History of the Macedonian People - Prelude to War with Rome
History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present
Part 10 - Prelude to War with Rome
by Risto Stefov email@example.com
Macedonia's decline began with Demetrius's death in 229 BC. Demetrius lost his life during a valiant battle defending Macedonia against Dardanian invasions. After his death, his kingdom was left to his nine year-old son Philip. Philip unfortunately was too young to rule so guardianship was awarded to Demetrius's cousin Antogonus Doson who agreed to look after the kingdom until Philip came of age.
Antigonus Doson, sometimes referred to as Antigonus III, did his best to maintain peace and stability in keeping Philip's kingdom intact.
After Demetrius's death, while Macedonia was preoccupied with domestic affairs, Athens took the opportunity to liberate the port of Piraeus, removing the Macedonian garrison stationed there. Athens did this not by battle but by bribery. After that, Athens declared her neutrality and prudently refused to join any alliances. Sparta on the other hand, under the leadership of Cleomenes III who was unable to sit still, initiated a number of social reforms. Sparta's northern neighbours, the Achaean League, however, feared that a reformed Sparta would pose a threat to the League's dominance and took action against it. Unable to negotiate a suitable settlement, the Leagues turned to Antigonus for help. To entice him to intervene, the League offered him Acrocorinth, a strategically valuable place. Antigonus graciously accepted and with twenty thousand troops confronted Cleomenes. The mere sight of the Macedonian army marching down the Peloponnisos must have given Cleomenes's allies cold feet because they quickly withdrew leaving Cleomenes on his own.
As it turned out, Cleomenes's soldiers were mostly hired mercenaries paid for with Ptolemy's money. Ptolemy, as usual, was the instigator of these intrigues never missing an opportunity to expand his own influence. When Antigonus found this out he quickly gave Ptolemy what he wanted, territorial concessions in Asia Minor, and in exchange Ptolemy removed his support for Cleomenes. Without Ptolemy's financial support, Cleomenes lost his influence and decided to stake everything on the outcome of a single battle. In 222 BC, in Sellacia about 120 kilometers north of Sparta, Cleomenes engaged the Macedonians and lost. From there he fled to Egypt. Antigonus, meanwhile, triumphantly walked on Spartan soil as the first foreign conqueror to do so in a long time.
Victorious, Antigonus reconstituted the Hellenic League of Philip II with himself as hegemon and placed Macedonian garrisons in Acrocorinth and Orchomenos. He also left a senior Macedonian officer in charge of Peloponnesian affairs. Sparta's bid for freedom was not only lost but Sparta herself was now forced into a new confederacy with her former enemies the Achaeans, Thessalians, Epiriotes, Acarnanians, Boeotians, Phocians and worst of all, she came under Macedonian control.
Geographically, the new alliance literally encircled Aetolia, which was now an enemy of the entire confederation. The Aetolian league was not at all pleased with the new circumstances and retaliated by waging war on confederation allies.
Antigonus meanwhile, hardly given any time to enjoy his victory, had to return home to deal with another barbarian invasion. While in battle, unfortunately, he received a fatal wound from which he later died. Antigonus Doson, barely in his forties, died in the early summer of 221 BC, but not before he made arrangements to place his young nephew Philip V on the Macedonian throne.
Macedonia was not the only kingdom to have established a young king on the throne in 221 BC. Antiochus III of Asia and Ptolemy IV of Egypt were also crowned the same year.
In Asia, as I mentioned earlier, Seleucus II, coaxed by his mother Laodice, ceded Asia Minor to his brother Antiochus Hierax, something he soon came to regret. Unfortunately, neither brother was happy with the outcome and it did not take long before conflict broke out between them lasting from 239 to 236 BC.
Preoccupied with this brotherly struggle, Seleucus neglected his eastern satrapies and almost lost them. Antiochus, backed by Ptolemy III, was able to maintain pressure on his brother until Seleucus realized that this fratricidal struggle was unproductive, to say the least. In 236 BC, Seleucus made peace with Antiochus and gave him all of Asia Minor north of the Taurus Mountains. Unfortunately, Antiochus was not happy with his gains and with the help of the Galatians conspired to extort money from the surrounding city-states in Asia Minor. He even conspired to overthrow Attalus I of Pergamon.
Attalus was the son of Eumenes of Pergamon and had previous encounters with the Galatians. In fact he had won a great victory against them in 237 BC after which he proclaimed himself king. Having had experience in dealing with Galatians, Attalus was not afraid of them and went in pursuit of Antiochus chasing him through Phrygia, Lydia, Caria and beyond. During his four year pursuit from 231 to 228 BC, Attalus beat Antiochus in three major battles and took over his territories in Asia Minor. Driven out of his own domain, Antiochus, with the help of his aunt Stratonice, made a move to overthrow his brother, Seleucus. While Stratonice organized an insurrection in Antioch, Antiochus made a move against Babylonia. While this was happening Seleucus was campaigning in Parthia, which he had to abandon in order to deal with his brother. When Seleucus caught up with him he drove him out of Asia. Antiochus at this point fled to Egypt where Ptolemy imprisoned him. Soon afterwards, however, he escaped to Thrace where he was murdered by the Galatians in 227 BC.
