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How Rome Conquered Greece Roman History

How Did Rome Conquer Conquered Ancient Macedon Thermopylae Decisive Battles Philip Seleucids Aous Magnesia Achaean War Callinicus Flamininus Seleucid First

History of the human race has thousands of different conquests across ages, regions, and cultures, but it is difficult to find one that played such a decisive role in the future events as the conquest of Greece by the Roman Republic, as its effects echoed through the millennia. Welcome to our article that will cover the first Roman involvement in the Greek affairs, four Macedonian Wars, Seleucid War, Aetolian War and Achaean War. These long articles take forever to make, so please kindly consider sharing it in your social media. Shoutout to MagellanTV for sponsoring this article! If you are a history fan you should be signed up to MagellanTV - a new type of streaming service with more than 3000 documentaries and the richest and most varied History content available anywhere: ancient, modern, current, early modern, war, biography and even historical fiction shows. Any fan of history would spend days and weeks reading MagellanTV's historical documentaries and will still have content to read – new documentaries are added all the time, it is like a rabbit hole! If you like our articles on Roman history, check out the Grandeur of Rome playlist which has multiple titles focusing on the various aspects of Roman life – from its Army to Culture to the Leaders.

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You will get a free one-month membership trial! Thanks to Magellan for supporting our website! The year is 231BC and the Mediterranean world is a land of continuous warfare and political upheaval. Just ten years before, the burgeoning power of the Roman Republic had defeated Carthage in the First Punic War, establishing naval dominance on the sea. In the east, the Hellenistic kingdoms - Macedon, Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Empire vie for dominance over their border territories. Sandwiched between these greater polities are a number of smaller states, such as Pergamon and the nominally independent Greek city-states. This is the world of the late 3rd century BC, but soon a series of conflicts between two rising powers - Rome and Macedon, will change the fate of the region forever.

The which was Illyria - currently modern Albania and Dalmatia, was regarded in the mid to late third century as a thoroughly barbarian region, only half civilised by contact with its Greek and Macedonian neighbors. Though contact with the Greek world had led to a degree of urbanisation in the south and along the coast, the region in a political sense was still made up of many small tribal chieftains. The population of Illyria had been regarded since their initial encounters as turbulent and warlike by the more traditionally civilised peoples who came to know them. From time to time, one of the many Illyrian tribes would gain a temporary hegemony over most of the others, and in the 230s this was the Ardiaei. Ruled by their energetic king - Agron, they had forged a union of not just their own Illyrian peoples, but also prominent figures, such as Demetrius - the Greek lord of Pharos.

Coinciding with the rise of this new Illyrian power was the collapse of Epirus, whose once formidable strength had waned and whose monarchy fell. Taking advantage of this weakness, the Illyrians invaded and eventually managed to seize Epirote territory far south of the traditional border, climaxing with the seizure of Phoenice, the wealthiest city of the kingdom. Despite these successes however, Agron perished soon after and was succeeded nominally by his son. In reality, it was his wife Teuta who wielded true power, quickly being appointed regent for her stepson. Her ascension did not stop Illyrian belligerence, and in her reign piracy increasingly became a major problem in the Mediterranean.

Seizures of more southerly territories in Epirus had allowed the establishment of more staging points from which brigands could sail. This had been occurring for a long time already, but the increasing scale of the problem, the increasingly loud complaints of Roman merchants and the economic impact of piracy on the Republic prompted the senate to act. Uncharacteristically peacefully for the notoriously bellicose Romans, the initial senatorial reaction in 230BC was not to send in the legions, but instead to send a diplomatic embassy of two brothers to investigate the situation. In the typically harsh style of Roman diplomacy, the Coruncanius brothers protested to Teuta about the increasing piracy and demanded that it cease immediately. The demand was not negotiable and the Illyrians would have a chance to comply peacefully - otherwise it would be war.

Teuta refused this demand, either because of her inability to control the actions of her decentralised tribal allies or because she simply did not wish to bend to Roman demands. Whatever the case, this did not please the Romans, a situation made even worse by the murder of a Roman envoy, possibly by Teuta herself in the midst of the anger of the meeting or on the journey home by those very pirates that the embassy had been dispatched to stop. While the death of the Roman envoy was the immediate trigger for war, the expansion of the Ardaei tribe’s power over the region was a deeper geopolitical cause - Rome did not want any powerful rival in the Adriatic. Late in the campaigning season of 229BC, a massive Roman force of 22,000 and 200 ships bore down on the Illyrians. Though details of the short campaign are unknown, it is known that the Roman expedition was a complete success from north to south.

Teuta’s appointed governor of the recently conquered island of Corcyra - Demetrius of Pharos, went over to the Roman side almost immediately, while the queen regent’s forces were defeated in the field. By spring of 228 Teuta had been forced into a peace treaty with the Romans, breaking her kingdom into weaker segments and forbidding ventures of piracy into the southern Adriatic Sea. The Romans withdrew their troops and left behind only their amicitia, or ‘friendship’ - a benign sounding term which would soon apparently become anything but that. In essence, being a ‘friend’ of Rome included the de facto conditions of becoming an informal client state. A primary beneficiary of the peace of 228 was the defector Demetrius of Pharos, who was granted a small independent principality of his own, sandwiched between the remnant of the Ardiaean kingdom and the Greek cities.

Despite these gains under Roman auspices, it seems that the ambitious Demetrius was not content to remain in his small kingdom, and shortly after the peace was finalised, he married Triteuta - the Ardiaean king’s biological mother. By becoming the young boy’s formal regent in this act, Demetrius of Pharos effectively recreated the powerful Illyrian kingdom abolished by Rome in the First Illyrian War. Even more boldly, he began to launch pillaging raids into the territory of Roman allied tribes. It could be that Demetrius was ‘testing the water’ and, due to the lack of any Roman response, he believed they either could not or did not wish to intervene. This was an illusion, as the Romans were instead occupied by the Roman-Gallic War of 226-222BC, and it would prove to be a fatal illusion for Demetrius.

Further trying his luck, Demetrius set out with 90 light galleys in the summer of 220BC on a grand piracy expedition, ravaging cities around the Adriatic Sea in blatant violation of the treaty eight years before. He had finally gone too far, and Rome now decided that their former ally Demetrius now posed the same threat to Roman interests that Teuta had, and moreover wished to punish their friend for betraying them and not acting like a friend should. The disproportionately massive Roman action which began in 219 was probably motivated by the Republic’s desire to swiftly and decisively conclude the Illyrian situation before a new war with Carthage began, as it seemed like it might. Demetrius’ strategy was to hold the fortresses of Dimallum and Pharos itself, but the Romans took the former in only seven days, while a rash sortie by Demetrius lost him Pharos. The man himself evaded capture because he had placed a squadron of hidden galleys in a secret cove, fleeing to them when the battle was lost.

On these ships he fled to the south, abandoning his family to Roman imprisonment and his men to death at Roman hands. Not long after, Demetrius reached the Adriatic port town of Actium, where the fleet of a great Hellenistic king - Philip V of Macedon, was anchored. When he arrived, the king welcome Demetrius heartily and he quickly became a key advisor. Meanwhile, the Romans once again withdrew all of their soldiers from the region, leaving no military presence. They once again left only their friendship behind, but had demonstrated to the great Macedonian kingdom to the south that they had the will to intervene in the east.

