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Hellenistic kings, War, and the Economy1

  • M. M. Austin (a1)

My title links together kings, war, and the economy, and the linkage is deliberate. I do not of course wish to suggest that Hellenistic kings did nothing but fight wars, that they were responsible for all the wars in the period, that royal wars were nothing but a form of economic activity, or that the economy of the kings was dependent purely on the fruits of military success, though there would be an element of truth in all these propositions. But I wish to react against the frequent tendency to separate topics that are related, the tendency to treat notions relating to what kings were or should be as something distinct from what they actually did, and the tendency to treat political and military history on the one hand as something separate from economic and social history on the other.

A number of provisos should be made at the outset. The title promises more than the paper can deliver; in particular, more will be said about kings and war than about kings and the economy. The subject is handled at a probably excessive level of generalization and abstraction. I talk about Hellenistic kings in general, but in practice it would obviously be necessary to draw distinctions between different dynasties, different times and places, and individual rulers, and some of those distinctions I shall indicate. Conclusions are provisional and subject to modification and considerable expansion in detail. Finally, two points of terminology. I use the word ‘Hellenistic’ for no better reason than out of the force of acquired habit, but of course the word and the concept are modern inventions that were unknown to the ancient world.

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2 See now Bichler R., Hellenismus. Geschichte und Problematik eines Epochenbegriffes (Darmstadt, 1983), with the comments by Ed. Will, Gnomon 56 (1984), 777–9.

3 Cf. the comments of Drews R., Basileus. The Evidence for Kingship in Geometric Greece (New Haven & London, 1983), 100, 103 on the connotations of the word ‘king’; Carlier P., La Royauté en Grèce avant Alexandre (Paris, 1984), vivii argues for the retention of the standard translation.

4 3 vols. (Oxford, 1941).

5 See notably Reinhold M., ‘Historian of the Classic World: a Critique of Rostovtzeff’, Science and Society 10 (1946), 361–91; Momigliano A., Contributo alla storia degli studi classici (Rome, 1955), 335–9, 341–54.

6 See Rostovtzeff i.248–50 (the monarchies in general), 267–74 (Ptolemies), 552f. and 564f. (minor monarchies), ii.703–5 (Antiochus IV), 1077–81 (royal government and governing class).

7 Cf. Préaux Cl., Le Monde hellénistique (Paris, 1978), i.339f.

8 See Rostovtzeff's long survey ii.1134–1301, which has only a few pages on military industries (1232f., 1236), and nothing on war as part of economic life.

9 ii. 1150–4 (Ptolemies), 1155 (Seleucids). Apart from a longer passage in i. 192–206, references to booty in Rostovtzeff are usually brief and frequently give no source references, cf. i.129f. (Alexander), 146 (Successors), 203f., 287, 326f., 414 (Ptolemies), ii.710, 1152 (Ptolemies).

10 See for example i.23, 43, 189–206, ii.1242f. In i. 143–52, writing of the Age of the Successors, Rostovtzeff concedes for once that war could occasionally have a beneficent aspect, by putting into circulation money hitherto dormant in the great Persian treasures and so stimulating economic development. This conception is derived from Droysen J. G., Geschichte des Hellenismus (Tübingen, 19521953, from the 1877 edition), i.436–9; an obvious colonial analogy lurks beneath the surface.

11 (2nd ed., Oxford. 1957), i.4.

12 See Rostovtzeff i.430f. on the Seleucids, but the implications of that view are not pursued.

13 Volume vii part 1 (Cambridge, 2nd ed. 1984).

14 See Rostovtzeff iii. 1746, index svv. unification, unity.

15 Droysen, op. cit. (n. 10), i.442, iii.422.

16 See especially the searching chapter, (8) by J. K. Davies on ‘Cultural, social and economic features of the Hellenistic world’.

17 Chapter 5.

18 Cf. Reinhold (n. 5), 372–6.

19 F. W. Walbank, chapter 3, 63, 66, 81f.

20 Id. 84.

21 Davies (n. 16), 291 gives a clear characterization of the competitiveness and military nature of the monarchies, but refers back to Walbank's chapter without further discussion.

22 Chapter 9(b).

23 Bibliographies on all aspects of Hellenistic history may be found in Préaux (n. 7), Ed. Will, Histoire politique du monde hellénistique, 2 vols. (2nd ed., Nancy, 1979 and 1982), and the new Cambridge Ancient History vii.1.

24 London, 1975.

25 Cambridge, 1978.

26 Cf. Millar F., CR 30 (1980), 83–6.

27 Berkeley & Los Angeles, i (1971), ii (1974), iii (1979), iv (1986).

28 Finley M. I., Ancient History. Models and Evidence (London, 1985), 6787.

29 Paris, 1938.

30 Lévêque P., ‘La Guerre à l'époque hellénistique’, in Problèmes de la guerre en Grèce ancienne, ed. Vernant J. P. (Paris & The Hague, 1968), 261–87.

