Michigan (2023) 336pp h/b £64.00 (ISBN 9780472133376)

The title of N.’s monograph is adapted from a comment placed in the mouth of the Seleucid king Antiochus III in 193 BC and directed to Roman ambassadors. They are exploring the terms of a possible treaty. The Romans claim to be championing the cause of Greek freedom.

In Livy’s version (34.58), Titus Quinctius asks the (loaded) question: utrum tandem videtur honestius, liberas velle omnes, quae ubique sunt, Graeciae urbes, an servas et vectigales facere?‘Which, then, seems more honourable: to want all the cities of Greece, in every place, to be free; or to make them slaves and tributaries?’ But in Appian’s version of the negotiation in his fragmentary Syrian Wars, Antiochus announces to the Romans that he will relinquish his claim over the European Greeks, as well as the Rhodians, Byzantines, Cyzicaeans, and all the other Greeks, ‘but he would not release the Aeolians and the Ionians, since they had long been accustomed to obey the barbarian kings of Asia’ (Syr. 12.1). N. takes issue with this ostensibly consensual opinion of the Ionians in two ways: (1) Ionia was subordinate not only to barbarian kings but also to Greek poleis and Macedonian kings; (2) the Ionians were not ‘accustomed to obedience’—anything but!

Who exactly were the Ionians and where was Ionia? Ionia cannot be easily defined geographically, but essentially it comprises a strip of the central coastline of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), bounded by Aeolia to the north, Lydia to the east, and Caria to the south. Ionia reached into continental Anatolia and contained three fertile river valleys – rivers known in antiquity as the Maeander, the Cayster and the Hermos. The cities of Ionia were concentrated around the mouths of these rivers, and all of them except Colophon were built on the coast with easy access to good harbours and maritime routes. Two of the Ionian poleis were islands—Samos and Chios. What bound the Ionian cities together was membership of the so-called Ionian League, which shared a sanctuary and festival at Panionion on the peninsula of Mount Mycale. Herodotus provides the canonical list of Ionian cities from north to south: Phocaea, Clazomenae, Erythrae, Chios, Teos, Lebedus, Colophon, Ephesus, Samos, Priene, Myus, and Miletus (1.142).

The subtitle ‘Classical Ionia and the Aegean World, 480-292 BCE’ explains the scope of the book well. N. points out that scholarship on Ionia has tended to focus primarily on the archaic and Hellenistic periods. There are good reasons for this. Monumental temples were built during the archaic period, such as the Heraion on Samos, the temple of Athena at Smyrna, and the Artemision at Ephesus, and many Ionian poleis embarked on costly and impressive civic works. The archaeological evidence for social and economic flourishing is clear. The Ionian cities flourished again in the Hellenistic period when competition between the Diadochoi (the successors of Alexander the Great) led to renewed investment in cities and sanctuaries, most notably the temple of Apollo at Didyma. The classical era is regarded as a ‘fallow period’ by comparison. The archaeological record is relatively poor, and the region was subjected to the demands of a succession of imperial powers—Persia, Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and the Macedonians.

After an initial Prologue on the political and geographical nature of Ionia, and a chapter summarizing archaic Ionian history down to 480 BC (notably the Ionian revolt 499-494 BC), Chapters 2 to 8 present a chronological narrative from Ionian involvement in the Persian campaign against the Greeks at the Battle of Artemisium, down to 294 BC when the Ionian cities were at the mercy of the Diadochoi. The book documents how the Ionian poleis negotiated their autonomy more or less effectively with the major power players in the Aegean.

The balance between dependence and autonomy is a consistent theme throughout the book. Along the way, N. demonstrates the range of methodological issues that historians of the period must confront—the reliability and clarity of authors such as Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, problems of chronology, the dating and interpretation of often fragmentary inscriptions, and the frustrating lack of evidence. The final chapter, ‘The Ornaments of Ionia’, discusses temple construction and the economics of building and maintaining sanctuaries.

The text is written in a serious, professional style, with extensive footnotes and bibliography. The book will most likely be of interest to professional scholars and advanced students of ancient history. While the text is for the most part lucid and jargon-free, nevertheless it will be helpful if you know your navarch from your hyparch, your harmost from your satrap and your karanos from your strategos. The book is also available online in open access form.

Giles Gilbert