History of the Macedonian People - War with Rome the Decline of the Macedonian Empires

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History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 11 – War with Rome the Decline of the Macedonian Empires

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

After the second Macedonian-Roman war, Philip V’s influence and movements in Europe were restricted to Macedonia proper. Rome, still fearing Macedonia’s wrath, made Philip an ally ignoring Aetolian demands for his removal from the Macedonian throne. Control of strategic military points such as Demetrias, Acrocorinth and Chalcis (the Fetters) was taken over by Roman garrisons. The Aetolian and Achaean leagues, expecting to be liberated, exchanged one tyrant for another and now found themselves under Roman control. Before they were complaining about the Macedonians taking their freedom, now they were complaining about the Romans, who not only took their freedom, but also robbed them of their material possessions.

Soon after Philip’s defeat world attention was beginning to focus on Antiochus III who, at the time, was aggressively campaigning in Asia Minor. First to react to Antiochus’s activities was Eumenes II, king of Pergamon. Eumenes was Attalus I’s son and successor to the kingdom of Pergamon. Eumenes had much to complain about since his kingdom had suffered the most at the hands of the ambitious Antiochus.

Fed up with Antiochus’s aggression, Eumenes turned his attention to Rome and found many Roman ears willing to listen to his complaints. Antiochus, on the other hand, made attempts to appease Eumenes by offering him the marriage of his daughter, but Eumenes refused.

Eumenes was hard at work portraying Antiochus as an ambitious imperialist, dangerous not only to his kingdom but also to Rome. He even encouraged and coached other cities in Asia Minor to also go to Rome and complain. His unrelenting complaining finally paid off in 196 BC when Flamininus, through an envoy, sent word to Antiochus to leave the autonomous cities in Asia Minor alone, stay out of Europe and return Ptolemy’s towns, taken by force.

Like Philip V, Antiochus III was not afraid of Roman threats and told Flamininus that Rome had no authority to speak for the cities in Asia Minor. Furthermore, Antiochus reiterated his claim to Asia Minor by right of prior conquest and possession. He told the Romans that he was simply recovering his ancestral domains. As for Ptolemy’s towns, Antiochus made reference to a forthcoming treaty with Ptolemy V.

Being unable to persuade Antiochus by any other means, Rome offered to act as arbitrator between him and the complainants. That offer was also snubbed and the Romans broke off the talks and left.

By the winter of 195 BC, the Roman Senators were getting nervous again. They learned that the exiled Hannibal of Carthage had found asylum with the Seleucids at Ephesus and was urging Antiochus to invade Italy. The Senators feared that Antiochus was planning to invade Europe. To safeguard against such an invasion Scipio Africanus, a leading Roman, along with a group of Senators recommended to the Senate that it approve the re-enforcement of the garrisons in Aetolia and Achaea. The Senate, however, voted against the request and in 194 BC evacuated the entire Roman force, including the garrison at Acrocoring.

The fact that Flamininus did not organize any sort of federal defense league among the Aetolians, Achaeans and Spartans and did not arrange for any Roman liaison to oversee the transition suggests that Antiochus was given an easy target for invasion. Was this cleverly done to divert his attention away from Italy? It would appear so. Even Philip was encouraged to go after the Aetolians to recover some of the lands he had lost earlier, perhaps to bait Antiochus?

It has been said that to adorn his triumph, when he left for Rome Flamininus took with him many pieces of art and treasures that he had looted from the Aetolians. He also took one of Philip’s sons, Demetrius, as his hostage.

The Aetolians, unhappy with the Roman experience, celebrated the Roman evacuation. Fully aware, however, that the Romans would soon return they went in search of new allies. The most obvious ones besides the Spartans were the Macedonians, Philip and Antiochus. Philip flatly refused the Aetolian offer, remembering that not too long ago they were calling for his removal from the throne. The Spartans, on the other hand, were quick to accept and immediately launched an attack on the newly autonomous cities in Laconia. No sooner had the aggressions begun than the Romans intervened and drove the Spartans back. Sparta itself was spared, as the Romans needed the Spartans to keep the balance of power in the Peloponnese.

After the Spartan debacle the Aetolians turned to Antiochus. Antiochus unfortunately had mixed feelings about getting involved in someone else’s mess. On one hand he was encouraged by Hannibal to attack Italy and on the other he was openly invited to invade the Peloponnese. Facing a dilemma, Antiochus decided to secure his position with Rome first. In 193 BC he made another attempt at negotiations with Flamininus in Rome. Flamininus, acting on behalf of the Senate, made Antiochus an offer he could not refuse. In exchange for abandoning his claims in Thrace and allowing Rome to act as diplomatic arbiter in Europe, Rome was prepared to give Antiochus a free hand in Asia Minor. He was however warned that, should he refuse the offer, Rome would continue to pursue alliances in Asia.

Antiochus’s heart was set on recovering all of his ancestral claims and decided to hold out for Thrace, thus breaking off the negotiations. Antiochus did not want to antagonize the Romans so he took his time deciding what to do.

During the fall of 192 BC, Antiochus accepted the Aetolian invitation and prepared to invade the Peloponnese. He crossed the Aegean Sea and landed in the port of Demetrias (present day Volos). In the meantime, the Aetolians attacked and began to loot Sparta, which immediately drew in the Achaean league. The Achaeans drove the Aetolians out of Sparta and encouraged the Spartans to join their league, which they did. As the Achaeans grew in strength, they drew in more and more Aetolian allies. By the fall if 191 BC almost everyone had defected from the Aetolians and the Peloponnese was in Achaean hands.

By the time Antiochus was ready to make his move, the Aetolians had no allies to support him. It was now too late for him to turn back so, with no more than ten thousand men and only six elephants at his disposal, he invaded Chalcis. To strengthen his position he married a Chalcidian bride and re-named her Euboea to impress the Euboeans.

