Hostages in Republican Rome - Cheryl Walker - 2005

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Hostages in Republican Rome ·
Legend of Cloelia
Cheryl Walker (Autor) · Brandeis University USA / Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C. (2005)

Herausgeber:  · Verlag:  · (Ed)
Sprache: English · Version: v1.00 (Volltext)
Version of this Article on the site of the Center for Hellenic Studies
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Cheryl Walker: Hostages in Republican Rome . In: (Hrg.), 25. Mai 2016. URL:
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We want to thank Cheryl Walker for her support.


Prof Cheryl Walker
Brandeis University USA
Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C.
First publication: Center for Hellenic Studies
August, 2005

Version of this Article on the site of the Center for Hellenic Studies, which is provided under a Creative Commons Licence there.
See also: Legend of Cloelia (Cheryl Walker)
Part 1 - Book
Part 2 - Appendix
Part 3 - Bibliography

Preface [i-vi]

With the eighteenth century died the last societies of Western Europe which practiced the institution of hostageship. After A.D. 1748, when France received two English peers as pledges for the return of Cape Breton, the nations of Europe no longer exacted hostages as living sureties for the fulfillment of international agreements. Consequent1y the modern European and American historian must make a conscious effort to comprehend the concept of this unfamiliar practice and to understand its place in the ancient societies which employed it. Nor is the task of the contemporary historian lightened by the events of the last decade, a period in which hostageship has become a weapon wielded only by terrorists and criminals. The hostages whose dilemmas are so patently exploited by contemporary mass media, who have been seized and detained forcibly, bear little resemblance to the overwhelming majority of Greeks, Romans, and others of the first millennium B.C. who served as ὅμηροι or obsides.

Perhaps because the terms ὅμηρος and obses can be readily translated into modern languages (e.g. English hostage, French otage, German Geisel, and Italian ostaggio), the ancient terms are sometimes assumed to carry the same connotations as their modern equivalents and to have produced in antiquity a fastidious shudder of revulsion similar to that provoked by the translations today. Such a simplistic assumption is mathematically elegant but unsound philologically and historically.[ii] We should instead analyze the ancient terms without attempting to compare them to our own modern responses to the concept of hostageship.

Is a study of hostageship in the Roman Republic worth the considerable effort? The answer must be an unequivocal yes; the institution is an important part of Rome's political history. The exaction of hostages occurs in all periods and in all geographical regions of the empire; it is synonymous with Roman victory and Roman expansion. Indeed, the very importance of the practice is responsible for the fragmentary nature of the surviving evidence, because our sources assumed its significance to be so obvious as to need no explanation. The fact of the exaction made details superfluous in many cases, but the difficulty of the reconstruction of the practice is outweighed by its value for our conception of Roman international affairs. We cannot fully appreciate the foreign policies of Rome or the diplomatic and administrative skill which the Romans displayed in manipulating governments without a clear comprehension of the nature and the potential of hostageship.

The absence of any detailed general study of hostageship in classical Greece or Rome is, in view of the scattered and uneven evidence, perhaps none too surprising. Articles on specific treaties in which hostages were a part of the conditions of peace are fairly common, as are books which discuss individual hostages in passing, but only articles by Aymard and Moscovich appear to have focused on hostages as a particular topic worthy of study.[1] Although these articles are of great importance for the institution of hostageship in particular cases and make significant contributions toward our general understanding,[iii] they do not pretend to wider application. Moreover, such articles lack a firm background against which the standard features may be discerned from the extraordinary and the Greek customs distinguished from the peculiarly Roman. It is this absence of an extended general study which has prompted this dissertation: the gathering of a large number of references from ancient Greek and Roman sources for the purpose of discovering the meaning of ὁμηρεία and obsidatus for the Greco-Roman world. Gleaned from a variety of authors on matters historical, biographical, autobiographical, geographical, rhetorical, anecdotal, poetic, and critical, the citations have been matched to a specific time and event and arranged in chronological order as Appendix I; [2] the issues discussed in the text all derive from the data assembled there.

Because of the enormous number of primary sources which have survived in these historical or semi-historical genres, I have restricted my investigation to the Republican period, broadly defined here as from the founding of the Republic until the death of Augustus in A.D. 14; although the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. or the senatorial grant of the cognomen Augustus in 27 B.C. may be more traditional dates for the end of the Republic, the death of Augustus signals the end of the last generation to remember the Republic. Legendary material from the regal period, while it is of no historical value for that era, still provides insight into the practices of the times in which our sources were written. The inclusion of incidents from the Hellenistic world and from other contemporary societies permits us to compare the Roman episodes to these others and to determine thereby the traits held in common and those peculiarly Roman. In the case of Hellenistic examples,[iv] such comparison is especially significant because of the great influence which the Hellenistic monarchies had upon Roman political and cultural affairs. Although I have made no special effort to seek out incidents in which Rome was not directly involved, the ancient texts which describe hostageship in Roman history often relate such incidents (e.g., the world histories of Polybius and Diodorus, the Parallel Lives of Plutarch, and Caesar’s Gallic War, of the political alliances among the Gauls), and it seems useful to have complete sets of hostage references found in each author.

Limitations of space have also prevented full utilization of the evidence from classical Greece; the immense mass of material to be gleaned from wholly Greek sources of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. merits its own separate study. Just as the Hellenistic practices are important to our understanding of Republican customs, it is also important to comprehend the relationship of classical and Hellenistic usages. The vocabulary (ὅμηρος) is identical, and all the incidents mentioned in Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon appear to fit easily into the four basic categories into which the Hellenistic evidence falls. [3] For this reason, I have assumed a continuity of concept, as reflected by the continuity of terminology, from the fifth century through the Hellenistic period, despite the alteration in certain specific aspects of practice.[4]

The sources from which these references come are almost entirely literary; the numismatic and epigraphical material of the Republic, with the exception of a few inscriptions, simply does not pertain to the practice of hostageship or to hostages. I have focused attention upon those authors whose work alluded to the history of Republican [v] Rome, and I have also included in this study non-historical citations of legend and rhetoric, for even these citations afford us a glimpse of the possibilities envisioned by our sources. [5]

The text of this work has concerned itself with the classification of these diverse and occasionally contradictory references, organized around the hostage experience, progressing from cultural background to selection to service to release. In Chapter 1, there is an assessment of the circumstances under which hostages were exacted and of the explicit purposes for such exactions, and a consideration of the socio-cultural attitudes prevalent in antiquity toward both giving and receiving hostages and of the religious and legal status of hostages within the recipient state. The object of this assessment is, first, the establishment of the meaning of ὁμηρεία and obsidatus and, second, of a background for the emotional and social responses to hostageship within the context of classical societies. Chapter 2 presents the evidence concerning the criteria by which hostages were chosen according to formal agreements: sex, age, number, affiliation, delivery time, selection, surrender of third-party hostages, and conditions of release should further negotiations fail or the period of service for an individual hostage expire. The place and circumstances of the detention, the actual treatment accorded hostages, are the subject of Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, the situations in which hostages were released from their obligations or lost their status as hostages are described: restoration by the recipient government, rescue or revolt by the donor government, or escape.[vi]

In the conclusion I have attempted to bring together all of these aspects to indicate the efficacy of the institution of hostageship and to relate hostageship to other Roman policies in foreign affairs, including the value of hostageship to Romanization, its use in diplomacy, and its place in the entire Roman political structure. Finally, in Appendix II, two problems tangentially related to hostageship at Rome, the legend of Cloelia and the exaction of second sons, undergo a brief analysis.

I have searched all the ancient sources on Republican history that have come to my notice, but of course I may have missed some, and I have not been able to consider every possible question concerning hostages in Republican Rome. Many issues can only be posed; and for many, resolution is impossible. I have attempted to pose and, insofar as possible, to answer the questions of particular interest or of especial importance, but for the most part my intention is to present the evidence. Nevertheless, I hope that the evidence presented will help to illuminate such general questions as the relationship of hostage exaction to Roman diplomacy, the development of Greek and Roman practice and the adoption of non-Roman features into Roman custom, and the factors which influenced the behavior of both Rome and her neighbors with regard to this most interesting institution.

Finally, I would like to thank Dr. George W. Houston, who has been a patient and careful adviser and a pillar of strength during it all; all my friends who have encouraged and inspired me, but especially Anastatia Sims, John and Clare Michaud, and Chris Craig; Louise Vrande, who typed the early drafts and generally tolerated me; and my mother.[vii]

List of Abbreviations

AJPh = American Journal of Philology

CAH = The Cambridge Ancient History, ed. S.A. Cook, F.E. Adcock, and M.P. Charlesworth

CIG = Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum

CIL = Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

CJ = Classical Journal

CQ = Classical Quarterly

ILS = Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae. Dessau, H., ed. 1954-55. Berlin.

JRS = Journal of Roman Studies

LSJ = A Greek-English Lexicon. Liddell, H.G., Scott, R., and Stuart Jones, H. 1968. Oxford.

MRR = The Magistrates of the Roman Republic. Broughton, T.R.S. 1951-52. Lancaster.

RE = Real-Encyclopadie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft. Pauly-Wissowa. 1894. Stuttgart.

ROL = Remains of Old Latin. Warmington, E.H. 1959-61. London.

Chapter 1: Meaning and Purpose of Hostageship in the Greco-Roman World [1-20]

The circumstances in which persons acted as sureties in the Greco-Roman world may be classified under four basic categories: exchange, unilateral exaction by formal national agreement, private contract, and extralegal seizure. The words which describe such persons are ῥύσια, ὅμηρος, ἀνάδοχοι, ἐνέχυρα, and obses in all these categories, although obses seems to have had a technical application to just the first three arrangements, which were bilateral agreements. [6] Three of the Greek words, however, occur in situations only vaguely similar to those in which ὃμηρος was used; ῥύσια, of persons held to compel restitution or restoration of property (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 5.33.3; 7.2.3); ἀνάδοχοι of persons who stand bail (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.84.2; Plutarch Dion 18.2 and 20.1; cf. Latin vades); and ἐνέχυρα of persons acting as pledges (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.84.2; Aeneas Tacticus 5.1; Appian Civil Wars 1.44; cf. Latin pignus). Because only the situation outlined in Appian bears a strong resemblance to the cases in which ὅμηρος and obses are employed and because the other words are rare in this type of context (six incidents out of two hundred fifty-seven, or 2.3%), an analysis of the use of the words ἀνάδοχοι, ἐνέχυρα, and ῥύσια would have little effect on the bulk of the data collected here, for these variations occur too infrequently to permit any meaningful analysis. Let us now consider each of the basic categories enumerated above in [7] order to formulate the ancient concept of hostageship (i.e. ὁμηρεἱα and obsidatus) and its purpose, as explicitly noted in the ancient sources.

Mutual exchanges of hostages occurred when governments of approximately equal power wished to secure an agreement.[8] Because bilateral exchange is a recognition of political equality, the history of Rome’s successful expansion provides few examples of such exchanges; Rome rarely recognized the political parity of another nation, and it is a striking fact that there is no surviving evidence for even a single instance of Rome’s involvement as an equal partner in a historical exchange. There are, however, some examples of Rome’ s opponents attempting to increase their power by associating themselves with other nations hostile to Rome. In 168 B.C. Perseus, king of Macedon, concluded an alliance (συμμαχία) with Genthius, king of Illyria, to gain assistance in his conflict with Rome. Polybius (29.3-4, followed by Livy 44.23.2-9) has given us an extremely detailed and precise account of the procedure of this transaction: first, the agreement of Perseus to the preliminary terms negotiated by Hippias and Perseus’ instructions to his envoy; second, Genthius’ oath of allegiance, followed by the dispatch of the Illyrian hostages and Genthius’ envoy to Perseus; next, Perseus’ oath of allegiance and acceptance of the Illyrian hostages, and the subsequent dispatch of Macedonian hostages to Genthius; finally, the release of the stipulated sum of money to Genthius’ envoy. This is the fullest extant description of the mechanics of hostage exchange. Since nothing from the other extant sources appears to contradict it, we may assume, with due caution, that it [9]describes a probable, but by no means certain, pattern of procedure for such exchanges.

The Romanized Italian cities which composed the Italic League in 91 B.C. determined upon hostage exchange as a means of guaranteeing the fidelity of the individual cities to their joint cause (ὅμηρα διέπεμπον ἐς πίστιν ἀλλήλοις, Appian Civil Wars 1.38), thereby indicating the federal nature of the League. The importance of hostages to the alliance must not be underestimated, as if they were merely tokens; when the Roman magistrate Servilius learned of the exchange taking place at Asculum, his interference led directly to the violence which precipitated the Social War. Nor should we forget that the agreement between the Sequani and the Helvetii in 58 B.C. became the pretext for Caesar’s involvement in Gallic affairs outside his province; the Helvetii provided hostages to guarantee that they would not harm the territory of the Sequani, while the Sequani furnished hostages for their promise to permit peaceful passage to the Helvetii (Caesar Gallic War 1.9.4; 19.1). The suspicion with which Caesar regarded the man responsible for this agreement (Caesar Gallic War 1.19.1) suggests that such coalitions, however innocent their stated intentions, were considered by the Romans as potential threats to their national security. Caesar encountered three other such alliances, of various towns of the Belgae in 57 B.C. (Gallic War 2.1.1), of the Aquitani in 56 B.C. (Gallic War 3.23.2), and of the Carnutes in 52 B.C. (who abstained from exchanging hostages in order to prevent a premature revelation of their plans for revolt, Gallic War 7.2.2).

Two other cases deserve brief mention. According to legend, the Trojans and the Italian aborigines agreed to exchange hostages in [10] order to secure their treaty; Latinus kept Aeneas’ offspring Romulus and Remus, and upon Latinus’ death without heirs of his body, the erstwhile hostages succeeded him (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1.59.1-2). The second case is of interest because the exchange was not between governments or tribes but between the economic classes of a single national unit. In 173 B.C., in an attempt to settle internal unrest, Aetolian creditors and debtors established hostages from both groups at Corinth (Livy 42.5.12).[11] Both stories indicate that hostage exchanges were expected to bring together peacefully the disparate elements of a single regional or political entity.

By far the greatest number of incidents involving hostages belong to the second category, unilateral exaction by the terms of a formal agreement between two nations. The vocabulary which may be used to describe such arrangements is quite broad and for the most part not employed technically. A perusal of the “terminology” column in Appendix I.A indicates its range.[12] Some of the words are general, meaning almost any sort of negotiated settlement: ὁμολογία, προτεινόμενα, σπονδαί, συγκείμενα, συνθήκαι, συντίθημι, pactio, and derivative forms from these words. Others are more precise. The Greek ἀνοχαί and the Latin indutiae appear to refer only to truces, and they are not used to signify a termination of the war. The word “peace” (εἰρήνη, pax) is interchangeable with almost any permanent settlement: φιλία, διαλύσεις, συμμαχία, συναλλάγη, foedus, deditio, dicio, amicitia, and imperium. Even terms which might be expected to connote political equality of the contracting parties (e. g., συμμαχία) could be coupled with another word which clearly signifies the inferiority of one party (e.g., ἡγεμονία); [13] we may here compare the socii, who were most frequently not the equals of the Romans, but a people more or less subject to Roman domination.

With regard to vocabulary, Livy’s discussion of the peace settlement at the Caudine Forks is very illuminating. Livy repeatedly calls Pontius’ proposal before its acceptance a foedus (Livy 9.4.4; 5; 7; 5.1; 2), one in which the terms of peace are, with the exception of the yoke, equal to victor and vanquished (Livy 9.4.3-4). But, according to Livy, the final agreement between the Roman officers and the Samnites was a sponsio, which differs from a foedus in that a foedus requires ratification by the Roman people and the official fetial ceremonies (Livy 9.5.1-2). Most importantly, he continues his argument for a sponsio by asking, quite rhetorically, what need of sponsores or of hostages a foedus would have, since the fetial oath makes the contracting nation as a whole responsible for fidelity to the oath and for their actions (Livy 9.5.3). We should be able to conclude from this passage that states which agreed upon a foedus did not exact hostages. Unfortunately, Livy himself employed foedus to describe the contract by which hostages were exacted unilaterally: the treaties with Porsenna in 508 B.C. (Livy 2.13.8,9), with the Lucanians in 298 B.C. (Livy 10.11.3), with the Aetolian League in 189 B.C. (Livy 38.11.6), and with Antiochus III in 188 B.C. (Livy 38.38.1,9). I do not believe that, in Roman historical writing, foedus can be restricted to the narrow technical sense which Livy assigned it in this idiosyncratic passage.[14]

There are in practice few truly technical words applied to situations in which unilateral exaction occurred. The Latin deditio [15] seems to have a fixed and precise meaning and generally signifies that the dediticii gave hostages. Indeed, Scipio Nasica argued in 19B.C. that he merited a triumph over the Boii, and as proof of his military subjection he cited the exaction of hostages from them (Livy 36.39.3; 40.3). Yet hostage exaction was perhaps not an unfailing part of deditio. Consider the argument concerning the surrender of Ligurian villages in 197 B.C.: the tribunes maintained that deditio without any pignera was fictitious (Livy 33.22.9). Since the Roman commander accepted the surrender without demanding hostages and still asserted the validity of his claim for a triumph, we cannot state unequivocably that every deditio invariably required submission of hostages. Still, it is clear that deditio normally did involve such a submission.

One further point on vocabulary should be mentioned. Moscovich, observing the frequency with which pignus occurs in conjunction with obses, correctly described the term’s application to hostageship: the donor, who had surrendered immediate possession of the object/person pledged as pignus, received the pignus back upon fulfillment of his obligation; in case of default, the pignus passed into the full possession of the recipient.[16] Yet another word, arrabo, was also employed in connection with obses. Aulus Gellius (Attic Nights 17.2.21) remarked that Claudius Quadrigarius used arrabo of the Roman equites whom the Samnites took in 321 B.C. for the Caudine Forks agreement because arrabo is gravior acriorque. Rather than signifying that the equites were, as it were, the collateral which pignus indicated, the word arrabo suggests that the equites were a non-returnable part of the obligation itself, a kind of down payment. [17] It is regrettable that only this single reference to persons as arrabo has survived from the [18]Republican period, for the Augustan prose of Livy does not necessarily reflect Republican terminology.[19]

What did the hostages exacted by a treaty guarantee? The answer to this question may seem obvious, but it is in fact disputed. Täubler, followed by Gsell and de Sanctis, believed that the hostages secured the financial clauses of the agreement;[20] Aymard, however, argued that the hostages from the Treaty of Zama guaranteed, not merely the indemnity, but the entire treaty.[21] The easiest method of resolving the question is to examine those instances where an explicit purpose is assigned to the exaction by the ancient sources. In direct support of Täubler’s hypothesis, we may cite the arrangement of the Samians to give hostages as security for their indemnity payments (Plutarch Pericles 88.1), the proposal of Nicias that the Syracusans keep Athenian troops to guarantee the Athenian repayment of Syracusan war expenses (Thucydides 7.83.2; Plutarch Nicias 27.2), and Caesar’s demand for hostages for the promised subsidies (Caesar Gallic War 6.2.2). But other reasons are better attested: as an alternative to one of the recipient’s conditions (garrison, Livy 2.13.4; Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.247-48; a forced move, Livy 40.38.5);[22] a complete set of conditions (ἐπὶ τούτοις, Zonaras 9.26; Plutarch Pelopidas 27.3; Poplicola 18.2; Moralia 250B; ἐπὶ ταις συνθήκαις, Appian Illyrian Wars 28; περὶ τούτων, Diodorus 19.75.1-2; Polybius 15.8.7; τῆς συνθήκης, Polyaenus 1.47.2); and to prevent further hostilities and/or disobedience (Livy 9.5.5; 22.22.5; 27.24.1; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 2.55.5; Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.204-206; Appian Samnite History 4; Punic Wars 54; Illyrian Wars 23; Suetonius Augustus 21.2; Polybius 36.11.3). Obviously, hostages could secure more than the financial clauses of an agreement.[23]

Less obvious is what our sources meant by the frequent reference to hostages as πίστις or fides (Polybius 15.18.8; 21.17.8; 31.2; Diodorus 20.104.3; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 9.17.3; Livy 21.34.3; 37.45.16; Caesar Gallic War 8.27.1; cf. Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.30.1; Livy 34.35.11). Fides appears to be the verbal expression of an agreement (Livy 44.25.8), for which the hostages themselves are the physical expression. Thus the description of hostages as πίστεις or as fides seems to suggest that the hostages guaranteed the entire contract to which the donor had agreed, since the donor must abide by all conditions of the agreement if he is to maintain it.

Hostages might also be exacted according to a less public agreement, in which the contracting parties did not officially represent their governments and the hostages did not guarantee a formal written treaty. Instead, such hostages appear to have acted as sureties against treachery in a number of different situations. Enemy commanders sometimes wished to open preliminary negotiations with their opponents, in both international and civil warfare. Because (for self-evident reasons) the weaker general usually requested a conference as a means for obtaining a peaceful solution, the stronger general, who was less concerned with the prospect of peaceful negotiations, demanded some pledge in return for the favor of a conference (Livy 42.39.6-7; cf. Livy 28.35.4; Caesar Civil War 1.84.2;[24] Plutarch Eumenes10.2-3; Cleomenes 17.1 and Aratus 39.2; Moralia 197A; Appian Civil Wars 1.85).[25] Similarly, when a mercenary or an alleged traitor offered his services, a wise leader took sensible precautions (Diodorus 17.23.5; Livy 10.10.3; 43.10.3;[26] Dionysius of Halicarnassus 7.10.6; Plutarch Pelopidas 9.5-7 and Moralia 595A-E; Appian Hannibalic War 47).[27] Perhaps the most frequent exaction of this sort[28] was that which intended to secure the dominance or safety for one faction during civil war (Livy Summaries 84; Caesar African War 26.5,[29] Civil War 3.12.1-2; Valerius Maximus 6.2.10; Frontinus Stratagem 2.11.1; Appian Civil Wars 1.44;[30] 3.91; Plutarch Cicero 18.1; Cicero Letters to Friends 10.17.3; and the most famous of these, the sons of Antony and Lepidus who became hostages for the safety of Caesar’s assassins, Livy Summaries 116; Velleius Paterculus 2.58.3; Cicero Philippics 1.13.31; 2.36.90; Dio 44.34.6; Appian Civil Wars 2.142; 3.15). Finally, there was the apparently Greek custom of offering hostages (usually oneself) for the veracity of one’s statements (Herodotus 8.94; 9.90; Nepos Themistocles 7.2; Phocion 2,4) or one’s promises, particularly if they involved money (Livy 44.25.7-8; 26.11; Velleius Paterculus 2.42.1; Polyaenus 4.6.17). For the hostage, the major differences between these types of circumstances and the formal treaty exactions were in the length and purpose of the exaction; as these informal circumstances tended to generate very specific conditions (e.g., that the donor observe a strict truce during the conference or that the traitor not lead the recipient into an ambush), the hostages seem to have been released upon the bona-fide conclusion of the conference, successful surprise attack, cessation of hostilities, or payment of the promised sum. Thus, such persons might serve for some few hours or weeks instead of for years, as did formal hostages.[31]

Inevitably, there are incidents which, because of our ignorance of their details, lie between the second and third categories. Sometimes it is uncertain whether an exaction occurred between two generals of opposing armies as individuals or as official representatives of their government. Another problem is posed by exactions from peoples already allied, in addition to the previous agreement; this was evidently[32] standard Roman policy when there was fear that the allied people might conspire and revolt.[33] It is difficult to classify these as private contracts, because the exaction had the approval of the Senate, but at the same time it is difficult to prove that such an exaction had the assent of the donor government. In the absence of better information, I have left these ambiguous cases uncategorized.

The last category to be considered here[34] is that which parallels the contemporary use of the word “hostage” today, i.e., an unwilling person, usually captured or forcibly detained. Although Greek authors regularly called persons so detained ὅμηροι. (e.g. Polybius 1.68.3; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 4.83.3; 5.31.2; 6.53.1; 6.62.5; 8.43.4; Diodorus 33.15.1; Plutarch Cicero 18.1; Sertorius 14.2; Appian Civil Wars 3.91; 5.137), Latin authors employed obses with some circumlocution (e.g. pro obsidibus, Livy 33.14.2-3; 36.11.11; obsidum loco, Livy 31.25.8; Caesar Gallic War 5.5.4; Civil War 1.74.5). From this we may with caution infer that obses was a technical term which appears properly to have described one exacted by a bilateral voluntary agreement. Relatively few extralegal seizures are attested, but the evidence for many such cases is undoubtedly hidden under other words. For example, native levies serving with the Roman army are very occasionally referred to as hostages (Livy 23.4.8; 7.2; 31.10; 40.47.10 et al.) [35] as are prisoners of war (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 3.57.1).[36] Since no agreement restricted their selection, treatment, or release, their fate remained entirely at the discretion of their captor; unfortunately, the subsequent activities of such extralegal hostages are for the most part unknown, and it is this failure of our sources which makes this category a historical dead end.[37]

In general, then, a hostage in the Greco-Roman world guaranteed in his person the fulfillment of obligations voluntarily undertaken by his party.[38] Although the circumstances of his exaction and the obligations he secured varied enormously, the terms ὅμηρος and obses are consistently applied. Let us consider the attitudes which the Greek and Roman authors have transmitted to us and the religious and legal positions of hostages in order that we may then try to formulate a definition for the concepts of ὁμηρεία and obsidatus.

Cultural Attitudes Toward Hostageship

It should be clear from the circumstances under which unilateral exaction occurred that such a situation could easily become a means of forcing the donor nation to acknowledge, at least implicitly, inferiority;[39] one might reasonably expect the recipient government to express condescension or insolence and the donor government to resent the institution of hostageship and perhaps the hostages themselves, as the visible tokens of their inferiority. The picture presented by our evidence is in truth rather less predictable. Let us first consider the attitudes found in Greek cultures.

That the Spartan kings Agesipolis (Plutarch Moralia 215B-C) and Cleomenes (Plutarch Cleomenes 22) felt the delivery of fellow citizens (or at least, in Cleomenes’ case, his mother) to a foreign power to be shameful cannot be seriously disputed, despite the lateness of the attestations, for a similarly negative response is apparent elsewhere.[40] The comic poet Antiphanes, whose floruit is the first half of the fourth century (Athenaeus 15.681C), and the geographer Strabo (11.14.15 C532) both employed the paired antonyms sovereignty-hostageship, as if these two[41] concepts were the opposite ends of a single continuum; the former uses hostageship to demonstrate how far the mighty Spartan empire had fallen, and the latter describes the extremes of fortune experienced by Tigranes the Great of Armenia, who had been a hostage in Parthia and then become a powerful monarch. Nor was offering a guarantee for a personal agreement[42] less distasteful than hostageship which secured a treaty. Evidently the exaction of a hostage for a private contract suggested that the donor’s promise, if unsupported by a pledge, was insufficient to compel his cooperation. When Charon brought forth his young son as an object of vengeance, should he betray the Theban conspirators to the Spartans in 379 B.C., Pelopidas and the others repudiated his proposal because of the insult that acceptance would have offered to Charon’s loyalty (Plutarch Pelopidas 9.5; Moralia 595A-E).[43]

There seems little difference between Greek and Roman attitudes in this regard. The same distaste for surrendering hostages is obvious - indeed, intensified - in Latin sources, as an examination of Roman law[44] and such accounts as the aetiologies of the festival of the Capratine Nones (Plutarch Moralia 313A; Romulus 29.4; Camillus 33.2-7; Macrobius Saturnalia 1.11.35-40), the descriptions of the lamentations on the report of the submission of hostages at the Caudine Forks (e.g., Gellius Attic Nights 2.19.8 and Appian Samnite History 6), and the Pompeian brutality toward the Africans in 46 B.C. (liberos eorum obsidum nomine in servitutem abripi, African War 26.5) demonstrates.

Yet the Roman awareness that hostages taken from other states were visible tokens of Roman supremacy did not necessarily give rise to patronizing treatment or arrogance.[45] Philip V of Macedon decided to send his son Demetrius as his ambassador to Rome because of the good[46] will[47] with which the senators had previously acted toward Demetrius during his residence in Rome as guarantee of his father’s obedience to the Senate (Polybius 22.14.9-11; Livy 39.35.2-3; Justin 32.2.4). Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ envoy to the Senate after his accession declared that Antiochus had been treated, not as a hostage, but as a king (Livy 42.6.9).[48] Dionysius of Halicarnassus could relate, and apparently believe, that Latinus had adopted the hostages Romulus and Remus in the absence of any heirs of his own (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1.73.2). Further, we may infer that, by the time of the early Principate, there was some revulsion at the idea that innocent hostages could be used to expiate the guilt of their countrymen (Livy 28.34.7-10).[49] Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish between the gallantry which the Romans could display toward vanquished foreigners and the repugnance shown toward the concept of Roman hostages.

But there was another reason besides the overt loss of sovereignty and fear for the hostage’s safety which could bring discomfort upon the donor government: the reaction known today as “Stockholm syndrome.” Certainly recognized, although not named, in antiquity, the Stockholm syndrome is the phenomenon whereby persons physically dominated in stressful circumstances identify themselves with their captors. Phillipson has observed that former hostages served after restoration as proxenoi to the citizens who had detained them.[50] The attested histories of the three hostage princes of the early second century B.C., Demetrius of Macedon, Antiochus of Syria, and Demetrius of Syria, refer to their assimilation to Roman culture as if it were a rhetorical commonplace (which it may be): Perseus’ accusation that Demetrius’ soul is Roman (Livy 40.5.12, supported by 39.47.10), Antiochus’ later[51] indulgence in inappropriate Roman customs such as canvassing for office and wearing magisterial garb (Polybius 26.1.5-6; Diodorus 29.32; Athenaeus. 5.193D-196A; 10.438D-439D), and the assertion of the Seleucid Demetrius that he considered the senators his fathers and their sons his brothers (Polybius 31.2.5) suggest the strong influence which their residence in Rome was believed, rightly or wrongly, to have upon them.[52]

Cultures contemporary with Republican Rome appear even less enamored of hostageship and hostages, although my data are by no means exhaustive. [53] Gsell accounted for Punic unpopularity in Spain during the Hannibalic War as resulting from the Carthaginian dependence on hostageship. [54] The military pretensions of the Helvetii in 58 B.C., as recorded by their opponent Caesar (Caesar Gallic War 1.14.7; Dio 38.33.1), equal in haughtiness even the arrogant Roman claim to sovereignty; in the campaigns of 56 B.C., Caesar maintained that a revolt was due to resentment over the exaction of children as hostages (Caesar Gallic War 2.5). [55] The Parthians extended the disgrace of hostageship to the persons who experienced it: τὴν ὁμηρείαν ἀντὶ δουλείας ὀνομάςοντες καί τῆς ἐπικλήσεως τὴν ἀδοξίαν (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 18.47).[56] Again, hostageship is the opposite of sovereignty; it is slavery. This, despite the kingly manner in which Augustus maintained the Parthian princes (Strabo 16.1.28C749) and the fact that they were not actual hostages.[57]

Thus the donor government had cause to fear, not only the confession of weakness which surrender of hostages signified, but also the more subtle threat of the hostages themselves, whose patriotism could be successfully undermined. The recipient government, however, had much to gain and little to lose by treating hostages in a dignified, [58] honorable fashion.[59] The ambiguity of the hostage’s position, distrusted by his countrymen and courted by his country’s enemies, could not be clearer. Religious Standing

Westington has remarked that hostages enjoyed sacrosanctity in the absence of any disobedience by the donor state; he based this opinion on the sole testimony of a passage in Dionysius of Halicarnassus. [60] After the escape of Cloelia and the other women, these hostages and some ambassadors were returning to Porsenna when Tarquin’s party ambushed them. Porsenna, outraged at this conduct, terminated his association with the Tarquins and allied himself to the infant Republic (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 5.34.1-2). What outraged Porsenna was, I submit, not the violation of the hostages’ supposed sacrosanctity, but that Tarquin had ambushed an official Roman party during a truce to which Tarquin himself had agreed. It is the truce which made the persons of the ambassadors and hostages ἱερά, not any inherent quality in hostageship itself.

Although accredited ambassadors were certainly granted diplomatic immunity in accordance with ius gentium, it is difficult to understand how hostages could have shared this benefit. Even in so flagrant a case of ambassadorial misconduct as tampering with delivered hostages and instigating their escape, the guilty diplomat, captured with the fleeing hostages, may have tried to claim immunity (Livy 25.7.11);[61] but no hostages other than Dionysius’ Romans of legend invoked any such religious right. Indeed, the Romans do not seem to have observed extraordinary religious scruples upon capturing the [62]hostages of any other nation.[63] Moreover, conditional sacrosanctity (i.e., sacrosanctity so long as the donor state preserved the agreement for which the hostages were exacted) does not seem to have been an element in the ius gentium, for interpretations of the violation or non-violation of an international agreement are particularly influenced by partisan evaluations of expediency. [64]

Nevertheless, hostages in all likelihood did enjoy a de facto protection on religious (or quasi-religious) grounds: unprovoked hostility toward them violated the agreement under which they were exacted, an agreement which often sought divine vengeance upon the violators.[65] Insofar as oaths were a binding force upon those who swore them, religion was a safeguard. Even in a relatively early period, however, religion was sometimes insufficient against the demands of expediency or the promptings of anger or indignation.[66] In short, hostages might generally have invoked an honored and protected status on religious grounds, based on the terms of the treaty by which they were exacted, but this was not sacrosanctity, and the surviving evidence does not permit us to assume that any particular privileged status was granted to hostages solely on the basis of their hostageship.

Legal Status

The legal status of hostages at Rome is somewhat more distinct, although by no means clear.[67] Our evidence for testamentary procedure belongs to the legal digests of the Empire, but Republican practice probably differed very little. Dediticii could not make wills as Roman citizens, since they were foreigners; but neither could they claim [68] testamentary rights as peregrini, for they were not citizens of an independent (i.e., non-subject) civitas (Gaius 1.25; Ulpian Digest 20.14). Hostages whose states had surrendered unconditionally in this manner appear to belong to this category. (Hostages from politically autonomous nations presumably retained rights as peregrini, although this is a surmise on my part.) As a legally distinct group, hostages might bequeath their possessions only by special permission, and in the absence of such permission, the Imperial fiscus confiscated the goods (Ulpian Digest 28.1.11); perhaps the treasury did so during the Republic. In some cases hostages might even inherit legacies from Roman citizens, provided that they were regarded as citizens rather than as hostages (Marcianus Digest 49.14.21-32).[69] Such a law may, however, have been intended to guarantee the rights of a Roman citizen to complete testamentary freedom and only incidentally to grant the hostage a legal privilege. It is possible that Roman law recognized other rights as well, particularly such private rights as marriage and parental authority, but no evidence concerning these private rights has survived.[70]

The rare cases of Roman citizens who became hostages - there are three Republican episodes, the Cloelia legend, [71] the Caudine Forks disaster, [72] and the defeat of Cassius Longinus - are more fully covered by the surviving law codes. Roman citizens captured and held by the enemy lost legal control over other Roman citizens de facto and de jure; children in patria potestas were forthwith released until potestas was regained by ius postliminii, in the event of the parent’s safe return from the enemy (Gaius 1.129; Ulpian Digest 10.4; Paulus 2.25.1; Theophilus 1.12.5).[73] It is possible that Roman citizens surrendered[74] as hostages would have suffered similar loss of status and enjoyed similar rights of recovery unless these were specifically excluded by treaty conditions.[75] The only historical incident of the Republican period which involved Roman hostages is infuriatingly incomplete; we know nothing of the hostages’ identities, their treatment, or their release. After the decisive defeat of Cassius Longinus’ army by the Tigurini in 107 B.C., the senior surviving officer, C. Popillius, was compelled to deliver hostages and half the army’s baggage in order to secure a safe withdrawal for the remaining troops (Livy Summaries 65; Orosius 5.15.24; Appian Samnite History 1.3; Caesar Gallic War 1.7.12: Rhetoric to Herennius 1.15.25). [76] He was then tried and convicted, probably on a charge of maiestas. Whatever the specific law on which he was arraigned, handing over a civis to the enemy was a capital crime (the Twelve Tables, cited in Marcianus Digest 48.4.3). This law does much to explain the obstinate and sometimes suicidal resistance displayed by Roman commanders in desperate straits; this law made serious attempts at negotiations almost impossible, since the commander’s life was forfeit even if he did preserve some of the army by giving hostages.

Nor is this attitude toward delivering hostages surprising. The surrender of one’s or a fellow-citizen’s person, however limited and conditional in theory, could in practice be viewed only with the gravest suspicion; there was little or no appeal or recourse for the helpless hostage. The hostage’s rights, such as they were, lay entirely in the hands of his keepers and could be denied or refused at any time. The two appeals made by Demetrius of Syria for his release indicate the cynical ease with which the Roman Senate could ignore just claims (Polybius 31.2; 11-15), [77] and at least two Greek incidents[78] exhibit the inability of a donor government to enforce a proper observance of an agreement upon the stronger recipient nation (Polyaenus 1.47.2; Appian Mithridatic Wars 46-47). Indeed, the very distaste which flavors Roman response to the concept of submitting Romans as hostages strongly suggests that such status was open to great abuses and that the unenviably vulnerable position of hostages was in all likelihood the normal ancient attitude rather than the exception.[79]

With this understanding of the vocabulary, purposes, and cultural responses to hostageship, we are ready to formulate our definitions of ὅμηρος and obses. The major distinction between the Greek ὁμηρεία and the Latin obsidatus is the exclusion of extralegal seizures from the Roman concept; thus the Roman terminology differs from both the Greek and the English usage of the respective words ὅμηρος and “hostage” as generally applied. For the Greeks, the ὅμηρος was a person in the control of the recipient, one who acted as a bond for the fidelity of the friends and relatives of the ὅμηρος, whose safety and whose rights were at the recipient’s discretion. For the Romans, the obses was a person, voluntarily submitted, who guaranteed the performance of a bilateral agreement and whose treatment, as a consequence, was theoretically limited by the restrictive clauses, if any, which were included in the agreement.[80]

From these definitions, we can better understand the cultural attitudes toward hostageship and the anomalous position which hostages held in ancient societies. Because hostages secured an agreement, their religious and legal status had to permit the recipient appropriate [81] recourse against the hostages if the agreement was violated; because unilateral exaction signified the donor’s inferiority and because the hostages were in practice at the mercy of the recipient, hostages were, in a sense, in bondage and not free agents, a cause for social stigma. Further, we may anticipate from the distinction between Greek and Roman hostageship that Roman hostages perhaps more rigidly adhered to selection criteria and to predetermined treatment and restoration. Let us now employ these definitions to investigate the conditions and careers of the people designated as ὅμηροι and obsides.

