Rome, international power relations, and 146 BCE






Rome, international power relations, and 146 BCE

By Sarah Helen Davies

PhD Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 2012

Abstract: Within a single year — 146 BCE — Roman generals had entered the cities of Carthage and Corinth and forever changed the course of Mediterranean history. Although involved in separate conflicts with Rome, these cities and their tragedies became uniquely linked, not only to each other, but also to a perceived trajectory of Rome as an imperial power. Subsequent generations have looked to 146 BCE as an important turning point, and in doing so have attached value-laden interpretations to it as a gauge on Roman imperialism.

This dissertation looks at 146 BCE from a different angle, seeking to understand its significance in terms of its contemporary international context, asking how it first became viewed as a turning point. The analysis utilizes international relations theory of normative systems, focusing on collective perceptions and evolving political conceptions within an interstate cultural environment. Exploring contemporary texts and archaeological clues, it sees the second-century BCE as a period in which the Mediterranean was becoming increasingly globalized, drawn together by universalizing ideals. A framework of “Hellenistic” markers communicated networks of legitimacy, Rome being both participant and game-changer. At the same time, the international community was rife with disjunctions, which contributed to a disintegration of relations in North Africa, followed by re-eruptions of nationalistic fervor on the Greek mainland. When coupled with wider perceptions, that the oikoumene was becoming progressively interconnected and was moving toward a new juncture in world-history, the stage was set. The legal punishments to be inflicted by the Roman victor were to be viewed on a whole new plane, as reflections of a groundbreaking world-order. Romans were aware of these implications, made evident in the decisions of Scipio at Carthage, followed by Mummius at Corinth. In a rare and stunning move, both cities were decommissioned as political entities, and their tragedies linked to contemporary visions of cyclical world-history: Carthage burned in reiteration of Troy, and Corinth stripped of cultural Greek heritage. Polybius, uniquely positioned as a commentator on these outcomes, not only captured their ideological ripple effects, but also assured their direction over future generations, as a moment to color Rome as world hegemon.



This dissertation looks at 146 BCE from a different angle, seeking to understand its significance in terms of its contemporary international context, asking how it first became viewed as a turning point. The analysis utilizes international relations theory of normative systems, focusing on collective perceptions and evolving political conceptions within an interstate cultural environment. Exploring contemporary texts and archaeological clues, it sees the second-century BCE as a period in which the Mediterranean was becoming increasingly globalized, drawn together by universalizing ideals. A framework of “Hellenistic” markers communicated networks of legitimacy,

Rome being both participant and game-changer. At the same time, the international community was rife with disjunctions, which contributed to a disintegration of relations in North Africa, followed by re-eruptions of nationalistic fervor on the Greek mainland. When coupled with wider perceptions, that the oikoumene was becoming progressively interconnected and was moving toward a new juncture in world-history, the stage was set. The legal punishments to be inflicted by the Roman victor were to be viewed on a whole new plane, as reflections of a groundbreaking world-order.

Romans were aware of these implications, made evident in the decisions of Scipio at Carthage, followed by Mummius at Corinth. In a rare and stunning move, both cities were decommissioned as political entities, and their tragedies linked to contemporary visions of cyclical world-history: Carthage burned in reiteration of Troy, and Corinth stripped of cultural Greek heritage. Polybius, uniquely positioned as a commentator on these outcomes, not only captured their ideological ripple effects, but also assured their direction over future generations, as a moment to color Rome as world hegemon.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Texas at Austin




About History of the Ancient World