Antiochus’s actions were viewed with suspicion not only in Rome but in Macedonia as well. His presence in Europe was a threat to both Macedonia and Rome so a combined Macedonian-Roman force was assembled and dispatched to drive him out. The armies met at Thermopylae and Antiochus’s forces were defeated. The Romans, however, were not content with just driving him out of the Peloponnese. They wanted him out of the Hellespont as well.

After forgiving the Aetolians their deeds, the Romans went off in pursuit of Antiochus. This was the first time ever that a Roman force crossed into Asia, a sign of things to come.

Before venturing into Asia, the Romans shored up alliances with Rhodes and Pergamon and set up a naval base in Tenos.

Displeased with its shift in loyalties, Antiochus, with his Galatian mercenaries, attacked and besieged Pergamon. The threat of a combined Roman-Rhodian navy at his doorstep, however, was cause enough to re-consider and he decided to pursue a peaceful settlement instead. A peaceful settlement would have been just fine for the Romans and the Rhodians but, unfortunately, the Pergamenes wanted revenge. Eumenes insisted on exacting his revenge.

With help from the Achaeans, the siege of Pergamon was lifted and the Roman-Rhodian fleet attacked and destroyed Antiochus’s naval bases. Antiochus, determined to maintain influence in the waters, rebuilt his fleet and was ready for action again. He even inducted Hannibal in his navy and gave him command of one of his squadrons, but was again beaten.

If losing at sea was not enough, Antiochus was now facing threats on land. News came that Roman legions were crossing the Hellespont and invading Asia Minor. Lucius Scipio and his brother Scipio Africanus led the Roman legions. The Scipios were aided by Philip who allowed them passage through Macedonia in exchange for canceling his war indemnity and returning his son Demetrius, who was earlier taken to Rome as hostage.

Antiochus had a formidable army of seventy-five thousand while the Roman force numbered no more than thirty thousand. The Seleucid soldiers, however, were not Macedonians and Antiochus was well aware of the fighting potential of the Roman legions. So instead of offering battle, Antiochus invited the Scipios to negotiate peace. To avoid war, he offered to pay Rome a partial war indemnity and return most of the towns he occupied in Europe and Asia Minor. The Scipios, however, rejected his offer and made him a counter offer demanding that he completely evacuate Asia Minor to the Taurus Range and pay full indemnity for the campaign. Of course this enraged Antiochus who politely turned down the Roman offer and, like Philip before him, decided it was better to fight than surrender.

In late 190 BC, at Magnesia-by-Sipylos, near the confluence of the Phrygios and Hermos Rivers, Antiochus, like many of his Macedonian predecessors, staked everything on a single battle. A massive cavalry charge was led by his right wing smashing the enemy line to pieces. Unfortunately, the cavalry failed to disengage their pursuit in time to return to the battleground. The phalanx fought hard and stood its ground but, in spite of all efforts, without cavalry support at its flanks, it broke up and the Romans hacked it to pieces. It has been said that this was the bloodiest slaughter since the Roman defeat at Cannae. Antiochus III, the greatest conqueror since Alexander the Great, was unable to stop the Romans. The battle of Magnesia not only brought Rome victory and new alliances but it also opened up new opportunities for Roman conquest in the east. Soon after the battle was over, the Scipios marched eastward into Sardis and occupied it without a fight

Antiochus’s penalty for losing to the Romans was a war indemnity of fifteen thousand talents, the highest fine ever recorded. Antiochus was expected to pay five hundred talents immediately then twenty-five hundred after the treaty ratification. After that he was required to pay twelve annual installments of a thousand talents each. Additionally, he was required to supply Rome with large quantities of wheat and pay off his four hundred silver talent debt to Eumenes. If that was not enough, the Seleucids were required to renounce all claims to Thrace and evacuate Asia Minor to the Taurus Range. Antiochus was literally barred from Europe and Asia Minor but was allowed to keep Cilicia, Phoenicia and Coele-Syria. The territories of Asia Minor taken from the Seleucids were awarded to Rome’s allies the Rhodesians and the Pergamene. Lycia and much of Caria were given to Rhodes while most of western Asia Minor, including Lydia and Hellespontine Phrygia, was given to Pergamon. The rest of the cities were made autonomous. The Romans made it clear, however, that these were gifts and could be revoked at their discretion at any time.

To make sure that he did not forfeit his commitments, Antiochus was required to provide the Romans with hostages, including his son the future Antiochus IV. There was also a request to surrender Hannibal but he was aware of the Roman plan and fled before he could be captured.

To ensure that he wouldn’t wage war again, Antiochus’s army, navy and elephants were disbanded, leaving only ten vessels at his disposal. Additionally, Antiochus was banned from either recruiting or campaigning in Roman controlled territories.

After they were finished with the Seleucids the Romans, with the assistance of the Pergamenes, turned their attention to the Galatians. In 189 BC, Scipio was replaced by Gnaeus Vulso who, together with Eumenes’s brother Attalus, conducted a successful and profitable campaign against the Galatians of Asia Minor. When the campaign was over, the Romans evacuated Asia leaving Pergamon and Rhodes in charge of keeping the peace. A treaty was negotiated with the assistance of the Roman Senate and was ratified at Apamea in 188 BC. The treaty literally removed Seleucid control from Asia Minor but left the rest of the Seleucid Empire intact.

The terms of the treaty left the Seleucids short of cash and with many obligations. Antiochus, however, never lost hope and felt confident that he would eventually regain his lost territories if only he could stay ahead of his financial obligations. To rebuild his fortune and pay off his indemnity, he went off campaigning in the east. Before he left he appointed his son, the future Seleucus IV, co-regent. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, in midsummer 187 BC Antiochus was killed. Soon after his death, Seleucus IV inherited the Seleucid Empire along with all responsibility for observing the terms of the treaty of Apamea.