Chapter 2: The System of Hostage Regulations in Rome and the Greco-Roman World [28-79]

The formal regulations concerning hostages reveal considerable variety in detail. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to examine the several categories into which the regulations may be classified in order to determine the underlying principles by which hostages were chosen and to attempt the reconstruction of a typical case. I have used material from Greek and other Mediterranean cultures as touchstones, so to speak, for the Roman incidents, so that both traits in common and features which are peculiarly Roman may be isolated and appreciated; [82] although the difficulties in such an approach are manifest, it will help to prevent in some measure the distortion which would be inevitable if one considered Roman hostage exaction without taking into account the broader context of the Greco-Roman world. The major problem, of course, is the paucity of examples to be found in a given category, for, of the many occasions on which hostages were exacted, there are relatively few for which any further details are attested (63.3%). Often, too, it is the extraordinary nature of the details which has prompted their documentation, giving the reader a distorted view of the entire system. [83] We will therefore need to bear in mind these caveats, as we examine the conditions stipulated by treaty or other formal agreement.One question, however, must be posed and tentatively answered before we survey the available data on hostage requirements. Whose [28] practices and preferences had precedence? In a legal contract, both parties agree to the terms, but a nation desperate for peace may have no meaningful choice. It has been asserted that the recipient state determined the specifics of sex, age, number, and affiliation, and some ancient testimony supports the idea (e.g., Polybius 29.3.4; Caesar Gallic War 5.4.1-2) [84] . While this hypothesis is probably not always true, it is likely to be correct for the majority of cases. On the other hand, the recipient of hostages would frequently have had customs not too dissimilar from those of the donor, as the two were often neighbors and from the same racial and linguistic stock, or, when practices differed, the recipient might well have respected native custom in order to minimize resentment. [85]


Two facts have obscured the question of the preferred gender for a hostage: first, the linguistic bias which permitted a group of both men and women to be collectively described as male, and second, the unspecified gender of the words for hostages and children. For the purposes of this study, I have assumed a neutral value for such words as παῖς, παιδίον, τέκνον, and liberi, and a masculine value only where the male gender seems indisputable (e.g., ἄνδρες and similar words, or where military service is indicated). This assumption is perhaps overly conservative and severely limits the examples under discussion, but it seems to be the only adequate guarantee of an avoidance of circular reasoning. Even a cursory glance at Table I discloses a marked preference for male hostages over female or mixed groups. With the exception of [29] legendary material, [86] the earliest examples of female hostages date from the

Table I Hostage Gender in Historical Exactions

Type of Exaction
Nationality of Recipient State Gender Mutual Treaty Private Extralegal Unclear Total
Greek 44
Male 1 (2.3%) 17 (38.6%) 10 (22.7%) 8 (18.2%) 0 (0.0%) 36 (81.8%)
Female/mixed 0 (0.0%) 3 (6.8%) 4 (9.1%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (2.3%) 8 (18.2%)
Roman 31
Male 0 (0.0%) 13 (41.9%) 8 (25.8%) 7 (22.6%) 0 (0.0%) 28 (90.3%)
Female/mixed 0 (0.0%) 2 (6.5%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (3.2%) 0 (0.0%) 3 (9.7%)
Other 9
Male 1 (11.1%) 3 (33.3%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (11.1%) 5 (55.5%)
Female/mixed 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 3 (33.3%) 1 (11.1%) 4 (44.4%)
Total 2 (2.4%) 38 (45.2%) 22 (26.2%) 19 (22.6%) 3 (3.7%) 84

[30] fourth century B.C., although the date of the exact incident which may claim the dubious distinction of the first such exaction is a vexed problem. According to Plutarch, Antipater had demanded fifty children from Sparta in 331 B.C., after his defeat of Agis; the ephor Eteocles, fearing that the children would be uneducated because they were not trained in the traditional manner, offered instead twice the number of old men or women (Plutarch Moralia 235 B-C). Two factors make this anecdote suspect. Had the Spartan counterproposal occurred, the combination of counterproposal (which is not found in the other sources for this episode) and of the first Greek exaction of female hostages ought to have merited comment before Plutarch’s time. Moreover, the four centuries which had elapsed between Antipater’s demand and the time of Plutarch had witnessed a significant change in Greek gender preference for hostages, [87] and Plutarch could easily have inserted this anachronistic detail in an anecdote or simply have accepted it from his source, who had made this kind of error. In any case, the late and unsupported testimony of Plutarch is insufficient to permit the conclusion that female hostages were a feature of Greek political negotiations as early as 331 B.C.In 326 B.C., Alexander of Epirus sent three hundred familiae from southern Italy to Epirus (Livy 8.24.5). The statement that entire familiae were exacted is very curious and unparalleled: it is not obvious what individuals are understood by the term, but one can readily assume the presence of women among them. As Livy, the authority for this story, is also a late source, and one especially [31] prone to contamination from unreliable sources, it is difficult to accept the full historicity of this incident, and it is more likely that it is the earliest known exaction of females by Greeks.Nevertheless, the custom had certainly appeared by 303 B.C., the year of the Metapontine campaign of the Spartan Cleonymus and the Lucanians. Duris of Samos is cited as the source for the parenthetical observation that Cleonymus was πρῶτος ἀνθρώπων εἰς ὁμηρείαν λαβὼν παρὰ Μεταποντίνων γυναῖκας καὶ παρθένους.... (Athenaeus 13.605D-E). This statement cannot be true in its absolute sense. Even if we discount the demand of Antipater related by Plutarch and the exaction attributed to Alexander of Epirus, we cannot accept the information as it stands, for the Egyptians and the Persians had taken female hostages at least two generations before. [88]

The simplest solution, if we attempt to rehabilitate Duris’ remark, is that something like Ἑλληνικῶν either has fallen out of the text or was what Duris meant but did not write. [89] Whether our difficulty with the phrase πρῶτος ἀνθρώπων is resolved by textual emendation, by a narrowed understanding to be derived from context, or by merely declaring Duris in error on this point, it is clear that the Greeks exacted female hostages by formal international agreement at least from the time of the late fourth century B.C.What is astonishing is the speed with which this custom gained acceptance in the Greek world. In 361 B.C., Rheomithras had given his wife, his children and the children of his friends as hostages to Tachos, the king of Egypt (Xenophon Education of Cyrus 8.8.4; Diodorus 15.92.1); Xenophon coupled Rheomithras with Mithradates, who had betrayed his own father, and used them both as examples of evildoers who had profited by their [32] immorality. Obviously, such conduct was despicable to the conservative Xenophon, whose works probably reflected the sentiments of many Greeks of the early fourth century. The disapproval with which exaction of female hostages was viewed had not disappeared by the end of the century, since the motives attributed to Cleonymus in 303 B.C. are those of lust and sexual indulgence (Diodorus 20.104.3). [90]

Yet an anecdote attributed to Agesipolis the son of Cleombrotus (probably Agesipolis III of Sparta) [91] indicates that by the second half of the third century B.C. women and children were the usual hostages: when someone said that Agesipolis while king had served as a hostage with those in the prime of life, and not their wives or children (οὐχ οἱ παῖδες οὐδ᾿ αἱ γυναῖκες αὐτῶν), Agesipolis declared it fitting that they bear the consequences of their own mistakes (Plutarch Moralia 215 BC.). Although Plutarch’s authority for the historicity of this event is justly suspect, other incidents from this period support the tone of Plutarch’s anecdote. In 223/2 B.C., Ptolemy III Euergetes’ demand for Cratesicleia, mother of the Spartan king Cleomenes, was not an outrage, but merely a cause of shame to Cleomenes (Plutarch Cleomenes 22.3-7). [92] So much had opinion altered that Polybius, in the second century B.C., could criticize the Carthaginians of 241 B.C. for not keeping the mercenaries’ wives and children as extralegal hostages (Polybius 1.68.3); in another passage, which describes in a gnomic manner the best pledges for the future integrity of a person, Polybius listed wives, children, oaths, and previous behavior (Polybius 8.36.3). [93]

Female hostages had apparently become a standard feature of Greek practice. [33]Nor was female exaction confined only to Greek spheres of influence. As mentioned above, Rheomithras offered his relatives and those of his friends as surety for his loyalty to the king of Egypt in 362/1 B.C.; [94] in 334/3 B.C. the Greek general Memnon delivered his wife and children to the Persian king Darius, and, like Rheomithras, was rewarded with the supreme command of the king’s forces (Diodorus 17.23.5). Both of these instances were private agreements and involved non-Greek monarchs, but it may be that, among the Persians, female hostages guaranteed formal treaties as well; on one occasion, Egyptian wives and children remained in Persian custody while the Egyptians acted as guides for Greek mercenaries in Persian pay in 350/49 B.C. (Diodorus 16.48.3). [95]

Alexander the Great is alleged by a late and unreliable source to have received hostages of both sexes on his Indian campaigns in 326 B.C. (Polyaenus 4.3.30). The Carthaginians also took female hostages, for, when Scipio captured Cartagena in 209 B.C., he discovered both males and females of a variety of ages among the Iberians detained there (Polybius 10.18.6; Livy 26.49-51.1; 27.17.1-3;16; etc.). [96]

Roman practice contrasted sharply. Only four episodes concerning female hostages are attested after 389 B.C., when Roman accounts may be said to begin to be substantially historical. Of the four episodes, two occur in the context of factional infighting: the planned seizure of Pompey’s children (one a girl) in 63 B.C. by the Catilinarian conspirators (Plutarch Cicero 18.1) and the attempted detention of Octavian’s mother and sister by the Republicans in 43 B.C. (Appian Civil Wars 3.91). In neither case was the sex of the hostage a meaningful [34] factor in the selection; the relationship with the leader of the other faction alone seems to have determined the choice of hostages. Thus there are only two passages which suggest actual Roman demands for female hostages: the possible existence of women hostages taken during Pompey’s Eastern campaigns (Appian Mithridatic Wars 103; 117), [97] and Augustus’ policy toward some barbarian tribes (Suetonius Augustus 21. 2).Only the latter may be regarded as indisputably historical, and it is of considerable value for understanding Roman custom, its efficacy, the flexibility of Augustus’ foreign policy, and foreign customs. Let us examine the pertinent passage in full.. . .tantumque afuit a cupiditate quoquo modo imperium vel bellicam gloriam augendi, ut quorundam barbarorum principes in aede Martis Ultoris iurare coegerit mansuros se in fide ac pace quam peterent, a quibusdam vero novum genus obsidum, feminas, exigere temptaverit, quod neglegere marum pignera sentiebat; et tamen potestatem semper omnibus fecit, quotiens vellent obsides recipiendi. [. . .and so far was he from a desire for increasing in any way the empire or his military reputation, that he compelled the leaders of some barbarians [98] to swear in the Temple of Mars Ultor that they would abide by the agreement and peace which they sought, (and) from some barbarians he tried to exact a new type of hostages, women, because he felt that they disregarded males as pledges; nevertheless, he always granted to all permission to replace hostages as often as they wished. Four points must be emphasized:

1) the exaction and the oath-taking are evidence of Augustus’ peaceful objectives; [99]

2) women were a “new type” of hostage;

3) his innovation was prompted by the failure (in his opinion) of the traditional male hostages; [100]

4) Augustus mitigated the apparent severity of his innovation by allowing frequent exchanges of personnel, [101] again a proof of his lenient disposition.It is the second point with which we must here concern ourselves. According to Suetonius, Augustus did something unusual in [35] choosing female hostages, and, since there has survived only one other possible historic case of women being detained as formal hostages at Rome, we should accept Suetonius’ testimony as substantially accurate. Thus the available evidence indicates that during the Republic the Romans habitually selected male hostages, and that female hostages were rare exceptions. [102]

Despite the prevailing Greek practice in the second century B.C., when contact with the, Roman political theory no alteration in this criterion for hostage selection occurred until the Romans met peoples who did not seem sufficiently restrained by the threat of death against their male hostages. Only then was the ineffectual Roman practice discontinued in favor of a custom perhaps native to those on whom Rome inflicted it.


The restrictions on age and the references to the age of particular hostages are perhaps the details most often related in our sources; superficially, the evidence seems straightforward, but on closer examination one becomes aware of difficulties. References to age may be classified into three groups: 1) an actual age or range of ages is mentioned in the pertinent passage (e.g., the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C. (Polybius 21.32); 2) the age of an individual is known or can be inferred from other sources (e.g., the age of Philip, son of Amyntas in 369 B.C. [Diodorus 15.67.4; Plutarch Pelopidas 26.4, plus the knowledge that he was born ca. 383 B.C.]); 3) the age is implied by such descriptive words as παῖς, τέκνον, υἱός, filius, and liberi. It is, of course, the last group which is the [36] most difficult to comprehend, for

Table II Relative Ages of Historical Hostages

Recipient's Nationality/Type of Exaction Mutual Treaty Private Extralegal Uncle Total
Greek 42
adult 0 (0.0%) 8(19.0%) 5 (11.9%) 8 (19.0%) 0(0.0%) 21 (50.0%)
children 1 (2.4%) 7(16.7%) 7 (16.7%) 0 ( 0.0%) 0(0.0%) 15 (35. 7%)
mixed 0 (0.0%) 4*(9.5%) 2 ( 4.8%) 0 (0.0%) 0(0.0%) 6 (14.3%)
Roman 46
adult 0 (0.0%) 4 (8.7%) 3 (6.5%) 10 (21.7%) 1(2.2%) 18 (39.1%)
child 0 (0.0%) 17(37.0%) 3 (6.5%) 3 ( 6.5%) 1(2.2%) 24 (52.2%)
mixed 0 (0.0%) 1 ( 2.2%) 0 ( 0.0%) 3 ( 6.5%) 0(0.0%) 4 ( 8.7%)
Other 13
adult 0 (0.0%) 2(15.4%) 0 ( 0.0%) 1 ( 7.7%) 0(0.0%) 3 (23.1%)
child 1 (7.7%) 3(23.1%) 0 ( 0.0%) 0 ( 0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 4 (30.7%)
mixed 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 2(15.4%) 2 (15.4%) 2(15.4%) 6 (46.2%)
totals 2 (2.0%) 46(45.5%) 22(21.8%) 27 (26.7%) 4 (4.0%) 101**

Including the Samian hostages of 441/0 B.C., following the superior testimony of Thucydides 1.115.3.**I have omitted two incidents. The Volscian hostages of 495 B.C. are called liberi in Livy 2.22.2, but ἄνδρες in Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.25.2, and the alternative plans of Plutarch Moralia 235 B-C, seemingly resolved in favor of the Spartan counterproposal, are contradicted by Diodorus 17.73.5. 3[37] these words signify a relationship, not a true age classification. [103]

The impulse to think of individuals so described as pre-adult must be curbed as misleading, although in some cases this was undoubtedly true. [104] Nevertheless, one important inference can be drawn from the employment of these terms: the emphasis on the relationship indicates the hostages’ dependence on another’s authority and their lack of status in their own right. The distinction between “children” and “adults” which I have established is, therefore, less a matter of chronological age than of personal authority, and this peculiarity must be borne in mind in what follows. As will be seen, it is a useful and valid distinction. [105]

From Table II it is apparent that there are distinct differences in Greek and Roman practice. The most significant of these is the marked preference for child hostages among the Romans, 52.2% of the total cases for such age is specified, as compared to only 35.7% among the Greeks. Moreover, the Roman preference is most evident in formal international agreements, where the potential hostages might come from the most diverse age groups, and the recipient’s preferences could therefore have fullest scope. (An army in the field probably could not have surrendered women or children very easily, and the receiving party would have had to accept hostages from available personnel.) While Greeks accepted adult, child, and mixed groups of 25 hostages for treaties without evincing strong preferences, [106] Romans chose adults in only four incidents (8.7%), one involving women (Augustus’ exaction of barbarian women [Suetonius Augustus 21.2]) and three involving men of military age, evidently as hostages for a truce [38] rather than a treaty (Livy 43.17.6; Appian Wars in Spain 48; 50): [107] all somewhat anomalous cases.The relative preponderance of private hostages among the Greeks probably reflects a custom which the Romans employed in a far more restricted manner; the concept ὁμηρεία referred to a less technical situation in which persons could declare themselves hostages for their statements (Themistocles’ offer to the Spartans in 479/8 B.C., Nepos Themistocles 7.2; Plutarch Themistocles 19.2: Polyaenus 1.30.4; the Pythagorean Archytas and his followers who were Plato’s sureties for the Younger Dionysius’ good intentions, Plutarch Dion 18.2; 20.1; Phocion’s pledge of himself that the Piraeus would remain safely in Athenian control, Nepos Phocion 2,4), and perhaps the instability of internal and foreign alliances (at least compared to the constancy of the Roman Senate) accounts for the greater number of private agreements (Charon’s offer of his son to his fellow conspirators, Plutarch Pelopidas 9.5-7; Moralia 595; the demands for Agathocles’ children by the leader of an opposing Syracusan faction, Diodorus 20.79.4; demands for sureties in foreign alliances, Polyaenus 5.3.4; Plutarch Pyrrhus 31. 2; Polybius 4.9.5; Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.204-206 [108]).In eight instances, the age of an individual hostage or the age range for a group of hostages is known or can be estimated. Philip of Macedon, son of Amyntas, was allegedly delivered to the Illyrians shortly after his birth about 383 B.C. (Justin 7.5.1; Diodorus 12.2.2,4). [109]

The authority for his hostageship at Thebes in the early 360’s is very much better (Plutarch Pelopidas 26.4; Moralia 178C: Diodorus 15.67.4; Justin 6.9.7; 7.5.1-3; Orosius 3.22.2), and we may reasonably assume [39] that his age was about fourteen to eighteen years during his detention. It is unfortunate that Philip is our only Greek hostage of known age, for it is quite likely that his case is atypical; certainly his relationship to the king of Macedon was a stronger factor in his selection than his age. [110]

Similarly, the surrender of Antyllus, M. Antonius’ son, to Caesar’s assassins at the tender age of one or two years (Livy Summaries 116; Velleius Paterculus 2.58.3; Cicero Philippics 1.1.2; 1.13.31; 2.36.90; Plutarch Brutus 19.2; Antony 14.1; Appian Civil Wars 2.142; 3.15; Dio 44.34.6) and the planned abduction of the equally young Gnaeus and Sextus Pompey and Pompeia in 63 B.C. (Plutarch Cicero 18.1) were due to their connection with powerful relatives, and their ages were probably not operational factors. These were personal pledges, and parents would in all likelihood have served as well as children.Of far greater significance are the ranges specified in the Roman treaties with Carthage in 201 B.C. (14-30 years old, Polybius 15.18.8 and Livy 30.37.6), with the Aetolian League in 189 B.C. 30 (12-40 years old, Polybius 21.32.10-11 and Livy 38.11.6), [111] and with Antiochus III of Syria in 188 B.C. (18-40 years old, Polybius 21.42.22 [112] ). The ancient source for all these treaties and for the ages of Demetrius of Macedon and Demetrius of Syria is the reliable and, for the most part, contemporary Polybius. As Aymard has remarked, the accuracy of these details seems difficult to refute, and the small number of hostages exacted and the minimum age limitation imply that the exaction was not intended to weaken the state militarily. [113]

Both Demetrius of Macedon and Demetrius of Syria were about ten years old at the time of their exaction. Since the surviving [40] conditions of the treaty with Philip V do not include age restrictions, this fact is easily fitted into the other data at our disposal. But the age of the Syrian prince is another matter; according to the original treaty with Antiochus III, hostages were to be at least eighteen (Polybius 21.42.22 and Livy 38.38.9). This contradiction may be explained in one of two ways: either the original restriction no longer pertained, or Demetrius was a special case excepted from the restriction. Mørkholm argues that the violation of the age restriction indicated Roman instigation for the exchange of Antiochus (later Antiochus IV Epiphanes) for the child Demetrius, [114] and it is very probable that the royal hostages had special advantages which outweighed their relatively less desirable age; their affiliation was far more important than the disadvantage of their greater youth. [115] Thus within the same quarter-century of Roman history the minimum age for hostages ranged from about ten to eighteen, and the maximum age from thirty to forty or forty-five. [116]

What purpose could these variations serve? Several hypotheses could be postulated to explain these slight differences in age:

1) they are random and arbitrary;

2) they represent a Roman attempt to determine the most suitable age for a hostage;

3) they reflect the Roman response to the differing ages at which differing cultures recognized maturity;

4) they resulted from a conscious Roman policy which adjusted a rather general age requirement to suit each individual case. [117]

As should be obvious, one’s preference among the possible explanations is dependent on one’s somewhat subjective analysis of Roman motivation during this period of imperial expansion. Nevertheless, the very existence of the variations allows us to infer that Roman requirements [41] were flexible and capable of adaptation.The problems of variation notwithstanding, our major concern should be the reason for the distinct difference in the Roman preference for children [118] and the Greek preference for adults. Let us consider the merits of each. The exaction of leaders, particularly those of opposing factions, could potentially paralyze a faction’s resistance and might conceivably cause its disintegration into smaller, more easily subdued subgroups in the absence of a strong leader. Should, however, the detention of opposing leaders be protracted, [119] it is likely that new leaders would arise to fill the power vacuum, and it is not impossible that the new leaders would pose a greater threat because of greater competence. Such new leaders might well perceive the former leaders, now hostages, as personal rivals and feel no distress at endangering them; their value as hostages would thus be lessened to a considerable degree. Moreover, the influence of leaders among their fellow citizens may be partly a function of their maturity and experience. The old men who are especially esteemed for their advice are not good risks for long-term detention, as their greater age and probable poorer health increase the odds against their surviving the period of detention. The selection of children, at least in the sense of those who are not leaders in their own right, obviates the problem posed by the possible emergence of new leaders; the same people remain in control of the state, but are themselves controlled by the fear of harm to their children. However reluctantly, these leaders are compelled to cooperate with the recipient state, or their children will suffer. In this [42] theoretical context, it becomes evident that the recipient state would require some provisions to safeguard the value of the hostages it exacted, and it is possible to see in the attested minimum and maximum age limits an attempt to secure hostages in the healthiest range of the age spectrum. [120]

Yet there is another advantage in taking children: the ease with which children assimilate and adopt new ideas and customs. The extent to which the Romans recognized and utilized the receptiveness and malleability of youth has long been debated, and scholars have argued for both complete recognition and complete ignorance of the value of Romanized hostages. Nevertheless, by the early Principate even such derivative intellectuals as Diodorus and Plutarch had observed the impact that a foreign education had upon hostages: we have already seen Eteocles’ refusal to sacrifice the education of Spartan boys (Plutarch Moralia 235B-C); Philip son of Amyntas learned much military strategy from his stay at Thebes during the hegemony of Epaminondas (Diodorus 16.2.2); and Sertorius could entice the Iberians to support him with the promise of sharing his command with the Iberian boys trained in Roman ways (Plutarch Sertorius 14.2). [121] Here we may note simply that the Romans preferred, under ordinary circumstances, to exact children, in the sense of persons not yet sui iuris, and varying in age from twelve to forty years, and that they took independent adults only when circumstances so demanded.


Despite the notorious difficulties involved in studies based on numbers, due to the ease with which numbers are corrupted in the [43] textual tradition, a survey of those ancient

Table III Numbers of Hostages Exacted

Recipient State Donor State Number Exacted Donor State's Political Structure
Athens Opuntian Locrians 100 Autonomous city-states
Athens Samians 100* Democratic city-state
Syracuse Rhegium 100 Oligarchic city-state
Thebes Macedon 31 Kingdom
Thebes Macedon 51 Kingdom
Macedon Sparta 50 or 100* Oligarchic Monarchic city
Macedon Nysa 100 Oligarchic city-state
Epirus South Italy* 300 Autonomous cities familiae
Demetrius Poliorcetes Rhodes 100 Oligarchic city-state
Cleonymus & Lucanians Metapontum 200 Oligarchic city-state
Syracuse Bruttians 600 Oligarchic tribe
Sparta Achaean League 300 Oligarchic federation
Sparta Argos 20 Oligarchic city-state
Rome Veii*** 50 Oligarchic city-state
Cora and Pometia*** 300 Autonomous city-states
Arretium** 120 Subject to Rome
Carthage 150 or 100* Oligarchic city-state
Sparta 5 Monarchic city-state
Syria 20 Kingdom
Aetolian League 40 Oligarchic federation
Cephallenian cities (Same, Cranii, Palensia) 20 each Autonomous city-state
Sardinia 230 Autonomous cities
Nergobriges 100 Oligarchic tribe
Intercatia 50 Oligarchic city
Carthage 300 Oligarchic city-state
Numantia 300 Oligarchic city-state
Termessus 300 Oligarchic city-state
Numidia 300 Kingdom
Isaura Nova 100 Oligarchic city
Crete 300 Autonomous city-states
Bellovaci 600 Oligarchic tribe
Treveri 200 Oligarchic tribe
“[44] Trinobantes 40 Manarchic
Senones 100 Oligarchic tribe
Vellaunodunum 600 Oligarchic city
Commagene 2 Kingdom
Metulum 50 Oligarchic city-state
Segesta 100 Oligarchic city-state
Dalmatians 700 Autonomous tribes
Samnites Rome 600 Oligarchic tribe
Carthage Syracuse 400 Monarchic city-state
Carthage Salmatis 300 Oligarchic city-state
Carthage Spain* 300 Autonomous

The figures so marked are given differently in different sources or stated as alternatives for different age groups. For a discussion of these differences, see below, p. 85 n. 48.**These instances, unlike the others in this table, may not have been exactions specified by a treaty.***These incidents belong to Rome’s legendary period, and their historicity is dubious.[45] passages which attribute definite numbers of hostages to specific incidents may illuminate certain principles of selection. For lack of better evidence, I have assumed the general accuracy of the texts as they stand. The range in the number of hostages as related by ancient sources is remarkable, Octavian exacted 700 Dalmatians in his campaigns of 35-33 B.C. (Appian Illyrian Wars 28), while Antony took only two from Antiochus I of Commagene after the siege of Samosata in 38 B.C. (Dio 49.22.2). [122]

Both of these episodes, however, are unusual; for the most part, a range of 20-600 is far more typical, as can be seen from Table III. The factors which established this wide range deserve careful analysis.One such factor is, clearly, the population of the donor state. Had, for example, 600 hostages been exacted from Sparta in 195 B.C., there would have been severe military repercussions throughout the Peloponnesus, to the advantage of Philopoemen’s Achaean League. [123]

Although the reforms of the last kings and of the tyrants had ameliorated the critical shortage of free Spartan male citizens, the demand for hostages must have recognized Sparta’s depleted manpower. In like manner the relatively few hostages from the Cephallenian cities (Livy 39.28.6) reflect the inability of those cities to provide numerous citizens of the requisite quality. Nevertheless, population was by no means the only or even the major criterion. Such a criterion leaves unanswered the question of why each of the Cephallenian cities should furnish as many hostages as did the Seleucid monarch Antiochus III the Great of Asia or why Sardinia in 176 B.C. delivered 230 hostages (Livy 41.17.3) when Carthage had only one hundred or [46] one hundred fifty exacted in 201 B.C. (Polybius 15.18.8: Livy 30.37.6; Appian Punic Wars 54). [124]

The key to the solution lies in the quality of hostages which can be taken, itself a product of the donor state’s form of government. The quality of the hostages is in inverse relation to the number of hostages needed to guarantee the agreement and in direct proportion to the size of the ruling class. The obvious validity of this statement needs no argument. Neither the total number nor the names of the other hostages whom Philip V furnished at the conclusion of the second Macedonian War are known because Demetrius, son of Philip V, was the only one of real importance. The treaty with Antiochus III of Syria regulated the triennial replacement of all the Syrian hostages except Antiochus, the son of Antiochus III (Appian Syrian Wars 39); since Antiochus was the second legitimate son, only the firstborn son and heir apparent Seleucus could hove been a hostage of equal or greater quality. Control of the major families of an oligarchy was correspondingly more difficult, and that of a democracy almost impossible, which may partially explain the Roman preference for oligarchic or monarchic rule in states subject to her. The fact that the type of government was relatively more important than the size of population is evident from the disproportionately large numbers of hostages exacted from the Illyrian Dalmatians (Appian Illyrian Wars 28) and the Sardinians (Livy 41.17.3) compared to the modest numbers demanded from the Aetolian League (Polybius 21.32.10-11; Livy 38.11.6) and Antiochus III of Syria; [125] the many small, autonomous states of Illyria and Sardinia compelled the exaction of several [47] hostages from each one, combining to form a far greater total than was necessary for the much larger territory governed centrally by an oligarchy or monarchy.That the number of hostages is often in round figures - 20, 50, 100 and 300 are those most frequently encountered - should occasion no surprise. The popularity of 300 is more remarkable. As Ogilvie has observed, “300 is the traditional number in legend for hostages.” [126] Only one instance of 300 hostages in an historical setting appears to have firm contemporary substantiation, and that is of the Carthaginians exacted in 149 B.C. before the outbreak of hostilities (Polybius 36.4.6). In all other cases, the numerical detail occurs in authorities much further removed in time from the events described: 1) the Volscian hostages of 503 and 495 B.C. (Livy 2.16.9, 22.2); 2) the illustrious families sent to Epirus in 326 B.C. (Livy 8.24.5); 3) about 200 B.C., the obscure inhabitants of equally obscure Salmatis (Polyaenus 7.48.1); 4) the Termessan and Numantine hostages of about 143 B.C. (Diodorus 33.16.1), the Numidians of 108 B.C. (Orosius 5.15.7), and the Cretans in 70/69 B.C. (Diodorus 40.1.2-3; Appian Sicilian War 6.1). The last group is particularly suspicious because none of the treaties in which these terms were stated was ratified. It is difficult to imagine why the details of these failed negotiations should survive when the details from legal, ratified documents are so often vague or omitted altogether. It is even more troublesome to explain how a tradition since lost managed to be scrupulously preserved in a late, less reliable source while the extant and more contemporary authority remained silent. [127]

Moreover, the propriety of demanding the same number from the monarch Jugurtha, [48] the urban and decentralized Crete, and the prosperous but hardly enormous towns of Numantia and Termessus seems rather dubious, especially in light of the criteria of population and type of government.With the exception of 300, however, there seems little point in emending or discounting the numerical data. [128] Some of the figures are probably inaccurate, due to either scribal error or authorial imagination. [129]

As neither error nor imagination can be objectively demonstrated, nothing could be gained by denying wholesale the numerical accuracy of our sources, but neither should one assert total acceptance of them. Nevertheless, the inherent logic of the criteria of population and type of government, coupled with the wide range of the received numbers, strongly indicates a flexible and pragmatic policy.


That hostages should belong to the governing class of the donor state is certainly predictable; since the purpose of taking a hostage was to constrain the donor state to obey the wishes of the recipient state, the logical and obvious choice for the hostage was a member of the class which could guide the state into obedience. Naturally, the selection of a monarch’s relative, particularly a son, and of aristocratic family members occurred most frequently, as monarchies and oligarchies were the commonest forms of government. It is significant that individual names are most often associated with royal hostages (e.g., Demetrius of Macedon, Antiochus son of Antiochus III, Demetrius son of Seleucus IV), and, although other hostages were [49] also exacted at the same time, they were completely overshadowed by the royal relative. The implication is clear: the value of the hostage is proportional to his status. [130]

The evidence does in fact support the view that hostages normally belonged to the highest rank of the political structure of their state. There are two categories into which this evidence falls: 1) kinship with the kings or factional leaders: and 2) words denoting socio-political standing. The tendency to exact relatives of rulers needs no explanation, since in antiquity kinship bonds promoted both natural affection and religious sentiment. [131] Unfortunately, the condition of the surviving material does not permit an analysis of the types of relationship preferred, except that children clearly predominate; [132] in cultures with low rates of life expectancy, parents - who might otherwise have been most commonly the persons who constrained the conduct of the donor - [133] would frequently have predeceased their children’s mature career. The exaction of brothers (e.g. Philip of Macedon [Plutarch Pelopidas 26.4; Diodorus 15.67.4; Justin 7.5.1; Orosius 3.12.2], the brother of Asander [Diodorus 19.75.1-2], and the brother of the High Priest Hyrcanus [Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.247]), nephews (e.g., Antigonus’ nephew Ptolemy [Plutarch Eumenes 10.2-3] and Indutiomarus’ nephew [Caesar Gallic War 5.27.2]) and other relatives could have been prompted by the lack or unavailability of closer kin, or by a known hostility to members of the immediate family; [134] the scanty references to affiliation simply do not tell us the principles by which one or a few relatives were chosen from all the members of the leader’s family.The second category includes such descriptive adjectives as [50] πρῶτος, ἐπιφανέστατος, εὐγενής, ἄριστος, ἀξιολογώτατος, ἐνδοξότατος, πλουιώτατος, κάλλιστος, κράτιστος, nobilis, illustris, primus, and principes; like the nouns ἱππεῖς and equites, these words are the semi-technical terms for the wealthiest and must powerful citizens of a state, particularly an oligarchy. In the Macedonian monarchy, the body of men known as the “Friends” (ἑταῖροι or φίλοι and amici) sometimes were asked to provide hostages: in 368 B.C., to Thebes (Plutarch Pelopidas 27.3); to Seleucus in 286 B.C. (Plutarch Demetrius 48.1); to Rome in 197-196 B.C. (Polybius 18.39.5-6; Appian Macedonian Affairs 9.2: Zonaras 9.16: Plutarch Moralia 197A: Livy 33.13.14-15), in 172 B.C. (Livy 42.39.6-7), and in 168 B.C. (Polybius 29.4.6). On only two occasions do we find hostages described by a word indicating that they might have been of less exalted status, and those are the surrender of twenty Argive πολῖται to Cleomenes of Sparta (Plutarch Cleomenes 17.5) and of one hundred Rhodians to Demetrius Poliorcetes (Diodorus 20.99.3); we do not know more.Which factional leaders were likely to be the targets of an exaction? One might readily predict that a faction which opposed the recipient state would have supplied the greatest number of hostages: it is certainly reasonable to assume that the opponents of the recipient state stood in greatest need of restraint, and that families of proven loyalty to the recipient state were less likely to be compelled to furnish hostages. In theory; [135] but again the scanty information on the factional policies of individual hostages almost precludes conclusion. It may be noted, however, that the evidence derived from internal, extralegal exaction (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 4.83.3; 6.53.1; 6.84.2; [51] 8.43.4; Livy 24.31.12-13; Diodorus 33.15.1; Plutarch Cicero 18.1; Cicero Letters to Friends 10.17.3; Appian Civil Wars 3.91; 5.137) demonstrates the feasibility of this hypothesis in domestic practice.With regard to foreign policy, our comprehension of the faction hypothesis of hostage selection must rest upon three instances. In 169 B.C. at an assembly of the Aetolian League, Lyciscus, the leader of the pro-Roman party, urged that the supporters of anti-Roman policies deliver their children to Rome (Polybius 28.4.7); his avowed purpose was the quelling of the recent unrest in Greece. In the next year, Masgaba, speaking for his father Masinissa, requested that Hanno, the son of Hamilcar, [136] be substituted for another hostage, whose name is lost in a lacuna; he was politely thanked and told that the Roman Senate did not think it fair to exact Carthaginian hostages according to the discretion of Masinissa (Livy 45.145). When the Sequani and the Germans demanded hostages from the Aedui in 61 B.C., all the Aeduan leaders except Diviciacus delivered their children (Caesar Gallic War 1.31.8). Thus factional politics did play some role in determining the individuals chosen as hostages, but probably only if the recipient state had a previously established group of allies within the donor state.This very tentative observation may have a counterpoise in the exactions made to guarantee armistices. The donor party favoring an armistice seems to have selected the hostages, [137] and these parties are usually the ones who are already the most closely connected to the recipient state. In a state with two factions nearly equal in strength, such as Carthage in 203 and the Aetolian League in 191 B.C., the armistice party might well have difficulty in forcing the opposing [52] faction to supply hostages for a settlement which the opposing faction did not find desirable. Moreover, the anti-Barcid party in Carthage and the pro-Phaneas party in the Aetolian League would have been as eager to display their own good intentions as they would have been hard pressed to offer persons from the opposing faction. In these circumstances, it is possible that the hostages came from the party in least need of external control. [138]


The evidence for who selected hostages is fairly abundant; in 48 cases we are told explicitly which party chose the hostages. [139] In nine, or 18.7%, of these cases, however, chance played the largest role, for the hostages were seized or detained in an extralegal, usually violent, situation; the rape of the Sabine women (Plutarch Romulus 16.2); the Etruscan prisoners of war held by Tarquinius Priscus (ἐν ὁμήρων ... λόγῳ, Dionysius of Halicarnassus 3.57.1); Mucius Scaevola in 508 B.C. (Dionysus of Halicarnassus 5.31.2); the consular ambassadors at Cumae in 492 B.C. (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 7.2.3; 12.2); the Tarentine envoys detained by Pyrrhus in 281 B.C. (Zonaras 8.2); the residents of Rhegium captured outside the walls by Hannibal in 215 B.C. (velut obsides, Livy 24.1.7-8); the Syracusan army at Leontini in 214 B.C. (Livy 24.31.12-13); the son of the Ilergetes’ chief (Livy 34.12.7); and Philip’s proposed military levy from the Achaean League in 200 B.C. (in loco obsidum, Livy 31.25.8). [140]

A combination of circumstances was responsible for the detention of hostages such as these, and essentially anyone available at the time would have served. Thus it is not meaningful to speak of selection in these cases. [53]In ten other cases (20.8%), a recipient state or faction chose extralegal hostages in a more deliberate manner, because of the political position of the hostages themselves or because of a familial relationship to a leader: among the Greeks, Alexander the Great “honored” some Thracian chiefs by taking them with him on his Asian campaigns (Frontinius Stratagems 2.11.3), and Nabis in 195 B.C. arrested his potential rivals (Livy 34.27.7-8; 32.12); among the Romans, very much in the tradition of Alexander, Julius Caesar brought to Britain in 54 B.C. the Gallic leaders whom he believed to be disaffected allies (Caesar Gallic War 5.5.4), and the Pompeians Afranius and Petreius detained the Spanish leaders to prevent Spanish defection to the Caesarian cause in 49 B.C. (Caesar Civil War 1.74.5); following (probably unknowingly) the precedent of Nabis, the Catilinarian conspirators in 63 B.C. (Plutarch Cicero 18.1), the Republicans in 43 B.C. (Appian Civil Wars 3.91), and Sextus Pompey in 35 B.C. (Appian Civil Wars 5.137) attempted to seize targeted members of the opposing faction or their relatives; in 216/5 B.C. picked Campanian nobles garrisoned Sicily, serving both as sureties for Campanian loyalty to Rome and as troops against the threat of Punic and native uprisings, just as Spanish soldiers chosen by Hannibal protected Africa (Livy 21.21.11-13); the outrages which Diêgylis of Thrace inflicted upon the relatives of those who had fled Thrace for the safety of Pergamum were meant as a savage retaliation upon disobedient subjects (Diodorus 33.151). These extralegal seizures and detentions, although they display the recipient’s conscious selection, do not indicate at all the procedure employed in a formal agreement, which is the only sort of exaction in which selection is a negotiable issue. [54]In the twelve unilateral exactions involving a treaty, the recipient state chose or approved the hostages in at least eleven. [141]

The sources for the ten Roman instances (including three of dubious historical validity) seem maddeningly vague on the method of selection, as if this were merely a matter of routine reporting; [142] even where we are told something more, it is sometimes very little (e.g., “from youths between fourteen and thirty years old” of the Treaty of Zama in 201 B.C. [Polybius 15.18.8; Livy 30.37.8], or “freeborn women,” in the Latin demand of 389 B.C. [Plutarch Romulus 29.4; Camillus 33.2; Macrobius Saturnalia 1.11.37; cf. Plutarch Moralia 313A]). In one case, the Roman general was limited, not only by criteria of sex and age, but also by the exemptions accorded to some magistrates ex officio (the στρατηγός, ἱππάρχος, and δημοσίος γραμματεύς), and to former hostages to Rome (Polybius 21.32.10; Livy 38.11.6). The former exemption is very like the other Greek incident for which we know who chose the hostages; in 304 B.C., Demetrius Poliorcetes could select one hundred hostages from citizens not in office (Diodorus 20.99.3). The difficulties which might have resulted from the detention of an official by an opposing foreign government are obvious. While no similar conditions are documented for other treaties, it is certainly a predictable limitation and quite plausibly would occur more frequently if complete copies of treaties, and not just summaries, were reproduced by our sources. [143]

It is difficult to know how a Roman general would have selected hostages in these cases. Did the donor government make suggestions? Two sources indicate that this did happen, and that the Roman commander had the right of approval (the Treaty of Zama [Livy 30.37.6] and the armistice with Nabis in 195 B.G. [Livy 34.35.11]). [55] Yet the temptation to be rid of worthless persons or political rivals would be enormous to a leader permitted to nominate his own hostage to a foreign power; the quality of such hostage would be minimal. [144]

If one knew enough of the donor state’s political situation, one could circumvent the problem of relying upon information provided by an enemy in whose self-interest it was to lie; one could demand hostages by name. Thus Scipio selected hostages from Antiochus III in 190 B.C. (Polybius 21.17.8), Pompey from Artoces of Iberia in 65 B.C. (Florus 1.40.28; Dio 37.2.6-7), and Caesar from the Treveri in 54 B.C. (Caesar Gallic War 5.4.1-2).The only bilateral exaction for which we have evidence on the criterion of selection is that of Perseus of Macedon and Genthius of Illyria in 168 B.C. (Polybius 29.3.4,6). Each king received from the other the hostages whom he wished, and it appears that each had a list - and definite ideas about the persons best suited for the purpose.But the recipient did not always have the ability to select hostages. In private agreements, the recipient sometimes did not possess the physical superiority to enforce his will with regard to his selection criteria and instead was compelled to accept what was offered. When the Greeks Themistocles (Plutarch Themistocles 19.2; Nepos Themistocles 7.2; Polyaenus 1.30.4) and Phocion (Nepos Phocion 2,4) pledged themselves as security for their statements, when Charon volunteered his son (Plutarch Pelopidas 9.5-7; Moralia 595) and Rheomithras (Xenophon Education of Cyrus 8.8.4; cf. Diodorus 15.92.1) and Memnon their entire families (Diodorus 17.23.5) for their loyalty to a cause, and when Agathocles guaranteed a truce [56] with Ophelas of Cyrene by the delivery of his son (Polyaenus 5.3.4), and when the anonymous Cumaean offered himself to prove the genuineness of his betrayal of his comrades in 492 B.C. (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 7.10.5-6), the recipients could apparently only accept or refuse the proposal; besides, the donors had already offered the most effective types of hostages. [145]

The Romans are attested as recipients in two such incidents, the detention of one of the two men who had declared their willingness to betray Nequinum in 299 B.C. (Livy 10.10.3) and the surrender of two of Masinissa’s retinue for a conference between Scipio and the Numidian prince (Livy 28.35.4).Two peculiar cases should also be classified as instances in which the donor was able to select the hostages. In 285 B.C. Seleucus I captured Demetrius Poliorcetes; Antigonus Gonatas, Demetrius’ son, offered himself in place of his father (ὁμηρεύειν ἕτοιμος ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὲρ τοῦ πατρός, Plutarch Demetrius 51.2; Moralia 183C). This incident, however, is quite extraordinary, and it cannot be brought into a more general context. The other episode is not really of the same type as the previous examples; in 361/0 B.C. Dionysius the Younger persuaded the Pythagorean Archytus and his followers to secure Dionysius’ promise to safeguard Plato in Syracuse (Plutarch Dion 18.2; 20.1). As the vocabulary of this anecdote is different from the others, [146] it is perhaps best to do no more than narrate it.Sometimes, however, a recipient did try to dictate the choice of hostages, usually because the donor sought a favor with particular desperation. [147]

The conference which Antigonus requested with Eumenes [57] in 320 B.C. (Plutarch Eumenes 10. 2-3), [148] the deal which Agathocles tried to negotiate with Deinocrates in 306 B.C. (Diodorus 20.79.4), and the aid which Cleomenes of Sparta in 223/2 B.C. asked of Ptolemy III Euergetes of Egypt (Plutarch Cleomenes 22.3-7) and the Messenians of the Achaean League in 219 B.C. (Polybius 4.9.5) all indicated to the recipient that the donor could not refuse to grant him his choice since the donor could not escape from a very difficult situation without the recipient’s cooperation.Although frequently in private agreements and regularly in treaties the recipient determined the choice of hostages, opportunities for deception remained. Plutarch and Macrobius recount that in 389B.C., in revenge for the rape of the Sabine women, the Latins demanded freeborn Roman women “for marriage alliances” from a Rome exhausted by the Gallic invasion (Plutarch Romulus 29.4; Camillus 33.2-7; Macrobius Saturnalia 1.11.35-40; cf. Plutarch Moralia 313A). Afraid to refuse, the Romans escaped humiliation first by the substitution of slave women and then by their successful surprise attack upon the enemy. The labored parallels and the general implausibility of the tale need no elaborate refutation; this is not an historical but a literary anecdote. But a comparison with the story of Popaedius Silo’s substitution of slave children and lead-plated goods in place of his own legitimate children and solid plate (Appian Civil Wars 1.85) produces an interesting question: could a recipient be deceived? There could be no point in deception if the donor sincerely meant to uphold his part of the conditions, for revelation of such a deception could probably negate the agreement. In both cases of substitution it is significant that the deception was meant as a temporizing measure until some resistance could be prepared, [58] while the recipient was lulled to a false sense of security by the donor’s apparent compliance. Was it possible to avoid giving the stipulated hostages by such means? Theoretically, it might seem, under certain circumstances, the obvious thing to try. Practically, the recipient’s knowledge of the donor’s circumstances, the strong possibility of betrayal by an informant - whether domestic, a personal enemy, or a foreign agent [149] - and the difficulty of an adequate impersonation over a prolonged period militate against the success of deception.Thus the selection of hostages was a variable factor which depended upon the relative strengths of donor and recipient. Yet it is almost certain that the ancient evidence, which probably reflects only the final stage of bilateral agreements, has omitted preliminary proceedings: the proposal of certain criteria, the acceptance or refusal of those criteria, the production of a list of names which was then either approved or rejected. One source, unfortunately the late and not altogether reliable Plutarch, has preserved an anecdote of the supposed negotiations between Antipater and Sparta in 331 B.C.; Antipater’s demand for fifty boys was met with a counterproposal of one hundred old men or women (Plutarch Moralia 235 B-C). Although the historicity of the incident is dubious, [150] we may infer that there existed the possibility of selection according to mutually agreeable criteria.

