Greek land now became one of the many parts of the Roman empire, without a significant role to play. However the long pax romana secured certain benefits. In Boeotia, the ports of the Corinthian and Euboian gulfs flourished and the empire looked after the operation and embankments of Lake Kopais.
The victory of Octavian in the naval battle of Actium (31 BC) imposed the full sovereignty of Rome in the Eastern Mediterranean and ushered in a long period
of peace (pax romana). Under Roman administration, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, southern Epirus, the Ionian Islands and the Cyclades were incorporated into the Province of Achaea, the seat of which was Corinth.
The provinces were administered by senators, whereas the cities could address the emperor directly to solve serious problems, such as border disputes and natural disasters. Economic issues were regulated by imperial decree, such as the edictum of the emperor Diocletian that set the ceiling on the permitted prices of goods, copies of which have been found in Thebes, Thespiai, Plataia and Livadeia. Political reasons imposed the worship of the deified emperor and his family members.
The cities of Boeotia retained some degree of selfgovernment, but had to adapt their institutions to the laws and administration of the Empire. Older offices were retained, but affluent citizens dedicated to the policy of the emperors were participants in the boule; the deme or municipality merely ratified its proposals. The citizens themselves performed various public functions, such as serving as head of the gymnasium (gymnasiarchia) and supervising games (agonothesia). They were also responsible for the upkeep of the sanctuaries and for organizing festivals.
The Koinon of the Boeotians was downgraded to a religious union charged with organizing the Boeotians’ games and festivals, and conducting the imperial cult. Politically and economically, Thebes had now passed over to the sidelines, while others flourished, such as Thespiai, Tanagra, Plataia, Akraiphia, Livadeia, Chaironeia and the outports on the Gulf of Corinth – Kreusis (Livadostra), Siphai (Alyki) and Thisbe – as well as Anthedon and Delion (Dilesi) on the Gulf of Euboea, which served trade.
Relatively marginalized, Boeotia was visited by just two emperors: Nero (66- 67) and Hadrian (125). During the reign of the philhellene emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138) and his successors (AD 138-180) there was notable cultural and economic development throughout the empire.
However, from the late 2nd c. AD and throughout the 3rd, hostilities increased on the Empire’s borders including barbarian incursions, which resulted in higher taxes, the abandonment of the countryside and weakening of the cities in metropolitan Greece. The reorganization of the Empire was begun by Diocletian (AD 284-305) and completed by Constantine, who in AD 330 transferred the capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium, which did not affect the region of Boeotia in particular. In the 3rd century AD, under the threat of barbarian incursions, the fortification walls of various cities, such as Thespiai and Plataia, were reinforced or rebuilt. Despite this, however, Livadeia was destroyed in AD 267 by a Herulean raid during which the region was sacked.
The lack of social equality in the Roman period had a marked impact on everyday life. The greater part of the population of Boeotia lived frugally by cultivating land that belonged to landowners, and the number of merchants and artisans in the cities was relatively small.
At the top of the social ladder were the wealthy landowners. Sections of large farms have been identified at various points in Boeotia (Akraiphnio, Chaironeia, Tanagra, Tilphousio). They were buildings of a mixed nature, as they served not only as houses but also as craft workshop spaces and for the processing of rural products.
Of the various forms of art, sculpture expresses the spirit of the age best.
Pottery, as a form of artistic expression, had already been marginalized and was intended solely to serve ordinary needs. But the mass output of standardized ceramic products increased and the number of production centres multiplied. The vases of this period are mostly unpainted or decorated with red slip and sometimes bear incised or relief decoration (terra sigillata). In Boeotia, pottery kilns have been identified at Akraiphnio and at Delion on the coast.
And finally the use of glass became generalized (which until then had been limited) in the manufacture of small household vessels, through the technique of glass-blowing, either free-blown or blown into a mould.
The section on the Roman period welcomes the visitor with a characteristic bust of a priestess (stand 94). Presented here is the civil structure of the state in Roman Boeotia and the cult of the emperor.
The inscribed stele from Akraiphnio on stand 95 bears the Greek “declaration of independence” announced by the emperor Nero at Isthmia in AD 67. On the resolution from Akraiphnio in the 1st c. AD (stand 96), two benefactors are honoured: Demetrios and Empedonas, who in a period of financial hardship, financed a number of services to the city. Coins from the “treasure” are exhibited in showcase 163. The bust of the emperor Hadrian adorns a splendid medal, which had perhaps been boxed into a wall (no 99); the space is dominated by the statue of the emperor Hadrian from Koroneia (no. 98).
The two heads depicted in showcase 162 are typical of the art of the period. Showcase 164 contains pottery and lamps made from moulds, the most beautiful of which come from Chaironeia, and in showcase 165 are characteristic glass and ceramic products. In showcase 166 a community organisation is presented through objects from agricultural and urban homes, such as pottery, knives, a sickle, nails, amphorae, flywheels, loom weights and coins. Outstanding is the gold-bound seal ring with the representation of Fortuna. Statuettes of Hermaphroditos are exhibited on stand 101 and a bronze sarcophagus (bathtub) on stand 102.
Then the visitor is introduced to the cult in the sanctuary of Artemis Avlideia, which was at its peak during the Roman period. A statue of an empress is exhibited in the type of Artemis (stand 103) as is the statue of a priestess (stand 104) in the type of the “little woman of Herculaneum” which had been placed on the stand of another dedication to the priestess Zopyreina, with the initial inscription “Mnason and Atheno dedicated their daughter Zopyreina in the sanctuary of Artemis Avlideia, to serve the goddess as a priestess.”
A series of stone sculptures follows related to the eastern divinities that were particularly widespread in imperial times (Osiris, Isis, Savazios and Cybele) on stands 105 108.
The following section presents burial customs of the Roman period, with typical grave gifts (showcases 167- 167a), a beehive used for a burial (stand 109), and grave monuments (small colonnettes, a marble ossuary, and a tomb altar bearing the image of a hero-horsemen, a popular theme in Boeotia) (stands 110-112). And finally, on stand 113 is exhibited a grave stele with the striking painted portrait of the young Theodoros; the name is repeated on the back without the portrait.