Antiochus’s death brought an end to Seleucid ambitions of recovering the ancestral empire. This was a relief for the Romans who no longer needed to fear a westward Seleucid expansion. Antiochus’s death was also a relief for Eumenes and his Rhodian partners who had suffered badly at his hands. Most relieved were the Ptolemies of Egypt who no longer feared losing their empire.

With Antiochus out of the way, Roman attention was now turned to Macedonia. The trouble started when Philip refused to evacuate some Thracian and Thessalian towns which the Romans had promised to Eumenes. Unable to push Philip out by himself, Eumenes complained to the Romans. Rome dispatched Quintus Metellus with a Senatorial commission ordering Philip to evacuate the towns. Stubbornly, Philip refused and not only retained the existing towns but also occupied two neutral towns close to Pergamon. As the complaints continued to pile against him, Philip decided it was time to do something. He sent his younger son Demetrius, who earlier had been a Roman hostage, back to Rome to lobby on his behalf. Demetrius was very popular in Rome and had made friends with important people. With their help he was hoping to change Rome’s impression of Macedonia. Unfortunately, Eumenes’s ambassador was also a good diplomat with equally important Roman friends and became an obstacle for Demetrius.

In the spring of 183 BC, another Senatorial commission was sent and Philip was evicted from the neutral towns. But Roman treachery did not end there. Soon afterwards, Demetrius was sent home decorated with diplomatic laurels and promises to the Macedonian throne. It was a ploy to create trouble for Philip and it worked like a charm sending Perseus, Demetrius’s half brother and heir to the Macedonian throne, into a jealous fit. Rivalry between the two brothers continued for some time until Perseus produced a Roman letter, perhaps a forgery, proving that Demetrius had treasonable aspirations to the throne. Having no other choice, Philip was forced to exercise judgment against his own son and enforce the full extent of the law. Demetrius was executed in 180 BC. No sooner had the deed been done than Philip discovered that Perseus’s testimony was a fabrication. Being unable to accept the tragedy, Philip died of remorse. Philip V died in 179 BC and was succeeded by his eldest son Perseus.

Perseus was not a popular king, especially with the Romans, who had discovered that he was responsible for Demetrius’s execution. Perseus, well aware of his weak popularity outside Macedonia, tried to improve his position by making alliances with his neighbours. He first tried to convince the Roman Senate to ratify him as king with all the privileges granted to his father. He then married Seleucus IV’s sister Laodice while he married off his own half-sister to Prusias II of Bithynia.

His attempt at forming mass alliances with his neighbours, unfortunately, did not bolster his popularity as expected. In fact they did the opposite, raising the suspicions of his enemy Eumenes who kept a vigilant eye on him, reporting his every move to the Romans, interpreting it as an anti Roman act.

During his first years as king, Perseus strengthened his northern frontiers in an attempt to stop tribal invasions, amnestied exiles, wrote off taxes and cancelled debts. Although these acts were a considerable cause for public enthusiasm inside Macedonia, they caused Perseus problems outside. Among other things, Perseus was blamed for Aetolia’s troubles with the pro-Roman landowners. This alone was cause to send yet another Roman embassy to investigate him. The embassy arrived in 173 BC but instead of investigating him, it completely ignored his explanations and reported back that he was preparing for war. Dissatisfied with the report, Perseus sent his own Macedonian envoys to Rome to plead his case but once again his attempts were thwarted. To strengthen the validity of its report, the Roman embassy called on Eumenes to testify before a Senate committee hearing. Eumenes arrived in Rome in 172 BC convincing the Senate, with his rhetoric, that indeed Perseus was preparing for war.

The Senatorial audience was predisposed to believe Eumenes, even though he was known to exaggerate. The Macedonian plea was rejected and the Senatorial commission made its recommendation to go to war.

Eumenes and certainly some of his Roman supporters went to a lot of trouble, even committing perjury, to convince the Senate to go to war with Macedonia. Perseus may not have been a saint but some of the charges against him were ridiculous at best. In one instance he was accused of conspiring to poison the Roman Senate. In another, Eumenes was nearly killed by a rockslide and that too was blamed on Perseus as an attempted murder. Outrageous charges such as these speak more of the character of the Romans who believed Eumenes, than of Perseus and the Macedonians. It would seem that the Senators would believe someone because they knew him and couldn’t care less if he was telling the truth or not. This was indeed Roman justice.

The Senate decided to trust Eumenes who purposely and falsely placed Macedonia in peril. No single person ever worked so hard as Eumenes to start a war between Macedonia and Rome. Why? Some say that he feared an alliance being formed between the Seleucids and the Antigonids. Such an alliance would have been a threat to his ambitions of expanding Pergamon.

Perseus, from the outset, tried very hard to stay out of trouble but the Romans were determined to deal with him one way or another. In 171 BC a new Senate was elected and a conditional war was declared on Macedonia. A strong Roman expedition was put together and dispatched to Macedonia. The Romans had high expectations that, in the face of a strong Roman force, Perseus would capitulate. Perseus, however, did not wish for war and made it abundantly clear through the three embassies he sent to Rome. Perseus was prepared to make concessions but there were limits to the terms he would accept. The Senate, unfortunately, was unwilling to compromise and continued to push further and further.

By mid 171 BC, after a failed attempt to negotiate a settlement, it became clear that Perseus had no intention of giving in. It was then that the Romans unleashed their expeditionary force.

It was clear from the start that Rome underestimated Macedonia’s military strength. But after they crossed the Adriatic it was too late and would have been humiliating for them to turn back.

