Rome and the Eastern Mediterranean – The Rot Sets In?

CARTHAGE was not Rome’s only great enemy at this point. Macedon, Greece and the Hellenic kingdoms of the modern day Levant and Middle East also loomed large and were a continual potential threat to the east mirroring the western conflicts with the great Punic Empire, particularly after Hannibal made a treaty with Philip V of Macedon in 215 (the wording of the treaty is recorded by Polybius, 7.9.1-17). Rome had come to know of this treaty through the capture of Philip’s ambassador, Xenophanes (Appian, Mac. 1; Livy, 23.33.10-12), and it is presumed that it is from this copy that Polybius can cite verbatim the treaty and its content. The treaty was never going to bring any particular level of practical aid from Philip V for Hannibal (the text of the treaty does not imply that there will be any military aid supplied to either party in the signatories, and indeed, after the outbreak of the First Macedonian War, none was given in either direction), but combined with the devastating defeats the Romans had suffered at the hands of the Carthaginian invasion force, there can be little doubt that the psychological effects of Hellenic support for Hannibal would play a large role in strengthening the resolve of the Sicilian Greeks as well as the Hellenic poleis which had revolted from Roman hegemony in southern Italy.

Philip’s main intention was to oblige the Roman forces which were present in Illyria to withdraw; the Carthaginians were presumably simply hoping for a division of Rome’s military resources to last long enough for her to consolidate her hold on Sicily and win back Sardinia and Corsica as well as Spain. As has been seen, none of these were successful. The Romans had also been involved in diplomatic contacts with Hellenic states who were hostile to Macedonia, and in 212/11, M. Valerius Laevinus agreed a treaty with the Aetolians, sealing Rome’s first eastern alliance as well as raising the stakes for the Macedonians on the Greek mainland. This had a double advantage, as Frank has pointed out:

‘…its [the Aetolian League’s] ideas of international relationships were quite undeveloped; piracy and brigandage were apparently recognized modes of gaining livelihood. These occupations made the Aetolians good fighters, and an alliance with them secured the double advantage of immunity from their raids and the use of their excellent soldiery.’ (Roman Imperialism, MacMillan, 1914, 140)

Farther east, Antiochus III was taken up with rebuilding Seleucid control over Armenia and Iran (Polybius, 11.39.11-16), then, bestowing the title of Great King upon himself, he turned south, seizing the Egyptian provinces of Phoenicia and Palestine after the death of Ptolemy Philopater in 205 and the accession of the child Pharaoh Ptolemy V Epiphanes. The First Macedonian War (215-205) had proven little more than a distraction for Rome; in 215, Laevinus as the praetor had sailed with only 50 ships, and by 210, he was the man who took back Agrigentum on Sicily and served in 205 as the ambassador to Phrygia, returning with the cult of the Magna Mater (Livy, 29.14.10-14). In the same year, Philip signed the Pax Phoenice with Rome, a peace which the Romans were perfectly happy to accept due to Scipio’s imminent attack into Africa to complete the Hannibalic War. The Aetolians were not willing to ally themselves with Rome again, having just made peace with the Macedonian king in 205, and, despite a force of some 11,000 troops and thirty warships being dispatched to Greece under proconsular command in an attempt to bring the Hellenes once again into the war, the pursuit of a major conflict in Greece was not an option for Rome without powerful Hellenic allies when she was determined primarily with the overpowering of her Punic enemy. The Peace gave Philip his hoped for territories in the western Balkans whilst securing Roman possessions on the Illyrian coast, something which proved at least satisfactory for both sides at the time (Gruen, E, The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome, UCP, 1984, 379-382.).

However, by 203, Philip began expanding his sphere of influence and power base in the Aegean, defeating the islands of Rhodes and Miletus and occupying the latter, then launching a full scale campaign against Pergamon. Rome was brought into the conflict in 201 at the joint request of Pergamon and Rhodes (Livy, 31.2.1-3). Polybius recounts that Rome sent envoys to Philip with the demands that he cease his campaigns, pay compensation to King Attalus of Pergamon and agree to wage no further war on any Greek state (Polybius, 16.27.2-3). Both Livy and Polybius state that these envoys then continued to Egypt to enlist the aid of the Pharaoh Ptolemy Epiphanes should full scale war erupt (Livy, 31.2.3-4; Polybius 16.34.2-3). In reality there was no if. Despite a first vote in the assembly against the war, the magisterial will was such that war was declared against Philip and an army was dispatched under one of the consuls for 200. What led to yet another war in so short a time period?

