Achaia (Roman province)

Coordinates: 38°43′12″N 22°32′24″E / 38.7200°N 22.5400°E / 38.7200; 22.5400
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Province of the Roman Empire
27 BC–7th century

The province of Achaia within the Roman Empire, c. 125 AD
Historical eraAntiquity
• Separated from the Province of Macedonia
27 BC
• Balkans invaded by Slavs
Theme of Hellas established
7th century
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Macedonia (Roman province)
Hellas (theme)
Today part ofGreece

Achaia[1][2] (Greek: Ἀχαΐα), sometimes spelled Achaea,[3][4] was a province of the Roman Empire, consisting of the Peloponnese, Attica, Boeotia, Euboea, the Cyclades and parts of Phthiotis, Aetolia and Phocis. In the north, it bordered on the provinces of Epirus vetus and Macedonia. The region was annexed by the Roman Republic in 146 BC following the sack of Corinth by the Roman general Lucius Mummius, who was awarded the surname "Achaicus" ("conqueror of Achaia"). Initially part of the Roman province of Macedonia, it was made into a separate province by Augustus.

Achaia was a senatorial province, thus free from military men and legions, and one of the most prestigious and sought-after provinces for senators to govern.[5] Athens was the primary center of education for the imperial elite, rivaled only by Alexandria, and one of the most important cities in the Empire.[5] Achaia was among the most prosperous and peaceful parts of the Roman world until Late Antiquity, when it first suffered from barbarian invasions. The province remained prosperous and highly urbanized however, as attested in the 6th-century Synecdemus.

The Slavic invasions of the 7th century led to widespread destruction, with much of the population fleeing to fortified cities, the Aegean islands and Italy, while some Slavic tribes settled the interior. The territories of Achaia remaining in Byzantine hands were grouped into the theme of Hellas.


Conquest and Republican period[edit]

In 150–148 BC the Romans fought the Fourth Macedonian War, after which they annexed Macedon, formerly the largest and most powerful state in mainland Greece. In 146 BC the Achaean League initiated the Achaean War against Rome. The contemporary historian Polybius blames the demagogues of the cities of the Achaean League for encouraging a rash decision and inciting a suicidal war. The League was quickly defeated by Lucius Mummius and its main city, Corinth, was destroyed. After the war, the Romans annexed mainland Greece. A group of ten commissioners "put down democracies" in the Greek cities (Pausanias) through a programme of "constitutional restructuring"[6] which involved the introduction of property qualifications for participating in civic politics, temporarily abolished the Achaean, Boeotian, Locrian, and Phocaean Leagues, and levied tribute on the individual cities. However, the cities remained mostly self-governing.[7] Athens and Sparta, which had not participated in the war remained autonomous and free. It is disputed whether Greece became part of the Roman province Macedonia or was left unincorporated. Interventions by the governor of Macedonia in Greek affairs are attested, but also the dispatch of separate legates direct from Rome.[8] Roman governance over the following century remained "rather ad hoc."[9]

In the Dyme Affair of 144 BC, a faction in the city of Dyme passed laws "contrary to the type of government granted by the Romans," staged a revolution, and destroyed their town hall and official records. At the request of the Dymaean town councillors, Quintus Fabius Maximus[a] issued a ruling, sentencing the revolutionaries to death.[11] An inscription recording judicial decisions made in the Greek city of Demetrias in the mid-second century BC says that the judgements were made in accordance with local law and "the edicts and judgements of the Romans", indicating that Roman law was already considered to apply to the region only a few years after the Achaean War.[12]

In the following decades, many Greek communities sought to establish treaty relationships of "friendship and alliance" with Rome, apparently finding this preferable to free status. Treaties are attested, mostly by inscriptions, with Epidaurus and Troezen in the late second century BC, Astypalaea in 105 BC, Thyrium in 94 BC. The cities probably sought these treaties as a way of safeguarding their territory from their larger neighbours.[7] Rome was increasingly called upon by the Greek communities to arbitrate in disputes between them, instead of seeking inter-state arbitration as had been common in the Hellenistic period.[13] In these disputes, "friends and allies" of the Romans were usually favoured.[13]