Temporal Restrictions

References to time in formal agreements fall into two categories: the period granted for the delivery of the hostages and the [59] term of service for the individual hostages and for the entire contract. The former category needs no explanation, since it is obvious that the donor state would have required some time to notify and transport the chosen persons, especially if the donor state covered a large geographical area (Caesar Gallic War 4.27.6, 7.12.3-4). Moreover, a delivery deadline is equally advantageous for the recipient state because it establishes a definite date and act by which the recipient may judge whether the donor state has accepted the terms of the agreement. Although relatively few truces and treaties are specifically said to include such a clause (Cato’s Spanish settlements in 195 B.C. [Polyaenus 8.17.1]; the surrender of Carthage in 149 B.C. [Polybius 36.4.6; Appian Punic Wars 77]; Caesar’s demand to the Pirustae in 54 B.C. [Caesar Civil War 5.1.8]; and Vercingetorix’s revolt in 52 B.C. [Caesar Gallic War 7.64.11]), it must have been a standard feature in all negotiations. The period of delivery is very imperfectly attested as “at a certain day” (Polyaenus 8.17.1; Caesar Civil War 5.1.8; 7.64.1), within thirty days (Polybius 36.4.6), or immediately (Caesar Gallic War 4.27.6). [151]

The evidence for the delivery date of hostages is scanty but straightforward. The second matter (i.e., the term of service), however, is full of problems, and the ancient authors seem to mention at least three possibilities which the single topic “length of exaction” covers: 1) detention of hostages as guarantees for peaceful conduct for a fixed period of time; 2) detention of hostages as guarantees for peaceful conduct until the performance of a certain act; 3) the term of service for individual hostages. [152] To the first category belongs the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C., which limited the hostages [60] to six years’ service (Polybius 21.32.10), a term identical to the period over which the war indemnity was to be paid. The remaining evidence may be organized around two very different questions.The first devolves upon the fate of those hostages who guaranteed an armistice which did not finally culminate in a peace settlement. Were such hostages returned to their own government or were they detained by the recipient state? In the case of four armistices our sources incorporate information on this matter. The clearest is that between Flamininus and Philip V of Macedon in 197 B.C., when Flamininus granted Philip a four months’ truce for the purpose of negotiating with the Senate a peace treaty; in return, Philip delivered hostages (including his younger son Demetrius) and two hundred talents, which were to be returned if Rome failed to ratify an agreement (Livy 33.13.14-15; Polybius 18.39.5-6; Appian Macedonian Affairs 4.2; Zonaras 9.16). In a similar incident, the conditional clause of the agreement has not survived, but the events demonstrate that it must have existed; in 151 B.C., the Roman general Marcellus repatriated the hostages of the Celtiberians after the Senate refused to ratify the preliminary terms (Appian Wars in Spain 50). The other two armistices require scholarly interpretation, and for that reason they have been used variously, both to support and to contradict the two preceding examples. In 83 B.C., during the civil war between the Marian generals and Sulla, recently returned from his victories in the East, the Marian L. Scipio received hostages from Sulla as pledges for a truce during which they were to discuss a settlement of their [61] disputes; when Scipio’s colleague Sertorius violated the truce by seizing Suessa, Scipio released the hostages without having been asked to do so (Appian Civil Wars 1.85).If our information ended there, the implication would be clear: the termination of the truce released the hostages from their obligation. But the narrative continues and Appian relates that the capture of Suessa and the return of the hostages, which Sulla had not sought, alienated Scipio’s troops from him, and they then deserted en masse to Sulla. If Appian has not misinterpreted the episode by assuming the defection was motivated by the truce violation, there are two possible explanations for this disaffection among Scipio’s soldiers: either they felt disgusted that Scipio had forfeited through treachery or stupidity so obvious an advantage, or they believed that Scipio and the other Marians did not wish to cease hostilities under a negotiated peace. In the case of the former, the disaffection indicates that release of the hostages was not the expected result of the truce violation, and in the latter that the release demonstrated the indifference of the Marian party to continued negotiations; the latter makes better sense of the curious emphasis on the fact that Sulla had not requested their return. [153]

The passage which has generated by far the most argument is a paragraph describing Scipio’s preliminary conditions for a settlement after the Battle of Zama. Appian (Punic Wars 54) had put into Scipio’s mouth a speech in which 150 hostages of Scipio’s choice, 1000 talents, and provisions for the Roman army would purchase an armistice while an embassy to Rome was prepared; should the Senate ratify the treaty, the hostages were to be released (καὶ γενομένων τῶν σπονδῶν ἀπολήψεσθε [62] τὰ ὅμηρα). Several questions have been posed by those who have compared this passage with the other accounts of the preliminary treaty (Polybius 15.18.8; Livy 30.37.6), but only two of these questions need concern us here. First, at what stage in the negotiations were the hostages delivered? Second, what is the meaning of the ratification proviso?The former query can be more cogently expressed in terms of what the hostages guaranteed. As the passage implies, the hostages must surely have guaranteed the peaceful conduct of the Carthaginians while their legation negotiated final terms in Rome, [154] and so it is reasonable to assume that these hostages were delivered almost immediately to Scipio. A comparison of this account with that of the Polybian-Livian tradition, however, discloses three points of disagreement; the total number exacted, their ages, and their purpose. [155] For Polybius, these hostages guaranteed the final peace. Since Polybius essentially identified the preliminary with the final ratified terms, and since Carthaginian hostages remained in Roman hands until at least 168 B.C. (Livy 45.14.5), Polybius’ interpretation is certainly valid. Moreover, we have another instance in which Polybius seems to have conflated preliminary and final terms; although Demetrius of Macedon served as a hostage in Rome from 197 to 191 B.C., Polybius did not include this condition in his description of the final treaty with Philip (18.44) but mentions it only in the preliminary negotiations, when Demetrius guaranteed the armistice (15.39.5-6). Similarly, Livy’s presentation of the campaign against Nabis (34.35.11; 40.4), which is based on Polybius’ narrative, [156] also describes the [63] exaction of the hostages from Sparta as pledges for the truce between Nabis and the Romans, and we may infer that he then simply omitted repeating these terms in the final treaty. Thus it should be clear that the discrepancies between the accounts in Appian and Polybius concerning the Treaty of Zama and its preliminary armistice in no way discredit Appian’s testimony, nor are the two accounts irreconcilable.The ratification proviso is more problematic. Deceptively reasonable at the first reading, it states that the hostages arc to be released on the Senate’s ratification of a treaty, which seems to be consistent with the assumption that they guaranteed the truce only; after ratification, the truce would no longer have pertained. But Appian did not refer to any subsequent exaction, and Carthaginian hostages were still furnished to Rome a third of a century later. Only two explanations appear to me to be possible: 1) Appian is correct but for some reason neglected to mention the second exaction; or 2) Appian is wrong. The first premise leads to an additional problem, the inefficient and clumsy second exaction. If the persons involved in the two exactions were substantially the same, their release and then second delivery to the Romans is incomprehensible and pointless. But if the two groups were substantially different, it is difficult to understand both why the first group was unsuited to further service after only a few months’ time, and from where Carthage would have obtained so large a pool of youths of the highest nobility, after the recent depletion of Carthage’s population of military age. [157]

Moscovich rightly perceived the difficulty of the received text when he asked what would have happened had negotiations failed. [158] [64] If negotiations during a truce lead to a final peace treaty, there is no need for the armistice to have settled the fate of the hostages for the period of time covered by the final peace; their release or further detention after the time of the truce may be included among the provisions of the final treaty. There is every need to determine their fate if negotiations fail, because there is no later opportunity for a discussion of the matter. Moreover, the purpose of a truce is to preserve the status quo. Possession of hostages shielded the recipient state from ambushes or surprise attacks by the donor; [159] a return clause would have protected the donor state from threats against the hostages after the truce expired. If the hostages indeed guaranteed Carthaginian good behavior during the truce, and the truce had ended in a failure to establish peace but without any violation of the armistice’s conditions, could Scipio have retained the Punic hostages? Retention was certainly expedient, as Aymard observed. His contention that the restoration of the Carthaginian hostages would have been folly for the Romans because it would have reestablished the armistice situation, to the benefit of the Carthaginians, [160] disregards both the legality of the case and the delicate position of Scipio and the Senate. [161]

Nor is it obvious how reestablishment of the pre-armistice situation otherwise benefited the Carthaginians significantly; Scipio’s army still held major portions of their territory, and even if the hostages were returned, the provisions and the money which paid the Roman troops could not be given back. Aymard postulated that the desperate plight of Carthage after the defeat at Zama obviated the necessity for the return clause natural in a negotiated [65] armistice and that such a concession would have been “misplaced generosity” in the victorious general’s terms to a defeated people. [162] This argument greatly exaggerates the strength of the Roman military position and ignores the complexities of Roman domestic intrigue. Scipio’s fear of replacement, the exhaustion of Rome and Italy, the resistance of which Carthage, a strongly fortified and armed city, was still capable, [163] all militated against any prolongation of the war in order to insist on unconditional surrender.Täubler decided that Appian (or his scribe) erred and emended Appian’s text by the insertion of a negative adverb: καὶ οὐ γενομένον τῶν σπονδῶν ἀπολήψεσθε τὰ ὅμηρα. [164]

Walbank’s objection to οὐ is commendable; [165] μὴ is preferable, but this is not a substantial criticism. Aside from the reservations which always attend an emendation of the received text when it is even slightly intelligible, there seem few explicit arguments against it. Aymard maintained, as we have seen above, the impracticality of Scipio’s release of Punic hostages for the truce but the inefficiency of, and lack of evidence for, a second exaction (both demonstrated by Moscovich) indicate the weakness of Aymard’s position. Täubler’s addition of a negative adverb has, moreover, the advantage of parallel incidents. [166]

Nonetheless, the emendation has not met with general acceptance, despite what I feel is the best solution to this difficult and perhaps insolvable problem.Appian’s account of the 300 Carthaginians at the outset of the third Punic War (Punic Wars 77) also supports the hypothesis that some conditions concerning repatriation were formally included in armistices and some treaties. [167]

The lack of such conditions was considered suspicious [66] by the Carthaginians and contributed to their uneasiness about Roman demands. It is of course possible that Appian contributed this detail from his rhetorical training rather than from his historical research. But no release of these hostages ever occurred; they lived out their lives in honorable confinement in Italy with other Carthaginian prisoners (Zonaras 9.30). [168]

The second question which arises from the surviving material on temporal regulations is a serious and important problem which we cannot answer: for how long did a donor state provide hostages? As noted above, the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C. specifies six years as the period for which hostages were submitted and the indemnity paid (Polybius 21.32.10). Did all donor states continue to furnish hostages only until the full payment of the indemnity? [169] We know that the Treaty of Zama established that Carthage pay fifty annual installments, and Punic hostages remained in Roman control until at least 168 B.C. (Livy 45.14.5). Philip V of Macedon received the release of his son Demetrius and the cancellation of his unpaid debt to the Roman treasury as a double gift in return for his aid to the Roman army (Polybius 21.3.3; Livy 36.35.13; Eutropius 4.3.3.; Appian Syrian Wars 20; Zonaras 9.19). Demetrius of Syria claimed that all legal pretext for his detention had disappeared by 164 B.C. (Polybius 31.2); [170] he had come to Rome in 175 B.C., and the last indemnity installment was paid in 173 B.C. (Livy 42.6.6-7). Can we assume that the obligation to supply hostages terminated with the final indemnity payment? I believe that the hypothesis is not unreasonable; but the evidence is too sparse to make such a hypothesis more than speculative. [67]Thus we may conclude that temporal regulations undoubtedly occurred far more often than the extant material indicates. An initial delivery date and some sort of expiration clause must have been included in almost every formal agreement, but the very frequency of such clauses probably made them seem routine and so contributed to the failure of ancient writers to relate them.

Mutatio Obsidum

The formal provisions for the exchange of hostages (mutatio obsidum) involve considerable uncertainty. Only one treaty actually describes the procedure, that of the Romans with Antiochus III the Great of Syria in 188 B.C. (Polybius 21.42.22; Livy 38.38.9; Appian Syrian Wars 39). All three sources agree that the exchange was triennial, and Appian supplies the additional details that Antiochus, the son of the king, was excluded from the exchange and that the Senate, not the consul, had added the entire stipulation at the time of the treaty’s ratification. There seems no reason to dispute either point. Unfortunately the only exchange of hostages pertaining to this treaty is irrelevant. When Demetrius, the son of Seleucus IV Philopator, replaced his uncle Antiochus at Rome in 175 B.C. (Appian Syrian Wars 45), Seleucus was attesting his personal guarantee for the treaty’s continuance. Since, by the terms of the treaty of 188 B.C., Antiochus was the only hostage exempt from replacement, it is impossible to consider Demetrius’ substitution for him in 175 B.C. as part of the formal conditions of the treaty of 188 B.C. The death of Antiochus III the Great in 187 B.C. had dissolved the agreement, and Seleucus renewed the compact. [171]

Whether the exchange clause was also renewed can only [68] be guessed at.The Roman-Aetolian treaty of 189 B.C., however, contains two stipulations deserving some attention in this context (Polybius 21.32.11). The first is the specified duration of the service of the Aetolian hostages, six years, which coincides with the number of yearly installments to be paid on the war indemnity. [172]

The second is the replacement of any hostages who should meanwhile die. In view of the youth of the selected hostages (twelve to forty at their selection, and thus eighteen to forty-six on their restoration, Polybius 21.32.10; Livy 38.38.6) and the short period of detention, this replacement clause is a very cautious, conservative measure. It appears reasonable to assume that similar clauses were inserted in other treaties, especially when the detention period was greater. [173]

Moscovich has rightly and convincingly argued that no reference to mutatio obsidium can be understood from this treaty. [174] Still, the obvious utility of a provision for the replacement of hostages who die, despite its peculiarity to the Aetolian treaty, suggests the possibility that the ancient sources may have omitted clauses of little importance either because they were standard and customary (and therefore uninteresting) or because the circumstances under which they were to become operative did not arise. Whatever the case, the lack of evidence in other treaties does not mean that some arrangement for exchange, either by formal stipulations or by custom, should not be understood as a standard feature of such treaties.Again, the most significant episode for this type of clause is the Treaty of Zama in 201 B.C. The annalistic sources of Livy [69] describe two occasions, one in 199 B.C. and the other in 181 B.C., on which hostages were restored to the Carthaginians (Livy 32.2-4; 40.34.14). [175]

The reliability of these sources has been seriously impugned, and the occasions have been entirely discounted. [176] It is true that some of the annalists preferred creative fiction to historical fact, but it is equally true that others were fairly accurate historians, and this is precisely the sort of technical information which is likely to have been preserved in the official records. The mere absence of supportive evidence from independent sources, Polybius in particular, ought not be lead us to dismiss the possible merits of annalistic material without a hearing.In each passage it is said that one hundred hostages were restored. The verb used is reddere, in which there is no unequivocal denotation of “exchange” in the sense needed here. [177]

Immediately one recognizes the difficulty of restoring 200 persons when only 100 or 150 hostages were exacted by the treaty of 201 B.C. [178] Moscovich, however, has observed that the hostages delivered to the Romans for the violated armistice of 203 B.C. (Polybius 15.8.7) could be grouped with the other Carthaginians held in Italy; if so, reddere could mean outright restitution. [179] Thus we are not obliged to recognize as evidence for mutationes the “restorations” of 199 and 181 B.C., but a subtler factor may convince us that mutationes took place. Carthaginian hostages were detained in Italy until at least 168 B.C., when Masgaba, Masinissa’s son, demanded that Hanno, son of Hamilcar, be substituted for some other hostage (Livy 45.14.5). At that time hostages exacted according to the age requirements in 201 B.C. would [70] have been forty-seven to sixty-three years old and could hardly be expected to survive many more years. It seems unlikely that the government which carefully stipulated replacements for the Aetolian hostages who died during the six years of their detention would permit the gradual loss of Carthaginian hostages through death and increasingly poor health over thirty-three years. Moreover, the value of a hostage who was absent from Carthage for a third of a century would almost certainly have been much less than that of a hostage who had been in the city more recently; the personal bonds between the hostages and their friends and relatives would significantly weaken, thereby seriously impairing their value as hostages. The inevitable shifts in political influence of the oligarchic families posed a further danger, if hostages were taken only from families important in 201 B.C., for their influence may have been eclipsed by that of others not related to the Carthaginians in Roman control. [180]

We may also infer that Masgaba’s proposal to have Hanno sent to replace some other hostage was apparently a reflection of Masinissa’s attempt to restrain the anti-Numidian policy of Hamilcar, Hanno’s father.Clearly some provisions for exchange were necessary, and it is possible that the “restorations” of 199 and 181 B.C. were in fact exchanges. [181] How often and at what intervals might exchanges have taken place? The years 201, 199, 181 and 168 do not permit us to infer the existence of any regular system except that of annual replacement, which is improbable because of the large number of persons involved if no duplication was allowed. [182]

It would have been impossible, if there were one hundred new hostages every year, to maintain a principle [71] of selection from the best families, since the age limit was restricted to men aged fourteen to thirty years old, and Carthage was governed by relatively few families. Moreover, the administration of details such as selection, transport and quartering for frequent exchanges would have been extremely cumbersome. Aymard is probably correct in asserting that replacement was irregular rather than “a solidly established usage” codified in custom if not in the treaty itself. [183]

Two other passages appear to concern the practice of mutatio obsidum. After Opimius’ victories on behalf of Massilia in 155 B.C., he compelled the Ligurians to supply the Massiliots with hostages κατά τινας τακτοὺς χρόνους (Polybius 33.10.12). The tantalizing plural χρόνους tempts one to consider it probable that the treaty contained a formal exchange procedure, but the lack of further explicit evidence prevents one from having more than suspicion. Phillipson has classified this incident with examples specifying the time allotted or the delivery of hostages, [184] but the plural puzzles me.Describing Augustus’ moderation toward barbarian chiefs, Suetonius wrote: et tamen potestatem semper omnibus fecit quotiens vellent obsides recipiendi (Augustus 21.2). Aymard has admirably discussed the difficulty in translating recipiendi as “taking back”; if the barbarian leaders could seek restoration of their hostages, surely they would do so once for all as soon as possible. [185] There would be no point in the exaction if hostages could be immediately reclaimed. In this context the verb recipere is the active equivalent of the passive reddi, and the confusion which Suetonius’ remark has produced is due as much to its brevity as to his assumption of his [72] readers’ knowledge of the general practices concerning hostages.

Hostages From Non-contracting Parties

It is perhaps ironic that a provision concerning hostages which embodies one of the most logical peace terms has left almost no surviving evidence for its existence. When one nation has ceded to another its claim on some piece of land, it is well-nigh inconceivable that the first nation should be allowed to keep hostages from the ceded area, for in that case, the loyalty of the inhabitants to the new ruler would undergo a severe strain from the outset. Caesar clearly understood that the Aeduan hostages in the power of Ariovistus and the Germans constituted a distinct threat to Roman authority in southern Gaul, and his presentation of this pretext for his German campaign of 58 B.C., must have been amply appreciated by his contemporaries (Gallic War 1.33.2). [186]

Other examples of the repatriation of hostages are not uncommon, but such restorations were usually due to the fact that the hostages had been captured by a third party (i.e., neither the donor nor the recipient). [187] Only three passages, to my knowledge, specifically treat the release of hostages from a non-contracting state as part of the formal negotiations for peace, and they refer to separate events in different authors. Two are incontrovertible. In 201 B.C., the Carthaginians agreed to release the hostages whom they had been keeping from states that were now, as a result of the new treaty, outside the new boundaries of the Carthaginian empire (Appian Punic Wars 54). [188] Second, Pharnaces was to return to Ariarathes all the places which had formerly been in Ariarathes’ territory and the hostages therefrom, in accordance with the treaty of 180/179 B.C. (Polybius 25.2.6). [189] [73]

The third passage has generated much more discussion because of its singularly problematic character. Nonius Marcellus in his compendium of unusual Latin forms preserved some lines from Naevius’ Punic War. id quoque paciscunt, moenia ut sint quae Lutatium
reconcilient; captivos plurimos idem
Sicilienses paciscit obsides ut reddant
[190] The last line is the crux of this discussion; the textual variants and emendations for the first two lines need not concern us here. [191]

The role of idem, however, is important for an understanding of the line. Is it a part of the Naevian text, functioning as the nominative pronoun which is the subject of paciscit, or is it Nonius’ reference to Naevius, introducing a second citation from the same author?If Warmington’s punctuation of the passage in Nonius is correct, it must follow that idem refers to Lutatius (or, less plausibly, to another Roman negotiator) and that the lines belong to the peace terms of 241 B.C. which, we must assume, were described in Book VII. Warmington postulated the Carthaginians as the subject of paciscunt and the Sicilians as the subject of reddant. [192] Thus the Roman general would have stipulated that the Sicilians repatriate the Carthaginian prisoners of war who were held as hostages. [193] Several objections have been raised to this hypothesis, most notably by Täubler. [194]

With the exception of Hiero’s domain, the Romans controlled Sicily, and the repatriation of Carthaginians held prisoner in Sicilian cities [74] could not have been the subject of an agreement with Hamilcar. Normally, the prisoners of war of a defeated nation were ransomed, detained as prisoners, or sold as slaves. [195]

Moreover, since the armies of Carthage were primarily composed of mercenaries, it is difficult to comprehend why Lutatius demanded that the already financially embarrassed city significantly add to her troubles by releasing mercenaries who would return to demand wages. The hypothesis of Leo and Warmington is seriously undermined by the complexity of a single line’s reference to three nationalities, by the lack of evidence for Carthaginians under Sicilian control at the end of the First Punic War, and by the fact that such an agreement would have contradicted the usual practice in the matter of the prisoners and/or hostages.If Nonius inserted idem to signify the beginning of another Naevian quotation in which the active verb pacisco was used, it is no longer necessary to supply Lutatius as the subject of paciscit. Cichorius on this basis proposed a quite different interpretation of the fragment, citing as further evidence for the separation of the passage into two fragments the alteration of the plural paciscunt to the singular paciscit. [196]

He argued that Sicilienses modified the accusative obsides, which suggested to him as the understood subject of paciscit Hiero II of Syracuse. He maintained that only Hiero could have given Sicilian hostages and that Hiero was the sole Sicilian candidate for the singular verb in this context. The hostages would have been exacted by the treaty made with the Romans in 263 B.C. as guarantees for the fifteen installments of the war indemnity levied on [75] Syracuse. [197]This line, Cichorius believed, belonged to Hiero’ s request for their return by the Romans after the last installment was paid in 248 B.C. and would therefore be more properly assigned to Book VI than to Book VII.While Cichorius’ hypothesis is supported by a suitable occasion for the exaction of Sicilian hostages, no other evidence corroborates its assumption that hostages were in fact given to the Romans by the Syracusans. Nor has Cichorius adequately explained why a fragment of Book VI should follow, rather than precede, a fragment of Book VII; Nonius tended to preserve the order of his citations, [198] which inclines one to suspect that this line not only belonged to Book VII but also followed the other line(s), although possibly after an interval. [199] The verb paciscit also seems peculiar. The agreement was contracted in 263 B.C., and unless the verb refers to a renewal of the Roman-Syracusan alliance on condition that Hiero’s Sicilian hostages were returned, it is difficult to understand it in its usual meaning. [200]

In view of Hiero’s care to sustain a cordial, perhaps even a fawning, subordination to his Roman allies, a request for the repatriation of hostages before the end of hostilities is uncharacteristic; the Romans might well suspect treachery if Hiero seemed too eager for their release. [201] The interpretation offered by Täubler best settles the problems raised by this perplexing passage. [202] The subject of paciscit is Lutatius, that of reddant the Carthaginians, and Sicilienses modifies obsides. Thus the Roman general sought concrete demonstration of the Carthaginian concession of Sicily by stipulating that the Sicilian hostages be restored. How had the Carthaginians obtained Sicilian [76] hostages? Täubler proposed that the Carthaginian generals campaigning in Sicily would have taken hostages from whatever territory lay in their control to prevent defection to the Romans and to safeguard themselves from guerrilla attacks. Again, however, there is no positive evidence to prove that the Carthaginians, who had taken hostages from Hecatompylus (Theveste) in Numidia in 243/2 B.C. (Diodorus 24.10.2) and from Syracuse in 289 B.C. (Diodorus 21.18), exacted Sicilian hostages during the First Punic War, [203] but that they did so seems a reasonable assumption.The many difficulties inherent in trying to glean as much information as possible from so fragmentary a work as Naevius’ Punic War preclude any final solution of all the questions surrounding this line. Nevertheless, a fairly strong case has been made by Täubler which would group this fragment with the restorations of hostages in 201 and in 180/179 B.C. (Appian Punic Wars 54; Polybius 25.2.6); [204] the Naevian incident is thus not without parallel. [205]

The logical necessity of demanding the release of hostages from surrendered territory very early in the negotiations may plausibly account for the scarcity of references to such a practice; the condition was probably fulfilled immediately, before further terms were contracted, and so it was rarely recorded in the official final agreement.


What, finally, may be postulated about the “typical” regulations concerning hostages in Roman practice? [206]

On the basis of the evidence presented in this chapter it is possible to reconstruct the general characteristics of most of the hostages exacted by Rome in [77] the Republican period and to offer a list of clauses which in all likelihood were routinely employed whenever suitable circumstances arose.Hostages taken according to a ratified treaty were usually young men, in the sense of the Latin word adulescens; [207] selected by the Roman magistrate in whose provincia the territory of the co-contractant lay, they were chosen from the highest-ranking families of the governing class. Their number depended on the quality of the hostages provided, and quality was a function of kinship and/or personal tie to the actual ruler or member of the ruling class. It is reasonable to assume that treaties typically included clauses in which the length of the hostageship of individuals and of the exaction as a whole was specified, and that provisions governing substitutions and restorations were clearly spelled out, as well as the procedures for any other foreseeable contingencies.If we compare several Roman treaties, we can reconstruct a composite agreement which may allow us to consider hostage regulations in relation to each other and as a unified group. Such a composite agreement might include the following conditions: the government will give to the Romans x males as hostages; the hostages will be between twelve and forty years old; they will serve as hostages for y years which will either be the complete period for which the donor is to provide hostages or the period for which the individual hostages serve; they will be chosen by the Romans; exceptions may be made for certain magistrates and former hostages to Rome; [78] hostages will be provided for a total of z years/until a certain event occurs; then they will be released; if a hostage dies, another is to replace him; they will be delivered by a certain date and to a certain place or a certain official. [208]

Of course, as seen in the discussion of the individual clauses, there was a great deal of flexibility within each limitation. Nevertheless, despite the failure of every extant treaty to include all eight conditions, I believe that these eight conditions must have been determined by negotiations between the contracting parties; although they may not have needed formal recognition in the treaty itself, some sort of agreement on these points would have been mandatory in almost every case.Armistices involved somewhat different criteria. Since an armistice usually covered a very short period of time, the hostage regulations were not as stringent or as elaborate as those for treaties. The salient characteristics are: the government will give to the Romans x males as hostages; the hostages will be detained for the period of the truce, and for a longer period, if the peace settlement should require it; they will be delivered by a certain date and to a certain place or a certain official; if the donor government holds hostages from land which is to be ceded, those hostages will be released. Although other restrictions may also have been applied to the hostages who guaranteed a particular truce, such restrictions were less uniform than those which usually attended treaties; the short duration of service and the sometimes limited number of people available prevented [79] the employment of the full rigor of a formal exaction.In both types of agreement, however, it should be clear that there were basic criteria which could be altered according to the particular situation. The Romans by no means adhered to an unchanging list of specific demands, but negotiated within a range of requirements.

Chapter 3: Roman Conduct toward Foreign Hostages [94-132]

A meticulous examination of the evidence concerning Roman conduct toward and treatment of foreign hostages is crucial to an understanding of Roman policy on hostages and its probable intended results. The difficulties involved in such an examination are threefold. First, material relating to the period of detention, when Roman authorities actually held the hostages, is scanty, and in many cases this material is based upon a single source. Thus we can neither assess the accuracy of the information nor compensate adequately for authorial bias. [209]

Second, the evidence which we have concerning the period of detention has been interpreted, we must assume, in the light of the hostage’s later fate, and we can undoubtedly assume that the ancient writers frequently supplied suitable elaborations, emendations, suppressions, and inventions of fact. Last, there is no method for determining conclusively the degree to which the few individual cases about which something is known are typical of Roman practice in general. [210]

This is due partly to the paucity of apposite data and partly to the nature of historical narration: ordinarily, it is the unusual rather than the commonplace which is described. We must therefore proceed with caution in a most careful analysis of the surviving evidence.Nevertheless, since the ancient literary sources are all we have, we must also utilize them to the fullest. It is particularly unfortunate that, in addition to the problems mentioned above, information on only [95] two subjects emerges: the places of detention, and the privileges which governments allowed the representatives of foreign nations who were held as hostages. We are given almost no explicit information concerning domestic details, friendships among the hostages themselves or between hostages and Romans, or Roman attitudes toward hostages, although some scholars have speculated about individual hostages. [211]

In these matters, therefore, we can only make inferences. First, however, we must concentrate on what can be stated with some confidence about the physical disposition of hostages after their delivery to the recipient government.


The place of detention to which the donor government sent hostages was reported more frequently than any other detail concerning their treatment. There is no obvious reason why this should be so, although it may suggest that the place of detention was of some interest and not entirely predictable. For cases in which the escape or recovery of hostages figured or in which the hostages’ whereabouts were otherwise important to the subsequent events (e.g., the display of hostages before the walls of Same, Livy 38.28.9), the place would have been a necessary part of the episode, but such cases form only a small portion (ten cases, or 14.5%) of the total. [212]

Whatever the reason for the inclusion of this type of information, we must be grateful. [96]

Table IV Distribution of Places of Detention According To Nationality Of Recipient State

In a Military Camp In Subject or Allied Territory In Own Territory Other Total
Greek 3 (13.6%)* 2 (9.1%) 11 (50.0%) 6 (27.3%) 22
Roman 17 (42.5%) 3 (7.5%) 20 (50.0%)** 0 (0.0%) 40
Other 1 (11.1%)*** 3 (33.3%) 4 (44.5%) 1 (11.1%) 9

1 Of these three instances, all of which belong to the campaigns of Alexander, two (Frontinus Strategems 2.11.3; Polyaenus 4.3.30) attest the physical presence of hostages in Alexander’s camp, but the third, describing how the Spartans had so declined from their military excellence that they had sent hostages to Alexander (Aeschines Against Ctesiphon. 133), may be meant only figuratively, as Alexander’s regent Antipater appears to have conducted the negotiations with Sparta (Plutarch Moralia 235B). The testimony of Aeneas Tacticus (1.10.23) is not relevant here, because the hostages in the enemy camp would probably have been brought expressly for the siege; see pp.177-83 below for an analysis of this passage and broken agreements in general.

2 This single incident is the legendary case of Cloelia and her escape from Porsenna. Its value is highly questionable, but some elements of the story are probably historical; see below, pp.263-274.

3 Included in this category is an unusual episode only fleetingly mentioned by Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 14.290-2). In 43 B.C. Malichus attempted to recover his son, who was a hostage in Tyre, and flee to Judaea. Since at this period Judaea was governed as an annex of the province of Syria, it is understandable that Judaean hostages were kept in the territory of Syria rather than at Rome. Also included is the school for Iberian boys established by Sertorius in his capital and last bastion, Osca (Plutarch Sertorius14.2).

Even a cursory survey of Table IV reveals some significant differences between Greek and Roman practices in the matter of place of detention. The greatest dissimilarity, that of the marked Roman preference for accepting hostages in their own camp, can be easily traced to a difference between Greek and Roman procedures in negotiation. A [97] Roman magistrate usually was empowered with both military and diplomatic authority and could represent, subject to ratification, the entire Roman government. The Greek governments more often communicated between capitals by means of embassies, without intermediate negotiations carried out by the Greek commander in the field. [213]

The relatively short distances between many warring Greek nations may also account for the scarcity of hostages held in Greek military camps, for while lengthy travel time was ordinarily required between Rome and her enemies, at least from the third century B.C. on (precisely the period when our sources are fullest), no such difficulty existed for the neighboring states of Greece.One might well assume that a Roman magistrate would have kept foreign hostages in his camp only as a temporary measure, since providing shelter, supplies, and guards for potentially hostile aliens, particularly if they were numerous, [214] would have been distinctly inconvenient. This would have been especially true in the event of protracted campaigns against several peoples; the presence of one tribe’s hostages would not necessarily have prevented an attack by that tribe’s neighbors. Moreover, in the absence of a standing army or garrison, some other provisions for the hostages’ disposition would have been necessary before the army disbanded and the magistrate’s term of office expired. And some hostages are indeed attested as being elsewhere after their initial delivery to the camp (e.g., the hostages sent by Antiochus III the Great of Syria to Ephesus, who later appeared in Rome, Polybius 21.17.11; Livy 37.45.20; Summaries 41; 42.6.9., etc.). How long would this temporary detention in a camp have lasted? Although we do not possess any absolute dates for their detention in a military environment, none [98] seem to have remained long. In general, it is reasonable to postulate that hostages would have been kept in the camp itself or close at hand in the newly conquered territory until the entire campaign conducted by that magistrate had ended. [215] Some historical instances can be adduced in support of this hypothesis: in 189 B.C. the Roman commander displayed the Samean hostages before the walls of Same to induce the city’s second surrender to him (Livy 38.28.9), as Alexander had paraded hostages before an Indian city as proof of his honorable treatment toward surrendered people (Polyaenus 4.3.30); [216] in 61 B.C. Albanian and Iberian hostages who had first been dispatched to Pompey in Asia later graced his triumphal procession in Rome (Plutarch Pompey 45.5; Dio 37.2.7). The behavior of Caesar in Gaul indicates the essential accuracy of this hypothesis. In addition to the four cases of hostages sent directly to Caesar (Gallic War 3.27.1; 4.18.3; 8.20.2; 8.46.2), and those sent to the town of Samarobriva, which served as a temporary headquarters for the Roman army (Gallic War 5.47.2), Noviodunum, a town of the Aedui, is mentioned as a repository for Gallic hostages (Gallic War 7.55.2; Dio 40.38.2). [217]

Under the protection of a Roman garrison in allied territory, these hostages would have been securely in Roman power, had not the Aedui defected to join Vercingetorix. Although no source declares that Gallic hostages swelled the procession walking before Caesar’s triumphal chariot, it seems very likely that such was the case, to judge from the precedents of Flamininus in 193 B.C. (Eutropius 4.2.3; Orosius 4.20.2; Livy 34.52.9) and Pompey in 61 B.C. (Plutarch Pompey 45.4; Appian Mithridatic Wars 117). [218]

Why would a Roman commander wait until the conclusion of his entire campaign to send his hostages to Rome? I surmise that the general would have preferred to keep hostages close at hand until he was sure [99] that all resistance had ended and that the agreement had been ratified in good faith by both governments; their presence could guarantee swift restoration or retaliation, if either should prove necessary. Further, the frequent detachment of sufficient troops to guide and safeguard the hostages on the way to Rome might easily have hampered later military operations. Nor is the greater dramatic effect of the total number of hostages displayed at once likely to have been overlooked by the ambitious general eager for popular acclaim. Thus it seems fair to conclude that hostages may have spent up to a year or perhaps more in the “temporary” confines of the camp or garrisoned town.It is obvious that, for both the Greeks and the Romans, it was unusual to detain hostages within the newly subjected territory. Two of the three Roman examples of this procedure belong to the Caesarean conquest of Gaul and have already been examined; the third, the removal of Penestini and Parthini hostages to Appollonia and Epidamnus respectively (Livy 43.31.2-3) may be likewise a “temporary” measure or simply the coastal towns from which they immediately took ship for Rome. [219]

The Greek incidents are puzzling. Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse, left the Bruttian hostages under a garrison on the Italian mainland; shortly thereafter, the Bruttians rose up, defeated the garrison, and recovered the hostages (Diodorus 21.8). Why Agathocles failed to consider this possibility and to act accordingly is rather mysterious, for one must conclude that either Diodorus’ account is erroneous or that Agathocles was quite foolishly trusting in the integrity of the Bruttians, in the strength of his mercenary garrison or in the restraining power of the Bruttians’ fear for the hostages. In the only other Greek instance, Demetrius I Soter of Syria allowed [100] the Judaean hostages to live in the citadel of Jerusalem under guard (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.17); it is possible, although it cannot be proved, that Demetrius took into account Jewish dietary restrictions, for Demetrius, unlike his uncle Antiochus IV Epiphanes, seems to have avoided giving religious offense where he could.Although detention within enemy territory is unusual in the Greco-Roman world, it does occur in other Mediterranean cultures. Despite the paucity of examples from such cultures, which so limits the basis of comparison that valid generalizations are impossible, it is curious that the Carthaginians are three times mentioned in ancient sources as maintaining hostages for a long time in the vicinity of their native tribes. The earliest reference is found in Diodorus Siculus (23.5) for the year 263/2 B.C., when the Carthaginians, fearing that the Tyndarians might betray their city to the Romans, exacted hostages from Tyndaris and removed them to Lilybaeum. While the Punic stronghold in the western part of the island was certainly a safe repository and indeed remained so until the end of the First Punic War, nevertheless it is interesting and perhaps significant that no non-African hostages are attested in Carthage itself. [220]

Even more interesting is the Punic treatment of Iberian hostages. Since the historical validity of the Abilyx episode has been disputed and it has been considered by some scholars [221] a mere duplicate of a later incident, it is appropriate to examine first the historically genuine episode. In 209 B.C., Cartagena, the Punic capital of the central part of the peninsula, was seized in a brilliantly conceived and directed raid by Roman troops under P. Cornelius Scipio, later surnamed Africanus. Besides the money, booty, supplies, and other goods which Scipio thereby acquired for the [101] Romans or at least kept his Punic foes from using, Scipio gained control of the Iberian hostages surrendered to the Punic commanders during their subjugation of Spain. Scipio then restored these hostages to their families in return for their tribes’ alliance to the Roman cause. [222] It is incontrovertible that in this case a Punic garrison in a major Punic outpost was intended to guard the hostages from tribes within striking distance of Cartagena and, since there is no ground for supposing their eventual transfer to Carthage, that this place of detention was permanent. [223]

An earlier incident is said to have occurred in 217 B.C., when the Iberian Abilyx deceived Bostar, the Punic commander at Saguntum, into entrusting him with the restoration of the hostage children there, an act designed to promote the popularity of the Carthaginian cause in the face of the Roman invasion. Instead of delivering the children and the presents which Bostar had given him to the parents, however, Abilyx brought both hostages and gifts to the Roman commanders Publius and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, who then received full credit for their subsequent restoration (Polybius 3.98-99; Livy 22.22.4-18; Zonaras 9.1). Critics of the story have observed that the similarity between these incidents--the restoration of hostages through the clemency of the Scipios--is clear, that the fullness of detail in the Abilyx story is itself suspicious, and that the location of the hostages in Saguntum is unlikely in view of the superior suitability of Cartagena. [224]

Nevertheless, none of these objections is entirely convincing. [225] Certainly a basic thread is common to both incidents; but it is significant that the means by which the hostages were secured for the Romans are totally disparate, as are the emphases of the two anecdotes. The [102] character and activity of Scipio are the pivotal points of the Cartagena episode, whereas the older Scipios are essentially incidental figures in the story of Abilyx’s treachery. [226]

Nor should the difference in conclusion escape notice; the elder Scipios gave away the advantage which their physical control of the hostages bestowed, but Scipio bartered them in return for alliances. To the charge of suspicious fullness no direct counter can be made, although critics must eventually answer why the authority of Polybius ought to be ignored in this case; the refutation of explicit information found in Polybius should not be undertaken lightly and without substantial cause. The final objection appears to be the most tenuous. Given the absence of examples other than the seizure of Cartagena and the Tyndarians detained at Lilybaeum, [227] it is very difficult to assert anything about Carthaginian practice or theory; as mentioned earlier, Agathocles’ policy toward the Bruttians appears to be neither logical nor customary, and yet there is no reason to disavow the incident. [228]

Until the Abilyx episode can be convincingly proven or refuted, it seems better to accept it tentatively as at least partially historical.From Table IV it emerges that another possibility, in addition to military encampments and subject territory, was available, although the Romans seem never to have employed it. In six cases, recipient Greek states entrusted hostages to a third party otherwise independent of the contracted agreement. The authority for the two earliest cases is quite late, and the story of the Samian hostages detained at Lemnos on behalf of Athens in 441/0 B.C. (Diodorus 12.27.2-4; Plutarch Pericles 25.1) could be fictitious. [229]

But no such doubt can be easily cast on the remaining four incidents, for they belong to a period whose historicity [103] is well illuminated, and all three are attested in authorities relatively close in time to the events they described.In 418 B.C., Arcadian hostages were kept in Arcadian Orchomenus by the Lacedaemonians (Thucydides 5.61.5); in 219 B.C., the Achaean League agreed to an alliance with Messene on condition that the children of the Messenian ambassadors to the League be hostages in Sparta (Polybius 4.9.5); in 173 B.C., to quell the internal dissension of the Aetolian League, both creditors and debtors agreed to surrender hostages, who were then detained in Corinth (Livy 42.5.12); finally, in 168 B.C., Perseus chose Cnossus, in Crete, as the place of detention for the hostages Eumenes had agreed to provide as sureties for his efforts to negotiate a peace between Perseus and the Romans in 168 B.C. (Polybius 29.8.6; Livy 44.25.8). The factor which determined the need for a third government also explains why the Romans did not use this alternative: the relative parity of the two contracting governments. If the Achaean League accepted the alliance with Messene, Messene would have become a member of the League, and the League would have been placed in the equivocal position of simultaneously dominating Messene through control of the hostages and granting equal powers to Messene as a member state. [230]

In view of the traditional enmity between Sparta and Messene, Messene could have expected no favors from Sparta, and it appears that, in selecting Sparta as the place of detention, the Achaean League appointed a guardian potentially more hostile to Messene than the League itself. [231]

Certainly the Aetolian hostages of 173 B.C. adhere even more clearly to the premise that a third party’s control maintained the equal balance of the two disputants. The negotiations between Perseus and Eumenes may even have suggested the necessity of a [104] third party which could have acted as arbiter, for the contract which was proposed seems to the modern reader indefinite and open to rather broad interpretation. Perseus was to pay a stipulated sum to Eumenes in return for Eumenes’ efforts to reconcile the Macedonian king to the Romans; Eumenes was to guarantee his efforts by means of hostages, whose number, place of detention, and degree of care were chosen by Perseus. It is probably all for the best that the agreement fell through, since the issue hinged on Eumenes’ good faith, and in the event of Eumenes’ failure the contract was too vague concerning both the money and the hostages. Nevertheless, the resemblance between this unratified agreement and the others is obvious: a third party prevented any clear dominance being established between the two contracting parties, and the degree to which the third party was biased in favor of the recipient state probably reflected the actual imbalance in the power of the two contracting states. [232]

The most common place of detention, somewhere in the recipient state’s own territory, requires little discussion, for the reasons for its frequency are manifest: ready availability for retaliation, difficulty in effecting escape or recovery, the psychological encouragement and sense of superiority which the hostages’ physical dependency fostered in the recipient state’s citizens. More nebulous was the possible advantage of bonding hostages to their keepers through specific personal ties or general feelings of gratitude. Much argument has arisen on this aspect of exacting hostages, usually in terms of the degree to which conscious Romanization was a factor or even a goal in Roman policy; an analysis of Roman behavior toward hostages throughout [105] the Republican period may provide some slight evidence on this important question. [233]

The earliest date at which the question of conscious Romanization emerges as an issue with reference to hostages is the Second Punic War. The two episodes from this war furnish the fullest information on the processing of these foreign representatives who were also captives. [234] In 215 B.C., after Roman troops had suppressed a revolt in Sardinia and had exacted tribute, grain, and hostages, the commander on his return to Rome delivered the tribute to the quaestors, the grain to the aediles, and the hostages, evidently now called captivi, to the praetor urbanus, Q. Fulvius (Livy 23.41.6-7). Three years later, in 212 B.C., the Tarentine Phileas approached the Tarentine and Thurian hostages who were guarded in the Atrium Libertatis and persuaded them to escape (Livy 25.7.10-14). [235]

Both incidents suggest that the responsibility for the hostages was public and magisterial, rather than private. The parallel construction which allotted tribute to the quaestors and grain to the aediles is a strong indication that the captivi were the concern of the praetor urbanus ex officio, just as the maintenance of hostages in a public building like the Atrium Libertatis implies that it was a public charge; it seems improbable that a private citizen could have assumed the authority necessary to regulate a public place. [236]

Later incidents demonstrate an altogether different pattern. With the conclusion of the Hannibalic War, allied Italy became secure from foreign invasion and in the following century grew increasingly Roman. Foreign hostages could safely be stationed outside the city itself, and as early as 199 and 198 B.C. Carthaginian hostages are found in the Latin colonies of Fregellae (Nepos Hannibal 7.2), Norba, [106] Ferentinum, Signia, and Setia (Livy 32.2.3; 26.5). Significantly, the Roman Senate, not a magistrate, assigned hostages to these colonies, presumably because the governmental structure of Latin towns permitted strong officials to whom the responsibility for the hostages could easily be delegated. [237]

The Thracian hostages exacted by Perseus and captured by L. Aemilius Paulus in 167 B.C. were in a like manner quartered in Carseoli (Livy 45.42.5-11), the Carthaginian hostages after 149 B.C. in various places in Italy (Zonaras 9.30), and Oxynta, the son of Jugurtha, in Venusia in 90 B.C. (Appian Civil Wars 1.42). [238]

The only documented exception to the Senate’s assignment of hostages to Latin towns is Antiochus, later King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria. For the second son of Antiochus III the Great, a house was built at public expense which, according to Atticus and others, later belonged to the poet Lucilius (Asconius Commentary on Cicero’s Speech Against Piso p.12K). Inasmuch as Lucilius, undoubtedly a wealthy man, [239] was content to own it half a century later, the house must have befitted Antiochus’ royal station. Unfortunately, the quartering of the other nineteen hostages tendered to Rome by Antiochus III the Great is unknown, but it is reasonable to assume that the distinction displayed by the Senate in [240]permitting his residence in the capital was at least in part due to his high birth and position as the second son of the Syrian monarch. Nor is it apt to be coincidental that Demetrius, son of Seleucus IV and Antiochus’ replacement as hostage to Rome, resided at least briefly in the capital; we cannot tell whether his quarters during his appearances before the Senate were permanent or just temporary (Polybius 31.2; 31.11). [241]

Although the evidence is very scanty and quite circumstantial, one might justly suspect that the place chosen by the [107] Senate for the detention of hostages was neither determined mechanically nor entirely without significance; the seemingly preferential treatment accorded Antiochus and perhaps the other Seleucid prince Demetrius as well argues for a conscious and fluid policy which can be asserted all the more confidently in light of other privileges granted them during their stay in Rome.