The rejection of the senatorial will in military matters was something entirely new at Rome, however, and the ultimate acceptance of the senatorial will required a full blown verbal humiliation by the consul P. Sulpicius Galba at a contio to convince the gathered citizens to support yet another war. Livy recounts that the Assembly was only willing to back down with the promise that there would be no obligation for any man who had served in the African campaign to serve in the upcoming war against Macedon (Livy, 31.6.1-8.6. He further recounts how quickly this promise was ignored in 32.3.2-7), though this was a promise soon to be conveniently forgotten. The obvious question as to why the patres of the state were so willing and indeed determined to embark on yet another major conflict immediately after the horrendous struggle against Hannibal is a point of serious scholarly debate (especially Harris, W.V. War and Imperialism in Republican Rome 327-70 BC, OUP, 1979, 212-218 and Eckstein, Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War and the Rise of Rome, UCP, 2006, 257-292). It seems most likely that, despite it being evidently unlikely for the senate to have had a unanimous decision amongst its three hundred members, the patres only ever viewed the Pax Phoenice as a temporary measure; indeed, there is no record of their ever having ratified the treaty. It would seem most likely that there was always the intention of pursuing the war with Philip once the conflict with Hannibal had been concluded and therefore it can be proposed that the peace was nothing more than a short term solution to the possibility of a Macedonian army entering the theatre of war on Hannibal’s side. The determination was most likely always to return to war in the East to curb the power of what Rome perceived to be her next great enemy: indeed, Rosenstein states: ‘the treaty left the war against Philip unresolved, and in 200 Rome was simply picking up where it had left off.’ (Rome and the Mediterranean 290-146 BC EUP, 2012, Kindle edition) The question must be more complex, however, as to why Rome’s élite wished to embark on another potentially long, drawn out conflict. It has been suggested that this was either a desire for revenge due to Philip’s not entering the war against Hannibal on Rome’s side or that it was simply a desire for another victory whilst on a high point after defeating Carthage. Whilst it is true that there had been few triumphs and ovationes in the preceding decades – two of each – and that Scipio was the only real beneficiary in gloria et laus after Zama, it is questionable whether the simple desire for such was at the heart of the patres decision. If such were the case, there were potentially easier enemies to engage than the power of Macedon, such as the Celts in Gaul, and in a short period, such a war was waged. More likely is a level of fear. Pyrrhus was not long out of living memory, and eight decades earlier he had marched into Italy and inflicted major defeats – Hannibal had proven that that was still possible again in very recent time. The patres must have questioned whether Rome would have the morale to cope with yet another enemy army marching through Italia, were Philip to bring his troops through the mountains or across the Adriatic. More successful would surely be engaging the Macedonian on his own territory, the tactic which had ultimately proven successful against Hannibal and Carthage. Livy supports this in the speech he puts into Sulpicius Galba’s mouth in 31.7.1-15, though again, this is in Livy’s words and with hindsight. The actions of the Romans subsequently do, however, make it easy to postulate that at least the message Livy puts forward is credible. Galba underlines the threat which Hannibal had posed, and portrays Philip as more likely a greater threat than Carthage, culminating with the intrinsic message ‘fight him in Greece or fight him in Italy, but fight him you shall.’ These fears evidently sufficed to sway the comitia, though we must question their veracity. Philip had refused battle in 214 and 211 had seen a stalemate as opposed to any major Macedonian victories such as Hannibal had experienced at Trasimene, Trebbia and especially Cannae. Since the peace of 205, Philip had turned eastward in his campaigns, not posing any particular threat to Roman interests, and had not achieved any particular glory there. Perhaps it was the fact that he had not engaged Rome’s legions nor threatened Roman territory that led the ‘bogeyman’ image to be credible; the myths of Macedonian power stemming from Alexander the Great’s era were more deeply engrained in the psyche of the Roman populace than any half hearted stalemate or even defeat against the same phalangites their grandfathers had fought under Pyrrhus, and, as the subsequent victories were to show, the new manipular structure of the legions was more than capable of defeating the now outdated Hellenic phalanx in pitched battle, no matter how intimidating a drawn up Hellenic army may have appeared. The appeal for aid from Rhodes in 201 did, however, contain what must have seemed to be a major threat for Rome – news of a pact between Philip and Antiochus the Great of Syria to invade and divide the kingdom of Egypt between them, removing the newly crowned child Pharaoh Ptolemy V Epiphanes. This would cause Rome severe problems in losing the grain from Egypt and an ally in the East, despite the Pharaonic refusal to aid either side in the Punic Wars. Here, I feel Eckstein is most likely correct. This was most probably the major reason for the urgency of the determination to pursue the war against Macedonia. The wealth of Egypt as well as its grain in the hands of a unified Hellenic front from Macedonia and Syria would undoubtedly have been a greater threat in the senate’s mind than any other due to the implied threat of an invasion into the Italian heartlands (Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War and the Rise of Rome, UCP, 2006, 259-289). On a perhaps more cynical interpretation, though highly credible, the senate was receiving the reports from a nation under threat, Rhodes, and as such it must be taken into account that they had every reason to use extreme hyperbole to enhance the potential threat from what proved to be a very rocky alliance; if Macedonia was fighting Rome on the Greek mainland, then the stranglehold was removed from Rhodes and the war moved west. This supposed threat the Rhodians put forward must have been questioned by the more senior senators. History had shown that alliances between great Hellenic powers tended not to last unless there was a major external threat – and even then not always. It was much more likely that, with a peace treaty with Rome extant, the only likelihood of major conflict would come from the inevitable breakdown in combined interests between Philip and Antiochus, hence it would surely have made much more sense to wait and let the two kings battle it out. Again, I feel, the question of the threat to the grain supply from and the alliance with Egypt must be considered, due to the embassy which was sent to request Egyptian support in the event of open war, although most certainly secondary to the desire to raise the profile of Roman military power in the East, particularly amongst the mainland Greek poleis as Gruen has proposed (The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome, UCP, 1984, 391-398). As he has shown, the Romans sent a plethora of embassies to the Greek city states, promising them defence granted by Rome were they to be threatened by Philip. It was only after getting all these onside that the ultimatum was delivered to the king at Abydos where the Macedonian was carrying out a siege to gain full control of the Hellespont. What followed is something which has been debated long. Did Philip simply think that the Romans were sabre rattling, trying to up their kudos in the East after the threats from Carthage? Such is a doubtful scenario as he cannot have been ignorant of the comitia’s eventual vote for war. He would most likely also have known that the Greeks were willing to support Rome, and that there was a build up of Roman forces in Illyria ready to threaten his borders. To make matters worse, Polybius (16.34.1-7) recounts that the most junior member of the Roman embassy made the demands of the king, despite, as Philip was at pains to point out, the treaty which existed between the two powers – yet again, the Romans were not directly violating the treaty itself, but were pushing its spirit to breaking point, just as had happened with Carthage. Rome’s claim apparently was that the king could opt for peace, in line with the letter of the treaty, though this would require him to accept the Roman demands, made in a humiliating fashion, and cause a loss of face from which Philip would most likely never truly recover. Rome had spent the best part of the year 200 cultivating the support of the poleis and evidently would not back down and lose face and trust; she could not permit her fides to be brought into doubt again after she had left the Aetolians more or less alone in 207. War had become inevitable, though in light of the international scene at the time, it is very hard to doubt that both sides had known war was inevitable and ultimately unavoidable, it was just a question of when Mars and Ares would square up to one another again. It took until autumn 200 before Galba led his army into Greece to pursue the war, most certainly not the immediacy that might have been expected after the senate had pushed so hard for the comitia to accept its decision for war. Moreover, it is known that the legions had been levied and supplied and that the provincial command had been assigned much earlier (Livy, 31.6.1-8.2). It is therefore highly likely that this delay was to garner further support among the Greeks and to give them time to mobilise their forces, though it is possible, however questionable, that the delay was to give Philip a final chance to back down and avoid war in his homelands, even if such does strain the bounds of credibility.

