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Regionalism in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor

Hugh Elton
Gary Reger

Keeping the Peace in Ionia: Kings and Poleis

Sheila L. Ager

Texte intégral

  • 1 Raeder 1912; Marshall 1980, 626-661; Ager 1996, 20-21.
  • 2 Tod 1913, 92, 180.
  • 3 Badian 1983, 402.

1When I first began to contemplate the question of mechanisms for regional peace among the Greek cities of Asia Minor in the Hellenistic Age, it seemed self-evident that the kings would not only have insisted on peaceful relations among the cities attached to their kingdoms, but would also have leapt gratefully at the chance for the pacific settlement of any disputes. Harmony among the city-states within the king’s sphere of authority ensured prosperity, provided less scope for the creeping influence of rival monarchs, and validated the claim of royal beneficence for the cities. It has often been claimed, by myself among others, that the Hellenistic kingdoms offered an atmosphere where amicable dispute resolution through mediation or arbitration could thrive1. In the early 20th century, Marcus Tod spoke enthusiastically of kingly involvement in arbitration2. More recently, Ernst Badian has asserted that royal participation in fact brought the process of arbitration and the application of “international law” to its zenith, arguing that the exercise of a “law of nations” was only operable in the presence of a superior authority that could impose sanctions on the quarreling states3.

2But perhaps these assumptions were all a little too self-evident. When I came to examine the evidence for Hellenistic dispute settlement again in a regional way, it prompted me to question these presuppositions about the role of the kings. In fact, the patterns of arbitration in Asia Minor appeared more and more as an expression by the poleis themselves of a sense of regional unity and independence from royal influence. The evidence for royal mediation and arbitration seemed elusive. Instead, third-party interventionism seemed to be a phenomenon that was most conspicuous among the old Greek cities of Ionia in the years after the removal of the kings.

3As early as the beginning of the fifth century BC, the Ionians had been bound by the Persian satrap Artaphernes to a compact of mutual arbitration or mediation (Herod. 6.42). When the Persians re-established control after the Athenian interlude, they held the Ionians to that treaty. In the early fourth century, a dispute between Miletos and its neighbor Myous was submitted to the arbitration of a panel drawn from the other Ionian states, an arbitration carried out under the auspices of Strouses, the Persian satrap (Syll.3, 134). So when the Hellenistic kings tried to settle regional quarrels through arbitration, they had precedents on which to draw: not only the long-standing tradition of voluntary arbitration between Greek states, but also the Persian authority to command a resolution. But what is the evidence that the Hellenistic kings who ruled the venerable region of Ionia took advantage of these precedents and applied themselves energetically to this institution?

  • 4 Welles 1934, no 3-4; Ager 1996, no 13.
  • 5 I Priene, 40, l. 9. Other royal names appear in I Priene, 37 l. 76-7, 96, 125-126, but in most cas (...)

4Shortly before 300 BC, Antigonos Monophthalmos attempted to synoikize the two Ionian states of Teos and Lebedos4. Opinion is divided on whether this synoikism was a voluntary act on the part of the states involved, who could have turned to Antigonos to arbitrate the settlement, or whether it was the brainchild of the king himself. What is certain, however, is that future arbitration was seen as necessary for the final settlement of certain issues; and to that end, the task of arbitration was passed on to other Greek city-states, outside Ionia proper: Mytilene and Kos. Antigonos I may also have contributed to the settlement of the famous and eternal conflict between Samos and Priene over the mainland stretch of territory that both claimed, the “Samian Anaia”; the evidence is slim, but perhaps sufficient to suggest that Monophthalmos (or perhaps Doson) at one time arbitrated this boundary dispute5.

  • 6 I Priene, 16; Ager 1996, no 25.
  • 7 OGI, 13; Welles 1934, no 7; Ager 1996, no 26.

5Our other evidence for royal dispute settlement in Ionia comes from the reign of Lysimachos. It may have been in the context of Demetrios’s incursion into Ionia that Lysimachos settled a dispute between the Ionian states of Magnesia on the Maiandros and Priene; but the epigraphic evidence is so fragmentary6, and the scenarios proposed are so conjectural, that we really cannot use this as dependable evidence for royal arbitration. Far more solid is the evidence provided by a stele found on Samos, bearing a letter from Lysimachos to the Samians7. Towards the end of his reign, in 283/282, Lysimachos arbitrated between Samos and Priene, and found in favor of the island state.

  • 8 Heuss 1937, 43; Klose 1972, 144.

