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Lucius Mummius Achaicus

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Was Mummius really as whacko as cicero writes

was he politiaccly pressured to destroy Corinth or was he

just another roman loony

 

just interested

vtc

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L Mummius Achaicus was certainly neither a "wacko" nor a "loony". A hero of the Republic, Mummius Achaicus was a new man who rose from obscure origins to triumph over the Lusitanians and suppress the actual "wackos"--those Greek demagogues Critolaus and Diaeus. Mummius' treatment of Corinth was harsh, but the previous leniency of Metellus Macedonicus had led Roman ambassadors to being insulted by the Greeks, led the Greeks to insurrection, and led many Romans to their deaths. Mummius' treatment of Corinth was ruthless, but by severity, he put a stop to what could have been a conflagration that consumed all Greece, not just a single city. Weep for Corinth if you'd like, but praise Mummius that the remaining glory of Greece was saved.

 

The stories circulated about Mummius were typical Ciceronian fare, endlessly credulous of any lies and half-truths told by patricians about their plebeian rivals. The younger Africanus sniffed that "he should have discharged his functions well, had he been paired with a different colleague, or with none at all." In fact, Mummius was a very capable administrator. That famous jibe that Mummius had told his plundering troops to be careful not to drop any sculptures lest they be prepared to replace them is only half-true. The basis of this story is that Mummius had required the shippers of the Corinthian treasure to provide surety for the goods at the cost of replacement. Of course, real replacement was impossible, and the cost of substitution much too low for their real worth, but this is a problem that any insurance policy has. But to haughty patricians and their lackeys, Mummius' responsible policy was delectable rhetorical fodder, and Cicero never let the truth get in the way of a good joke.

 

In my view, the final testament to Mummius' honesty was that--despite all that Mummius might have personally plundered from Corinth--Mummius died poor, and for all the wealth brought to Rome (which--unlike others--he refused to inscribe with his name), the city paid for his daughters' dowry. Moreover, Mummius was one of the only Romans ever to pay homage to the Greek gods, dedicating a magnificent bronze god to Zeus at Olympia, one that was forever celebrated thereafter.

 

For more on Mummius, see Polyb. iii. 32, xl. 7, 8,11; Liv. Ep. 52; Appian, Pun. 135 ; Dion Cass. 81 ; Flor. ii. 16 ; Eutrop. iv. 14; Val. Max. vi. 4.

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Salve.

L Mummius Achaicus was certainly neither a "wacko" nor a "loony".

I surely agree.

". A hero of the Republic

Why? Define "hero". I suppose certainly not for being a plebeian or for his "oscure origins". If so, Stalin qualifies.

"a new man who rose from obscure origins

His father and uncle were tribunes and pretor (the former), his brother was his legate and was described as aristocratic. I don't consider those origins particularly obscure; and definitively not poor, BTW.

"suppress the actual "wackos"--those Greek demagogues Critolaus and Diaeus.

A philosopher and a strategos; what exactly made them qualify as wackos? Their opposition to some Roman desires?

"Metellus Macedonicus had led Roman ambassadors to being insulted by the Greeks

'Nuff said.

" but by severity, he put a stop to what could have been a conflagration that consumed all Greece, not just a single city.

We are talking about the destruction of the second biggest Greek metropolis, older than Rome, great cultural centre for centuries and the death and enslavement of thousands (probably tens of thousands) of hellenic citizens. I am really curious what alterative conflagration you have in mind.

Are we talking of a general of the Roman Republic, or of Hannibal? Some people have called Caesar a killer for less than that.

" Weep for Corinth if you'd like, but praise Mummius that the remaining glory of Greece was saved..

Certainly Polybius did the former. Excuse me, I simply can't follow the argument. You could also praise Caesar for destroying or slaving only one or two million Gauls and not all of them.

" In fact, Mummius was a very capable administrator.

But ...

" In my view, the final testament to Mummius' honesty was that--despite all that Mummius might have personally plundered from Corinth--Mummius died poor

Being a bad administrator is no index of honesty.

" Moreover, Mummius was one of the only Romans ever to pay homage to the Greek gods, dedicating a magnificent bronze god to Zeus at Olympia, one that was forever celebrated thereafter.

More bad administration plus a little humiliation for the Greeks.