There was success in the Roman policy; in 199 the Aetolians defected to Rome once again, presumably feeling it safe to do so with the presence of a consular army on Greek soil, and they were joined by the Akhaean League in 198. Due, presumably, largely in part to the consul T. Quinctius Flamininus’ efforts in 197 to portray the legions as liberators from the Macedonian yoke, much of southern and central Greece had turned away from Philip by the campaigning season of that year and joined with Rome. The ultimate showdown came at Cynoscephalae (Ennius, Annals, 333-341; Polybius, 18.18.1; Livy 33.5.1-8.10. See Hammond, JHS, 1988, 60-82 for a detailed description of the battle) in 196 where Philip was massively defeated and had to agree to terms which involved his pulling out of Greece, particularly the strategic areas of the ‘Three Fetters’ – Demetrias, Akrokorinthos and Khalkis (Polybius, 18.44.1-7). It is interesting to note Flamininus’ career in politics. Upon his election in 198, he was still not 30, and indeed two tribunes had attempted to render his election invalid (Livy, 32.7.8) as he had been neither praetor nor even held the office of curule aedile. Indeed, Livy goes on to recount that new legislation was passed to forbid any consular candidate who had not served as praetor (Livy, 32.27.6). It is known that Flamininus was fluent in Greek and that he had delivered verses in Greek for a dedication to Apollo at Delphi (Plutarch, Flamininus, 5.5; 12.6-7) though there has been debate as to whether he actually composed these (Rawson, E, Roman Tradition in the Greek World, CAH VIII, 440). Polybius demonstrates that the propaganda Flamininus put forward as liberator of Greece after his speech at the Isthmian Games to the assembled kaloi k’agathoi (the great and the good) of the poleis (Polybius 18.45.7-46.15, Plutarch, Flam. 10.1-6 – the promise of freedom, no garrisons and no tribute as well as keeping their own laws were more than the Greeks could have hoped for) was highly successful (Polybius, 18.46.1-47.3). It was not simply to be for the Greeks who were resident on the mainland either – it was to include those in Asia Minor, allowing for a direct challenge, if not yet downright threat, to be issued to Antiochus the Great as well as further weakening Philip’s grasp on power by depriving him of his ally. Such proved successful – Rome now had allies in the Greek city states, had cornered Philip, despite allowing him to keep the throne, had forced the Macedonians to surrender their fleet and pay reparations of 1,000 talents of which 500 had been paid immediately, and had no need to set up administrative bodies to govern Greece proper. Greek gratitude even went as far as to see Flamininus granted divine honours in Argos and Khalkis (Plutarch, Flam. 16.7 for the paean sung in his honour at Euboean Khalkis in 191 BC).