Before continuing, we need to reverse time for a moment and briefly examine the history of Macedon after its would-be conqueror - Pyrrhus of Epirus, died in Argos. The victor in that battle - Antigonus II Gonatas, was firmly in control of Macedon by 272 and had also established hegemony over the Greek city-states. Having gained the loyalty of his turbulent homeland, Antigonus II did his best to maintain it. He raised a great sacred mound to honour the graves of the Argead house, reorganised the provincial system to increase its efficiency and was vigilant in keeping Macedonian coinage a high quality currency. Making good use of Macedon’s depleted resources and funds, Antigonus focused on access and mobility, extensively utilising the Antigonid fleet and the great naval fortresses of Demetrias, Chalcis and Corinth to ferry troops to strategic locations.

An Athenian-led, Ptolemaic-supported attempt at shaking off Macedonian domination failed in the Cheromidian War from 268 to 281. Though Antigonus managed to quell this revolt, crucial fortresses such as the Acrocorinth were lost during his reign, which finally ended in 239BC with his death. His successor - Demetrius II, ruled for a relatively uneventful decade during which Macedon’s situation weakened ever further, and he died in 229. The late king’s own son - Philip V, was only a child at the time of his father’s death, and Macedon could not afford a child ruler in such a perilous time. A regent was clearly required for the time being, and a distant Antigonid relation was chosen for the task - Antigonus Doson.

As one of the lesser known but more highly competent Macedonian kings during the 3rd century BC, Antigonus Doson began to raise the young Philip as his own son, and at the same time energetically set to campaigning in order to beat back Macedon’s enemies. He first marched north and expelled the Illyrians from the kingdom, and then struck south and crushed the Aetolian League. After securing his borders, Antigonus proceeded to renounce all Macedonian claims south of the Thermopylae pass, wisely hoping to consolidate and stabilise the situation in Macedon itself. The response of the army was to demand that Antigonus accept the title of king. While he did this, Philip V’s rights to the throne were not usurped or taken away, and Antigonus swiftly appointed him the official heir.

After another series of victories which including the first ever seizure of Sparta by a foreign army, Antigonus III Doson perished in 221, leaving behind a resurgent, stable and increasingly powerful Macedon to Philip V, who now ascended to the throne. Soon after taking the throne, Philip V and the Macedonian hegemony was once again challenged by the Aetolian League and its allies during the Social War of 220-217 - who believed Philip was too young to be an effective ruler. It was during this war that Demetrius of Pharos arrived at the royal court. Cataclysmic events in the west now began to attract wider attention in the Mediterranean world. The Second Punic War had broken out in 218 and the Carthaginian general Hannibal successfully crossed the Alps to invade Italy.

There, he had already defeated one Roman field army at the Trebia River and, in the June of 217 he crushed another at Lake Trasimene in Etruria. Hearing of these massive Roman defeats, Philip V now began to consider expansion in the west at the expense of an apparently dying Roman Republic. This new direction was encouraged by Demetrius of Pharos who, after being expelled from his Adriatic dominion by Rome, now argued that Philip should end the Social War, gain control of the Illyrian coast and attack Italy himself. Accepting the military status quo and ending the war in Greece at Naupactus, Philip then drove the Illyrians from Macedon once again and in the winter of 217 had a fleet of 100 light warships constructed. In summer of 216 the king made his first attempt at secured Illyria’s coastal region, but fled home upon hearing news of an approaching Roman fleet.

The decisive Roman defeat at Cannae was another crucial moment, as it prompted Philip to send envoys to Hannibal asking for a formal alliance - he no doubt wanted to join the ‘winning’ side and make gains at Roman expense. The story goes that the envoy - Xenophanes, was captured by a Roman praetor on his way to speak with Hannibal, but managed to talk his way to freedom by stating that he was instead there to make peace with Rome. However, the unfortunate Xenophanes was captured again on his way back to Macedon with the formal treaty with Hannibal in his possession. It was in this manner that the Romans learned of that new threat that faced them. Following the conclusion of the Punic-Macedonian treaty, Philip aggressed further with new attacks against coastal Illyria, attacking Corcyra in 215.

This intensified in 214 when a major offensive began - Philip’s land army marched north into Illyria through Epirus while 120 Macedonian galleys sailed up the Straits of Otranto. In this campaign Philip swiftly seized Oricum and besieged Apollonia, who called to Rome for help. With a strengthened Adriatic fleet, the Roman commander Laevinus now crossed the sea with 55 heavy Roman warships, lifted the siege of Apollonia and drove the Macedonians away from Oricum - two crucial ports which could have been used as a staging point for an attack on Italy. After these victorious, Laevinus wintered his fleet in Oricum, while Philip burned his ships and retreated overland to Macedon. Having been blocked at sea, the Macedonian king attacked instead over the Pindus mountains, making significant gains in 213 and 212.

The inland Dassaretis, Parthini and Atintani tribal settlements fell to him, without a significant Roman response. The Republic did not have the land troops to spare for a side-venture into the eastern Adriatic, as they were still fighting against Hannibal. This situation changed during the later part of 212 when Philip was once again able to reach the Adriatic. Having battered his way through land to the coast, he managed to seize the coastal fortress of Lissus, another possible staging point. It became clear to the Romans that this eastern threat could no longer be ignored.

Neutralising Philip at this point was beyond Roman military power alone due to the Carthaginian War, so the senate began to use diplomacy as a weapon and started enticing other Greek states to do the neutralising for them. A treaty was made between the traditionally anti-Macedon Aetolian League and Rome, the former being convinced of the alliance because of Roman victories in the Punic War during the summer of 211 at Capua and Tarentum. Terms were generous for the Aetolians - they would get any captured town or city, but the booty would go to the Romans unless the town was jointly taken. Another term allowed for the inclusion of other Aetolian allies, such as Sparta, Elis, Messenia, the Illyrians and even Pergamum. The war itself was a disruptive, indecisive slogging match, with the Romans taking several important centres such as Anticyra, but Philip V making gains against the rest of the coalition.

Attempts at peace talks by non-combatant states failed in 207 due to Rome’s deliberate derailing actions, but during 206 and 205 they were gradually forced into peace. Though the final treaty ending the war at Phoenice concluded hostilities for now, it was clear that Rome’s desire to punish Philip for his attempt at kicking them while they were down was not yet sated. One thing was certain, however, Rome was ever so slowly winning the Second Punic War and would soon be able to harness all of its might against Macedon. When Philip V received reports of the final Roman victory at Zama in 202BC, he did not stop his belligerent behavior. Instead, he began to take advantage of a weakening Egypt, alarming many of his smaller neighbors.