After driving Antiochus out of Asia, Seleucus captured and executed Stratonice and was about to turn on Attalus. Before he had the chance he died from an accidental fall from his horse. In 226 BC, Seleucus II was succeeded by his first son Seleucus III Soter who held the throne for the next three years before he was murdered by his own officers while campaigning against Attalus. Upon his death, his cousin Achaeus was nominated governor of Asia Minor. He in turn in 223 BC, had Seleucus III's younger brother Antiochus III, proclaimed king. As governor of Asia Minor, Achaeus went after Attalus and by 222 BC pushed him back to Pergamon, thus recovering all the lost Seleucid territories in Asia Minor.
In Egypt, as I mentioned earlier, Ptolemy III dropped his support for Sparta and made amends with Macedonia. But in Asia, he continued to harass the Seleucids and took from them parts of the eastern Mediterranean, Thrace and the Hellespond.
After his death in 221 BC, Ptolemy III was succeeded by Ptolemy IV Philopator.
In Europe, by forming the federation, Antigonus Doson had surrounded the Aetolians. Unhappy about their predicament, they began to fight back by carrying out raids against their neighbours, the Achaean League. By now Philip V was of age and succeeded Antigonus, assuming the title hegemon. As the new hegemon he felt it was his duty to appropriately respond to the Aetolian aggression so he declared war on them. To make matters worse, news of Cleomenes's death in 219 BC inspired a Royalist coup in Sparta and an unfriendly king was appointed to the throne. The anti-federation king quickly broke off relations with Macedonia and allied himself with the Aetolians. Philip responded conclusively with speed and energy.
In the campaigns that followed, reminiscent of Alexander III, Philip V with his well trained and disciplined Macedonian army consistently outmaneuvered and outfought his opponents.
In 217 BC, however, Philip was needed elsewhere and had to wind down his campaigns so an armistice was concluded on the basis of the status quo.
In Asia, soon after his crowning, the ambitious Antiochus III revealed a grand plan to recover lost Seleucid territories and restore his great grandfather's (Seleucus I Nicator) empire. His plan included the re-acquisition of Coele-Syria down to the Egyptian Gates, the recovery of the great eastern satrapies, recovery of the Asia Minor seaports, the Hellespond and eastern Thrace on the European side. He even mounted an expedition worthy of Alexander III, which took him to Bactria and India.
Claiming that Syria and Phoenicia once belonged to Seleucus I, Antiochus launched a major offensive against Syria thus initiating the Fourth Syrian War which lasted from 219 to 217 BC. In his effort to recapture his great grandfather's empire he repossessed his old capital Selucia, the port cities of Tyre and Ptolemais-Ake and opened the road from Palestine to Egypt. Unlike Alexander III however, the more cautious Antiochus did not go conquering Egypt and instead focussed his energies on consolidating his position in Galilee and Samaria. There he spent a great deal of time negotiating peace with Ptolemy who was secretly gathering a large army for a counter attack.
Prolemy's intentions became very clear in the summer of 217 BC, when he and his younger sister Arsione showed up prepared for battle with an army of fifty-five thousand soldiers. They took to the fields of Raphia in Palestine and came face to face with Antiochus and his army of sixty-eight thousand. This was not only the biggest battle since Ipsus, but it took shape in a similar manner. Antiochus, like Demetrius before him, struck the battle line with his cavalry at lightning speed, receiving a quick victory. Unable to resist the urge to pursue his opponent, Antiochus left the battlefield, allowing Ptolemy's commanders to regroup and launch a counter attack. Without Antiochus's leadership and in the absence of cavalry support, the Seleucid phalanx broke up and was defeated. Victorious, the Ptolemies saved Egypt and cut Antiochus's ambitions short. With the exception of giving back the naval base in Seleucia, Ptolemy was happy to settle for the status quo with Coele-Syria safely back in his hands. But all was not well in Egypt. The Egyptian troops had tasted victory and wanted more, not for Ptolemy but for themselves.
A shortage of silver in Egypt forced the Ptolemies to use bronze coins, which were not very popular with the foreign mercenaries. Without foreign mercenaries, the Ptolemies had no choice but to recruit locally from the less expensive native pool of soldiers. The concentration of Egyptians in the military unfortunately stimulated a strong nationalistic sentiment, which had negative consequences for the Ptolemies. At the onset the discontentment manifested itself as sporadic outbursts of guerilla campaigns but with time it grew into an outright rebellion. In a bloody coup against the central government the Egyptians managed to free Upper Egypt from Ptolemaic control. Without the resources of Upper Egypt, the Ptolemies were forced to raise more taxes in order to maintain their state's security, thus further aggravating the situation.
While Antiochus was busy fighting the Ptolemies in Syria, his uncle Achaeus, was busy re-conquering Asia Minor for himself. Then after Antiochus lost to Ptolemy at Raphia, Achaeus made a bold move and proclaimed himself king of Asia Minor. His army, however, did not agree with his proclamation and refused to support him. In 216 BC, Antiochus returned to Asia Minor, cornered his uncle in Sardis and in 213 BC caught him trying to escape. He had him mutilated and then crucified.