Only a handful of cases describe Greek treatment of hostages, but all suggest that Greek hostages were usually accorded care commensurate with their station in life. [242] That liberated hostages became proxenoi or received such honors as tax exemptions from the states which had detained them [243] argues for the mutual regard of hostage and recipient, an incredible situation had the recipient government infringed on the privileges normal to the hostages’ rank. Philip II of Macedon wished to reward Philo, his benefactor and guest-friend while he was a hostage (Plutarch Moralia 178C); a ridiculous story if hostages were normally mistreated. It is unfortunate that, in the three incidents which provide direct testimony concerning the care which Greek hostages enjoyed, the disposition of the hostages was one of the causes of the resulting situation, so that the value of the testimony may be impaired because of the unusual and perhaps exaggerated importance placed on the treatment of the hostages. A story told of Alexander by a late and not very reliable source is particularly instructive. To counter a report of his brutality, we are told, Alexander displayed hostages from the city he had most recently captured to a city which hesitated to surrender; the good physical condition [108] of these hostages mitigated his reputation as a savage, and the besieged city and others as well capitulated at this proof of his honorable conduct (Polyaenus 4.3.30). Even if this episode is historically accurate, it reveals very little about Alexander’s treatment of other hostages, since reasons of propaganda might have prompted his decency in this case. [244]

It is equally difficult to deduce much from the brief reference to Cratesicleia’ s retinue in Alexandria while she and her grandsons prevented a separate peace between Cleomenes and Antigonus Doson (Plutarch Cleomenes 38) or from the statement about the Judaean hostages held under guard in the citadel of Jerusalem during the reign of Demetrius I Soter (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.17). In the former case, the retinue appears to have been mentioned primarily to present the disaster in the worst possible light, since the members of the retinue were also murdered; besides the impossible problem of determining the retinue’s size, is the retinue perhaps a rhetorical means of showing that the massacre of the Spartans in Alexandria was complete? The mere fact of the presence of attendant women and the mere fact that the Judaean hostages were guarded can do little more than indicate that hostages in the Greek world could expect at least the trappings of respect and the reality of custody.The major exceptions to the usually considerate treatment of hostages are attested, predictably, in hostile sources: Duris charged Cleonymus the Spartan with exacting two hundred lovely women from Metapontum for the satisfaction of his own lust (Diodorus 20.104.3; Athenaeus 13. 605D-E); the Roman historians and Polybius contrasted the chivalry of Scipio with the abuses of the Carthaginians in New Carthage; [245]

Plutarch accused Philip of Macedon of poisoning the younger Aratus (Plutarch Aratus 54.1); [109] and Caesar composed a speech for Ambiorix in which Ambiorix expressed his gratitude for Caesar’s rescue of his relatives who had suffered servitude as hostages to the Aduatuci (Gallic War 4.27.2). The possibility of abuse, especially sexual assault, [246] is a frequent theme even when no actual harm occurs, and it appears in sources as divergent as Livy’s account of Cloelia (2.13.10), where it explains why she chose to release impubes when Porsenna allowed her to free some of her fellow hostages, and Polyaenus’ anecdote of Agathocles’ deception of Ophelas (5.3.4), which appears to assume that Agathocles’ son could delay the consummation of Ophelas’ desire for him until Agathocles could rescue him: less a rape than a determined seduction.It should be apparent, however, that even hostile sources did not usually report atrocities against the persons of hostages without another purpose in addition to blackening an enemy’s reputation. Although the fragmentary nature of Duris’ history precludes any certainty concerning his reason for mentioning Cleonymus’ mistreatment of the Metapontine women, Diodorus used the incident to illustrate Cleonymus’ betrayal of the Tarentine cause (20.104.4) and probably his eventual failure in South Italy. The clearest example of such a use of an anecdote concerning hostages to make a point is the episode which followed Scipio’s capture of Cartagena in 209 B.C. The disgraceful behavior of the Carthaginians toward their female Iberian hostages, so delicately implied by Mandonius’ wife (Polybius 10.18.7-15; Livy 26.49.11-15), differs sharply from the gallant conduct of Scipio, who was so morally superior to his Punic foes that at first he did not comprehend why Mandonius’ wife would request trustworthy guards. The juxtaposition of Punic brutality and Scipio’s charming naiveté [110] furnishes a contrast both flattering to a Roman audience and of exemplary morality, a dual purpose which has been, not surprisingly, embroidered and amplified with appropriate speeches. Nor is this contrast the sole reason for the incident’s narrative prominence. In accordance with his view of pragmatic history, it is the disaffection caused by the exaction of hostages in general (10.35.6) and their subsequent mistreatment (10.38.1-2,4) which Polybius chose to emphasize. The validity of Polybius’ attribution of Iberian discontent to the Iberians in his account of this episode has been accepted without comment by modern scholars. [247]

Similarly, Caesar inserted very artistically his restoration of Ambiorix’ s relations from what he portrayed as slavery to demonstrate his own generosity and the enemy’s cruelty and to depict Ambiorix’s later revolt from Roman allegiance in the most flagrant colors of rank ingratitude. [248]

It is completely predictable that such brutality does not overtly occur in Roman examples until the last half century of the Republic, when the losing sides in the civil wars stand accused of this and other atrocities. An analysis of individual episodes in chronological order, however, is perhaps the easiest method of deriving without prejudice what can be known or inferred about the care which Romans devoted to foreign hostages. The earliest information concerns the Tarentine and Thurian hostages in the Atrium Libertatis who, corrupted by Phileas, attempted to escape (Livy 25.7.10-14). [249] Their actual custody is described as minore cura (25.7.12), and the seeming negligence is dismissed because, says Livy, escape was inexpedient for both the hostages and their governments. The security measures which permitted the hostages to escape not only from the Atrium Libertatis [111] but from the city itself to Tarracina, some fifty miles away, can scarcely have been more than formalities, and this in spite of the Punic campaigns around Tarentum and Thurii which might have been expected to prompt the Romans to greater watchfulness. A second point is somewhat more subtle. Phileas, who seems to have been a representative of Tarentum, [250] was evidently allowed such free access to the Tarentine hostages [251] that he could persuade them to become involved in his conspiracy, a fact which demonstrates rather conclusively that the Romans did not monitor these conversations or at least failed to do so effectively. It would also appear that these hostages maintained contact with their government despite the restrictions imposed on communications by the Hannibalic War.The group of hostages about whom our information is fullest is the young Carthaginians delivered to Rome after the Second Punic War. [252]

In 199 B.C., a Carthaginian embassy, in Rome on official business, requested that the Roman Senate permit some of the hostages to change their place of residence, and the Senate concurred (Nepos Hannibal 7.2; Livy 32.3.4). Again, we observe that communication between the hostages and their government appears indisputable and that, since the Senate granted the request, suggestions concerning the hostages’ care formed an appropriate part of the diplomatic exchange between the two governments. A very interesting point is the reason proposed for their removal from Norba: ab Norba . . . ubi parum commode (sc. obsides) essent (Livy 32.2.4). From Livy’s statement it is impossible to determine whether the objection pertained to the town, to the general circumstances, or to the hostages themselves; the specific problem or problems which led the embassy to seek alternate quarters lie open to [112] speculation. [253]

Nevertheless, it is the obvious right to appeal which is of significance here. Whatever the reason for the dissatisfaction of the Punic hostages, they were permitted to complain to their own government, which could then petition the Roman government to ameliorate conditions, and the Roman Senate was willing to acknowledge such petitions.For the following year, 198 B.C., a remarkable and indeed unique episode is attested by the Roman annalistic tradition. A plot to touch off a slave uprising centered around Setia, with the alleged object of freeing the Carthaginian captives and hostages detained there (Livy Summaries 32; 32.26.5-8). Although the historical accuracy of the plot is basically irrelevant for the purposes of this study, [254] the skepticism which has attached itself to the narrative of the Setia revolt has spread to the details of the arrangements which followed the suppression of the plot and has cast doubt on the orders related in conjunction with similar unrest in Praeneste (Livy 32.26.15-18). Since these orders reflect upon the actual freedoms normally allowed to hostages, it is important to rescue them from the suspicions which encompass the framework in which they are embedded.There are essentially two arguments made against accepting Livy’s account of the uprisings in Setia and Praeneste: first, the implausibility of a servile conspiracy to liberate Punic captives and hostages; and second, the absence of these conspiracies from Polybius’ history, which indicates that Livy’s source was an unspecified annalist. [255]

It is no longer judged sufficient to discount an episode’s historicity merely because its source is an annalist. Many of the annalists, it is true, bowdlerized, exaggerated, or invented Roman [113] history, but for the greater glory of their families, their factions, or their idealized conception of a moral and patriotic past; it is not at all obvious what purposes the invention of abortive servile uprisings in Setia and Praeneste would serve. The major magistrate, L. Cornelius Merula, [256] has no elaborate role aggrandizing his personal career or the distinction of his family, nor does the suppression of a slave revolt merit special notice of acclaim, according to Roman standards of military valor. This police action possessed no political or military significance, and that might well explain why Polybius did not refer to it. Thus its annalistic origin should not prevent acknowledgement of its possible historicity.The plausibility of the uprising’s alleged purpose is a different matter. On the most superficial level, it is certainly unlikely that slaves, even those of Punic origin, would have risked their lives for the altruistic liberation of the Carthaginians held in Setia. [257] This objection, however, is not a serious one, if two circumstances are considered. First, only the Livian epitome (Summaries 32) asserts that the revolt had this intention; a lacuna in the full narrative (32.26.8) has been supplied on the basis of the epitome, [258] although the third source for the episode (Zonaras 9.16) has an entirely different scenario in which the hostages themselves rebel, and in that case there would have been no need of a slave revolt intended to liberate the hostages. Since the accuracy of the epitomes can be challenged in some places where they can be compared to the full text, [259] it is perhaps unwise to rely too heavily on this testimony, especially when a careless reading of the full account which has survived could very easily give rise to just such an impression as the one conveyed by the [114] epitome and by Zonaras: the Carthaginian hostages played a primary role in the unrest, as its objects or its instigators. Moreover, to infer from the epitome that the hostages’ release was the ultimate goal of the uprising is unrealistically rigid. If the slaves actually intended to free the Carthaginian hostages and captives they may have had more practical and cynical reasons than altruism or patriotism. Possession of the persons of these noble Punic youths could have materially advanced the bargaining position of the slaves, for the return of these nobles to Roman authorities could have purchased [260] clemency or safe conduct to territory outside Roman dominion, or - more dangerous to the Roman government - the release of these nobles might have enabled Carthage to abrogate their treaty with Rome and to resume hostilities in Italy. In view of the Gallic unrest, reputedly under Punic stimulus (Zonaras 9.16), it is possible that the slaves had planned to seize the Carthaginian hostages as a means to exact Carthaginian support. That the Romans feared another Punic war or even the possibility of such a war would account for the prominence of the hostages in events in which they were not personally involved. [261]

And this prominence of the hostages has the curious feature of being entirely passive in nature, which is inexplicable if Livy believed them guilty of conspiracy. Characterized throughout (32.26.4; 6; 8; 13; 15) as servile, the uprisings threatened Roman control over the hostages, and it is this threat to Roman security from foreign pressure [262] which condensed the report of the slaves’ intentions to the only one significant to the Romans: the seizure of Punic hostages and captives. [263]

If, as argued above, there is no compelling reason to dismiss from history the Punic slave disturbance of 198 B.C., on grounds of [115] either its annalistic origin or its “implausible” intention, it now becomes feasible to examine the details pertaining to the hostages’ care as probably representative of the usual treatment accorded them in their Italian residences. Livy wrote: cum iis (sc. obsidibus) ut principum liberis magna vis servorum erat; augebant eorum numerum . . . (32.26.5-6). The large number of slaves was the fitting and seemingly unremarkable consequence of the hostages’ socioeconomic status; one may reasonably postulate that the hostages enjoyed the comforts and luxury (at least those available to them in these small Italian towns) to which their position entitled them, despite their detention. Further, the Punic nobles could perhaps add (augebant) to their retinues while in Italy, which suggests that they had some financial independence as well. [264]

In a second piece of testimony, which describes the uneasiness at Praeneste, the curtailment of certain activities provides evidence for normal privileges. As one of a series of security measures designed to reassure the state that the slave uprisings had been completely suppressed and that the Carthaginians could not foment further trouble, L. Cornelius Merula, the praetor urbanus, [265] issued orders that hostages were to be kept in privato, with no opportunity of appearing in publicum (32.26.18). This prohibition is meaningless unless the hostages had previously had some freedom of movement, at least the minimal mobility offered by occasional forays into the public places of the towns in which they lived. There is an additional indication that the Punic hostages either stayed in Italian households or maintained their own houses; [266] since jails and temples were public property, from which Merula’s decree debarred them (unless this prohibition is a condensed report of a complete change in quarters), their normal [116] domiciles were private. Punic captives, however, were to be lodged only in public prisons and to be bound with shackles of not less than ten pounds; the clear distinction between the two groups of Carthaginians furnishes another, albeit negative, proof that hostages generally received considerate treatment more consonant with that of guests than that of victims.For the next century, the lives of other hostages for the most part substantiate the assumption that Rome treated these foreign guests with the respect which was their birthright. Only one hostage is said to have died while in Roman custody, which, if accurate, is certainly a good record. The dubious honor goes to Armenas, son of the Spartan tyrant Nabis, who was not restored with the four other Lacedaemonian hostages in 191 B.C. and who soon sickened and died (Polybius 21.3.4). Although his death may have been convenient for the Romans, who could have had little desire to see Nabis’ son and possible successor free to continue Nabis’ revolutionary policies in the Peloponnese, there is no reason to suspect that the Romans in any way aided his ailment, for his detention as a hostage would have served Rome as well as his death did.As a general rule, then, hostages enjoyed some freedom with regard to physical mobility, in addition to generous treatment with respect to their privacy and their physical needs; in both Greek and Roman society, hostages were accorded such visible proof of their elevated status as retinues. Nevertheless, these liberal policies could be cancelled without notice by the recipient state, and hostages could suffer not merely curtailment of privileges, but overt brutality, particularly sexual abuse, evidently without recourse or appeal. [117]

Hostages of the Second Century B.C.

The histories of the three royal hostages, Demetrius of Macedon, Antiochus of Syria, and Demetrius of Syria, offer different problems for the modern analyst. Demetrius of Macedon and Antiochus belonged to a group of hostages (e.g., Polybius 18.39.5-6; 21.42.22), and it is likely that Demetrius of Syria also had colleagues in his detention. [267]

But only the royal hostages figure in accounts subsequent to the initial delivery of the hostage group, and it is thus impossible to know whether these princes were separated from the rest for preferential treatment or whether their experiences were typical of the group. The question is further complicated by the factors of nationality and degree of civilization: is it reasonable to assume that the treatment of Macedonian or Syrian hostages is characteristic also of the treatment of hostages from less powerful or less sophisticated peoples?

No evidence remains to attest the privileges allowed the hostages whom Scipio Nasica exacted from the Boii in 191 B.C. (Livy 36.39.3), and it is perhaps too democratic to believe that the rather barbaric Cisalpine Gauls were granted the same license as Greek courtiers and princes. On a more pragmatic level, Philip V and Antiochus III were capable of dangerous retaliation if they were offended by injury or if insult were offered their hostage sons; in the second century B.C., the Boii never generated an equivalent feeling of respect in their Roman adversaries, and their hostages may have suffered some loss of privilege in comparison. A more disheartening problem for the modern scholar is the suspicion which arises when we find that the extant testimony about the time they spent in Rome was included in our sources specifically in order to illuminate or explain the later careers of these hostages. [118] The difficulties in analyzing such testimony are enormous, and for the sake of convenience, I have examined the accounts of hostages’ careers after their departure from Italy separately from their earlier detention. [268] In this chapter I shall concentrate only on what seems fairly certain about their residence in Italy.Concerning Demetrius of Macedon, few details are available. He graced the triumph of T. Quinctius Flamininus in 194 B.C. (Livy 34.52.9; Eutropius 4.2.3; Orosius 4.20.2-3). [269] According to Plutarch (Flamininus 14.2) Flamininus was influential in securing Demetrius’ restoration. [270]

Since the Scipios were the field commanders who benefited from the aid which Philip V of Macedon furnished and for which Demetrius was released, and since Flamininus and the Scipionic party frequently supported each other’s policies, [271] Plutarch’s attribution of influence to Flamininus is quite plausible. In 183 B.C. the Roman Senate chose to give a signal honor to Demetrius’ embassy, allegedly because of the favor which his conduct as a hostage had evoked (Polybius 22.14.9-11; Livy 39.35.2-3; Justin 32.2.3). The exact nature of this impressive conduct is unclear; Polybius’ account suggests that the young prince was expected to have made useful contacts among the Roman ruling class, and Livy and Justin mention his kingly nature (specimen indolis regiae) and his decency (uerecundia) respectively as the motivating element in the Senate’s decision. [272]

Information on Antiochus’ stay in Rome is even scantier. The sole evidence of value is that of Asconius (Commentary on Cicero’s Speech Against Piso p.12K), who says that a house was built for him at public expense. [273]

Since it later became the house of the wealthy poet Lucilius, it was probably an expensive edifice. No other financial details, such as the furnishings [119] or routine domestic expenses, are mentioned; whether the Roman government or Antiochus III covered the other costs cannot be determined. Nevertheless, this is the first concrete proof that the Roman government assumed any financial responsibility for the foreign hostages whom it detained.As king of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes always maintained a cordial relationship with Rome, even after a Roman official’s arrogant conduct toward him, [274] and this fact is obviously the basis for a remark which Livy wrote for Antiochus’ ambassador after his accession (42.6.9). The ambassador’s speech, which expressed Antiochus’ gratitude that he had been treated by all classes, not as a hostage, but as a king, is less a reliable historical statement than it is Livy’s own self-congratulatory comment on the Roman sense of propriety, but it may yet be true. However Antiochus had been treated while at Rome, Roman customs had impressed the Syrian prince, [275] and - whether from gratitude or from a less lofty motive - he never openly opposed Roman policy.The obstacles which Demetrius of Syria met throughout the course of his relationship with the Roman government and the measures which he was forced to employ in countering them were evidently unusual and so feature largely in the narratives which mention him. We are fortunate that the best historian of that generation, the Achaean Polybius, was not merely present during Demetrius’ later years of residence, but also a personal friend of both the young prince and of some important Roman senators. Moreover, Polybius actively abetted Demetrius’ escape, and his account of the prince’s earlier actions and of the escape itself has survived the mutilation from which other portions of his history suffer. The earliest incident, however, is an anecdote concerning [120] Demetrius and his cousin, Ptolemy VI Philometor. In 164/3 B.C., the Egyptian king was going to Rome to plead his case before the Senate, the self-appointed arbiter of the quarrel between the king and his brother Ptolemy Physcon. Despite the king’s lack of insignia and his servile mode of conveyance (he was afoot), Demetrius recognized him and sought to equip him as befitted a king, a gesture which Ptolemy appreciated but refused (Diodorus 31.18). Obviously, Demetrius’ financial situation must have been comfortable to enable him to make such a princely offer, and he must have been afforded some mobility outside the city in order for such a chance meeting to occur. One may assume that Demetrius’ own conduct was compatible with this lofty conception of what was appropriate for royalty, and this anecdote has been interpreted as a foreshadowing of the attitude which culminated in the later difficulties between the prince and the Senate. [276]

After the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Demetrius appeared before the Senate to present his plea for release and his claim to the Syrian throne (Polybius 31.2; Zonaras 9.25; Appian Syrian Wars 46). His case seems to have been legally and morally sound. Demetrius had replaced Antiochus as a hostage at least in part because Seleucus IV Philopator would have valued his son Demetrius more than his brother Antiochus; in turn, Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ son, rather than his nephew Demetrius, should have become the hostage for his fidelity, if there were need of a guarantee. On Seleucus IV Philopator’s death, Antiochus had succeeded because of the minority of Seleucus’ sons; [277] Demetrius possessed the same right to the monarchy as had Antiochus, since Antiochus V was a minor. The cynical practicality which Polybius described as the Senate’s motive for detaining Demetrius (it also [121] appears in Appian’s summary) is typical of both Polybius’ realistic pragmatism and of the policies of that era. This emphatic practicality and the seeming absence of other Syrian hostages in Rome strongly indicate that Demetrius’ continued detention was without legal justification. [278]

It is impossible to believe that the Senate would not have stridently insisted on replacement after Demetrius’ escape, had there been the slightest legal pretense for doing so. Further, Demetrius’ eagerness for Roman recognition of his authority gave the Senate a diplomatic advantage which could have been traded for another hostage, but nothing of the sort happened. It is obvious that the Senate’s refusal to release Demetrius was the result of political, not legal, considerations. [279]

The murder of the Roman legate Cn. Octavius, in 162 B.C, prompted a second appeal to the Senate, but again the majority of the senators denied Demetrius permission to leave Rome. The Syrian prince, however, had no intention of spending his entire life as a hostage and with several of his friends, including Polybius, planned and executed his escape to Syria and his throne (Polybius 31.11-15.10; Livy Summaries 46; Appian Syrian Wars 47; Zonaras 9.25). The escape is fully discussed elsewhere, [280] but the following points are apposite here. The entourage which attended Demetrius was numerous (πλειόνων, Polybius 31.13.2), and, since it was his custom to invite all of them to dine with him when he ate at home (13.5), it may be inferred that they were men of personal distinction. [281]

Further, a retinue of slaves attended his person (14.11). He was permitted, on very short notice, to go hunting as far from Rome as Anagnia and Circeii, without question (14.2; 15.1-2). In short, his social life, so far as friends, dinner [122] engagements, and diversions were concerned, was unrestricted. For Demetrius enlisted in his plan not only his own personal associates but also an interned Achaean whose legal position was more circumscribed than his own. This fact argues powerfully for a remarkable degree of freedom for both Polybius and Demetrius. The success of the plan indicates that there was no elaborate security system designed to prevent just such events; news of the conspiracy did not reach anyone interested in Demetrius’ continued detention in time to block his departure from Roman territory. [282]

As in the case of the Tarentine and Thurian hostages in 212 B.C., the Romans evidently did not anticipate active resistance to their will.From these incidents, what can we conclude about Roman treatment of Demetrius? He seems to have had a rather generous fortune at his disposal, although the source of this wealth is unknown. [283]

He twice addressed the Senate, on his own initiative and without any ambassadorial mediators, unlike the Punic hostages of 199 B.C. Perhaps most importantly, he was apparently subject to few restraints in his acquaintances and to little monitoring of his conversations, correspondence, or movements. [284] Indeed, the only negative aspect of his residence is his illegal detention, which of course made even the most distinguished treatment insulting.The three hundred Carthaginian hostages exacted before the outbreak of the Third Punic War merit attention for several reasons. They and the most prominent Carthaginian captives spent their lives in Italy on parole, so to speak (ἐν φρουραῖς ἀδέσμοις, Zonaras 9.30). The difficulty in ascertaining whether the Romans were ethically justified in retaining these hostages after the Carthaginian government refused [123] to accept evacuation of the city as a condition for peace has already been mentioned; [285] whether there is any validity in examining the ethical propriety of historical decisions is itself questionable. [286]

The practicality of keeping the hostages throughout the duration of the war needs no explanation, but the position of the hostages altered after the total annihilation of Carthage in 146 B.C. The Carthaginians could no longer be the physical guarantees of a treaty or a means of blackmailing politically prominent parents into a disadvantageous peace, for there was no Carthaginian state; nor could the Romans formally restore them, because there was no government or parents to receive them. With the destruction of Carthage the Punic hostages became politically meaningless. Under these anomalous circumstances it is not surprising that the young Carthaginians remained in Roman custody, in all likelihood in the same conditions as had pertained during the war. It is ironic that the group which in 149B.C. might easily have suffered the penalty for Carthage’s defiance became the nucleus of the noble Punic survivors of that war. [287]

The royal hostages of the second century B.C. appear to have been well treated by the Romans; there is no indication of any restriction besides that of hostageship itself. They lived well; they do not seem to have been subjected to abusive or insolent behavior; they were permitted freedom of movement and freedom of association. Although the same privileges cannot be proven to have been available to the Punic hostages of 149 B.C. and later, the fact that these noble Carthaginians remained in honorable custody after the belated resistance of Carthage in the Third Punic War suggests that the Romans accepted some responsibility for their continued maintenance in respectable [124] surroundings.

Hostages of the First Century B.C.

All the remaining incidents which illuminate the care provided to hostages by the Romans belong to a later period and to a different political situation. Despite the great wars of conquest and, in the first century B.C., the expansion of Roman territory to the borders of tribes previously unknown to Rome, these incidents describe the behavior of a civil faction from the viewpoint of the hostile and ultimately victorious opposing faction. Thus the brutality of Sertorius toward the sons of Iberian chiefs when the chiefs defected or otherwise failed him (Plutarch Sertorius 25.4); the outrage of Caesar when he learned, or was said to have learned, that the Pompeians in Africa snatched the children of distinguished local citizens into slavery under the guise of holding them hostage (African War 26.5); the arrogance of M. Antonius in gathering so many notables at Alexandria (Dio 51.16.1-2).The author of the African War provided no more information than an allegation of Pompeian abuse of African hostages, but two sets of parallel cases are brought to mind. Several examples of hostages being delivered or demanded from a subject people by one faction in a civil war demonstrate that this measure was a standard safeguard; Carbo’s demand for hostages from Placentia in 85 B.C. (Valerius Maximus 6.2.10) and from Italian colonies and towns in 84 B.C. (Livy Summaries 84); the Pompeians Afranius and Petreius in Spain in 49 B.C. (Caesar Civil War 1.74.5); and the Pompeian Staberius in Apollonia in 48 B.C. (Caesar Civil War 1.84.2). [288]

In view of the Pompeian precedents in Spain and Apollonia, a Pompeian [125] demand for African hostages seems quite probable, but subsequent mistreatment of them is neither substantiated nor likely, since the Pompeians had no desire to alienate possible African supporters. The equation of hostage with slave would seem less a reflection of actual abusive treatment of the African hostages by the Pompeians than an assessment of the condition of any hostage; a comparison of this comment with the Parthian equation of hostageship and slavery (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 18.47) is irresistible. [81]The cases of Sertorius and Antony are more complicated. The romantic figure of Sertorius has exerted great appeal upon modern scholars, and his innovative methods have aroused controversy as to his intentions regarding the Iberian boys whose education he subsidized. [289]

Although an evaluation of his goals lies for the most part beyond the scope of this inquiry, [290] the details of this anecdote nevertheless furnish some suggestive points which have interesting parallels in later Roman history. The status of the Iberian boys is peculiar. They were not, apparently, given over as hostages; Sertorius’ own personality and military ability won the Iberian chiefs’ devotion, and Sertorius lacked the military force necessary to demand children from reluctant parents. Instead, the allure of Sertorius’ promises of future honors induced them to surrender their children to his school at Osca. [291] The school at Osca is another odd feature. To my knowledge, the only other episode in which education and hostages are associated did not occur until A.D. 39 (Suetonius Caligula 45), but common sense strongly urges that this rarity is coincidental. It seems probable that some effort was made to teach hostages, especially those from the western provinces, at least the Latin language and some Roman practices. [292] [126]

Apart from the question of whether the school was a conscious attempt to Romanize the noble Iberian youths, Sertorius’ educational policy appears to have been both popular and generous. The boys wore the garment appropriate for senators’ sons, the toga praetexta, and might obtain golden bullae for good work; Sertorius paid their fees and awarded prizes, which suggests that the school was not entirely a ploy designed to lure young Iberians into Sertorius’ control. And so long as the chiefs remained loyal, their sons were safe and treated honorably. [293]

The compression of Dio’s account of foreign notables at Alexandria (51.16.1-2) after the death of Antony prevents any clear understanding of either Antony’s foreign policy or the changes which Octavian effected. Of the many (συχνοί) children of sovereigns held as hostages or “through arrogance” (ἐφ' ὕβρει), Octavian restored some, retained others, and created marriage alliances among them, but only two specific cases are discussed: he restored Iotape to her father, the Median king, but he refused to permit the brothers of Artaxes, king of Armenia, to return to their homeland because Artaxes had executed the Romans left in Armenia. Artaxes’ brothers remained with Octavian until 20 B.C., when Artaxes was deposed and Tigranes, his brother, was installed as king with the aid of Tiberius (Dio 54.9.4-5). The fate of the three other brothers is not known. In the absence of proper identification of the other hostages and involuntary guests detained by Antony, little else can be ascertained about their case. It is, however, logical to assume that the nameless noble children who were not released became part of the unofficial court which was Octavian’s household. [294] [127]

The four Parthian princes who, together with two wives, four children and (probably) retinue, were sent to Rome around 10/9 B.C. by their father, Phraates IV, are the last historical group whose treatment will be considered. Their status as hostages in any formal agreement is certainly dubious, despite the ancient sources. Several authorities describe the princes as hostages: Tacitus (obses Augusto datus a Phraate, Annals 2.1); Suetonius (Parthorum obsides, Augustus 43.4); Velleius Paterculus (obsides,2.94.4); Orosius (regiis obsidibus traditis, 6.21. 27); Eutropius (obsides, 7.9); Justin (obsides Augusto dati, 42.5.6-11); Strabo (ἐξομηρευσάμενος, 6.4.2C288; ὅμηρα αὐτῷ, 16.1. 28C749); and Josephus (ἐφ' ὁμηρείᾳ, Jewish Antiquities 18.42). The language of the Res Gestae is much more restrained: filios suos nepot[esque] misit in Italiam non bello superatus, sed amicitiam nostram per [libe]ror[um] suorum pignora petens . . . (32). The motivation which Josephus attributes to Phraates’ action, the removal of his legitimate heirs in order to clear the succession for an illegitimate son by an Italian slave, is supported by the fact that the bastard son did in fact succeed. Further, domestic revolt invariably centered on an Arsacid prince, and the additional presence in Parthia of four sons and four grandsons could have imperiled the bastard Phraataces or even Phraates IV himself. [295]

Only the late source Orosius mentioned a treaty (foedus); the φιλία or amicitia to which Strabo and the Res Gestae refer need not mean anything more than a private agreement between Caesar and Phraates to leave off active hostilities. [296]

Moreover, it is difficult to discover why Phraates would have surrendered legal claim to the princes unless he was compelled to do so; since the two nations seem to have negotiated as equals at this time, it is likely that the [128] princes were not formally hostages but guests whose presence in Rome is explained by the danger of their position in Parthia, and the embarrassment it might have caused. [297]

Although there is good reason to suspect that the Parthian princes were not hostages for an international treaty, their physical presence in the Italian capital argues powerfully that they were in fact hostages in the modern sense of the word, and it is quite probable that the legal distinction which escaped the ancient sources was reflected in their treatment. The princes lived royally at Roman expense (δημοσᾳ βασιλικῶς τημελοῦνται) Strabo (16.1.28C149); two even died and were buried in Rome (CIL VI 1199 = ILS 842). One day at the games, Augustus seated his distinguished visitors in the second row of seats above his own (Suetonius Augustus 43.4). This gesture of honor had the effect of displaying to the audience the first Parthians dependent on Augustus, as Suetonius remarked, but it probably also established the princes as worthy of attention. The most obvious proof of favorable Roman treatment is the release of Vonones and Phraates, sons of Phraates IV, and of Tiridates and Meherdates, grandsons of Phraates IV, all of whom then became kings or contenders for the throne of Parthia; that four of eight heirs could contend for the rule of Parthia so many years after their delivery to Roman custody speaks well of the Romans. [298]

Although the connection is extremely tenuous, material from the Irish Leabhar na g-Ceart (Book of Rights) casts some light on the generous behavior usually accorded hostages in the Greco-Roman world. In this poetic document describing the privileges and restrictions of the kings and clans of Ireland, the Oirghialla supplied hostages to the king of Tlachtgha, who kept them without fetters and was to provide [129] “befitting attire to them, a steed, a sword with studs of gold, secret confidence, elegant apartments . . .” The price for these gifts was the hostage’s oath not to escape, on pain of withering. [299] Not all hostages were so privileged as to bear arms, however; the Fomorian sureties could only use “bites, kicks, and blows” in the king’s house, lest, armed, they might do a misdeed. [300] Yet hostages who were true to their oath held honorable positions in the king’s retinue, sitting second on the king’s right side; those specially pledged for the good behavior sat next to the king’s bodyguard on the southern couches, while forfeited hostages, in chains, were at the extreme left. [301]

Thus it is clear that the Irish Celts employed a kind of parole system to eliminate the need for close supervision of hostages, a system based ultimately upon a religious contract binding on both hostage and king. [302] In view of this oath, the seemingly unrestricted movements of Demetrius of Syria and the generosity afforded the Parthian princes take on a new significance. Interestingly, it is possible that the Romans too enjoined an oath upon hostages, and a passage from Polybius (followed by Appian Syrian Wars 47) may provide support for such a hypothesis. After the assassination of Gnaeus Octavius, Demetrius of Syria again appeared before the Senate, seeking release from the necessity of serving as hostage for his cousin Antiochus V (παρεκάλει τῆς γε κατὰ τὴν ὁμηρείαν ἀνάγκης αὐτὸν ἀπολύειν, Polybius 31.11.9). Demetrius’ eagerness for official termination of his status as hostage, even without any Roman recognition of his claim to the throne, may have its roots in a personal obligation besides the one originally undertaken by Antiochus III the Great and renewed by Seleucus IV Philopator: a pledge not to attempt escape. Such a promise would [130] explain the lack of Roman custody and Demetrius’ remarkable freedom of movement and association. Such a hypothesis of parole is of course speculative, but it is also attractive.

Legendary Hostages

Finally, three legendary tales deserve some study because they reflect the storytellers’ attitudes toward the possibilities inherent in the treatment of hostages. The first two stories are found solely in Dionysius of Halicarnassus and concern Latinus, the eponymous king of Latium. According to Dionysius, Latinus was the son of Heracles and a Hyperborean girl given as a hostage by her father; at first untouched, she later became pregnant on the journey to Italy, where Heracles left her with Faunus (1.43.1). The second legend is one of the many variants of the Romulus and Remus myth: Aeneas’ grandsons, part of an exchange of children who thus safeguarded the peace between the Trojans and the Latins (1.59.1-2), were not merely treated well by Latinus, but were adopted by him since he had no male issue (1.73.2). Although the account of Latinus’ lineage is a fiction created to link Rome with Greece and with the archetypical Greek hero, it does clearly delineate a possible consequence of exacting female hostages. The adoption of the twins, no less fictitious, neatly resolves the problem of legitimizing the Trojan Romulus’ claim to Latin territory at no cost to aboriginal prowess or dignity. Despite its worthlessness as historical fact, it suggests that, to the storyteller, decent treatment of hostages was not inconceivable, and that an intimate bond might arise between hostage and keeper. The third case, that of Cloelia and Porsenna, is fully discussed elsewhere; [303] nevertheless, [131] it is interesting to recall that in most versions the generosity of Porsenna figures prominently.What, finally, can be concluded about the care of hostages? Phillipson’s generalization appears correct: they resembled guests more than prisoners, but there were ways in which they resembled captivi, [304] and potential abuse was always a disquieting element in their detention. [305]

Cultures like the Greek and Carthaginian, which allowed overt homosexuality and/or the exaction of female hostages, were, predictably, open to charges that hostages in their custody suffered sexual molestation. To the Roman government, which encouraged neither practice, accrued the additional advantage of favorably biased historians. Even in partisan sources, however, the Roman government occasionally emerges as having indulged in abuses, as the case of Demetrius of Syria proves, and it is quite probable that other examples of mistreatment have been glossed over, suppressed, or lost. The attitudes toward hostages which prevailed in the hostage’s own society may have contributed to their comfort or discomfort as much as Roman prejudices did, but evidence for these cultural attitudes is unfortunately sparse. [306]

Specifically, hostages to Rome were at least occasionally and probably regularly granted considerable freedom, they had access to their governmental representatives and to the Roman Senate; [307] they were allowed privacy in conversation (and even in conspiracy); [308] and some, although perhaps limited, physical mobility; [309] they received monetary support (again, perhaps limited) and marks of deference. [310]

No single recorded incident illustrates all of these points, and the [132] chronological distance which these cases span produces considerable difficulty if one tries to discern a pattern. Yet it seems reasonable that this benevolence toward hostages was not restricted to the incidents discussed above, and that generous treatment was the standard intention, even if it was not always attained in practice.

Chapter 4: The Termination of Hostageship [144-191]

In the previous chapters we have examined some of the purposes for which hostages were exacted in antiquity, the specific regulations by which they were chosen, and their treatment during detention. Finally, we must consider the ways in which the contract according to which the hostages served could be terminated and thus their detention permanently ended.[311] There were several conditions which culminated in the release of hostages, and it is a study of these conditions which forms the subject of this chapter. In order to facilitate our comprehension of the many possible variations, let us first establish a theoretical framework into which we may then attempt to fit the actual incidents; indeed, because it was probably some anomaly or unusual detail which captured the attention of the ancient author, the actual incidents may not preserve the typical pattern so well as does our theoretical norm.


As demonstrated above, [312] many treaties provided a clear statement of a date or act which was to be the termination of the period of detention. Upon the fulfillment of the obligations imposed by the agreement, the recipient state ought to have released the donor’s hostages, and it is reasonable to assume that most agreements ended in this way without incident. Oddly, no explicit examples of restoration in accordance with the original agreement have survived, although this [145] type of restoration was surely frequent. We may infer that it was predictable and expected, and that our ancient sources omitted it as an unimportant detail easily assumed by their readers.

Most of the attested Greek cases of restoration were intended as favors to purchase favors. In a story of dubious historical merit, we are told that Alexander II of Macedon purchased peace from the Illyrians by paying them tribute and giving them his younger brother Philip during the earliest part of his reign, and that he then employed the same hostage in his treaty with Thebes (Justin 7.5.1-2); perhaps the future king guaranteed the payment of the tribute to the Illyrians and was soon redeemed. [313] In return for the release of Cappadocian hostages held in Nora, Eumenes took their horses, draft animals, and tents (Plutarch Eumenes 12.2); we know nothing more of this exchange.

When Alexander Balas seriously attempted to usurp the throne of Demetrius I Soter in 153/2 B.C., Demetrius tried to secure Maccabaean support by permitting the restoration of the hostages who, exacted in 161 B.C., were evidently still under guard in the citadel of Jerusalem; to the relief of the opposition party, Jonathan Maccabaeus executed the release fairly (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.38-40). Nevertheless, the additional promises of autonomy which Balas made and the hope for greater rewards to be seized in the political confusion of a Syrian dynastic dispute outweighed Judaean gratitude to Demetrius for this gift, and Judaea supported Balas. [314]

Two other Greek incidents are more puzzling. The earliest Greek restoration known to me deserves attention because of its anomalous nature. Dionysius I of Syracuse and the Italian city of Rhegium had agreed in 389 B.C. that, inter alia, the city would underwrite [146] the expense of Dionysius’ Italian campaigns when the invading Sicilian army did not support itself in enemy territory. This clause Dionysius invoked the following year in order to provoke a violation of the treaty if the Rhegians refused or, if they obeyed, to deplete the city of cash and supplies so as to render it easy prey to a siege. When the Rhegians eventually refused further aid to their alleged ally, Dionysius returned the hostages whom he had exacted the previous year and commenced open hostilities (Diodorus 14.106.3; 108.1-3). Dionysius would seem to have had legal justification for either the continued detention or the punishment of the hostages,[315] but he chose to restore them, as propaganda, as an added burden upon Rhegium’s already strained resources, as an attempt to form a pro-Sicilian bloc in the besieged city, or for some entirely unfathomable (at this distance of time) reason.

The purpose which urged Mausolus to restore the Latmian hostages exacted by Hidrieus is more comprehensible than Dionysius’, but its internal logic and its contrived intricacy must raise some suspicion. Circa 357 B.C., Mausolus released the Latmian hostages and showered the city and citizens with favors and honors in order to lull the citizens into a false sense of security. The scheme worked. Having granted Mausolus permission to march his army through their territory, many citizens turned up outside the walls to watch it pass, while a detachment fell upon the city from the opposite direction and captured it (Polyaenus 7.23.2). Lack of a reliable history of Asia Minor prevents us from assessing the exact historical value of the incident, but, tortuous as it seems, it is not beyond belief. In common with the other examples of hostage restoration, the advantage which Mausolus [147] supposedly gained is clear.

The Roman government was no less when it determined on the release of foreign hostages. The distinction of being the first historical hostage restored by the Romans belongs to Demetrius, the younger son of Philip V of Macedon. The return itself is very well attested, and in several sources the cause is attributed specifically to Philip’s, aid to Rome in the European phase of the war with Antiochus III the Great of Syria (Livy 36.35.13; 37.25.12; Eutropius 4.3.3; Polybius 21.3.3; 11.9-10; Appian Macedonian Affairs 9.5; Syrian Wars 20,23). [316] Of the release itself and its immediate purpose there can be no doubt, for Livy (35.31.5) suggests and Diodorus (28.15.1) states that the Romans had previously held out Demetrius’ return and the remission of the outstanding war indemnity as lures for Philip’s support. Certainly the Romans and Philip must have considered the restoration of the young Macedonian prince as a favor which repaid Philip for the monetary and military debt incurred when Philip helped the Romans by resisting Antiochus’ invasion of Greece.