Since 207, Egypt had been caught in a downward spiral. Since the the final division of the Successor Kingdoms at Ipsus, the eastern Mediterranean had been kept stable by a balance of power between the three major Hellenistic monarchies - Antigonid Macedon, Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Empire. If one of the three was becoming too powerful, the other two functioned as a counter, preventing any one power from becoming hegemon and therefore protecting the smaller states of the Hellenistic world. This system began to break down in 205, when priests of the Egyptian god Amon took advantage of native discontent with Ptolemaic rule and proclaimed a new pharaoh. This ignited a devastating revolt which detached all of upper Egypt from the regime in Alexandria, and the increasing ineffectual government allowed lawlessness to increase unchecked.

This was not the end of it. Matters deteriorated even further in 204 when king Ptolemy IV died prematurely and was succeeded by his six year old son - Ptolemy V. Conflicts over the regency of this child king paralysed the Alexandrian regime even further and rendered it vulnerable. Unfortunately for them, this was the worst time to be weak in such a dog-eat-dog political world. The First Macedonian War between the Romans and Philip had just ended in the last years of the third century, and Seleucid king Antiochus III had returned from his great eastern campaigns.

Both of these great kings now hungrily eyed the almost defenceless overseas Ptolemaic possessions, and Antiochus launched the Fifth Syrian War in 202 in order to seize traditionally disputed territories in Cyprus and Coele-Syria. The predatory Philip V of Macedon swiftly gained several of the Cyclades Islands and established good relations with the many Greek cities on the western coast of Asia Minor. Bulldozing his way through the Aegean would not go without consequence, as he quickly earned the ire of both Rhodes and Pergamon, smaller states who wished to curb Macedonian expansion and declared war in 201. Soon after, Philip defeated a joint Rhodian-Pergamene relief attempt at the Siege of Chios with heavy losses, and then attacked Pergamon itself. Though Philip decisively defeated the land army of his enemy outside the walls, he nevertheless failed to take the city.

Realising that attempts to do so would only drain his forces, Philip instead annexed most of Caria and the Rhodian Peraia directly into what was becoming a New Macedonian Empire. In the Autumn, Philip’s fleet was attacked at Lade by the Rhodian navy, but managed to win anyway. During winter of 201, a Rhodian fleet blockaded Philip in the Gulf of Bargylia on Carian coast, where the king apparently struggled to feed himself and his army. They knew that the king would break out at some point, and also knew they were losing the war against Macedon, so the went west for help. Ambassadors from the various anti-Macedon states such as Pergamon, Rhodes and Egypt travelled to Rome, informing the senate of a secret pact that Philip had signed with Antiochus III which would divide Ptolemaic possessions between them.

It was these smaller, weaker Hellenistic polities which opened the gates for Roman intervention into the Greek world, as they saw the main threat to their independence as coming from Antiochus and Philip, and not from Rome as is commonly believed. As predicted, Philip managed to trick his enemies into letting him escape during spring of 200BC, eventually returning to Macedon. The northern Aegean campaign continued on land upon his return and the king swept through the region until he reached Abydos, which he put under siege. Observing this blatant Macedonian aggression, dangerous cooperation between the two Hellenistic monarchies and a seemingly resurgent Macedon, the Roman senate asked the people to vote them a mandate for war. However, the people’s assembly rejected this demand for yet another war due to war weariness and the fact that Southern Italy had been devastated in the Second Punic War.

Not at all demoralised by their initial failure, the senate granted Consul Publius Sulpicius Galba the job of winning over the public assembly. By comparing the emerging Macedonian threat to the great invaders of Italy - Pyrrhus and Hannibal, Galba was successful in persuading the assembly to declare war on Philip V. While the Roman military prepared its lines of supply across the Adriatic and Philip continued his siege at Abydos, three prominent senatorial emissaries went on a great diplomatic mission in the east. Their message was clear to all: If Philip refrained from making war on Greeks and compensated Pergamon for their losses, there would be peace. The Macedonian king brashly rebuffed the Roman envoys and committed to war.

The Second Macedonian War had begun, and it started with the fall of Abydos, whose citizens committed mass suicide due to their reluctance to live under Philip’s rule. In late November of 200BC the king returned to Macedonia and learned that 20,000 Romans had already landed in Apollonia under Galba, while 50 warships were docked on the island of Corcyra. Deciding to focus initially on the peripheral threats, Philip campaigned in the Peloponnese. At the same time, Consul Galba conducted raids into the Illyrian countryside to prepare for the campaign - notoriously sacking Antipatrea so thoroughly that it only recovered in the fifth century CE. After subsequently failing to invade Macedon through the mountains, a weak and sickly Galba was replaced by Publius Villius Tappalus.

Things went even worse for Villius, as he was immediately faced with a mutiny among the legions upon taking command. 2,000 veterans of the Second Punic War felt they had been away from their farms and families for too long, and refused to obey orders. The Roman forces were paralysed for a while, but to his credit, Villius listened to their complaints and promised to raise them with the senate. As the situation cooled somewhat due to his mitigation attempts, Villius marched and encamped near a gorge on the Aous river. Philip V had also arrived here not long before, setting up on own army in a strong defensive position on the main route from Apollonia to Macedon.

Villius’ command had run its course and immediately after establishing his camp at the Aous he was replaced by a vibrant member of the patrician Quinctia family - Titus Quinctius Flamininus. This passionate, hot tempered and generous philhellene had previously served with success as the governor of Tarentum, and in 198 was elected to the consulship despite being too young to legally to do so. Nevertheless, Flamininus almost immediately set out for the Greek east with 3,000 veteran troops accompanying him, ignoring the standard period of honours and administrative duties a new Consul would undertake in Rome. After reaching the Roman camp at the Aous, Flamininus relieved Villius of command and sent an envoy to demand negotiations with Philip, negotiations which would be traditionally Roman. King and Consul faced off on opposite sides of the swift-flowing Aous, each with their respective entourages of advisors and generals behind them.

Philip attempted to bring Flamininus to a compromise, arguing that the treatment of each annexed city would need to be different, proposing a decision by independent tribunal. However, Flamininus was not going to accept any compromise, and instead proclaimed that his mission was to liberate all Greeks from Macedonian domination. To this end, he demanded that Philip first relinquish Thessaly - a possession which had been part of Macedon for 120 years. This intentionally irrational demand worked, provoking Philip into breaking off negotiations and returning to his excellent defensive position. The Roman general wasted no time, and ordered his missile troops and light infantry to skirmish with Philip’s forces, engaging in projectile duels.

This distracted the Macedonians and their commander while 4,300 handpicked legionaries, guided by an Epirote noble named Charops, moved around a back route up and over the mountains. Once this flanking force was in place, Flamininus advanced, and the Macedonians fled to avoid being trapped in the Roman pincer. The loss of Philip’s crucial baggage train was a massive blow, but even worse was the loss of confidence that this defeat brought to the Greek allies of Macedon. As the king returned with his bloodied army to Macedon, many wavering powers now either declared for the Romans or remained neutral, including the Achaean League - Macedon’s most powerful Greek ally. The subsequent campaign was indecisive for Flamininus, who became bogged down in a siege at Atrax and then retired for the winter.