31 Préaux Cl., Third International Conference of Economic History (Paris & The Hague, 1969), iii,4174; op. cit. (n. 7), i.183–201, 295–357, 366–70.

32 Campbell J. B., The Emperor and the Roman Army 31 B.C.-A.D. 235 (Oxford, 1984); see also Millar F., ‘Emperors, Frontiers, and Foreign Relations, 31 B.C. to A.D. 378’. Britannia 13 (1982), 123. There is disappointingly little analysis in Ferguson W. S., Greek Imperialism (London, 1913), and, less surprisingly, in Schneider C., Kulturgeschichte des Hellenismus, 2 vols. (Munich, 1967, 1969), which dissociates cultural history from social analysis.

33 5.49.

34 See the collection of material in Berve H., Das Alexanderreich auf prosopographischer Grundlage (Munich, 1926), i.173f., 304f., 312f.; Ducrey P., Le Traitement des prisonniers de guerre dans la Grèce antique (Paris, 1968), 159–70. The subject receives no systematic discussion in Engels D. W., Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1978), which has only a few incidental references to pillaging, pp. 72, 77, 120.

35 For example Plutarch, Alexander 3940.

36 Errington R. M., Entretiens Hardt xxii (Geneva, 1976), 158f.

37 19.57.1.

38 E.g. Droysen (n. 10), iii.182; Rostovtzeff (n. 4), i.23f., 47, 552f., ii.1026–9 and passim; more recently Klose P., Die Völkerrechtliche Ordnung der hellenistischen Staatenwelt in der Zeit von 280 bis 168 v.Chr. (Munich, 1972), 91f.

39 See Schmitt H. H., ‘Polybius und das Gleichgewicht der Mächte’, Entretiens Hardt xx (1974), with discussion 94102; Ed. Will (n. 23), i.154f. and Revue Historique 522 (1977), 401–6 (critique of Klose); CAH vii.1 (n. 13), 81, 419f., 445.

40 See e.g. the explicit parallels and contrasts drawn between Hellenistic and contemporary European colonization in Droysen's excursus on the foundations of Alexander and his Successors, iii.429–34.

41 Tarn W. W., Antigonos Gonatas (Oxford, 1913), 1f.

42 E.g. Ed. Will, CAH vii.1 (n. 13), 61; the formulation goes back to Droysen iii.182.

43 E.g. Walbank, CAH vii.1.65, 71; L. Mooren (n. 67 below), 231f. (though excepting Macedon).

44 Cf. Entretiens Hardt (n. 39), 98f.

45 OGIS 54.

46 See n. 90 below.

47 Polybius 5.10, 101–2, 104.7, 108.5, 15.24.6.

48 E.g. Klose (n. 38), 87f.; the allegation is brushed aside by Will (n. 23), ii.76, 79f. For a good view of the steady growth of Antigonid power, see Buraselis K., Das Hellenistische Makedonien und die Ägäis (Munich, 1982), 177–9.

49 Anth. Pal. 9.518.

50 Polybius 15.20; for modern views see Walbank's Commentary and Will (n. 23), ii.114–18.

51 Cf. H. H. Schmitt (n. 39), 91 n. 1.

52 11.11.1; see Will (n. 23), ii.348–52.

53 See Delcourt M., Oedipe ou la légende du conquérant (Liège & Paris, 1944).

54 Lines 71–3, cf. 461f., 476, 486.

55 Arrian 2.14.

56 Plutarch, Alexander 34.

57 Plutarch, Demetrius 18; Diodorus 20.53.1–4.

58 Polybius 18.41; for the connection between military victory and royal status, see also e.g. Diodorus 19.48.1 and 55.2 (Antigonus), 93.4 (Demetrius), 105.4 (the leading Successors), 20.79.2 (Agathocles); Polybius 1.9.8 (Hiero II), 10.38.3 and 40.2 (Scipio Africanus), 11.34.16 (Antiochus III).

59 Plutarch, Pyrrhus 8.

60 Plutarch, Antony 54.

61 Préaux (n. 7), i.195–8; for the Seleucids cf. Bar-Kochva B., The Seleucid Army (Cambridge, 1976), 85f.

62 See e.g. Polybius 5.41.7–9, 45.6, 54.1 (Antiochus III), 85.8 (Ptolemy IV).

63 See briefly Lévêque (n. 30), 276–9; Picard G. C., Les Trophées romains (Paris, 1957), 64100 for victory monuments.

64 Pritchett (n. 27), ii chs. 1–3.

65 Thucydides 1.128–34, esp. 132.2f.

66 Plutarch, Cimon 78.

67 This remains true even if the existence of a collective body of ‘Macedonians’ with limited public functions is attested from the latter part of the reign of Antigonus Gonatas; see Papazoglou F., ‘Sur l'organisation de la Macédoine des Antigonides’. Ancient Macedonia (Thessalonica, 1983), iii. 195210; Mooren L., ‘The Nature of the Hellenistic Monarchy’, in Egypt and the Hellenistic World (Louvain, 1983), 205–40.