6This represents the sum total of certain royal arbitrations in Ionia, a region that was a heartland of old Greek city-states with past experience with the institution of arbitration. It may be a dangerous argument from silence to assert that this thin evidence is representative of the real use of the institution; but still, when we compare these royal arbitrations to the upsurge in arbitrations in Ionia in the early second century, we find that royal dispute settlement of this type is actually conspicuous by its absence. Of the four possibilities presented here, only the arbitration of Lysimachos between Samos and Priene offers any firm basis for discussion, and there are those who have gone so far as to distinguish this one inscription as the only secure evidence for arbitration by a Hellenistic king8.

  • 9 Tod 1932, 53; Welles 1934, 50.

7Perhaps the most singular aspect of this document is its general tone. “Your ambassadors and the ambassadors from Priene came to see us”, Lysimachos says in his outspoken address to the Samians, “and if we had known that you had held and used the land for so many years, we would never have agreed to undertake the arbitration”. Tod remarks on the ostensibly “fair and dispassionate” tone evoked here; Welles asserts that “everything transpired judicially, deliberately, equably”9. These are bewildering conclusions, given the bluntness of Lysimachos’s declaration. It is quite clear that his criteria for judgment are simplistic, even crude. In spite of all the history of the case, so carefully presented by the envoys of both sides, Lysimachos brusquely cuts across the Gordian knot of contention with the statement that Priene’s arguments are not worth listening to, and that as far as he is concerned, possession is ten-tenths of the law.

8The debate on the idiosyncrasies of this letter may well continue, but for now it has been sufficiently demonstrated that the kingly involvement in arbitration in the region of Ionia was not outstanding. Certainly there is insufficient evidence to assert that the influence of the Hellenistic kings substantially changed “the way things worked” in the region of Ionia from the days of the Persians.

  • 10 A war between Lampsakos and Parion settled by Chios (IK, 6-Lampsakos, T 105; Ager 1996, no 90); a (...)

9A more significant question in this context might be, how did the removal of supra-regional authority change the way things happened in Ionia? Initially, it seems to have opened the door for regional ambitions, and the pursuit of those ambitions through armed conflict. With the defeat of Antiochos the Great and the Peace of Apameia, most of the cities of Ionia, with the major exception of Ephesos, were declared free, and for several of them, that freedom meant the freedom to make war on their neighbors. We know of numerous local wars in this period, chiefly in Ionia, though there are also examples of war and mediation from elsewhere in Asia Minor10.

10In the heart of Ionia proper, it seems that the collapse of dynastic power in the early second century brought with it a resurgence of rivalries over a couple of long-disputed sub-regions. The issue of the Samian Anaia rose again, probably already in the 190s before the defeat of Antiochos. The lack of global involvement of the kings with arbitration is well illustrated by this instance where Samos and Priene again sought arbitration. This time, they turned to Rhodes, and there is no sign of royal involvement whatsoever (I Priene, 37). The other territorial dispute at the core of Ionia was centered on the valley of the Maiandros River. The territory of the quondam state of Myous was a perpetual source of friction among other states of the Maiandros valley and the Latmian gulf. Herakleia and Miletos fought a war with each other, perhaps in the early 180s; the bone of contention, at least in part, was territory that Miletos referred to as the “sacred land” of Myous. Once Herakleia and Miletos had made peace with each other, they concluded a pact of isopoliteia that included a promise to settle these territorial disputes through the arbitration of a third party (Syll.3, 633; Ager 1996, no 108). It is significant that this third party was to be a “free and democratic polis”.

  • 11 Syll.3, 588; Ager 1996, no 109; for the date (second half of the 180s), see Errington 1989, 279-28 (...)

11Within a year or two of the agreement between Herakleia and Miletos, these two found themselves facing opposition and open conflict from another pair of states on the opposite side of the Maiandros. The war they fought against Priene and Magnesia ended with the mediation of Rhodes and several other city-states of Ionia, Karia, and the Greek mainland11. Magnesia and Miletos seem to have been the main disputants in this conflict, and the territory over which the war was fought is likely once again to have been Myous, that crucial intersection of the territories of the four states. The unusually large number of arbitrators in this case seems to mark a celebration of the institution amongst the free Greek states.

  • 12 See Gauthier 1987-1989, 194.
  • 13 Syll.3, 633.79; Pol. 21.46.5.

12Ironically, regional ambitions and issues are most evident in the conflicts that separated the individual communities that made up the region of Ionia. This is especially the case in the area of the Samian Anaia and of Myous, those Ionian points of convergence. Their location ensured that each would eternally be a focus of dispute; it may not be just happenstance that each comprised the territory of a vanished state. Emotional considerations of national pride and the pursuit of autarkeia will have motivated the continuing rival claims to these micro-regions12. Still more conspicuous as a regional tie that bound the city-states together even as it divided them was their rivalry over the sacred hearts of Ionia. The Samian Anaia contained within it the Panionion, the religious center of the Ionian League. As for Myous, literary and epigraphic sources both refer to at least part of the region as sacred land13.