Antiochus III the Great still remained a problem. Between 212 and 205, he had made determined efforts to recreate the Asian part of Alexander the Great’s empire, subjecting the satrapies up to the Indus valley, and returning from his ‘anabasis’ to proclaim himself Great King, resurrecting the Persian royal title. After his pact with Philip in 202, he had seized the Levant, then called Coele-Syria, from Egypt after the troubled accession of the child pharaoh, Ptolemy V Epiphanes, to the Double Crown. He remained relatively quiet until Rome was embroiled in the war with Philip, then he moved to seize the remaining Ptolemaic provinces outside of Egypt proper, bringing the whole of Asia Minor under his sway. Had he been satisfied with this, history in the Middle East might have taken a slightly different turn, but it did not and in 196, Antiochus crossed the Hellespont into Europe and rebuilt Lysimakhia to serve as a military base for further expansion into Thrace. His crossing into Europe was enough to bring about Roman reaction, and Flamininus and the decem legati sent from Rome to help him, demanded that Antiochus agree to leave the independent poleis of Asia Minor, keeping their fides proclaimed at the Isthmian games to guarantee the freedom of all Greek states. Polybius tells us that the Romans went further, demanding Seleucid withdrawal from Europe and from the cities and provinces formerly under Philip’s command as well as returning Ptolemaic provinces to the Egyptian king (Polybius, 18.47.1-3). Antiochus not only ignored the message delivered by his emissaries, he continued his campaign in Thrace. In response, three members of the decem legati journeyed to the king in Lysimakhia to deliver their commands once again. They were, however, unable to defeat a consummate master of politics and propaganda at his own game, receiving the answer that the king wondered by what rights Rome was interfering in Asian affairs when he left them alone in Italy, despite their oppression of the Hellenic cities there, cities which undoubtedly wished freedom. Further, in Europe he was simply taking back territories which were already been property of his family by right of conquest by his ancestor eighty five years before, that Ptolemy need be no concern as he was about to marry Antiochus’ daughter, Kleopatra, which did indeed happen in 194/3, and he would take care of his son-in-law; furthermore, the Greek poleis would be granted their freedom by the King’s good grace at the King’s time of choosing. In response, the Romans tried to bring forward representatives of the subjected poleis, but the royal audience was terminated before they could speak (Polybius, 18.50.1-52.5). Inevitably the question arises as to the purpose of these supposed negotiations. Antiochus was an astute politician and, by repute at least if not in reality, a great military leader. His political abilities were proven in the fact that he held on to power in the Seleucid Empire, something which unsuccessful politicians simply did not manage. Can it seriously be assumed that he did not know the inevitable outcome? Was this simply a process of going through the motions before war, as some have proposed, or was there a subtler struggle which was taking place? Were the Romans going to negotiate with another Hellenic, in their eyes at least, despot after having taken the trouble to hobble Philip, and so allow Antiochus to take the place of the Macedonian monarch? The most likely answer to all of these is no. War was postponed for one reason alone – the winning of reputation and ‘hearts and minds’ among the mainland Greek poleis as well as those of the Asian littoral. Beaten at the political game, the Romans left. At this point neither Rome nor Antiochus was willing to set the war machine in motion. Antiochus even went so far as to offer a treaty to the Romans, though it was, as were all offers of treaty in the East, refused, though politely and for the time being at least, relations between the two powers stayed cordial if not friendly.

