Tim Whitmarsh

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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There was never a time when Greece was not on Rome's horizon. Southern Italy and Sicily began to be colonised in the eighth century BCE, the period to which Varro famously dated the city's foundation. From the third century BCE onwards, increasing numbers of Greeks appeared in Rome, either as slaves of war, refugees, or economic migrants. This tragic reversal of fortune must have struck the city's inhabitants forcibly. Greek influence and power was crumbling before their eyes; certain Romans, at certain points in history, felt it desirable or even necessary to articulate their identity as Romans by advertising their commitment to Greek values – that is, by ‘Hellenising’. This was a phenomenon that endured over centuries, and across the full demographic range of Rome. This article chronicles Hellenism and the rise of the Roman Empire, the ‘civilising narrative’ as an explanation for the Romans' fondness for Greek culture, the ambiguities of Hellenism, imperial Hellenism, and the aesthetics of Empire.

Keywords: Roman Empire; Hellenism; Greek culture; Greece; Italy; Rome; aesthetics; civilising narrative; Sicily

Article.  9267 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Roman History ; Classical History

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