Opinions on Roman Greece

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Roman Greece is the period of Greek history (of Greece proper; as opposed to the other centers of Hellenism in the Roman world) following the Roman victory over the Corinthians at the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC until the reestablishment of the city of Byzantium and the naming of the city by the Emperor Constantine as the capital of the Roman Empire (as [Nova Roma], later Constantinople) in 330 AD.

The Greek peninsula came under Roman rule in 146 BC, Macedonia being a Roman province, while southern Greece came under the surveillance of Macedonia's praefect. However, some Greek poleis managed to maintain a partial independence and avoid taxation. The Aegean islands were added to this territory in 133 BC. Athens and other Greek cities revolted in 88 BC, and the uprising was crushed by the Roman general Sulla. The Roman civil wars devastated the land even further, until Augustus organized the peninsula as the province of Achaea in 27 BC.

Greece was initially a key eastern province of the Roman Empire, as Roman culture had long been in fact Greco-Roman. The Greek language served as a lingua franca in the East and in Italy, and many Greek intellectuals such as Galen would perform most of their work in Rome. By the time of the Empire the region had been relegated to a backwater status politically, with little economically invigorating military presence and fewer urban areas than further east.

Several emperors contributed new buildings to Greek cities, especially in the Athenian agora, where the Agrippeia of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the Library of Titus Flavius Pantaenus, and the Tower of the Winds, among others, were built. Life in Greece continued under the Roman Empire much the same as it had previously. Roman culture was highly influenced by the Greeks; as Horace said, Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit. ("Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror".) The epics of Homer inspired the Aeneid of Virgil, and authors such as Seneca the younger wrote using Greek styles. The Roman nobles, who regarded the Greeks as backwards and petty, were the main political opponents of Roman heroes such as Scipio Africanus, who tended to study philosophy and regard Greek culture and science as an example to be followed. Similarly, most Roman emperors maintained an admiration for things Greek in nature. The Roman Emperor Nero visited Greece in AD 66, and performed at the Ancient Olympic Games, despite the rules against non-Greek participation. He was, of course, honoured with a victory in every contest, and in the following year he proclaimed the freedom of the Greeks at the Isthmian Games in Corinth, just as Flamininus had over 200 years previously. Hadrian was also particularly fond of the Greeks; before he became emperor he served as an eponymous archon of Athens. He also built his Arch of Hadrian there.

At the same time, Greece and much of the rest of the Roman east came under the influence of Early Christianity. The apostle Paul of Tarsus preached in Macedon and Athens, and Greece soon became one of the most highly Christianized areas of the empire.


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