Mithridatic and civil wars[edit]

The First Mithridatic War (89–85 BC) was fought in Attica and Boeotia, two regions which were to become part of the province of Achaia. In 89 BC, Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, seized the Roman Province of Asia (in western Anatolia). Mithridates then sent Archelaus (his leading military commander) to Greece, where he established Aristion as a tyrant in Athens. The Roman consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla landed in Epirus (in western Greece) and marched on Athens. He marched through Boeotia on his way to Attica. Sulla besieged Athens and Piraeus in 87-86 BC and then sacked Athens and destroyed Piraeus. He then defeated Archelaus at the Battle of Chaeronea and the Battle of Orchomenus, both fought in Boeotia in 86 BC. Roman rule was preserved. Following the war, Sulla pardoned the Greek cities that had followed Mithridates and restored the legal systems that had been given to them by the Romans previously.[14][15]

As the part of the Roman East closest to Italy, Greece was a central theatre of the civil wars of the Late Republic. The war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great culminated in Caesar's victory at the Battle of Pharsalus in Thessaly in 48 BC. in 46 BC, Greece was separated out from Macedonia as a separate province for first time by Julius Caesar, who placed it under a proconsul, but this was reversed at some point after his assassination in 44 BC.[16] Caesar also ordered the refoundation of Corinth, abandoned since 146 BC, as a Roman colony. Caesar's assassins, led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, based themselves in Greece during the Liberators' civil war, until their defeat by Octavian and Mark Antony of the Second Triumvirate at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. After the battle, the Second Triumvirate assigned Greece along with the rest of the East to Mark Antony, who remained in control of it until his defeat by Octavian at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.


The Roman Empire under Hadrian (r. 117–138), showing the senatorial province of Achaia (southern Greece)
Sestertius of Hadrian celebrating Achaia province.

After the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, the Emperor Augustus separated Greece, Thessaly, and part of Epirus from Macedonia in 27 BC.The new province was named Achaia and was a senatorial province (Macedonia remained a senatorial province as well).[16] In AD 15, Emperor Tiberius, responding to complaints of mismanagement by the senatorial proconsul made Achaia and Macedonia Imperial provinces and placed both of them under the control of Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus, the Imperial procurator of Moesia.[17][16] After Sabinus' death in AD 35, this situation continued under the new procurator, Publius Memmius Regulus, until AD 44, when Emperor Claudius separated Macedonia and Achaia once more and restored them to the Senate.[18][16]

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 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.[16] This grant of freedom was cancelled by Vespasian, who is meant to have quipped that "the Greeks had forgotten how to be free."[16]

Hadrian (117–138) was particularly fond of the Greeks, particularly Athens. He saw himself as an heir to Theseus and Pericles and had served as an eponymous archon of Athens before he became emperor. [19] He carried out constitutional reforms at Athens in 126 and instituted a special 'council of the Panhellenes', where representatives of all Greek states met to discuss religious affairs, in Athens and under Athenian leadership. Hadrian was also responsible for large scale construction projects there, such as the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Athenians built the Arch of Hadrian in his honour nearby.[20] Construction was also carried out by local notables, many of whom became Roman citizens and joined the Imperial elite, most notably Herodes Atticus.

During the Marcomannic Wars, in 170 or 171, the Costoboci invaded Roman territory, sweeping south through the Balkans to Achaia, where they sacked the sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis. Even though much of the invasion force was spent, the local resistance was insufficient and the procurator Lucius Julius Vehilius Gratus Julianus was sent to Greece with a small force to clear out the remnants of the invaders.[21]


Many of the cities in the province, including Athens, Delphi, Thespis, and Plataea, were "free cities" and did not fall under the authority of the governor. From some time in the reign of Trajan a separate official the corrector was appointed to oversee their affairs. This office was increasingly merged with that of the provincial governor as time went on.[22]

