The Attalids of Pergamum

The Attalids of Pergamum
March 26th, 2012
The City of Pergamum: A Background
• Relatively insignificant city located near the coast of
modern Turkey.
• Not particularly old; founded ca. later fifth century BCE.
• Advantageous geographic position: 1. Close to the coast
and the well-to-do Ionian cities. 2. Good nodal point for
controlling trade between the Greek towns and the
interior of Anatolia.
• Would become one of the “middle powers” of the
Hellenistic period.
The Origins of the Attalid Dynasty
• Dynasty begins with Philetaerus (340-263 BCE); Macedonian father
(Attalus) and Paphlagonian mother; A eunuch from childhood.
• Pergamum the location of the treasury of Lysimachus; Philetaerus in
charge of the treasury.
• Ca. 283-281 BCE – Dynastic conflict in house of Lysimachus;
Seleucus I Nicator invades Lysimachus’ territores; Philtaerus
remains aloof, waiting to back the victor.
• Probably offered allegiance to the Seleucids: 1. Sources claim that
he retained the city and its treasury 20 years after Lysimachus’
defeat. 2. Seleucids do not try to seize the town or the treasury. 3.
Attalids date their dynasty from 283 BCE. 4. Pergamene coins
contain the head of Seleucus I.
• Used control of the territory and the treasury to spread his
The Opportunistic Philetaerus
• “For a while he remained loyal to Lysimachus, but then
quarreled with Arsinoe his wife, who was slandering him,
and so caused the place to revolt and pursued a policy
of opportunism, as he saw the circumstances favored a
change. Lysimachus had become embroiled in a
domestic crisis and was forced to assassinate his son
Agathocles, then Seleucus (I) Nicator intervened and
overthrew him but was then overthrown in his turn when
Ptolemy Ceraunus treacherously killed him. While such
crises were taking place the eunuch remained in charge
of the fort, and pursued a policy of making promises to
and courting whoever was powerful and at hand. He
remained in control of the fort and the money for twenty
years.” (Strabo XIII.4.1. M.M. Austin, Doc. 193)
At the Service of the Seleucids
• “Alexander, a son of Lysimachus by an Odrysian
woman, escaped with them to Seleucus. They all
went up to Babylon and implored Seleucus to go
to war against Lysimachus; at the same time
Philetaerus, who had the charge of Lysimachus'
treasure, incensed at the death of Agathocles
and apprehensive as to his likely treatment by
Arsinoe, seized Pergamon on the Caicus, and
sent a messenger to place himself and the
treasure in the hands of Seleucus.” (Pausanias'
Description of Greece 1.9.5-10 Trans. M.M. Austin.)
Gifts of Philaeterus to Cyzicus:
Inscription at Cyzicus (280/79 to 276/5)
• The following gifts were presented by Philetaerus son of
Attalus to the people: When Gorgippides son of
Apollonius was cavalry commander (280/79), for (the
celebration of) contests, 20 Alexander talents of silver/
and fifty horses for the defense of the territory. When
Bouphantides (was cavalry commander) (279/8), when
the land been ravaged by war, exemption from taxation
of the flocks/ and of other things which they sent away
(to safety) and of the cattle which they bought and took
out of the territory….” (OGIS 748. M.M. Austin, Doc.
The Attalids
Establishing the Dynasty:
The Reign of Eumenes I (263-241 BCE)
• Despite the commencement date for Attalid rule (propaganda), Philitaerus little more
than a Seleucid satrap; played the ruler.
• Philetaerus d. in 263 BCE; no progeny (eunuch after all!); succeeded by his nephew
(and adopted son) Eumenes I.
• Eumenes I built up power in the communities around Pergamum: 1. Acts of
euergetism. 2. Building up a mercenary army.
• Seleucids angered at the succession: 1. As a Seleucid dependency the Seleucids
should choose the successor. 2. Eumenes I acting more like an independent
monarch. 3. Seleucus replaced by Philetaerus on coins. 4. Appointing strategoi
(generals) as governors of cities.