In 192, however, affairs took a turn. The Aetolian League made approaches to Antiochus, to which he responded positively, this giving him the opportunity to be seen as liberator of the Hellenes, a title desired by all Seleucid monarchs. The Aetolians had also approached Nabis in Sparta, and Philip in his capital at Pella. Antiochus could therefore depict himself as the one who brought Hellenic freedom, not war, and in a battle of propaganda, this brought him head to head against the Romans, both sides trying to be depicted as the sole benefactor of the Hellenes. The senate in response sent envoys to Greece in 192, again including Flamininus, as well as putting a fleet under the praetor M. Atilius Serranus into the seas, but too late in the autumn to make any difference as events had moved on rather more quickly than Rome had apparently expected. Nabis of Sparta had moved to retake the Spartan port city of Gytheion, the care of which Flamininus had given to Akhaea. Philopoimen, strategos of Akhaea put troops and ships into the field to save the port, but he failed and settled for causing havoc in as much of Lakonia as he could. No Greek city had moved independently since Rome’s march into the Balkans eight years previously; though the whole campaign was at best indecisive, it did demonstrate to the poleis that they could still take military action independent of the legions, though it was Flamininus who forced both sides to accept a truce. Nabis subsequently turned to the Aetolians for assistance, but instead they had him assassinated for his failure and attempted to seize Sparta for themselves. Sparta put her army into the field and slaughtered the Aetolians, who were more interested in plunder, almost to a man. Philopoimen used the opportunity to move on Sparta, impose a pro Akhaean government and force Sparta into the Akhaean League without consulting Flamininus, though he accepted this, presumably as a pro Roman solution to the conflict (Livy, 35.25-30; 35-37.3; Plutarch, Philopoimen 14-15). This did not solve the situation for the Aetolians, however, who refused a hearing for the Roman legati at their gathering of the League, the Panaitolika, though allowing a hearing to Menippos, Antiochus’ chief advisor and representative. Instead, the Aetolian strategos, Thoas, gave the Roman representatives the idea that Antiochus was prepared to come to their aid after crossing the Aegean. Meanwhile, Aetolian envoys were flattering Antiochus by convincing the king that the Greeks in the Balkans at least were simply waiting for his arrival to rise up against the Romans; platitudes which Antiochus appears to have swallowed whole. To push matters, the Aetolians took Demetrias, one of the ‘Three Fetters’, which Philip had been forced to abandon, and called on Antiochus for aid. Advised of the sagacity of the move by his two chief advisors, Menippos and Minnion, as well as overt encouragement from the exiled Hannibal to whom Antiochus had offered sanctuary after Zama in 202, Antiochus moved with a relatively small force, some 10,000 foot, 500 horse and a symbolic force of six elephants, from Ephesus to Demetria in late 192 (Livy, 35.31-34; 41.1-43.6). Antiochus discovered too late that there were to be no flung open city gates, welcoming him with joy as the great bringer of freedom. Khalkis was ‘liberated’ at the point of a sarissa, Boeotia refused to sway one way or another, and Antiochus actually found himself with a full blown declaration of war from the Akhaean League, an action rewarded by a full alliance with Rome. The only major polis to join enthusiastically was Elis in an attempt to rid herself of interference from the Akhaeans. Perhaps it was the forcible capture of Khalkis which turned the Hellenes, but whatever it was, Antiochus’ only seeming success was the gaining of a new wife in Khalkis during his stay there over the winter (Livy, 36.5.1-11).