Legal cases could be appealed to the governor. He was advised by a "council" (consilium) and often delegated judicial powers to members of the council or other officials. There were also juries of provincials, composed of both Greeks and Roman citizens resident in the province. Cases regarding borders between provinces, free cities, and Roman colonies were usually decided by the emperor.[23] Cases could only be appealed to these authorities if they involved more than a certain amount of money, involved status, or carried the death penalty.[23]


The Pax Romana was the longest period of peace in Greek history, and Greece became a major crossroads of maritime trade between Rome and the Greek speaking eastern half of the empire. 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. Roman culture was highly influenced by the Greeks; as Horace said, Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit ("Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror").[24] The epics of Homer inspired the Aeneid of Virgil, and authors such as Seneca the Younger wrote using Greek styles. Some Roman nobles regarded the contemporary Greeks as backwards and petty, while still embracing the Greeks' literature, philosophy, and heritage.[25]

During this 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 Philippi, Corinth and Athens, and Greece soon became one of the most highly Christianized areas of the empire.

Later Roman Empire[edit]

Under Diocletian, the province of Achaia became a subdivision of the new diocese of Moesia. Under Constantine, the diocese was split and Achaia became part of the Diocese of Macedonia, which was itself assigned to the Praetorian prefecture of Italy or Illyricum at different points in the fourth century AD.

In 267, the Heruli led a naval invasion of the Aegean, before landing near Sparta and plundering the Peloponnese, including not only Sparta, but also Corinth, Argos, and the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia. They then moved north and sacked Athens, before being defeated by a local force led by the Athenian Dexippus, whose writings were a source for later historians.[26] In the aftermath of this invasion, much of the classical and imperial monuments of Athens were spoliated to build the Post-Herulian wall, which enclosed only a small area around the Acropolis. Although a smaller city, Athens remained a centre of Greek culture and especially of Neo-Platonist pagan philosophy.

Greece was again invaded in 395 by the Visigoths under Alaric I. Stilicho, who ruled as a regent for Emperor Arcadius, evacuated Thessaly and Arcadius' chief advisor Eutropius allowed Alaric to enter Greece, where he looted Athens, Corinth and the Peloponnese. Stilicho eventually drove him out around 397 and Alaric was made magister militum in Illyricum.[27]

Greece remained part of the relatively cohesive and robust eastern half of the empire, which eventually became the center of the remaining Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman now referred to as 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.[28] In fact the polis, as an institution, appears to have remained prosperous until at least the 6th century. Contemporary texts such as Hierokles' Syndekmos affirm that late antiquity Greece was highly urbanised and contained approximately eighty cities.[28] 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.[28]


Copper, lead, and silver mines were exploited in Achaia, though production was not as great as the mines of other Roman-controlled areas, such as Noricum, Britannia, and the provinces of Hispania. Marble from Greek quarries was a valuable commodity.

Educated Greek slaves were much in demand in Rome in the role of doctors and teachers, and educated men were a significant export. Achaia also produced household luxuries, such as furniture, pottery, cosmetics, and linens. Greek olives and olive oil were exported to the rest of the Empire.

List of Roman governors[edit]

List of Roman Correctors of the Free Cities[edit]