For the next seven years, from 212 BC to 205 BC, Antiochus turned his attention eastward in an attempt to recover the eastern satrapies. Having first conquered Armenia he turned his attention to Media Atropatene. He invaded Media and spent two years organizing his army and raising funds to pay for his campaign. Most of the money came from the treasures of the great temple of Ecbatana. In 209 BC Antiochus III, like Alexander III before him, marched with his army eastward conquering territory after territory. Parthia fell to him without a fight and after campaigning in Bactria for two years she too fell into his hands. He crossed the Hindu Kush and signed a treaty with the Indians, after which he began his journey back via Arachosia, Drangiana, and the Persian Gulf. He also sent an expedition to conquer the Gerrhaean Arabs and won tributes of money and spices. In 205 BC, Antiochus reached Seleucia on the Tigris. There he was welcomed as a champion who had regained most of his great grandfather's empire and had restored Seleucid imperial hopes. Yet still he was not happy as Coele-Syria, the Anatolian coastal cities and the Hellespondine regions were still beyond his grasp.
The loss of Upper Egypt to the native pharaohs not only deprived the Ptolemies of substantial resources, but also brought poverty and oppression to the region. Events turned from bad to worse after Ptolemy's death in 205 BC when the Egyptian priests began to revolt against his rule. Things were no better in Alexandria either. Ptolemy V Epiphanes was still a child when Ptolemy IV died and his regency was fought over with bloody consequences. While Ptolemy IV ruled the palace was dominated mostly by women, especially Ptolemy IV's wife and sister. Now that he was gone, they too made a pitch for the throne. Arsinoe, Ptolemy IV's sister was most eager to rule but soon ran into trouble with Ptolemy's ministers who themselves were interested in his throne. To keep her from taking control, Arsinoe was murdered by two of the most powerful ministers. They in turn were later killed by an Alexandrian lynch mob. The five year-old king, meanwhile, was passed from one ambitious advisor to another. To make matters worse, Antiochus III was eyeing Egypt and, in its weakness, was preparing to invade Coele-Syria in what was later to be called the Fifth Syrian War.
In Macedonia, meanwhile, young Philip V anxious to prove himself became entangled in all kinds of Balkan intrigues. He was involved with an Illyrian pirate called Demetrius of Pharos who, at the moment, was seeking refuge in his court. Demetrius was expelled from Sicily by the Romans in 219 BC for raiding and being a nuisance to the Rhodians and Romans in both the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. Demetrius, however, was welcomed in Philip's court because he contributed troops to Antigonus Doson's Sellacian campaign. Philip also valued his so-called "sound advice".
When Rome was defeated by Hannibal in 217 BC, at Lake Trisamene, Demetrius convinced Philip to reinstall him on the Adriatic coast. Philip took his advice, moved into southern Illyria, drove out Scerdilaidas, his rival pirate and enabled Demetrius to recover his former place. Unfortunately, Scerdilaidas was not too happy about being pushed out and quickly appealed to Rome for help. Rome lost no time in sending a patrol to investigate. Anxious to avoid a showdown Philip retreated at once. He burned 120 of his own ships to avoid capture and fled with his army over the mountains. Although nothing came of this, suspicions were raised in Rome about Philip's real motives. After reaching its destination the Roman patrol remained in Illyria to safeguard against any future raids.
Another mistake young Philip made, again acting on the advice of Demetrius, was to sign a treaty with Hannibal the Carthaginian. Drafted by the Carthaginians, this treaty required Philip to become an ally of Carthage in the event of a war with Rome. In return, should Carthage win the war, she would ensure that the Romans would be forced to abandon their sphere of influence in Illyria. The only reason I believe Philip agreed to this was to humour his confidant, Demetrius. Philip at the time did not believe that Rome would risk going to war with a powerful Macedonia over a trivial document. Rome also, at the time, had no plans for any serious eastward interventions. What Philip failed to realize, however, is that his trivial actions would have serious consequences for Macedonia in the future. For the moment, however, Rome remained content and Philip continued to look for ways to gain influence in Illyria.
Still under Demetrius's influence, Philip began to look southward for adventure, always keeping one eye open for conquest. Unfortunately he continued to make mistakes. By inciting various factions in the Peloponnese to fight against one another he caused torment and senseless bloodshed. His bad influence, however, came to an abrupt end when Demetrius of Pharaos was killed in 215 BC during an unsuccessful assault on Ithome. Unfortunately, by now Philip's conquered subjects didn't see him as a reasonable ruler but as a somewhat wild, cruel and politically motivated adventurer. His ravaging of Messenia ended with Demetrius's death. For the next two years, 213 to 212 BC, Philip turned his attention to Illyria. He replaced the ships he lost during his last contact with the Romans and, being careful not to be detected, marched his army north into Scerdilaidas's territory. When the time was right he descended upon Lissos on the Adriatic and established his western base of power.
It is not known why Philip turned his attention westward at this time. His rationale may have been to put a barrier between himself and Rome or perhaps, as some believe, to gain control of the lucrative western maritime markets and trade routes in the Adriatic. In any event, his appearance in the Adriatic caused panic and hysteria in Rome. Fearing an invasion of Italy, Rome was determined to stop him and quickly sought allies among his enemies. As it turned out, the Aetolians were having problems with Philip and were also looking for allies among Philip's enemies. A Roman-Aetolian coalition not only distracted Philip from his western campaigns but also caused him to strengthen his alliance with the Achaean League. The Aetolians and Romans proved to be brutal in their habits and wreaked havoc in Illyria, Thrace, Thessaly and Acarnania. To make matters worse, Attalus of Pergamon joined the Roman-Aetolian coalition and in 209 BC was appointed general of the Aetolians.
