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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 peninsula 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 the key eastern province of the Roman Empire, as the 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.
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. (Translation: 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 66 AD, 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 67 AD 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 had preached in Macedon and Athens, and Greece soon became one of the most highly Christianized areas of the empire.
Later Roman Empire
During the second and third centuries, Greece was divided into provinces including Achaea, Macedonia, Epirus, Thrace and Sparta. During the reign of Diocletian in the late 3rd century, Moesia was organized as a diocese, and was ruled by Galerius. Under Constantine (who professed Christianity) Hellas was part of the prefectures of Macedonia and Thrace. Theodosius divided the prefecture of Macedonia into the provinces of Creta, Achaea, Thessalia, Epirus Vetus, Epirus Nova, and Macedonia. The Aegean islands formed the province of Insulae in the prefecture of Asiana.
Greece faced invasions from the Heruli, Goths, and Vandals during the reign of Romulus Augustulus. Stilicho, who acted as regent for Arcadius, evacuated Thessaly when the Visigoths invaded in the late 4th century. Arcadius' Chamberlain Eutropius allowed Alaric to enter Greece, and he looted Athens, Corinth and the Peloponnese. Stilicho eventually drove him out around 397 and Alaric was made magister militum in Illyricum. Eventually, Alaric and the Goths migrated to Italy, sacked Rome in 410, and built the Visigothic Kingdom in Iberia, which lasted until 711 with the advent of the Arabs.
Greece remained part of the relatively unified eastern half of the empire, which eventually became the center of the remaining Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. Contrary to outdated visions of late antiquity, the Greek peninsula was most likely one of the most prosperous regions of the Roman Empire. Older scenarios of poverty, depopulation, barbarian destruction and civil decay have been revised in light of recent archaeological discoveries. In fact the polis, as an institution, appears to have remained prosperous until at least the sixth century. Contemporary texts such as Hierokles' Syndekmos affirm that Late antiquity Greece was highly urbanised and contained approximately 80 cities. This view of extreme prosperity is widely accepted today, and it is assumed between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, Greece may have been one of the most economically active regions in the eastern Mediterranean.
- Rothaus, p. 10. "The question of the continuity of civic institutions and the nature of the polis in the late antique and early Byzantine world have become a vexed question, for a variety of reasons. Students of this subject continue to contend with scholars of earlier periods who adhere to a much-outdated vision of late antiquity as a decadent decline into impoverished fragmentation. The cities of late-antique Greece displayed a marked degree of continuity. Scenarios of barbarian destruction, civic decay, and manorialization simply do not fit. In fact, the city as an institution appears to have prospered in Greece during this period. It was not until the end of the 6th century (and maybe not even then) that the dissolution of the city became a problem in Greece. If the early sixth century Syndekmos of Hierokles is taken at face value, late-antique Greece was highly urbanized and contained approximately eighty cities. This extreme prosperity is born out by recent archaeological surveys in the Aegean. For late-antique Greece, a paradigm of prosperity and transformation is more accurate and useful than a paradigm of decline and fall."
- Rothaus, Richard M. Corinth: The First City of Greece. Brill, 2000. ISBN 90-04-10922-6