At the same time, Philip began preparing for a decisive clash in the following year, recruiting even youths and old men for war. Peace talks failed when the glory-hunting Flamininus’ command was extended, leading him to break off negotiations. When spring came in 197 Philip marched south and stopped at a town called Pharae, where his army began to forage for supplies and even spotted some Roman scouts. Learning of the Macedonian presence, Flamininus and his army marched north from Boeotia, hoping to intercept Philip before he could withdraw. On a bleak, foggy morning, the two armies finally came into proximity of one another near a sloping ridge called Cynoscephalae.

Before the battle begins, let us take a moment to examine the composition of the opposing armies which came into contact on the hills of Thessaly… Flamininus’ field army consisted of two Roman and two allied legions, totalling around 20,000 lethal legionary infantry, with many grizzled veterans of the Punic War among them. 2,000 velites screened this core of the Roman army while 2,500 equite cavalry and even 20 war elephants protected its flanks. Along with these Italian forces, the Roman army also included a substantial contingent of Greek allies. 1,200 light infantry joined the army from Epirus, 800 archers from Crete and 6,000 infantry as well as 400 cavalry from the Aetolian League. All in all, Flamininus had around 32,000 troops.

On the other side of the ridge, Philip’s core of 16,000 Sarissa wielding phalangists were accompanied by 2,000 elite agema peltasts, 4,000 Illyrian and Thracian mercenaries, 1,500 Greek hoplite mercenaries and 2,000 Thessalian and Macedonian cavalry. Each commander knew that their counterpart was close, but the reduced vision of the fog caused disorientation in the two armies. Philip set off marching in the morning, sending a group of fast-moving skirmishers to the ridge’s summit in order to get a better view. As they reached the top, ten Roman cavalry squadrons and 1,000 velites emerged from the murk and attacked. Both scouting contingents suffered some casualties, but both also managed to get word to their commanders of what was happening on the Cynoscephalae ridge.

Flamininus reacted swiftly, sending 2,000 Aetolian infantry and 500 cavalry to the ridge as reinforcements. Their arrival swung the balance in favour of the Romans and the Antigonid skirmishing force slowly withdrew to the top of the ridge, sending frantic messengers to Philip for help. Even though the king did not wish to join battle in such unfavourable terrain, he was not going to abandon his scouting party, and sent 3,500 cavalry and mercenary infantry to reinforce it. This tipped the scales and the new reinforcements now pushed the Romans back down the slope. Polybius tells us that they almost routed completely, but this was prevented by skillful skirmishing and harassment by the Aetolian allies.

At this moment in the morning the sun began to burn away the fog and, with the battle visible on the slope visible to the Romans, Flamininus and his entire army could see their forces losing. Witnessing the apparent defeat of the Roman skirmishing force demoralised the main Roman army, but their commander handled the situation appropriately. After ordering his entire army to form up in battle order, Flamininus addressed his troops at the base of the slope. He used all of the oratory skills that a prominent politician would have, professing to them that “You’ve fought these men before, and you’ve beaten them before!”. As this happened, the triumphant Antigonid skirmishers sent jubilant messages back to Philip, urging the king to attack while momentum was on their side.

So, the order was given for the army to deploy in battle order. Due to the unprepared nature of the encounter battle, half of Philip’s troops were still foraging, and he could only form up half of his forces, ordering his general Nicanor to follow up when the others had returned. Having formed the right side of his line, the king marched at the head of his phalanx up the slope, hoping to rush and rout the Romans with the weight of his phalanx, which was screened by the agema peltasts and flanked on the right wing by cavalry. On the other side of the ridge, Flamininus advanced only with the left side of his line to reinforce the battle which was still going on between the two scouting parties. The heavy infantry’s presence in the fight now caused the Macedonians to retreat back up the slope - many were killed while others fled back towards their king.

Two half-armies were now marching up each side of the slope directly towards one another, but were still completely unaware that the other was present, due to the fact that a slight fog still obscured sound and sight. It was because of this that the Roman left may not have seen Philip’s 8,000 strong contingent cresting the hill in front of them as they climbed, but now both armies now came into view of one another. The phalangists quickly organised into a double-depth formation, lowered their sarissas and charged down the slope at the unprepared Romans. The remnants of Flamininus’ scouting force barely managed to form up before the phalangists hit them. Metal pike heads clashed against the heavy Roman shields, but the crushing momentum of the downhill charging and double-depth phalanx quickly began to force the legionaries back.

The Antigonid and Roman cavalry clashed on the wing and the light infantry skirmished with one another, but the main clash was in the centre. Though the Roman left fought bravely and stubbornly did not rout under the pressure, it was slowly but surely being chewed up by the bristling pike wall. The encounter battle had started well for Philip, it seemed like it was only going to get better when Nicanor’s larger contingent began to crest the ridge on the king’s left flank, in a rushed marching formation. Despite his best attempts at rallying the beleaguered troops on his left from behind the line, Flamininus was being pushed back ever closer to the Roman camp. Realising his left would soon collapse under the weight of the phalanx, the philhellene commander wheeled his horse and galloped over to the unengaged Roman right, which was now screened by the war elephants.

Upon arriving, Flamininus ordered his forces on this side of the battlefield to charge at the disorganised men under Nicanors command, most of whom were either arriving or still had no formed up. phalangists - the core of Philip’s army, were almost useless when not deployed rigidly, and the Romans now crushed them. Many Macedonian soldiers were killed outright, but many more ran away and were chased by the legionaries. It appeared though the battle was in balance - Philip had triumphed on the Roman left, but Flamininus had crushed Nicanor. However, an unnamed Roman tribune, who must have possessed immense respect among the troops, now managed to halt 20 maniples, or around 2,500 of the troops on the right wing, probably mostly made up of veteran Triarii.

Realising that things were not going well on the Roman left wing, the unnamed military tribune marched his contingent of disciplined troops across the ridge and then struck the victorious phalanx of Philip from the rear. At the same time, the inspired and angry legionaries who had suffered for hours under the Macedonian attack renewed their assault. This intuitive maneuver caused the inflexible phalanx to fragment and many of its phalangists were killed. Philip rode up and down the line in a vain attempt to rally his soldiers, but quickly realised it was hopeless and galloped off the battlefield. As the Romans were busy butchering the remaining enemy troops, a particularly terrible slaughter occurred.

A group of Macedonian phalangists performed the traditional gesture of surrender - raising their pikes directly to the sky. However, the furious legionaries charged in and killed them all anyway. The battle was over and the legion had triumphed over Alexander’s phalanx. The Romans only lost around 700 dead, mostly on their left which had bravely stood their ground under the attack. Antigonid casualties were catastrophic, with 8,000 dead and another 5,000 captured.

Humiliating peace terms were imposed on Philip at the subsequent Conference at Tempe - he had to evacuate all of Greece including Thessaly, and give up conquests he had gained in Asia Minor and Thrace. A large war indemnity was demanded, his navy was destroyed and his son Demetrius was sent to Rome as a hostage. Finally and most chafing, proud Philip would become a client king of Rome, essentially a puppet. This war broke any viable attempts at Macedonian revival, but it would not stop them trying. After the peace conference at Tempe had been finalised, Titus Quinctius Flamininus decided to prove definitively that it was Rome who would be the true savior of Greece.