After the catastrophic battle at Cynoscephalae, Philip had rebuilt his military and replenished his losses but Perseus was still unwilling to go to war. From 171 to 168 BC he remained on the defensive and committed only to minor engagements, all the while hoping that a peaceful settlement could be reached.

The four year war (Third Macedonian War) came to a climax on June 22nd, 168 BC when the Romans marched on mass northward and met the Macedonian army at Pydna in southern Macedonia.

In the style of his predecessors, Perseus struck first by unleashing the full might of the Macedonian phalanx. This was not the usual phalanx. It was reinforced with spears all round like a hedgehog, especially at the flanks. “Aemilius Paullus, a veteran commander, declared afterwards that this advance was the most terrifying thing he had ever witnessed.” (Page 430, Peter Green, Alexander to Actium The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age).

The Macedonians did their best and fought bravely to the last soldier but the disciplined Roman military machine and its fighting style, once again, proved to be superior and the battle was lost. It was the end of Macedonia and Macedonian independence. Perseus was taken to Rome as a prisoner of war, or as Peter Green puts it, “to adorn Paullus’s treasure rich triumph”. The Macedonian monarchy was abolished and Macedonia was demilitarized and partitioned into cantons so that she would never again be able to fight back. As further insurance of her passivity, Macedonian leaders were rounded up and taken to Rome.

The real horror of the Macedonian defeat was not Pydna but what the Roman army did afterwards. Before leaving Macedonia, the Roman army was unleashed on the civilian population and allowed to loot, pillage and rape uncontrollably. It has been said that an unimaginable amount of treasure, including gold, jewels and art, was carried off to Rome. A large segment of the population was taken into slavery. Severe restrictions were placed on trading commodities including lumber, and most of the state taxes were now diverted to Rome. According to Livy, Macedonia was divided into four regions, each with its own Roman council, and was forced to pay half the tribute to Rome. This would have otherwise been paid to the Macedonian king. If that was not enough, Paullus lent the Aetolians five hundred soldiers so that they too could exact their own brand of revenge on the Macedonians. What happened next is a tragedy of great proportion that not even the old authors dare describe. The Romans indeed proved themselves to be ruthless and the “true barbarians” that they were, but this was only the beginning.

Athens participated in the anti-Macedonian campaign by supplying the Romans with grain and by fighting side by side with the Romans at Pydna. To the end, the Athenians remained anti-Macedonian

With Macedonia subdued, the Romans turned their attention to Asia. After Antiochus III’s death, the Ptolemies restored law and order in Egypt and managed to stabilize Coele-Syria. Unfortunately, after a long struggle to put down the last of the insurgents in the Nile Delta, in 181 BC Ptolemy V died at age twenty-eight. He left Cleopatra I, Antiochus’s daughter, as regent for their young son but she too died prematurely in 176 BC, leaving Ptolemy VI Philometor in the guardianship of strangers.

In Asia meanwhile, Seleucus IV was assassinated in 175 BC by one of his ministers and was succeeded by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Unlike Seleucus IV, Antiochus was interested in stabilizing his kingdom and wanted the rich, fertile region of Coele-Syria back. Another confrontation broke out (the Sixth Syrian war) and lasted from 171 to 168 BC. Ptolemy VI was no more than sixteen years old when war broke out and was still under the advice of strangers who urged him to fight on. While Rome was busy fighting Macedonia, Antiochus attacked Ptolemy’s Egyptian expeditionary forces and captured virtually all of Egypt except for Alexandria. After this catastrophic defeat Ptolemy replaced his advisors and decided it was time to negotiate with his uncle. During the negotiations some of Antiochus’s troops invaded Alexandria and began to loot the temples. These events sparked an uprising and the Alexandrians decided it was time for Ptolemy VI to go. After his ousting they proclaimed his younger brother Ptolemy VIII Euergetes joint ruler with his sister Cleopatra II. Upset about the whole incident, Antiochus attempted to besiege Alexandria but was unsuccessful and withdrew in 169 BC leaving the two rivals to fight it out on their own. Instead of fighting the siblings patched up their differences and joined forces against him. By 168 BC Antiochus was back, this time with his fleet. He attacked and defeated Cyprus, a Ptolemaic stronghold.

Antiochus’s illusions of grandeur were shattered when an official order from Rome arrived ordering him to leave Egypt and evacuate Cyprus. The Roman envoy Popillius Laenas met him in Alexandria and read him the dispatch. When Antiochus asked for time to consider the order Laenas pushed him for an immediate answer, yes or no. The Macedonian king swallowed his pride, bowed to the arrogant Roman and answered yes. He then surrendered his new possessions and left for home.

Humiliated as he was, Antiochus set his own pride aside and sent an envoy to Rome proclaiming that peace with the Roman people was preferable to any victory over Egypt. In the meantime Antiochus, in spite of the Roman ban, began to rebuild his military. He added a corps of elephants to his already growing army of fifty thousand soldiers. When a Roman commission showed up at his doorstep to investigate his activities, he made sure they were all well looked after and personally reassured them that the army was being prepared for an eastern campaign. Antiochus went out of his way to ease all Roman fears and it seemed to have worked. The restrictions on his military buildup were ignored and Antiochus was allowed to function unabated

For years the eastern satrapies were left unattended and things were beginning to slide. There was also a Jewish revolt building up in Jerusalem which required attention.

In 165 BC, Antiochus was ready for his eastern campaign but first he had to deal with the Jews in Jerusalem. In his absence, he left his nine-year old son and heir designate, the future Antiochus V, in the guardianship of his chief minister Lysias.

Unfortunately, before Antiochus was able to complete his eastern campaign, he fell ill and died. He died in his early forties in Persia, in 164 BC, while on route to Jerusalem.

