Greece: Roman domination and growth of Christianity (Acts 20)

Illustration: The Parthenon in Athens

Following Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., a power struggle ensued among his leading generals. Greece eventually fell under the control of Antigonus and his descendants, referred to as the Antigonids. The malcontent Greeks countered by forming two federal states, the Aetolian League in the north and the Achaean League, led by Corinth, in the south. Beginning in 214 B.C. the Antigonid king Philip V attempted to punish these states and to tighten his grip on Greece. In response, the Greek states sought help from an emerging power in the west: Rome. The Romans, who had previously attempted to invade Philip’s territories, answered by dispatching a sizable military force. In 197 B.C. the Roman general Titus Quinctius Flaminius soundly defeated Philip V’s army in Thessaly. By 196 the “liberation” of Greece was complete, and the Roman province of Achaea was born.

The Romans held Greek civilization in the highest regard and adopted many of its customs and traditions. Rome protected the great cities and monuments of Greece, as long as Roman dominance was not challenged by the Greeks – who did test this on two occasions, both with disastrous results. In 172 B.C. Perseus, son of Philip V, invaded Greece in an attempt to win back the lands of his father. Many Greeks were sympathetic to Perseus, and after his total defeat in 167, the Romans punished the Greeks by carrying a thousand noble Greek youths to Rome as hostages. In 146 B.C. the Achaean League, led by Corinth, rose in revolt. The Romans responded by sending the general Mummius, who defeated an insignificant Achaean force and entered Corinth unopposed. He burned the city, killed its inhabitants and took much of its valuable artwork back to Rome. This incident put an end to any realistic dreams of resurgent Greek independence.

Corinth was reestablished by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. as a Roman colony, and the Greeks lived in relative peace within the Roma Empire from that point on. Corinth, which had major harbours opening to the eastern and western Mediterranean, grew to be Greece’s commercial capital and most cosmopolitan city. Athens retained its position as the cultural centre of Greece, while Sparta and Thebes became insignificant. The impressive system of Roman roads brought commercial prowess to other locations in Greece, such as Thessalonica and Philippi. Under Roman rule Greece enjoyed something it had never experienced while free: peace. In this ideal situation, the New Testament church took root and was able to thrive.

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