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The Greek Slogan of Freedom and Early Roman Politics in Greece$

Sviatoslav Dmitriev

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195375183

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375183.001.0001

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(p.427) Appendix 7 Alexander’s Treatment of Individual Greek Cities of Asia Minor

(p.427) Appendix 7 Alexander’s Treatment of Individual Greek Cities of Asia Minor

The Greek Slogan of Freedom and Early Roman Politics in Greece
Oxford University Press

The conclusion that all Greek cities were subject to Alexander1 has often been based on evidence that is not relevant to whether the status of these cities was “free” and “autonomous.” Debates about Alexander’s treatment of the Greek cities in Asia Minor have relied on several such instances, which will be examined on the following pages.

(1) One of them is Alexander’s gift to Phocion. Aelian and Plutarch each reported, independently, an anecdote that Alexander gave Phocion the opportunity to choose one of four cities in Asia Minor. Although the sources are late and their lists of cities differ, the story itself could well be true.2 This anecdote has been taken as proof that Alexander treated communities in Asia Minor as his personal property.3 Some cities during the Hellenistic period were regarded as gifts (dorea) and disposed of according to the will of the king, as, for example, Telmessus in the time of Ptolemy II.4 But the legal significance of “gifts” has been debated, including a proposal by Ivana Savalli that while royal grants of cities as dorea did not mean the transferral of royal authority over these cities to the beneficiaries, the latter were not merely recipients of money due from these cities but also exercised some sort of political authority over them, which supposedly could vary, depending on several circumstances, such as the status of the beneficiary.5

(p.428) Further observations should be added. Persian Kings are also said to have followed a similar practice: one of them, Xerxes or his son, is documented as having presented three (or five, according to other ancient accounts) cities to Themistocles in order to satisfy the latter’s various personal needs. According to Thucydides, Themistocles appears to have been the royal satrap over the territory to which the cities that were “given” to him belonged (ταύτης γὰρ ἦρχε τῆς χώρας). Thucydides could have referred to the territory of the cis-Tauran Asia Minor, which constituted a separate region in first the Persian and then the Seleucid administration.6 The accounts that we have about this “gift” imply that what Themistocles received was revenue, in the form of tribute from those cities, which was supposed to cover his specific expenses. If these cities were royal property, it was unlikely that the “gift” meant surrendering royal control over them to Themistocles. For example, Pierre Briant insisted that to both the Persians and the Greeks, such royal donations meant the donations of revenues that were due from these cities (or territories) and did not lead to the surrender of royal sovereignty over them. Briant provided a similar interpretation of Alexander’s grant to Phocion.7 But these could also have been autonomous cities that were obliged to pay tribute to the King.8 In either case, therefore, what Themistocles received was the city’s tribute: Aelian openly renders this story as Alexander’s desire to offer Phocion the right to appropriate revenues from any of the four cities, and modern translators of Plutarch’s account interpret his words in a similar fashion.9

Diverting revenues from a city to cover specific expenses, often those of members of royal families (as their “girdle-money”), appears to have been the customary habit of Persian Kings10 and Egyptian pharaohs.11 Alexander, therefore, could have been maintaining this tradition after he assumed control over Egypt and Asia. In this way, he was presenting himself as a genuine Persian ruler and making a political statement as well. Then, again, Alexander’s gift to Phocion could also have meant that the tribute previously paid to the King was to be channeled in a different direction as a simple financial transaction. In a similar fashion, the tribute of Aspendus was appropriated by Alexander himself, whereas that of Ephesus went to the sanctuary of Artemis.12 Alexander’s gift to Phocion, therefore, did not necessarily have to reflect Alexander’s borrowing of eastern royal practices. Irrespective of which of these opinions is right, it follows that a city that, for whatever reason, had to pay tribute to Alexander would have had to pay this tribute to Phocion instead, which had nothing to do with the status (p.429) of that city, or Alexander’s right to interfere in city affairs. We encounter a similar situation at a later date, when Antiochos II sold what seems to have been revenues of a village to his divorced wife, Laodike.13 It is true that a “gift” could also refer to the unconditional surrender of a city by a ruler, as happened in the case of Myus, which Philip V then presented to the people of Magnesia.14 However, in this case, the city became a gift to another city, so that the former lost its status of a city as a result.15