During the Isthmian games of spring 196, Flamininus took to the speaker’s platform, declaring that senate, general and consul would leave the Greeks free, ungarrisoned, untaxed and autonomous after over a century of Macedonian rule. Erupting with jubilation at their apparent ‘liberation’, Flamininus was mobbed at the festivities and was showered with honours from the grateful city-states. In Rome, the senate decreed five days of thanksgiving for the Cynoscephalae victory, his dignitas had never been higher. Also, at the games, Flamininus was met by a party of envoys who had come at the behest of king Antiochus III, in order to congratulate the consul on his victory and to assure the Romans of their liege’s peaceful intentions. Whatever reply they were hoping to receive, they instead were met with cold sternness and demands .

Antiochus was to keep away from the Greek cities, withdrew his garrisons from those he had already seized and was ordered not to attempt a crossing into Greece. Now, we need to follow the admonished envoys back east, where they informed their sovereign, Antiochus III, of the Roman demands. While Rome and Macedon were fighting at Cynoscephalae, Antiochus, who was also known as ‘the Great’ was concluding the Fifth Syrian War against his traditional rival – the Ptolemies of Egypt. By the last year of the conflict the realm that was created by the Diadochi of Alexander, Seleucus, became the biggest empire of its time, taking over Caria, Lycia, Cilicia, Coele-Syria, and other Asiatic holdings of the Ptolemies. So, it is not a surprise that Antiochus, who was considered one of the best commanders of the era, was angry at the Roman intrusion into Greek affairs and the rebuke of his diplomats, and was confident in his strength.

In this period, Antiochus started creating a fleet off the coast of southern Asia Minor, probably planning to invade Ephesus Egypt. However, his fleet's movement to the west prompted a reaction from Rhodes. The small island wasn’t strong enough to compete with the Seleucids on the land but had a dominant navy, so Antiochus promised to leave Halicarnassus to the Rhodians and not create a base on Samos in exchange for free passage of his navy through Rhodian waters. With a war avoided, in 196 BC Antiochus took over the remainder of the Ptolemaic holdings in Asia Minor, including the crucial Ephesus. He then decided to conquer the territory of the weakened Macedon and took Abydos and Ilium, which meant that he now had a perfect location to cross the Hellespont.

The citizens of the nearby Lampsacus were worried that they were the next and, in a sign of how things had changed in the last decade, sent envoys to the Romans asking for protection. At that point in time the cities in the area were under Thracian control, and Antiochus obviously knew that restoring Hellenic rule would be seen favorably by the Greeks. So, he traversed the Hellespont, first taking Chersonesos and then besieging Madytos. The fall of the latter forced other cities to submit, and Antiochus increased his influence by rebuilding the city of Lysimacheia, which effectively bottled up the Gallipoli Peninsula. This might have impressed some of the Greeks, but the Romans weren’t amused, deciding that Antiochus’ takeover of Gallipoli was a breach of the ultimatum.

Roman politics was dominated by two men – the victor of Cynoscephalae, Titus Quinctius Flamininus, and the hero of the war against Carthage, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. The latter wanted to move troops into Greece immediately, but the peace party led by Flamininus prevailed, so the Republic sent a diplomatic mission to Lysimachia, demanding that Antiochus leave Europe and return the Ptolemies their lost territories in Asia Minor. However, by the time it arrived, Antiochus had already agreed on peace with Egypt by marrying his daughter and the 10-year-old Ptolemy V. He claimed that as Ptolemy was his son-in-law, he was not going to fight him anymore. As negotiations continued, news arrived that the Ptolemaic king was dead.

Antiochus immediately broke off talks and rushed to Ephesus and from there to Antioch, confirming the Roman suspicions that the Seleucids wanted even more territory. We don’t have all the details, but it is known that the king attempted to launch an invasion of Cyprus, but the expedition ended in failure, either due to a storm or a mutiny. Returning to the shore, Antiochus decided to attack Egypt directly, but received news that Ptolemy wasn’t dead. The campaign was over before it began; Antiochus signed a peace treaty with his son-in-law and then returned to Ephesus. During this period the Seleucid ruler continued using diplomacy to improve his international situation.

Pergamon, ruled by the Attalid dynasty, was the traditional rival of the Seleucids, and eager to change that, he attempted to marry his daughter Antiochis to its king Eumenes II. The latter came to the conclusion that an alliance with the Romans was preferable and rejected the offer, but Antiochus was unfazed and entered a marriage alliance with the king of Cappadocia Ariarathes instead. At the same time, his diplomats brought rich gifts to the Galatians, as Antiochus wanted to have the backing of the famed Celtic warriors. An event that happened 194 BC proves to the modern audience how interconnected the ancient world was, however for the ancients itself it made the diplomatic situation even more complicated. Famous Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca was exiled from his homeland and arrived at the Seleucid court at Ephesus in the hopes that he could become a mercenary commander.

Antiochus received him politely but, probably worried that Hannibal might outshine him, kept him at arm’s length. The Romans, worried about Hannibal’s arrival, sent their own envoys. Trying to sow discord between the king and the exile, the diplomats deliberately paid more attention to the latter. Understanding that this put him in danger Hannibal told Antiochus the story of how his father Hamilcar compelled him to swear an oath of eternal enmity against the Romans. This immediately improved the Carthaginian’s standing in the court.

Between 193 and 192 BC the Romans and Seleucids continued engaging in diplomacy, mostly discussing the Seleucid presence in Europe, but the talks were going nowhere. Another regional power looking for allies was the Aetolian League. Fearing that the Roman alliance with their rival Achaean League was a danger, they sent envoys to Antiochus. In 192 BC, the Seleucid ruler agreed to enter an alliance and sent his representative to the Aetolian assembly. Unexpectedly, the latter passed a resolution inviting Antiochus to liberate Greece and settle affairs between the Aetolians and Romans.

Although Antiochus knew that it was a move that might ignite the war with the Romans, this was an offer the king couldn’t refuse without losing prestige, so when the Aetolians promised that they would support him with their troops, he agreed to cross into Greece. The Roman historians claim that it was Hannibal who talked Antiochus into going to war, but the former was at that point in Syria. The first move of the war was made by the Aetolians: Their troops killed the unpopular Spartan king Nabis, hoping to take over the city and put pressure on the Achaean league, but the locals rebelled and the invaders had to retreat. Unfortunately for the Spartans they were left defenseless, and soon soldiers of the Achaean League entered the city and forced it to become a member of the League, ending Spartan independence forever in the process. The Aetolians weren’t discouraged though, and in order to give Antiochus a good place to land his army, they took control of the city called Demetrias, which had an excellent harbour.

The king had a small navy that wasn’t able to transport all of his troops, so after offering a sacrifice to the goddess Athena at Ilium, he started crossing the Aegean Sea in the autumn of 192 BC. It seems that the land route from Thrace through Macedon was rejected, to not push Philip V into the anti-Seleucid camp. Antiochus disembarked at Demetrias and moved south to Lamia, where the Aetolians held their assembly. Here he was received as a liberating hero and elected the leader of the league. Still, the king found himself in an awkward position: The Romans had no troops in the region and the liberator of Greece couldn’t attack the Greeks, and thus the Seleucids lacked a clear military target.