• 262 BCE – Antiochus I Soter declares war on Eumenes I.
• 261 BCE – Antiochus I defeated; Pergamum and surrounding region firmly in Attalid
• Attalid policy generally cautious but friendly toward the Seleucids.
Coin of Eumenes I
Already Entrenched
• “He [i.e. Philetaerus] had two brothers,
the eldest being Eumenes and the
youngest Attalus. To Eumenes was born a
son called Eumenes like his father, and he
took over Pergamum. He was already ruler
(dynastes) of the places around and so he
even defeated in battle near Sardis
Antiochus (I) the son of Seleucus (I).”
(Strabo, XIII.4.2. M.M. Austin, Doc. 193)
Attalus I Soter and the
Seleucids (241-197 BCE)
• Eumenes I dies in 241 BCE; succeeded by cousin Attalus I; highly significant
reign; frequent military activity.
240 BCE – Confronted by two wars: 1. Gauls. 2. Antiochus Hierax (brother
of Seleucus II Callinicus); Expanded Pergamene territory at the expense of
238 BCE – Attalus takes the title of “king” and the epithet “soter.”
238-223 BCE – Attalus subdues Greek poleis along the southern shore of
the Black Sea.
223 BCE – Seleucus III appointed Achaeus general (to recover lost Seleucid
holdings in Asia Minor).
222 BCE – Seleucus III dead; Achaeus declared himself independent king.
218 BCE – Attalus subdues Aiolis and Mysia
216 BCE – Antiochus III allies with Attalus against Achaeus; Achaeus
eventually captured and killed (213 BCE); Seleucids recognized the
sovereignty of the Attalids in Pergamum.
Aoilis and Mysia
Commemorating The Gallic Victories
The Victories of Attalus
Commemorated in Athens
• “King Attalus (dedicates) to Athena (these) thank-
offerings for battles waged in war: [From the] battle [in]
Phrygia on the [Hellespont against] Antiochus (sc.
Hierax). [From the] battle [near the] Aphrodision against
the Tolistoagian [and Tectosagian] Galatians and
Antiochus (Hierax). From the battle near the springs of
the river Caicus against the Tolistoagian Galatians. From
the battle […against] Lysias and the [generals of
Seleucus (III)]. [From the] battle [near Coele against
Antiochus (Hierax)]. [From the battle on the Harpasus
in] Caria [against Antiochus (Hierax)].” (OGIS 273-279.
M.M. Austin, Doc. 197)
Attalus I Soter and the Romans
• Rome played a major role in establishing Attalid power.
• First Macedonia War (215-205 BCE) Aetolian troops supplied,
equipped, and led by Attalus I.
Took possession of Aegina (210 BCE).
Declared “Friend of the Roman People” in the peace of 205 BCE.
201 BCE – Philip V of Macedon attacks Pergamene territory; Attalus
I negotiates alliance between Pergamum, Athens, Rhodes, Rome,
and the Achaean League; Induces Rome to declare war on Philip V.
197 BCE – Dropped dead of a heart attack
Actions of Atallus drew Rome and Pergamum into very close
Attalus and the Romans Meet in
Athens (ca. 201 BCE)
• “The people of Athens sent ambassadors to King Attalus
to thank him for what had happened and at the same
time to urge him to come to Athens to examine with
them the present situation. A few days later the King, on
hearing that Roman ambassadors had sailed into
Piraeus, and believing it to be imperative to have a
meeting with them, put to sea in haste…The first day he
spent in negotiations with the ambassadors from Rome,
and he was extremely pleased to see them recalling their
former partnership in arms and being ready for the war
against Philip…” (Polybius XVI.25. M.M. Austin, Doc.
The Reign of Eumenes II
(197-159 BCE)
• Adopted the tired mantra of freeing the Greeks.