68 E.g. the dedication for the battle of Sellasia in 222, Syll.3 518.

69 OGIS 273–9.

70 OGIS 54.

71 Aristotle, Politics 1311b401312a20; cf. Wallace-Hadrill J., JRS 72 (1982), 33–5, though he does not discuss the military aspect.

72 Isocrates, Evagoras 47.

73 See for example Diodorus 18.9.2 (Leosthenes), 17.1 (Antipater), 60.1 (Eumenes), 74.1 (Polyperchon), 20.77.2 (Agathocles); Polybius 4.22.5, 5.16.2, 18.6, 26.4, 29.2, 34.2 (Philip V), 5.1.7 and 30.1 (Eperatus, an Achaean general), 5.34.2 and 41.1 (Antiochus III), 7.3.6f. (Hieronymus son of Hiero II); further examples in A. Mauersberger, Polybius-Lexicon svv. καταɸρονєῖν, καταɸρονήσɩς; Livy 42.29.5–7 and Josephus, AJ 12.242 (Ptolemy VI).

74 See for example Theocritus 17.104f., Polybius 5.34 (Ptolemies); OGIS 219, lines 7f., I Maccabees 15.3 (Seleucids).

75 5.83.

76 Préaux (n. 7), i.208–10.

77 5.88–90.

78 Politics in the Ancient World (Cambridge, 1983), 61–4, 109–16; The Ancient Economy (2nd ed., London, 1985), 204–7.

79 War in the Ancient World (London, 1975), 183.

80 Dio 42.49.4.

81 18.50.2f.

82 19.56.5; for other instances see 18.16.2, 19.2, 53.2, 55.2; 19.56.2, 72.1, 78.1.

83 Theocritus 17.75f.

84 Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 5.196a–203e (from Callixeinus of Rhodes, FGrHist 627 F1–2); see Rice E. E., The Grand Procession of Ptolemy Philadelphus (Oxford, 1983), on which cf. Walbank F. W., LCM 9.4 (1984), 52–4.

85 Polybius 30.25–6; the purpose of the pageant has been much discussed, most recently by Bunge J. G., Chiron 6 (1976), 5371. Polybius' description is surely self-explanatory.

86 For example Bradford-Welles C., Greece and Rome 12.2 (1965), 220f.

87 See n. 42 above.

88 A glance at Schmitt H. H., Die Staatsverträge des Altertums, iii: Die Staatsverträge von 338 bis 200 v.Chr. (Munich, 1969), is enough to show the paucity of known treaties between kings as opposed to treaties involving constitutional entities such as cities or leagues. For an example of a treaty between kings into which modern scholarship has read far more than the limited evidence allows (the treaty between Antigonus Gonatas and Antiochus I in c. 278), see Buraselis (n.48), 110, 115–19.

89 A point not brought out in Polybius' account of the ‘Fourth Syrian War’ in Book 5, cf. Pédech P., La Méthode historique de Polybe (Paris, 1964), 141.

90 Cf. Livy 42.29.5–7, Josephus, AJ 12.242 (citing several Greek sources); Diodorus 30.16 even credits Ptolemy's ministers with the ambition of conquering the whole of Antiochus IV's realm. On the conflict cf. Mørkholm O., Antiochus IV of Syria (Copenhagen, 1966), chs. 4–5 and Will (n. 23), ii.311–25, though neither brings out sufficiently the acquisitive motives involved.

91 See n. 85.

92 II Maccabees 8.9–10 explicitly connects the sale of Jewish war captives by a Seleucid general with the need to pay the Romans.

93 18.14.1:

94 OGIS 11, lines 10f.; Welles C. B., Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period (New Haven & London, 1934), no. 6 lines 6f. The Prieneans had in fact omitted to mention the ‘friends’ and were corrected on this point by Lysimachus. On Lysimachus see also Diodorus 21.12.1 (in 292).

95 OGIS 219; Herrman P., Anadolu 9 (1965), 34–6 lines 23f.

96 Inschriften von Magnesia 86 line 17. See also in general Polybius 5.50.9.

97 See especially Bikerman (n. 29), 31–50; Ch. Habicht, ‘Die herrschende Gesellschaft in den hellenistischen Monarchien’, Vierteljahrschrift für Soziologie und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 45 (1958), l16; Préaux (n. 7), i.200, 212–30; Herman G., ‘The “Friends” of the Early Hellenistic Rulers: Servants or Officials?’, Talanta (1981), 103–49; Walbank, CAH vii.1 (n. 13), 6871.