A different and very much more complex problem arises when we analyze Rome’s subsequent conduct toward the restored prince. Demetrius had spent six years (197-191 B.C.) in Rome during his early teens, formative and impressionable years in any culture.[317] In view of the later favor shown the Macedonian by the Senate, it is evident that eminent Romans had known and perhaps cultivated the youth at this time. When in 184/3 B.C. Philip dispatched Demetrius as his representative to answer the charges laid against him by the Greek cities, the Senate acquitted Philip as a personal gift to Demetrius, who had displayed complete incompetence as Philip’s advocate. The condescending [148] tone of the Senate’s response could only have irritated the Macedonian king. The Roman commission to Greece in the spring of 183 B.C. further exacerbated Philip’s feelings by paying obvious court to Demetrius; using rumors of Perseus’ illegitimacy and other unsavory and unsubtle hints, they attempted to manipulate the succession to Demetrius’ advantage.[318] Soon after, Demetrius and Perseus began plotting against one another until Philip himself became embroiled in the quarrel; for a time, Philip managed to smooth over the surface of the dispute. Nevertheless, the charge of treason which Perseus eventually lodged against his half-brother required investigation, and Philip sent envoys to seek information in Italy. Secretly watched, Demetrius confessed to his guardian that he intended to flee to Rome; this treasonable confession and a letter from Flamininus, in which the Roman expert on Greek affairs denied responsibility for Demetrius’ plans and ambitions (especially if he were disloyal to king and father), made Philip’s elimination of the prince inevitable. Shortly before Philip’s death, however, he learned that the investigative ambassadors had been corrupted and that the letter from Flamininus was a forgery. Grief, it is said, hastened the king’s demise.[319]

Can we credit this account? Polybius, the only extant contemporary source, heartily disliked Philip, and Livy’s narrative is greatly colored by the foreshadowing of the Third Macedonian War in which Perseus opposed Rome. Two scholars have pointed out the strong dramatic element in Livy’s version, and Benecke, although he has accepted the substantial truth of the story, has postulated that the character and career of Demetrius became the subject of tragic plays or novels soon after his death.[320] The conduct of both Philip and Perseus probably [149] deserves some rehabilitation, just as Demetrius deserves less admiration, if any; he was less a martyr to the Roman cause than to his own ambition. More important, however, is the matter of Rome’s role in Demetrius’ death. The Roman embassy to Greece in 183 B.C. meddled very clumsily in a domestic affair already settled under Macedonian law.[321] If this were the sum of Roman involvement, it would be easy to assume, with Edson, that the Roman senators, rarely endowed with diplomacy or tact and sometimes lacking even common courtesy, merely wished to gain the throne for their favorite Demetrius and, because of their lack of diplomatic experience, used a crude and naive method which defeated their purpose.[322]

The question of the authenticity of Flamininus’ letter raises a more sinister question: did the Senate intend to place Demetrius upon the throne, or merely to initiate a civil war, opposing Demetrius to the ambitious plans of Philip (and Perseus) for restoring the power of Macedon? If the ambassadors had forged Flamininus’ seal upon a letter which in effect condemned a pro-Roman prince to death, would one of the guilty ambassadors have dared to seek refuge in Italy, as happened when Philip discovered the “forgery?” [323] Yet if the letter was genuine, we must invoke one of three explanations: a) Flamininus did not realize how damning the letter would seem to the suspicious monarch; b) the letter was more guarded and less incriminating than reported by Livy (40.23.8); [324] c) the letter deliberately and cynically absolved Rome of complicity regardless of its condemnation of Demetrius. The major objection to the first hypothesis seems to me to be its blithe assumption of Roman ignorance concerning the state of affairs in Macedon, the purpose of the investigative ambassadors, and predictable human [150] reactions; it is difficult to believe that Flamininus knew nothing of Perseus’ accusation, Demetrius’ precarious position, or Philip’s possible responses to his letter. The balance of power between Rome and Macedon had been, after all, a major issue of foreign policy throughout the last decade. The second hypothesis is plausible, but the explicit testimony of Livy is difficult to explain away. If we accept the second hypothesis, Rome would have to bear the moral responsibility for encouraging Demetrius to declare his pro-Roman sentiments, although the Romans never intended to give him active aid. [325] The third hypothesis perhaps overstates the case, but it gains credence from the lack of any direct Roman intervention and from later foreign policy. In the course of the next thirty years, the Senate verbally encouraged the revolts of Ptolemy VII Physcon in 169 and 161 B.C. (Livy. 44.19.13-14; Diodorus 31. 23), Attalus of Pergamum in 167 B. C. (Polybius 30.1. 7-8), Timarchus of Babylon in 162 B.C. (Diodorus 31.27a), and Alexander Balas in 153/2 B.C. (Polybius 33.18) in order to intensify internecine feuds. [326] In view of these later incidents it is almost impossible not to suspect that Demetrius was the earliest victim of this method of weakening potential opponents. Since in the 180’s B.C. Macedon was Rome’s most dangerous possible foe, it would not be surprising to find Rome using indirect intervention to undermine Macedon’s ruling dynasty in a manner which subsequently became slightly more refined and definitely systematic.

Thus it is entirely possible that the release of Demetrius may have served two quite distinct purposes: chiefly and most immediately, it rewarded Philip for his aid to the Romans in the war with Antiochus, and it returned Demetrius, now the center of a pro-Roman party, to the [151] court of a reluctant Roman ally. There need not have been an elaborate plan already devised at the time of Demetrius’ restoration, but only the realization that a Roman sympathizer in so lofty a place could prove valuable. The apparent favor of Demetrius’ early release granted to Philip also benefited Roman interests. It is well to remember that such ulterior motives may have weighed heavily in the Senate’s decision to restore Philip’s son, and they may have existed in other cases of early release. In a few other cases we may safely postulate the restoration of hostages, despite the lack of direct evidence to that effect. The Aetolian Treaty ratified in 189 B.C. stipulated that the hostages were to serve six years (Polybius 21.32.10); since the Aetolians adhered faithfully to the agreement, the Romans had no pretext on which to detain them longer and their illegal detention would probably have merited mention, which is nonexistent. (No modern scholar has seen fit to comment upon this clause of the treaty, much less suggest that it was violated.)

The Treaty of Zama as it has survived, however, has no such limitation of service, and some question has arisen about the period during which Rome held Punic hostages. De Sanctis, Schmitt, and W. Hoffman assumed that a donor government normally submitted hostages so long as there was an outstanding war indemnity. [327] Aymard has denied that restoration was necessarily bound to any definite date or event and that the presence of Carthaginian hostages in Italy until 152 B.C. is not very probable. Indeed, he has suggested that it may not have been contrary to the Treaty of 201 B.C. that Rome retain Punic hostages after 152 B.C. [328] I disagree. The last reference to these hostages is [152] dated to 168 B.C., when Masgaba informed the Senate that Hanno, the son of Hamilcar, should be exacted in another’s place (Livy 45.14.5). [329] We may assume that Hamilcar’s son would have spent some little time as a hostage, two or three years at least, or the point of exchanging him for another would have been lost; [330] Carthage would then have supplied hostages for a minimum of thirty-five years. The remaining fifteen years of hostageship, by Aymard’s reasoning the shortest additional period for which Rome was entitled to detain Punic hostages do not seem a likely gift to be granted Carthage as long as Cato lived. Aymard’s hypothesis that Rome held Carthaginian hostages even after 152 B.C., however, fails to take into account the abrupt change in the policies of the African city, previously docile in the face of humiliation and injustice; in 152 B.C., the pro-Numidian party was expelled from Carthage and active resistance to Numidian incursions mounted (Appian Punic Wars 71). The Roman eagerness to exact three hundred Punic hostages in 149 B.C. (Livy Summaries 49; Polybius 36.4.6; Diodorus 32.6.1; Zonaras 9.26; Appian Punic Wars 76) makes little sense if they still retained one hundred hostages by the terms of the Treaty of Zama. The coincidence of the city’s change in policy, the Roman demand for hostages and the Carthaginian distress (reported in Appian Punic Wars 77) when the hostages were surrendered without fixed conditions in 149 B.C. indicate to me the high probability that it was in 152/1 B.C. that Rome restored the last hostages delivered in accordance with the Treaty of Zama. [331]

Hostages demanded as sureties for a conference truce are especially prone to vanish from our sources directly after their exaction. The only return mentioned explicitly occurred when Scipio released Sulla’s hostages in 83 B.C., after another Marian general [153] violated the truce (Appian Civil Wars 1.85); the release was recounted because it motivated other events. [332] Several conferences conclude without any reference to the safe release of these persons, although in two cases subsequent events in their lives are recorded. Pantauchus and Hippias, the “first friends” who guaranteed the good conduct of the royal retinue during Perseus’ conversation with Q. Marcius Philippus in 172 B.C. (Livy 42.39.6-7), later negotiated Perseus’ alliance with Genthius (Polybius 29.3.1-9); Antyllus, the young son of M. Antony demanded by Caesar’s assassins before they would descend from the Capitoline (Livy Summaries 116; Velleius Paterculus 2.58.3; Cicero Philippics 1.1.2; 1.13.31; 2.36.90; Appian Civil Wars 2.142; 3.15; Dio 44.34.6; Plutarch Brutus 19.2; Antony 14.1) survived to perish fourteen years later at Octavian’s order (Suetonius Augustus 17.5; Plutarch Antony 87.1; Dio 51.15.5). Recipient governments ought to have released all hostages whose party demonstrated good faith during a truce, [333] and it is reasonable to assume that most did so. [334]

One last Roman historical incident deserves examination. Sertorius had obtained control of a number of noble Iberian youths by establishing a school at Osca, but upon the defection of their tribes some of the boys were slain and others were sold into slavery (Plutarch Sertorius 10.3; 25.4). The assassination of Sertorius further disturbed the uneasy Romano-Iberian alliance, and Sertorius’ successor Perpenna returned the surviving hostages to the Iberians to soothe their outraged feelings (Appian Civil Wars 1.114). [335] Perpenna’s motivation in attempting to reconcile to himself erstwhile supporters needs no deep analysis, but it is interesting to observe that an increasing dependence upon donors of hostages resulted in the hostages’ release, and thus a move toward [154] greater equality between the two parties. [336]

We can perceive in a different cultural milieu a similar desire for future support in an episode already discussed in other contexts. [337] The Carthaginian commander of Saguntum, Bostar, was persuaded to restore the hostages in his care in the hopes that this act of generosity would win over the good will of the Iberians (Polybius 3.98-99; Livy 22.22.10-14; Zonaras 9.1). It was, we are told, the proximity of Roman troops which prompted Punic clemency to secure the loyalty which fear for the safety of the hostages did not engender, and it is the only example of voluntary restoration on the part of the Carthaginians known to me. [338] What is intriguing about the incident is the tone of the sources; Bostar is made to seem foolish and gullible. It is not clear whether the ancients thought his folly lay principally in trusting the traitor Abilyx or in believing that returning the hostages would advance the Punic cause around the vicinity of the Ebro River, but the emphasis is perhaps somewhat heavier on the latter. [339]

Another Punic restoration recorded by Plutarch (Moralia 248E-249B, followed by Polyaenus 7.48.1) is clearly to be rejected as unhistorical. In this absurd anecdote, Hannibal is said to have agreed to raise the siege of Salmatis, an Iberian town, for three hundred talents and three hundred hostages. After delivery of the money and hostages, the citizens changed their minds; Hannibal captured the town, and the citizens then agreed to leave the site with only their wives and the clothes they wore. But the wives concealed daggers on their persons, and the citizens reentered the city and attacked the dispersed and looting soldiers. In respect for the women’s courage, Hannibal returned territory, goods, and hostages. After two acts [155] of treachery which left his soldiers dead? I see no great valor in hiding a knife, nor a cause for respect in violating oaths. Nor do I believe that Hannibal did.

The last historical restoration to be considered here is that of Tigranes the Great of Armenia. Taken hostage by the Parthian king Mithridates II, Tigranes agreed to cede seventy Armenian valleys to Parthia for his installation upon the throne of Armenia in 96/5 B.C. (Justin 38.3.1; Strabo 11.14.15 C532). [340] Since his lineage is not certainly known, it is possible that the Parthians recognized his claim over those of more direct descendants, which may account for the seemingly high price of his installation. The immediate purpose of the restoring government is obvious, but the possible effect which Tigranes’ protracted stay in Parthia (obses Parthis ante multum temporis datus, Justin 38.3.1) had upon Mithridates’ decision should not be entirely discounted. Tigranes’ character and response to Parthian customs and attitudes may have favorably impressed the Parthian monarch; a comparison of Tigranes and his sojourn in Parthia with that of the Macedonian Demetrius and his stay in Rome is not without interest. [341]

Legendary material for hostage restoration is rather spare. Without consulting the Senate, Romulus released the Veientine hostages, a hubristic act which aroused resentment and led to his assassination (Plutarch Romulus 27.2; Dio 1.11; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 2.56.3). This arrogant usurpation of a senatorial function is patently anachronistic and primarily symbolic of Romulus’ arbitrary foreign policy, but, like the Punic Bostar, Romulus may also be criticized for the restoration itself. Porsenna’s return of Cloelia and the other hostages is discussed within the context of the entire legend, [342] but it must be observed [156] that in most versions of the story admiration for Cloelia’s spirit prompted Porsenna’s generosity: a romantic but suspect motive. [343]

In short, almost all the explicit restorations which are attested appear to have been motivated by the desire of the recipient state to purchase a favor. [344] Moreover, in addition to the immediate purpose which profited the recipient government, restoration could conceivably place former hostages, acquainted with the practices and persons of their keepers, in positions of great authority where their gratitude toward and/or ties of friendship with the recipient government could substantially repay the effort of their cultivation and outweigh their value as restraints; witness the careers of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Demetrius I Soter, who carefully maintained peaceful relations with Rome even when provoked. [345] It is this fact - that in these incidents there is some particular or unique motivation involved in the restoration - that has prompted the preservation of these examples of restorations: the release of hostages after the bona fide fulfillment of an agreement’s conditions must have been so routine that our sources assumed that their readers would have understood it.


When both donor and recipient had satisfied the terms of an agreement, or when the recipient sought either to repay or to purchase in advance the donor’s assistance, hostages were restored. Even the most carefully phrased treaties, however, are open to varied interpretations, and sometimes a donor state claimed that the terms had been fulfilled or that the contract was void: in both cases, the donor state asserted its right to the hostages’ release. As such an assertion could [157] be perceived as a preliminary step to a revolt on the part of the donor, since the donor government would not otherwise have anticipated that any harm would befall its hostages, [346] it is not surprising that the ancient sources attest few (ten, of which eight are historical) requests for the release of hostages; [347] only in the absence of a clear, well-defined agreement between the recipient and the present government of the donor state was such a request feasible.

A single example survives from the Greek world. [348] According to a treaty signed about 154-152 B.C. between Athens and Oropus, Oropus supplied hostages to Athens on condition that they would be returned on demand should Athens violate any of the terms of the agreement. Subsequently, Athenian cleruchs in Oropus harmed an uncertain number of Oropians and the Oropian government sought redress in accordance with the treaty, but the Athenians refused to acknowledge the violation by disclaiming responsibility for the actions of the Athenians in Oropus (Pausanias 7.11.4-6). Since the treaty provided a process for redress, the Oropians would have been foolish to initiate other proceedings before Athens had failed to respect the agreement. Unfortunately for Greece, the dispute did not end with the Athenian refusal; the Oropians then bribed an official of the Achaean League in the hope that he could induce the Achaeans to take up hostilities against Athens, a situation which helped to generate the tensions from which arose the Greek rebellion of 149-146 B.C.

The practice of Rome as the recipient state is only slightly more fully attested. In 191 B. C. Lacedaemonian envoys to Rome sought a favorable decision on the matters of some villages and the restoration of hostages, probably those exacted from Nabis in 195 B.C. (Polybius 21.1.1-3). [349] [158] The Senate settled the issue of the villages, but the return of the hostages remained under discussion. Shortly thereafter, all the Lacedaemonian hostages except Armenas (who soon died of illness) were freed (Polybius 21.3.4). [350] Since the payments of the war indemnity were to cover eight years and thus were due until 187 B.C., the release of four of the five hostages so long before the debt was paid is surprising and needs explanation. [351] Scholarly opinion seems divided on the motivation for and wisdom of this decision. Walbank has suggested that the maneuver was perhaps designed to embarrass the Peloponnese, which was newly united under the domination of the Achaean League; [352] de Sanctis stated that retention of the hostages could have facilitated obedience to the Senate’s demand for the exiles’ return. [353] Without further evidence it is impossible to determine with any assurance the motivation behind the restoration, but it is difficult for me to believe, with de Sanctis, that the Roman senators did not evaluate soundly the advantages and disadvantages of the Lacedaemonian restoration. [354]

Nearly thirty years later, Demetrius of Syria appeared before the Senate twice to ask that he be released from hostageship; he maintained that his detention as a hostage for his cousin Antiochus V was unjust (παρὰ τὸ δίκαιον, Polybius 31.2.1-12; 11.7-9). Polybius’ account suggests very clearly that the argument was valid, but the refusal either to release him or to recognize his claim to the Syrian throne was due to the Senate’s belief that such a release was counter to Roman interests. [355]

The remaining five historical cases occurred during the reign of Augustus and concerned the princes of Armenia and Parthia. There are, however, three basic elements which detract from the value of [159] these episodes for our understanding of hostage practices in the Roman world. First, none of the princes appears to have been exacted as guarantees for a legal contract; their description as hostages refers rather to the actuality of their circumstances in the modern sense of the word. [356] Secondly, Augustus alone formulated the Roman foreign policy which governed the release or detention of the princes. No longer the product simply of a senatorial majority, Roman foreign policy could enjoy a long-term consistency while employing innovative techniques which a large group of policymakers might well have rejected. Finally, Eastern potentates often desired the return of male relatives for sinister reasons; the murder or mutilation of potential rivals was not uncommon in countries in which lineage was the prime criterion for succession to the monarchy. In such cases a request for the restoration of relatives was not an expression of concern for the well-being of the detained persons, and in a sense it is therefore misleading to compare these cases to requests evidently genuine in their wish to restore hostages to the safety of their own community. These three elements, at variance with the characteristics of the majority of incidents examined in other chapters of this study, make the experiences of the Armenian and Parthian princes atypical, and we may not generalize on the basis of these cases.

After the young Caesar, later called Augustus, had defeated Cleopatra and M. Antony [357] he discovered in Alexandria the children and relatives of many distinguished Eastern leaders, including four brothers of Artaxes, king of Armenia. Although Artaxes asked that his brothers be returned to him, the Roman victor denied this favor to the monarch who had ordered the death of the Romans in Armenia after [160] Antony’s disastrous Parthian campaign (Dio 51.16.1-2). Artaxes presumably realized that his arrangement with Antony was meaningless to Caesar and needed renegotiation, and he probably felt that a firm stance could not damage his position. From his point of view, it might even have seemed entirely possible that his request would be granted, since Caesar did restore the daughter of the Median king. The Armenian situation remained outwardly unchanged for the next decade, but around 20 B.C. some Armenians who opposed Artaxes sought to replace Artaxes with his brother Tigranes who had meanwhile been resident in Rome. Augustus chose not only to permit Tigranes’ departure, but he even sent Tiberius with troops to enforce Tigranes’ claim to the throne (Dio 54.9.4-5). [358]

There are two attested groups of hostages involving the children of Phraates IV, king of Parthia. The date of the earlier episode is placed by Dio in 30 B.C. and by Justin at an unspecified time within the period 27-25 B.C. Unfortunately, neither source is impeccable; Dio (51.18.3) has associated the incident with Caesar’s reorganization of the eastern empire after his victory at Actium, while Justin (42.5.6-11) has attached it to the Spanish campaigns of a few years later. According to Justin, the non-Arsacid general Tiridates successfully resisted the suzerainty of his former lord Phraates IV until Phraates mustered a superior force of Scythians. Tiridates then fled to Caesar, who was campaigning in Spain, and offered the Roman the youngest son of Phraates as a hostage. [359] Although Tiridates hoped for military aid to regain his power in Parthia, Caesar instead granted him only permission to reside in Roman Syria in return for the prince. In 23 B.C. Phraates IV sent envoys to Rome to seek the return of both [161] his son and his rebellious subject Tiridates; although Caesar refused the latter part of the demand, he did release the son without ransom, with the understanding that Phraates would surrender the Roman standards and prisoners of war in Parthia. Dio’s account differs from Justin’s version in the date and in the important matter of how Augustus acquired the son, for Dio declares that Phraates himself offered his alliance and his son, whom Caesar took to Rome as a favor (ἐν εὐεργεσίας μέρει); [360] the events of 23 B.C. he described as substantially the same (53.33.1-2). [361]

Three points seem to me to render Dio’s testimony suspect. First, would an alliance between Rome and Parthia in 30 B.C. have acknowledged the sort of Roman superiority that the transfer of a Parthian prince would seem to indicate? [362] I think not, especially after the flight of the pretender Tiridates. There is little reason to suppose that Phraates was worried that Caesar would support Tiridates’ claim with military assistance. Artaxes of Armenia had executed Romans, Antony had annexed his kingdom into the empire, and yet Artaxes was still king. Since the logical first step to an invasion of Parthia was securing Armenia, Phraates should not have been concerned about Roman expansion into Parthian spheres of influence in 30 B.C. Thus it is improbable that Phraates would submit in the diplomatic war by surrendering his son unnecessarily. [363] Second, Justin’s connection of the Parthian hostage and Spain is incomprehensible except as a simultaneous event, while Dio’s association with the post-Actium settlement of the eastern empire is quite understandable as a telescoped summary of Roman-Parthian relations during the early 20s B.C. Third, accepting the version of Justin allows us to assume that less time [162] elapsed between the son’s abduction by Tiridates and the demand for his release by Phraates, and such a reduced period of time makes better sense; if the son were kidnapped in 26/5, it could conceivably have taken Phraates two years to learn of the abduction and of Tiridates’ destination, to plan a course of action, to dispatch an embassy to distant Rome, and to await the hearing and decision. On the basis of these objections, I propose to accept Justin’s testimony on this episode as the more plausible.

The circumstances surrounding the delivery of the four legitimate sons of Phraates IV to Augustus about 10/9 B.C. have already been discussed. [364] Vonones, Rhodaspes, Seraspadanes, and Phraates obeyed the dictates of their father and never attempted of their own volition a return to Parthia, even after the assassination of Phraates IV and the accession of the bastard Phraataces (Phraates V). [365] This new king of Parthia chose to support Tigranes III as king of Armenia over the claims of the Roman candidates Artavasdes, and this interference in Roman Armenian policy provoked the famous eastern mission of C. Caesar. When Phraataces tried to explain his position on the Armenian problem and demanded the release of his legitimate half-brothers, Augustus refused to acknowledge either his claim to the throne or his right to their return (Dio 55.10.20); the surrender of the true heirs to certain death played no part in Augustus’ Parthian policy. The hostile confrontation of Roman and Parthian interests was resolved by a negotiated settlement in which Phraataces withdrew from Armenia and dropped the issue of his brothers’ release while Augustus evidently recognized him as king of Parthia (Dio 55.10a.4). The embassy of about A.D. 6, however, which sought to have Vonones, the eldest prince (Tacitus Annals 2.2), [163] returned from Rome so that he might become the next king of Parthia, met with complete success, and Vonones I reigned until his deposition in A.D. 11/12. [366] On three other occasions, in A.D. 35, 36, and 47, Parthian embassies received a king from the descendants of Phraates IV, who had resided in Rome since 10/9 B.C. [367]

Several observations can be made. Embassies which represented a government or a pro-Roman faction of a government who requested a king succeeded. A king grateful to Rome was, after all, worth more than a pretender residing in Rome. Foreign kings who wished to recover (and/or suppress) their relatives (and rivals) had to pay for the favor or failed. Unfettered by the pre-existing conditions of a legal contract, Augustus was not restricted in his manipulations of Eastern policy; by the support of a rival claimant to the throne he could embroil a nation in civil war, establish a monarch friendly to Rome, or gain concessions in exchange for his non-intervention. These possibilities, however, were certainly not Augustus’ own contribution to Roman foreign policy; they follow the precedents established by the Senate in treating the much earlier hostage princes Demetrius of Macedon, Antiochus son of Antiochus III of Syria, and Demetrius son of Seleucus IV of Syria.

Two stories from the legendary history of Rome include formal requests for the return of captives, and, while the difference in status between hostages and captives precludes the use of these tales as corroborative evidence for the practices involving hostages, they are nevertheless suggestive. The Rape of the Sabine women needs no extensive citation of sources to remind the reader that the seizure of these women resulted in an immediate demand for their release and, [164] upon its refusal, in armed attack upon Rome (e.g., Plutarch Romulus 16.2-3). Abduction by force in a time of peace was indeed reprehensible, but the employment of a religious festival to disarm opposition outraged every sense of decency. Similarly but less spectacularly, the decision of Tarquinius Priscus not to send back the Tuscan prisoners of war according to custom, and instead to retain them under strict guard at Rome, so irritated the Tuscan League cities that they declared war on Rome (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 3.56.5-57.1). In both incidents the detention of foreign citizens contrary to custom became a casus belli when Rome refused to right the injustice.

A comparison of these two legends with the historical episodes concerning the Armenian and Parthian princes is irresistible. In all these cases, none of the participants seems to have been legally bound by any formal agreement, [368] and political realities affected the foreign responses when Rome refused to restore these persons; the fate of a few individuals was not an effective call to arms in the large kingdoms of Armenia and Parthia. The absence of formal regulations by no means prevented either party from attempting to alter the situation to one more favorable to its own interests by either demanding or granting the restoration of extralegal hostages. [369] Moreover, a request for release in these circumstances did not normally affect the relationship between the two nations, which was at best an uneasy peace and at worst open hostility. We should conclude that this method of recovering hostages - i.e. the simple procedure of request - was rare and unusual, and that it occurred primarily as a diplomatic issue between independent nations nominally at peace or between the recipient state and a government [165] which had not represented the donor nation at the time of the original exaction.

Violation of an Agreement by the Donor State

From the preceding sections of this chapter, it should be clear that, so long as the donor state observed the agreement (formal or otherwise) by remaining at peace, the options of the recipient were limited to the decision to restore or retain the hostages. When the donor government broke the agreement, which could occur in a number of ways, the options of the recipient also proliferated; the hostages could be executed, relegated to the status of captivi, retained as hostages, released or some mixture of these possibilities. Such are the possibilities, but what in fact happened to the hostages when their state violated the conditions of the agreement which the hostages guaranteed? It is perhaps easiest to examine these cases according to the manner in which the agreement was broken; thus we may consider the range of response which each type of violation prompted.

Escapes and Abductions

The earliest illegal recovery of historical hostages to be examined in this study is that devised by the Samians in 441/0 B.C. The Samians, after resuming control of Samos from the puppet democracy established by Athens, stole away (ἐκκλέψαντος) their hostages from Lemnos, where the Athenians had left them; only then were the Athenians declared enemies of Samos (Thucydides 1.115.3-5; Diodorus 12.27.2-3; Plutarch Pericles 25.3). The preliminary victories of the anti-Athenian government in Samos did not, however, result in autonomy for the Samians. After a [166] lengthy siege, Pericles recaptured the city and again exacted hostages (Thucydides 1.117.3; Plutarch Pericles 28.1). The clear sequence of events is significant for evaluating the importance of their hostages to the Samians. Since a concerted effort to rescue the hostages from Athenian-dominated territory occurred before the official outbreak of hostilities it is fair to infer that the failure of the rescue attempt would have prevented an open break with Athens. In all events we must conclude that, for the Samians, the possibility that the hostages might be recovered more than counterbalanced the risk posed by an illegal sally into enemy territory. [370] The validity of hostageship as a means of restraint is further indicated by the second exaction made by the Athenians. [371] It is unfortunate that none of the hostages involved can be identified; we do not know the fate of the first group or how the second group differed, if at all, from the first. [372]

In the troubled years after Alexander’s death, political alignments in the Near East shifted with astonishing ease as Alexander’s generals fought for dominance. In 313 B.C. Asander, satrap of Caria, agreed to transfer his soldiers to Antigonus and to relinquish the Greek cities in his territory, leaving them autonomous in return for Antigonus’ recognition of his rule in Caria; Asander’s brother Agathon was sent to Antigonus as a hostage to guarantee these term. Yet Asander repented of his bargain, stole away (ἐξέκλεψεν) his brother from custody, and applied for aid to Antigonus’ rivals Ptolemy and Seleucus. Antigonus dislodged Asander and annexed Caria to his own territory (Diodorus 19.75.1-4). Like Pericles, Antigonus responded to the abduction of hostages with a declaration of war and finally enforced his will. Again, like the Samians, Agathon’s subsequent career, [167] if any, is unknown.

Both the Athenians and Antigonus were able to subdue their rebellious subordinates, and each victory reestablished the victor’s authority over the conquered area. Other governments were not always so inclined. During the early 360s B.C. Thebes busied herself in the affairs of Macedon and, because of the brilliant leadership of Epaminondas and Pelopidas, dominated the foreign policy of that monarchy. By the terms of the treaties between Pelopidas and the kings Alexander II and Ptolemy, Thebes held as hostages some very distinguished Macedonians, among them Philip, the youngest son of Amyntas III (Plutarch Pelopidas 26.4; Diodorus 15.67.4; Justin 6.9.7; 7.5.1-3; Orosius 3.12.2; Aeschines On the Embassy 26; Plutarch Pelopidas 27.3). [373] After three years with Epaminondas in Thebes, the young prince fled to his own land (Diodorus 16.2.4; Orosius 3.12.2). There is no reason to suspect that Ptolemy or his successor Perdiccas connived at Philip’s escape, for the turmoil around the throne, already considerable, could only worsen with the appearance of another royal prince. [374] Certainly, the language of Diodorus implies that Philip himself bore the responsibility for his flight: διαδρὰς ἐκ τῆς ὁμηρείας, “having run away from hostageship.” The Theban authorities appear to have done nothing. [375]

Nor did Agathocles of Syracuse two generations later react to the defiance of the Bruttians. Agathocles had supported the Italian Greeks against the Bruttians, and his garrison in Italy had guarded the Bruttian hostages. [376] After his return to Syracuse, the Bruttians overwhelmed the garrison and recovered their hostages, freeing themselves of his domination (Diodorus 21.8). Although Agathocles remained tyrant of Syracuse until his death about five years later, the Sicilian [168] made no attempt to reassert his control over southern Italy or to avenge his defeat; perhaps there was little profit for Sicilians to fight on behalf of the security of ungrateful Italian Greeks.

Declaration of war or magisterial inertia were not, however, the only possible responses of recipient governments to the escape or abduction of hostages. In his struggles with Antigonus Doson of Macedon and the Achaean League, Cleomenes III of Sparta had surrendered his mother and his two sons to Ptolemy III Euergetes in return for aid; his hostage relatives in Egypt prevented him from making a separate peace with Antigonus (Plutarch Cleomenes 22.3,7). [377] That Cleomenes should flee to Alexandria after his defeat at Sellasia was under the circumstances predictable, despite Euergetes’ failure to deliver the necessary money for the soldiers’ pay, a circumstance which was partly to blame for the defeat. Indeed, Euergetes eventually might have used the Spartan in his schemes to thwart Macedonian expansion in Greece, but Euergetes died and Ptolemy IV Philopator succeeded. Under the lax and corrupt rule of this indolent king, Cleomenes’ energy and ambition were suspect, and the Spartan group became virtual prisoners in Alexandria. In frustration, Cleomenes decided to risk everything in an attempt to reach the Alexandrian harbor and the perils of a ship bound for Greece. He and the Spartans with him died fighting. His mother and sons were then slain; not even the women of her retinue were spared (Plutarch Cleomenes 32-38). Although Cleomenes’ relatives were of no immediate value to Egypt after his death, the murder of an old woman, two young boys, and a group of women appears to be a gratuitously brutal retaliation upon a dead man. [378] Moreover, it was wasteful and perhaps shortsighted, for if the sons of Cleomenes had been allowed to live to adulthood, they might, if [169] properly managed, have proved embarrassing to Macedon and/or the Spartan tyrants, giving Egypt a diplomatic weapon to employ in Greek affairs. [379] Nevertheless, the incident, distasteful as it is, serves as an important reminder that the complete slaughter of a group of hostages and their attendants was a possible consequence of disloyalty, even for the Hellenistic Greeks whom we praise as civilized and humane.

Rome was as capable of savage retribution as any Hellenistic nation. In 212 B.C., the Tarentine representative Phileas persuaded the hostages of Tarentum and Thurii to escape; although they managed to flee as far as Tarracina, the Romans apprehended them there and returned them to Rome, where they were scourged and flung from the Tarpeian Rock (Livy 25.7.11-14). Inasmuch as the outrage of their friends and relatives led directly to the defection of these cities to Hannibal (Livy 25.8.1-2; 15.7), their execution was obviously shortsighted and counterproductive. Nevertheless the hostages were guilty of violating the agreement between the Greek cities and Rome and retaliation was just, albeit severe. [380]

This incident typifies a response which is different from that in the Greek cases examined earlier, for the punishment of the hostages is purely the result of the hostages’ own action, and the Romans evidently did not intend to inflict vengeance upon their innocent fellow-townsmen. [381] For this reason and because the treachery of the hostages posed a serious threat to Roman security in Southern Italy, the brutal but legal execution of the Tarentines and Thurians appears less appalling than does the slaughter of the Spartans in Alexandria.

The historical validity of the servile uprisings of 198 B.C. [170] and of the possible involvement of Punic hostages has been considered in the previous chapter, [382] but it is well to repeat that the Roman magistrate acted quickly both to quash the immediate uproar and to prevent further trouble by restricting the hostages to a sort of house arrest. Thus even the rumor of a threat to Roman control over foreign hostages could bring about prompt and prohibitive restraints which must have precluded most attempts at escape or abduction; we can only hope that, after the danger had passed, the hostages were free to resume their earlier privileges.

The civil war after Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C. provided the Judaean Malichus with an opportunity for revolt, but, since his son was a hostage in Tyre, [383] his first rebellious act was to try to steal away (ὑπεκκλέψαι) his son from hostageship. Unfortunately for Malichus, his rival Herod, who already had sufficient cause to hate him as the man responsible for the death of Herod’s father, learned of his plans and informed the authorities; military tribunes killed him (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 14.290-2).

A poorly documented incident of the third century B.C., the earliest attested attempt to escape from Roman authorities, is one of the two known partially successful escapes. In 269 B.C. a Samnite named Lollius ran off to his own country and became a brigand, gathering a number of followers and storing the proceeds with the Caraceni. A Roman expedition under Q. Gallus and C. Fabius recaptured Lollius without difficulty, but the campaign against the Caraceni was complicated by adverse weather conditions, although it too eventually succeeded (Zonaras 8.7). From this summary it is not clear whether Lollius was a simple highwayman or aspired to a more impressive - and [171] more interesting - status as the leader of a guerilla resistance movement. In either case Lollius’ escape and subsequent career were scarcely likely to win him any Roman sympathy, and we must conclude that he probably met with an unhappy demise soon after his recapture. [384] Nor is the authenticity of the entire episode beyond question; the major characters are all, surprisingly, named, and the content somewhat skimpy. Nevertheless, it is equally unconvincing to assume it false, for it lacks the colorful details of a good invention. [385] In the absence of conflicting evidence, it is perhaps best to accept the story as historical, with some reservation.

On the other hand, the successful escape of Demetrius, son of Seleucus IV Philopator, is very well attested (Polybius 31.2; 11-15.10; Diodorus 31.18; et al.). I have analyzed elsewhere the privileges which he appears to have enjoyed, [386] but it is convenient to reiterate here that his relatively unrestricted mobility within the general area of Rome was a major factor in the success of the venture. The mechanics of the escape itself - his seeming adherence to his usual routine, careful selection of associates, the wary negotiations for transport conducted through an agent, his announced intention of going hunting (which explained his absence in the following days), the calculated appeal to the unsuspecting party preventing his immediate departure - need not concern us, for these details are peculiar to this one escape, and they testify more to the rewards of planning and organization than they promote an understanding of responses to the escape of hostages. What is important for comprehension of the operating principles of hostageship is the official reaction of the Roman Senate. [387] Upon the realization that Demetrius could not be recalled or recaptured, the [172] Senate expressed its disapproval in a passive resentment which refused to acknowledge Demetrius as king of Syria, instead granting verbal recognition (i.e. license to revolt) to Timarchus, satrap of Babylon (Diodorus 31.27a). The Senate maintained its refusal until a commission headed by Ti. Gracchus (a son-in-law of the elder Scipio Africanus, and thus related to the Scipiones, Aemilii, and Fabii who formed the “liberal” circle with which Polybius was associated) forced its grudging acknowledgement of the de facto situation in Syria by recognizing Demetrius as the legitimate king. [388] But Rome remained hostile to the former hostage, and an embassy from the rebellious Hasmonaeans in Judaea, a traditional part of the Syrian kingdom, met with diplomatic success when it appeared before the Senate. [389] Moreover, the obvious Roman antagonism had caused Demetrius’ neighboring monarchs, Ariarthes V of Cappadocia and Attalus II of Pergamum, to dissociate themselves from Demetrius. Nor was Syria united in support of the ruling king; domestic unrest was as ominous as foreign dislike. In 153 B.C. Heracleides, brother of the dead pretender Timarchus, obtained Roman recognition of the right of Alexander Balas to the Syrian throne; Balas claimed to be a bastard son of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. [390] In 150 B.C. Balas, a puppet king whose claim was enforced by invading Pergamene and Cappadocian troops, received the backing of defecting Hasmonaeans, some of Demetrius’ own generals, and the rebellious citizens of Antioch. Demetrius fell in battle, the last competent Seleucid monarch. Many Roman senators must have smiled at the report of his death.

The legendary history of Rome furnishes two more episodes of escape and rescue, both successful, both about the “conquest” of Roman enemies, and neither of clear historical value. The story of Cloelia is of course the more famous; the numerous variants, however, have [173] obscured whatever element of historical value remain, if indeed any do, and these will be discussed elsewhere as a whole. [391] It is sufficient to remark here that the most emphatic features of the escape’s consequences are the return of the errant hostages and generous magnanimity of Porsenna. In no other of the examined incidents did the donor government so punctiliously return its hostages or the recipient government so graciously dismiss the insult to its sovereignty. The impeccable chivalry or, in the case of Rome, perhaps a dogged sense of legal obligation, is decidedly suspect. The second legendary episode is downright silly. As an explanation for the unusual aspects of the sacrifice on the Capratine Nones, Plutarch relates that the Latins demanded freeborn Roman women in return for peace after the Gallic sack had exhausted the city’s resources, but that, instead of freeborn women, slave women were appropriately dressed and delivered to the Latins only to be rescued by the Romans, who ambushed their Latin escort in the night. In this way, we are told, the Romans avoided giving hostages and also managed to escape any pretext for war by refusing the demand (Romulus 29.4; Camillus 33.2-7; cf. Moralia 313A; Macrobius Saturnalia 1.11. 35-40). Since the Latins still possessed superior military forces, had not received the tribute, and would have had to be utter nitwits not to wonder at the fortuitous death of the escort party, I cannot believe that the story is anything but a badly conceived and poorly contrived aetiology by a particularly unimaginative and stupid hack.

It should now be clear that there was no automatic, fixed response to the escape or abduction of hostages. If the donor government instigated their rebellion, the recipient government could [174] either claim this violation of a prior agreement as grounds for war or simply ignore it, depending on the recipient’s abilities and inclinations at that time. [392] Individuals who eluded recapture might evade all potentially bad consequences, as did Philip of Macedon, or suffer, like Demetrius of Syria, a series of humiliations and grievances directly attributable to the hostility of the government from which he had escaped. [393] Those who failed in an attempt to flee could expect no mercy except a swift death. The attitude of the Roman government was consistently harsh toward hostages violating their agreement, perhaps because Rome during this period could actively demonstrate her displeasure.


A donor state which no longer wished to observe the agreement made with the recipient state might yet feel constrained by the dire consequences which could befall their hostages. As we have just seen, a donor (or the hostages themselves) sometimes attempted to remove the hostages from the fate which threatened them. A more desperate method of attempting to regain hostages was the seizure of distinguished persons from the recipient state, in order to force an exchange. [394] There were three disadvantages to this scheme: 1) the recipient state would need to be willing to negotiate an exchange before the donor state could reap any benefit; 2) persons sufficiently important to make an even exchange feasible could not have been readily available for abduction by the donor state; 3) some dishonor accompanied a failure to abide by the customary observances of international law, which considered official representatives of a foreign government as endowed with diplomatic immunity. [395] Thus is it is clear why only four accounts of [175] this type of attempted exchange have survived; the stratagem, itself of dubious integrity, depended heavily for its success upon circumstances beyond the control of its devisors. [396]

The devious Athenian politician Themistocles plotted the first such known exchange in 479 B.C. An ambassador to Sparta, he had volunteered his person as a guarantee of Athenian obedience to Sparta’s wishes concerning the fortifications under construction. He had then suggested that a Spartan embassy visit Athens to confirm his report. According to his secret instructions, this Spartan embassy was detained in Athens, and it obtained its freedom only upon the Spartan release of Themistocles and his colleagues (Nepos Themistocles 7.2; Frontinus Stratagems 1.1.10). [397]

An anecdote of questionable reliability concerning Antigonus Monophthalmus relates an incident which concluded with equal success and a somewhat higher moral tone. [398] Antigonus had hired some Gallic mercenaries and had delivered some Macedonians to the Gauls as hostages for the payment of the stipulated fee. After the battle the Gauls demanded more money and threatened harm to the hostages unless their demand was met. Apparently yielding to this extortion, Antigonus agreed and asked the Gauls to send their most trusted men to receive the gold. But Antigonus, instead of giving these men the money, kept them and took back the Macedonian hostages before returning the Gauls whom he had detained and the original sum (Polyaenus 4.6.17). Certainly the Gallic treachery in demanding more gold and in threatening the Macedonian hostages disposes us to forgive Antigonus for his broken word, especially as he still paid the stipulated fee to untrustworthy Gauls who no longer held Macedonian hostages. [176]

Neither the Boii nor the Veneti could match these Greek successes, primarily because their Roman adversary did not negotiate on terms of equality with nations who had once acknowledged Rome’s superiority. Roman generals had defeated the Boii and other Gallic tribes in northern Italy in the decade before the Second Punic war and had evidently exacted hostages. When report of Hannibal’s planned invasion of Italy reached the Boii, they determined to seize Roman land commissioners in the area who were then to be exchanged for the hostages held by the Romans. [399] (Hannibal’s invasion, it was thought, would divert Roman attention elsewhere and prevent the use of Rome’s entire energy for vengeance upon this disgraceful act.) The commissioners were duly seized, the ruse of a conference luring the Romans into a Gallic trap. Upon Hannibal’s arrival, the Boii offered him these Roman captives, but the Punic general returned them so that the Boii might proceed with the exchange as planned (Polybius 3.40.7; 10; 67.6-7; Livy 21.21.7; Frontinus Stratagems 1.8.6). Hannibal’s generosity availed nothing. The Roman government did not exchange the hostages for the commissioners, and the Roman captives remained with the Boii until the end of the war (Livy 30.19.7-9). [400]

Caesar maintained a similar obstinacy concerning an exchange and moved much more promptly to punish the Gallic temerity in attacking Roman personnel. The Veneti in 56 B.C. arrested Roman officers who had come into their territory for supplies, intending to exchange them for hostages delivered earlier to the Romans, and other tribes soon followed the Venetian example. Understandably annoyed at this revolt against his authority, which had been established in the previous year, Caesar undertook a war for its immediate suppression; the most prominent Veneti were slain and the rest sold into slavery (Caesar Gallic War 3.8.2; 5; 10.2; 16.4; Dio 39.40.1; Orosius 6.8). [401] [177]

The Gallic failure to effect a trade of Romans for their own hostages illustrates in a small incident the Roman obduracy against an unfavorable conditional peace and the Roman attitude that individuals, regardless of their distinction, were more expendable than Rome’s reputation for sovereignty. Threats against important citizens of Sparta, or against Gallic nobles, could reverse a governmental stand among the Spartans or the Gauls, [402] and the inability of the Gauls to alter the balance of power by such threats must have surprised nations accustomed to the great influence held by individuals: it was only such influence which made feasible exchanges under these conditions.


What can be said of the apparent failures of the system of hostageship? There are numerous instances in which a state withdrew from or reneged on its agreement despite its prior delivery of hostages to another government. What could befall these hostages when their country defaulted? It is in this situation that the paradoxical nature of the entire system becomes most evident, for although hostages were individually guiltless, their lives were nevertheless forfeit. [403] Moreover, their deaths could not have prevented or stopped a revolt and indeed may have provoked resentment and an even more desperate resistance. [404] How, then, did ancient governments perceive and respond to this dilemma?

Of Greek responses little is reported. Three of the five incidents in which a donor government resisted after a surrender of hostages have been discussed elsewhere in this study: a) the release of the Rhegian hostages by Dionysius I of Syracuse (Diodorus 14.106.3; 108.1-3); [405] [178] b) Agathocles’ surprise attack upon Ophelas of Cyrene while that worthy was attempting to seduce Agathocles’ hostage son (Polyaenus 5.3.3); [406] and c) the Bruttian massacre of Agathocles’ garrison and recovery of the hostages held in Italy (Diodorus 21.8). [407] The “happy ending” for the hostages in these stories is also an element in a pseudohistorical episode of the legend of Theseus, which is similar in outline to the anecdote concerning Agathocles and Ophelas. Deucalion, son of Minos, demanded the return of Theseus’ kinsman Daedalus and threatened to kill the youths Minos had exacted unless Theseus agreed. Theseus soothed the Cretan until he had readied his fleet for a surprise attack, which in the event proved successful; Theseus recovered the youths under an agreement with Ariadne (Plutarch Theseus 19.5-7). The legend related by Plutarch makes explicit the threat of violence usually only implied.