  • 14 I Priene, 27, 65; Syll.3, 588; Polyb. 21.45-6.

13But the conflicts themselves and their causes are of less interest in the present context than are the modes of resolution. In none of these cases from the time around Apameia do we find the presence of a king either as peacemaker or as arbitrator. In fact, it is the free Greek polis of Rhodes that appears prominently in the settlement of Ionian conflicts in this period. Rhodes’s involvement takes the scenario from being a purely Ionian one, in the strict sense. But while it no doubt suited Rhodes’s self-conception as a leading power to offer services repeatedly as a moderator of the conflicts in the southern half of Asia Minor, it was by no means the only participant in the enterprise of mediation and conflict resolution in Ionia. When Herakleia and Miletos agreed to arbitration by a third state, they did not say they would turn to Rhodes. If they had intended to do so, surely they would have said so, since elsewhere the treaty specifically refers to their alliances with Rhodes. Furthermore, many Ionian states such as Priene, Teos, Smyrna, and Samos are attested as contributing to the arbitrations of the period. And Vulso’s extraordinary commission in Asia Minor after Apameia turned the resolution of numerous disputes over to the arbitration of a variety of Asian poleis14. While it is true that Rhodes was a Doric foundation, by the second century and with the reshuffling of the deck of Asia Minor after Apameia, the greater division may not have been between Doric and Ionic, but rather between Greek and native, between free and dependent. Rhodes no doubt had less in common with her own subject hinterland of Karia than she did now with the newly liberated old city-states of Ionia to the north.

  • 15 Jones 1940, 95.
  • 16 Green 1990, 196.
  • 17 See Bringmann 1993, 7-24.

14What was the essential, qualitative difference between conflict resolution by the kings and resolution by another Greek polis, perhaps a local Ionian neighbor? It seems to be inextricably bound up with the dynamic between king and city in Hellenistic Asia Minor. Theirs was a relationship full of tension and paradox. Arnold Jones put it succinctly when he said, “The constitutional relation of a Hellenistic king to the cities in his dominions is obscure; nor perhaps did either party wish it to be very clear”15. The web of interaction between monarch and polis has been called a “complex freedom-charade”16, that involved, on the part of the king, benefactions that masked the mailed fist of authority, and, on the part of the cities, expressions of gratitude that could mask resentment and aspirations to rebellion17. Kings like Antigonos and Lysimachos were accustomed to winning land by the spear and granting out chunks of it as a personal favor; we can well ask whether a Hellenistic monarch would be sensitive to other approaches to the question of territory. In reality, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish a royal arbitrator’s actions from those of a sovereign commanding affairs within his realm as he chooses. The line between arbitral and arbitrary is quite fuzzy.

15So long as the kings were part of the picture, the city states of Ionia might have found it more advantageous to establish and nurture one-to-one relationships with the monarch, rather than pursuing egalitarian and horizontal relationships with one another. Divisiveness between polis and polis, created by the king’s presence, would only have been exacerbated by the fact that various different kings had varying footholds in the Asia Minor states at one and the same time. It was with the diminution of the royal presence in the early second century that there would have been an increase in regional interactions, and ultimately perhaps, regional solidarity. When Lysimachos heard Samos and Priene’s claims in the early third century, the two states were not even talking to each other: Priene simply went straight to Lysimachos, without informing Samos. Samos then had to play catch-up. But a hundred years later, when Rhodes heard their case, the two states voluntarily and mutually agreed to consult with the island state.

16We could compare the microcosm of a bickering family. So long as the parents are around, the children will all appeal to this higher authority, and find little reason to create bridges between themselves. If the parents are removed from the picture, and the children still have to share the house, there is a greater incentive for the siblings to establish peace, order, and justice among themselves and by themselves. Whether they choose fisticuffs or a more rational method of conflict resolution, they are still establishing a modus vivendi among and for themselves, rather than submitting to a superior authority. If we translate this dynamic into the world of the city-state, we could remark that taking the advice of a “sibling” -state, as it were, would impinge on one’s freedom and autonomy much less than doing what a royal “parent” orders.

17It has long been recognized that coerced submission to superior authority in international conflict resolution can be destructive of its own long-term goals. Submission of disputes to the United Nations seems to many states in the modern world to be damaging to their face, not to mention compromising to their aspirations. But regional organizations of states may comprise common ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, historical outlook, economic concerns, and so on. Such a community of values may be much better suited, at least under certain circumstances, to bringing about a peace settlement among member states. Most modern regional interstate organizations have clauses in their charters whereby the pacific settlement of disputes would naturally go to the regional organization first before going all the way to the U. N.; likewise the U. N.’s charter itself urges application to regional mediators as a first step.

