Is Decebalus the only King to whom Rome paid tribute?

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,673
Blachernai
#11
"Domitian agreed to peace terms with Decebalus. He agreed to pay large sums (eight million sesterces) in annual tribute to the Dacians for maintaining peace. Decebalus sent his brother Diegis to Rome to accept a diadem from the Emperor, officially recognising Decebalus's royal status."

And this went on uncontested all throughout Nerva's reign. It was only during Trajan's reign that Rome finally broke the tribute pact and invaded Dacia. Is this a unique occurrence, or at the very least the closest a king ever got to making the Roman Empire its ho till that point in time?
While the others have made some excellent points in response to what tribute really means, there's another word I think we should give some attention to here: annual. A tenth-century Byzantine document says that emperors should not be afraid to pay tribute and exchange hostages. There are some benefits to this. First, you have to pay tribute. Which means going out to their capital and getting a look around and a feel for the place and talking to elites. Constantinople knew that the social structures of most of the peoples around them were heavily centred on individual personalities, so getting a sense of what the elites thought about their king/khan/prince/whatever might be extremely beneficial when the time comes to make war again. Second, this involves a hostage exchange. Every year they got to bring a new crop of elites back to Constantinople where they then spent a year or so in the court building new social relations and being wowed by splendor and ceremony designed to make foreign elites impressed with Constantinople and its court. Then when the tribute is getting paid you get a new group of elites, and maybe a chance to hang out with the friends that you made who had previously been hostages. It's not just tribute, it's an imperial system designed to make outside leaders pro-Roman and keep a steady flow of information going back to the central government, all in exchange for some money which mostly seems to get spent on Roman goods anyway, and is thus injected back into the Roman economy.
 
Feb 2019
197
Thrace
#12
I'm not sure about that: AFAIK, Decebalus was defeated in the first war and asked for peace. And the peace was not tender: he consented to the presence of Roman troops on North of Danube (on his territory), had to destroy it's own fortifications and some parts of the Dacia were incorporated in Roman provinces.
I'm only getting my info from his wiki so I might be wrong but:

Domitian pushed back the Dacians from Moesia, then returned to Rome to celebrate a Triumph, leaving Fuscus in charge of the army. Fuscus advanced into Dacia, but his four or five legions suffered a major defeat when ambushed by the forces of Decebalus (the sources say "Diurpaneus" was in command, which might mean Decebalus or Duras). Two Roman legions (among which was the V Alaudae) were ambushed and defeated at a mountain pass the Romans called Tapae (widely known as the Iron Gates along what is the modern Romania-Serbia border). Fuscus was killed, and Decebalus was crowned king after the ageing Duras abdicated.
Dio Cassius described Decebalus as follows:
“This man was shrewd in his understanding of warfare and shrewd also in the waging of war; he judged well when to attack and chose the right moment to retreat; he was an expert in ambuscades and a master in pitched battles; and he knew not only how to follow up a victory well, but also how to manage well a defeat. Hence he showed himself a worthy antagonist of the Romans for a long time.” Fuscus was replaced by Tettius Julianus. In 88 Julianus commanded another Roman army under Domitian against the Dacians, defeating them in a battle near Tapae. However, elsewhere in Europe, Domitian was having to deal with revolts along the Rhine, and suffered heavy defeats at the hands of the Marcomanni, and Sarmatian tribes in the east, notably the Iazyges. Needing the troops in Moesia, Domitian agreed to peace terms with Decebalus. He agreed to pay large sums (eight million sesterces) in annual tribute to the Dacians for maintaining peace. Decebalus sent his brother Diegis to Rome to accept a diadem from the Emperor, officially recognising Decebalus's royal status.


True enough that the last skirmish till Rome decided to pay Decebalus tribute was won by Domitian, but they still were the ones making a "treaty perceived as humiliating". And also:

Decebalus' victory greatly increased his prestige. He proceeded to centralize power and build up his fortifications and war machines, using engineers supplied by Domitian. Decebalus's court also became a haven for malcontents and deserters from the Roman empire becoming "the nucleus for anti-Roman sentiment" in the words of historian Julian Bennett.

This doesn't sound like someone's lap dog.

Furthermore, according to Cassius Dio, Trajan attacked Dacia because "he had taken stock of [their] previous record and resented the annual sums of money they were getting..." This is proof that it wasn't by any means a funding of a subjugated state which is in the Empire's interest(like some here claim), but a legit tribute to a king they feared, and Trajan wanted to change this.
 
#15
It's certainly a topic that I'd like to know more about, and as your Dio quotes indicates, Romans could resent giving 'tribute'. But if you're seeking to rank Decebalus among the upper echelons of Rome's most notorious enemies ("Seems to me that ever since Rome became the World's super power, no one instilled so much fear in the Empire as much as this guy."), I'd like to know more about the chronological parameters you have in mind. Since Rome had began fighting with powers from outside Italy (280 BC), they had fought Pyrrhus and Hannibal, both of whom marched up to Rome herself and had won more than one battle against Roman armies (Hannibal had defeated many armies). Rome was already the strongest Mediterranean power by the time they faced off against Hannibal. If we go later than Decebalus, the third century onward provides many notorious enemies. I'm not denying that Decebalus was a notable enemy of Rome, but I guess I'd like to know who you're comparing him to.
 
Feb 2019
197
Thrace
#16
It's certainly a topic that I'd like to know more about, and as your Dio quotes indicates, Romans could resent giving 'tribute'. But if you're seeking to rank Decebalus among the upper echelons of Rome's most notorious enemies ("Seems to me that ever since Rome became the World's super power, no one instilled so much fear in the Empire as much as this guy."), I'd like to know more about the chronological parameters you have in mind. Since Rome had began fighting with powers from outside Italy (280 BC), they had fought Pyrrhus and Hannibal, both of whom marched up to Rome herself and had won more than one battle against Roman armies (Hannibal had defeated many armies). Rome was already the strongest Mediterranean power by the time they faced off against Hannibal. If we go later than Decebalus, the third century onward provides many notorious enemies. I'm not denying that Decebalus was a notable enemy of Rome, but I guess I'd like to know who you're comparing him to.
Yes, Hannibal and Mithridates definitely rank as more formidable enemies than him. Let's say since Caesar's death, Rome never faced as great an enemy as Decebalus.
 

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