In an absence of one, Antiochus once again was looking for allies. First, he approached the crucial city of Chalcis, which had been garrisoned by Attalid and Achaean troops ever since the end of the 2nd Macedonian War. The King attempted to convince the city to join him, but was rebuked, and although he had enough troops to take it by force, he decided not to shed the blood of fellow Greeks and returned to Demetrias. Then he sent envoys to Athens, the Achaeans, Macedon, and the Athamanians. The latter were either a Greek or Hellenized tribe who rose to prominence in the turmoil of the Diadochi Wars and agreed to help, while Philip V, still reeling from his defeat at Cynoscephalae, was biding his time, and the Achaeans decided to retain their alliance with Rome.

Things were much more dramatic on the Athenian front: the oligarchic party wanted to support the Romans, the democratic party Antiochus. The former invited the forces of the Achaean League, which led to violent street battles, during which the Seleucid supporters were defeated. Rome knew of the Seleucid activity and the praetor Marcus Baebius was sent to Apollonia with more than 20,000 Romans and Italics. Despite the fact that they outnumbered Antiochus, the Romans had no intention to look like an aggressor, so they didn’t declare war, but Baebius’ presence was enough to keep Macedon in check. Unfortunately for the Romans, they had to support their allies, and when the garrison of Chalcis asked for reinforcements, Baebius sent 500 legionaries their way.

We can assume that this was the last straw for Antiochus, as he ordered his admiral Polyxenidas to block the narrow Euripus strait between Chalcis and mainland Greece, and marched south with the remainder of his army. By the time the Roman contingent reached the crossing, it was blocked by the Seleucid navy, so it continued south to wait for transports at Delium. Shortly after this unit was surrounded and destroyed by the Seleucids, beginning the war that would be later called the Seleucid War, the Syrian War, and the War of Antiochus. Some sources claim that the Romans had already declared war at that point, but the message reached Antiochus after the skirmish at Delium. Still hopeful to get the Achaeans and the Pergamene to enter into an alliance with him, Antiochus allowed the garrison of Chalcis to leave under a truce.

Soon the rest of Euboea capitulated to the king. His next targets were the cities of the Boeotian League, which surrendered quickly, and the Thessalian League, created by the Romans after the 2nd Macedonian War. Antiochus still attempted to negotiate, however he noticed that the members of the league started to mobilize under the cover of these talks, so in early 191 BC, he moved swiftly and captured the league's main city, Pherai, massacring its defenders. He then moved into the League’s territory, and in a short and decisive campaign took over most of the cities in the region, save for the stronghold of Larissa, which was besieged by the Seleucids. While the siege was ongoing, Antiochus sent 2000 men south to the field of Cynoscephalae.

In a symbolic gesture, his soldiers buried the Greek dead, whose bones remained on the battlefield. By doing that the Seleucid ruler was trying to show how full of piety he was in comparison to the barbarous Romans, and how much more he cared for the fellow Hellenes than Philip. The latter considered this gesture a direct insult and declared his allegiance to Rome. Baebius immediately entered negotiations with the Macedonian king, gaining the right of military access. A 2000-strong legionary detachment under Appius Claudius was sent south, probably as a reconnaissance force.

The details are unclear, but apparently the Roman commander arrived at Tempe and built a larger camp full of extra campfires to exaggerate his numbers. Although sources assume that Antiochus was tricked into thinking that the Roman-Macedonian attack was imminent, and raised the siege, it was probably due to the weather and supply situation. In any case, he soon started his retreat to Chalcis. Both sides were now waiting for spring. In Chalcis, Antiochus decided that another dynastic marriage was in order, but this time he tied a knot himself with a daughter of a local noble, perhaps to prove to the minor Greek nobles, who ruled in the majority of city-states, that he was on their side.

Such royal marriages were common in the east but backfired with the locals, who considered sexual activity detrimental to war-making. Additionally, during the celebrations, the Greeks were once again shocked by the practice of their Macedonian brethren of drinking undiluted wine, and the king’s participation in this activity further diminished his standing. During his stay on the island, Antiochus continued to look for allies but gained none. He also sent messengers to Asia, ordering reinforcements. The Romans were not idle.

The alliance with the Achaean League, Pergamon, and Rhodes was confirmed, and the consul of the year, a supporter of Scipio - Manius Acilius Glabrio, was to lead a new 15 thousand man army to Greece. In a show of how crucial this war was for the Romans, two ex-consuls – Marcus Porcius Cato and Valerius Flaccus - were chosen by him as the legates. It is also remarkable that both legates belonged to the Flamininus’ party, which meant that the rival parties put their differences aside to defeat Antiochus. While the main army was crossing the Adriatic, Cato landed in the Peloponnese and went on a diplomatic tour of Achaea and Athens, sarcastically claiming that “Antiochus wages war through letters and fights with pen and ink”. Before Glabrio reached Illyria in March, Baebius and Philip V started their campaign against the Seleucid garrisons in Thessaly.

The only major anti-Roman force in the region were the Athamanians and they were defeated quickly, followed by the Seleucid garrisons, which negated all the gains Antiochus made in his campaign in Thessaly. Antiochus, meanwhile, consolidated his forces in Boeotia and then moved west towards Acarnania to take control of it and put pressure on the Epirotes, in order to add their troops to his. Acarnania was also important in terms of gaining a port in the Ionian Sea and to cut the direct line between Italy and the Achaean League. The city of Medeon joined the Seleucid cause via diplomatic pressure, however, the Romans now had more than 35 thousand troops in the area and were supported by a 5 thousand strong army from Philip, so the Acarnanians and Epirotes declared their support for them. Antiochus’ army, even with the additions of the Aetolians, numbered less than 20 thousand.

There were no allies to find in Greece and no reinforcements from Asia were coming soon, possibly due to the allied Rhodian and Attalid activity in the Aegean Sea. Outnumbered 2-to-1, he couldn’t stay in Aetolia, as the Roman march south was now threatening his supply and retreat lines. At the same time, he didn’t want to abandon the Aetolians. Initially, the allies decided to defend at Lamia, but that would have given the Romans an opportunity to outflank them, so in a true Hellenic fashion, Antiochus moved for Thermopylae. This famous location had seen numerous last stands before and after April 191 BC, as it was a natural choke point, defended by Mount Callidromus and Mount Tichius from the southwest and the waters of the Malian Gulf from the northeast.

Still, as Leonidas and Xerxes discovered 300 years before, this seemingly ideal defensive position had a fatal flaw: A small army could have bottlenecked a much larger force in the passage, but the mountains had numerous paths making it possible to outflank the defenders. Both armies were culturally steeped in Greek history and mythos and so obviously knew of this. With a few thousand Aetolians left to guard the crucial town of Heraclea, Antiochus had around 12 thousand footmen and only 500 horsemen. As the Roman cavalry outnumbered their counterparts 4-to-1, the Seleucids had to fight at the narrow passage to avoid being outflanked. The king sent 2 groups of Aetolians 1 thousand hoplites apiece to block off the most prominent mountain paths.

