The Macedonian And Asiatic Wars

Scarcely was Rome left to recover from the exhaustion of the long and

desperate war with Hannibal, before she was involved in a new war with

Macedonia, which led to very important consequences.

The Greeks had retained the sovereignty which Alexander had won, and their

civilization extended rapidly into the East. There were three great

monarchies which arose, however, from the dismemberment of the empire

ich Alexander had founded--Macedonia, Asia, and Egypt--and each of them,

in turn, was destined to become provinces of Rome.

Macedonia was then ruled by Philip V., and was much such a monarchy

as the first Philip had consolidated. The Macedonian rule embraced Greece

and Thessaly, and strong garrisons were maintained at Demetrias in

Maguesia, Calchis in the island of Euboea, and in Corinth, "the three

fetters of the Hellenes." But the strength of the kingdom lay in

Macedonia. In Greece proper all moral and political energy had fled, and

the degenerate, but still intellectual inhabitants spent their time in

bacchanalian pleasures, in fencing, and in study of the midnight lamp. The

Greeks, diffused over the East, disseminated their culture, but were only

in sufficient numbers to supply officers, statesmen, and schoolmasters.

All the real warlike vigor remained among the nations of the North, where

Philip reigned, a genuine king, proud of his purple, and proud of his

accomplishments, lawless and ungodly, indifferent to the lives and

sufferings of others, stubborn and tyrannical. He saw with regret the

subjugation of Carthage, but did not come to her relief when his aid might

have turned the scale, ten years before. His eyes were turned to another

quarter, to possess himself of part of the territories of Egypt, assisted

by Antiochus of Asia. In this attempt he arrayed against himself all the

Greek mercantile cities whose interests were identified with Alexandria,

now, on the fall of Carthage, the greatest commercial city of the world.

He was opposed by Pergamus and the Rhodian league, while the Romans gave

serious attention to their Eastern complications, not so much with a view

of conquering the East, as to protect their newly-acquired possessions. A

Macedonian war, then, became inevitable, but was entered into reluctantly,

and was one of the most righteous, according to Mommsen, which Rome ever


The pretext for war--the casus belli--was furnished by an attack on

Athens by the Macedonian general, to avenge the murder of two Arcanians

for intruding upon the Eleusinan Mysteries, B.C. 201. Athens was an ally

of Rome. Two legions, under Publius Sulpicius Galba, embarked at

Brundusium for Macedonia, with one thousand Numidian cavalry and a number

of elephants. Nothing was accomplished this year of any historical

importance. The next spring Galba led his troops into Macedonia, and

encountered the enemy, under Philip, on a marshy plain on the northwest

frontier. But the Macedonians avoided battle, and after repeated

skirmishes and marches the Romans returned to Apollonia. Philip did not

disturb the army in its retreat, but turned against the AEtolians, who had

joined the league against him. At the end of the campaign the Romans stood

as they were in the spring, but would have been routed had not the

AEtolians interposed. The successes of Philip filled him with arrogance and

self-confidence, and the following spring he assumed the offensive. The

Romans, meantime, had been re-enforced by new troops, under the command of

Flaminius, who attacked Philip in his intrenched camp. The Macedonian king

lost his camp and two thousand men, and retreated to the Pass of Tempe,

the gate of Macedonia proper, deserted by many of his allies. The Achaeans

entered into alliance with Rome. The winter came on, and Philip sought

terms of peace. All he could obtain from Flaminius was an armistice of two

months. The Roman Senate refused all terms unless Philip would renounce

all Greece, especially Corinth, Chalcis, and Demetrias. These were

rejected, and Philip strained all his energies to meet his enemy in a

pitched battle. He brought into the field twenty-six thousand men, an

equal force to the Romans, and encountered them at Cynocephalae. The Romans

were victorious, and a great number of prisoners fell into their hands.

Philip escaped to Larissa, burned his papers, evacuated Thessaly, and

returned home. He was completely vanquished, and was obliged to accept

such a peace as the Romans were disposed to grant. But the Romans did not

abuse their power, but treated Philip with respect, and granted to him

such terms as had been given to Carthage. He lost all his foreign

possessions in Asia Minor, Thrace, Greece, and the islands of the AEgean,

but retained Macedonia. He was also bound not to conclude foreign

alliances without the consent of the Romans, nor send garrisons abroad,

nor maintain an army of over five thousand men, nor possess a navy beyond

five ships of war. He was also required to pay a contribution of one

thousand talents. He was thus left in possession only of as much power as

was necessary to guard the frontiers of Hellas against the barbarians. All

the States of Greece were declared free, and most of them were

incorporated with the Achaean League, a confederation of the old cities,

which were famous before the Dorian migration, to resist the Macedonian

domination. This famous league was the last struggle of Greece for

federation to resist overpowering foes. As the Achaean cities were the

dominant States of Greece at the Trojan war, so the expiring fires of

Grecian liberty went out the last among that ancient race.

