian territories--however, analysis of the language of one Greek inscription in Asia Minor tells a different story--one of allegiance and liberation rather than military domination.


After Lucius Conelius Scipio defeated the Seleucid King Antiochus in the 180's BCE (and earning him the name of Asiaticus), the Roman senate awarded the general with a military parade known as the triumph. During this parade, booty from the Eastern Greek world was flaunted before the eyes of Roman audiences, demonstrating a victory--gold, crowns and other riches made the general appear as a glorious conqueror of a wealthy land. However, some scholars have hypothesized that the booty paraded in Scipio Asiaticus’ triumph in the 180’s BCE was given as gifts rather than looted. Scholars base this theory mainly on circumstantial evidence, that is, based on similarities with other instances of gift-giving between Greek poleis. I add to this argument by analyzing the language of a a specific inscription in Asia Minor written by Scipio Asiaticus to the polis of Herakleia (Sherk 35), an inscription that has not yet been used in scholarly discussions of Scipio Asiaticus’ triumph. In looking at the language of the inscription I strengthen the arguments which claim that paraded booty was given as a gift in accordance with Greek Hellenistic traditions of alliance. In the inscription, Scipio thanks the township of Herakleia for its generosity (understood to be coded language for the giving of gifts), and also notes that the inhabitants, now autonomous, are allowed to keep their own possessions. This gift-giving narrative on the inscription thus complicates the narrative of domination that a triumph implies. While the triumph depicts domination over peoples and territories through successful military conquest, and thus justifies the military campaign to Roman audiences, we see that the Eastern presentation of the same campaign tells a different narrative, portraying Roman generals as foreign liberators of a newly autonomous polis, rather than conquerors of a new Roman province. 

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