Antiochus had, however, as did all Eastern potentates, many enemies and rivals, and they seized their opportunity to blacken the name of the king, Eumenes of Pergamon being the most active in this, portraying Antiochus as a cruel and tyrannical despot and with an intention to take control of Greece by aggression. These rumours were evidently taken seriously by many poleis and there was a rush to ally with one side or the other – something which served no purpose other than to hasten both sides into conflict. The continuing propaganda battle only served to heighten the tensions and made the gulf grow wider and wider at an ever increasing rate, mainly being pushed by the Aetolian League on one side and Pergamon on the other. Rome, apparently rather reluctantly, went to war with Antiochus, marching an army under M. Acilius Glabro over the Pindos into Thessaly, retaking all the cities which Antiochus had succeeded in taking in the Autumn of 192. Antiochus, ever the man for symbolism, chose to make a stand at Thermopylae, but with such a small force, as no reinforcements had been able to arrive from the Asiatic homelands of the Seleucids, and only a representative force of Aetolians numbering some 4,000, who were also under orders that their main task was to defend their own city of Heraklea, the king suffered a heavy defeat, being easily outflanked by the much superior Roman forces, resulting in his return to Ephesus with the knowledge that his former ally and now enemy, Philip, had offered logistic support to the Romans and had received his son, Demetrios, back from hostage status at Rome in return. Glabrio continued his war against the Aetolians, who eventually capitulated after losing their main city of Ambrakia in 189 (Polybius, 20.9.1-10.17 implies the term deditio in fidem to mean absolute and unconditional surrender, the same term as used in reference to the surrender of Carthage in 146 BC (Polybius, 35.4.1-3)). The Romans also pursued their action against Antiochus, not only driving him from Greece and Europe, but also inflicting a crushing defeat on his army at Magnesia. In 190, Rome landed her first armies in Asia under L. Cornelius Scipio, the consul, accompanied by his brother, Scipio Africanus and forced Antiochus to surrender. The symbolism of the presence of Africanus in the field against the king who had granted asylum to Hannibal cannot have escaped any contemporary observer. Indeed, Gruen lays the blame for the outbreak of the conflict squarely at the feet of the Hellenes themselves, not Rome (Rome and the Greek World, in Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic, Cambridge, 2010, 251). The Aetolians were subjected to a harsh treaty (Livy, 38.38; Polybius, 21.32.3-4) after their capitulation in 189, and Antiochus was forced to accept the Treaty of Apamea in 188 (Polybius, 21.43) in which he was required to relinquish all territory and claims to such west of the Taurus Mountains, to stay away from Europe and the Aegean and pay an immense sum in reparations. Whilst this did serve more or less to break Seleucid dominance, it left Asia Minor open to a new power struggle between the aspirants, especially benefitting Akhaea, Rhodes, Pergamon and inevitably Macedonia. Rome made no effort to impose her rule on the area and it is difficult even to find evidence for any attempt at hegemony of the region. Indeed, the internal political map of Greece proper was so radically redrawn that the only independent state left was the Akhaean League. Antiochus, though no longer able to look west, not only kept his throne, as Philip had been allowed to do, he continued to wield power in the Seleucid heartlands of Syria and Mesopotamia, the Aetolian League was still intact, if humiliated, Philip had used the time to expand in Thessaly, Akhaea now dominated the Peloponnese, having been given control of Elis and Messene, cities which had opted to join with Rome prior to Magnesia were to be granted their freedom and two new hegemons in the form of Pergamon and Rhodes divided the loyalties of the others (Polybius, 21.45.1-3, 9-11). The seemingly eternal political power game of the Hellenic states and kingdoms were the driving force of the new political map, now more evenly balanced, and Rome was apparently quite happy to allow their petty squabbles and wars to continue as long as Roman interests were left without interference. Roman influence through her friends in the form of Rhodes and Eumenes of Pergamon had been unquestionable since their appeal to Rome in 197. This intricate web was, without doubt, a consequence of the power shift after Carthage was beaten in the Second Punic War, and the subsequent mess of amici and inimici Populi Romani would never truly be untangled until absolute Roman dominance in the eastern Mediterranean, but from this point on, the main defining unifying factor in all of the following events was the presence of the Roman senate and Roman will, whether voluntary or brought in by external Hellenic squabbling and requests for friendship, protection from a local aggressor or attempts to pacify the Roman juggernaut before intervention. Decisions were not always made by the senate or the comitiae, however. The imperium granted to Roman generals in the field allowed for a certain level of ‘on the spot’ choices, though these would normally require post event ratification in the senatorial processes provided the general in question only exercised that imperium in the province which the senate had, after choice by lot, assigned to him in the year prior to his command. In cases where there was a situation which required more than a year’s imperium, the option of a prorogation of that imperium existed. This assignation of a province to a consular or praetorian commander was invariably military in nature, not administrative, and as such was to all intents and purposes either a declaration of intention to wage war in that province, or a forewarning that Rome was preparing to defend her interests with extreme military force. Livy (Books 31-45) leaves us a detailed account of practically every consul, praetor, recipients of magisterial prorogation, legati and specially assigned magisterial commissions which allows us to look at a rather wide range of the functions of the officials from the end of the Hannibalic War until 167, at which point Livy’s narrative breaks off, leaving large gaps in our knowledge. This leaves the question of what the criteria were for a province to be defined as such; a much more complex question than might be expected, and an area in which much research still needs to be carried out as it very quickly becomes obvious that there were varying criteria depending on which time and which area of the fast growing empire is being examined. For this period, one noticeable factor is the lack of ‘rape, pillage and murder’ which occurred in this expansion. Plundering seems to have been very low on the list of priorities with regard to the new provinciae of Sicily and Hispania, and what exploitation did occur in the Hellenic East was an extremely gradual process, and there is a noticeable increase in the reelection of consuls or the appointment of former consuls as praetors in order to keep a competent general who was knowledgeable of a given situation or successfully pursuing a military campaign under difficult circumstances. The most obvious example of this is in the form of the Scipii in Hispania. The military was also expanded, even to the point in the Hannibalic War of conscripting freedmen, the men infra classem and the ultimate extreme, slaves who were willing to fight to gain their freedom; it is estimated that as many as 35% of the adult male populace was engaged in military service at the height of the emergency (figures cited in Finley, M, Politics in the Ancient World, Canto, 1994, 17). This level of praetorian and consular imperium gave the senate the confidence that their commands, issued via their magistrates would be obeyed, backed by the military presence under that military imperium. Rome used this to assume the mantle of protector of those who sought her aid, and particularly after the defeat at Magnesia and practical neutering of Seleucid power, there seems to have been an endless stream of embassies from the Hellenic East making a plethora of requests for aid, protection, friendship and adjudication.

