By express orders from the senate the Corinthian citizens were seized, and such as were not killed were sold into slavery; the city itself was not only deprived of its walls and its citadel--a measure which, if the Romans were not disposed permanently to garrison it, was certainly inevitable--but was levelled with the ground, and all rebuilding on the desolate site was prohibited in the usual forms of accursing; part of its territory was given to Sicyon under the obligation that the latter should defray the costs of the Isthmian national festival in room of Corinth, but the greater portion was declared to be public land of Rome. Thus was extinguished "the eye of Hellas," the last precious ornament of the Grecian land, once so rich in cities. If, however, we review the whole catastrophe, the impartial historian must acknowledge-- what the Greeks of this period themselves candidly confessed--that the Romans were not to blame for the war itself, but that on the contrary, the foolish perfidy and the feeble temerity of the Greeks compelled the Roman intervention. The abolition of the mock sovereignty of the leagues and of all the vague and pernicious dreams connected with them was a blessing for the country; and the government of the Roman commander-in-chief of Macedonia, however much it fell short of what was to be wished, was yet far better than the previous confusion and misrule of Greek confederacies and Roman commissions. The Peloponnesus ceased to be the great harbour of mercenaries; it is affirmed, and may readily be believed, that with the direct government of Rome security and prosperity in some measure returned. The epigram of Themistocles, that ruin had averted ruin, was applied by the Hellenes of that day not altogether without reason to the loss of Greek independence. The singular indulgence, which Rome even now showed towards the Greeks, becomes fully apparent only when compared with the contemporary conduct of the same authorities towards the Spaniards and Phoenicians. To treat barbarians with cruelty seemed not unallowable, but the Romans of this period, like the emperor Trajan in later times, deemed it "harsh and barbarous to deprive Athens and Sparta of the shadow of freedom which they still retained." All the more marked is the contrast between this general moderation and the revolting treatment of Corinth--a treatment disapproved by the orators who defended the destruction of Numantia and Carthage, and far from justified, even according to Roman international law, by the abusive language uttered against the Roman deputies in the streets of Corinth. And yet it by no means proceeded from the brutality of any single individual, least of all of Mummius, but was a measure deliberated and resolved on by the Roman senate. We shall not err, if we recognize it as the work of the mercantile party, which even thus early began to interfere in politics by the side of the aristocracy proper, and which in destroying Corinth got rid of a commercial rival. If the great merchants of Rome had anything to say in the regulation of Greece, we can understand why Corinth was singled out for punishment, and why the Romans not only destroyed the city as it stood, but also prohibited any future settlement on a site so pre-eminently favourable for commerce. The Peloponnesian Argos thenceforth became the rendezvous for the Roman merchants, who were very numerous even in Greece. For the Roman wholesale traffic, however, Delos was of greater importance; a Roman free port as early as 586, it had attracted a great part of the business of Rhodes,(26) and now in a similar way entered on the heritage of Corinth. This island remained for a considerable time the chief emporium for merchandise going from the east to the west.(27)

In the third and more distant continent the Roman dominion exhibited a development more imperfect than in the African and Macedono-Hellenic countries, which were separated from Italy only by narrow seas.

Kingdom Of Pergamus

In Asia Minor, after the Seleucids were driven back, the kingdom of Pergamus had become the first power. Not led astray by the traditions of the Alexandrine monarchies, but sagacious and dispassionate enough to renounce what was impossible, the Attalids kept quiet; and endeavoured not to extend their bounds nor to withdraw from the Roman hegemony, but to promote the prosperity of their empire, so far as the Romans allowed, and to foster the arts of peace. Nevertheless they did not escape the jealousy and suspicion of Rome. In possession of the European shore of the Propontis, of the west coast of Asia Minor, and of its interior as far as the Cappadocian and Cilician frontiers, and in close connection with the Syrian kings--one of whom, Antiochus Epiphanes (d. 590), had ascendedthe throne by the aid of the Attalids--king Eumenes II had by his power, which seemed still more considerable from the more and more deep decline of Macedonia and Syria, instilled apprehension in the minds even of its founders. We have already related(28) how the senate sought to humble and weaken this ally after the third Macedonian war by unbecoming diplomatic arts. The relations-- perplexing from the very nature of the case--of the rulers of Pergamus towards the free or half-free commercial cities within their kingdom, and towards their barbarous neighbours on its borders, became complicated still more painfully by this ill humour on the part of their patrons. As it was not clear whether, according to the treaty of peace in 565, the heights of the Taurus in Pamphylia and Pisidia belonged to the kingdom of Syria or to that of Pergamus,(29) the brave Selgians, nominally recognizing, as it would seem, the Syrian supremacy, made a prolonged and energetic resistance to the kings Eumenes II and Attalus II in the hardly accessible mountains of Pisidia. The Asiatic Celts also, who for a time with the permission of the Romans had yielded allegiance to Pergamus, revolted from Eumenes and, in concert with Prusias king of Bithynia the hereditary enemy of the Attalids, suddenly began war against him about 587. The king had had no time to hire mercenary troops; all his skill and valour could not prevent the Celts from defeating the Asiatic militia and overrunning his territory; the peculiar mediation, to which the Romans condescended at the request of Eumenes, has already been mentioned.(30) But, as soon as he had found time with the help of his well-filled exchequer to raise an army capable of taking the field, he speedily drove the wild hordes back over the frontier, and, although Galatia remained lost to him, and his obstinately-continued attempts to maintain his footing there were frustrated by Roman influence,(31) he yet, in spite of all the open attacks and secret machinations which his neighbours and the Romans directed against him, at his death (about 595) left his kingdom in standing un-diminished.

The Revolution Page 20

Italian Authors

Italian Books

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book