Philip, with his disciplined Macedonian army, quickly retaliated and did well against the Aetolians on land but hesitated to challenge the Romans at sea. The Achaeans also had some success and were able to crush the Spartans at Mantinea. Before things could be settled however, both Philip and Attalus were recalled to their homeland to deal with yet another large Dardanian invasion.
After Philip left for home and was no longer a threat, the Romans lost interest in the Aetolians and abandoned them altogether. Without Rome's support, the Aetolians were no match for Philip and they quickly capitulated after his return. In 206 BC they broke their treaty with Rome and made peace with Philip, giving him back all that they had previously taken. The Romans unfortunately did not take this breakup well and were anxious for a renewed alliance. Their chance came when Rhodes and Chios started accusing the locals of disrupting international commerce with their petty wars. In the spring of 205 BC the Romans came back with thirty-five ships and eleven thousand troops. They landed in Epidamnus where Philip met them and offered them battle but the Romans refused to fight. Their real objective was to break up the Macedonian Aetolian treaty. They figured that with their massive support they could spur the Aetolians back into action, break off relations with Macedonia and wage war on Philip. When the Aetolians refused, the Romans reconsidered and negotiated separate peace agreements with the various parties involved. The result was the treaty of Phoenice which was concluded in the summer of 205 BC, thus ending the First Macedonian War.
On the surface it appeared that Macedonia was the biggest winner. Philip was allowed to keep his gains in inland Illyria. Even though the status of Lissos remained uncertain, Lissos was still under Macedonian control. Rome, on the other hand, appeared to be the loser because all she received were words of assurance that Macedonia would not interfere in Adriatic affairs. Beneath the surface however, Rome was the real winner because she managed to evade an active alliance between Macedonia and Carthage.
The conclusion of the First Macedonian War was a crossroad for both Macedonia and Rome. Philip's treaty with Rome left Philip content reassured that his problems with the Romans were over. He no longer had reason to fear the west. Similarly, Philip's word of non-interference in Roman affairs was good enough for the hysterical Roman Senators who now felt they could freely devote their full attention to dealing with Carthage. Had Philip paid heed to the growing menace west of him, he would have sided with Carthage just to maintain a balance of power. Unfortunately he allowed Rome to grow powerful. Instead of striking a crippling blow, while he still could, Philip closed his eyes and for the next five years left Rome to ravage Carthage unabated.
In Asia meanwhile, at about the same time as Philip was concluding his peace with the Romans, Antiochus III was moving towards the Hellespond by way of Asia Minor and the Aegean Sea. Philip by now must have known about Antiochus's exploits and his big ambitions to expand his great grandfather's empire and was probably anticipating an invasion. As it turned out, however, Antichus's preoccupation was not with Europe but with Coele-Syria. So, instead of attacking Philip, he made a secret pact with him to conquer and divide up Ptolemy's possessions. Surprisingly enough Philip went along with the plan and while Antiochus prepared to invade Coele-Syria, he went after Ptolemy's Aegean possessions.
Antiochus wasted no time and in 202 BC swept through Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, inflicting a crushing defeat on Ptolemy's forces. By the time he was done, he had reclaimed the port of Sidon and all coastal strongholds from Caria down to Cilicia. Then in 197 BC, he invaded the territories of Pergamon which sent Attalus running to the Romans. Egypt must have gone crying to the Romans as well, because around 199 BC Rome sent a stern warning to Philip asking him to inform Antiochus not to invade Egypt. Antiochus promptly complied since he had no intention of invading Egypt in the first place.
Here again the Macedonian monarchs underestimated Rome's importance and missed another important clue. Rome didn't care about Egypt or Ptolemy's survival. What she did care about was a healthy competition between Ptolemy and Antiochus. Put another way, Rome did not want one large consolidated Asian Empire under one ruler at her doorstep and was making sure it didn't happen.
I believe the shortsighted Macedonian monarchs preoccupied with their own petty squabbling missed the real threat lurking in the west. That eventually not only destroyed their homeland but also changed the course of history forever.
In 196 BC, blinded by his rash of victories, Antiochus crossed over the Hellespond from Asia into Europe and began to rebuild the abandoned city of Lysimachea. It was going to be a military base and a home for his son Seleucus. Unfortunately, his well-deserved reputation as a conqueror was too much for the hysterical Roman Senators. They issued him an ultimatum to stop his hostilities, relinquish the territory he had won in Asia Minor, refrain from further attacks on cities and above all keep out of Europe. Antiochus took very little notice of the ultimatum and continued his business as usual. When a Roman mission arrived in Lysimachea, delivering the Senate's earlier demands for a second time, Antiochus exclaimed that his presence in Asia Minor and Thrace was well justified because the territory was won by Seleucus I's defeat of Lysimachus in 281 BC. By rite of inheritance the territory belonged to him. Antiochus must have suspected that the ultimatum was a bluff and the Romans were in no mood to fight so he continued to rebuild Lysimachea which served as his outpost until at least 190 BC.
In 195 BC, Antiochus concluded his seven year war (Fifth Syrian War) with Egypt with a peace agreement that included his daughter's engagement to Ptolemy. Soon afterwards, in 194 BC, Ptolemy married (Antiochus's daughter) Cleopatra, sealing the deal.
