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Chapter VII

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Rome
Tenney Frank

published by
Henry Holt and Company
New York 1923

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter IX

 p136  Chapter VIII

Rome and Greece

Philip V of Macedonia. Rome now needed a rest, and needed time to organize Spain and to come to terms with the Cisalpine Gauls for their part in the Hannibalic War. But before the treaty with Carthage had been signed, she received pleas for aid from the Greeks. Philip V of Macedonia, who had struck at Rome after the disaster at Cannae, and Antiochus III, the King of Syria, who called himself "The Great," had formed a bandits' alliance for the division between themselves of the lands of the Aegean; this they proceeded to put into operation and the sufferers called on Rome for aid. The situation in the East was, put in the briefest terms, as follows: The vast domains of Alexander's Empire had in great part fallen into three kingdoms, the Macedonian, the Seleucid Empire (which embraced Syria and inner Asia Minor), and the Ptolemaic kingdom (which consisted of Egypt and some of the Asia Minor coast). The kings of Macedonia had been sovereign throughout Greece immediately after Alexander's death, but had during the third century lost control of a large part of it. Philip V, however, was fighting hard to recover the old Macedonian sway over all Greece.

There were now several independent Greek states. The island of Rhodes was a respected republic whose people desired peace and liberty in the Aegean for the sake of their extensive trade. The Kingdom of Pergamum, ruled over by Attalus I, was a small but rich and compact state in Asia Minor. The Republic of Athens had been free for only a generation, had practically no resources or military power, but was influential through her writers and orators in shaping  p137 public opinion among the Greeks. The Achaean League of twelve cities in the Peloponnese was independent and could fight effectively if properly led, but owing to its cumbersome federal government was difficult to stir into decisive activity. It was unfortunately forced to be subservient to the wishes of Philip because he had possession of Corinth, the most important city of the peninsula. The Aetolian League was also a federal union. Its people were considered rather uncivilized though capable of furnishing a good fighting force.

[image ALT: A political map of the Eastern Mediterranean in 200 BC, showing most of the sea and all of Egypt, the Sinai and Palestine controlled by the Empire of the Ptolemies; Syria, Lebanon, the visible fringes of Arabia, and the southern half of modern Turkey controlled by the Empire of Antiochus III; a small patch of modern Macedonia and northern Greece with some smaller appendages controlled by Macedonia. Several enclaves lie outside these blocs: Rhodes, most of Greece, and the central west coast of modern Turkey (Pergamum); as does the northern half of modern Turkey. Part of the Balkans are also visible on the map, but they are unmarked.]

Greece and Asia, 200 B.C.:
Kingdoms of Philip, Antiochus, and Ptolemy

[A larger version, fully readable, opens here.]

In 203, while Rome was still engaged in the Punic War,  p138 Philip and Antiochus made a secret agreement to divide between themselves, all of the possessions of the Ptolemies except those in Egypt. Antiochus seized Palestine, while Philip occupied Greek cities and islands on the Asia Minor border, some of which the Ptolemies had ruled, some of which were now actually free. Egypt, whose present king was but a boy, was wholly helpless and begged Rome for aid. Aetolia, angered at her loss of Thessaly, did likewise. Rhodes and Attalus, being already at war trying to block the plundering expeditions of Philip, sent envoys to Rome with the same plea as soon as Rome was free from the contest with Carthage. The Romans were utterly weary of fighting, and when the senators who favored giving aid to the Greeks put the proposal to the popular assembly it was voted down.

The arguments against the war included not only such practical considerations as an empty treasury and a weary nation, but a strong reluctance to abandon the old Roman tradition which had permitted no wars except those in self-defense or in defense of allies. With some of the Greek states Rome had signed temporary alliances of "friendship" during the First Macedonian War, but such alliances were not understood to entail mutual aid in time to come. It was clearly contrary to Rome's custom and to the fetial rules to enter upon wars unless attacked, or to interpret treaties of friendship as treaties of alliance.

On the other hand the arguments in favor of participation were many, though difficult to define. In the first place Philip was dangerous and unprincipled. He had, unprovoked, struck at Rome in 215 when she was "down," and he was now plundering helpless Greek republics for no cause whatever. Such a ruler is usually considered beyond the pale of international society, undeserving of the favor of customary treatment. If Philip went unpunished he would obviously take every favorable opportunity to attack Rome again. From the point of view of modern European  p139 practice Rome was doubtless more than justified in helping to check him.

