You are here: Home / Reviews / Journals / sehepunkte / 11 (2011) / 03 / Between Rome and Carthage
Social Media Buttons fb twitter twitter twitter
  • Metadata

    • Document type
      Review (monograph)
      Author (Review)
      • Lomas, Kathryn
      Language (Review)
      Language (Monograph)
      Author (Monograph)
      • Fronda, Michael P.
      Between Rome and Carthage
      Southern Italy During the Second Punic War
      Year of publication
      Place of publication
      Cambridge Univ. Press
      Number of pages
      XXVIII, 374
      Subject classification
      Military History
      Time classification
      until 499 AD → 999 - 1 BC
      Regional classification
      Ancient World → Roman Empire
      Subject headings
      Punischer Krieg 218 v. Chr.-201 v. Chr.
      Original source URL
  • Citation rules

  • Terms of licence

    • This article may be downloaded and/or used within the private copying exemption. Any further use without permission of the rights owner shall be subject to legal licences (§§ 44a-63a UrhG / German Copyright Act).

Michael P. Fronda: Between Rome and Carthage. Southern Italy During the Second Punic War (reviewed by Kathryn Lomas)

sehepunkte 11 (2011), Nr. 3

Michael P. Fronda: Between Rome and Carthage

Many studies of the Second Punic War have focused mainly on the military aspects, or on the impact of the Punic wars on Rome. This volume, based on the author's PhD thesis, takes an alternative approach by examining the war from the viewpoint of Rome's Italian allies. More specifically, it considers Hannibal's strategy of trying to break up the Roman alliance in Italy, and analyses the possible motivations which underlay the decisions by allies on whether to revolt against Rome or not. The geographical focus of the book is specifically on southern Italy, the region in which Hannibal enjoyed most success with this policy.

The introduction to the book sets out the main theoretical framework used by Fronda, the 'Realist' theory of international relations advocated by Eckstein and others [ 1 ] which assumes that ancient states behave in a purely pragmatic way and often adhere to relatively short-term policies and alliances as they respond to immediate circumstances or seek to promote their own interests. The author makes a plausible case for rejecting the idea that Rome, Hannibal, or other states pursued long-term strategic objectives in the 4 th -3 rd centuries BC.

The introduction also provides a summary of arguments about extent and reliability of the ancient sources for this period and asserts the need to tread a middle ground between two extremes of outright scepticism about the credibility of such sources and general acceptance of them. In practice, however, the sources are generally accepted, as credible in most places, although with a suitably critical evaluation. The non-literary evidence is discussed only briefly, but Fronda adopts a pragmatic approach to the archaeological evidence and rejects use of any one specific theoretical framework. Although, as Fronda argues, such evidence may less essential for political and diplomatic history, in point of fact the use of archaeological, numismatic and epigraphic evidence plays an important role in his attempts to build up a picture of the communities which defected to Hannibal, and therefore perhaps deserves a fuller methodological discussion than it receives.

The core of the book is a detailed analysis of each major area of southern Italy. The structure is broadly regional, discussing each major region of southern Italy in turn, first in the context of relationships with Rome and Hannibal (chapters 2-5) and then in terms of the Roman reconquest (chapter 6). Fronda examines the behaviour of each Italian state in the region in detail, scrutinising its political, social and economic history, its past relations with Rome and its relationships with neighbouring states, reconstructed through a combination of close reading of the ancient sources, and examination of archaeological and numismatic evidence. By adopting this approach, he presents a persuasive argument that the roots of reactions to Rome and to Hannibal should be seen as driven largely by factors of local self-interest or local rivalries than by any specific policies by either of the outside forces, or by a strong sense of the wider issues posed by the war. However, much of the reconstruction, however persuasive, must remain at least to some extent speculative, and the author's discussion of ethnic factors such as tensions between Oscan and Daunian populations in Northern Apulia (discussed in chapter 2) is a little lacking in nuance. In areas of mixed populations such as this, it is tempting to see political relationships as a reflection of ethnic boundaries and hostilities, but in southern Italy, it was not unusual for contacts and alliances to cut across ethnic boundaries (for instances alliances between Greek and Lucanian cities in the 4 th century BC, mentioned by Fronda at 196-7, or the diplomatic contact between Messapic Brundisium and Greek Thurii attested by an inscription, IG 14.672).

The main theme of Chapter 6 is the Roman reconquest of southern Italy between 215 and 211 BC, using a similar methodology, but it also evaluates the implications of the Italian revolts for Hannibal. Interestingly, Fronda suggests that the partial success of Hannibal's strategy of undermining the Roman alliance was ultimately a source of weakness, leaving his forces stretched and unable to effectively support his new allies. Equally, the local factors which prompted rebellion against Rome could equally weight against Hannibal, as local political rivalries shifted and priorities of individual cities changed.

The concluding chapter is possibly the least successful aspect of the book, as it attempts to address a number of themes which are slightly beyond the main focus of the book. Fronda's analysis of 'Realist' theory as applied to political decision-making in antiquity is useful, but as a major theoretical basis for the book, it may have been better placed as part of the Introduction than the conclusion. The consideration of various hypothetical scenarios on whether Hannibal could have won the war in Italy is perhaps less convincing than many other aspects of the book, and the discussion of Roman imperialism and the summary of the aftermath of the war in Italy from 200 - 90 BC, with which the book ends, is again something of a digression from the main theme.

One concept which could have usefully been discussed, and which is lacking from the book apart from a short paragraph in the concluding chapter (306), is the concept of Italy in the late 3 rd century BC. Many of the ancient authors whose works are key sources for the Second Punic War were writing after 90 BC, by which time the geographical, political and cultural concept of Italia was well-established and understood. At the time of Hannibal's invasion, however, it is arguable how far a strong, coherent and generally accepted definition of Italia existed. Some examination of this would have been welcome, particularly in the context of issues such as how far the Italians felt a sense of kinship against the otherness of Hannibal, or whether important states such as Capua genuinely aspired to an Italy-wide hegemony (120-21).

Despite its occasional unevenness, this book provides a detailed and valuable study of why some allies revolted and others did not. It strongly refutes the notion of any form of pro-Roman or anti-Roman ideological basis for defection, and also challenges the view that Italian actions were simply the result of military threat. Instead, Fronda places the decisions taken by the Italians firmly - and correctly, in my view - in the sphere of local politics and inter-state connections. This book represents a valuable addition to the literature on the Second Punic War.

Note :

[ 1 ] Esp. Arthur M. Eckstein: Mediterranean anarchy, interstate war and the rise of Rome, Berkeley 2006.