The problems in Greece were not solved here, however, and the continuing military campaigns against the Gauls, Ligurians and other minor tribes in the Po Valley, Apennines and the Italian Alps were never far from the senate’s mind. Indeed, the senate assigned more provinciae on the Italian front than in all other areas of operations. It is estimated that between 190 and 167, coloniae and land distribution settled some 50,000 Roman colonists while, in 180 driving an equal number of Ligures from their lands and instead settling them in the south on confiscated lands. Moreover, the decision to expand in Spain after the defeat and expulsion of Carthage involved numerous consular and praetorian assignations. During the war, Rome had succeeded in building up at least cordial relation with the Hellenic colonies (the Massiliot poleis) as well as setting up a colonia at Italica in modern day Andalucia under the aegis of Scipio Africanus. Unlike the situation in Greece, however, Hispania posed a very different set of problems. Aside from the Hellenic and Punic poleis, there were scarcely any major settlements and no large, dominant tribal states with whom the Romans could have dealings or crush in one full battle. The majority of the populace lived in small towns or villages and apparently had very little if any clearly discernable governmental structure with which the Romans could deal on a political level. Control of such required a continual magisterial imperium along with his forces to be stationed in Hispania, and as such, in 198, six rather than four praetors were elected, two being assigned to the provinciae of Hispania Ulterior and Hispania Citerior, the former in the Baetis Valley and the latter in the Ebro Valley. This apparently temporary measure, through necessity, would subsequently become the norm. Hispania offered the commander a long, drawn out campaign of small battles and constant protection of allies and friends, but also the offer of great wealth from plunder and ‘acquisitions’ from the rich silver mines – the income from such had replenished the Carthaginian treasury after the debacle of the First Punic War and hence had more or less funded Hannibal’s invasion of Italy. But to return to the question of Greece.