98 For this theme see e.g. Diodorus 21.12.1 (Lysimachus); C. B. Wèlles (n. 94) nos. 11–12 (Antiochus I), no. 44 (Antiochus III), no. 45 (Seleucus IV); Polybius 18.41 (Attalus I).

99 Polybius 5.26, contrast 7.8 (Hiero II): cf. Millar F., The Emperor in the Roman World (London, 1977), 110–22.

100 Phocion 18. Cf. Berve (n. 34), ii no. 816.

101 See for example Diodorus 18.14.1, 28.5–6, 19.86 (Ptolemy); 18.33–6 (Perdiccas and Ptolemy); 18.50, 53, 61–2, 19.25 (Antigonus and Eumenes); Plutarch, Demetrius 4950 (Seleucus and Demetrius).

102 Livy 35.18.1; cf. also the competition between rival Seleucid rulers for the favour of Jonathan (Bikerman (n. 29), 44).

103 For a recent survey cf. Garlan (n. 22).

104 Bengtson H., Die Strategie in der hellenistischen Zeit, 3 vols. (Munich, 1937 (repr. 1964), 1944, 1952) discusses the subject from a largely administrative point of view, with only incidental recognition of the problem of delegated military authority (ii.56–60, on the Seleucids); the resulting picture is much too tidy and impersonal, cf. his concluding survey in iii. 190–6. Against see Aymard A., ‘Esprit militaire et administration hellénistique’, Études d'histoire ancienne (Paris, 1967), 461–73.

105 See Parke H. W., Greek Mercenary Soldiers (Oxford, 1933), chapter 21; Griffith G. T., The Mercenaries of the Hellenistic World (Cambridge, 1935), chapter 2.

106 See Launey M., Recherches sur les armées hellénistiques (Paris, 1949, 1950), ii.1084f. and cf. n. 67 above.

107 Polybius 5.57.6–8 (cf. Walbank, Commentary i. 570), Diodorus 33.4a (Seleucids); Polybius 15.25–33 (Ptolemies).

108 This is implied by Polybius 15.25.11; see also the oath of Eumenes I and his mercenaries — after a major revolt (OGIS 266). Launey does not discuss the institution.

109 Launey (n. 106), ii.690–5 for some evidence.

110 Polybius 5.2, 4–5, 7, 14–16, 25–8.

111 Plutarch, Demetrius 44 (Pyrrhus and Demetrius).

112 Polybius 5.40–57.

113 For some examples see Préaux (n. 7), i.306–9.

114 Griffith (n. 105), 291f., 313 and n. 2; Launey (n. 106), index s.v. ‘butin’ (ii.1287), but the references are all brief and unsystematic. For Rostovtzeff see n. 9 above.

115 There is much material in the unpublished Cambridge Ph.D. thesis of Jackson A. H., Plundering in War and other Depredations in Greek History from 800 B.C. to 146 B.C. (1969). See also Bikerman (n. 29), 120f. (Seleucids); Préaux (n. 7), i.297f., 308, 366–70; Volkmann H., Die Massenversklavungen der Einwohner erobeŕter Städte in der hellenistisch-römischen Zeit (Wiesbaden, 1961), 1525, 61–5 (unsystematic); more fully P. Ducrey (n. 34), esp. 83–92, 135–40, 159–70, 235–7.

116 See Polybius 4.3–37, 57–87; 5.1–30, 91–105; for his views on the legitimacy of booty see especially 5.9–11 and the revealing comparison between the practice of the Romans and others in 10.16–17.

117 Thus Préaux (n. 7), i.305.

118 FGrHist 260 F 42; Rostovtzeff (n. 4), ii.1150f.

119 F 43; Rostovtzeff does not mention or discuss this passage.

120 FGrHist 160 column ii. Travelling war chests were evidently sitting targets as large sums of money were involved; cf. in the Age of the Successors Diodorus 18.52.7 (600 talents), 19.57.5 (1000 talents), 19.61.5 (500 talents), 20.108.3 (3000 talents).

121 Ducrey (n. 34), 83–7.

122 Augustine, Civitas Dei 4.4. For the ideological origin of this and similar passages see Shaw B., Past and Present 105 (1984), 4452 (51 n. 131 on Augustine's sources). The same theme occurs in connection with Alexander, but in a Scythian setting, in Quintus Curtius 9.8.12–30, esp. 19.

123 For examples of this in the Hèllenistic period, cf. Vogt J., Slavery and the Ideal of Man (Oxford, 1974), 7883.

124 Imperator in Augustine's Latin.

1 This is a revised version of a paper originally delivered at seminars in St Andrews and at the Institute of Classical Studies in London. I am grateful to all the participants for their comments, but remain solely responsible for any errors of fact and interpretation.

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