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I fervently appreciate your reply Cato

however their is no need to be rude and on the verge of spiteful. I wrote this very quickly, consequently whacko and loony are the first words that popped into my head

Nonetheless i think you and Asclepiades have given me a good insight into the real Mummius and i am currently reading the transcribed and transalted texts from Polybius

neway ty

 

vtc

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I guess I'd define a "hero of the republic" as someone who overcame obstacles to contribute greatly to the quality of life in Rome and the expansion of Roman law and culture. By those standards, Mummius was a hero even before he punished Corinth.

 

Why do I say that Critolaus and Diaeus were the real "wackos"? Not merely because these aspiring tyrants opposed Roman governance, but more importantly because their success--expulsion of the Romans--would have removed Greece from Roman protection, and left it (at best) vulnerable to invasion from the very same enemies that Greece had always faced (including other Greeks!). In fact, as soon as Critolaus had ejected Roman emissaries from his assembly, he declared war on Sparta and immediately began a campaign of intimidation against dissenters in Corinth itself. (BTW, the Critolaus who opposed Mummius was not the philosopher Critolaus, who was far from Corinth at the time of incipient civil war.)

 

Why do I say that the suppression of the revolt of Corinth was beneficial in the long run? Because civil wars are almost always much worse and more destructive than wars of aggression. Suppressing the designs of Corinth protected the rest of Greece from Critolaus and Diaeus, whose victory (even if obtained against the Romans) would have left Greece totally vulnerable to invasion from other Hellenistic powers.

 

(BTW, if moved to make a point-by-point reply, it's not necessary to quote every snippet to which you'd like to respond. Doing so ultimately leads to posts that involve so many nested replies and counter-replies that it becomes impossible to discern the original train of thought.)

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Thank you for correcting me about this Critolaus; my mistake.

 

... contribute greatly to the expansion of Roman law and culture.

...--expulsion of the Romans--would have removed Greece from Roman protection, and left it (at best) vulnerable...

...the suppression of the revolt of Corinth was beneficial in the long run.,,

(

 

It's true that it's not easy to discern our original train of thought.

We were talking about the annihilation by a Roman consul of a Hellenic metropolis second only to Athens and of thousands of its inhabitants.

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We were talking about the annihilation by a Roman consul of a Hellenic metropolis second only to Athens and of thousands of its inhabitants.

 

Inhabitants who had declared war on Sparta, which--like Corinth previously--was under the protection of Rome. Mummius' reaction was severe, but if Corinth wanted to start a war, Rome was happy (and right) to finish it.

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Inhabitants who had declared war on Sparta, which--like Corinth previously--was under the protection of Rome. Mummius' reaction was severe, but if Corinth wanted to start a war, Rome was happy (and right) to finish it.

OK! See? That's a totally different argument and I can understand it perfectly; mine is the right to destroy you because I consider you a wacko, I'm stronger and genocide is in today's menu. A little Soprano-like protection imposed on Greece, no Roman law and/or culture to expand and a lot of economical and curricular benefit in the long run for an ambitious and very happy consul who had not the chance of looting Carthage. Very Caesar-on-Gaul like. Or Nazi Final Solution, BTW. There will always be someone who considers the massacre and enslavement of defenseless civil populations as heroic achievements, and others who would choose to weep for those populations. Maybe the difference is only a matter of perspective.

 

It might be more interesting for us to discuss the "why". As many other empires, Rome conquered its "known world" always claiming self-defense. However, after enjoying so many years of right and happiness to destroy centuries-long cultures; why specifically at 608 AUC (146 BC)? After all, as the unbearable insults to ambassadors have been used as pretext for military interventions from Assyria to the Manchukuo, Mommsen may be right to suspect for additional explanations. Market cleaning for Roman or allied merchants? (ie, Athens, Delos). Some bribery involved? What do you think?

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There is no just comparison between Mummius' handling of Corinth and Caesar's handling of Gaul or Hitler's "Final Solution". The Aedui in Gaul were not attacking allies of Rome; the Aedui WERE allies of Rome. The victims of Hitler were not attacking allies of Germany; the victims of Hitler were peaceful German citizens. In contrast, Corinth WAS attacking an ally of Rome--the Spartans. How could Mummius not respond??

 

I freely grant that Mummius' punishment was harsher than required, but a harsh punishment was required.

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Before responding, please read Polybius' whole account: The Histories, Book XXXVIII, Chapters 3-11 I think Polybius makes it quite clear that Rome didn't sack Corinth because Corinth insulted Roman emissaries, or due to some unsatiable lust for blood. Roman intervention was quick and severe to prevent a war from overtaking all Greece.

