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Regionalism in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor

Hugh Elton
Gary Reger

Interlude 1

Texte intégral

1The preceding papers have outlined a number of different approaches to the topic of regionalism. The differing approaches help to reveal the complexity of the phenomenon we are attempting to elucidate. They make clear that there were a number of actors in almost every situation, each with their own interests. For most of Anatolian history, regions were controlled by external powers, Hittite, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk or Ottoman. These powers had similar interests, the extraction of resources in men or money, a process shown clearly by Billows and Freeman. In the process of doing so, they could often ride roughshod over local practices, as shown by Elton for Kilikia. But state behaviors could vary enormously, and Billows shows the sensitivity with which the Seleukids could treat religious relationships with Ionia, while simultaneously extracting military resources. Nor do all our contributors agree. Freeman’s stance on what was important about Ionian identity, as a community defined by culture or ethnicity, differs strongly from Elton on Kilikia, where he argues that there was little sense of Kilikian identity. And different rulers had different abilities, as shown by Scholten’s analysis of the Bithynian monarchs trying to balance domestic concerns, whether to favor aristocrats or peasants, at the same time as negotiating the politics of the major Hellenistic powers. Moreover, the way in which the Seleukid and Ptolemaic monarchies related to Ionia was clearly different from the way in which Rome worked in Kilikia and Asia. Not that Rome could ignore local sensibilities (a point which Rogers later covers), but that Roman relationships with cities were different from Hellenistic royal relationships.

2Although outside powers had similar interests, these differed from those of the regions, at least where regions had ways to represent themselves. This was the case with the Ionian League, for example, but also in Bithynia, where the emergent kings had to contend with the expectations of a Thrakian aristocracy, as discussed by Scholten. In the next section, Reger adumbrates some of these same issues for the Karians in their relationship with regional hegemonic powers.

3Regions were made up of micro-regions, a topic particularly well brought out by Bresson, themselves of cities. These miniature groups of cities like the Kibyratis would repay further study. The Kibyratis appears defined by geography, though the presence of a strong Lykian presence to the south would have helped defined it culturally (there is more on this matter in Corsten’s discussion of Laodikeia in the last section). But such micro-regions could also be created, as shown by the synoikism of Teos and Lebedos, a topic addressed by both Billows and Ager. Ager’s discussion in the preceding section shows well how cities could often come into conflict with one another within regions. Clearly, an identity as Ionian or Karian did not trump the local political interests of these communities. These disputes could be resolved in a range of ways. Warfare was frequent, but gradually ways of resolving these conflicts without recourse to violence began to appear. Some of these involved appeals to outside powers, but cities could also sort this out at their own level, as Crowther demonstrates.

4These themes from the first section carry through into the second section. Freeman and Bresson both suggest three possible ways of defining regions, by geography, administrative unit and by culture/ethnicity. For Freeman and Bresson, these cultural units, expressed as the Ionian League and the Lykian League respectively, were the dominant ways of defining regions. But others take differing stands, with Elton suggesting administrative convenience for Kilikia and Waelkens and Vandeput suggesting that geography defined Pisidia. Potter’s paper covers the whole problem well, showing the way in which regional identity could change over time, with the way in which Achaemenid Lykia was defined being very different from Roman Lykia, though covering a similarly geographical area. This approach dovetails nicely with Pierre Briant’s recent work on the importance of the Achaemenid heritage in Asia Minor. Potter also brings out the tension between Roman administrative interests (creating neat units to govern and tax) and pre-existing senses of local and regional interconnections. Reger argues that geography is less important than human group identification, which may be mediated through a variety of mechanisms; regions highly dependent on geographic definition may be more fragile than those with other sorts of ties.

5The last two papers in this section, by Levick and Robinson, tackle these problems in very different ways. Levick focuses on Phrygia, showing how its non-urban nature differed enormously from the Aegean coast, while Robinson also looks at non-urban phenomena, that of transhumance in the Taurus of Pisidia and Lykia. By focusing on areas where regional identity was not expressed in terms of the rivalries of states, cities or aristocrats, they help to focus our understanding of regionalism further. Was this a phenomenon that had much impact below that of the politically conscious? Would a Lykian shepherd have more in common with a Lykian aristocrat or with a Pisidian shepherd?

© Ausonius Éditions, 2007

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