Greco-Roman relations in classical antiquity

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Greeks had settled in Southern Italy and Sicily since the 8th century BC. In this way, Italian tribes came into contact with Greek culture very early on and were influenced by it. The alphabet, weights and measures, coinage, many gods and cults (see interpretatio Romana) as well as the building of temples were derived from the Greeks.[1][2]

The Romans came into contact with Greek culture a fourth time during the conquest of Magna Graecia, Mainland Greece and the "Hellenistic countries" (countries that had been marked by Greek culture and language) in the 2nd and the 1st centuries BC. The Romans, who had defeated Carthage but were still a society of peasants, saw in Hellenistic cities that daily life could be more comfortable than theirs. Formerly sparsely-ornamented houses acquired columns, statues, mosaics on the floors, tapestries and paintings on the walls. One didn't have dinner while sitting any more, but while reclining, according to Greek custom.

The Romans gained from the Greek influence in other areas: trade, banking, administration, art, literature, philosophy and earth science.[2] In the last century BC it was a must for every rich young man to study in Athens or Rhodes and perfect their knowledge of rhetoric at the large schools of philosophy. It was also a must to speak Greek as well as one's mother tongue in Rome.

There were some who resisted this Greek influence on every aspect of life. For example, Cato the Elder prophesied Rome's demise; he considered everything Greek to be suspect; he even mistrusted Greek doctors and claimed that they only wanted to poison Romans.

Indeed, some Greeks might have had every reason to hate the Romans, who had devastated their home, robbed temples and public buildings, decimated the population and brought many Greeks to Rome as slaves.[3][4][5][6] Aemilius Paulus, the victor of the Battle of Pydna in Greece in 168 BC, is said to have sold 150,000 Greeks to Rome as slaves all by himself.[7]

Romans matched the Greeks in terms of culture, partly because of the Greeks who voluntarily or involuntarily fought in Rome. Greek cities like Ephesus or Athens flourished during the long era of peace (Pax Romana) more than ever. Though Greek, cities like Ephesus were not explicitly distinctive from Roman cities.[8] Because of the general prosperity, there was no revolt against Roman rule, which was even seen as positive.


  1. ^ "What ideas did the Romans borrow from the Greeks?". Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Ancient Roman Art and Architecture". The New Book of Knowledge. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  3. ^ Liv. “The History of Rome” 32.33
  4. ^ Strab. “Geography” 7.fragments 21a
  5. ^ Hor.[Citation URI: “Odes”]3.6
  6. ^ Paus.“Description of Greece” 7.8, 8.51
  7. ^ Plut. "Life of Aemilius" 29.3
  8. ^ C. Ando, "Images of Emperor and Empire," in Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), ch. 7.