(2) Another such case is the alleged disappearance, or unification, of local coinage in the Greek cities of Asia Minor during the reign of Alexander. This argument, particularly advanced by Bickermann, implies that all these cities held subject status (or, in Bickermann’s words, did not have “full independence”) at that time.16 Bickermann contrasted this situation with that under the Persians when, as he said, coin emissions of Greek cities were “abundant.” However, he also spoke of these cities as having been subject to the Persians and, therefore, saw no change in their status after the coming of Alexander.17 But if the status of Greek cities remained the same under the Persians and under Alexander, it is hard to see what the status of these cities had to do with the allegedly changing patterns of city coinage. It is quite possible that some Greek cities of Asia Minor were deprived of the right to their own coinage, as could also be the case of cities that Alexander took by force.18 At some not precisely determined point in time, though clearly after (and in connection with) establishing himself as the King of Asia—and with a view on his campaign farther to the east—Alexander set up several royal mints in Asia Minor. They are thought to have totaled seven by the time of his death: Lampsacus, Abydus, Miletus, Magnesia, Sardis, Teos, and Colophon. Although the location of Alexander’s mints in Asia Minor has been agreed upon by almost everybody, the dates suggested for their foundation differ, largely because of the difficulty in interpreting evidence from coins19 and because Alexander may have continued to exploit royal mints that were already operating in some of these cities under the Kings of Persia.20

The overall situation regarding city coinage in Asia Minor during the reign of Alexander could be similar to what it was under Persian rule. The very complex problem of sovereignty (p.430) and local coinage has been hotly debated.21 Judging by the surviving evidence, a ruler’s dominance over a city did not always undermine the right of that city to have its own coinage. And, while gold coins are said to have been a royal monopoly, royal coinage could coexist with that of a city.22 Enough evidence exists to prove that Priene23 and several other Greek cities in Asia Minor had their own coinage in the reign of Alexander.24 His introduction of standard silver coins of small denomination that coexisted with the coins of individual cities is thought to have come about as a response to practical necessity, and only around 330.25 While what evidence we have for the coinage of Greek cities during the reign of Alexander is scarce and hardly representative, it is possible to assume that a city’s right to have its coinage was not necessarily directly relevant to the status of that city. Such standard coins do not prove, therefore, that all Greek cities of Asia Minor had subject status in the reign of Alexander.

(3) Those who argue for the subject status of Greek cities in Asia Minor under Alexander also refer to numerous legal and political rearrangements effected by him in these cities. The indiscriminate nature of such references makes them look as if they reflect the overall policy of Alexander toward Greek cities. However, both epigraphic and literary sources show, first, that Alexander’s interference was not ubiquitous and, second, that his relations with Greek cities reflected particular circumstances. Alexander’s use of the slogan of demokratia served to counterbalance the threat from Persia. It was, therefore, neglected when the need receded.26 There is no evidence that he enforced demokratia everywhere. Hegesias remained a tyrant, or an influential nobleman, in Ephesus after the arrival of Alexander’s forces. Ada, a woman of the ruling house in Caria who submitted to Alexander, had the control over Caria (to which she had been otherwise entitled by her origin) restored by him.27 Similar to Greek cities in mainland Greece and the Aegean, the cities of Asia Minor received differential treatment from (p.431) Alexander.28 Arrian, who tells about such rearrangements most explicitly, refers to these cities as subject to the Persians, which means that a change in their political régimes came as part of Alexander’s military campaign against the Persians, and from their supporters among local Greeks. He says that after ordering the overthrow of oligarchies, Alexander also restored “old laws” to these cities. Ephesus, where demokratia replaced the pro-Persian oligarchia, was another such case: Alexander merely acknowledged what was already in place once the oligarchs had left Ephesus (prior to his arrival).29

Furthermore, our evidence, scarce as it is, allows us to see that Alexander’s approach to the political, administrative, and legal status of the Greek cities of Asia Minor changed over time. The most telling example is offered by two acts of restoration of exiles during Alexander’s dominance over Asia Minor. The first took place immediately after he had freed those cities from Persian rule and then overcame a brief restoration of pro-Persian supporters in some places. The second came in the form of the Exiles Decree issued by Alexander approximately a year before he died. Both restorations of exiles have been considered a reflection of his interference in the internal affairs of Greek cities. But there was a clear difference between them. The first restoration of exiles came as part of a new political arrangement in the aftermath of Alexander’s victorious march to the east, when he changed the political régimes of many cities. However, by 331 Alexander considered Greek cities to have been liberated. After his decisive victory over Darius at Gaugamelae, Alexander proclaimed to the Greeks that all tyrannies were abolished and that the Greeks might live under their own laws.30 On a political level, “freedom” meant freedom from Persian rule.31 On the level of individual cities, however, the removal of Darius and the establishment of Alexander’s rule over Persia made the possibility that old political régimes were restored in the Greek cities of Asia Minor at that time very unlikely. This change had probably already happened in the late 330s, either after the battle of Issus (332)32 or with the proclamation of Alexander’s kingship over Asia in 331, after the battle of Gaugamelae.33 In the second restoration of exiles, Greek cities were expected to use their own laws, which explains why the restoration of exiles could take different forms.34