One other historical reference, however, suggests that “happy endings” should by no means be held typical. Writing about defensive strategy during the second quarter of the fourth century B.C., Aeneas Tacticus advised that a city besieged by an enemy to whom it had given hostages send the parents and close relatives of the hostages away from the city altogether or at least minimize their role in the city’s defense, lest observation of the hostages’ deaths (τὰ ἐσχατα πάσχοντας) induce them to betray the city to the enemy (1.10.23-25). The inference that the hostages might well suffer execution in these circumstances is inescapable. [408]

The evidence for Roman practice is little better. Of the many historical revolts by donor states, [409] the plight of the hostages is acknowledged in only five instances, and their fate specified in [179] only three. In 189 B.C. the Cephallenian city of Same, after an initial capitulation and the surrender of some hostages to the Roman commander, determined to resist; the hostages were sent before the city’s walls to stir up the pity of the inhabitants, presumably to persuade thereby a second submission (Livy 38.28.9). [410] We cannot mistake the intended intimidation, especially if the sentence is taken in conjunction with the passage from Aeneas Tacticus. The language which describes another, much later, incident creates a similarly uneasy atmosphere in which there is no overt menace from the recipient government; in this instance, the recipient government instead shifts the blame for any harm done the hostages to the donor state. In A.D. 9 the Sugambri rebelled under the leadership of Melo, “betraying their hostages and their pledges” (προδιδόντες καὶ τὰ ὅμηρα καὶ τὰς πὶστεις, Strabo 7.1.4 C291). [411]

In both of these cases the implication of potential violence is the only clue to the hostages’ immediate future, but in the three remaining incidents their fate is known. In 152 B.C., the Nergobriges of Iberia attempted to open negotiations with the Roman commander Marcellus while another group of them attacked the Romans elsewhere. Despite the delivery of one hundred horsemen (undoubtedly the condition Marcellus had posed to guarantee a truce during the negotiations) and the explanation that the attack was a simple mistake, Marcellus sold the horses, imprisoned the men, and continued to treat the territory as hostile (Appian Wars in Spain 48). We may reasonably suppose that the attack constituted a valid excuse for the forfeiture of the hostages, who then probably assumed the status of prisoners of war. Three years later, the defiance of Rome by Carthage resulted in the honorable but [180] lifelong custody of the three hundred Punic hostages submitted before the Third Punic War (Zonaras 9.30), a clemency the more surprising in view of the utter ruthlessness with which the other citizens and the city itself were destroyed. [412]

Yet the vulnerability of hostages becomes frighteningly apparent in the conduct of Sertorius two generations later: in 73/72 B.C. the Roman punished the defection of his Iberian allies with the death and enslavement of some of the boys attending school at Osca, children of the Iberian nobility (Plutarch Sertorius 10.3; 25.4). The precarious position of Sertorius, an exile whose life depended upon continued victories over his countrymen, undoubtedly provoked this brutal and desperate attempt to regain ascendancy over his disenchanted Iberian friends, and it is likely that Plutarch’s source for Sertorius’ biography was somewhat biased against the Marian general. Plutarch himself, however, seem, to have subscribed to a negative assessment of the Roman’s character, for he asserted that Sertorius’ harsh treatment of these youths indicated an assumed mildness of disposition (10.39) and was in fact an injustice (25.4). Plutarch’s attitude argues an age in which the execution of hostages in response to their country’s default was completely foreign, an attitude whose roots may be found in Livy (28.34.7-10) and perhaps even earlier. [413]

Thus the question of the Roman response to defection in regard to hostages, already severely hampered by the lack of documentation, is further complicated by the extremes to which the few cases attest. Although it is tempting to excuse or discount Sertorius’ brutality as atypical, a legend attached to the early years of the Republic suggests that hostages truly represented their government and were accordingly [181] punished if a treaty was violated. [414] In the course of the wars between Rome and her neighbors, Rome compelled the towns of Cora and Pometia to deliver hostages. When these towns revolted, the Romans not only killed the captives but even the hostages (Livy 2.16.9; cf. Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.25.1-3; 30.1). Despite the problems of dating this episode and the “literary regeneration” of the towns (in Livy 2.22.2), [415] it is difficult to dismiss the strong possibility that the legendary execution reflects a genuine early Roman response to the revolt of an inferior “allied” power; the justification which Dionysius attributed to Appius Claudius (6.30.1), that the deaths would be an exemplary lesson to others who gave Rome hostages, is perhaps a rhetorical flourish which nevertheless expressed a valid political point.

Comparative material from other cultures is widely scattered, with few examples from any single ethnic group. The historically unreliable Polyaenus, in an anecdote concerning the Bosporan kingdoms of the fifth century B.C., tell the involved story of Tirgatao, a princess of the Maotian Ixomatae, who was attacked by her former husband Hecataeus and Hecataeus’ new father-in-law, Satyrus. After Hecataeus and Satyrus sued for peace, Tirgatao accepted Satyrus’ son as a hostage for the sworn agreement; when Satyrus’ later plot against her was discovered, she executed the hostage and again waged war on her persecutors (8.55.1). One’s sympathy is entirely with the lady. Yet this “historical romance” is the only explicit testimony known to me that in other societies hostages might be killed as a punishment for a treaty violation. [416] The Persian attitude is unknown despite the treacherous behavior of Asiatic Greeks at the Battle of Mycale in 479 B.C. (Diodorus 11.36.6). We are equally ignorant of the Samnite reaction [182] either to the alleged Roman repudiation of the sponsio after the disaster at the Caudine Forks [417] or to the Lucanian defection to the Romans in 298 B.C. (Livy 8.27.10; 10.11.13; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 17.1; Warmington ROL 4: 2). [418] The attitude attributed to Carthaginians in the years immediately before and after the beginning of the Hannibalic War varies from the account of the ridiculous and highly implausible restoration of hostages in recognition of the manly courage of Salmatis’ women (Plutarch Moralia 248E-249B; Polyaenus 7.48.1) [419] to ignorance of what Hannibal did with the hostages of the Alpine tribe which treacherously attacked him in 218 B.C. (Polybius 3.52.5; Livy 21.34.3-4) to the probably realistic fear of the Iberians in 217 B.C. that, if they supported the Romans, their hostage children would die as punishment for their disloyalty (Livy 22.22.5). The Gauls who served as Antigonus’ mercenaries and then tried to extort a higher fee than previously stipulated (Polyaenus 4.6.17) may have overtly threatened the hostages in their power, as Ariovistus did in 58B.C. (Caesar Gallic War 1.31.12 & 15), but nothing indicates that they actually implemented torture or murder. [420]

It would appear from these admittedly few cases that the Romans did not automatically pursue a prescribed course of action when a donor state defaulted upon an agreement. Although we might have expected that forfeited hostages were regularly executed - was not death the ultimate implicit threat which was to constrain the donor? -, [421] imprisonment was perhaps a more merciful and more expedient punishment. Despite the legal right to execute forfeited hostages, the wisdom of doing so is debatable; the resentment produced by this reaction, unleashed by the inability to harm the hostages any further, could conceivably [422] counterbalance the deterrent value which common knowledge that the deaths of hostages inevitably followed rebellion might have. Imprisonment lacked the long-range deterrent value of execution, but it did demonstrate that the recipient government was serious, while maintaining the lives of the hostages as a bargaining point in future negotiations. Nor should we underestimate the Roman capacity for mercy. At least by the time of the early Principate, the idea of exacting vengeance for revolt upon hostages themselves guiltless was distasteful, as the speech which Livy wrote for Scipio indicates: neque se in obsides innoxios, sed in ipsos, se defecerint, saeviturum (Livy 28.34.10). [423] Nevertheless, the large number of incidents for which the fate of the hostages is not known and the possibility of execution which was always present, despite the seeming inclination toward mercy in some of the attested cases, must make us wary of drawing any firm conclusions about Roman policy toward forfeited hostages.

Intervention of a Third Party

A hostage’s fate might be determined in yet another manner: action independent of both his own government’s wishes and those of the recipient state. The intervention of a third party occasionally altered the situation between hostage and keeper. [424] The one Greek example cannot of course be assumed as altogether typical, [425] and the singularity of the episode makes any comparison with the Roman cases merely intriguing. Nevertheless, this unique Greek example forms a useful point of departure, for it is the earliest case under consideration. After his seizure of Ephesus in 302 B.C., Lysimachus’ general Prepelaüs restored the Rhodian hostages whom Demetrius Poliorcetes had exacted two years earlier (Diodorus 20.107.4). His successful invasion [184] of Demetrius’ territory permitted Prepelaüs (and his master Lysimachus) to control the destiny of these hostages, and the single act of their release simultaneously robbed Demetrius of their use and presumably earned Prepelaüs the gratitude of the individual hostages and, as leaders, their state. [426] It may be worth noting that Diodorus does not seem surprised by the return of the hostages to Rhodes, and that therefore this is probably standard Hellenistic practice. This pattern of events - physical possession of the hostages followed by restoration - is the most frequently repeated, with only slight variations. [427]

The earliest Roman incidents clearly demonstrate this pattern. [428] The historical validity of the first episode, the return of the Iberian hostages held at Saguntum which the wily Abilyx engineered (Polybius 3.98-99; Livy 22.22.4-18; Zonaras 9.1), has been examined elsewhere, [429] but it is important to reiterate in the context of third-party interference the significant difference between the free release of hostages which the elder Scipios granted in 217 B.C. and the conditional restoration which Scipio demanded on his capture of Cartagena in 209 B.C., the supposed original for the Abilyx variant. Africanus’ release of the hostages from Cartagena occurred only after the Iberian tribes to which the hostages belonged had renounced their Punic allegiance and agreed to support the Romans. The conditional release marks an obvious deviation from the conduct of Prepelaüs and the elder Scipios, a condition which, despite its equally obvious practicality, did not become a standard feature of such restorations. [430]

In the next generation, the Third Macedonian War provided another opportunity for Roman intervention. When the war with Perseus [185] of Macedon ended, L. Aemilius Paulus dispatched Bithys, son of the Thracian king Cotys, to Italy; the Thracian prince had been detained in Macedon as a hostage for Cotys’ aid to Perseus, and Paulus had captured him together with Perseus’ children. Thracian envoys to Rome requested permission to ransom the prince and the other Thracian hostages with him. Although the envoys tried to excuse Cotys’ aid to Perseus because he had been compelled to give hostages, the Senate replied that the delivery of hostages was in itself an accusation, not a defense, of Cotys’ anti-Roman actions. The Senate did, however, order that three ambassadors escort Bithys and the other Thracians back to Cotys, without ransom (Polybius 30.18.1-4; Livy 45.42.5-12; Zonaras 9.24). The decision to release the captured hostages, we are told, originated not in the genuine magnanimous generosity of the Roman Senate, but in the expediency which recognized that the Roman “gift,” which cost Rome nothing, bound Cotys by the favor which the accompanying admonishment emphasized (Polybius 30.17.4); moreover, the Thracians formed a protective barrier for the Greek coastal cities from the tribes further inland, and an inclination toward the Romans was potentially valuable. [431]

But the physical capture of hostages was not the only means by which a third party could arrange their release. Diplomatic arbitration might also effect restoration. [432] In 184 B.C., a Roman embassy headed by Ap. Claudius traveled through Crete to settle disputes; among other issues the Romans decided that Cydon would receive back from Charmion’s control her hostages and should depart from Phalasarna without removing anything (Polybius 22.15.5-6). [433] Although the Cretans were willing to accept Roman arbitration, it is not completely certain that Rome’s arbitration was in this instance final. Whether there was an actual disagreement between the two Cretan parties is unknown, and [186] one can state with confidence only that the Roman ambassadors of 184 B.C. chose to dissolve whatever contract existed between Cydon and Phalasarna. [434]

The campaigns against Mithridates furnish two more examples of the Roman desire to negate agreements made between other nations. The Chians had delivered to Zenobius, Mithridates’ general, their arms, hostages and a tribute of 2,000 talents after their defeat in 86 B.C. Zenobius, however, claimed that the weight of the tribute was short and used this pretext to send the Chian citizenry to Pontus (Appian Mithridatic Wars 46-47). The release of the Chians and all the other unfortunates whom Mithridates had had dragged off to Pontus became part of the negotiated settlement of the First Mithridatic War (Appian Mithridatic Wars 55;58), and the surviving Chians eventually returned home. [435] Similarly, after Mithridates’ death, his son Pharnaces sent his body, the persons responsible for Manius’ capture, and all hostages, Greek and barbarian, to the Roman general Pompey (Appian Mithridatic Wars 113); this was the price of Pompey’s recognition of Pharnaces’ claim to Pontus. [436] Of these hostages, those from Antioch were certainly restored (Eutropius 6.14.2), and in all probability the others were as well.

Roman interference was not, however, always or immediately successful. In 91 B.C., a Roman magistrate learned that a hostage for the Italian social alliance was being transported from Asculum to another allied city; he dared to threaten the already seditious community unless the hostage was released. His injudicious and arrogant demand prompted his murder and the slaughter of all the Romans in Asculum (Appian Civil Wars 1.38). This violent incident ignited the battles of the Social War. [187]

Caesar’s request for the return of Aeduan hostages from the Sequani and their allies, the Germans, met with a similar initial rejection, but in this case Roman military power proved successful where diplomacy had failed. In 61 B.C., the Sequani and mercenary German troops under Ariovistus had resoundingly defeated the Aedui, the longstanding rivals of the Sequani, at Admagetobriga. The subsequent embassy of the Aeduan Diviciacus, who sought Roman aid against the Sequani-German coalition, was ineffectual, and Caesar himself as consul in 59 B.C. had procured some recognition for the authority of the German Ariovistus. It must therefore have come as a surprise to the German chief when in 58 B.C. Caesar demanded that he release the Aeduan hostages and authorize the Sequani to do likewise (Caesar Gallic War 1.35.3). Caesar’s insistence on their return and Ariovistus’ adamant refusal are a significant part of Caesar’ s account of the preliminaries to the Germanic campaign; the issue arises in no fewer than seven chapters in the first book (31.7-15; 33.2; 35.3; 36.5; 37.2; 43.9; 44.2) and is recollected twice elsewhere (6.12.4; 6;7.54.3). The legality of Caesar’s position has already been discussed, [437] and it is sufficient to remark here that Caesar’s demand required troops for its enforcement and that ultimately the hostages appear to have been restored unconditionally (6.12.6; 7.54.3). [438] Caesar also returned the hostages of the Eburones who had been held by the Aduatuci (Caesar Gallic War 5.27.2) and it is likely that this was his standard practice.

Two episodes in which Rome did not figure as the third, non-contracting government merit brief examination, for each presents a quite different attitude on the part of the third nation. Early in the Social War, the allies under Papius seized Venusia, where Oxynta, son of the [188] Numidian king Jugurtha, was being detained in Roman custody. [439] The allies displayed him, dressed in royal garb and hailed as king of Numidia, to the Numidian cavalry that was then under Roman command, hoping to instigate their defection or at least to undermine Roman confidence in the Numidian auxiliaries (Appian Civil Wars 1.42). Beyond the immediate success of this stratagem, nothing further of the prince or of allied intentions toward Numidia is known. [440] It is unlikely that Oxynta enjoyed much freedom in the exercise of authority, despite his title, and the Roman policy, which eroded the allied unity in resistance, prevented any compromise of the Roman position in Africa, if indeed there was ever any intention to reward Oxynta by supporting his claim to Numidia. [441]

The second incident is more informative, but authorial bias may have significantly corrupted its value as evidence of Gallic practice. The Aedui, on behalf of whose hostages Caesar had based his justification of the Germanic campaign, were staunch allies of the Romans until the revolt of Vercingetorix. As such, they, together with a Roman garrison, had been entrusted with the Gallic hostages and war materials collected at Noviodunum, a town on the Loire within their territory (Caesar Gallic War 6.4.4; 7.55.1-3). When in 52 B.C. the auxiliary Aeduan cavalry, whom Caesar had dismissed in order that they might prevent sedition, heard that the Aeduan government sanctioned revolt, they seized the town, massacred the garrison and the resident traders, and escorted the captured hostages to their own magistrate at Bibracte (Caesar Civil War 7.55.4-6). The subsequent intimidation, by threats to the hostages of such tribes as were hesitant to join the revolt (horom [sc. obsidum] supplicio dubitantis territant, Caesar Civil War 7.63.3) seems [189] the act of brutal savages, an impression that Caesar no doubt planned to convey. Caesar has deliberately colored the episode. The possibility of injury is, after all, inherent in the very concept of a hostage, regardless of which nation, Roman or Aeduan, held them. [442] Stripped of its prejudicial tone, the incident bears a close, although not exact, resemblance to Scipio’s conditional release of Iberian hostages captured at Cartagena; the difference between Scipio’s “gallantry” and Aeduan “brutality” may lie primarily in one’s point of view. [443]

Although we cannot compare Roman practice to that of any other culture with any accuracy, the events summarized above reflect a consistently liberal attitude toward captive hostages, an attitude which usually permitted the free or conditional release of such persons. [444] Several attested incidents indicate that even when no state of war existed between Rome and another government which was detaining hostages, Roman magistrates attempted to pressure the recipient nation into their return. The consistency of this policy is perfectly understandable, for by restoring hostages to their native country, Rome often gained the gratitude of that state and also weakened the dominant recipient state. In this somewhat limited context clemency was expedient. Such a policy thus serves as a method for maintaining a balance of power among other states, and it could also function as an important tool in “imperialistic” expansion.

In this chapter I hope that I have made clear the six basic categories into which terminations of hostageship fall. The variety of the situations which led to release or alteration of status are perhaps [190] predictable, since political circumstances are by their nature variable and give rise to varying methods of handling change. What is remarkable is the range of response within each of these categories. Viewed schematically, each action which effected a change in a hostage’s position could have prompted a reaction which affected the hostage positively (i.e., release or an improvement in the conditions of detention), negatively (i.e., death or a decline in the conditions of detention), or ambiguously (i.e., either no real difference in treatment, although the hostage was technically forfeit, or a mixed response such as the release of the hostage coupled with a declaration of war); excepting request and restoration, [445] the four other categories all contain examples of each of these types of response.

Despite the wide disparity of reaction to similar circumstances, we can infer some general principles about the way in which the Romans viewed the proper conclusions of hostageship. For aggressive (and illegal) action by the donor government, such as seizure and revolt, the Romans punished the offending state and often the hostages as well; [446] for those who failed in an attempt to escape or to abduct hostages from Roman control, death was the usual penalty. In the only successful escape, that of the Seleucid prince Demetrius, when physical chastisement was impossible, a crippling diplomatic blow was substituted. Restoration occurred as a reward for services rendered (e.g., the support of Philip V against Antiochus III of Syria); [447] those who were “guests” of the Roman state (like Vonones, son of Phraates IV) or who were technically prisoners of war (like the Iberians captured by Scipio at Cartagena) could receive their release in return for their anticipated gratitude in the concrete form of alliances favoring Rome [191] and governmental partiality to Roman interests.

Although the guiding Roman principle can be simply and briefly summarized as perceived self-interest, the flexibility of the policies which achieved that self-interest must excite our admiration. The Romans appear to have examined each case carefully before resolving on a course of action specifically tailored for the situation; similar acts did not inevitably end in similar consequences. [448] This appreciation of differences in detail is perhaps the more surprising in a people frequently criticized for their lack of sophistication in political theory and for lack of imagination.

Chapter 5: Conclusion [205-209]

We have seen that hostageship was an integral part of Roman foreign policy, an institution rooted deeply in both the legendary past (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1.43.1; 1.59.2) and the contemporary accounts of Rome’s incredibly swift expansion during the second and first centuries B.C. (e.g., Polybius and Caesar). Only one hypothesis could explain the long duration of hostageship over so many centuries and involving such diverse peoples: it worked. No mere custom, however well entrenched, is likely to have survived solely because of the sentiment engendered by longstanding tradition. This is not to say that hostageship never failed, but rather that the potential gains of hostage exaction outweighed both the potential disadvantages and the effort which the recipient government expended upon the process.

So much we can argue from common sense. Where is the proof? In the majority of cases where our sources refer to the exaction of hostages, we are not explicitly told whether concern for the hostages restrained the donor from violating the agreement, and it is such explicit testimony upon which our evaluation of efficacy must rest. For many of these cases, we know that the agreement was kept, but we do not know precisely why. Philip V of Macedon remained a loyal, though perhaps not an enthusiastic, ally of Rome during the Greek campaign of Antiochus III of Syria, but we cannot prove that the [206] detention of his son Demetrius was solely - or even partially - responsible for Philip’s fidelity. Similarly, Carthage’s patience in the face of Masinissa’s depredations while Punic hostages resided in Italy may have been due purely to the exaction of hostages, or to her military weakness, or to her reluctance to engage in another African war. [449] Although it is probably correct to suspect in such instances that hostage exaction played an important role in forcing donor governments to observe their agreements, let us instead consider evidence which cannot be readily disputed.

First, the failures. There are some thirty-five revolts attested after the delivery of hostages, out of a total of two hundred eighteen historical exactions, or 16.1%. [450] For Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul, the greater wealth of detailed information allows us to compute a higher percentage of failures, about 27.1%. Even if this higher rate of failure is accepted as a more accurate reflection of the efficacy of hostageship, the reverse of the failure rate is a surprising 70% - the rate of success of hostageship in preventing revolt.

Yet the explicitly acknowledged successes of hostagcship, though fewer than the obvious failures, are perhaps more revealing. The attempts to rescue hostages before beginning overt resistance (Diodorus 12.27.1-2; Plutarch Pericles 25.1-3, Thucydides 1.115.3, 5; Diodorus 19.75.1-2; Josephus Jewish Antiquities 14.290) must assuredly demonstrate the efficacy of the restraint which exaction entailed. [451] Ancient authorities expressly attributed to hostageship no fewer than seven cases of good faith in the face of danger to hostages: in 396 B.C., the Campanians around [207] Aetna declined Himilco’s offer of aid in revolting because of their hostages in Syracuse (Diodorus 14.61.4-6); the Iberians in 217 B.C. and 209 B.C. did not rise against the Carthaginians until their hostages were no longer in Punic custody (Livy 22.22,5; 26.43.4; 27.17.1-3; Polybius 3.99.3; 10.34; etc.); [452] the execution of their hostages provoked the defection of Tarentum and Thurii in 212 B.C., (Livy 25.8.1-2; 15,7); Cotys of Thrace tried to explain away his support of Perseus against Rome on the grounds that his son Bithys was a hostage at Perseus’ court (Livy 45.42.7); threatened with the torture and/or death of their kin, the Aedui in 58 B.C. employed a spokesman not bound by hostages to present their complaints against the Germans and Sequani to Caesar (Caesar Gallic War 1.31.12,15), and in 52 B.C. those Gauls whose hostages had fallen into the power of the Aedui joined Vercingetorix’s party (Caesar Gallic War 7.63.3). [453] This explicit testimony, coupled with the reluctance with which states submitted hostages, proves definitively the constraint which hostageship could wield. [454]

Thus it is clear that, with regard to its primary purpose of compelling fulfillment of a contract, hostageship was an effective weapon. Was there another purpose? We have observed in the previous discussion that Romanization was a possible factor in selection criteria, treatment, and termination of hostage status. Although this question of the Romanization of hostages has frequently risen among modern scholars, it cannot be absolutely answered; no ancient source categorically states such a motive. Opinion is divided on the important issue of whether Romanization was in fact a conscious and deliberate [208] policy and on the subsidiary matter of when this policy, if such there was, came into being. [455]

There is, however, some circumstantial evidence. Roman practice differed markedly from Greek in the selection of males, although female hostages appear to have worked as well. But only men managed the business of government. The selection of youths of impressionable age seems a regular feature of the treaties with Carthage in 201 B.C., with Philip V of Macedon in 196 B.C., with the Aetolian Treaty in 189 B.C., and with Antiochus III of Syria in 188 B.C. The Romans maintained a procedure of substitution (mutatio obsidum), which meant that more hostages were exposed to Roman culture; whether it is better policy to expose many for a short time or a few for a long time is debatable. [456] Finally, hostages of Rome were as a rule very well treated.

These facts, together with the obvious effect of Roman flattery and ideas found in the subsequent careers of Demetrius of Macedon and Antiochus IV of Syria, suggest that the Roman Senate was fully cognizant of the potential value of Romanization. [457] Certainly Sertorius’ use of a Roman school at Osca becomes more intelligible in view of these precedents, as does the failure of Vonones and most of the other Parthian and Armenian princes to remain secure on their thrones; their long residence at Rome and their unfamiliarity with their own culture caused them to become estranged from their subjects, to become incapable of governing an alien people. Romanization had progressed too successfully.

As hostages assimilated Roman customs and Roman ideas on [209] politics, they must also have acquired an understanding of the role which the Romans expected them to play in future dealings. Just as dediticii in general became the clients of the commanding field officer, so must have hostages, often from these same surrendered peoples, become dependents of the man who had directed their exaction. Indeed, when the hostages were taken to Rome or its environs, there was undoubtedly a deepening of this relationship, because of the greater contact which the patron and client had. Moreover, the additional social contact with the ruling elite of Rome might well have brought about the development of similar bonds of obligation to other distinguished Romans, although probably to a lesser extent.

In conclusion, I submit that during the Republican period the Romans employed hostage exaction first and chiefly as a means of insuring that treaty obligations be met and secondly as a method of cultivating politically valuable allies among the hostages themselves. Except for the effort and expense incurred by the selection and maintenance of the hostages, there was little that Rome could lose by such a process, and there was a great deal to be won.