 

As Polybius aptly remarks, "though the disaster of Carthage is looked upon as of the severest kind, yet one cannot but regard that of Greece as not less, and in some respects even more so. For the Carthaginians at any rate left something for posterity to say on their behalf; but the mistakes of the Greeks were so glaring that they made it impossible for those who wished to support them to do so.... And, indeed, everybody at the time had the proverb on his lips, "had we not perished quickly we had not been saved.""

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I believe that the dealing of Corinth was harsh which led me to post the original question (badly) I thought it was a bit drastic considering the amount of deaths caused by the Corinthians on the Spartans. Yet apart from an unnecessary amount of deaths (which occurs throughout history), corinth obviously needed something or someone to quench its rebellious fire. Who knows what it would have done after.

I think ASCLEPIADES is just when he puts the events he listed into this thread but he is suggesting a moral issue, like hiroshima. the death toll was huge but what if they hadn't? What if Mummius hadn't destroyed Corinth?

 

vtc

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In Mommsen's words (Book IV):

"All the more marked is the contrast between this general moderation and the revolting treatment of Corinth--a treatment disapproved by the orators who defended the destruction of Numantia and Carthage, and far from justified, even according to Roman international law, by the abusive language uttered against the Roman deputies in the streets of Corinth. And yet it by no means proceeded from the brutality of any single individual, least of all of Mummius, but was a measure deliberated and resolved on by the Roman senate. We shall not err, if we recognize it as the work of the mercantile party, which even thus early began to interfere in politics by the side of the aristocracy proper, and which in destroying Corinth got rid of a commercial rival. If the great merchants of Rome had anything to say in the regulation of Greece, we can understand why Corinth was singled out for punishment, and why the Romans not only destroyed the city as it stood, but also prohibited any future settlement on a site so pre-eminently favourable for commerce. The Peloponnesian Argos thenceforth became

the rendezvous for the Roman merchants, who were very numerous even in Greece. For the Roman wholesale traffic, however, Delos was of greater importance; a Roman free port as early as 586, it had attracted a great part of the business of Rhodes,(26) and now in a similar way entered on the heritage of Corinth. This island remained for a considerable time the chief emporium for merchandise going from the east to the west."

 

What do you think about it?

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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What do you think about it?

As a proto-socialist, Mommsen never fails to imagine a capitalist conspiracy lurking in the shadows, so it's not surprising he thinks the same about the suppression of the Corinthian revolt. From the Polybius I cited above, is there anything that directly supports this wild idea? I think not.

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As a proto-socialist, Mommsen never fails to imagine a capitalist conspiracy lurking in the shadows, so it's not surprising he thinks the same about the suppression of the Corinthian revolt. From the Polybius I cited above, is there anything that directly supports this wild idea? I think not.

I think Polybius is no Thucydides and the searching of causes for the effects was not one of his strong points.

 

Beyond the mere looting and purely military considerations: who might have profited from the sudden disappearance of such a metropolis? What do you think about it?

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I think Polybius is no Thucydides and the searching of causes for the effects was not one of his strong points.

Perhaps the greatest living ancient historian today, Fergus Millar, introduced his 3-volume work "Rome, the Greek World, and the East" with a telling title, "Polybius was right." It's easy to see why this evaluation could sum up an entire 3-volume work in as many words: Polybius' work was a sustained, coherent search for the cause of Rome's rapid pre-eminence, and the answer that Polybius gave is nearly given universal assent by today's scholars. In the searching of "causes for effects", Polybius has no better.

 

Beyond the mere looting and purely military considerations: who might have profited from the sudden disappearance of such a metropolis? What do you think about it?

There would have been a short-term profit from the selling of the loot, which would be more than offset by the long-term loss of a major market for Rome and a major producer of goods that Romans wanted to buy. This projection is against Mommsen's totally backwards, mercantilist economic theory. (Mommsen's economic ideas were primitive even for his day.) Mercantilism holds that one nation's economic loss is another nation's economic advantage, whereas in fact, rising prosperity in Nation A allows Nation B to specialize in B's most productive and profitable activities, thereby leading to increases in wealth in both Nation A and Nation B. Thus, in the long-run, no one would profit from the sudden disappearance of such a metropolis.

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