On his deathbed Antiochus rescinded the decree of persecution against the Jews and dispatched Philip, one of his trusted military commanders, with orders to replace Lysias as chief minister and take over the guardianship of his son. Lysias well aware of his predicament, instead of bringing victory, made peace with the Jews (with Senatorial approval), granting them the first step towards independence.

Lysias did not want to give up his position as chief minister and did everything he could to avoid being removed. He even helped Demetrius, the son of the murdered Seleucus IV, lay claim to the Seleucid throne. Demetrius at the time was a hostage of Rome. Demetrius was twenty-four years old when he found out his uncle had died and went straight to the Senate to lay claim to the throne. Unfortunately, he was turned down and his claim rejected.

In the meantime a Roman commission, under the leadership of Gnaeus Octavius, was sent to Antioch to check on Seleucid military resources and Seleucid compliance with the treaty of Apamea. The commission arrived in 163 BC and found a large concentration of troops, a large fleet and numerous royal war elephants. What was most amazing is that the arrogant Romans took it upon themselves, without permission from the Senate or the Macedonian king, to burn the fleet and kill the elephants. At this horrific sight, an observer became so upset that he assassinated Octavius.

Frustrated with official channels, Demetrius escaped from Rome and went straight for Antioch where he was welcomed as the legitimate heir to the throne. Opposition quickly evaporated and Lysias and the young Antiochus V, as well as other pretenders, were rounded up and executed.

The news of Demetrius’s arrival in Antioch was cause for the Romans to dispatch yet another embassy. Tiberius Gracchus was dispatched to observe and report on Demetrius’s activities. When the Romans arrived, Demetrius received them well and gave them full cooperation. He even gave them Octavius’s murderer along with a gold crown to show respect. In return he received an excellent report. His crown was accepted and the murderer released, agreeing that his actions were well justified. When the report was filed with the Senate, Demetrius was recognized as king on condition that he maintain his good conduct.

In 161 BC Rome concluded a treaty with the Jews effectively recognizing Judea as an independent state. Demetrius unfortunately was not happy with the Roman resolution and reversed it by crushing the Jewish rebellion. The Romans did not react to the Macedonian king’s actions because they never agreed to guaranty the Judean independence. So much for treaties with super powers!

From here on forward things went downhill for Demetrius. First he was in trouble with the Cappadocian dynasty for interfering in their internal affairs. He then violently crushed an uprising in Antioch, which made him very unpopular with his own people. He got into worse trouble in 160 BC with Attalus II, after Eumenes’s death, when Attalus produced a pretender to the Seleucid throne, named Balas. Balas, who claimed to be the son of Antiochus IV, was certainly an imposter but was backed by Attalus II of Pergamon (Eumenes’s successor) who, like Eumenes, was very popular with the Romans. Balas was sent to Rome and with Attalus’s help was validated as a Seleucid king. Upon his return, in 152 BC, Balas landed at the city of Ptolemais-Ake where he challenged Demetrius and, after gaining local support, defeated him in battle. Demetrius died fighting and the imposter Balas usurped his crown in 151 BC.

It was one thing to have a Macedonian on the Seleucid throne but another to knowingly allow an imposter to usurp it, especially since Coele-Syria was at stake. The Ptolemies were definitely not content with the situation and something had to be done. War was out of the question so Ptolemy VI came up with a devious plan. While offering Balas peace by marriage to his daughter Cleopatra Thea, Ptolemy offered Demetrius’s son, Demetrius II who had escaped Balas’s massacre, assistance to return and re-claim his father’s throne. With Ptolemy’s help, young Demetrius raised an army of mercenaries and returned to Syria. Ptolemy, under the pretense of coming to his son-in-law’s aid, swept into Palestine and was pressing for Antioch before his plans were discovered. Being unable to stop Ptolemy, Balas made an attempt to assassinate him. After his failure, Balas fled Antioch and was killed later while fighting in northern Syria. Cleopatra in the meantime had her marriage declared void.

The people of Antioch, having transferred their allegiance from Balas to young Demetrius, acclaimed Ptolemy as their new Seleucid monarch. Like his predecessors before him Ptolemy had enough sense not to tempt fate and gratefully declined, allowing Demetrius II to take his rightful place. But all was not lost, by offering Demetrius the marriage of his daughter Cleopatra, Ptolemy was able to gain a foothold in Coele-Syria. Unfortunately, not too long afterwards Ptolemy VI Philometor was wounded in battle and died. The way was now open for his rival brother, Ptolemy VIII Euergetes, to make a comeback.

I want to backtrack a bit at this point to Egypt 169 BC. As I mentioned earlier, the rival siblings Ptolemy VI Philometor and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes, along with their sister Cleopatra II, had patched up their differences but not for long. After the Romans ordered Antiochus out of Egypt and the danger of an invasion diminished, rivalries between the siblings resurfaced. Being unable to take sides Cleopatra II resigned her position. During all this the Ptolemies were also facing discontentment from the Egyptians and minor revolts were erupting everywhere. Being unable to break the impasse the brothers finally decided, with Roman approval, to split Egypt into two kingdoms. In May 163 BC the older Ptolemy Philometor took Egypt and gave his younger brother Ptolemy Euergetes the western province of Cyrenaica. Even though the arrangement was agreed upon by both, Euergetes was reduced to a crown prince and was not completely satisfied with his share. The rivalries continued until Philometor’s death in 145 BC. Still in Cyrene, Euergetes sought the chance to recover the entire kingdom after his brother’s death. He arrived in Alexandria and drummed up support for a coup but was unsuccessful. Cleopatra II, Philometor’s widow, along with her sixteen-year old son, Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator, opposed him.

Unable to gain control by force, Euergetes offered to marry Cleopatra and jointly rule Egypt. Cleopatra agreed and a wedding ensued.

During the wedding celebrations Euergetes had the young Ptolemy assassinated. With Ptolemy VII’s elimination there were no other legitimate claimants to the throne but Euergetes.

