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Regionalism in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor

Hugh Elton
Gary Reger

Interlude 2

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1The differing views of Lykia presented by Bresson and Potter are challenging. Bresson’s focus on the Hellenistic period shows a vibrant region, defining itself thorough the Lykian League. This helped resolve many of the conflicts between cities, another way of mediating beyond the judges and appeals to higher authority already covered for Ionia by Ager and Crowther. But it is also clear that these methods were necessary, because of the frequent violent clashes between cities, and that they did not always work. Bresson also suggests that the League was one of the most effective creations of a regional identity. In this respect, it would be interesting to compare this to other Hellenistic Leagues, like the Akhaian League in mainland Greece, for example, and also to Roman koina, touched on briefly by Reger and Bresson. Bresson also brings out the importance of the Ptolemies whose impact has already been touched on in differing ways by Billows and Elton. Despite the work of Bagnall, the impact of the Ptolemaic state on Anatolia has been under-appreciated. A longue durée approach would be fruitful here, showing how powers based in Egypt frequently dominated the eastern Mediterranean sea and its litoral, true not just of the Ptolemies, but also of the New Kingdom Egyptians and of the Mamluks, or even the nineteenth century Ibrahim Pasha. This sort of approach is developed by Potter for Lykia, who examines the region from the Achaemenid period to the Roman Empire. He is thus able to use this perspective to show that, as Bresson is well aware, Lykia changed enormously over this period; the Kibyratis was not Lykian in the third century BC, but was in the first century AD. The mountainous nature of the Kibyratis probably has much to do with its uncertain and changing nature. Reger also draws attention to the importance of geography and religion, though he, like Elton, but unlike Freeman and to a lesser extent, Bresson, sees regional identity as a political definition. Interestingly, as Billows and Ager, Reger uses as an example the function of the river Meander as a boundary between Ionia and Karia. Waelkens and Vandeput also combine the themes of great kings and geography, showing how difficult it could be for Pisidian cities to retain their independence in the face of the armies of the Hellenistic monarchies. They were only able to do this because of geography, benefiting from their inaccessibility in the central Tauros Mountains. However, they were less able (and probably less willing) to resist the cultural forces of Hellenization and Romanization. The importance of regional styles of architecture is stressed, an interesting approach that could be extended to other regions. Interestingly, it was not until Diocletian that an entity called Pisidia was created, suggesting that perhaps the modern concept of a region was not shared by the ancients. Though wealthy, Pisidian cities were hard to control because of the inaccessibility of both cities and territory. In this, they differed greatly from the cities of the west coast; despite their imposing acropoleis, the territories of Pergamon or Priene, wide fertile plains, were vulnerable to invasion and control in a way that the territories of upland Selge or Oinoanda were not. This is well brought out by both Levick and Robinson in different ways. Levick shows the surprisingly strong epigraphic record of Phrygia, though in much of this area subsistence strategies were still agricultural. The archaeological record left behind here differed greatly from that of the shepherds discussed by Robinson. But Robinson is optimistic about the prospects of using archaeological evidence to add depth to this debate. This complements Waelkens and Vandeput’s demonstration of a distinctive Pisidian style of architecture in the Roman period. But their comments here raise the important issue of whether such manifestations of local culture can be seen as explicit.

2The third section focuses more closely on problems within sub-disciplines and areas, but at the same time follows up certain themes already brought out by earlier papers. Both Corsten and Rogers tackle aspects of individual cities. In doing so, they follow up on similar comments made by Potter about Xanthos and Levick on Aezanoi. Rogers shows how the city of Ephesos interacted with the Roman state. He shows the depth of understanding possible by both the city and the emperor of a complex past, suggestive of other relationships that we cannot now describe because of the lack of evidence. Expressions of city identity could easily be artificially created, in the same way as units of government could be arbitrarily created. But the expressions of local identity ultimately went back, in one form or another, to traditions, whether local or literary. Regional definition could be manipulated but this had to be based on existing definitions. As Reger shows, Homer (or the past, or geography) could be bent, twisted and stretched, or even changed, but could not be ignored. Whether or not these identities were consciously changed, they did develop over time. This was a slow process of transition, since the anchoring in Homer, myth and geography made large changes difficult. The importance of the literary tradition reinforces the earlier that regionalism might have been an elite issue, and less of a concern for shepherds and peasants. This is a topic well brought out by Macro, who examines different ways in which there was still an understanding of Celticness in Anatolia in the Roman period. What makes this topic especially interesting is that this understanding of the past does not appear to be tied to Galatia; rather, there was a sense of an Anatolian history. The same concept is brought up by Gregory in his comments on Makedonian names in Phrygia. Of the papers in this volume, Gregory and Macro make the most extensive use of onomastic evidence. However, for many of the contributors, the survival and change of names and native languages is important. Potter makes good use of the persistence of Lykian language and script under the Achaemenids, but this only provokes further questions. Why was the Lykian language so visible under the Achaemenids and not, for example, under the Hellenistic monarchs; And why do we find relatively few similar expressions of local identity in a local language in, for example, Karia or Pamphylia, both regions where there were local languages capable of being written down and developed urban networks;

3Metcalf’s paper returns to questions of the importance of outside states to the region. Like Elton and Freeman, he shows how our understanding of certain acts under the Roman Empire requires revision. In this case, the argument that much of the silver coinage used in the region was imported from Rome, not produced locally, requires a revision of the way in which regions were seen. Instead of being evidence for local expressions of culture, these were in fact outside ideas imposed on a region by a state.

© Ausonius Éditions, 2007

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