Name Dates Title Notes
Maximus ca. 100-110 Corrector of the free cities Pliny Letters 8.24; Arrian Epict. 3.7[44]
Gaius Avidius Nigrinus ca. 114 Legatus Augusti pro praetore FD III 4, no. 290–296; SEG 52.139 [44] Previously governor of Achaia.
Publius Pactumeius Clemens ca. 122? Legatus of the Divine Hadrian to Athens, Thespiae, and Plataea CIL VIII 7059.[44] Son-in-law of governor Titus Prifernius Geminus.[45]
Lucius Aemilius Juncus ca. 134 Legatus Augusti pro praetore; Justice-giver; Corrector of the Free Cities [44]
Severus ca. 139 Prefect IG II² 1092[44]
Sextus Quintilius Condianus and
Sextus Quintilius Valerius Maximus
ca. 170 and 175 Rulers of Greece Together, combining the role with governorship.[44]
Claudius Demetrius ca. 193-198 Legatus Augusti pro praetore; Proconsul; Corrector of the Free Cities Combining role with governorship.[44]
Tiberus Claudius Callippianus Italicus ca. 198-211 Legatus Augusti pro praetore; Consular; Corrector of the Free Cities IG II² 4215. Combining role with governorship.[44]
Egnatius Proculus ca. 198-211 Consular; Corrector IG V 1, 541.[44]
Tiberius Claudius Suatianus Proculus ca. 200-206 Curator of Athens and Patras ILS 9488.[44]
Gnaeus Claudius Leonticus ca. 200-217 Counsular and Corrector of Achaia; Proconsul SIG3 877; FD III 4, 269–271, 331A-B. Combining role with governorship.[44]
Gaius Licinius Telemachus 209 Legatus Augusti pro praetore; Clarissimus; Curator of Athens IG II² 1077; 2963. Combining role with governorship?[44]
Paulinus ca. 200-235 Governor and Corrector of Greece IG V 1, 538.[44] Combining role with governorship.
Lucius Egnatius Victor Lollianus ca. 230 Clarissimus Counsular; Corrector of Achaia IG VII 2510.[44]