Euergetes proved himself a terrible ruler. A year after becoming king he had himself enthroned as Pharaoh at Memphis. When he came back to Alexandria, he celebrated his return by purging and expelling, on mass, all those who opposed him during Ptolemy VII’s brief reign. Among those expelled were many teachers, scholars, artists and intellectuals, including the chief librarian and the geographer. In spite of his brutal ways, however, Euergetes managed to survive many years and ruled Egypt with an iron fist until 116 BC.

Back in Macedonia meanwhile, Roman rule was harsh and much tension developed between the Macedonians and their new masters. The economic situation was particularly distressful and at times unbearable. Relief however did arrive in the form of a pretender named Andriscus. Andriscus claimed to be Philip VI, son of Perseus by Laodice, Seleucus IV’s daughter who was also Demetrius I’s sister. In 153 BC, with Demetrius I’s help, Andriscus went to Rome to plead his case for the Macedonians but the Senate was not interested in a hearing. Frustrated, Andriscus returned and sought help from the Macedonian people who gave him what he needed including royal robes, a diadem, recognition and troops. He received recognition from Byzantium and troops from various Thracian chieftains.

Given the circumstances in Macedonia, rule by a pretender was preferable to being divided and ruled by Romans. When he was ready Andriscus advanced on Macedonia from Thrace and, after two battles in 149 BC, took control of Macedonia. Unfortunately, Macedonia’s freedom was short lived. Two Roman legions, under the leadership of Quintus Macedonicus, were dispatched and ironically ended Andriscus’s career at Pydna in 148 BC.

After this unsuccessful revolt, Macedonia lost her independence entirely and became a Roman province.

Macedonia’s total demise and the witness of Roman brutality brought fear into the hearts of the leaders of the Achaean League. Roman atrocities in Macedonia turned the Achaeans from Roman allies to Roman enemies. In 146 BC, in a desperate last ditch effort, the Achaeans engaged the Romans and lost. Roman reprisal was decisive and brutal, involving looting, burning, raping and taking civilians into slavery. Corinth was reduced to rubble and remained a heap of ruins until 44 BC when it was again rebuilt by Caesar.

Back in Egypt, the Alexandrians were fed up with Ptolemy VIII Euergetes’s misrule and in 132 BC riots broke out. The people of Alexandria, backed by Cleopatra II who was sympathetic to their plight, wanted Euergetes out. Daily violence escalated and reached a peak when the mobs, in frustration, set fire to the royal palace. In panic Euergetes and his family, wife Cleopatra III and children, fled to Cyprus leaving Cleopatra II as sole sovereign. According to Macedonian law, Cleopatra, as a woman, could not rule alone. The only possible male she would agree to replace Euergetes with was her twelve-year old son Ptolemy Memphitis, who at the time was not in Alexandria. In any case Cleopatra had Ptolemy acclaimed co-ruler in absentia, which unfortunately was a mistake. The moment Euergetes found out he searched for the boy and had him executed.

In 130 BC, Euergetes snuck back into Egypt and hid in Memphis where he made preparations to restore himself. He rallied the support of Cleopatra II’s opponents and revolted against her. While blockaded in Alexandria, Cleopatra II sought the assistance of her Seleucid son-in-law Demetrius II Nicator. She offered him the Egyptian throne in exchange for his assistance to overthrow her brother Euergetes. Demetrius accepted but found Euergetes a tougher opponent than expected. While fighting Euergetes, Demetrius was recalled to Syria to deal with more personal matters. Cleopatra, foreseeing her own demise, also decided to leave Alexandria and joined him. Leaderless, the Alexandrians fought back and held out for another year, but unrelenting Euergetes continued to press on until he was back in power in 126 BC.

Upon his return to Syria, Demetrius was attacked by a rebellious mob led by his wife Cleopatra Thea, Cleopatra II’s daughter. Cleopatra Thea, like her mother, was sympathetic to the plight of her people and rallied behind them in ousting Demetrius. Demetrius, like Euergetes, was not a well liked ruler and the Antiochenes had had enough of him.

The trouble started when Euergetes, to pay Demetrius back for his meddling in Egypt, sent a pretender named Zabinas to challenge him for his throne. Zabinas claimed to be the son of pretender Balas, mentioned earlier. Unlike Demetrius, Zabinas was a kind and generous person, well liked by the Antiochenes.

Zabinas challenged Demetrius to a battle and scored a major victory against him. Demetrius fled to Ptolemais-Ake but found that there too he was unwelcome. His wife refused to even give him shelter for the night. From there Demetrius fled to Tyre where he was captured and tortured until he died in 126 BC.

In Demetrius’s absence, Cleopatra II reconciled her differences with her brother Ptolemy VIII Euergetes and by 124 BC was back in Alexandria. After exacting his revenge on Demetrius, Euergetes dropped his support for Zabinas and placed it behind his niece Cleopatra Thea.

Thea’s eldest son who ruled as Seleucus V for a brief time was murdered, probably by Thea. In his absence, Thea made her sixteen-year old son, Antiochus VIII Grypos, her co-regent. A year or so later Grypos married one of Euergetes’s daughters, named Cleopatra Tryphaena, and kept the Seleucid-Ptolemaic alliance strong.

Zabinas, without Euergetes’s support, resorted to raising funds by robbing temples. This unfortunately caused him to fall out of favour with his supporters and with the law. In 123 BC, after being pursued by Antiochus VIII, Zabinas was captured and executed.

Antiochus VIII, on the other hand, did not turn out to be as amenable as his mother would have liked so in 121 BC she attempted to poison him. Aware of her plans, however, Antiochus forced her to drink the poison. After her death Antiochus became sole ruler of Syria, at least until 114 BC.