• 195-192 BCE – Assisted the Achaean League in wars with Sparta v.
Nabis “Tyrant” of Sparta; Rich donations made to Delphi.
• 194 BCE – Antiochus III attempting to recover former Seleucid
holdings in the Hellespont (lost to Attalus I, ca. 223 BCE); Utilizes
Roman connections to denounce Seleucid actions.
• 192-188 BCE – War between Rome and Antiochus III; Eumenes II
Rome’s principal ally.
• Rewarded with all Seleucid holdings in Northern Asia Minor by the
Peace of Apamea (188 BCE).
• Eumenes II seems to have acknowledged Pergamum’s status as a
“client kingdom” of Rome; Rome’s agent in Asia; high water mark of
Pergamene power.
Gallo-Greeks Seek Polis Status for
Toriaion from Eumenes II
• “With good fortune: King Eumenes to the inhabitants of Toriaion (i.e. Tyriaion),
greetings. The men among you, Antigenes, [B]rennos, and Heliades, whom you sent
to congratulate us on achieving all our aims and reaching this place in good health,
on account of which things, indeed, you rendered thank-offerings to the gods and
presented the fitting sacrifices, and to request, because of the goodwill which you
bear towards our affairs, that there be granted to you a polis constitution (politeia)
and your own laws and a gymnasion and as many things as follow from these, have
spoken to these matters with great enthusiasm…And I considered, on the one hand,
that granting your requests was in no small way significant for me, relating to many
greater matters; for now (a favor) given to you by me would be lasting, as I have
gained full authority [over the land] through having received it from the
Romans, who prevailed both in war and by treaties, whereas this favor
decreed by those who had no such authority would not be (lasting), for this favor
would rightly be judged by all as empty and deceitful. But because of the goodwill
which you bear toward us and have demonstrated at the opportune time, I concede
both to you and those living with you in (fortified) places (choria) that you be
organized into a single citizen body (politeuma) and use your own laws. If you
yourselves are content with some of these (laws), refer them to us so that
we may assess whether they contain anything contrary to your advantage.
If not, inform us and we shall give you the men capable of establishing a
council and magistracies and dividing the demos and distributing it into
tribes and, after making a gymnasion, of supplying oil to the young men…”
(Epigraphica Anatolica, 29 (1997), 3-4, lines 1-11, 17-34. as in G. Shipley (2000),The
Greek World After Alexander 323-30 BCE: 315-16)
The Kingdom of Pergamum in the
Age of Eumenes II
The Exercise of Power in Asia Minor
by Eumenes II
• Attalids become major power brokers in the politics of the Near
• Peace of Apamea (188 BCE) ceded territory in Pontus and Bythinia
(Also Pro-Roman) to Eumenes II.
• 187-183 BCE – Apamea embroiled Eumenes II in war with Prousias
(king of Bythinia); Rome backed Eumenes b/c Hannibal was now at
the court of Prousias.
• 182-179 BCE – Eumenes II works his connections with Rome;
Territorial acquisitions in Pontus.
• 175 BCE – Intervenes in Seleucid dynastic struggle (between
Heliodorus and Antiochus IV); sets Antiochus IV Epiphanes on the
Seleucid throne.
Souring Relations between Rome
and Eumenes II
• 171-168 BCE – Eumenes II supported Rome in the Third
Macedonian War; Romans growing suspicious of Attalid motives.
• Rome begins to favor Attalus II (brother of Eumenes II).
• (167 BCE) - Listened to complaints from neighboring monarchs (i.e.
Prousias II of Bythinia); Eumenes II not given a hearing
• (166 BCE) - Declared the Galatians free.
• Treatment from Rome augmented Eumenes’ II popularity in Asia
Minor; Eumenes II remains loyal to Rome nonetheless.
• 159 BCE – Eumenes II dies; succeeded by brother Attalus II.