In Macedonia meanwhile, after the treaty of Phoenice, Philip decided it was time to strengthen his navy and went to work building a powerful fleet. By 201 BC, his fleet was ready and operational. After his secret pact with Antiochus, Philip captured the island of Thasos, a strategic post for keeping an eye on the Bosporus and Black Sea trade routes. In 201 BC, he captured Ptolemy's naval base at Samos and added the large number of ships there to his own fleet. He later attacked and defeated the Rhodian fleet and invaded Ionia and Pergamon.
Unfortunately, the Macedonians were never good at fighting at sea but still it took the combination of Rhodes, Chios, Pergamon and Byzantium to stop the Macedonian navy. At a naval engagement near Chios, the Macedonian fleet suffered a crippling defeat, losing almost half the ships in the navy. What was most alarming about this battle was that more Macedonians were lost here than in any previous engagement on land or at sea.
Broken up by his defeat, Philip quickly withdrew to Miletus and later regrouped his forces in an enclave in Caria where he rested until 196 BC. Unfortunately his remaining fleet had to stay at sea and during the winter of 201-200 BC it was blockaded in Bargylia by the Rhodians and the Pergamenes who quickly ran to Rome to denounce Philips actions.
During the spring of 200 BC the Macedonian fleet broke free from the blockage and was back in Europe in good time to become involved in yet another war, this time between Athens and Acarnania. Being allies with the Acarnanians, Philip sent an expeditionary force to attack Athens and a squadron to capture four Athenian triremes at the port of Piraeus. The triremes however were just as easily lost as they were captured. Unbeknownst to the Macedonians, Rhodian and Pergamene squadrons were pursuing them across the Aegean and suddenly appeared from their base in Aigina, recovering the stolen ships. The Athenians were happy to have their ships back but, more importantly, were thrilled to have such friends who would come to their aid, risking the wrath of Philip. But as it turned out it was all done for political gains not for friendship. The Athenians, behind Macedonia's back, were entertaining a Roman delegation, which at the time happened to be visiting their fair city. When seventy year-old Attalus found out he couldn't wait to invite himself. Besides the prestige of being with the delegation the Athenians bestowed great honours on the old man. Athenian excitement reached its peak when Rome, Rhodes and Pergamon all pledged their support for Athens, against Macedonia.
This indeed was a moment of glory for Athens that was jubilantly celebrated with a declaration of war on Macedonia. It was an impulsive move, which unfortunately backfired. At the sight of the Macedonian army Athens lost her new friends. They had better things to do than fight for her, and left her alone to absorb the full might of the Macedonian army. Philip's reaction to the Athenian move was prompt, vigorous and characteristic of a Macedonian king, to say the least. The Macedonians did not tolerate insubordination especially from Athens. Philip dispatched general Nicanor with orders to decimate Attica, including the Academy in Athens where the Roman mission was staying. Even though no Romans were killed in the attack, in retrospect, this was a mistake. News of the savage attacks quickly reached the Roman Senate persuading the optimists that Philip's contemptuous behaviour could not be tolerated and something had to be done. The Romans felt that they had no choice but to deliver an ultimatum ordering Philip to stop his aggressions against Attica and to settle his differences with Attalus by arbitration.
Philip knew that Rome, so soon after the war with Hannibal, was in no shape to take on Macedonia. He was not in the least perturbed by the prospect of war and completely ignored the ultimatum. He ordered more attacks on Attica and also attacked the cities around the Hellespond hoping to disrupt the Athenian Black Sea grain route.
The Romans dispatched a second ultimatum, which repeated the first and added two more clauses. This time he was required to compensate Rhodes for losses as well as refrain from attacking Egypt and Egyptian possessions. My guess is that the Romans found out about the secret pact between Philip and Antiochus.
Who were these Romans anyway and how did they dare dictate terms to a superpower? Philip stood his ground and refused to be intimidated. It should have been obvious to him by now that Rome was not going to go away. In fact, after her victory in Carthage, Rome was getting bolder by the day. Philip's response to the ultimatum was very simple, if there was going to be war then the Macedonians would fight. Still unperturbed, Philip continued with his attacks until he was satisfied and then returned to Macedonia. His arrogance had finally caught up with him. His non-compliance with Roman demands and his continual harassment of his neighbours not only robbed him of his dignity as a good statesman, but also convinced the Roman Senate that he was dangerous and should be dealt with as soon as possible.
In spite of their weakened condition, due to the Roman-Carthagian Punic Wars, the Romans actually accepted Philip's war challenge. It was fall, 200 BC, when news reached Macedonia that the Roman army had already landed at Apollonia and a Roman fleet was wintering in Corcyra.
What was worse than having Rome at Macedonia's gates was the state of Philip's affairs with his neighbours. His recent rash of unwarranted attacks on his Aegean neighbours had left him with very few allies. In fact he now had more enemies eager to defect to Rome than he had allies. The Achaean League, which at the time was preoccupied fighting a war with Sparta, figured it had a better chance of winning with Rome than with Macedonia on its side. In 199 BC, the Aetolians also made their choice and joined Rome because they believed Rome would win if a war broke out. Athens too made her choice and cast her Macedonian shackles in favour of Rome. Also, as Livy puts it, "the priests, whenever they prayed for Athens and her allies, were also bidden to curse and execrate Philip, his children and kingdom, his sea and land forces, and the entire race and name of the Macedonians". (Page 309, Peter Green, Alexander to Actium The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age).