In Egypt, meanwhile, Euergetes’s misrule continued to cause unrest. Faced with a dilemma in 118 BC he was forced to make long overdue concessions. Amnesties were decried, taxes written off, official abuses were condemned and punitive penalties were cancelled. Unfortunately, by this time the Egyptian bureaucracy was so corrupt that without effectively enforcing the law none of the concessions were worth the papyrus they were written on. As a result the status quo was maintained until Euergetes’s death in 116 BC.

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes died at age sixty-five and left his wealth and power to his young wife Cleopatra III. The choice of which of her sons was to rule was also left up to her. Cleopatra III had two sons and three daughters. Her oldest son Ptolemy IX Philometor was born in 142 BC and, at the time of Euergetes’s death, was governor of Cyprus. Her younger son born in 139 BC was named Ptolemy X Alexander and her daughters were Cleopatra IV, Cleopatra Tryphaena, mentioned earlier, and Cleopatra Selene. There was also a bastard son by Euergetes’s mistress named Ptolemy Apion who at the time was governor of Cyrenaica.

Cleopatra was not very fond of her older son. Perhaps she could not manipulate him as easily as she would have wanted and preferred to co-rule with her younger son Alexander. The Alexandrians, however, preferred the company of Philometor and would not support her choice.

Stubbornly, Cleopatra ignored her subjects and attempted the appointment anyway. In a fury of opposition she recanted and settled for Philometor.

Philometor was brought to Alexandria and Alexander was sent to Cyprus to replace him. Discontent in her position as co-ruler with Philometor, Cleopatra continued to cause friction and in 115 BC launched a full campaign of attrition against him. She broke Philometor’s marriage to his sister Cleopatra IV and forced him to marry Selene, his other sister. She then attempted to oust him from his throne but was unsuccessful. Her daughter Cleopatra IV, after her break up with Philometor, fled to Cyprus and after raising an army challenged Alexander for his position. It was a ploy to convince him to marry her but he was not interested. Unsuccessful, she fled to Syria and after offering her army as dowry to Antiochus IX Cyzicenus, son of Antiochus Sidetes and Cleopatra Thea, he accepted and married her. Not content with just being a princess, Cleopatra IV pushed her husband into challenging his cousin Antiochus VIII Grypos, mentioned earlier, for the Seleucid throne. Family rivalries broke out and escalated into a full scale war.

The Seleucid conflict attracted the Ptolemies and pitted mother against son. Philometor sent six thousand soldiers to help Cyzicenus, which infuriated Cleopatra III. Unfortunately, this little tiff between siblings ended in disaster. In 112 BC Cleopatra IV was captured and executed by her sister Tryphaena. A year later Tryphaena was captured and made a sacrificial offering to her sister’s vengeful ghost. In the end Grypos won and took back his kingdom while Cyzicenus was driven out and left with only a couple of coastal cities in his possession.

In Egypt meanwhile, in 107 BC, Cleopatra III tried again to oust her son from his throne. This time she succeeded. She convinced her supporters in Alexandria that Philometor was attempting to murder her and that she was in mortal danger. The Alexandrians whipped up a mob and stormed the palace to rescue her. Philometor fled in panic leaving his second wife Cleopatra Selene with her two young sons in the palace.

Philometor’s departure was good news for Ptolemy X Alexander who promptly returned from Cyprus and took his place as king. Ptolemy IX Philometor, meanwhile, fled to Syria and from there re-established himself in Cyprus.

By 103 BC, the Ptolemaic empire was split into three independent principalities. Cleopatra and Alexander ruled Egypt, Philometor ruled Cyprus and Ptolemy Apion ruled Cyrenaica. Rivalries between mother and son continued and spilled over into Syria where Cleopatra III continued to support Grypos, while Philometor gave his support to Cyzicenus.

Cleopatra III’s intrigues abroad did not seem to satisfy her appetite for excitement so she turned against her son Alexander at home and had him ousted.

Pleading with his mother for his return, in 101 BC, under the pretense of reconciliation, Alexander stormed the palace and assassinated her. With Cleopatra III’s death so ended the sibling rivalries between Alexander and Philometor. They made peace and strengthened their alliance through Alexander’s marriage to Cleopatra Berenice, Philometor’s daughter.

Ptolemy Apion, on the other hand, being unwelcome by Cleopatra III, remained an outsider and on his deathbed in 96 BC bequeathed Cyrenaica to Rome.

Also in 196 BC during a coup instigated by his rival Antiochus Cyzicenus, Antiochus VIII Grypos was assassinated by one of his generals


In 95 BC Cyzicenus was defeated in battle and killed by Grypos’s eldest son, Seleucus VI Epiphanes. Cyzicenus’s reign was passed on to his son Antiochus the Pious.

Between 96 and 80 BC the Ptolemaic dynasty experienced great changes. In the spring of 87 BC Ptolemy X Alexander was driven out of Egypt for selling Alexander the Great’s gold coffin. He later was killed during a naval battle near Cyprus. Before he died, however, he also willed his kingdom to Rome.

Ptolemy X Alexander’s death opened the way for his older brother Ptolemy IX Philometor to return. Upon his return, however, he found himself unwelcome. With assistance from his daughter Berenice (Ptolemy X’s wife) he was able to restore himself as co-ruler to Berenice.

Besides Philometor there were three other claimants to the Ptolemaic throne but at the time of Alexander’s death they were hostages of the Parthians. Mithridates VI of Pontus had captured them in Cos in 88 BC. They were sent there by their grandmother Cleopatra III for their own safety. One of them, Alexander’s son, escaped and surrendered to the Roman proconsul Sulla.

In Asia, meanwhile, an Armenian attack on Syria in 83 BC forced the Seleucids to flee Antioch. In their absence, the Antiochenes offered the Seleucid throne to Tigranes of Armenia. Cleopatra Selene resisted the Armenian takeover and fought back from Ptolemais-Ake.