Part 1 - Book
Part 2 - Appendix
Part 3 - Bibliography


  1. Aymard, A. 1961. “Les otages barbares au debut de l’empire.” JRS 51:136-142; 1967. “Les otages carthaginois à 1a fin de la deuxième guerre punique.” Etudes d’Histoire Ancienne 436-50; 1954. “Rome et les barbares,” Bibliothèque de L’Ecole des Chartes 112:257; Moscovich, M. J. 1974. “Hostage Regulations in the Treaty of Zama.” Historia 23:417-27; 1979-1980. “Obsidibus Traditis: Hostages in Caesar’s De Bello Gallico.” CJ 75:122-128; 1974. “A Note on the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C.,” Polis and Imperium: Studies in Honor of Edward Togo Salmon (ed. J.A.S. Evans) 139-143. Toronto.
  2. For the page numbers of this and the following sections, see the contents sidebar, where the black numbers in square brackets indicate ranges of pages and individual pages.
  3. Powell, J. E. 1960. A Lexicon to Herodotus. Hildesheim, s.v. ὅμηρος, 264; Bétant, E. A. 1961. Lexicon Thucydideum. Hildesheim, s.v. ὅμηρος, 2:232; Sturz, F. G. 1964. Lexicon Xenophonteum. Hildesheim, s.v. ὅμηρος, 3:27374. For the four categories, see pp. 1-11 below.
  4. For the alterations, see 27-93 below.
  5. For a complete list of primary sources, see the bibliography, 283-287.
  6. For the restricted use of obses, see below, p. 10.
  7. Aymard, “Les otages barbares,” 137; Coleman Phillipson, The International Law and Custom of Ancient Greece and Rome, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan & Co., 1911), 1: 399; pace George Rawlinson, The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy: or, The Geography, History, and Antiquities of Parthia (New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1872), p.131.
  8. For the use of unilateral hostages in similar cases of factional dispute, see below, 8-10.
  9. For the use of unilateral hostages in similar cases of factional dispute, see below, 8-10.
  10. See Appendix I.A. below, 212-244.
  11. For the use of unilateral hostages in similar cases of factional dispute, see below, 8-10.
  12. See Appendix I.A. below, 212-244.
  13. Although such explicit couplings are rare, it is often manifest from the context of the exaction that one party is inferior.
  14. There is at least one case in which Livy's distinction is maintained. Lamenting the pitiable state of Gaul after Caesar's conquest, Orosius remarks ...profiteri sponsionem servitutis aeternae, avulsis insuper obsidibus, cogeretur... (Orosius 6.12.4). The addition of insuper certainly suggests that hostages were not an expected part of the sponsio's burden.
  15. There is at least one case in which Livy's distinction is maintained. Lamenting the pitiable state of Gaul after Caesar's conquest, Orosius remarks ...profiteri sponsionem servitutis aeternae, avulsis insuper obsidibus, cogeretur... (Orosius 6.12.4). The addition of insuper certainly suggests that hostages were not an expected part of the sponsio's burden.
  16. Moscovich, “Obsidibus Traditis”, 126. The list in footnote 35 errs twice; it should read Livy 36.40.3 and Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 7.3.2; it appears to be used in place of obses only at Livy 33.22.9.
  17. Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary (Oxford: 1969), 165, s.v. "arrabo."
  18. Moscovich, “Obsidibus Traditis”, 126. The list in footnote 35 errs twice; it should read Livy 36.40.3 and Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 7.3.2; it appears to be used in place of obses only at Livy 33.22.9.
  19. The coupling of obses and pignus in Cicero's Pro Caelio 32.78 refers not to people, but to prosecutions; for this rhetorical usage, see below, 261. The alliterative power of pignus pacis may explain its popularity with the stylist Livy (Livy 2.13.9; 9.15.7; 28. 34.9; 36.40.3; 40.15.8; cf. Silius Italicus, Punica 10.494; Justin Epitome of Philippic History of Pompeius Troges, 7.3.2).
  20. Eugen Täubler, Imperium Romanum: Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Römischen Reichs, (Rome: Bretschneider, 1964), p. 1 n. 3. For acceptance of this thesis without comment, see Stéphane Gsell, Histoire Ancienne de L'Afrique du Nord, 6 vols. (Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie., 1918-1924), 3: 294 n. 7; Gaetano de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4 vols. (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1953), 3: 2: 605 n. 15; cf. P.C. Sands, Client Princes of the Roman Empire (Cambridge: The University Press, 1908), pp. 51-52.
  21. Aymard, “Les otages carthaginois,” pp. 436, 449-450; for individual cases in which hostages did not guarantee money, see F.W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957-1979), 1: 604, 3: 134-35.
  22. Although this alternative proposal was rejected, it still indicates a possible purpose for hostage exaction.
  23. Nevertheless, we must not dismiss as pure coincidence the frequent proximity of the financial and hostage clauses and the correspondence of the periods over which both the indemnity and the hostages were required. The Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C. furnishes the clearest correlation of the two clauses (Livy 38.11; Polybius 21. 42); cf. Aymard, “Les otages carthaginois,” 436-37; Walbank, Polybius, 3: 134-35; de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4: 1: 258-62; and the correlation of hostages and tribute in Irish legend (e.g., Whitley Stokes, "The Death of Crimthann son of Fidach, and the Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Muigmedon," Revue Celtique 24 (1903): 181.
  24. The slight circumlocutions found in Livy 28.35.4 (pro obsidibus) and Caesar B. C. 1. 84. 2 (obsidis loco) may suggest that perhaps obses originally did not refer to this kind of exaction and was only later applied, as an extension of formal hostageship.
  25. Note the similarity of expression in obsides dare nihil fraudis fore...pignus fidei, Livy 42.39.607 and pignus afore fraudem, Livy 43.10.3.
  26. There is a case of a third party asking for hostages from two other groups. Antigonus Gonatas and Pyrrhus were fighting in the neighborhood of Argos, and Argos sought to resolve the quarrel by establishing a truce. Both Antigonus and Pyrrhus were asked to give hostages, but only Antigonus did so (Plutarch Pyrrhus 31.2).
  27. For a discussion of mercenaries supplying hostages to guarantee a private contract, see below, pp. 31-33.
  28. The coupling of obses and pignus in Cicero's Pro Caelio 32.78 refers not to people, but to prosecutions; for this rhetorical usage, see below, 261. The alliterative power of pignus pacis may explain its popularity with the stylist Livy (Livy 2.13.9; 9.15.7; 28. 34.9; 36.40.3; 40.15.8; cf. Silius Italicus, Punica 10.494; Justin Epitome of Philippic History of Pompeius Troges, 7.3.2).
  29. Again, a sort of circumlocution: liberos eo rum obsidum nomine in servitutem abripi.
  30. Appian does not use ὅμηρος here, but ἐνέχυρον see above p.1.
  31. See below, pp. 58-72, for the duration of the hostageship for formal agreements.
  32. Eugen Täubler, Imperium Romanum: Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Römischen Reichs, (Rome: Bretschneider, 1964), p. 1 n. 3. For acceptance of this thesis without comment, see Stéphane Gsell, Histoire Ancienne de L'Afrique du Nord, 6 vols. (Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie., 1918-1924), 3: 294 n. 7; Gaetano de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4 vols. (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1953), 3: 2: 605 n. 15; cf. P.C. Sands, Client Princes of the Roman Empire (Cambridge: The University Press, 1908), pp. 51-52.
  33. I have omitted a full-length discussion of the rhetorical and non-personal uses of ὅμηρος and obses because neither is helpful in understanding hostageship. See Appendix 1. C. below, p. 261.
  34. A.H. McDonald, "Rome and the Italian Confederation (200-186 B. C.)," JRS 34 (1944): 13; cf. Diodorus 23.5 for a Punic example of this sort of exaction.
  35. It is not unusual that these military units are called hostages, for their repatriation might well have depended upon their own and their country's faithful obedience. Such levies, simultaneously hostages and soldiers, may be the basis for the seemingly inflated numbers of hostages, e.g., Diodorus 24.10.2; cf. Ulrich Kahrstedt, Geschichte der Karthager von 218-146, 3 vols. (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 3:105, 110, 495-498. Cf. Pluto Moralia 865 and Norman J. De Witt, Urbanization and the Franchise in Roman Gaul (Lancaster, PA: Lancaster Press, 1940), pp. 7-8.
  36. Even a Greek source preserves a circumlocution: ἐν ομήρων...λόγῳ.
  37. Eugen Täubler, Imperium Romanum: Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Römischen Reichs, (Rome: Bretschneider, 1964), p. 1 n. 3. For acceptance of this thesis without comment, see Stéphane Gsell, Histoire Ancienne de L'Afrique du Nord, 6 vols. (Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie., 1918-1924), 3: 294 n. 7; Gaetano de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4 vols. (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1953), 3: 2: 605 n. 15; cf. P.C. Sands, Client Princes of the Roman Empire (Cambridge: The University Press, 1908), pp. 51-52.
  38. The Irish legends mention another cause for exaction not found in the Greco-Roman material. According to these legends, hostage exaction was an integral part of sovereignty, so integral that a lack of hostages nullified one's claim to kingship. Cf. Myles Dillon, The Cycles of the Kings (London: Geoffrey Cumberlege, 1946) pp. 37, 82-83; Eugene O'Curry, On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, 3 vols. (Williams & Norgate, 1873), l: ccxxxviii; for hostages as a surety for one's promise, Whitley Stokes, "Prose Tales in the Rennes Dindsenchas ," Revue Celtique 15 (1894): 313; Cross and Slover, Ancient Irish Tales (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1936), pp. 30, 33, 109 (of wolves!), 116, 256-258. Hostages may also have figured in arbitration (Dillon, Cycles, pp. 58-59), although the Greeks appear to have avoided hostage exaction in seeking judgments; cf. Adcock and Mosley, Diplomacy in Ancient Greece (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975), p. 214.
  39. See Aymard, “Les otages barbares,” p. 137, and above, pp. 4-5.
  40. Whether the anecdote of Agesipolis' retort to a heckler belongs to the fourth or the third century seems to me uncertain; see below, p. 81 n. 10.
  41. Although this alternative proposal was rejected, it still indicates a possible purpose for hostage exaction.
  42. For the distinction between national and private agreements, see above, pp. 8-10.
  43. Plutarch is a more reliable authority for this anecdote because his major source for the Pelopidas was evidently a contemporary fourth-century historian. H. D. Westlake, "The Sources of Plutarch's Pelopidas,” CQ 33 (1939): 11-22.
  44. See below, pp. 16-19.
  45. Since all the sources for this paragraph display a marked pro-Roman bias, we should perhaps allow for some exaggeration of Rome's magnanimity. Still, there is no evidence that this magnanimity is pure invention.
  46. Nevertheless, we must not dismiss as pure coincidence the frequent proximity of the financial and hostage clauses and the correspondence of the periods over which both the indemnity and the hostages were required. The Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C. furnishes the clearest correlation of the two clauses (Livy 38.11; Polybius 21. 42); cf. Aymard, “Les otages carthaginois,” 436-37; Walbank, Polybius, 3: 134-35; de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4: 1: 258-62; and the correlation of hostages and tribute in Irish legend (e.g., Whitley Stokes, "The Death of Crimthann son of Fidach, and the Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Muigmedon," Revue Celtique 24 (1903): 181.
  47. According to Livy, it was Demetrius' kingly disposition which gained their good will (obses specimen indolis regiae dedisset...,Livy 39.35.3). This grouping of obses/rex, like the remark of Antiochus's envoy, may be rhetorical elaboration, but it probably refers to a real dichotomy of status.
  48. Note again the contrasting antonyms: …ut pro rege, non pro obside…
  49. Livy has here used innoxii and saeviturum with reference to hostages and their punishment. Such loaded words clearly demonstrate the attitude that Livy thought appropriate for Scipio Africanus, but this passage is unusual. Except for proper adjectives which describe ethnic
  50. International Law and Custom, 1: 151. Phillipson cites the decree which approved the treaty between Athens and Selymbria (Russell Meiggs and David Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), #87, pp. 267-269), which names the Selymbrian Apollodorus as a restored hostage and confers the proxenia upon him. The other incident on which Phillipson based his remark is an inscription which in seemingly conventional phraseology confers proxenia for the Achaean League upon Phocians and Boeotians (CIG 1542). Cf. Hatto H. Schmitt, Die Staatsverträge des Altertums, vol. 3: Die Verträge der griechisch-römischen Welt von 338 bis 200 v. Chr. (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1969), #507, p. 215.
  51. The slight circumlocutions found in Livy 28.35.4 (pro obsidibus) and Caesar B. C. 1. 84. 2 (obsidis loco) may suggest that perhaps obses originally did not refer to this kind of exaction and was only later applied, as an extension of formal hostageship.
  52. Cf. also the dependence of Demetrius of Macedon and Vonones I of Parthia on Roman support. Aymard (“Les otages barbares,” pp. 139-142) eloquently discusses this issue with regard to the practice of Augustus as described by Suetonius (Aug. 21.2) and its possible effects upon the barbarian chiefs who furnished hostages to Rome.
  53. Since I have concentrated my research upon Republican Rome, I have not searched systematically for information regarding Carthaginian, Palestinian, Gallic and other non-Greco-Roman cultures.
  54. L’Afrique du Nord, 3: 166.
  55. One might have thought a Gallic revolt the last thing desired by the parents of the hostages, but see below, pp. 177-182.
  56. It is most unfortunate that no extant source attests the Greek or Roman attitude in such unequivocal language.
  57. See above, pp. 1-11 and below, pp. 127-128. Later Indo-European societies, like the Irish Celts and the Scandinavians in Iceland, seem to have treated hostages rather as Augustus did these Parthians or even better. They are described as foster relatives or as royally supported guests within the king's household. Dillon, Cycles, p. 75; John O'Donovan, Leabhar na g-Ceart or the Book of Rights, (Dublin: Printed for the Celtic Society, 1847), p. 135; Stith Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk Literature (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1957), vols. 5 and 6.
  58. Note the similarity of expression in obsides dare nihil fraudis fore...pignus fidei, Livy 42.39.607 and pignus afore fraudem, Livy 43.10.3.
  59. See Chapter III below, pp. 94-143.
  60. Mars McClelland Westington, Atrocities in Roman Warfare to 133 B.C. (Chicago: Private edition distributed by the University of Chicago Libraries, 1938), p. 31; Moscovich ("Obsidibus Traditis," pp. 126-127) cites Dionysius without comment. Phillipson (International Law and Custom, 1: 406) denies absolute immunity but indicates the conditional inviolability of hostages.
  61. Although Livy has certainly scorned Phileas' claim to status (per speciem legationis, Livy 25.7.11), it seems likely Phileas must have been a genuine envoy from Tarentum; the most plausible reason for the pointed denigration of Phileas’ accredition is that Phileas tried to claim immunity.
  62. There is a case of a third party asking for hostages from two other groups. Antigonus Gonatas and Pyrrhus were fighting in the neighborhood of Argos, and Argos sought to resolve the quarrel by establishing a truce. Both Antigonus and Pyrrhus were asked to give hostages, but only Antigonus did so (Plutarch Pyrrhus 31.2).
  63. For Roman treatment of captured hostages who had been delivered to a nation at war with Rome, see below, pp. 182-190.
  64. Treaties rarely specify every contingency that may arise, and therefore the exact point at which a treaty may be judged broken is usually a matter of interpretation, much influenced by patriotic considerations.
  65. Certainly foedera which were struck in accordance with fetial ceremonies incorporated such oaths (Livy 1.24.7-9). Although in one passage (9.5.1-2) Livy asserts that such foedera do not require hostages, he is inconsistent on this point of technical vocabulary; see above, p. 5. In Greek practice, of course, these oaths are well attested (e.g., Polybius 29.3-4).
  66. Cf. the summary execution of Volscian hostages in the early years of the Republic (Livy 2.16.9; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.30.1). In the event that the recipient government violated the agreement, the donor seems to have had few options. In none of the surviving accounts of such cases are the subsequent careers of the hostages recorded. The cities of Byzantium (Polyaenus 1.47.2), Cauca (Appian Hispanica 52), and Chios (Appian Mithridatica 46-47) were seized and looted in disregard of their conditional surrender; Tryphon killed his prisoner Jonathan Maccabaeus despite the delivery of Jonathan's two children as hostages for Jonathan's release (Joseph. Jewish Antiquities 13.204-206); Oropus' attempts to pressure Athens into providing redress led to some of the unrest which prompted Roman intervention and destruction in 149 B.C. (Pausanias 7.11.4-6). Only a single episode may indicate that the recipient felt some misgivings about keeping hostages while at war with the donor. In 388 B.C. Dionysius I of Syracuse restored Rhegian hostages before the beginning of open hostilities (Diodorus 14.108.1-3). For a discussion of this peculiar story, see below, pp. 145-146.
  67. I have not attempted to examine the subject of the legal status of hostages in other ancient cultures. I know of no survey accounts that might deal with this issue in regard to specific cultures
  68. For a discussion of mercenaries supplying hostages to guarantee a private contract, see below, pp. 31-33.
  69. This is a very curious edict; it seems to prove that foreign hostages might be honored with Roman citizenship in the imperial period.
  70. We know that at least two of the Parthian princes delivered by Phraates IV brought their wives and children (Strabo 16.1.28 C749), but the princes were not formal hostages. The Carthaginians exacted under the Treaty of Zama maintained comfortable establishments (Livy 32.26), as did Demetrius of Syria (Polybius 31.11-15); they were perhaps allowed wives, though they may not have chosen to avail themselves of the right.
  71. See below, pp. 263-274.
  72. See below, pp. 221 and 249, case no. 54, for further details.
  73. As late as 137 B. C., the case of Hostilius Mancinus revealed that the application of ius postliminii had not been fully developed in Roman law. The Imperial law codes, which are our major source for this question, may have established legal interpretations which had not yet gained ascendancy during the Republic and may therefore oversimplify the fluidity of the Republican legal interpretations.
  74. Again, a sort of circumlocution: liberos eo rum obsidum nomine in servitutem abripi.
  75. Roman soldiers who had surrendered could lose standing, and commanders who had surrendered were also penalized. Watson (The Law of Persons in the Later Roman Republic [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967], pp. 237-255) has discussed the restrictions on ius postliminii and the reasons for them.
  76. The year of the trial and the law under which he was indicted can be debated at fair length (Last, CAH 9: 159; H. Volkmann, RE 22 (1953): 58-59, s.v. "Popillius," no. 19; Aymard, “Les otages barbares," p. 137); for our purposes here the trial is irrelevant.
  77. For the treatment and mistreatment of hostages, see below, pp. 107-132.
  78. Appian does not use ὅμηρος here, but ἐνέχυρον see above p.1.
  79. For the explicit attitudes of ancient cultures toward the institution of hostageship, see above, pp. 11-15.
  80. Aegidio Forcellini et al. in Lexicon Totius Latinitatis (Padua, 1940), s.v. obses, provided a useful point of departure for the definition of obses proposed here.
  81. See below, pp. 58-72, for the duration of the hostageship for formal agreements.
  82. See above, pp. iii-vi, for a description of my methodology.
  83. E.g., the unusual selection of women and their subsequent abuse by Cleonymus (Athenaeus 13.605d-e; Diodorus 20.104.3) and Augustus' hostage policy with regard to certain barbarians (Suetonius, Augustus 21.1).
  84. For a complete discussion of this matter, see below, pp. 52-58.
  85. Token observance of native custom by an ethnically different governing class has been a feature of international diplomacy for millennia. The Roman policy of non-interference is frequently cited as a major factor in its relatively good rapport with native elements throughout the Empire.
  86. I have rejected the historicity of several incidents on various grounds, including the great disparity between the dramatic and compositional dates, the legendary nature of some of the material, the loose application of ὅμηρος in Greek sources to rhetorical or extralegal situations (see above, pp.1-11), and the perhaps idiosyncratic use of ὅμηρος in a single source for a frequently cited anecdote (e.g., the rape of the Sabine women, Plutarch Romulus 16.2). One story, the rape of the Roman women by the Latins, illustrates all of these objections. The earliest authority for this event of 389 B.C. is Plutarch (Romulus, 29.4; Camillus, 33.2-7; Moralia, 313A); the story line is an absurd composite of aetiological myth for the festival of the Capratine Nones and exemplar of servile fidelity (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.11.35-40); the obscurity of the sense of hostageship as applied to this episode is obvious and Plutarch's description of the Latins' circumlocution αἴτησις γυναῖκων being understood by the Romans as ἐξομήρευσις (Plutarch, Camillius 33.2). For a discussion of the Cloelia legend, see below, pp. 263-274.
  87. See below, pp. 31-32.
  88. See below, p. 33.
  89. There is also the possibility that Athenaeus misquoted Duris; in view of the fragments that are all that survive of Duris, we cannot judge which of the three hypotheses is most probable. Walbank (Polybius, 2: 111) seems to put the not inconsiderable weight of his authority behind the accuracy of Duris' remark, with a Greek context understood.
  90. Of course the scandalous misconduct of Cleonymus may account for much of the disapproval.
  91. Babbitt 's note (Plutarch's Moralia, vol. 3 [Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1957], 285) identified the Agesipolis of this apophthegm as Agesipolis II, king of Sparta in 371-370 B.C. In the anecdote immediately preceding this one, however, the subject is Philip's sack of Olynthus, and so Agesipolis II cannot be the speaker of this group of anecdotes. This reasoning assumes that Plutarch has not confused the two kings into a single character, which is possible.
  92. Again, Plutarch's familiarity with the exaction of women may be responsible for the lack of comment on the practice in his works.
  93. Indeed, the rhetorician Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in the early Principate, called parents, wives, and other relations the best hostages imaginable (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.62.5).
  94. See above, p. 31-32.
  95. The circumstances of this exaction are unknown, so we cannot tell if the women guaranteed a formal agreement or had been seized and detained by the Persians. It would be premature at best to say more on the basis of such scanty evidence.
  96. The exaction of the wives and daughters of Indibilis and Mandonius was evidently not part of the treaty between the Ilergetes and the Carthaginians, but the result of the false accusation of Hasdrubal son of Gesco (Polybius 9.11.4; 10.35.6), whether the other women at Cartagena were formal hostages for either an international or a private agreement, or whether they were extralegal hostages, cannot now be ascertained. Walbank (Polybius, 2: 137) suggests that the hostages took the place of the money Indibilis refused to pay.
  97. Appian's laconic testimony can be variously interpreted. It is possible that Appian or his source misunderstood the status of the female prisoners in Pompey's triumph, especially if the women had served as hostages to Mithridates or other Eastern powers and had then been captured by the Romans; cf. Bithys, the son of Cotys of Thrace, in 167 B.C., below, pp. 184-185. Nor is it impossible that Pompey had exacted female hostages, since some Scythian tribes obeyed female leaders and the choice usually fell on the ruling class; see below, pp. 48-52.
  98. Aymard in "Les otages barbares" (pp. 138-139) has convincingly argued that these barbarians were German; it is difficult to imagine any other barbarians who were providing Rome with hostages at this time to whom it might plausibly refer, particularly since it fits so well with the known customs of the Germans (Tacitus, Germania 8).
  99. For the meaning and purpose of hostageship, see above, pp. 1-11.
  100. For the efficacy and versatility of hostage exaction, see below, pp. 205-207.
  101. For a discussion of mutatio obsidum with particular reference to this passage, see below, pp. 67-72.
  102. R.M. Ogilvie, in A Commentary on Livy, Books 1-5 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 267, rather dogmatically asserts that the taking of hostages of mixed sex "was the usual custom," without further comment or justification. Phillipson in International Law and Custom (1: 402) suggests that, as the Romans had given female hostages to Porsenna, they "in all probability" received them as well. I have found no other cases to support these statements until the very late Republic and early Principate.
  103. The terms μειράκιον and adulescens, also used of hostages, appear to have a clearer reference to a range of ages, but both are infrequent.
  104. For lack of a better term I have called these persons children, but I do so with a caveat that the "children" may have been as old as forty. Appian (Punic Wars 54) declared the Carthaginian hostages whom Polybius (15.18.8) specified as fourteen to thirty years old to be παῖδες. Aymard in "Les otages carthaginois" (p. 438n.4) opines that Greek writers could not prolong the notion of παῖς to the age of thirty, citing Polybius 4.20.7 as a decisive passage. Although his opinion carries some weight, I feel less assigned that a definite range of ages can be assigned to παῖς; its meaning is hardly technical and probably varies according to author and situation. Cf. LSJ, s.v. παῖς, where in legal texts it means "issue."
  105. I have maintained this distinction throughout this work.
  106. It is of some interest to observe that Alexander seems to have initiated a policy of exacting mostly adult males, although the practice was certainly known before his time. From Aeneas Tacticus, however, who describes the appropriate measures for securing a city against betrayal by the parents of hostages tortured within sight of the city walls (1.20.23-25), we may infer that children were frequently exacted in the earlier part of the fourth century B.C.
  107. The exaction of men of military age may be a formalized levy of troops; c.f. above, pp. 10, 23 n. 23. Such levies account for two Greek cases (Livy 24.31.12-13; 31.25.8), two Roman cases (Livy 23.4.8, 7.2, and 31.10; 40.47.10) and one case involving Hannibal's dispatch of Spanish recruits to Africa (Livy 21.21.11-13) from the totals in Table II. I am puzzled as to why only Livy indicates this dual purpose and at a loss to explain the possible significance of the fact.
  108. These examples are not international agreements, although there is some resemblance between the two types (e.g., the magistrates of the Achaean League sought the sons of the Messenian envoys as hostages [Polybius 4.9.5], and the League could conceivably have repudiated the arrangement made between the magistrates and the envoys, which is what differentiates it from a ratified treaty).
  109. For a discussion of this incident and its possible historicity, see below, p. 192n. 3.
  110. For a discussion of affiliation, see below, pp. 48-52.
  111. Phillipson (International Law and Custom, 2.80) erroneously translates Polybius as “not less than ten or more than forty.”
  112. Livy's failure to duplicate exactly Polybius' account has usually been assigned to an error on Livy's part; the Roman historian specified a range of eighteen to forty-five years (Livy 38.38.9). Certainly Polybius' figures are more likely to be accurate, but even if Livy were correct here it would not greatly alter our understanding.
  113. Aymard, "Les otages carthaginois," p. 444.
  114. Otto Møkholm, Antiochus IV of Syria (Copenhagen, Class. and Med. Dissertationes, VIII, 1966), p. 36, cited by Walbank, Polybius, 3: 465-466.
  115. For a discussion of affiliation, see below, pp. 48-52; for the influence of Romanization, see below, pp. 207-209.
  116. See above, note 1.
  117. I must confess a fondness for the last hypothesis, for it suggests that the Romans had some definite intention in exacting hostages, even if it was as limited and practical an intention as establishing age restriction to fit the hostages whom they had already determined to take. Still, evidence for the Roman goals in hostageship are nonexistent, and the question must remain open. For further discussion, see Walbank, Polybius, 3: 134-135.
  118. The Roman preference for children is given some slight support by legendary material also; cf. the children exchanged by the Trojans and Aborigines (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1.59.1-2) and those exacted from Caenina by Romulus (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 2.34.1). For a discussion of the impubes (Livy 2.13.10) in the Cloelia legend, see below, p. 264.
  119. The only attested term of hostageship is three years (Livy 38.38.9; Polybius 21.42.22; Appian Syrian War 39), and the Aetolian hostages could not have served more than six years (Polybius 21. 32.10-11). For a discussion of the duration of the service of individual hostages and the period for which hostages were required by treaty, see below, pp. 58-72.
  120. The advantages and disadvantages set forth in this paragraph are arguments from common sense; no extant ancient authority chose to mention them, perhaps because they seemed obvious. Aymard in "Les otages carthaginois" (p. 445) relates the age restrictions to health; they may also reflect the ancient concept of "prime of life."
  121. Helmut Berve ("Sertorius," Hermes 64 [1929]: 224-227) denies any conscious attempt at the Romanization of hostages even to the late Republican general Sertorius. Others, notably Aymard ("Les otages barbares," pp. 141-142), Norman DeWitt ("The Peaceful Conquest of Gaul," Classical Essays Presented to James A. Kleist, S.J. [St. Louis: The Classical Bulletin, 1946], pp. 24-25), and Moscovich ("Hostage Regulations," p. 425) tacitly assume some degree of Romanization as a conscious Roman goal, although only Moscovich has suggested it of the middle Republican period. For a fuller discussion of the issue of Romanization, see below, pp. 207-209.
  122. A comparison of these two incidents is especially telling because both belong to the same decade and political milieu. Although one could hardly expect Antony to take from the still undefeated Antiochus as many hostages as Octavian would later demand from the whole of Illyria in three years of campaigning, still two hostages "of little value" (οὐκ ἐπιφανῶν) are a poor showing. Craven (Antony's Oriental Policy Until the Defeat of the Parthian Expedition, University of Missouri Studies, vol. 3, no. 2 [Columbia, Missouri, University of Missouri, 1920]), has explained the comment by reminding the modern reader that the source is probably Antony's lieutenant Dellius, who later became Octavian's adherent; it would have suited Dellius' purpose to denigrate Antony's success where he could.
  123. Since Flamininus' purpose in his Greek negotiations is believed to have been a stable balance of power between Philip V and the Aetolian League in the north and between Sparta and the Achaean League in the Peloponnesus, such a substantial weakening of Sparta would not have suited his intentions. See Frederic M. Wood, Jr., "The Military and Diplomatic Campaign of T. Quinctius Flamininus in 198 B.C.," AJPh 62 (1941): 277-288, and Walbank, Polybius, 3: 88-89.
  124. 0f course, ancient demography is a very difficult and imprecise science, but surely the populations of Antiochus' Asian empire and the prosperous mercantile city of Carthage must have exceeded those of the three Greek towns on the island of Cephallenia and that of the island of Sardinia.
  125. See Table III.
  126. Ogilvie, Livy, p. 276. Three hundred seems to have been used as an arbitrary and indefinite large number. See Lewis and Short, Dictionary, p. 1895, s.v. trecenti.
  127. None of these objections are valid enough to cause us to reject the attested figures. It is not impossible for a late, unreliable source to preserve information which is not found elsewhere, but it is, I believe, not very probable that three hundred is the accurate number in all the places in which it is quoted.
  128. The limited sample of documented numbers, the range of the attested numbers over time and geographical area, and the lack of solid demographical evidence prevent meaningful comparisons. The coincidence of the numbers of hostages and of talents in a war indemnity (Diodorus 12.27.2; Polyaenus 7.48.1; Thucydides 7.83.2; Plutarch, Nicias 27.2) is interesting and of some value in assessing that which the hostage guaranteed, but the data are insufficient for any conclusion to be drawn from this one hostage/one talent formula. See above, p. 7.
  129. It is somewhat reassuring to note that there are only two cases in which different sources disagree on the number of hostages. The first is the conflicting testimony of Thucydides (1.115.3) and of Diodorus (12.27.2-4) concerning the treaty between Athens and Samos in 441/440 B.C. The obvious superiority of Thucydides' historical reputation and temporal situation obviates the need for debate on the better source. Moreover, the separation of two groups, men and children, in Thucydides may have prompted a miscalculation or misunderstanding augmenting the problems of textual corruption in number. The second case is more interesting. According to Polybius (15.18.8) and Livy (30.37.6), one hundred youths guaranteed the peace of Zama. Appian (Punic Wars 54), however, states that there were 150 hostages as part of the armistice. Several scholars, notably Walbank (Polybius, 2: 470-471), have presumed that the difference in numbers is due to the fact that one group of hostages guaranteed the armistice and the other group the final peace. Moscovich ("Hostage Regulations,” pp. 417-427) has rightly observed the inefficiency of two exactions and various other flaws in the hypotheses offered by previous scholars. A third incident relates a difference in the number of hostages demanded and the number offered by the donor government. In 331 B.C. the Macedonian regent requested fifty children from Sparta; the Spartan ephor Eteoeles countered with the offer of one hundred old men or women (Plutarch Moralia 235). Evidently the point was negotiable, or Eteoeles hoped that it was.
  130. The Macedonian-Theban treaty contracted in 368 B.C. by Ptolemy indicates the strength of this rule. Although Philip, son of Amyntas, was probably among the ἑταῖροι sent with Ptolemy's son Philoxenus, it is only Philoxenus who was specified (Plutarch Pelopidas 27.3) Dionysius of Halicarnassus' account (5.32.2-4) lists two of the hostages by name, and they are the children of that year's consuls.
  131. The ancient dread of pollution that could be invoked by violence toward relatives surely needs no reference to bibliography.
  132. Cf. Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.62.5, where wives, children and parents are called the best hostages imaginable. For the exaction of children and its merits, see above, pp. 35-42.
  133. After all, everyone has parents, but not everyone has children.
  134. The Gallo-German tribes seem especially susceptible to fraternal discord; cf. the Aeduans Dumnorix and Diviciacus and the Cherusci Arminius and Flavus.
  135. It has been suggested to me that the Romans would probably have dealt with whatever group was in power. I agree, but I also submit that those leaders suspected of anti-Roman inclinations would have borne the greater part of the burden.
  136. Presumably Hamilcar called the Samnite, a leader of the democratic, anti-Numidian party (Appian Punic Wars 68, 70), Masinissa evidently wished to silence Hamilcar (or at least hinder him) as early as 168 B.C., eighteen years before the exile of the pro-Numidian spokesmen.
  137. While the recipient state appears to have selected hostages who guaranteed a treaty, hostages for a truce were sometimes chosen by the donor state.
  138. Moscovich ("Hostage Regulations," p. 424, and "Aetolian Treaty," pp. 140-142) argues quite convincingly for assuming hostage exactions from the pro-Roman parties in both incidents. The lack of ancient testimony prevents more than a suggestion of the possibility that armistices had rather different criteria, especially when there was an established pro-Roman party.
  139. For a list of these cases, see the column marked "Selection" in Appendix I.B., pp. 245-259.
  140. For an analysis of types of hostages and the vocabulary used to describe them, see above, pp. 1-11.
  141. The twelfth incident is the by now familiar anecdote of Plutarch concerning the negotiations between Antipater and Etcocles, the Spartan in 331 B.C. (Plutarch, Moralia 235 B-C); as Diodorus (17.73.5) gives the number at fifty rather than one hundred, we may with caution accept that in this case also the recipient state selected at least some of the criteria for the exaction.
  142. The legendary exactions from Caenina by Romulus (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 2.34.1) and from the Volscians in 495 B.C. by Servilius (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.25.2) and the Illyrian exactions of Octavian (Appian Illyrica 21) mention only that these Romans selected the hostages, without further qualification.
  143. We cannot assume that, because only these treaties contain restrictions, only these exactions wore restricted and only in these areas; the brevity with which many treaties were reported suggest that many clauses were probably omitted, and it is precisely this type of detail which is likely to have been excised by the literary sources. In some cases, of course, the age criterion might have obviated the need for such a clause; e.g., a thirty-year-old Carthaginian was probably not yet influential enough to be elected to the highest magistracy. Cf. above, pp. 35-42.
  144. Aymard, "Les otages barbares," p. 141.
  145. See above, p. 48.
  146. See above, p. 1.
  147. These cases have been categorized as private agreements, not formal, international treaties; see above, pp. 8-10.
  148. That Plutarch has informed us of Eumenes' insistence on selection is due to the point that Plutarch is making, as Antigonus' expressed admiration for Eumenes' indomitability in the face of adversity emphasizes.
  149. Masgaba's proposed substitution of Hanno son of Hamilcar, which provoked the mild rebuke that it was not just for Masgaba to choose Carthaginian hostages for Rome (Livy 45.14.5), suggests that such informants may have supplied some of the data upon which Roman decisions were made; the rebuke was perhaps a reminder that the Senate would protect its own prerogatives.
  150. See above, p. 30.
  151. Most agreements, particularly armistices, probably involved delivery of hostages as soon as possible; common sense indicates that, once a truce is negotiated, it is best that it go into effect immediately. Cf. Phillipson, 1: 403. Livy has recounted (Livy 9.5.12-13) the order of procedure that he believed typical in the rhetorically elaborate description of the Caudine Forks sponsio.
  152. The third temporal regulation is discussed below, pp. 67-72.
  153. The emphasis is of course Appian's, but we cannot therefore deny its importance.
  154. Walbank, Polybius, 2: 466.
  155. The discrepancies in age and number are discussed, above, p. 39 and p. 85n.48 respectively.
  156. Heinrich Nissen, Kritische Untersuchungen über die Quellen der vierten and fünften Dekade des Livius (Berlin, Weidmann, 1863), pp. 157-160.
  157. The exaction of Scipio's choice of youths aged fourteen to thirty years old would undoubtedly have fallen heavily on the ordo iudicum, itself a small, tightly knit group. It could be speculatively argued that noble young men of eighteen to thirty years of age would have been among the heavy casualties the Carthaginians suffered in the African campaigns. De Sanctis (Storia dei Romani, 3: 2: 605n.15) analyzed the relationship of Appian's account to the treaty in its final form and concluded that Appian was correct; the discrepancy between one hundred and one hundred fifty hostages he explained as the difference necessary between Carthage in 202 B.C., when she was still prepared to resist with all her accumulated resources, and Carthage in 201 B.C., after the surrender of her warships, trained elephants, and other supplies. While it is not impossible that a second exaction occurred, perhaps involving different age limitations or affiliations, I find it unconvincing because it would have been inconvenient, and more importantly, because I believe that the Romans would not have lightly altered the composition of a group of hostages who had successfully guaranteed an armistice; this belief is supported by the Roman demand for Demetrius of Macedon to secure the treaty as well as the truce with Philip V. One could adduce the support of Appian Samnite Wars 4 to the contrary, but the testimony of so uneven an author on the legendary subject of the Caudine Forks disaster is very dubious, and I have not listed it among preliminary agreements that describe a specific act for the release of hostages. Nor is Porsenna's detention of Mucius until a treaty was ratified (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 5.31.2) valuable; Mucius was technically a prisoner of war, not a hostage; and prisoners of war were regularly released after a peace settlement. Indeed, the fact that Appian is twice the source for release after ratification may say something about Appian' s comprehension of Republican practice.
  158. "Hostage Regulations," pp. 417-18.
  159. As Scipio discovered in 203 B.C., hostages were not necessarily effective; concern for their safety did not prevent the seizure of the grain ships (Polybius 15.8.7).
  160. "Les otages carthaginois," p. 441.
  161. Even in the next generation the expedient but unscrupulous conduct of Q. Marcius Philippus, who deceived Perseus into dispatching an embassy to Rome in order to postpone the inevitable conflict between Rome and Macedon until Roman countermeasures were taken, was blamed as much as praised. Moreover, credibility is an important element in statescraft, and it would have been foolish to jeopardize negotiations by insisting on detention of hostages beyond the period of the truce.
  162. "Les otages carthaginois," p. 441; Walbank (Polybius 2: 470) appears to agree with Aymard' s estimate of the Carthaginian defeat.
  163. Carthage's dogged resistance for three long years after the surrender of arms, war engines and other military paraphernalia in 149 B.C. suggests that a forcible seizure of the city in 201 B.C. would have been extremely difficult. Hannibal remained an important citizen despite the treaty. Most persuasive is the ratification by the Roman Senate of Scipio's terms without further conditions; had Carthage been as helpless as Aymard contended, harsher demands would surely have been made.
  164. Imperium Romanum, p. 40n. 1.
  165. Walbank, Polybius, 2: 470; cf. Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 618, 2728.
  166. Walbank (Polybius 2: 470) objected that the comparison with Philip V (Polybius 18.39.5-6) is defective because Philip had not yet been defeated and because “Appian is speaking of hostages guaranteeing the preliminaries, not the final peace.” It is my understanding that the Polybian passage concerning Scipio's settlement also refers to a temporary agreement.
  167. Although Appian is our only source for such conditions in Roman treaties, the sole Greek example of temporal regulation known to me is found in a treaty. An Athenian garrison in Oropus and Oropian hostages provided security for Athenian cleruchs, but in case of complaint, the garrison was to be withdrawn and the hostages restored (Pausanias 7.11.5). Inevitably, the garrison troops wronged the Oropians, the Oropians claimed their legal rights, and Athens maintained that the treaty remained valid by disavowing the acts of the garrison as private disputes. The failure to enforce strictly the treaty's terms is hardly remarkable, nor is the mental acuity which foresaw the possibility of failure; Greco-Roman diplomacy and law had long since surpassed the elementary level of this type of proviso.
  168. The legal position of these hostages is peculiar. Since the Roman conditions were expressed in a series of individual demands, the Carthaginians had not ratified the treaty as a whole before the hostages were exacted. Whether they had violated their formal act of surrender appears to hang on the point raised by Banno (Appian Punic Wars. 83): if the Romans guaranteed autonomy and freedom to the city, could they seek the destruction of the town and evacuation of the people without negating that guarantee? If so, the subsequent resistance constituted a Carthaginian violation and forfeited the hostages to Roman mercy. Of course, the point is moot; after Aemilianus’ capture and razing of the city, there was no point in returning the hostages, for there was neither city nor government left.
  169. See above, pp. 7 and 22n.13.
  170. For a discussion of Demetrius' claim, see below, pp. 120-121.
  171. Phillipson, International Law and Custom, 1: 404. The case of Demetrius is peculiar for other reasons as well. The delay between Seleucus' succession and the replacement of Antiochus seems overly protracted, although it is possible that Antiochus was the nearest male relative of appropriate age; we do not know precisely when Seleucus' sons were born. In 187 B.C. Demetrius was not yet conceived, and an older brother would have been very young. For a detailed discussion of Antiochus and Demetrius, see below, pp. 276-282.
  172. See above, n.88.
  173. While no other treaties define the temporal limitation on the hostages' service, a minimum period can sometimes be calculated from the treaty's date and the date of the last reference to that group of hostages; thus Carthage provided hostages for at least the period 201-168 B.C., Philip V of Macedon 196-191 B.C., Antiochus III 188-187 B.C. and Seleucus IV 187-175 B.C.
  174. "A Note on the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C." Polis and Imperium: Studies in Honor of Edward Togo Salmon (Toronto: A.H. Hakkert, 1974), p. 140.
  175. The semi-corroborative statement of Nepos (Hannibal 7.2) about the Carthaginian embassy of 199 B.C. may well have derived from the same annalistic source. As he does not mention any restitution of hostages, the passage is not relevant.
  176. Kahrstedt, Geschichte, 3: 589n.1 and 3: 608n.1; Gsell, L'Afrique du Nord, 3: 294n.7; a possibility expressed by Nissen, quoted in de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 3.2.605n.15, et alii.
  177. Lewis and Short, Dictionary, pp. 1538-9, s. v. reddo.
  178. For the problem of the numerical discrepancy, see above, p.85n.48.
  179. "Hostage Regulations," pp. 422-423.
  180. Ibid., p. 426.
  181. Hatto H. Schmitt (Staatsverträge 3: 306) agrees with Aymard ("Les otages barbares," p. 140) that reddere is essentially equivalent to mutare. Neither scholar cites the use of reddere for mutare in a context other than hostage restoration; see n. 96 above.
  182. Moscovich, "Hostage Regulations," p. 420. Cf. the clause in the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C. that exempted previous hostages to Rome from further service (Polybius 21.32.10; Livy 38.11.7).
  183. "Les otages carthaginois," p. 447. Indeed, the fact that the Carthaginians asked (petentibus) for the exchange in 199 B.C. (Livy 32.2.3), and Masgaba proposed a substitution in 168 B.C. (petenti, Livy 45.14.5) may support the hypothesis that such an exchange occurred when one or the other party requested it.
  184. International Law and Custom, 1: 403; Tenney Frank (CAH 9: 330) has merely "translated the mystery."
  185. "Les otages barbares," p .140.
  186. Max Radin ("The International Law in the Gallic Campaigns," CJ 12 [1916]: 20) justly observed that the legality of such a pretext is nonexistent and that Ariovistus' defense, that he had taken them iure belli, is "unanswerable. " But the removal of the potential pressure that Ariovistus could exert on Aeduan politics through these hostages would have justified the war on grounds of expediency; Caesar's repetition of this fact signifies how important the restoration of the Aeduan hostages was as Caesar's rationalization of the war (Caesar, Gallic War 1.31; 33.3; 35.3; 36.5).
  187. See below, pp. 183-189.
  188. H.H. Scullard, in Scipio Africanus in the Second Punic War (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1930), pp. 257-258, has discussed this clause with regard to the new boundaries of the Punic empire, but not the hostages' restoration.
  189. Walbank (Polybius 3: 272) has suggested other occasions for the exaction of these hostages, but he has not chosen among the possibilities. The terms of the Spartan-Argive treaty of 418 B.C. include a provision that the Argives restore the Orchomenian hostages (Thucydides 5.77.1; c.f. 61.5), but the children whom the Lacedaemonians were to release are not described as hostages (Thucydides 5.77.3).
  190. I give the text of Warmington, Remains of Early Latin, vol. 2: Livius, Naevius, Pacuvias, and Accius, (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. 64-65. Fragment 43 (Warmington) =42 (Strzelecki)=38 Barchiesi=51 (Marmorale) =39 (Mariotti)=474 (Mueller). Mueller in Noni Marcelli compendiosa doetrina (Leipzig; Teubner, 1888), 2: 86, cites the fragment differently;
    id quoque patiscunt … moenia sint…
    …quae Lutatium concillient et:
    captivos plurimos idem,
    Sicilienses paciscit obsides ut reddant.
  191. All the editors cited in footnote 109 have substantial aparatus critici and may be consulted for a discussion of these points.
  192. ROL, 2: 65. He also offered Sicilienses as the subject of paciscunt, but rather dubiously; Lutatius had little need for negotiations with the Sicilians, who were no match for the Roman troops.
  193. Leo's argument differs in the interpretation of idem: for Leo, Nonius juxtaposed two separate fragments--but since he also supplied Lutatius as the subject of paciscit, there is no essential disagreement in their views. Friedrich Leo, Der Saturnische Vers, Abhandlungen der Koniglichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaft zu Göttingen, philologisch historische Klasse, n.s, 8 (1904-1905); 39n.5.
  194. Täubler, “Naeviana,” Hermes 57 (1922): 156-160.
  195. Cf. Rome's refusal to return Carthaginian captives two years after the Treaty of Zama (Nepos Hannibal 7.2); see below, pp.112-116.
  196. Conrad Cichorius, Römische Studien historisches epigraphisches literargeschichtliches aus aus vier Jahrhunderten Roms (Leipzig: Teubner, 1922), pp. 50-52. The separation into two fragments leaves us with two disparate events, connected only by the fact that in describing them Naevius used the rare active form pacisco. The first two lines belong, on this hypothesis, to the negotiations of 241 B.C.; the subject of paciscunt is Romani, that of reconciliant Carthaginienses, and the captivos plurimos are the Roman prisoners of war, whose return is a feature of almost every Roman treaty. The third line is Hiero's demand in 248 B.C. for the hostages exacted by the agreement of 263 B.C.
  197. Ironically, the hypothesis that hostages guaranteed the financial clauses of a treaty, upon which Cichorius' argument is largely based, is most concisely proposed by Täubler in Imperium Romanum (p. 39); Täubler disagrees with Cichorius' explication, as we shall see below, pp. 75-76.
  198. W. M. Lindsay, Nonius Marcellus' Dictionary Of Republican Latin (Oxford, James Parker and Co., 1901), p. 89.
  199. This is not, perhaps, a totally convincing argument against Cichorius' hypothesis, and Marmorale, Barchiesi, and Strzelecki have placed the single line before the two-line fragment, evidently because they agree with Cichorius' reordering of the fragments. The restoration would presumably belong among the earliest conditions of the peace negotiations.
  200. Diplomatic relations between Hiero and Rome after 248 B.C. must have continued; cf. de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 3: 1: 114n.40. That it would have been necessary to negotiate a new treaty after 248 B.C. seems very unlikely to me, since the usual practice seems to have been renewal of the old agreement; paciscit appears inappropriate for a restatement of the old alliance.
  201. Even in times of peace the Romans did not appreciate too strict an interpretation of an ally's rights, legal or not. The establishment of Delos as a free port, which was Rhodes' punishment for suggesting that Rome and Perseus of Macedon negotiate in 168-167 B.C., demonstrates Rome's dislike for a display of an ally's independence.
  202. Of the major editors of Naevius, Strzelecki, Barchiesi, and Marmorale found Täubler's interpretation persuasive. Warmington's opinion has already been discussed; Mariotti has cautiously reserved judgment by placing the fragment among those of uncertain location.
  203. Schmitt (Staatsverträge 3: 178-179) agrees with Täubler's grammatical analysis, but he suggests that the Sicilian hostages were Syracusans given to the Carthaginians, presumably in 264 B.C., when Hiero was a Punic ally.
  204. See above, p. 72.
  205. Täubler (“Naeviana,” p. 56) stated that the provision had no parallel, but I believe him mistaken.
  206. I must reiterate that the extant evidence is not above suspicion; it is the unusual nature of some of the incidents that has ensured their survival. Nevertheless, the abundance of consistent data throughout the period under consideration indicates the strong possibility that many episodes reflect fairly standard practices and that we may use them to infer the underlying principles of exaction.
  207. I.e., pubescent through early middle age.
  208. With the exception of place, all the other clauses here listed have been discussed in full above. The place of delivery is only rarely attested as such; see below, pp. 95-100.
  209. A few inscriptions corroborate in general terms the details provided by a literary source, but none supply new information. Examples are CIL VI 1799 = ILS 842, which proves that two Parthian princes residing in Rome died there, and the epitaph of Scipio Barbatus (ILS 1), which corroborates the information in Livy 10.11.13-12.1.
  210. Hostages who later became important in their own right, like the Seleucids Antiochus and Demetrius, and those who met dramatic fates, like Demetrius of Macedon, were often sufficiently distinguished by their birth that they may have merited special treatment as hostages. Alternatively, it is possible that their treatment may have become special only in the imagination of the ancient authors who could thus “explain” their later roles.
  211. The Seleucid princes Antiochus and Demetrius and Demetrius, the son of Philip V of Macedon, are by far the favorites for this type of speculation; for a brief discussion of these hostages, see pp. 117-122, 147-151, and 171-172.
  212. See pp.165-174 below for an examination of cases in which hostages escaped or were otherwise recovered without the permission of the recipient state.
  213. The preponderance of material from democratic and republican states is probably responsible for the general validity of this remark. I suspect that, had more information from autocratic or monarchic states like Sparta survived, Greek examples of this type of detention would be much more common; the three examples of detention in a military camp belong to the campaigns of King Alexander.
  214. See pp. 42-48 on the number of hostages exacted from a state.
  215. Briscoe (A Commentary on Livy Books XXXI-XXXIII [Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1973], pp. 274, 307) seems to suggest that the Macedonian hostages delivered at Tempe (Livy 33.13.14) stayed in Greece until the senatus consultum declared that they were to stay in Rome (Livy 33.30.10). The only exception to this rule of keeping hostages at hand seems to have been the dispatch of the Carthaginian hostages in 149 B.C. to Rome almost immediately after their arrival at the consuls’ camp at Lilybaeum (Polybius 36.4.6, 5.6-9). Here, however, the circumstances were completely atypical, for the Carthaginians had formally surrendered and, after the surrender of hostages, the threat of active Punic resistance must have seemed unlikely; cf. the behavior of Polybius on learning that Carthage had submitted to the Roman demand for 300 hostages (Polybius 36.11.3): he assumed the war over. The inference (unattributed in Gsell) that the hostages were dispatched to the consuls in Africa is derived from Livy, Summaries 49; Gsell has rightly dismissed it (L'Afrique du Nord, 3: 347n.4).
  216. Although the display of hostages was similar, the motives were slightly different and the attitudes that the displays were intended to generate were totally separate; Alexander meant to encourage hope for a peaceful settlement, while the Roman commander wished to instill fear for the hostages' fate.
  217. The hostages demanded from the Senones in 53 B.C. and given to the Aedui to guard (Caesar, Gallic War 6.4.4) may have been among the Gauls detained at Noviodunum, but there may have been other repositories as well; if the Aedui had not attacked the garrison there, it is probable that Noviodunum would not have been mentioned at all.
  218. Indeed, the presence of hostages was one of the elements that confirmed a general’s right to a triumph, for it was the taking of hostages that, theoretically at least, guaranteed that the war would not be renewed. Note the argument concerning Scipio Nasica' s claim to a triumph over the Boii, Livy 36.40.3: obsides abduxerit, pacis futurae pignus.
  219. In this context an anecdote about Caligula is rather surprising. During that emperor's risible German campaigns, he and his cavalry pursued hostages from a nearby ludus litterarius as if they were the enemy (Suetonius, Caligula 45). The establishment of a school, which indicates that this was their permanent residence, suggests that they regularly lived not far from the Rhine or the tribal lands which were their original homes. Aymard ("Les otages barbares," p. 141) interprets this disposition of hostages so close to their people as a probable practice as early as the time of Augustus. Whenever it originated, it forms an abrupt departure from the Republican precedents as typified by Table 4.