None of these actions mattered to Philip. He was confident that he could meet any challenge and win just as his ancestors had done for centuries before.
For the next two years Philip continued his business as usual and crushed the Dardanian invasion, blockaded the Romans in Illyria, and showed no mercy to the troublesome Aetolians. Unfortunately, with all his efforts, Philip could not turn the tide as he was about to meet the Romans head on. It started with the arrival of the young Roman consul, Flamininus, who was sent by the Roman Senate to meet with Philip and deliver Rome's conditions for peace. Philip agreed to a meeting, which took place at the Aoos River in Illyria, but disagreed with the Roman terms. According to Roman demands, Macedonia was to evacuate and remove all its garrisons from the cities in Thessaly, Euboea and Corinth and give the cities autonomy. In other words, Macedonia was expected to surrender all the strong positions at her doorstep. Philip was insulted by the offer and quickly stormed out of the meeting. Flamininus lost no time and began his invasion, driving the Macedonians back into Thessaly. By late summer 198 BC, the Roman legions had reached the Gulf of Coring and a battle with Philip seemed imminent. Roman presence in the region convinced all but a few Achaean League members to abandon Macedonia and ally themselves with Rome. Philip weighed the situation carefully and, in November of 198 BC, returned to the negotiating table with a counter offer which would virtually restrict him to Macedonia only. The offer was neither accepted nor rejected as the Romans kept stalling for time. It was an election year and Flamininus had to leave for Rome. Philip was told to send an embassy there and negotiations resumed. Unfortunately things did not go well. The main points of contention were Philip's insistence on retaining control of the city of Demetrias, Chalcis and Corinth, better known as the shackles of his southerly neighbours. Once Flamininus was re-elected the negotiations came to an abrupt end and the legions were on the move again. Philip, now desperate, turned to the Spartans for assistance. He offered them Argos, one of the Achaean allies who remained loyal to Macedonia, and the marriage of Philip's daughter to the Spartan king's son. The treasonous Spartans unfortunately were not trustworthy. They took Philip's offer and then stabbed him in the back by making a separate deal with Flamininus. What was worse, there was now an armistice between Sparta and the Achaean league and the Spartans were obliged to provide Flamininus with troops to fight against Macedonia. All the while the Romans and their allies were gaining strength, Macedonia's army was being reduced to about twenty-five thousand remaining troops. Philip realized that with time his strength was eroding and he had to act quickly. Like many of his predecessors he decided to stake everything on a single battle.
In June 197 BC, at Cynoscephalae in Thessaly, the unbeaten Macedonian army came face to face with the Roman legions. With a massed charge the Macedonian phalanx gave the Romans a terrifying battle that they would never forget. During the first charge the Macedonians were successful and won the first round. It was a horrific spectacle for the battle hardened Romans who for the first time had made serious contact with the Macedonian phalanx. During the second charge, unfortunately, the phalanx overreached the Roman battle line and lost formation. The Romans quickly took advantage by outflanking the phalanx and cut it to pieces. Each individual Roman soldier was equipped with tools to fight in formation and in single-handed combat, something the Macedonians had never experienced before. Unable to regroup, the phalanx fell back and was destroyed. Without the phalanx, the Romans made short work of the rest of the Macedonian army. The Romans were not only more disciplined than Philip had anticipated, but they were also fast learners and able to quickly adapt to their opponent's fighting techniques. Even though the armies were equally disciplined, the Romans proved to be more flexible, giving them the advantage they needed to win.
Victorious, Rome took control of the region, restricting Philip to Macedonia. The terms of the agreement were far stiffer than those proposed earlier. Now Philip was required to evacuate all previously held regions in Asia and Europe, with the exception of Macedonia. In addition, Macedonia was required to pay Rome a one thousand talent war indemnity. It was a hard pill to swallow for Philip but what other choice did he have?
Before I continue with the main story, I would like to take a little diversion and examine what other contributions, besides conquests, the Macedonians bestowed upon the world. Again I want to emphasize that even though Alexander's empire was split into three kingdoms, the Antogonids, the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, it was still ruled by Macedonians and was very much under Macedonian control. In spite of Alexander's attempts to integrate his Macedonian soldiers into the cultures he conquered, they resisted and after Alexander's death, they cast off their foreign robes and divorced their foreign wives thus abandoning Alexander's concept of "fusion between races in a universal empire". For a Macedonian, especially for a Macedonian soldier, there was no greater honour than being Macedonian. So why would they want to be any less?
With regard to spreading the Hellenic language and culture, I am in complete agreement with Peter Green when he says, "Hellenization, the diffusion of Greek language and culture that has been defined, ever since Droysen's Geschichte der Diadochen (1836), as the essence of Hellenistic civilization, is a phenomenon calling for careful scrutiny. Its civilizing, even its missionary aspects have been greatly exaggerated, not least by those anxious to find some moral justification for imperialism." (Page 312, Peter Green, Alexander to Actium, The Historical Evolution of the Hellenic Age).
It has never been the mission of any empire, ancient or modern, to spread its language and culture to the conquered. The cold truth is that empires seek conquest for profit and land so that they can better themselves, not those they conquer. The Macedonian imperialists were no different. Their propaganda may have claimed many things but, as history has shown, what they did was indeed very different from what they said.