(4) Finally, the fact that, following Alexander’s death, the division of the empire among the Successors did not make a special provision for Greek cities cannot by itself argue for the subject status of all Greek cities.35 The division of territories as a political act had nothing to do with the legal status of those individual cities that lay within these territories. Alexander neither established treaties with Greek cities nor made reciprocal oaths with them (this practice (p.432) would develop only after his death), but not because of their subject status.36 Such steps would have put him on equal footing with the Greek cities. The Great King was not supposed to establish equal treaties with anybody. Likewise, the surviving correspondence makes no mention of his having a clearly defined “stance” (hairesis or proairesis) toward Greek cities: the use of these words would have implied some sort of obligation. The absence of treaties between Alexander and Greek cities certainly does not mean that all Greek cities were in the same position, that is, subject to Alexander. Some Greek cities in Asia Minor would later claim special treatment from the Hellenistic rulers, with the various rights and privileges that these cities had enjoyed in the time of Alexander.37 However, because Alexander made no such treaties with Greek cities, and because many more inscriptions from Greek cities refer to relations with the Successors than with Alexander, we are left to believe that it was the Successors who laid the foundation for relations between Hellenistic rulers and the individual Greek cities of Asia Minor.38


(1.) See the second part of chapter 2.

(2.) Plut. Phoc. 18.5: Cios, Gergithus, Mylasa, Elaea; Ael. VH 1.25: Cios, Elaea, Mylasa, Patara (and n. 9 below). A summary of opinions: Bosworth, Conquest, 257–258.

(3.) As Bickerman, “Alexandre,” 349; Bosworth, Conquest, 257; Th. Corsten, in Inschriften von Kios (Bonn: Habelt, 1985), 31.

(4.) M. Wörrle, in Chiron 8 (1978): 201–202 (= SEG 28, 1224), and his commentary on pp. 207–212, 216–225.

(5.) E.g., M. Wörrle, in Chiron 8 (1978): 209 n. 36: “rechtsvergleichende Untersuchung der δωρεά gibt es noch immer nicht,” 224–225; I. Savalli, in Annali della Scuola normale superiore di Pisa, ser. 4, 17 (1987): 135–137.

(6.) Thuc. 1.138.5. This territory: S. Dmitriev, in AJAH, n.s., 2.1 (2003): 40–42. This donation to Themistocles: Plut. Them. 29.7 (with reference to different versions that spoke of either three or five cities) and Athenae. 1, pp. 29f–30a.

(7.) P. Briant, “Dons de terres et de villes: L’Asie Mineure dans le contexte achéménide,” RÉA 87 (1985): 56–58.

(8.) The possibility of this arrangement: Xen. Hellen. 3.4.25: Artaxerxes II’s declaration as delivered to the Greeks by Tithraustes in 395 (see p. 352, n. 5) and Badian, Plataea, 141. Cf. the peace of Nicias: Thuc. 5.18.1–9.

(9.) Ael. VH 1.25. For Plutarch’s text, see translations by B. Perrin (LCL): “he ordered him to turn over to Phocion the revenues from whichever one of four cities in Asia he might select” and I. Scott-Kilvert (Penguin Classics).

(10.) Xen. Anab. 1.4.9 and 2.4.27 (the village of the King’s mother); Athenae. 1, p. 30a: Cyrus the Great presented several cities to Pytharchos of Cyzicus. This practice: Briant, “Dons,” 53–72.

(11.) E.g., Plat. Alcib. 1, 123b–e.

(12.) Aspendus: Arr. 1.26.2–3 and 1.27.2–4 (see p. 101, n. 202). Ephesus: Arr. 1.17.10.

(13.) OGI 225 (254–253) with Bikerman, Institutions, 176–178. Cf. Xen. Anab. 2.4.27 (see n. 10 above).

(14.) Polyb. 16.24.9; Athenae. 3, p. 78f.

(15.) Cf., e.g., the measures of Septimius Severus, who deprived Antioch and Byzantium of their status as cities and put them under the control of the Laodiceans and the Perinthians, respectively: Hdn. 3.6.9 and D.C. 75.14.1–3.

(16.) Bickerman, “Alexandre,” 349–350.

(17.) E.g., Bickerman, “Alexandre,” 355.

(18.) E.g., B. Deppert-Lippitz, Die Münzprägung Milets vom vierten bis ersten Jahrhundert v. Chr. (Aarau: Sauerländer, 1984), 51–53, on a possible gap in the coinage of Miletus from c.332 (330?) to 323 B.C.

