Foreign soldiers - native girls? Constructing and crossing boundaries

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by Angelos Chaniotis
published on 05 January 2012

The maintenance of a garrison in a city or a region was for many a Hellenistic power a comfortable alternative to conquest and direct administration. Every major power held garrisons in dependent settlements of various legal statuses, usually in dependent poleis. The establishment of garrisons, the duration of their presence, and their removal was a major topic in negotiations between poleis and kings or military leaders. However, when we raise the question about the ways in which the officers and the soldiers of foreign garrisons interacted with the native population, our sources often let us down. Equally scanty is the evidence for the everyday life of the soldiers, with the exception of a few Ptolemaic garrisons, in Cyprus and Thera in particular. Although the title of this paper points to the most intimate of all possible relations between foreign soldiers and natives, it explores various aspects of interaction. When we consider foreign garrisons in the Hellenistic world, we should bear in mind that (i) in the Hellenistic period garrisons were usually manned with mercenaries of many different origins; the Attalid garrison at Lilaia (208 B.C.), e.g., brought together soldiers from the Peloponnese, Euboia, Lokris, Phokis, the ethnos of the Ainianes, Aitolia, Thessaly, Kalymnos, Crete, Macedonia, Thrace, various regions of Asia Minor (esp. Mysia), Sicily, and Massalia. (ii) There is a substantial difference between persons hired by a power to serve in a foreign place for money and the soldiers of a polis serving in a controlled or subordinated area. The form of the interaction between native population and foreign troops could easily be influenced by this distinction, as indeed it was (iii) by the exact conditions under which a garrison was established (capitulation, negotiations, defeat in a war, invitation by the entire community or by a particular group). (iv) A fourth important factor is the duration of the service of the foreign troops and their commanders. A man who served for 42 years in a garrison in a relatively peaceful area (a commander at Philai: SEG XXVIII 1479) has little in common with a soldier sent by a Macedonian king to his garrison in Athens and facing an Athenian revolt a few months after his transfer.

Paper given at the 19th International Congress of Historical Sciences (2000).

Written by , linked by Jan van der Crabben, published 05 January 2012. Source URL: http://www.oslo2000.uio.no/program/papers/r5/r5-chaniotis.pdf.

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