The Greeks and Romans made treaties with other states and developed methods to help negotiate and enforce them. The treaties ranged from agreements of friendship and cooperation to peace treaties imposed on defeated enemies. While some treaties were based on an equal status between participants, others reflected the power that strong states had over weaker ones.

There were two main types of Greek treaties. The first type—truce agreements and peace treaties—followed and helped bring about the end of wars. They set territorial boundaries and regulated the status of allies. The other type of treaty was an alliance treaty. Alliance treaties were either defensive (epimachia) or offensive-defensive (symmachia). The participants in a defensive alliance agreed to help each other in case of an attack by another state. In offensive-defensive alliances, member states agreed to defend each other and, when necessary, to join together to attack another state. Offensive-defensive alliances were an early step in the development of leagues, or confederations*, of powerful Greek states and their allies.

The rivalry between Athens and Sparta and their allies increased warfare between Greek city-states* in the 400s B.C. and the 300s B.C. In an attempt to reduce the risk of war, the Greeks adopted a new kind of general peace treaty, known as the Common Peace. Common Peace treaties established the principle of the freedom and independence of all city-states, whatever their size, and they prohibited states from interfering in each other’s internal affairs. Aimed at including all Greeks, the Common Peace applied even to Greek city- states and regions that did not sign the treaty.

Like the Greeks, the Romans also negotiated various types of treaties. At the end of a battle, Roman military commanders often entered into temporary agreements with an enemy, usually to arrange for the proper burial of the soldiers killed. This was followed by negotiations for a foedus, a permanent treaty of alliance and friendship.

* confederation group of states joined together for a purpose; an alliance

* city-state independent state consisting of a city and its surrounding territory


The treaties Rome made with other states were based on friendship and freedom—at least in theory. In reality, as Rome's power grew and her conquests increased, her "allies" learned to do whatever Rome wanted.

When the king of Bithynia, a region in northern Asia Minor, signed a treaty of friendship with Rome in 167 B.C., he showed that he knew exactly what Rome expected from her allies. Upon a visit to Rome, he went to the Senate to pay his respects to the senators. The first thing he did after entering the Senate was throw himself face down on the floor and shout, "Greetings, savior gods!"

There were two types of foedus. The first—called foedus aequum—established a relationship of equality between Rome and another state. The treaty outlined shared obligations, including military assistance, and guaranteed the territory and independence of the other state. Rome agreed not to station troops in the territory of its new ally. In return, the state promised to supply Rome with troops for wars of conquest.

The second type of treaty—the foedus iniquum—usually followed a war and reflected the unequal relationship between Rome and the defeated state. The treaty usually required the defeated state to give up territory and restricted its right to conduct foreign policy independently of Rome. The early Romans used foedus iniquum treaties to establish their rule over Italy and later the entire Mediterranean world. These and all other treaties had to be approved by the Roman Senate. (See also Diplomacy; Envoys; Wars and Warfare, Greek; Wars and Warfare, Roman.)

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