Removing the double threats of Antiochus and the Aetolian League meant that by 188 the senate at Rome was the de facto centre of power in the Eastern Mediterranean:

‘The senate was arbiter for foe and for friend alike; friends might indeed advise, make suggestions or express wishes, but it was the senate in Rome that decided.’ (Errington, R.M. A History of the Hellenic World 323-30 BC, Blackwell, 2008 Kindle edition.)

It was through acting as the arbiter, however trying that may have proven for the Romans on occasion, that the senate was able to impose its own concept of political relations on any given situation due to its reception of seemingly endless ambassadors and envoys from the Greek states. In reaction, the senate began to send legati to the areas requiring their adjudication, their having been granted the right to make decisions in the name of SPQR on the spot after making the requisite examination of the problem. This back and forth of embassies and legates opened an unprecedented level of understanding of the Roman way amongst the Hellenes and of the Hellenic attitudes and methods for an increasingly large number of Roman politicians as well as a wider pool of fluent Greek speakers. Evidently, such exchanges were not new, but it is important to take into account the sheer frequency of such after the removal of Seleucid hegemony post the Treaty of Apamea and the consequent restriction of their interests to east of the Taurus as well as the reparations of some 15,000 talents of silver payable to Rome, with a smaller amount for Pergamon, to pay for damages. The removal of the Seleucid fleet and the disbanding of the elephant regiments as well as twenty hostages from the high aristocracy along with any anti Roman politicians at the Royal court – this was an attempt to arrest Hannibal, though he ‘escaped’ prior to his apprehension – allowed for a treaty of perpetual amicitia to be drawn up (Livy, 38.38; Polybius, 21.43). Antiochus had to resign himself to the acceptance that his dream of rebuilding the Empire of Alexander was over. He no longer had the income from the massively wealthy cities west of the Taurus and as such faced a major fiscal crisis. Furthermore, his military humiliation at Magnesia had led to his tenuous hold on the eastern ends of his kingdom being challenged more and more frequently through rebellions and localised insurrections, hence questioning the supposed successes of his anabasis. This need for silver, both to make the annual repayments under the terms of Apamea as well as for the running of his kingdom, led him to plundering the temple treasuries, something which he succeeded in doing at Babylon in early 187, but led to his assassination by the faithful at Elam on July 3rd of the same year, hanged like a common criminal in front of the Great Temple of Ba’al (Justin, 32.2.1-2; Diodorus, 28.3).

He was followed on the throne by his son, Seleucos IV. The fiscal problems seem to have increased and, from the almost complete lack of records we have, he would appear to have spent his entire reign of twelve years in holding the kingdom together, being depicted by Appian as a weak, ineffective and decidedly unsuccessful monarch (Syriake, 349). This is an interpretation which must be questioned, however. Whilst he might not have spent his time on the Seleucid throne stirring up the political situation, his reign does seem to have been relatively calm, something which can be deduced by the simple lack of records of his doings, and from the fact that his successor, his younger brother Antiochus IV, was able to become active immediately upon his accession in 175.


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