There were also sentimental reasons of great weight for undertaking the venture. The Romans of this generation had begun to learn Greek, had brought much of the best Greek literature to Rome, had produced many Greek plays at Rome, and many of the Roman nobles had acquired a great enthusiasm for everything Hellenic. Men like Scipio and Quinctius Flamininus so admired the Greeks that they wished to do all in their power to aid them in their distress. The wave of sentiment was somewhat comparable to the enthusiasm for France so widely prevalent during the first years of the recent great war. Some egoism may also have entered into this sentiment, for men like Scipio felt that Rome had been classed long enough as a nation of barbarians, and that she ought now to take her place in the world of cultured nations. Participation with states like Athens and Rhodes in a war for the liberation of the Greeks appealed to Scipio as a good policy, because of the international prestige it would bring Rome and the Romans.

We do not know what arguments were used to convince the people. We need not assume that they were all of a material kind. The Roman democratic assembly could doubtless rise to an idealistic appeal as other popular assemblies have in ancient and modern times. At any rate an embassy was sent to Athens to meet the delegates of Rhodes and Pergamum which were already in the war. Athens also joined, and the united delegates drew up a plan of coöperation which the Romans agreed to accept unless Philip at once gave up his evil gains. Philip refused, and Rome declared war. Antiochus had of course to be allowed to go his way for the present.

The Second Macedonian War, 200‑196. The war was in itself not an important one but it is exceedingly interesting as a struggle of several allied powers against an aggressive monarchy, and still more interesting is the problem of international  p140 diplomacy which it raised when the allies tried to come to terms after the war was over.

In 200 Philip began by attacking Athens. Attalus led the Pergamene and the Rhodian forces against Philip but accomplished little. The Roman army of two legions struck eastward from Epirus but was checked in the mountains. During the second year of the war the Aetolian league joined the coalition and penetrated into Thessaly, but the other two forces were still held in check. In the third year Rome elected Flamininus consul though he was under the legal age for that high office. But his great enthusiasm for the cause of Greek liberty made him the logical candidate. He succeeded in bringing the Roman army through the mountain passes of Epirus and joining the Aetolians. This encouraged the Achaean league to join the coalition.

Philip now asked for terms of peace, and all the conferees met to put forward their demands. Rome asked for nothing, not even for the return of the Illyrian coast that she had been forced to surrender in 205. Flamininus claimed that Rome had gone into the war for the freedom of Greece and that that was all he would ask for. The other allies made numerous demands, and weeks were spent in oratory. Philip seeing that no progress could be made with so many conferees asked that Flamininus assume the responsibility for the allies. Then the important fact came out that since a Roman consul did not have full power to act for his state at a peace conference, and since the Senate alone had the power to lay down the terms for Rome, the whole peace conference would have to go to Rome whenever Rome took part in a coalition of this kind. The consequences of this provision in the Roman constitution proved to be of well-nigh unlimited importance in the shaping of Rome's external policy. It was as if the United States were to enter a League of Nations, then compel every decision of the League to be referred to the American Senate because the Senate has been given the treaty-making power by the  p141 American constitution. The results of such a situation are obvious. If the league submitted the Senate would in a short time practically control the league.

Such came to be the situation at Rome. Philip indeed did not at once accede to the Senate's demands, and the conference broke up, but a valuable fact had been learned. A war that had begun by a Greek coalition against Philip ended with Rome as the controlling power in the coalition. When operations opened again Rhodes took her forces home to win back her lost possessions in Lycia, the Achaeans sent their contingent to help Rhodes, Attalus withdrew because he had only naval forces. Flamininus, therefore, with the aid of some Aetolians and Epirotes, completed the war against Philip.

In the summer of 197 Flamininus attacked Philip at Cynoscephalae. Philip still employed the rigid Macedonian phalanx which stood sixteen men deep armed with long pikes, a formation that Alexander the Great had so successfully used. The mobile Roman legion now for the first time overwhelmed it by drawing it into rough ground where it could not act in a solid mass. The Romans had also learned at Zama how to use their rear maniples freely, to throw them severally into the weak spots or on the flanks of the enemy. The phalanx was broken and outflanked, and Flamininus gained an easy victory.

The Liberation of the Greeks. Now peace was made on the Senate's terms, and Philip was compelled to surrender all the Greeks outside of Macedonia to Flamininus, who promised to set them free and to organize governments for them. Flamininus, therefore, became the arbiter of all the liberated cities. This deeply offended the Aetolians who were still eager for an extension of their power into Thessaly, and they spread the report that Rome was planning to retain some forts and make herself master of Greece in Philip's stead.

