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Aristonikos († 129 BC ) was the illegitimate son of Eumenes II. After the last king of Pergamon , Attalus III. , had bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman Empire in his will, Aristonikos led a revolt with the aim of keeping Pergamon independent with him as king. On coins that he had minted, Aristonikos Eumenes III was called. Aristonicus' assessment has been the history in the ancient times contradictory, which has its cause in the fact that he recruited numerous slaves. It is unclear whether the goal was to free all slaves.


The division of the Seleucid Empire was in 188 BC. Completed by the treaty of Apamea . The main winner was Eumenes II, whose territory quadrupled. Some of the cities abandoned by the Seleucids were subject to tribute and others remained tribute-free, as Polybius reports. Cities that Antiochus III. Tribute paid but had supported Rome remained free of demands for tribute, but all cities that had paid tribute to Attalus from Pergamen, now paid the same amount to Eumenes II. After all, the cities that had defected to Antiochus had to pay tribute to him to pay these sums to Eumenes. Old allies such as Lampsakos , Ilion , Alexandria Troas , Kyme and Smyrna remained without tribute . Ilion, Klazomenai , Chios , Smyrna, Erythrai , Miletus and Phokaia were allowed to expand their territory. Pergamon now encompassed Lycaonia , the two Phrygia , Mysia , Lydia and Ionia , plus the aforementioned Greek cities. But this new great power was a mixture of different peoples, institutions and forms of life.

Three different ethnic groups ruled the area: the inland Anatolians , the mostly urban Greeks and Macedonians , and finally the Celtic Galatians . The first were made by the indigenous population, especially the Thraco-Phrygians. The Greeks had come from the mainland in the 12th century, and the Galatians established themselves here by the 3rd century.

The kingdom consisted of the Greek cities, a number of military colonies (katoikiai), temples and royal estates and the semi-independent tribal areas. Among the most important cities of the Pergamene Empire were Ephesus , Tralleis and Telmessus . The katoikiai were used for military security and veteran care . Often these military colonists were called “Macedonians”. They made up a significant part of Aristonikos' later army.

Also participants in the uprising were residents of the tribal areas in Mysia Abbaitis and Thrace. The dynasty was one of the few factors that counteracted centrifugal forces.

In the years from 180 to 140 BC Eumenes and his successor Attalus II (159-138 BC) waged wars against almost all neighbors. After the death of Attalus III. these should appear almost without exception in the "anti-Attalid coalition". At the same time, the empire was subject to similar social developments as Italy, where the "large farms" increasingly dominated, with the slave economy and the resulting impoverishment of the peasants, as well as an almost compulsive urge to expand.

Under Attalus III. the situation seems to have become even more complicated. By murdering two nobles, the king made part of the nobility his enemy. It is unclear whether the related internal opposition was already under the leadership of Aristonikos, or whether he was close to it at all.

The Heritage

In 133 BC Inherited Attalus III. in his will the entire kingdom of Rome. One motive could be that he viewed Aristonikos as a rival and did not want to see him on the throne. In addition, however, the dependence on Rome had increased for decades. Attalus II had already asked the Roman Senate before attacking the Galatians. After all, there was already a precedent: in 155 BC. Chr. Wanted Cyrene , which Ptolemy VIII. 162 BC. He had promised the Romans as heir to subordinate Rome, but at that time the Senate still refused. In the Pergamon case, Rome did not refuse, for whose conflicting leadership group the king's treasure could be a decisive instrument in their power struggles. It is unclear whether this was the main motive for accepting the inheritance.

The groups behind Aristonikos - a controversial question

Coin ( cistophore ) of Aristonikos from Apollonia, who named himself after his father Eumenes: In the coils of the two snakes the letters ΒΑ ΕΥ stand for Βασιλεύς Εὐμένης, "King Eumenes"

The will itself indicated the beginning of the war. Both Pergamon and the Greek cities should be free. The kingdom and all the territory of the subjects should go to Rome. Therefore, the cities initially saw little reason to support Aristonikos. Only in Phocaea did his followers succeed in usurping power. The main supporters, however, were the army and parts of the fleet. The court party and large parts of the court employees also joined him, as they feared their disempowerment and possible expropriation or even exile. In contrast, the coastal cities could certainly promise themselves trade advantages.

Aristonikos was initially quite successful with his fleet and enjoyed the support of the citizens of the capital and the Greek politicians of the coastal cities, with the exception of Ephesus . He succeeded in occupying Samos , Colophon and Myndos . But he lost the decisive naval battle against the fleet of the city of Ephesus near Kyme , which reduced the number of his allies. Aristonikos then had to resort to land war and set up his headquarters in the Thyatira , Apollonis , Stratonikeia area . The main recruiting groups for his army were probably Thracians, Mysians and Carians, perhaps also Galatians, Lydians, Macedonians - and possibly the poor and slaves already now. The Thracians defeated the Roman army under the consul Crassus, a battle in which King Ariarathes V was also killed.

Since there was Pergamene property around the Thracian Lysimacheia , the kings had already resorted to Thracian soldiers here earlier. Thracians also brought great distress to the city of Sestus . When Aristonikos won this army and other recruits remains unclear.

The role of the inhabitants of Mysia Abbaitis and Caria is even less clear . They were only to become more evident in the second phase of the war, when the headquarters were possibly relocated to Stratonikeia in the course of the retreat inland. Manius Aquilius, who followed Perperna in the fight against Aristonikos, even resorted to well poisoning if one follows Florus to assert himself.