The liberator of Greece, as Flaminius may be called, assembled the

deputies of all the Greek communities at Corinth, exhorted them to use the

freedom which he had conferred upon them with moderation, and requested,

as the sole return for the kindness which the Romans had shown, that they

would send back all the Italian captives sold in Greece during the war

with Hannibal, and then he evacuated the last fortresses which he held,

and returned to Rome with his troops and liberated captives. Rome really

desired the liberation and independence of Greece, now that all fears of

her political power were removed, and that glorious liberty which is

associated with the struggles of the Greeks with the Persians might have

been secured, had not the Hellenic nations been completely demoralized.

There was left among them no foundation and no material for liberty, and

nothing but the magic charm of the Hellenic name could have prevented

Flaminius from establishing a Roman government in that degenerate land. It

was an injudicious generosity which animated the Romans, but for which the

war with Antiochus might not have arisen.

Antiochus III., the great-great-grandson of the general of

Alexander who founded the dynasty of the Seleucidae, then reigned in Asia.

On the fall of Philip, who was his ally, he took possession of those

districts in Asia Minor that formerly belonged to Egypt, but had fallen to

Philip. He also sought to recover the Greek cities of Asia Minor as a part

of his empire. This enterprise embroiled him with the Romans, who claimed

a protectorate over all the Hellenic cities. And he was further

complicated by the arrival at Ephesus, his capital, of Hannibal, to whom

he gave an honorable reception. A rupture with Rome could not be avoided.

To strengthen himself in Asia for the approaching conflict,

Antiochus married one of his daughters to Ptolemy, king of Egypt, another

to the king of Cappadocia, a third to the king of Pergamus, while the

Grecian cities were amused by promises and presents. He was also assured

of the aid of the AEtolians, who intrigued against the Romans as soon as

Flaminius had left. Then was seen the error of that general for

withdrawing garrisons from Greece, which was to be the theatre of the war.

Antiochus collected an army and started for Greece, hoping to be

joined by Philip, who, however, placed all his forces at the disposal of

the Romans. The Achaean League also was firm to the Roman cause. The Roman

armies sent against him, commanded by Maninius Acilius Glabrio, numbered

forty thousand men. Instead of retiring before this superior force,

Antiochus intrenched himself in Thermopylae, but his army was dispersed,

and he fled to Chalcis, and there embarked for Ephesus. The war was now to

be carried to Asia.

Both parties, during the winter, vigorously prepared for the next

campaign, and the conqueror of Zama was selected by Rome to conduct her

armies in Asia. It was a long and weary march for the Roman armies to the

Hellespont, which was crossed, however, without serious obstacles, from

the mismanagement of Antiochus, who offered terms of peace when the army

had safely landed in Asia. He offered to pay half the expenses of the war

and the cession of his European possessions, as well as of the Greek

cities of Asia Minor that had gone over to the Romans. But Scipio demanded

the whole cost of the war and the cession of Asia Minor. These terms were

rejected, and the Syrian king hastened to decide the fate of Asia by a

pitched battle.

This fight was fought at Magnesia, B.C. 190, not far from Smyrna,

in the valley of the Hermus. The forces of Antiochus were eighty thousand,

including twelve thousand cavalry, but were undisciplined and unwieldy.

Those of Scipio were about half as numerous. The Romans were completely

successful, losing only twenty-four horsemen and three hundred infantry,

whereas the loss of Antiochus was fifty thousand--a victory as brilliant as

that of Alexander at Issus. Asia Minor was surrendered to the Romans, and

Antiochus was compelled to pay three thousand talents (little more than

three million dollars) at once, and the same contribution for twelve

years, so that he retained nothing but Cilicia. His power was broken

utterly, and he was prohibited from making aggressive war against the

States of the West, or from navigating the sea west of the mouth of the

Calycadnus, in Cilicia, with armed ships, or from taming elephants, or

even receiving political fugitives. The province of Syria never again made

a second appeal to the decision of arms--a proof of the feeble organization

of the kingdom of the Seleucidae.

The king of Cappadocia escaped with a fine of six hundred talents.

All the Greek cities which had joined the Romans had their liberties

confirmed. The AEtolians lost all cities and territories which were in the

hands of their adversaries. But Philip and the Achaeans were disgusted with

the small share of the spoil granted to them.

Thus the protectorate of Rome now embraced all the States from the

eastern to the western end of the Mediterranean. And Rome, about this

time, was delivered of the last enemy whom she feared--the homeless and

fugitive Carthaginian, who lived long enough to see the West subdued, as

well as the armies of the East overpowered. At the age of seventy six he

took poison, on seeing his house beset with assassins. For fifty years he

kept the oath he had sworn as a boy. About the same time that he killed

himself in Bithynia, Scipio, on whom fortune had lavished all her honors

and successes--who had added Spain, Africa, and Asia to the empire, died in

voluntary banishment, little over fifty years of age, leaving orders not

to bury his remains in the city for which he had lived, and where his

ancestors reposed. He died in bitter vexation from the false charges made

against him of corruption and embezzlement, with hardly any other fault

than that overweening arrogance which usually attends unprecedented

success, and which corrodes the heart when the eclat of prosperity is

dimmed by time. The career and death of both these great men--the greatest

of their age--shows impressively the vanity of all worldly greatness, and

is an additional confirmation of the fact that the latter years of

illustrious men are generally sad and gloomy, and certain to be so when

their lives are not animated by a greater sentiment than that of ambition.

