HST 372 - Spring 2004
Kennedy: The Middle East was a vital economic
area of the Roman Empire. Since the core Italian and Greek provinces
were thorughly unsuitable for the scale of agriculture necessary to maintain
the great cities there, it fell to the Middle Eastern provinces to supply
food. Syria, Mesopotamia, and especially Egypt were vital sources of
food for the entire empire (indeed, "corn riots" were known to take place
when these shipments failed to arrive). Also, the Middle East provided
access to the rich trade that spanned across Asia. Silk, spices, and
carpets from the East were transported to Rome through Syrian and Egyptian
ports, as well as resources from the Middle East itself such as glass, cotton,
Politically, this region contained the boundary between the Roman Empire
in the west and the Parthian, and later Sassanid Persian empires to the east.
Conflict in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia was common, and at various times
both sides managed to strike deep into the other's territory. Both
sides commited a great deal of manpower to the region, and forts dotted the
area, reflecting the shifting boundaries of the era. Eventually, both
the Roman (and later Byzantine) Emperors and their Persian enemies were worn
out by the struggle for the Middle East, allowing the Arab armies of Islam
to conquer most of the region.
Frye: 3.) Alexander the Great's legacy was and is paramount
to the history of the world. His kingdom spanned all the way from the
Ionian Sea to northern India. His great plan, although never fully realized,
was to make Asia and Europe one undivided empire and to disseminate
Greek culture wherever he went.
To achieve his goal of dispersing the Greek Culture, Alexander encouraged
intermarriages, setting an example by marrying a Persian princess himself.
He drafted soldiers from all of the conquered territories in his army and
introduced a uniform currency system throughout the empire and promoted trade
and commerce. (It must be noted that his most trusted regiments were
the Macedonian troops)
Through Alexander's influence, the Middle East was made profitable when conquered
nomadic tribes had been trained to follow civilized (Greek) ways of life,
with the resultant impetus given to the building of cities, the creation
of harbors, ships and other aids for travel on land and sea. Many of
these projects Alexander directly financed.
Finally, the legacy that persisted in some parts of the empire was Alexander's
dream of universal toleration for all religions and the brotherhood of mankind.
These results differed in the many diverse regions of the empire. For
a multitude of reasons the successors of Alexander were not been able to
follow all his visions Alexander encouraged the spread of Greek ideas, customs,
and laws into Asia. However, when Alexander heard that some of his appointed
officials ruled unjustly, he replaced them. It must be noted that despite
his toleration for all religions, he required the provinces to worship him
as a god.
Whittaker: 1. How did the western/eastern frontiers differ?
Did the Romans evolve "a different policy and a different concept of frontier
in the East than in the West"?
The western and easter frontiers differed in a few specific ways. First the
western frontier was expanded by the Romans mainly just to gain more territory
because the more land a ruler aquired, the better he was thought of by the
rest of the Roman citizens. The eastern frontier was mainly expanded for
the territory itself. For instance, when travelers came through the east
to the Roman empire, they told great tales of riches and all of the great
treasures that region had to offer. Because of this, the Romans wanted the
east as apart of their society to gain profit as well as land.
The issue of the exact borders also differed between the western and the
eastern frontiers. With the west, the Romans never really got much farther
than the Rhine river due to heavy conflict with the native Germanic people.
They also had good relations with the kings in that area, so the official
border on the western frontier seems to have consisted of east of the Rhine
river and all the way to Britian, as well as the Balkans.
However, with the eastern frontier, the precise borders are kind of sketchy.
The frontier extended to the Euphrates River, but how far the borders go
past the river is still uncertain. There are quite a few forts along the
river, and it is thought that forts were usually built as a backline defense,
and since the forts are right on the river, it is assumed the the borders
go further into the east.
Lastly, the way of conquering territory was brought about differently in
each of the two frontiers. In the western frontier, the Romans seemed to
assume the territory it took over. They had alliances with the local kings,
but no official documentation or agreement exists for those regions. The
eastern frontier on the other hand was still largely controlled by the Parthian
empire. The Romans had to write up treaties and other official contracts
with the Parthians in order to expand their territory east.
Millar: 2. Why should an historian of the Roman East care about
"sub-regions"? What are the impediments to such an inquiry?
The area that became the Roman East was socially and culturally diverse.
Through studying written records from these sub-regions one can guage the
speed at which Roman control exerted itself over the region. In addition
one can gather the effects of Roman control on that particular region, including
how well did the region take to the cultural influences of the Romans, how
quickly they adopted their manners and mores. What the political and social
ramifications of Roman rule, how did these structures change? This can be
studied as looking at the latin influence in more common literature.
The primary impediment to these studies are the fragmentation and lack of
substantial evidence for certain regions. In the case of the city of Germanicus
there are sketchy literary references and some coinage. There is very little
in the manner of direct sources of the cultural and social life of that city.
In addition to sketchy evidence there are other intrinsic factors such as
mulitlinguilism among the inhabitants. What language is being used for what
purpose? Because Latin is used on government documents in the region does
not translate to Roman cultural influence. However if Latin or Greek are
used in writings that are more accessible to the "common" man then that may
be indicative of a more successful assimilation. But even if language is
used there are still issues of whether or not the actual substance of beliefs
and ceremonies actually changed. Whether say the religion of the region was
actually affected by Roman Rule is more difficult to tell.
Eadie: 1. Can one detect a "pattern" in Roman-Persian relations, 260-301?
For the forty years between 260 and 301 CE, confrontations between the Roman
and Persian empires in the Middle East
followed a back-and-forth pattern of conquest and reconquest. When
a Persian army entered the Roman east in 260 CE it was
met with little resistance and easily defeated Roman forces there.
The Roman emperor, who was facing rebellions
elsewhere in the empire, entrusted the recapturing of the areas near Mesopotamia
to a Palmyrene princeps called Odenathus.
Odenathus was not able to remove the Persians, but he did assert a Roman
presence in the area. Roman authorities did not
think it necessary to install any kind of more permanent defenses or to strike
further against the Persians. It took the
rebellion of Odenathus’ wife Zenobia to bring more Roman legions to the region,
but little action was taken against the
Persians. After the leader of an expedition against the Persians was
killed, the Roman leaders made an agreement with Persia
over some of the disputed border regions, placing a Roman client as the ruler
of Armenia. This brief period of Roman
reconquest was brought to an end when the new Persian ruler Narses removed
the Armenian ruler and brought the area back
under Persian control.
At this point the Roman emperor
Diocletian, probably tired of the back-and-forth ownership of territories
near the Tigris
and Euphrates and wishing to restore the empire to its fullest extent, appointed
Galerius to retake the east. Galerius achieved
a convincing victory that forced Persia to negotiate a settlement that was
very favorable to the Romans. Among other terms, the
border between the Roman and Persian Empires was set at the Tigris, regaining
for the Romans all lands lost to the Persians in
the last forty years. Only with this agreement was Rome able to maintain
firm control in the region.
Rome’s behavior in the east from
260-301 does not reveal a strong Roman interest in the region. Rather,
it seems that
Rome was mostly interested in Mesopotamia as part of its power struggle against
the Persians. In this forty-year period, Rome
did little to establish a strong presence as it might have in a region of
greater value to the Empire. Rome’s efforts against the
Persians seem half-hearted and equivocal; a strong Roman general was not
sent to Mesopotamia until 297. If the Roman
did have an important strategic interest in the area around the Tigris, it
was loath to show it.