Mysers supported the uprising at least during the siege of Kyzikos . In the core of the uprising area around Stratonikeia, numerous “Macedonians” settled, to which numerous refugees probably joined after the Battle of Pydna and the occupation of Macedonia. This can at least be proven for Miletus . Thyatira was also a Macedonian settlement, as Strabo reports, who calls it a katoikìa makedónon .

Naturally, the question of who the “Macedonians” were, an ethnic group or a functional designation as military settlers, is less controversial than the question of who the “poor and slaves”, referred to by Strabo as “heliopolites”, were.

The ambiguous designation gave rise to speculation in research, and Aristonikos was subsequently appropriated for political goals. Diodorus , who handed down the lost utopia of Iambulos to the "sun state", formed the basis for speculations about a "sun state" of Aristonikos, in which there should be no more slavery and inequality.

A second explanation connects the Heliopolites with the sun god Helios . As early as 1870, Karl Bücher (106) suggested the possibility of influence by the sun god Adad from Heliopolis ( Baalbek ) in Syria . He tried to make the worship plausible by the fact that Eunus , the Sicilian slave leader , also worshiped a Syrian goddess, Atargatis . Alternatively, Rostovtzeff offered the oriental sun god Helios Dikaiosynes , a "god of justice". But the further line of argument that the cult flowed into that of Zeus Helipolites is not convincing, because it can only be explained e.g. At the time of Pompey , when the influences of the sun cults had already increased considerably.

Collins threw in a third possibility of derivation, referring to Tyrimnos , the national god of Thyateira . Athletic competitions called Tyrimneia were held in his honor . In addition, this cult existed at least from the middle of the second century BC to the time of the emperor Alexander Severus . Possibly the god is of Lydian origin, which could also explain the retreat of the Heliopolites into the hinterland.

Ultimately, it remains unclear whether the final phase of the uprising aimed at the liberation of all slaves in the name of a sun god - which would be unique in ancient times - or whether the recruitment of slaves was not just the ultima ratio of a war on a losing position. Recent research has given the role of slaves less importance.

The last stage of the fight

Under these circumstances its uprising assumed social revolutionary features; so he promised the slaves later freedom. Aristonikos called on the unfree and oppressed to fight for liberation and contrasted social injustice with the utopia of a "solar state" of justice. With his followers, the "Heliopolites" (residents of the sunny state), he sacked the cities of Thyatira and Kolophon and paid an army of mercenaries from Asia Minor and Thracian with the booty . The uprising grew to such an extent that the neighboring Greek cities and rulers could no longer control it.

Aristonikos achieved numerous victories over the Romans, including over an army that was commanded by the consul in 131 BC. BC, Publius Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus . This came about 130 BC. In captivity, in which he found death. Only Marcus Perperna succeeded in 129 BC. To enclose Aristonikos, to force to surrender and to take him prisoner. Aristonikos died in captivity that same year. His movement lacked the support of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, as they had received freedom through Attalos' will and did not want to risk it through a conflict with Rome. Many of these cities and large rural areas were nevertheless devastated by the war.

Aristonikos' movement had a great attraction not only for the poor and unfree sections of the population, but also for intellectuals. After the fall of Tiberius Gracchus, the stoic philosopher Blossius from Cumae joined her.


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  1. Polybios 21, 45, 2-3.
  2. ^ McShane, p. 151.
  3. ^ W. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum II, Leipzig 1917 (SIG³) 633 and McShane 152.
  4. Hansen 3f.
  5. Collins 34.
  6. Hansen 154.
  7. ^ Carrata-Thomes 7-23.
  8. Foucart 302 f.
  9. ^ Wilhelm Dittenberger : Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae . Leipzig 1903-1905 (OGIS) No. 338, cf. Rubinson 556 on the counterfeit discussion; Livy , periochae 58, 59 ; Velleius Paterculus 2, 4 ; Appian , Mithridatius 62 ; Plutarch, Tib. Gracchus 14 ; Florus 2, 20.
  10. Welles 245f., Note 61
  11. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (SEG) 9, 7.
  12. Strabon 14, 1, 38; G. Lafaye, Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinenentes (IGRR) IV, Paris 1927, 292, Welles 188-279 and Hansen 185-187.
  13. Plutarch, Tib. Gracchus 13, 14.
  14. Florus 1, 35, 4.
  15. Valerius Maximus 3, 2, 12; Frontinus 4, 5, 16; Orosius 5, 10.
  16. ^ Bengtson 227-232.
  17. OGIS 339.
  18. Collins 100 f.
  19. Florus 1, 35, 7.
  20. IGRR IV 154.
  21. Diodorus 32, 15, 4-5.
  22. Strabon 13, 4, 4.
  23. Strabo 14, 1, 38.
  24. Diodorus 2, 55-60. The story is told of Iambulos and his companion, who sail south from Ethiopia to the islands of the sun and live there for seven years in a society of equals in which there is no exploitation and oppression, and who honor themselves and the island as God Named the revered sun after this. Diodorus 2, 58; Iambulos , in: RE IX 1, 681-683.
  25. Rostovtzeff 1998, p. 637.
  26. Tyrimnos , RE VII A, 2 1867 and Tyrimneia ibid.
  27. Rostovtzeff 1998, p. 637.
  28. ^ Joseph Vogt: Slavery and Humanity. Studies on ancient slavery and its research , Wiesbaden 1965, p. 33.