  • 18 It is generally thought that the synoikism between Teos and Lebedos met with some disagreement and (...)

18The contemporary world, with its increased emphasis on the concept of international law, also places a great deal of emphasis on the judicial question of war guilt, war crimes, reparations, and restitution in the aftermath of war. In ancient Ionia, on the other hand, when the wars between Temnos and Klazomenai and between Herakleia and Miletos were brought to an end, every effort was made to reconcile the states, and promote regional harmony. To that end, claims arising from the wars were dismissed, and sweeping amnesties were declared. The difference between the modern and the ancient approach exemplified here is one between an approach based on legalism and one based on equity. Adjudication in the strict sense, perhaps the prerogative of a superior authority, can appear to be a contest in which one side wins and the other loses, one side is shown to be right and the other wrong. It can create alienation and resentment rather than reconciliation, which is more achievable through mediation by a peer18.

  • 19 Giovannini 1993, 274-275. See C. Crowther, this volume, on foreign judges in Hellenistic Ionia.

19Furthermore, arbitration by a peer and a neighbor presents the possibility of one day returning the favor. This could never be the case with the Hellenistic kings, in spite of Antiochos the Great’s disingenuous offer to submit to the arbitration of Rhodes at Lysimacheia in 196 (Pol. 18.52.3). He was simply throwing diplomatic sand in the eyes of the Roman legates. But the reciprocal nature of this activity among the Ionian states could well have bolstered their sense of regional identity and synergy. Priene helps out in a dispute between Smyrna and Phokaia; Smyrna arbitrates between Priene and Miletos (I Priene, 27 and 65; Ager 1996, no 100 and 91). Such examples of regionalism may serve to demonstrate the justice of the claim that the divisiveness of the Greek poleis has been exaggerated, that in fact they were bound to each other in a common network of moral obligation that went beyond anything that could be produced between city and king, and that found expression in exactly such mutual favors as foreign judges and interstate arbitration19.

  • 20 See Renfrew & Cherry 1986.

20In conclusion, it seems that the regional and egalitarian settlement of disputes by one’s peers offered a greater sense of regional solidarity than the kings were ever able to accomplish. The vital interaction between political units which are autonomous and of roughly similar status is one that has been recognized increasingly as one of great significance in regional development20. The kings, by their peculiar and contradictory relationship with the cities, did little to enhance regionalism, and may instead have enhanced regional rivalries amongst the city-states for the king’s attention and euergetism. If we consider regions to be entities that are natural or organic, the Hellenistic monarchy, in its relations with the cities, was anything but. Left to themselves, the cities of Ionia could be self-monitoring: free both to make war voluntarily, and to seek voluntarily the solution of a real peace, rather than one imposed by threat and intimidation.


1 Raeder 1912; Marshall 1980, 626-661; Ager 1996, 20-21.

2 Tod 1913, 92, 180.

3 Badian 1983, 402.

4 Welles 1934, no 3-4; Ager 1996, no 13.

5 I Priene, 40, l. 9. Other royal names appear in I Priene, 37 l. 76-7, 96, 125-126, but in most cases there is little likelihood that they point to arbitrations by each of these individuals (these lines are heavily fragmented). See Ager 1996, no 74.

6 I Priene, 16; Ager 1996, no 25.

7 OGI, 13; Welles 1934, no 7; Ager 1996, no 26.

8 Heuss 1937, 43; Klose 1972, 144.

9 Tod 1932, 53; Welles 1934, 50.

10 A war between Lampsakos and Parion settled by Chios (IK, 6-Lampsakos, T 105; Ager 1996, no 90); a war between Klazomenai and Temnos settled by Knidos (SEG, 29, 1130bis; Ager 1996, no 71).

11 Syll.3, 588; Ager 1996, no 109; for the date (second half of the 180s), see Errington 1989, 279-288.

12 See Gauthier 1987-1989, 194.

13 Syll.3, 633.79; Pol. 21.46.5.

14 I Priene, 27, 65; Syll.3, 588; Polyb. 21.45-6.

15 Jones 1940, 95.

16 Green 1990, 196.

17 See Bringmann 1993, 7-24.

18 It is generally thought that the synoikism between Teos and Lebedos met with some disagreement and resistance from the two states involved; if indeed Antigonos I was sensitive to the feelings of the Greek poleis, that may account for his decision to pass on the task of arbitrating final decisions to other Greek poleis. See R. Billows, this volume.

19 Giovannini 1993, 274-275. See C. Crowther, this volume, on foreign judges in Hellenistic Ionia.

20 See Renfrew & Cherry 1986.


Department of Classical Studies, University of Waterloo

© Ausonius Éditions, 2007

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