(19.) E.g., A. R. Bellinger, Essays on the Coinage of Alexander the Great (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1963), 10–11, 48; M. Thompson, Alexander’s Drachm Mints (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1989–1991), 1:42, 67–68, and 2:39, 64; M. J. Price, The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus (Zurich: Swiss Numismatic Society; London: British Museum Press, 1991), 211, 226, 248–249, 255, 264–265, 278, 321; O. Mørkholm, Early Hellenistic Coinage, ed. Ph. Grierson and U. Westermark (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 50; G. Le Rider, Alexander the Great: Coinage, Finances, and Policy, trans. W. E. Higgins (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2007), 107.

(20.) Price, Coinage, 320: Colophon and Magnesia, and probably Sardis.

(21.) E.g., Robert, OMS, 6:135; Martin, Sovereignty and Coinage, 114–131; O. Picard, “Philippe II et le monnayage des cités,” RÉG 103 (1990): 1–15; Chr. Howgego, in NC 150 (1990): 1–25; G. Le Rider, La naissance de la monnaie: Pratiques monétaires de l’Orient ancien (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2001); Ziesmann, Autonomie und Münzprägung, 22–28, who argued for the absence of any direct link between the city’s autonomia and that city’s coinage, and concluded (24) that this whole problem has been brought to life by identifying the modern idea of autonomy with ancient Greek autonomia.

(22.) Bellinger, Essays, 40, and E. V. Hansen, The Attalids of Pergamon 2 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971), 216–220; Martin, Sovereignty and Coinage, 220, 226, 241, respectively.

(23.) K. L. Regling, Die Münzen von Priene (Berlin: Schoetz, 1927), 4, 26–30, 57 (bronze). It is hard to date such coins precisely; therefore, they received “wide datings” from Regling. There is no doubt, however, that at least some coins such as these appeared during the lifetime of Alexander; see Dmitriev, Government, 337–341.

(24.) E.g., Erythrae: P. Kinns, “Studies in the Coinage of Ionia: Erythrae, Teos, Lebedus, Colophon, c.400–30 B.C.” (diss., University of Cambridge, 1980), 41 (a “free” city after 332 and for the next three decades), 44–46 (Erythraean coins after the arrival of Alexander, though influenced by royal coinage), 80–84, 87, 125 (a royal mint in Teos, but with a “parallel production” of Tean silver and bronze coins), 243–245 (Lebedus), 315–323 (Colophon); Le Rider, Alexander the Great, 109–110 and 155–156 (on local coinage in Cilicia).

(25.) E.g., Bellinger, Essays, 58.

(26.) E.g., Bosworth, “Alexander,” 869. For demokratia designating “popular rule” as opposed to the “rule of one”: Ferrary, Philhellénisme, 163 n. 122. The formula πόλις ἐλευθέρα καὶ δημοκρατουμένη: Milet I 3, 150.84 (treaty with Heraclea by Latmus, c.185–184?) with Herrmann (Milet VI 1, p. 186); Holleaux, Études, 3:153 n. 1; D. J. Geagan, in Hesperia 40 (1971): 104 n. 29, with J. Robert and L. Robert, in Bull.ép. 1972, no. 101.

(27.) Polyaen. 6.49; Arr. 1.23.7–8; Diod. 17.24.2–3; Strabo 14.2.17, p. C 657.

(28.) E.g., [Dem.] 17.7.

(29.) Oligarchies: Arr. 1.17.1–2. Ephesus: Arr. 1.17.10.

(30.) Plut. Alex. 34.2.

(31.) See Raaflaub, “Freedom in the Ancient World,” 610.

(32.) This change in Alexander’s attitude: U. Wilcken, Alexander the Great, trans. G. C. Richards (New York: Norton, 1967), 106–107, with reference to Arr. 2.14.4–9: Alexander’s request that Darius address Alexander as King of Asia.

(33.) E. Fredricksmeyer, in TAPA 127 (1997): 97–107: after the battle of Gaugamelae; E. Fredricksmeyer, in Alexander the Great in Fact and Fiction: A Symposium Held at the University of Newcastle (NSW, Australia) July 1997, ed. A. B. Bosworth and E. J. Baynham (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 136–166, on the proclamation of Alexander’s kingship over Asia (331) and on distinction between the titles “King of Asia” and “King of Persia.”

(34.) See Dmitriev, “Alexander’s Exiles Decree,” 375–377.

(35.) Diod. 18.3.1–3; Phot. Bibl. 82, 64.a21–b32; Badian, “Alexander,” 61.

(36.) Bickerman, “Alexandre,” 360–362.

(37.) See, e.g., pp. 97, nn. 75–76; 101, nn. 198–200; 105, nn. 225–227.

(38.) On Antigonus as the father of this policy: Billows, Antigonos, 189. The policy of the Successors: chapter 2.