The greatest contribution the Macedonians made to the world, especially to Europe, was the opening of Asia and Africa to European trade. The Macedonians made sure trade routes were created wherever they went and afterwards guaranteed their safety. Trade routes were not confined to the sea-lanes alone. Much trade was done over land and stretched from Europe to as far as the Hindu Kush. The area of trade, connected by a large grid of trade routes, was a huge rectangle that stretched from the Hellespond east to the Hindu Kush, south to the bottom of the Persian Gulf, west through Arabia to the Nile Valley and north back to the Hellespond. Trade was heavily concentrated on the Aegean side of Asia Minor and down the Nile valley. The western part of Asia Minor was the hub of economic activities both on shore and at sea.
Second to trade, the Macedonians during this period contributed a wealth of information to natural sciences, navigation, geography, biology, botany, astronomy, history and literature. It has been said that the city of Alexandria in Egypt in her glory days possessed the greatest collection of books and knowledge ever assembled in a single library. Built by Ptolemy Soter, the magnificent library of Alexandria was in possession of nearly half a million scrolls. Most of these scrolls were written in koine and were self-serving. There was very little for or about the common Egyptian, which is a contradiction to Droysen's claims regarding the Diadochoi's mission to disseminate the so-called "Hellenic Culture" to foreigners.
If anything was disseminated or shared between cultures it was technical skills. The most striking example of effective adaptation of skill was in the evolutionary techniques of warfare. Both Macedonians and foreigners learned from each other and quickly adapted to each other's fighting styles and techniques. Alexander learned about mounted archers from the nomads, a technique he adapted and employed against guerrilla attacks.
Exchange of skills was not limited to warfare. One example of effectively passing on knowledge from one culture to another was in the field of medicine. There are many examples where Macedonians taught other cultures to prepare and apply medicines to cure various illnesses.
With regard to their language, the Macedonians did spread the international koine or lingua franca, but solely for commercial, administrative and religious purposes, leaving the common men out. Back then anyone important, particularly a businessperson had to learn koine in order to interact and communicate at an international level, especially in Egypt where the Ptolemies insisted on using koine. These were exceptions, however, since the majority of the conquered populations were excluded.
It has been said that Macedonians employed local slaves, as domestics, who were taken along with them to foreign lands. While living in isolation these slaves often became accustomed to the language and culture of their masters, the Macedonians, and passed them on to their descendants. One example of this is the Jews of Alexandria in Egypt. It is believed that the first Jews to arrive in Alexandria were prisoners of war brought there by Ptolemy I. Their prolonged isolation from their own communities and the continual contact with a large Macedonian population influenced them to learn to speak the language of the Macedonians.
The cities the Macedonians built in foreign lands served multiple purposes. The port cities were gateways to maritime commerce and support centers for the Macedonian military. Other cities, such as the many Alexandrias that Alexander III commissioned and built during his conquests were there to support military needs. As I mentioned earlier, whenever Alexander encountered a hostile people he built a city and populated it with Macedonian settlers to support the needs of the Macedonian military. In time, and through further conquest, a network of Macedonian cities were built and settled with Macedonians throughout Asia and Egypt. These settlers came directly from Macedonia and brought with them their native Macedonian language, customs, skills and culture. The settlements served as military colonies and were concentrated around Lydia and Phrygia. Some were large cities serving the trade sector while others were garrison outposts spread throughout the empire serving the needs of the Macedonian troops.
Unlike any other cities, the new Macedonian cities were built on axial-grid patterns and were far larger and cosmopolitan then any previously built cities. Pergamon, Antioch, Seleucia-on-Tigris and certainly Alexandria of Egypt were vast cities and major focal points for international trade and cultural development. They were far greater than Athens ever was even at the height of her glory. That being said, one wonders why modern Europe has bestowed such great honours on Athens and almost none on Alexandria? After all Alexandria was the most important city of the so-called "Hellenistic period". Poised between Africa and Europe, Alexandria was the meeting place of all races and creeds. Still flourishing to this day, she has endured two and a half millennia of violence and survived. She is a tribute to the greatness of her builders, the Macedonians.
While on the subject of ancient Macedonian cities, I want to mention that Alexandria did not stand alone in magnificence. There were dozens of magnificent cities built after Alexander's conquests but only a few stood out. One of those few was Antioch. Antioch was built on the fertile coastal plain linking southern Anatolia with Palestine, on the left bank of the Orontes River under the towering peak of Mount Silpios. It was a site where Alexander III had previously passed by and drank water from the plentiful, cool springs. But it was Seleucus in 300 BC, who chose it for its access to the inland caravan routes, its cool breezes off the sea and for its rich surrounding lands that offered wine, grains, vegetables and oil. Like Alexandria, Antioch was an ethnically mixed city, a community of many races including retired soldiers. Antioch gained its importance when it became the capital of the Seleucid empire under Antiochus I's rule. The Ptolemy's annexed Antioch, for a brief period, but it was during Antiochus IV's rule that the city was re-developed and expanded. From 175 BC onwards its luxury began to rival that of Alexandria.