Not heeding the criticism, Flamininus went about his  p142 work, reanimating the old city governments that had been decaying during Macedonian rule. A few garrisons Flamininus temporarily held, for no one knew whether Antiochus would invade Greece as he was invading the Asiatic cities that had been liberated by the treaty. In Thessaly Flamininus organized new states on a plan which strongly resembles that of the modern "representative government." What he did was to unite several independent city-states of Thessalian districts into federations. Each of these federations had a primary assembly consisting of all the property-owning citizens of the district, and a kind of representative senate, consisting of delegates from the several cities, as well as an annual executive elected by the primary assembly. Since the senate was given control over legislation, this government contains the essentials of what we now call representative government. In creating it Flamininus combined the idea of federal government already in use in Boeotia and Aetolia with aristocratic senatorial ideas from Rome. It deserves attention as a happy instance of political sagacity.

When his work was over and the danger from Antiochus seemed not yet pressing, Flamininus appeared at the Isthmian Games, where crowds from the whole of Greece were assembled, and read this brief proclamation: "The Roman Senate and Titus Quinctius (Flamininus), proconsul and imperator, having conquered King Philip and the Macedonians in war, declare the following peoples free, without garrison or tribute, in full enjoyment of their own laws: the Corinthians, Phocians, Locrians, Euboeans, Achaeans of Phthiotis, Magnesians, Thessalians and Perrhaebians." The joy of the Greeks was unbounded, as Polybius the Greek tells the story: "When the herald read the proclamation there was such an outburst of applause that it is difficult to convey it to the imagination. When at length the applause ceased no one paid any attention to the athletes, but all were talking to themselves or each other, and they seemed like a people bereft of their senses. Even after the games were  p143 over, in the extravagance of their joy, they nearly killed Flamininus by the exhibition of their gratitude. Some wanted to look him in the face and call him their preserver; others were eager to touch his hand; most threw garlands upon him, until between them, they nearly crushed him to death. That the Romans and their leader, Flamininus, should have deliberately incurred unlimited expense and danger for the sole purpose of freeing Greece, this truly merited their admiration." And the Greeks went home and founded temples

To Zeus and Rome and Titus and Rome's Good Faith.

We are not told, but we may conjecture that they named their streets Rome and Titus — and after a year or two restored the old names.

Flamininus now withdrew his garrisons and sailed home with his army. The Greek city-states and leagues were free. It must be remembered, however, that their boundaries had been defined by a treaty guaranteed by the Roman Senate. Suppose any of these states undertook to change such boundaries, would it be Rome's province to safeguard the treaty?

War with Antiochus. Flamininus had left Greece against the advice of Scipio before a clear agreement had been reached with the other aggressor, Antiochus III, and he had left prematurely in order to convince the Greeks that the Romans were sincere in their professions that they had fought for the sake of saving liberty in Greece. Antiochus, however, had as a matter of fact just gained a diplomatic victory over Flamininus. The situation was as follows. In 197, when Philip had been hard pressed by Rome he had withdrawn his garrisons from the Greek cities in Asia Minor which he had taken from Ptolemy. By the treaty of peace he handed these to Rome who meant to give some back to Ptolemy and set others free. Antiochus  p144 had in the meanwhile marched north and taken them on the pretext that they had formerly belonged to his ancestral kingdom. Flamininus ordered him to evacuate them at once. Antiochus, shrewd and well-trained in Oriental diplomacy, had foreseen that such an order would be forthcoming, and had prepared for it by sending a secret envoy to buy Ptolemy's title to these possessions. Now he produced this secret treaty with Ptolemy, and Flamininus found himself outwitted. The Roman could hardly claim to be Ptolemy's champion any longer. And there the matter might have rested had not Antiochus, elated at his success, proceeded to occupy the Thracian coast of the Balkan peninsula which Philip was surrendering.

In 193 Antiochus sent an embassy to Rome to try to have Rome recognize the status quo and sign a treaty of friendship. Rome was willing to acquiesce in the occupation of Asia Minor since Ptolemy was, but could not recognize the occupation of territory in Europe. The envoys had no instructions to cede anything and the question was unfortunately left open. The result was disastrous. Hannibal was now with Antiochus, having been banished from Carthage by the peace party (at Rome's request, it was rumored), and he was eager to have Antiochus pick a quarrel with Rome. To make matters worse the Aetolians, who had not been allowed by the Romans to occupy Thessaly, were making charges against Rome and sending envoys to Antiochus. Finally, Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, who had been forced by the treaty to give back to the Achaean league some territory of theirs that he had occupied, began to drill an army with a view to reoccupying it.