He then built a wall covering the gate, placing a few catapults and ballistae on top. His skirmishers were positioned on the high ground to the left of the passage in order to send their missiles against the advancing Romans, while his phalangites formed up in front of the walls with the peltasts in ahead of them. Similarly, the Romans had 2/3 of their troops present, with the rest defending Thessaly and blockading Heraclea. Glabrio knew that he couldn't capture the passage against a phalanx, but still had to attack at the narrow chokepoint and tie-up the Seleucid forces. Two groups under Cato and Flaccus, each 2 thousand legionaries strong, were sent to take the mountain passes.

According to some sources, the Roman camp was raided by the nearby Aetolians before the battle, so Glabrio was forced to leave his cavalry and a group of infantry to defend it. Sources depicting the battle are somewhat conflicted. We know that Flaccus was ordered to take the pass at Mount Tichius during the night. There are authors who suggest that this unit lost its way during the march, while others claims that the Romans met Aetolians, but the hoplites were steadfast and the legionaries weren’t able to break through, losing dozens of troops and falling back. Cato’s onslaught against the Aetolians at the Mount Callidromus was more successful.

Apparently, the Romans caught some of the Aetolians asleep and their first strike killed many, but soon the hoplites managed to form a line across the pass and neither side had an advantage. Simultaneously, the main Roman force attacked head-on. The volleys of the skirmishers and peltasts did a certain amount of damage, but the disciplined Romans locked their shields and continued moving forward, even despite the losses caused by the field artillery. Seeing that the Romans were getting close, Antiochus ordered his peltasts to fall back, while his pikemen moved forward forming a phalanx. That is where the Romans suffered most of their casualties, as the legionaries weren’t able to reach the phalangites and it was impossible for them to outflank the foe.

Slowly, but surely the phalanx pushed the legion back. However, by the early morning, the forces of Cato started to gain upper hand near Calidromus, as he outnumbered the Aetolians 4-to-1 and was able to rotate fresh troops into the fray. Eventually, the Romans broke the hoplite line and sent it fleeing in terror. Shortly, both groups were on the plain, with the legionaries killing their foes in pursuit. The phalanx learned that it’s rear was now in danger and even though the king made brave attempts to stop them, fled to the camp in order to form another formation.

Still, Cato’s detachment entered the camp before the Seleucids and the main body of the Romans shortly after, so the phalangites failed to get into formation. It was now every man for himself. Antiochus abandoned his forces with his cavalry and more than 10 thousand Seleucids and Aetolians were either killed or taken captive. Livy claims that the Romans lost 200 men, but this number is probably understated. After finishing off the survivors, the Romans took a day to rest and then turned their attention against Heraclea, a formidable fortress with its south protected by the River Asopos, and its west by Mount Oeta, and a citadel on low hills.

The fortress was relatively modest in size, so a small Aetolian garrison was able to man the whole wall. At the same time, the walls were short which meant that the Romans weren’t able to use their decisive numerical superiority. Glabrio sent a message to the leader of the garrison, Damocritus, demanding they surrender, but this was refused, so the Romans prepared for a siege and started constructing battering rams. When the siege began, the legionaries assaulted the walls with rams and ladders, but the narrowness of the front didn’t allow them to overwhelm the Aetolians, and the latter sallied out, burning some of the rams, and shoving the enemy back with their spears. The first assault failed.

However, the Romans had more troops, so fresh troops were sent forth and the walls were attacked on the next day. The garrison didn’t have this luxury, which meant that each subsequent assault tired them even more. This continued for 23 days, but eventually, Glabrio devised a plan. His soldiers were ordered to return to the camp, making it look like there would be no attack. This made the exhausted Aetolians complacent and they vacated the walls to sleep in the houses.

Late at night, a group of legionaries was ordered to attack a portion of the walls and make as much noise as possible. Glabrio also commanded his legate Tiberius Sempronius to move his contingent to another sector of the fortifications. The noise woke up the Aetolians and they started running, reaching the walls in time to rebuke the Romans, but the other group was already scaling the ramparts using the ladders. Seeing that, the Aetolians vacated their positions and retreated to the citadel. The Roman commander allowed his soldiers to loot the city, but after it was done began devising plans to take the citadel.

His engineers started building siege engines on the nearby hill to bombard the defenders, while the rest of the troops formed up surrounding them. The Aetolians had almost no food left, but, most importantly, no way to counter the catapults, so Damocritus capitulated. We don’t have the numbers, but it is possible that the Romans lost more troops taking Heraclea than during the battle of Thermopylae. After the defeat at Thermopylae the king retreated to Chalcis. There was a possibility he could defend the island of Euboea and keep it as a foothold, but it was scrapped when Glabrio moved south, forcing the Boeotian league to submit, and the Roman navy commanded by Aulus Atilius destroyed the Seleucid supply convoy around Andros.

So, the king started his journey back to Asia in May of 191 BC. There were many reasons Antiochus was defeated in Greece, but it boils down to these key factors: Roman diplomacy and logistics were superior, while the majority of Greeks didn’t buy into the notion that the Seleucid king was liberating them from the Romans, and even his Aetolian allies didn’t commit all of their forces. Glabrio did not have a force big enough to follow the king across the sea and he had to concentrate against the Aetolians. He moved north again and took Lamia, putting even more pressure on the League. The latter sent messengers to Antiochus in June, asking for him to return or send money, so they could continue fighting.

Money wasn’t a problem for the wealthy king, and so the envoys returned to Greece with funds. Despite the fact that the money helped the Aetolians regain their resolve, the Seleucid cause in Greece was getting weaker. The small garrisons of Demetrias and Elis were forced to evacuate, with Elis and Messenia falling into Achaean control, while Glabrio besieged Naupaktos, deep inside Aetolian territory in July. The siege continued for two months, but then Flamininus arrived and yet again negotiated a ceasefire. Aetolian messengers and Flamininus then traveled to Rome in the hopes of signing a peace treaty, while Glabrio’s army went to its winter quarters.

Meanwhile, events were transpiring on the sea. Seleucid admiral Polyxenidas had around 40 warships and 60 smaller vessels, and he was ordered by Antiochus to read out for a possible naval invasion, while the king himself moved with 30 thousand troops to Lysimachia to defend his gains in Thrace. The details are scarce, but by August, Polyxenidas had around 200 ships, 70 of them bigger warships, probably quadriremes. The new Roman admiral in the area was the praetor Gaius Livius Salinator. He took command of the navy which had been in the docks ever since the Second Punic Wars and started sailing to unite with Atilius’ navy.

As this was before the ceasefire was agreed upon, Livius raided the Aetolian controlled Kefalonia and Zakynthos along the way, putting even more pressure on the league. In August he reached Attica, and his fleet now had more than 100 vessels, 80 of them large warships. Both sides knew what they had to do: The Romans needed to unite with their Pergamene and Rhodian allies to have equal numbers, while Polyxenidas’ best hope to win was to prevent that from happening and take on each of the enemies separately. In September the Seleucid navarch learned that the Attalids had repositioned their navy to Elaea, and that Livius was to the north of Delos, and he decided to move himself to Phokaia. However, at some point he lost the Roman fleet and assumed that it turned south to join the Rhodians, so he went for Samos.