The ancient Macedonians of this period, especially those living in the Diaspora, were cosmopolitan people and freely traveled throughout their world from city to city to fight for their king, seek work or make their fortunes in trade. It was not beneath them to exchange ideas and to pass on to other cultures, their skills, customs and knowledge. Macedonian scientists, architects, engineers, artists, craftsmen and physicians traveled with the Macedonian armies wherever they went and no doubt left their mark.
With regard to education, in those days, there were no public institutions to serve the needs of the masses. Education was strictly a private affair, managed by professional tutors and only available to those who could afford it. Theater and games were also privately owned and restricted to club members only and were rarely attended by foreigners. Even the uneducated Macedonian settlers and soldiers kept to themselves and rarely socialized with those of other cultures. The Dura-Europos inscriptions, mentioned before, are good examples of such behaviour. Even after nearly three centuries of living in the Diaspora, the Macedonians of Dura-Europos still spoke their native Macedonian language and practiced their Macedonian customs.
If there was any Macedonian language and culture dissemination in the post-Alexandrian era it was to the Macedonian Diaspora of Asia and Egypt. As I mentioned earlier, Macedonians often traveled between Europe, Asia and Egypt. With them they brought news, gossip, art, music, inventions, etc., which only appealed and made sense to other Macedonians.
It has been said that a great many Macedonian settlers from Asia Minor to India, who were initially brought there to serve the military, in time, became rich land owners and built Macedonian style estates and villas, decorating them with all kinds of Macedonian art. Many of these landowners and their families remained there and practiced their customs and culture for years after the Macedonian empires collapsed. An example of this is the ancient settlement of Ai Khanum in northern Afghanistan. There, French excavator Paul Bernard and his team found a so-called "Hellenistic type" mausoleum and a villa decorated with a beautiful fountain that has carved gargoyles and water spouts in the form of lion and dolphin heads. The art and architecture is identical to that found in Macedonia. History cites many examples where ancient Macedonian cultures had survived for centuries after Macedonia proper had succumbed to Roman rule.
In terms of literature, the Macedonians were more interested in learning from the conquered than in teaching them. Being uninterested in learning the languages of the conquered, the Macedonian elite often commissioned translations of their works. Ptolemy Soter commissioned Egyptian priest Manetho to write the history of Egypt in koine. Similarly, Seleucus Nicator commissioned priest Berassos to write a digest of Babylonian wisdom, again in koine.
In terms of government, a monarch who, in theory, was a triumphant warrior, honoured truth and was accessible to his subjects, ruled the Macedonians of Macedonia proper. This was true for Macedonia but not necessarily true for Asia and Egypt, the lands won by the spear and held down by the right of conquest. The Asian and Egyptian dynasties were ruled by autocratic monarchies supported by centralized bureaucracies. There was no national power base or local ethnic support. Both Asian and Egyptian dynasties employed paid armies to maintain the status quo. Both dynasties imported Macedonians from Macedonia to administer their bureaucracies. Furthermore, the Macedonian elite maintained its rule by force and bureaucracy over a native labour force. The crown owned all lands and everything in Asia and Egypt was done in support of the king.
The difference between Macedonia proper and the other two Macedonian empires was that Macedonia proper had a national power base and Macedonians ruled Macedonians.
To be continued in part 11...
And now I leave you with this:
To my foolhardy Greek friends, if I can call you that, who incessantly send me proclamations that "Macedonia is Greek", to you I dedicate articles 9 and 10.
First of all, let me assure you that there is no such thing as "ancient Greeks". There are ancient Athenians, Aetolians, Spartans, etc, etc. but there was NEVER a time in pre-19th century history when they ever came together to become anything beyond "city states". They existed as individual city states with their own languages, cultures, etc, etc. but NEVER as a single unit of anything.
The ancient Macedonians, on the other hand, had a state with well-defined borders within which were cities which all identified with a single Macedonia.
Secondly, the ancient city states were nowhere near as culturally developed as the Macedonian cities inside Macedonia, Asia and Egypt. Athens was a village, a small village at that, in comparison to Pella, Alexandria of Egypt, Antoich, Pergamon, etc,etc.
As for the ancient Macedonians being Greek? First, for a Macedonian, especially for a Macedonian soldier, there was no greater honour than being Macedonian. So, why would they want to be any less? As for being Greek, the word "Greek" was not invented until the Roman times, so how could they be Greek?
Lastly, just because modern Greece decided to associate itself with the non-existent so called "ancient Greece" that does not mean that modern Greeks have the right to claim the ancient Macedonian heritage. Just because some modern Greek said koine was a Greek language it doesn't make it so. More than fifty percent of the words in the koine language are similar to those of today's Macedonian language. How do you explain that? So my foolhardy Greek friends GIVE IT UP, Macedonia has always belonged to and will always belong to the Macedonians. What you were taught to believe, by your modern Greek progenitors, was only a 19th century myth, the dream of a few mad men, a dream that has turned into a nightmare for all of us.
Josef S. G. Gandeto, Ancient Macedonians, The differences Between the Ancient Macedonians and the Ancient Greeks, Writers Showcase, New York.
M. M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest, London, Cambridge University Press, 1981
F.W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World, Fontana History of the Ancient World, Fontana Press, 1992.
Peter Green, Alexander to Actium, The Historical Evolution of the Hellenic Age, University of California Press, Berkley Los Angeles, 1990.
Peter Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, Macdonald Phoebus Ltd, 1981.
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