In 69 BC, Mithridates was attacked and defeated by the Romans and Seleucid rule was briefly restored. Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (son of Cleopatra Selene and Antiochus X Eusebes) was made a Roman client king.

From 83 BC onward Seleucid rule in Asia was never fully restored. Remnants of the former empire existed as kingdoms under various client kings until the entire region fell to Rome.

In 81 BC Ptolemy IX Philometor died at age sixty-two leaving no male heirs to replace him. He had two sons but both died very young. He did however have a daughter named Cleopatra Berenice who, for a while, ruled on her own.

With no available male to replace Philometor, the Romans resolved the problem by installing a puppet king. Ptolemy XI Alexander II, Alexander’s son who had earlier surrendered to Sulla, by the will of his father who had earlier bequeathed Egypt to Rome, was now given the rule of Egypt. The new Ptolemy was not allowed to wear a crown and was forced to marry Cleopatra Berenice as part and parcel of his installment.

Unhappy with his chosen bride, a few weeks after his marriage, young Ptolemy murdered his middle-aged wife and in turn was lynched by the Macedonian Alexandrian mobs loyal to Berenice.

After Ptolemy XI’s death, the only live heirs to the Ptolemaic throne were two of Philometor’s illegitimate sons (prisoners of the Parthians) living in Syria. The Romans, not yet ready to annex Egypt, asked the Parthians to have the boys released. Upon their arrival, the younger boy was made governor of Cyprus while the older boy was taken to Alexandria and given the title king. Although history referred to the older boy as Ptolemy XII Auletes, to his Alexandrian subjects he was always known as the Bastard or the Flute Player.

Ptolemy XII was a ruthless ruler. The only contribution he made worthy of mention was siring his famous daughter, Cleopatra VII.

Ptolemy XII ruled undisturbed for thirty years until 59 BC when he was thrown out by the Alexandrians for allowing Rome to annex Cyprus and for willingly being a Roman puppet. In his absence, his eldest daughter Berenice IV was proclaimed co-regent with her mother. Ptolemy XII also had two infant sons but they were too young to rule.

When the queen mother died in 57 BC, Berenice IV married Seleucus Kybiosaktes believed to be a descendent from the Seleucid dynasty. When it was revealed that usurpation of the Ptolemaic throne was the motive behind Kybiosaktes marrying Berenice, she had him strangled. She then married Archelaus, a non-Macedonian, who may have had Roman roots. Archelaus’s rule lasted until 55 BC. He was defeated by the exiled Ptolemy XII, with Pompey’s blessing, in an attempt to reclaim his throne.

During his return to the palace, Ptolemy XII was accompanied by a young Roman cavalry commander named Mark Anthony who found himself attracted to his fourteen year old daughter Cleopatra. Cleopatra, however, paid no attention. Being a princess and a future heir to the Ptolemaic throne she had her sights set high and Anthony was not yet there.

Still having no interest in annexing Egypt, the Romans allowed Ptolemy XII to rule until he died of old age in 51 BC. Upon his death, his kingdom was left in the joint care of his eighteen year old daughter Cleopatra VII and her twelve year old brother Ptolemy XIII.

To be continued…

And now I leave you with this:

“For almost 170 years in continuation, in an organized and systematic manner, Greece has been convincing the world that Macedonians do not exist as a separate people and that the ancient Macedonian culture is ‘Greek’. Lacking other relevant information, the international community not only accepted the Greek ‘truths’ to a large extent, but also validated the same.” (Page 42, Alexandar Donski, The Descendants of Alexander the Great of Macedon The Arguments and Evidence that Today’s Macedonians are Descendants of the Ancient Macedonians (Part One – Folklore Elements), Shtip/Sydney – 2004.)

“It is important to recognize that it is not easy to destroy over night all that Greek propaganda and nationalistically coloured historiography have achieved on the international level over the past 170 years, a nearly two century head start on Macedonians in presenting their historical truth..

Despite all these problems, the truth is on the Macedonian side, and slowly but surely it is coming to light. Soon the truth about the links between present day and ancient Macedonians will reach the interested parties in the international community. The fact that a significant number of international experts still consider ancient Macedonians "Greek" should not be discouraging. First of all, there are a number of historians in the United States, led by Professor Eugene Borza, who is considered one of the most knowledgeable scientists on the subject of ancient Macedonia, who clearly state that ancient Macedonians were not Greek. Historians with similar positions have also appeared in other countries. These historians provide solid arguments against the Greek nationalist position in relation to ancient Macedonia, and the truth has already been accepted and included in a number of respected encyclopedias in which the ancient Macedonians are described as a separate people. The pro-Greek historians are slowly leaving the world stage, and in their place a new generation of historians is coming up, unburdened by the prejudices and no longer captive to the ideas of their predecessors. Macedonian historians have a responsibility not to remain silent out of fear of the ridicule of opponents. They should present their arguments as widely as possible in order to make them available to the new generation of non-partisan international historians, who can be expected to transform the character of our understanding of the nature of the ancient Macedonians.” (Page 44, Alexandar Donski, The Descendants of Alexander the Great of Macedon The Arguments and Evidence that Today’s Macedonians are Descendants of the Ancient Macedonians (Part One – Folklore Elements), Shtip/Sydney – 2004.)


Alexandar Donski, The Descendants of Alexander the Great of Macedon The Arguments and Evidence that Today’s Macedonians are Descendants of the Ancient Macedonians (Part One – Folklore Elements), Shtip/Sydney – 2004.

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.

F.E. Peters, The Harvest of Hellenism A History of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the Triumph of Christianity, Simon and Schuster, 1970.

George Woodcock, The Greeks in India, Faber and Faber Ltd, 1996.

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com