Philip of Macedon died, B.C. 179, in the fifty-ninth year of his

age and the forty-second of his reign, and his son Perseus succeeded to

his throne at the age of thirty-one. Macedonia had been humbled rather

than weakened by the Romans, and after eighteen years of peace, had

renewed her resources. This kingdom chafed against the foreign power of

Rome, as did the whole Hellenic world. A profound sentiment of discontent

existed in both Asia and Europe. Perseus made alliances with the

discontented cities--with the Byzantines, the AEtolians, and the Boeotians.

But so prudently did he conduct his intrigues, that it was not till the

seventh year of his reign that Rome declared war against him.

The resources of Macedonia were still considerable. The army

consisted of thirty thousand men, without considering mercenaries or

contingents, and great quantities of military stores had been collected in

the magazines. And Perseus himself was a monarch of great ability, trained

and disciplined to war. He collected an army of forty-three thousand men,

while the whole Roman force in Greece was scarcely more. Crassus conducted

the Roman army, and in the first engagement at Ossa, was decidedly beaten.

Perseus then sought peace, but the Romans never made peace after a defeat.

The war continued, but the military result of two campaigns was null,

while the political result was a disgrace to the Romans. The third

campaign, conducted by Quintus Marcius Philippus, was equally undecisive,

and had Perseus been willing to part with his money, he could have

obtained the aid of twenty thousand Celts who would have given much

trouble. At last, in the fourth year of the war, the Romans sent to

Macedonia Lucius AEmilius Paulus, son of the consul that fell at Cannae--an

excellent general and incorruptible; a man sixty years of age, cultivated

in Hellenic literature and art. Soon after his arrival at the camp at

Heracleum, he brought about the battle of Pydna, which settled the fate of

Macedonia. The overthrow of the Macedonians was fearful. Twenty thousand

were killed and eleven thousand made prisoners. All Macedonia submitted in

two days, and the king fled with his gold, some six thousand talents he

had hoarded, to Samothrace, accompanied with only a few followers. The

Persian monarch might have presented a more effectual resistance to

Alexander had he scattered his treasures among the mercenary Greeks. So

Perseus could have prolonged his contest had he employed the Celts. When a

man is struggling desperately for his life or his crown, his treasures are

of secondary importance. Perseus was soon after taken prisoner by the

Romans, with all his treasures, and died a few years later at Alba.

"Thus perished the empire of Alexander, which had subdued and

Hellenized the East, one hundred and forty-four years from his death." The

kingdom of Macedonia was stricken out of the list of States, and the whole

land was disarmed, and the fortress of Demetrias was razed. Illyria was

treated in a similar way, and became a Roman province. All the Hellenic

States were reduced to dependence upon Rome. Pergamus was humiliated.

Rhodes was deprived of all possessions on the main land, although the

Rhodians had not offended. Egypt voluntarily submitted to the Roman

protectorate, and the whole empire of Alexander the Great fell to the

Roman commonwealth. The universal empire of the Romans dates from the

battle of Pydna--"the last battle in which a civilized State confronted

Rome in the field on the footing of equality as a great power." All

subsequent struggles were with barbarians. Mithridates, of Pontus, made

subsequently a desperate effort to rid the Oriental world of the dominion

of Rome, but the battle of Pydna marks the real supremacy of the Romans in

the civilized world. Mommsen asserts that it is a superficial view which

sees in the wars of the Romans with tribes, cities, and kings, an

insatiable longing after dominion and riches, and that it was only a

desire to secure the complete sovereignty of Italy, unmolested by enemies,

which prompted, to this period, the Roman wars--that the Romans earnestly

opposed the introduction of Africa, Greece, and Asia into the pale of

protectorship, till circumstances compelled the extension of that

pale--that, in fact, they were driven to all their great wars, with the

exception of that concerning Sicily, even those with Hannibal and

Antiochus, either by direct aggression or disturbance of settled political

relations. "The policy of Rome was that of a narrow-minded but very able

deliberate assembly, which had far too little power of grand combination,

and far too much instinctive desire for the preservation of its own

commonwealth, to devise projects in the spirit of a Caesar or a Napoleon."

Nor did the ancient world know of a balance of power among nations, and

hence every nation strove to subdue its neighbors, or render them

powerless, like the Grecian States. Had the Greeks combined for a great

political unity, they might have defied even the Roman power, or had they

been willing to see the growth of equal States without envy, like the

modern nations of Europe, without destructive conflicts, the States of

Sparta, Corinth, and Athens might have grown simultaneously, and united,

would have been too powerful to be subdued. But they did not understand

the balance of power, and they were inflamed with rival animosities, and

thus destroyed each other.