Nabis began hostilities by seizing the Achaean lands. Was it Rome's business to stand by the settlement in Greece? Some said she was responsible for it, since she had signed it; others said that she had only promised to free the Greeks but that the Greeks must now take care of themselves. The Aetolians thought they saw their opportunity to force Antiochus  p145 into the contest, bring him to Greece, and thus compel Rome to risk another war. If Rome were defeated, as seemed likely in a contest with the great King, the treaty of Flamininus would be shattered and Aetolia could occupy Thessaly. Aetolia accordingly seized several strongholds in Greece and invited Antiochus to take full command. Hannibal also urged Antiochus on with assurance that Carthage would come to his aid if he acted with speed. But the Carthaginian urged him strongly not to go by way of Greece but to invade Italy directly. Antiochus decided to strike at once. He thought it wise, however, to go to Greece and use the Aetolian aid which was ready, rather than wait for Punic aid which might fail. Beside, Rome had recently garrisoned all the southern ports of Italy against a possible invasion, and he might not be able to effect a landing. He, therefore, sailed to Greece with a hastily collected army (192 B.C.).

Rome now declared war and in the spring of 191 sent an army of 20,000 men to Greece. They found Antiochus entrenched at Thermopylae. In the struggle that followed Antiochus got little aid from the boastful Aetolians after all, and was quickly defeated. He therefore sailed for Asia Minor to gather a large army and to await the enemy behind the Hellespont. In 190 the Roman consul allotted to the great task was Lucius Scipio; he was given the aid of his brother, the famous Scipio Africanus, as proconsul. The Roman fleet, now aided by Rhodes and Pergamum, defeated the navy of Antiochus, and the King offered to make peace on the terms that Rome had offered in 193. Scipio, however, refused. In the interests of Rhodes and Pergamum he demanded that Antiochus withdraw to the territory he had held before 194, that is, south of the Taurus range, leaving the Anatolian peninsula completely. Antiochus, preferring to fight, drew up his line at Magnesia (190), where he was defeated. By the terms of peace, Antiochus acknowledged the Taurus range as the northern boundary of his  p146 empire, gave up his fleet, and promised Rome a war indemnity of 10,000 talents payable in ten years. Unlike Carthage, he was able to keep his independence as a sovereign, but his great prestige in the East was gone. The Roman legions had shown that the Oriental magnificence of the Seleucid Kingdom was based on no abiding strength.

Again Rome had to act as arbiter in Greece as well as, for the first time, in Asia Minor. Rome set some of the Greek cities of Asia Minor free, gave some to Rhodes, and helped Pergamum subdue the vigorous Gauls — or Galatians as they were called — who had frequently proved lawless. They were now, though left autonomous, compelled to recognize the protectorate of Pergamum. The Aetolians were forced to surrender at discretion, and became an ally of Rome after the payment of an indemnity. The island of Cephallenia which had belonged to Aetolia was ceded to Rome.

Again the Roman armies went home, evacuating all the territory that they had occupied except one island which lay between Greece and Italy. It is apparent that the Senate was still acting on the policy of the philhellene nobles who believed in the Greeks, desired their freedom, and wished Rome to join the Greeks in temporary coalitions for the sake of protecting republics against militaristic monarchies. Rome of course had learned that such participation involved certain obligations in safeguarding the treaty stipulations which were made, but there is no indication that Rome had as yet assumed that it would ever be necessary for her to extend her power definitely beyond the Adriatic sea. There may have been men who knew that the Romans were unusually sensitive about treaty obligations, and that it would be very difficult for the Senate to sit patiently with arms folded if any of the two or three score of independent states now formed in the Aegean should attempt to change its boundaries. They may also have known enough of Greek history to realize that the Greeks were quick-tempered  p147 and ready to quarrel, and that eternal peace could not be expected. But the Romans still judged the Greeks by their recently acquired knowledge of their remarkable literature and art. It was easy for men who had read Homer, Plato and Euripides to grow over-optimistic about the power of such a people to take care of themselves. We have no right to condemn the Senate for having erred on the side of sentimentality. In any case if the Romans had manifested distrust of the Greeks by establishing a protectorate at once, the results would certainly have been not a whit better.

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