The Legacy of Attalus

Pergamon became independent in the third century B.C.; Philip E. Burnham describes how its last king bequeathed his territory to Rome, and whence the Roman occupation of Asia began.

In the second book of Vergil's Aeneid, the poet describes the Trojan debate over the nature of the wooden horse left by the Greeks. It was Laocoon who warned his fellow countrymen of the danger of the horse with the now familiar comment... timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, ‘I fear the Greeks, even when bearing gifts’. Perhaps Vergil and his Roman readers were reminded by this line of another gift, this one to Rome, not from the Greeks themselves, but from a Hellenistic kingdom in Asia Minor where Troy was located.

For in the year 133 B.C. the young King of Pergamon, Attalus III, died, leaving his territory and his treasure to the city and people of Rome. While Attalus’ bequest had some precedent, it was nevertheless unusual and was the first to be accepted by Rome. Its acceptance had consequences that affected the subsequent course of Roman history.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.