  1. ^ According to the classical scholar Robert M. Kallet-Marx, if the date of 144 BC is accurate, the Quintus Fabius Maximus in question is almost certainly Quintus Fabius Maximus Servilianus. Less likely possibilities include Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus, Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus, and Quintus Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ /əˈkə/
  2. ^ Barrington Atlas, map 100
  3. ^ /əˈkə/
  4. ^ The spelling "Achaea" is based on an erroneous but well-established transliteration of the Greek original (which does not have a diphthong) and in disregard of the Latin spelling (Achaia). The Cambridge University Press's publication "Pausanias' Greece" claims (on p.1): "Following modern standard usage, 'Achaia' refers to the Roman province, 'Achaea' to an area of the northern Peloponnese." Furthermore, Oliver (1983) The Civic Tradition and Roman Athens, p. 152 n. 6: 'The name of the province is Achaia.... It is so spelled in good manuscripts of [Tacitus, Suetonius, and Seneca] and all Latin inscriptions.' The transliteration "Akhaïa" of the (Ancient and Modern) Greek is sometimes used in English, for example by the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Collins English Dictionary as an alternative to "Achaea".
  5. ^ a b Roman provincial coinage: Τόμος 1, Andrew Burnett, Michel Amandry, Pere Pau Ripollés Alegre - 2003
  6. ^ Girdvainyte 2020, p. 225.
  7. ^ a b Girdvainyte 2020, p. 212.
  8. ^ Girdvainyte 2020, p. 217.
  9. ^ Girdvainyte 2020, p. 218.
  10. ^ Kallet-Marx, Robert M. (1995). "Quintus Fabius Maximus and the Dyme Affair (Syll. 684)". The Classical Quarterly. 45 (1): 141–143. doi:10.1017/S0009838800041756. JSTOR 639723. S2CID 170256313. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  11. ^ Girdvainyte 2020, p. 217-218, 226.
  12. ^ Girdvainyte 2020, p. 216-217.
  13. ^ a b Girdvainyte 2020, p. 213.
  14. ^ Appian Mithridatic Wars 6.39
  15. ^ Girdvainyte 2020, p. 227.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Girdvainyte 2020, p. 210.
  17. ^ Tacitus, Annals.1.76
  18. ^ Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 25.3
  19. ^ Kouremenos, Anna 2022. "Introduction: Collective Historical Nostalgia in 2nd Century Achaea". In A. Kouremenos (Ed) The Province of Achaea in the 2nd Century CE: The Past Present. London: Routledge.
  20. ^ Kouremenos, Anna 2022. "'The City of Hadrian and not of Theseus': A Cultural History of Hadrian's Arch". In A. Kouremenos (Ed) The Province of Achaea in the 2nd Century CE: The Past Present. London: Routledge.
  21. ^ Birley, Anthony R. (2000) [1987]. Marcus Aurelius: A Biography (2 ed.). Routledge. pp. 165, 168.
  22. ^ Oliver 1973.
  23. ^ a b Girdvainyte 2020, p. 219.
  24. ^ "Horace - Wikiquote". Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  25. ^ Woolf, Greg (1994). "Becoming Roman, Staying Greek: Culture, Identity and the Civilizing Process in the Roman East". Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. 40: 116–143. doi:10.1017/S0068673500001875. S2CID 170935906.
  26. ^ Steinacher, Roland (2017). Rom und die Barbaren. Völker im Alpen- und Donauraum (300-600). Kohlhammer Verlag. pp. 58–60. ISBN 9783170251700.
  27. ^ Kulikowski, Michael (2006). Rome's Gothic Wars: From the Third Century to Alaric. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-521-84633-2.
  28. ^ a b c Rothaus, Richard M. Corinth: The First City of Greece. Brill, 2000. ISBN 90-04-10922-6, 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 6th 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."
  29. ^ J. Bingen, Inscriptions d’Achaïe, Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, 78 (1954), pp. 82—85
  30. ^ AE 1954, 31, CIL I, 2955;
  31. ^ R. Sherk, Rome and the Greek East to the Death of Augustus (Cambridge: University Press, 1984), vol. IV pp. 50—51;
  32. ^ Jeanne Robert & Louis Robert, "Bulletin épigraphique", Revue des Études Grecques, 92 (1979), pp. 413—541, p. 444 n. 205
  33. ^ T. Corey Brennan, The Praetorship in The Roman Republic (Oxford: University Press, 2000), Vol. II p. 894 n. 100
  34. ^ Tacitus Annales, iv.43; Thomas Elliott (2004). Epigraphic Evidence for Boundary Disputes in the Roman Empire (PhD). University of North Carolina. p. 74-79.
  35. ^ Girdvainyte 2020, p. 214 n. 23.
  36. ^ Melfi, Milena (2007). I santuari di Asclepio in Grecia. Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider. p. 76. ISBN 9788882653477.
  37. ^ Unless otherwise noted, governors from 91/92 to 136/137 are taken from Werner Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron, 12 (1982), pp. 281-362; 13 (1983), pp. 147-237.
  38. ^ Werner Eck, "L. Marcius Celer M. Calpurnius Longus Prokonsul von Achaia und Suffektkonsul unter Hadrian", in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 86 (1991), pp. 97–106.
  39. ^ Giuseppe Camodeca, "Una nuova coppia di consoli del 148 e il proconsul Achaiae M. Calpurnius Longus", in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 112 (1996), pp. 235–240.
  40. ^ Unless otherwise noted, governors from 144 to 182 are taken from Géza Alföldy, Konsulat und Senatorenstand unter der Antoninen (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 1977), pp. 260-262
  41. ^ Oliver 1970, pp. 66–72.
  42. ^ Unless otherwise noted, governors from 184 to about 235 are taken from Paul M. M. Leunissen, Konsuln und Konsulare in der Zeit von Commodus bis Severus Alexander (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1989), pp. 293-296
  43. ^ CIL X, 3723
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Oliver 1973, pp. 403–405.
  45. ^ Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron, 13 (1983), p. 157

Further reading[edit]

  • Girdvainyte, Lina (2020). "Law and Citizenship in Roman Achaia: Continuity and Change". In Czakowski, Kimberley; Eckhardt, Benedikt (eds.). Law in the Roman provinces. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 210–242. ISBN 978-0-19-884408-2.
  • Kouremenos, Anna (Ed) 2022. The Province of Achaea in the 2nd Century CE: The Past Present. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781032014852
  • Oliver, James H. (1973). "Imperial Commissioners in Achaia". Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies. 14: 389–405.
  • Oliver, J. H. (1970). Marcus Aurelius: : Aspects of Civic and Cultural Policy. Princeton.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

38°43′12″N 22°32′24″E / 38.7200°N 22.5400°E / 38.7200; 22.5400