The Reign of Attalus II (159-138 BCE)
• Continued deference to Rome; Rome allowed independence if not in
conflict with Roman interests.
• 156-154 BCE – Repulsion of attacks from Prousias II of Bythinia;
Senate did not intervene but would not condone territorial
• 152 BCE – Allied with Rome, Ariathes V of Cappadocia, Ptolemy VI
to install Alexander Balas on Seleucid throne.
• 150-148 BCE – Supported Rome against Andriscus in Fourth
Macedonian War.
• 148-146 BCE – Supported Rome in Achaean War.
• Regime immensely popular in the Greek cities; valuable to Rome.
Letter to a Priest of Cybele (156 BCE)
• [King Attalus (II) to Attis the priest, greetings; if you are well, it
would be] as I wish; I too was in good health. When we came to
Pergamum I called together not only Athenaeus, Sosander, and
Menogenes but also many others of my advisers, laid before them
what we had discussed at Apamea and told them what we had
decided. A very elaborate discussion ensued, and to begin with
everybody inclined to the same view as we did, but Chlorus was
extremely insistent in emphasizing the Roman factor and
advising that in no way should anything be done without
consulting them. At first a few shared this point of view, but
after this we kept examining the matter day after day, his
advice made a greater impression on us, and to go ahead
without consulting them seemed to involve considerable
danger. If successful, the result would be jealousy,
displeasure and hostile suspicion, as they had felt towards
my brother, and if we failed, certain destruction…” (RC 61,
OGIS 315 VI. M.M. Austin, Doc. 208)
The Reign of Attalus III Philometor
(138-133 BCE)
• Nephew of Attalus II; adopted and designated as heir in 153 BCE;
adoption and planned succession submitted to the Roman Senate
for ratification.
• 138 BCE – Succeeds to throne with Roman approval; not particularly
interested in governing.
• Patron of arts and sciences.
• 133 BCE – Dies childless; will designates Rome as the heir to
kingdom of Pergamum.
• Aristonicus (bastard son of Attalus II) declares himself King
Eumenes III.
• 133-129 BCE – Rome marches on Aristonicus and seizes Pergamum;
Commission sent out to reorganize the kingdom into the Province of
The Revolt of Aristonicus
• “After Smyrna there is a small fort at Leucae, which Aristonicus
caused to revolt after the death of Attalus (III) Philometor.
Aristonicus was reputed to be a member of the royal family and
intended to seize the kingdom for himself. He was expelled from
there after being defeated in a sea battle near the territory of Cyme
by the Ephesians, but went into the interior and quickly collected a
large band of destitute men and slaves whom he had incited with a
promise of freedom, and called his followers Heliopolitai (citizens of
the sun-state). He first stole into Thyatira by surprise, then secured
control of Apollonis, then sought to gain other fortresses, but he did
not hold out for long and the cities promptly sent a large force
against him. Nicomedes of Bithynia came to the rescue and so did
the kings of Cappadocia. The five Roman ambassadors arrived,
followed by an army and the consul Publius Crassus, then by Marcus
Perperna who put an end to the war by capturing Aristonicus alive
and sending him to Rome. Aristonicus ended his life in prison while
Perperna died of illness, and Crassus was killed in battle when some
people attacked him near Leucae. Manius Aquillius (then) came as
consul with ten envoys and organized the province in the form of
government which survives to this day.” (Strabo XIV.1.38. M.M.
Austin, Doc. 212)
A General Summary of the Attalid Reign
• Successful marriage of the polis system and Hellenistic kingship.
• Shrewd application of diplomacy; able to balance Seleucid and
Roman interests, abandoning Seleucids when in decline.
• Successful diplomacy among Greek poleis owing to maintenance of
local politeia and acts of euergetism.
• Achievements: 1. The Great Altar. 2. The Library. 3. The Stoa of
Attalus II (Athens).
• Attalid policy ultimately provided Rome with a foothold in the Greek