  220. The Spanish levies whom Hannibal had posted in Africa (Livy 21.21.13), although called hostages by Livy, are not legally so and thus are not to be included.
  221. Beloch, “Polybius’ Quellen in dritten Buche,” Hermes 50 (1915), 361; and de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 3: 2: 233n.65; Walbank (Polybius 1: 432) opined that the incident was at least exaggerated.
  222. This brief outline is based on the testimony of Polybius 10.18.3-15; 34; 35.6; 38.1-4; Livy 26.42.3; 47.4; 49.7-51; 27.17.1-3; Appian 6.19, 23; Zonaras 9.8.
  223. The female hostages whom Hasdrubal Gesconis had forced the leaders of the Ilergetes, Indibilis and Mandonius, to surrender in 211 B.C. (Polybius 9.11.4) were still in New Carthage in 209 B.C. (Polybius 10.38.4). Similarly, Bostar in 217 B.C. commanded the garrison which protected hostages exacted by Hannibal, who had not actively campaigned in Spain since 219 B.C. The Carthaginians had sufficient time and opportunity to dispatch the hostages to Africa had they wished to do so.
  224. See n.13 above.
  225. H. H. Scullard (Scipio Africanus, p. 47n.1), Sutherland (Romans in Spain 217 B.C.-A.D. 117 [London, Methuen & Co., 1939], p. 32), and Kahrstedt (Geschichte, 3: 204-205, 425, 435) accept the basic historicity of the Abilyx episode.
  226. The hypothesis of de Sanctis (Storia dei Romani 3: 2: 166) that Polybius’ source was perhaps a funeral eulogy or other work composed for the Scipios by a Neapolitan or Massilian client seems to me dubious on this point in particular; why invent a story for the greater glory of the Scipios, in which they are secondary characters?
  227. There are only two other examples in Greco-Roman literature.
  228. De Sanctis (Storia dei Romani 2: 300-301) has objected to Livy’s account of the Roman hostages surrendered to the Samnites after the debacle at the Caudine Forks on the same grounds, because Livy placed the hostages in Luceria (9.12.9). While it does not seem likely that the Samnites held the Romans in Luceria, there is no basis of comparison that will permit us to determine what the Samnites usually did.
  229. Diodorus’ testimony (16.2.2, 4) that Philip, son of Amyntas of Macedon, stayed in Theban custody while he was hostage to the Illyrians in 383 B.C. and later is equally questionable. It seems probable that Philip’s subsequent residence in Thebes has been erroneously antedated to account for his presence there in 368-365 B.C. In lieu of more convincing proof, however, the figures in Table IV include this incident under the column “other”. See below, p. 192n.3.
  230. Walbank (Philip V of Macedon [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940], pp. 26, 30-31; Polybius, 1: 457) suggests that the League’s decision was intended to strengthen its doubtful friendship with Sparta. It did not entirely succeed.
  231. No one has speculated on the role of Sparta in this arrangement. The degree to which Sparta participated in either the formulation of the League’s decision or the actual handling of the hostages is totally unknown.
  232. Eumenes had sought the agreement, and the concession of the attendant details such as the number, place of detention, and care of hostages proved diplomatically that Perseus had the controlling power. Cf. Antigonus’ concession to Eumenes in 320 B.C. (Plutarch, Eumenes 10.2-3) and Perseus’ desire for negotiations with Philippus in 172 B.C., in which Perseus’ surrender of hostages demonstrated to Roman allies his lack of parity (Livy 42.39.6-7).
  233. See pp. 207-209 below for a more general discussion of this problem.
  234. See pp. 16-19 above on the status of hostages.
  235. For an analysis of the facts that can be deduced about their treatment, see pp. 110-11 below; about their escape, see p. 169 below.
  236. The case of the younger Tigranes illustrates my objection. With the connivance of P. Clodius, Tigranes escaped from the house of the praetor Flavius in 58 B.C. It was not, however, as praetor that Flavius maintained custody of him, since Pompey had delivered him three years earlier to Flavius, then of senatorial rank. Tigranes was thus a kind of involuntary houseguest in a private house. It is of course possible that, 150 years earlier, a private citizen would have had responsibility for the hostages of Tarentum and Thurii, but in that case we should assume that he would detain them in his own home rather than in the Atrium Libertatis.
  237. Theodor Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, 3 vols. (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1887-88), 3: 1103n.3 and 3: 1202; Aymard, "Les otages carthaginois," p. 448: Arnold Toynbee, Hannibal's Legacy (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 1: 255. As seen above, the earlier incidents suggested that the praetor urbanus apparently was in charge. Yet it is conceivable that this duty was assigned even then at the discretion of the Senate and that the only change was simply the decision to make Latin colonies responsible instead of the praetor urbanus. Nor did the Roman government accept responsibility for hostages until they were delivered to the magistrate assigned that provincia or to Rome itself; the treaty with the Aetolian League in 189 B.C. expressly stated that the League was to dispatch them to Rome (καὶ τὰ ὅμηρα καθιστάτωσαν εἰς Ῥώμην, Polybius 21.32.11), undoubtedly because the consul, on his way to Asia, did not wish to burden himself with Greek problems. Similarly, replacements for hostages already in Rome were to have come at least into neutral territory, as the exemption for ships carrying hostages proves (Polybius 21.42.14; Livy 38.38.15).
  238. Oxynta’s status is unclear, but it seems undeniable that he was either a hostage or a prisoner of war; after the death of Jugurtha, the distinction was probably academic. Cf. the Carthaginian prisoners of war and hostages, Zonaras 9.30.
  239. Horace, Satires 2.1.74; Conrad Cichorius, Untersuchungen zu Lucilius (Zurich: M. Niebans, 1964), pp. 28-29.
  240. The Carthaginian hostages after both the Second and Third Punic Wars were scattered among several towns (Nepos, Hannibal 7.2; Livy 32.2.4; 26.5; Zonaras 9.30). But it was convenient to split up the Carthaginians because the hostages alone, without their accompanying retinues, numbered in the hundreds. All twenty Syrian hostages could have easily remained together, but there is no evidence for it.
  241. Perhaps in the house built for Antiochus? During the very early years of the principate (after 10 B.C.), the four Parthian princes who were guests of Augustus lived in Rome, and two even died there (CIL VI 1799 = ILS 842). Their presence at games certainly provided Augustus with a diplomatic victory (Suetonius Augustus 43.4). Still, the cases of Demetrius and the Parthian princes differ significantly in time, in legal status and in the form of government that regulated their behavior.
  242. The whipping of the Thessalian hostages by the Phocians to which Aeschines alludes (On the Embassy 140) may be an exception; since I cannot assign the reference to a specific occasion, I cannot judge whether this punishment was an outrage inflicted on innocent Thessalians or a stern but just response to provocation. See below, pp. 165-183, for various forms of provocation.
  243. This was pointed out by Coleman Phillipson, International Law and Custom, 1: 151; see above, pp. 13 and 24 n. 35.
  244. A lacuna in the text of Polyaenus prevents us from knowing what had started the report of Alexander's barbarism; it is of course possible that his savagery was more typical than his clemency.
  245. Although many ancient writers described or alluded to the famous episode concerning the lovely Iberian girl whom Scipio restored to her parents along with the ransom as her dowry, only Polybius (10.18. 7-15; 38.1-2; 4) and Livy (26.49.11-15) openly hint that the Carthaginians had taken advantage of their physical superiority. The contrast between Punic and Roman conduct is made all the more striking because, from the Roman point of view, the Iberians at New Carthage were captivi, not obsides, as they had been to the Carthaginians, and for that reason the Iberians might have expected to suffer a loss of privilege concomitant with their loss of legal status.
  246. From the Empire, cf. Suetonius Caligula 36.1, where Caligula’s victims are quosdam obsides.
  247. E.g., Gsell, L Afrique du Nord, 3: 166; Kahrstedt, Geschichte: 3: 498.
  248. It is significant that similar terminology was employed by Polybius (10.36.1-2); chains and slavery are, respectively, the concrete and abstract expressions that depicted the captors’ brutish mistreatment of those undeserving of such abuse.
  249. For a discussion of the escape and its consequences, see below, p, 169.
  250. Livy’s skepticism on this point speciem legationis, 25.7.11) is due to Phileas’ rash act and its unfavorable results for the hostages rather than to any doubt about the authenticity of his credentials. Whether Phileas’ attempt was a private plan or a plot supported by some Tarentine citizens, if not part of the Tarentine government, cannot be known, although no one seems to have considered the latter possibilities.
  251. How the Thurians became involved is unclear; as hostages from both cities resided in the Atrium Libertatis, either Phileas himself or the Tarentine hostages could have approached the Thurians; of course, bribing the custodians undoubtedly aided the business.
  252. Their age, number, sex, socioeconomic status, selection, and period and place of detention have been examined in the previous pages.
  253. Aymard ("Les otages carthaginois," p. 448) has speculated that Norba offered too few lodgings for the number of hostages assigned there. In the absence of a fuller account or demographical data on Norba, Signia, and Ferentinum, it is as plausible as any other conjecture.
  254. Even an annalistic invention is apt to reflect Roman attitudes and practices; the most serious difficulty in the evaluation of such an invention is that anachronisms might occur in the account.
  255. Aymard ("Les otages carthaginois," p. 448) and Kahrstedt (Geschiehte, 3: 590n.2) objected to the silliness of the revolt's purpose and of the associated details; Nissen (Kritische Untersuchungen, p. 138), in accordance with the scholarly fashion of his era, discounted entirely the annalistic tradition.
  256. T. R. S. Broughton (MRR, 1: 332n.2) states that Lentulus (32.26.8) is an error for Merula; cf. 32.8.5. It is perhaps significant that the praetor urbanus took charge of this campaign; Cf. Livy 23.41. 7, where the praetor urbanus takes charge of captivi and Livy 42.6.10, where the praetor urbanus renews the Treaty of Apamea with Antiochus IV.
  257. Aymard, “Les otages carthaginois,” p. 448.
  258. Briscoe (Commentary, pp. 216-217) discusses the problems of the ambiguity of the supplied subject in 32.26.7 and of the lacuna in 32.26.8, but he offers no solution.
  259. Cf. the fate of Gabii, which the full text states is handed to Tarquin without dispute (sine ulla disputatione, Livy 1.54.10), although the epitome indicates violence (direpti, Summaries. 1), and the intention of Syphax to cross to Spain (Livy 24.49.6), which becomes an accomplished act in the epitome (Summaries. 24).
  260. Since the Punic hostages were in Roman care, any injury offered them so long as Carthage abided by the treaty ought to have been at the very least a diplomatic embarrassment or, at worst, a potential casus belli.
  261. Moscovich (“Treaty Regulations,” p. 425) has correctly observed that Livy’s version does not directly involve the hostages, and his suggestion that some of the slaves who were involved belonged to the hostages and thus implicated their masters as instigators of the revolts is quite sensible; the fact that many of the slaves were probably African captives sold into slavery made it seem likely that the Carthaginians were behind the African disturbance.
  262. Whether that of an invading army or of diplomatic pressure from a government whose hostages had suffered harm while a Roman responsibility.
  263. Kahrstedt (Geschichte, 3: 590n.2) doubted the incident's validity because of the inclusion of captivi, for he believed that the Romans would not have held Punic captivi as late as 198 B.C. Yet the embassy of 199 B.C. sought the return of captives (Nepos Hannibal 7.2); cf. the somewhat belated return of Punic captives taken during the First Punic War (Polybius 1.83). One may further speculate on the disposition of the hostages who were delivered for the first negotiations with Scipio (Polybius 15.8.7); after the Punic violation of the truce, their lives were forfeit; cf. Marcellus’ imprisonment of hostages for a truce violation (Appian Hispanic Wars 48).
  264. Aymard (“Les otages carthaginois,” p. 448) postulates that the Roman government did not furnish more than the local budgets of the towns in which they lived for their expenses, and that their families supplied whatever other income was required. The only attested instance of Roman financial support of foreign hostages belongs to a slightly later period and a different ethnic group; Aymard’s assumption is unsubstantiated.
  265. See p. 138n.48.
  266. On the available evidence, it is difficult to express a preference between the two alternatives. The Roman practice of quartering such involuntary guests of the Republic as Polybius and the younger Tigranes among eminent Roman families is quite common, but no hostages are attested as part of a Roman household. Antiochus, son of Antiochus III the Great of Syria, had a house built at public expense, but it seems unlikely that all hostages were so accommodated.
  267. Demetrius of Syria replaced Antiochus; the date of the restoration of the last nineteen hostages is not known.
  268. On the basis of their later careers, some hypotheses, especially concerning personal relationships between the hostages and individual Romans, have been drawn. For these hypotheses and their later careers, see below, pp. 147-151 and 171-172.
  269. A distinction shared with his fellow hostage of Sparta, Armenas, son of Nabis. Pompey also displayed hostages in his Asiatic triumph of 61 B.C. (Appian Mithridatic Wars 117; Plutarch Pompey 45.4), and it may well be that this was a regular feature of all triumphs. Cf. the close relationship between hostages and triumph in the arguments presented by Scipio Nasica’s party in 191 B.C.: the exaction of hostages from the Boii was indeed one of the grounds on which he based his claim to a triumph (Livy 36.40.3). Certainly the position of hostages according to Roman law suggests that hostages were a special class of captivi, which makes their presence in a triumph quite reasonable; see above, pp. 16-19. Although walking in a triumph was undoubtedly humiliating for a hostage, it was probably not physically harmful and lasted only a short time; it is not a major exception to the generally benevolent treatment given by Rome to her subject hostages.
  270. For an examination of the circumstances in which restoration occurred, see below, pp. 144-156.
  271. The client-patron relationship between a subject people and the conquering general corroborates Plutarch’s comment (Badian, Foreign Clientelae, 264-70 B.C. [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958], p. 164.
  272. It is probable that more sinister motives were in fact responsible. For a discussion of Demetrius’ embassy and its consequence, see below, pp. 147-151.
  273. See above, p. 106.
  274. I.e., Popilius Laenas’ insolence in demanding Antiochus' answer to the Senate’s settlement of the Egyptian question; Laenas insisted that Antiochus announce either his acceptance or his refusal of the Senate's terms before he stepped outside a circle which Laenas had drawn around him in the dust.
  275. Cf. Athenaeus 193 E-F; Diodorus 29.32; Polybius 26.1.5-6.
  276. Demetrius’ emphasis on the insignia of monarchy is manifestly at odds with the Senate’s insistence on humble petitioners.
  277. There are several problems concerning the Seleucids of this time: the number of sons Seleucus IV fathered; Demetrius’ place in the line of succession; the “lost” child king Antiochus; and the possible regency of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Cf. H. Volkmann, “Demetrius I. und Alexander I. von Syrien,” Klio 19 (1925): 373-386; see below, pp. 276-28.
  278. At least, so says Polybius; on his reliability, cf. Laqueur, “Die Flucht des Demetrius aus Rom. Ein Beitrag zur Kritik des Polybius,” Hermes 65 (1930): 129-66; both W. Hoffman ("Die römische Politik des 2. Jahrhunderts und das Ende Karthagos," Historia 9 [1960]: 333) and de Sanctis (Storia dei Romani, 4: 1: 258-62) accept his testimony.
  279. Several partisan positions could have generated this result: animosity toward Demetrius personally or toward a united Syrian kingdom; a partiality for Antiochus IV, Antiochus V, or the special interest of Rome. Cf. Sands, Client Princes, pp. 51-52.
  280. See below, pp. 171-172.
  281. Since the named members of this entourage are his foster brother Apollonius and Apollonius’ two brothers, the sons of a favorite of Demetrius’ father Seleueus, the other anonymous members were in all likelihood of similar station.
  282. The active role which Polybius assumed in Demetrius’ escape has led many scholars to suspect that some senators tacitly approved his involvement. In view of Polybius’ strong connections with Scipio Aemilianus and Fabius Maximus Aemilianus, the Scipionic-Fabian-Aemilian faction has been considered a strong minority group which, having failed to release Demetrius, instigated a conspiracy to free the Syrian prince: the favorable report which Ti. Gracchus gave on Demetrius' accession to the throne may be a proof that two factions did indeed prefer Demetrius I to Antiochus V and the regents.
  283. See above, pp. 120-121.
  284. Diodorus (31.18) specifies that Demetrius met Ptolemy two hundred stadia outside Rome: his escape later passed unnoticed for some time because it was thought that he was hunting at Circeii (Polybius 31.14.2) Indeed, Cerceii, the site of Demetrius’ fictitious hunting trip, is some sixty miles south of Rome.
  285. See above, pp. 133-134n.7.
  286. This remark may seem inconsistent with the attention paid to Demetrius’ case in the preceding paragraphs, but the question of Roman ethics in Demetrius’ case is important because of the possible effects on his attitude toward Rome. There is also the difficulty of determining what the legal position of hostages was, and the language of law and of justice sometimes overlap.
  287. It is probable that the Roman government, directly or through the Latin towns to which the Punic captives were assigned, paid the hostages’ expenses; neither Carthage nor the hostages’ families could have done so.
  288. It is important to realize the propagandistic purpose of such testimony. That a faction felt compelled to exact hostages implied that the faction lacked the full support of the people who had to deliver hostages and that the faction was insolent and arrogant because it demanded tokens of obedience from loyal citizens of the Empire. The language of the sources furthered the negative impact of taking hostages by emphasizing the reality of the hostages’ helplessness and ignoring the usual euphemisms that described their condition.
  289. See above, p. 14; the force of the prejudice is the more obvious since Vonones was not even a real hostage. See pp. 127-28.
  290. Schulten, Sertorius (New York: Arno Press, 1975), p. 80; Treves, “Sertorio,” Athenaeum 10 (1932); 136; Berve, “Sertorius,” pp. 224-227.
  291. That is, they were hostages de facto, not de jure; cf. the position of the Parthians, below, pp. 127-128.
  292. This is, admittedly, speculation, for there is no explicit substantiating evidence. Presumably their curriculum would have resembled the standard liberal arts courses popular in Italy, with the traditional emphasis on rhetoric and perhaps law. Certainly the students would have learned something of Roman culture and society as well. Cf. the Theban education of Philip II of Macedon (Justin Epitome 7.5.3; Diodorus 16.2.2-3).
  293. After the defection of some of his supporters, Sertorius enslaved or killed some of the boys at the school; see below, p. 180.
  294. Although no hostages have been identified, captives like Cleopatra Selene and Juba, later king of Mauretania, are known to have lived under the benevolent eye of Octavian. As the reputation of Octavian spread, some sovereigns dispatched relatives to Rome who functioned as de facto hostages (e.g., Phraates IV and Herod the Great).
  295. This was noted by J. G. C. Anderson in CAH, 10: 265; cf. Strabo 16.1.28C749.
  296. Rawlinson, Parthia, pp. 211-12, 239, and 413; Sands, Client Princes, pp. 221-22; cf. Dieter Timpe, "Zur augusteischen Partherpolitik Zwischen 30 und 20 v. Chr.", Würzburger Jahrbücher für die Altertumswissenschaft, n. s. 1 (1975); Festshrift für Ernst Siegmann zum 60. Geburtstag, pp. 155-69.
  297. It has been suggested that Phraotes IV had been deposed again around 10/9 B.C. and that he was willing to deliver his sons to Augustus in order to prevent a Roman invasion at a time of domestic insecurity; there is no evidence of a second deposition. Cf. Ernst Kjellberg, “C. Iulius Eurykles,” Klio 17 (1921): 54.
  298. See pp. 144-165 for an examination of the circumstances surrounding the several restorations and subsequent careers.
  299. John O’Donovan, The Book of Rights, pp. 135-147. Withering was evidently a curse which included complete disinheritance on earth and in heaven; cf. Cross and Slover, Ancient Irish Tales, p. 521.
  300. Cross and Slover, Ancient Irish Tales, p. 116.
  301. Eugene O’Curry, Manners and Customs, l: cccl-cccli.
  302. O'Donovan, Book of Rights, p. 147: the king who chains these hostages invokes even worse than withering. Despite the avowed contract, the mistreatment of Irish hostages seems relatively frequent, as there are five examples within my limited knowledge of the legends; the live burial of the Munster hostages in retaliation for the death of Fiachra (Whitley Stokes, “The Death of Crimthann,” p. 181: Dillon, Cycles, p. 3l); the live burial of an unnamed free hostage of Tara (Whitley Stokes, “The Prose Tales in the Rennes Dindṡenchas,” p. 320): the sacrifice of hostages in building foundations (O'Currey, Manners and Customs 3: 9); the erection of a prison for hostages (Dillon, Cycles, pp. 58-59): and the (disputed) sacrifice of a hostage in order to avert pestilence (O'Curry, Manners and Customs, l; dcxli). Robinson (“Human Sacrifice Among the Irish Celts,” Anniversary Papers by Colleagues and Pupils Of George Lyman Kittredge [Boston and London: Ginn and Co., 1913], p. 193 n.l) has questioned O’Curry’s translation of the last passage, and his remark that burial alive was a standard punishment for malefactors should remind us that some of these harsh acts may have been prompted by the hostages’ improper behavior: the legends are markedly elliptical.
  303. The task of assessing the many variants of this legend is best done as a whole; see below, pp. 263-274.
  304. They had to “escape” if they were not released from hostageship, and they marched in triumphal processions before the conquering general’s chariot.
  305. Phillipson, International Law and Custom, 1: 405-406.
  306. For a discussion of cultural attitudes toward hostageship, see above, pp. 11-16.
  307. As evidenced by the episodes concerning Tarentine and Thurian hostages of 212 B.C., the Punic hostages of 199 B.C., and Demetrius of Syria
  308. E.g., the Tarentine and Thurion hostages of 212 B.C. and Demetrius of Syria.
  309. E.g., Demetrius of Syria.
  310. E.g., the house of Antiochus of Syria and his treatment as a king (Livy 42.6.9). In the case of the Parthian princes, who were not formal hostages, they lived very well at public expense and were honored with distinguished seats at the games; the Armenian prince Tigranes, whose status was very like the Parthians', was given military support for his claim to the Armenian throne (Diodorus 54.8.1).
  311. The practice of mutatio obsidum (see above, pp. 67-72) was a temporary measure which relieved individuals of the obligation of serving as hostages; by “a permanent end to detention” I mean actions which absolved the donor state of the obligation or altered the status of hostages under detention.
  312. See above, pp. 59-67.
  313. There arc a number of problems with this story. The reign of Alexander II is remarkable for its brevity, as he was assassinated about a year after he had gained the throne. Justin’s description of the first hostageship of Philip in the prima initia of his rule and then of the hostageships to Thebes interiecto tempore is, therefore, implausible. Possibly Justin confused Alexander with Amyntas, who was deposed by the Illyrians in the early part of his reign (ca. 393 B.C.) and later was reinstated around the time of Philip’s birth (ca. 383 B.C.). The story has been further complicated by the well-documented hostageship of Philip at Thebes from 369 to 365 B.C., which a late source (Diodorus 16.2.2) attached to the earlier episode with the Illyrians. There is little reason to believe that the Illyrians kept a Macedonian hostage in Boeotian Thebes; even if the Macedonians and Illyrians were negotiating on approximately equal terms, and they therefore chose a neutral third party to detain the hostage (see above, pp. 102-04), it is difficult to understand why Thebes would have been so selected. The note on Diodorus 16.2.2 in the Loeb translation (Charles L. Sherwin, Diodorus Siculus, vol. 7 [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1952J, p. 236), which states that Alexander ransomed Philip from the Illyrians, seems to be an erroneous translation of Justin 7.5.1.
  314. The decision to support Balas was hardly surprising, since Demetrius was a competent monarch who had suppressed the earlier uprising and had himself been responsible for the earlier exaction of hostages. Despite the bitter hatred felt for Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Balas’ alleged father, the Jews felt that Balas, a political cipher, was preferable to the energetic Demetrius.
  315. See below, pp. 177-183.
  316. Zonaras (9.19), Plutarch (Flaminius 14.2), and De Viris Illustribus (51) attest his release but not the cause.
  317. According to Edson (“Perseus and Demetrius,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 46 [1935]: 191-192): Demetrius was born around 208 B.C., which would make him eleven in 197 B.C.: Kaerst (RE 4 (1901): 2794-2795, s.v. “Demetrius,” no. 37) has him two years younger.
  318. For a discussion of the apparent policy of exacting second sons as hostages, see below, pp. 276-282.
  319. This story is uncritically accepted by Kaerst (RE 4 (1901): 2794-2795, s.v. “Demetrius,” no. 37).
  320. Benecke, CAH, 8: 254, denied by Walbank (Polybius 3: 229); for the alternative methods of the murder, cf. Walbank, Philip, pp. 252, 334- 335.
  321. Sand, Client Princes, p. 124; de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4: 1: 245-247; Walbank, Philip, p. 241; Edson, “Perseus and Demetrius,” p. 193.
  322. Edson, “Perseus and Demetrius,” p. 201. Note the frequently cited story of the following generation concerning the circle which Popillius Laenas drew around the Roman ally Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Polybius 29.26-27 et al.), the brutal treatment accorded Eumenes after the victory at Pydna, and the steadfast and repeated refusal of the Senate to heed either Carthage or Philip when disputes arose between them and their neighbors.
  323. Edson (“Perseus and Demetrius,” pp. 199-200) first raised this telling point, as Walbank (Philip, p. 251) acknowledged.
  324. The suggestion of Walbank (Philip, p. 251).
  325. Edson, “Perseus and Demetrius,” p. 200.
  326. Badian, Foreign Clientelae, p. 94; Aymard, “Les otages barbares,” p. 141.
  327. De Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 3: 2: 605n. 15; Hatto Schmitt, Staatsverträge, 3: 306; Wilhelm Hoffman, “Die römische Politik des 2. Jahrhunderts und das Ende Karthagos,” Historia 9 (1960): 335; cf. Täubler, Imperium Romanum, p. 39, for the hypothesis that hostages guaranteed the indemnity payments, discussed above, pp. 7 and 22n.13.
  328. “Les otages carthaginois,” pp. 442-443 and 449-50.
  329. I have used the emendation proposed by Zingerle and accepted by Weissenborn for filling the lacuna.
  330. For a discussion of mutatio obsidum, see above, pp. 67-72.
  331. The argument concerning Tarentine hostages from the treaty of 272 B.C. is far more circumstantial. No primary source states that hostages were exacted by this treaty (pace Scullard, A History of the Roman World from 753 to 146 B.C. [London: Methuen, 1951], p. 125). De Sanctis (Storia dei Romani, 2: 398) cited Livy 25.7 and Polybius 8.26 as proof, but these passages document only that Rome held Tarentine and Thurian hostages during the Hannibalic War; the inclusion of Thurii, which had supported Rome throughout the Pyrrhic War, implies that the treaty of 272 B.C. may not have been the contract for the exaction (Tenney Frank, CAH, 7: 641-643; Schmitt, Staatsverträge, 3: 128). Cf. the submission of Arretine hostages in 208 B.C. (Livy 27.24.1) and A.H. McDonald, “Rome and the Italian Confederation,” 13.
  332. For a discussion of the motivation for the release, see above, pp. 60-61.
  333. For this condition within the agreement itself, see above, pp. 60-66.
  334. Cf. Antigonus’ protection of Eumenes when the two were mobbed by Antigonus’ soldiers (Plutarch, Eumenes 10.2-3) and Caesar’s conference with Afranius and Petreius in 49 B.C. (Caesar, Civil War 1.84.2); Antigonus’ nephew Ptolemaios and Afranius’ son were almost certainly permitted to depart without incident. Cf. Livy 10.10.3: 28.35.4; and Appian Hannibal 47. The “deserter” who offered himself as a guide to Aristodemus and then misled him probably paid for his betrayal, if Aristodemus suspected him before his own death (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 7.11.4). The hostages delivered to Metellus by Jugurtha in 108 B. C. (Dio 26.89; Orosius 5.15.7) seem likely to have been detained, as were the Carthaginian hostages for the abortive surrender of 149 B.C. (Zonaras 9.30).
  335. Schulten (Sertorius, p. 136) is probably correct in assuming that Perpenna released all the hostages still in Roman custody.
  336. For the release of other extralegal hostages, as in the case of allies serving with the Roman army (e.g., the Campanian nobles in 216/215 B.C. [Livy 23.31.10], see above, p. 23n.23). The circumstances were very different, and it is not surprising that the cases were handled differently.
  337. See above, pp. 101-102.
  338. For restoration as part of the original peace treaty, see above, pp. 60-67.
  339. For restoration as part of the original peace treaty, see above, pp. 60-67.
  340. Unfortunately, little is known about Parthian policies of this period. Of course, we must also realize that Tigranes was a tough and competent ruler, while Demetrius was culpably stupid.
  341. See Appendix IIA., below.
  342. See Appendix IIA., below.
  343. Altruistic motives like generosity and respect are rarely attested and infrequently to be inferred in historical examples, with the possible (although not probable) exception of the anecdote about Dionysius I of Syracuse and the Rhegians in 388 B.C. (Diodorus 14.108.1-3); see above, pp. 145-146.
  344. Special circumstances, such as the death of the contracting donor, may also have obtained the hostages', release. So argued Demetrius of Syria (Polybius 31.2.2), and Phillipson (International Law and Custom, 1: 404) has accepted and generalized the principle. It is possible that the death of the recipient might also have nullified the agreement; cf. the last request of Niall to release the hostages held by him at his burial monument (Stokes, “Rennes Dindṡenchas,” p. 296). The younger Aratus, however, remained at the court of Macedon after the death of Antigonus Doson (Plutarch, Aratus 54.1).
  345. For the role of cultural assimilation as a purpose in exacting hostages, see below, pp. 207-209.
  346. For the usual good care of hostages, see above, pp. 107-132.
  347. It is interesting to observe that the Germans forbade even the request for the hostages’ return (Caesar, Gallic War 1. 31. 7-9); the reason for an elaborate oath to this effect, when a firm refusal by the Germans would have appeared to answer any request just as well, escapes me.
  348. There may be a second example. Adcock and Mosley (Diplomacy, p. 196) translate the hostage clause of the Athenian decree of 446/445 B.C. concerning Chalcis (Staatsverträge, no. 155) as presupposing a Chalcidian request for the hostages’ release. This is a perfectly reasonable assumption, but I cannot discount the equally reasonable possibility that the request may have referred to something other than the release of the hostages, perhaps the place or circumstances of their detention.
  349. Curiously, Polybius records the request but not the original exaction; Livy mentions the exaction but not the request (Livy 34.40.3). Of course, the mutilation of the Polybian text may explain this very minor point. The reference to Armenas makes the identification of the requested hostages with those surrendered in 195 B.C. almost certain.
  350. The retention of Armenas is very interesting, for his father Nabis had predeceased him and so Armenas could not have been used to manipulate the Spartan ruler any longer. The Roman government may have feared that Armenas would attempt to succeed to his father’s position or otherwise disturb the settlement of Peloponnesian problems, if he were liberated. Cf. above, p. 116. Whatever motivated the Roman decision to exclude Armenas from the general release, the incident demonstrates that the senators applied at least two different policies to this single group of hostages.
  351. For the common association of tribute and hostages, see above, p. 193n.17. No one, to my knowledge, has considered the legal status of this treaty after the death of Nabis. I do not know the extent to which the Spartan state could be held responsible for agreements negotiated by the tyrant.
  352. Philip, p. 208; the restoration of these hostages would have strengthened the party opposing the return of those exiled by Nabis (Polybius 3: 88-89).
  353. Storia dei Romani, 4: 1: 223. In rebuttal, however, one may ask if the Senate was in truth eager for immediate obedience on this issue. The accounts in Polybius and Livy (36.35) do not show a strong senatorial interest in the matter.
  354. If I may speculate briefly on the subject of the Senate’s clemency, two possibilities occur to me. There might have been a clause in the formal treaty which limited the hostages’ service to four years or to the full period of indebtedness which was shortened by early payment in full; cf. the willingness of Carthage to pay fifty years’ worth of indemnity within the first decade. Although these explanations do not seem altogether satisfactory, nevertheless it is well to recollect that we do not know all the circumstances about this or any other incident. A more plausible hypothesis is suggested by the coupling of the restoration of the Lacedaemonian and Macedonian hostages in Polybius’ narrative (Polybius 21. 31-4). The Senate chose to reward Philip V with the release of the hostages exacted in 197/196 B.C. and the remission of the tribute which he had not yet paid, in recognition of his valuable assistance against Antiochus III of Syria. Might not Sparta have been advised by the Scipios to request the return of their hostages as repayment for some unrecorded service to the Romans?
  355. For a complete discussion of Demetrius’ claim and his subsequent career, see below, pp. 171-172.
  356. See above, pp. 127-128.
  357. For a discussion of intervention by a third party, see below, pp. 183-89.
  358. Artavasdes, the successor of Tigranes, may also have been a hostage. Anderson, CAH, 10: 273.
  359. Anderson (CAH, 10: 261) identifies this youngest son as Phraates, the youngest of the four legitimate sons sent to Augustus in 10/9 B.C.
  360. Dio's curious phrase puzzles me. It is difficult to see how even the most rabid supporter of Augustus could have imagined that Augustus’ detention of Phraates’ son was a favor to anyone except Augustus. The only explanation that comes to mind is that Augustus’ custody might have been preferable to that of Tiridates, but if this is what Dio meant, it is obscurely expressed.
  361. Rawlinson (Parthia, pp. 208-209) prefers the version of Dio, because it “seems impossible that the circumstantial account of Dio (51.18) can be a mere fiction.” Hanslik (RE 6A [1937]: 1439-1440, s.v. "Tiridates," no. 4) appears to favor the date 27/26 B.C. but finds the connection with Spain difficult. Anderson (CAH, 10: 261) in the main supports Justin’s narrative.
  362. On the surrender of hostages as a tacit confession of inferiority, see above, pp. 4-6.
  363. If Caesar had sufficient strength to have successfully sought Phraates’ son as a hostage in 30 B.C., I wonder that he did not then demand the prisoners of war and the military standards which were his object in 23 B.C. Would Phraates’ son have been more valuable in 23 B. C. than he had been seven years earlier?
  364. See above, pp. 127-128.
  365. Anderson, CAH, 10: 265.
  366. The career of Vonones is for the most part irrelevant to this study, but the attitude toward the Romanized monarch attributed to the Parthians by the classical sources is of considerable interest. See above, p. 14.
  367. These embassies, which are outside the temporal limits of this survey, indicate that the experience of Vonones was by no means unusual.
  368. With the possible exception of the Parthian princes, there may well have been an informal and/or secret agreement between Phraates IV and Augustus, of which we know nothing.
  369. For the distinction between legal and extralegal hostages, see above, pp. 1-11.
  370. This fact speaks well for the judgment of whoever selected these hostages; for the process of selection, see above, pp. 52-58.
  371. For an analysis of the efficacy of the hostage system, see below, pp. 205-207.
  372. It is possible that the Athenians sought hostages from the pro-Athenian ruling class and that therefore there would be little point in punishing the first group. It is equally possible that anti-Athenian leaders supplied the hostages, a hypothesis supported by the Samian eagerness to recover them before rebelling. Punishment of these hostages would have hurt those most guilty of revolt. For a discussion of party affiliations, see above, pp. 48-52.
  373. For the confusion of Philip’s two or three hostageships in the primary sources and a suggested resolution, see above, p. 192n.3.
  374. The assassination of Alexander II fomented a continuing dynastic feud; the usurper Ptolemy faced the legitimate heir Perdiccas and other pretenders who seized the opportunity afforded by the chaotic domestic situation.
  375. It would be interesting to know if Philip alone fled or if all of the Macedonian hostages in Thebes also departed; the others have vanished from historical record, but it is possible that, unknown to us, the Thebans avenged themselves on the remaining hostages in Theban control for Philips’ flight.
  376. Were the Bruttian hostages held in Italy by Agathocles’ titular allies? See above, p. 99.
  377. Aymard, (“Les otages barbares,” p. 138) discusses this incident and a possible precedent for it.
  378. Of course it is possible that, like the Volscian hostages of 495 B.C. (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 6.30.1), the execution of the Spartans was intended as a deterrent for those who gave hostages in the future, but Plutarch seems to ignore this possibility and dwells instead upon the pathetic dignity of Cratesicleia and the children.
  379. Even if Ptolemy feared that the youths would try to avenge their father's murder and thus could not be safely released, the mere threat of their release might have proved an effective diplomatic weapon in Greek affairs.
  380. Kahrstedt, Geschichte, 3: 172-173, Westington, Atrocities, pp. 32,122. The Romans do not seem to have thought of executing only some of the hostages, thus maintaining some control over Tarentum and Thurii but also demonstrating very clearly the folly of escape. Perhaps because all were equally guilty, all ought--according to Roman notions of justice--to have been punished equally. Note, however, the death of some Iberian boys and the enslavement of others by Sertorius (Plutarch, Sertorius 25.4); we do not know whether boys from each tribe were killed or enslaved, or whether some were killed, some enslaved, and some kept. After Sertorius’ death, Perpenna restored Iberian hostages (Appian Civil War 1.114), so there were survivors.
  381. At any rate, there are no attested Greek examples of this type known to me.
  382. See above, pp. 112-116.
  383. Pompey had annexed Judaea and placed it under the administration of the governor of Syria.
  384. Both brigandage and escape were undoubtedly capital charges; there is little to choose between them.
  385. The lack of colorful detail may be due to the summarizing of Zonaras or to the meager abilities of the storyteller.
  386. See above, pp. 119-122.
  387. Polybius’ candor and obvious pride in his role as Demetrius’ advisor has suggested to modern scholars that the liberal minority of senators with whom Polybius was especially associated connived at Demetrius’ illicit departure. Cf. Badian, Foreign Clientelae, p. 108, and Bevan, CAH, 8: 518.
  388. Walbank (Polybius, 3: 478) notes that Gracchus had annulled Scipio Nasica’s election to the consulship and that Polybius despised Gracchus, although he docs not deny explicitly any connection between Gracchus and a pro-Demetrius senatorial party. Further, he describes recognition of Demetrius at Rome as dubious (Polybius, 3: 517). The point is, for our purposes in this study, academic. Sands (Client Princes, p. 59) acutely commented on the distinction made by the Senate between Demetrius’ inheritance of royal properties, which the Senate recognized, and the inheritance of the authority to govern (imperium), which Roman law held could not be inherited. Certainly the legalistic distinction was the Senate’s justification to withhold its approval of Demetrius’ claim, and Demetrius’ failure to obtain Roman acknowledgement of his right to imperium jeopardized his possession of the private royal inheritance.
  389. Other groups may also have received tacit permission from Rome to try rebellion; cf. Badian, Foreign Clientelae, p. 108.
  390. Yet Demetrius had been unable to gain Roman recognition of his right to succeed his father ten years earlier.
  391. See below, pp. 263-274.
  392. Phillipson (International Law and Custom, 1: 406) rightly remarked on the division of governmental and private actions.
  393. The anomalies in the Cloelia legend do not fit into this simple pattern.
  394. We must not confuse forcible seizure for the purpose of compelling an exchange either with mutatio obsidum (see above, pp. 67-72), the peaceful and mutually agreeable substitution of one hostage for another, or with the offer of hostages in return for a captive. The latter exchange is between states formally equal. In 285 B.C. Seleucus captured Demetrius Poliorcetes, whose son Antigonus then offered himself in place of his father (Plutarch, Demetrius 51.2; Moralia 183C). Similarly in 143/2 B. C. Simon Maccabaeus surrendered Jonathan’s two children to Tryphon for Jonathan’s release (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 13.204-206). In neither case was the exchange viable, for Seleucus refused to accept Antigonus’ proposal and Tryphon executed Jonathan despite the delivery of the children.
  395. The protection of official envoys was one of the few subject on which most ancient states agreed.
  396. Since the delivery of hostages usually indicated a previous military defeat (see above, pp. 5-6), it is probable that the donor government would in most instances have been inferior in strength. Because a recipient government would not have allowed a massive increase in military preparedness if it wished to remain dominant, open hostilities, which would have been very probable after the seizure of distinguished citizens from the recipient state, would frequently have resulted in swift defeat.
  397. Cf. the case of the Roman ambassadors to Carthage in 203 B.C, who barely avoided a like fate (Appian, Punic War 34). There are several examples of this typically Greek usage of the hostage concept, in which one’s person guaranteed the accuracy of one’s statement. See above, p. 9.
  398. Although the lateness of the source (Polyaenus) renders the story suspect, it is reasonable to assume that the basic outline reflects the popular beliefs about the practice of hostageship.
  399. The identification of these commissioners is difficult because of the many conflicting lists which the ancient resources catalogue. Their identities are not relevant to this study; cf. Broughton, MRR, 1: 241-242n.12.
  400. In view of the enormous Roman casualties during the Hannibalic War, the commissioners were perhaps fortunate in their early capture, for two of the three survived sixteen years of detention.
  401. The frequency with which Gauls are involved in this type of scheme is interesting, although the sample is far too small to assign any significance to it. J.J. Hart (Histoire de la Gaule Romaine [120 avant J.-C.-451 aprés J.-C.]: Colonisation ou Colonialisme? Paris: Payot, 1966 , pp. 67-68) observed that, since the Arverni had a privileged position because of their defeat in 121 B.C. by Fabius Maximus, their capital city of Gergovia was the logical place for the hostages of the tribes who had allied to resist Caesar; the Arverni had not delivered hostages to the Romans and so could not be tempted to try to trade the allied hostages for their own. I submit that the rise of the Arvernan Vercingetorix was probably aided by this same circumstance: no hostage of the Arverni was endangered by the revolt.
  402. The same phenomenon can be seen among the medieval Irish in the capture of a king, Amhlaibh son of Sitric; his ransom included the hostages of the Gaeidhel (= Irish). Wm. M. Hennessy, The Annals of Loch Co, A Chronicle of Irish Affairs from A.D. 1014 to A.D. 1590, p. 31.
  403. A problem recognized by Livy (28.34.7-10); for an evaluation of this issue, see below, pp. 182-183.
  404. Cf. the deaths of the Tarentine and Thurian hostages in 212 B.C. (Livy 25.8.1-2; 15.7).
  405. See above, pp. 145-146.
  406. Luckily for his son, Agathocles was both successful and swift; see above, p. 109.
  407. See above, pp. 99 and 167-168.
  408. Another Greek incident involving the death of hostages (so-called) occurred during an external attack that was used as an excuse to exterminate internal rivals. In 195 B.C. Nabis of Sparta had the eighty most prominent leaden of the Spartan youth arrested and then secretly executed, despite his assertion that the arrest would last only until the threat of the external war was removed (Livy 34.27.7-8; 32.12). The assassination of rival leaders is perhaps less surprising than the elaborate guise under which it was carried out; discovery of the execution was inevitable. Nabis may have considered the time he gained to consolidate his position worth the damage done his reputation and the hostility of his victims’ friends and relatives. Nor should we forget that Livy’s source was biassed against the Spartan ruler and that mitigating circumstances may have been omitted.
  409. For a discussion of the revolts and their meaning for the efficacy of hostageship, see below, pp. 205-207.
  410. Resistance almost immediately after the delivery of hostages was evidently not uncommon: examples are Petra in 181 B.C. (Livy 40.22.14), the Third Punic War, and some occasions in the Illyrian campaigns of Augustus (Appian Illyrian Wars. 21; 23-24; Dio 49.37.2 & 6). There are two possible inferences. Recipient states were reluctant to put hostages to death, and therefore the donor state felt no fear on behalf of the hostages, or donor states were insufficiently concerned about the hostages’ fate. In the case of the Carthaginians in 149 B.C., the enormity of the Roman demand seems to have forced them into revolt; the anguish of the parents and other citizens certainly indicates that, in less extreme circumstances, Roman control of the hostages would have succeeded in compelling obedience.
  411. The Sugambri had delivered hostages to the Romans in 16 B.C. (Dio 54.20.6).
  412. There can be no doubt that their execution was within legal bounds; see de Sanctis , Storia dei Romani, 4: 3: 35.
  413. See below, pp. 183-189, for this paradox. Plutarch’s distaste may also be due to Sertorius’ slyness in exacting them. Rawlinson (Parthia, p. 413) corroborates this attitude with regard to the Parthian princes in Rome during the early Principate.
  414. The Sabine women were not mistreated, but neither did they guarantee a contract; see above, pp. 8-10 and 261 for the rhetorical (or at least nontechnical) meaning of hostage used by Greek authors in extralegal contexts.
  415. The Sabine women were not mistreated, but neither did they guarantee a contract; see above, pp. 8-10 and 261 for the rhetorical (or at least nontechnical) meaning of hostage used by Greek authors in extralegal contexts.
  416. Rostovtzeff’s judgment, CAH, 8: 564-565.
  417. It is unlikely that Rome in fact disavowed the treaty, as de Sanctis (Storia dei Romani, 2: 300-301), Salmon (“Pax Caudina,” Journal of Roman Studies 19 (1929): 12 - 18), and Adcock (CAH, 7: 600) have already observed. We can only marvel at the naiveté of Livy, who emphasizes the savagery of the Samnites by making the lives of the hostages forfeit if the treaty was not obeyed (Livy 9.5.5) and then conveniently forgets the threat when the Romans refuse to ratify the sponsio. Phillipson (International Law and Custom, 1: 404-405) has generalized this clause to a standard application without sufficient evidence. An equal forgetfulness assailed Plutarch in his aetiological myth about the Latin demand for Roman women in 389 B.C. (Plutarch, Romulus 29.4; Camillus 33.2.7; cf. Moralia 313A; Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.11. 35-40); why would the Latins ignore the attack on their escort as well as the failure of the Romans to furnish the women?
  418. Costanzi (“Osservazioni sulla terza guerra sannitica,” Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione classica 42 [1919]: 174-175) lucidly argued that the Barbatus epitaph is a better authority than Livy and that the Lucanian hostages were not submitted voluntarily.
  419. Although I find this anecdote of no value for the historical practice of hostageship, there may be historical elements in the description of the attack on Hannibal’s scattered troops. Philip Stadter, Plutarch’s Historical Methods: An Analysis of the Mulierum Virtutes (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1965), pp. 74-76.
  420. Diêgylis of Thrace tortured relatives of those who fled his kingdom, victims whom Diodorus, after the Greek usage of the term, called hostages (Diodorus 33.15.1); see above, p. 10. Predictably, pro-Roman sources were frequently hostile to enemies of Rome and would emphasize--or invent--appropriately vicious attitudes and acts.
  421. Cf. de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4: 3: 35.
  422. Cf. de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4: 3: 35.
  423. Moscovich (“Obsidibus Traditis,” pp. 126-27) follows Grotius in noting that, unless the hostages themselves broke the agreement, it was not in accord with ius naturale to punish them.
  424. See above, pp. 72-76, for diplomatic intervention.
  425. I.e., it may represent only one possible solution.
  426. For the usual socio-economic status of hostages, see above, pp. 48-52.
  427. Phillipson, International Law and Custom, 2: 295-296.
  428. The legend of Cloelia in some variants describes the attempt of the Tarquins to capture the Roman hostages sent to Porsenna. This theme will be analyzed within the framework of the entire legend; see below, pp. 263-274.
  429. See above, pp. 101-102. Note also that Bostar, the representative of the recipient government, was willing to restore the hostages himself.
  430. It is of course possible that accounts of what appear to be free restorations are merely summaries of negotiated releases in which the details of the conditions were omitted. In lieu of better evidence or clear contradictions within the corpus of historical writing, we can only accept the ancient testimony.
  431. De Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4: 1: 351-52. Cotys later tried to exploit Bithys’ familiarity with affairs Roman by sending him to plead the Thracian defense against the charges brought by the Teans for Abdera (Walbank, Polybius 3: 440); cf. the embassy of Demetrius of Macedon in 184/3 B.C.
  432. Diplomatic efficacy was in direct proportion with military strength, even when an arbiter was chosen by both disputants. Adcock and Mosely, Diplomacy, p. 214.
  433. The identity of Charmion is unknown, but it has been assumed by Cardinali that Charmion was a citizen of Gortyn. See below, n. 123.
  434. Walbank (Polybius, 3: 202) presents the theory of Cardinali, that Charmion was a Gortynian who kept the Cydonian hostages offered to his city in return for the Gortynian acquiescence in a Cydonian occupation of Phalasarna, but he docs not hesitate to mention its strongly hypothetical character. E. Kirsten (RE 19 [1938]: 1653-58, s. v. “Phalasarna,”) interpreted this incident quite differently. In his opinion, Phalasarna had clearly suffered from stasis, and the resulting exiles had summoned the aid of Cydonia for their return. I cannot agree. Why would Cydonia have given hostages to Phalasarnian exiles? In such a case, the Cydoniates might rather be expected to demand hostages from the exiles.
  435. The Chians were enrolled as Roman allies (Appian, Mithradatic Wars 61) and presumably returned to their pre-captive lives.
  436. The surrender of the hostages attested to Pharnaces’ withdrawal from the territories conquered by his father. Cf. the clause of the Punic-Roman treaty of 201 B.C., in which Carthage was to restore the hostages of the peoples living beyond the Phoenician Trenches (Appian, Punic War 54).
  437. See above, pp. 90-91, n.105.
  438. Unconditionally in law, perhaps; the Romans assuredly expected gratitude and obedience in return, as befitted a client.
  439. Unconditionally in law, perhaps; the Romans assuredly expected gratitude and obedience in return, as befitted a client.
  440. It is interesting to observe that Oxynta, whatever his status, was still interned in Italy over a decade after the defeat of his father Jugurtha.
  441. A similarly frustrating anecdote concerns Illyrian hostages captured by the Roman army in Illyria during the Third Macedonian War (Livy 44.35.3). Not only is the fate of these captives unknown, but it is not even clear whether they were hostages from Illyria or to Illyria; such adjectives could be used subjectively or objectively.
  442. It is difficult to imagine that Caesar would not have catalogued these atrocities, had he any reasonable grounds for doing so. Since torture of the hostages is only suggested, it is likely that no real torture occurred.
  443. Caesar, it must be acknowledged, could justifiably criticize the Aedui because he had released the Aeduan hostages exacted by the Sequani and the Germans when they came into his control, while the Aedui at Noviodunum detained and threatened other Gallic hostages.
  444. Phillipson (International Law and Custom, 1: 405 and 2: 295-296) postulated that captive hostages were captivi except that they were granted the privilege or ransom more readily than other captivi. The only example of ransoming is that of the Thracian Bithys, whose father offered to ransom his subjects but received them as gift, (Livy 45.42.5-11). On this evidence it is possible to theorize that Thracians may have practiced ransoming hostages, but there is no clear proof that the Romans did so.
  445. In these two groups, only positive and ambivalent consequences are explicitly attested, but it is quite probable that negative aspects have been glossed over by the ancient authors. The release of a hostage may seem to us to be a purely benevolent act, but nevertheless culminate in a civil war or the murderous elimination of a rival, according to the design of the releasing state. For the detrimental possibilities in requesting restoration, see above, pp. 156-157.
  446. See above, pp. 174-183.
  447. Some hostage, must have been returned simply because their term of service elapsed; cf. the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C.
  448. Cf. the retention of Armenas, above, p. 116.
  449. For a discussion of the timing of Carthage’s violation of the Treaty of Zama, see Hoffman, “Die römische Politik,” 335 and above, and 152. Cf. the cooperation of the Aetolian League throughout the period 189-183 B.C. (Moscovich, “A Note on the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C.,” 142).
  450. For the historical exactions, see Appendix I below.
  451. See above, 165-166 and 170.
  452. Gsell (L’Afrique du Nord, 3: 166), de Sanctis (Storia dei Romani, 3: 2: 453), Kahrstedt (Geschichte, 3: 512), and Scullard (Scipio Africanus, 58, 64, 102-03; 1951. A History of the Roman World from 753 to 146 B.C. London.180) have accepted without comment the absolute necessity of hostages to maintain Iberian fidelity. Cf. Gsell (L’Afrique du Nord, 3, 134-35) for another such example.
  453. I do not agree with Moscovich’s assessment of hostageship as a failure in Caesar’s Gallic campaigns (“Obsidibus Traditis,” 122-28).
  454. One may add to this evidence for the success of hostageship as an institution two other general indicators. When an unsuccessful revolt had occurred after the delivery of hostages, it was not unusual that the conquering nation again exacted hostages, despite the previous failure (Thucydides 1.117.3; Plutarch Pericles 28.1; Livy 21.61.7; 23.41.6; Caesar Gallic War 4.36.2; Appian Wars in Spain 41). Also, when a conquering general did not demand hostages, his government could become irritated at his magnanimity (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 9.17.3).
  455. Berve (“Sertorius,” 224-27) has denied Romanization as a deliberate policy in the time of Sertorius. The earliest date suggested by modern scholars is the early second century B.C., supported by Aymard (“Rome et les otages barbares,” 257), Edson (“Perseus and Demetrius,” 191-202), and Moscovich (“Hostage Regulations,” 424 n. 37; “A Note on the Aetolian Treaty of 189 B.C.,” 142). Treves (1932. “Sertorio.” Athenaeum 10: 136) and Schulten (Sertorius, 80) assume that Sertorius’ school at Osca had Romanization as its secondary purpose, and DeWitt (“Peaceful Conquest,” 24-25; Roman Gaul, 7-8) and Aymard (“Les otages barbares,” 140-142) assume that the policy is well entrenched by the time of the Gallic campaigns.
  456. Aymard (“Les otages barbares,” 140-142) argued that frequent substitutions prevented effective Romanization; I am not so sure. It seems to me that the Parthian princes are an excellent counterexample, because their long detention made them alien to their country.
  457. We may also observe the concern which Eteocles, the Spartan ephor, is supposed to have expressed about young Spartan hostages: they would not be properly educated and would not be citizens (Plutarch Moralia 235). In Irish and Icelandic folklore, hostages are described as foster relatives.

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