This was a mistake, as a week or so later the Romans coalesced with the Pergamene navy commanded by king Eumenes II, bringing their total to 160 ships. The allies started chasing Polyxenidas and caught him off the coast of Chios at a place called Cissus. In a short battle, the Seleucid fleet lost 23 ships and was forced to retreat. Even defeated, Polyxenidas was undeterred and sailed fast towards Samos, where he managed to surprise the Rhodian fleet and destroy 2 dozen vessels. However, the effects of this victory were small – the allied fleet was on its way and another navy from Rhodes under Eudorus was converging on Polyxendias from the south, so he took the only remaining safe route to Ephesus.

Attacking a navy in a dock protected by land artillery is always folly, so the Romans just blockaded Polyxenidas for now. At the same time, the Republic was planning to invade Asia Minor in 190 BC, so the Attalid king was asked to secure the Hellespont. Eumenes’ approach to the Hellespont put Antiochus into another awkward position. He wanted to keep Gallipoli in order to continue putting pressure on Philip V, but with his navy blockaded in Ephesus and with no way to counter the Attalid fleet, there was a danger that Antiochus wouldn’t be able to return to Asia Minor, especially since the kingdom of Bithynia and the city of Byzantion were, despite not joining the war, pro-Roman, and could have prevented King’s army from crossing the Bosporos. So, the king moved back to Asia Minor and then started his march towards Ephesus, as he needed to defend the city, in case of Polyxenidas’ total defeat.

Antiochus detached his heir Seleucus to attack Pergamon, while a group of Galatians was sent to attack Elaea. By that time, another Roman praetor - Lucius Aemilius Regillus took over the fleet and he was forced to send a portion of his navy to defend Elaea, which was crucial for the Attalid war effort, while Eumenes rushed to his capital. Again, we don’t know all the details, but it seems that both Seleucid forces were largely successful in their raiding, but not strong enough to take either city. The campaign ended when a small Achaean contingent landed near Elaea and defeated the Galatians besieging it. Seleucus returned to his father, but overall, this short campaign alleviated the pressure on Polyxenidas enough for when Antiochus sent envoys to Aemilius to negotiate a peace treaty, the Romans really considered the offer and only declined after being influenced by Eumenes.

The Seleucid leader needed his fleet to break out, so a message was sent to Seleucia Pieria ordering Hannibal to move his navy towards the blockade. We don’t know what the king was thinking when he appointed a brilliant general, who never led a navy, to command one, but apparently, the Carthaginian used his knowledge of Phoenician and phenomenal organizational skills to form a strong 50 vessel navy in less than 2 years. His movement west was noticed by the allies and a portion of the Rhodian fleet was sent to intercept him before Hannibal reached their home island. The two navies met to the southeast of modern Antalya, at a place called Eurymedon. We don’t have the specifics, but Hannibal’s fleet was defeated and he retired to Syria.

Ironically, this naval battle would be the last ever fought by the great Carthaginian general. With half of the allied navy on different missions, the fleets near Ephesus were now equal in size. It is not clear if Aemilius broke it off due to the lack of resources or in order to lure Polyxenidas out, but when the Romans left to raid nearby Teos, the Seleucid navarch also sailed out, in hopes of surprising the enemy. However, at the battle of Myonessus, the heavier Roman ships and their boarding tactics proved to be superior yet again. Polyexinadas was forced to disengage after losing a third of his navy and returned to Ephesus.

After this battle, the Seleucids were outnumbered 4-to-1 in the sea, which meant that the Romans could cross into Asia Minor without resistance. Antiochus was aware of this fact and started concentrating his forces around Ephesus. In the aftermath of the battle of Thermopylae, the political parties of the Eternal city returned to their bickering. During the elections of 190 BC, Scipio’s party strengthened its position and two of its members became consuls, one of them the brother of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus – another veteran of the 2nd Punic War, Lucius Cornelius. On top of that, Africanus managed to get his brother the command in Greece and Asia Minor, with himself as a legate.

Being a war party, the Scipios also rebuked the attempts of the Aetolians and Flamininus to achieve peace. While the Scipios were preparing their forces to cross to Epirus, the Aetolians and Glabrio were informed that the ceasefire was over, and both sides immediately resumed hostilities. Learning that the League’s forces were defending the mountain passages and an attack on Naupaktos would prove difficult, Glabrio turned against Lamia, taking it with a surprise attack. The propraetor’s next target was Amphissa. The city was besieged, managing to resist until the Scipios arrived in August of 190.

The Romans now had more than 50 thousand troops in the region, but the campaigning season was about to be over and the Romans didn’t want to spend time fighting the Aetolians, so when the latter asked for another ceasefire, the Scipios agreed to a truce for an indemnity of 1000 talents. Afterwards, the Romans turned towards Macedon and started negotiations with its king. In exchange for forgiveness of the war indemnity, the release of his son Demetrius, and minor territorial gains, Philip not only supplied the Romans and allowed them to pass through his kingdom, but 2 thousand of his warriors joined the Scipios. In November of 190 BC the Scipios finally reached the abandoned Lysimacheia. Antiochus is often accused of making a mistake when he left Thrace undefended, as a few garrisons in the area could have slowed down the Romans, but the king was probably trying to get all available forces together for a general battle.

That can be seen from the fact that the Roman navy took Phokaia and the king didn’t do anything to retake it. Shortly the Gallipoli peninsula was controlled by the legionaries. At this point in time, Antiochus attempted to drag the king of Bithynia, Prusias I, to his side, but his diplomatic overtures failed and Bithynia declared for the Romans, who crossed the Hellespont in late November. In Asia, the Scipios were greeted by an envoy from Antiochus and were offered a peace treaty: the king was ready to pay half of the expenses the Romans incurred during the war and leave the cities in Thrace and Troada. His offer was rejected and the counteroffer to pay the expenses in full and leave all the lands to the north and west of the Taurus mountains was unacceptable.

Some sources claim that Africanus’ son Publius was captured by the Seleucids during a minor skirmish and Antiochus offered to return him in exchange for peace. The victor of Zama didn’t budge and replied that in return for his son, he would give Antiochus III a bit of useful advice: the King would be wise to agree to Roman terms to avoid battle with the Romans. With the negotiations failing the legions supported by the Attalid forces marched south in December. Scipios were worried that Lucius’ command might be taken away by the next year’s consuls, so they were eager to fight the battle before long. Antiochus was at Thyatira where he received reinforcements from Galatia and Cappadocia.

He then relocated to the north of Magnesia planning to defend at the Hermos river, as this was the best place to stop the Romans before they reached the crucial Ephesus. A few days later the army of the Roman Republic was in the area. The Seleucid army constructed a walled camp in the valley between river Hermos and its tributary Phrygius, with some of the infantry defending the crossing and a unit of Galatian cavalry to the west of Phrygius. On the 15th, the first legionary units arrived at the scene. Initially, the Romans lacked numbers, and their attempts at fording were frustrated by the enemy missile units, but more of them were arriving and pushing the defenders back.

At this point, the order was given to the Galatians to attack the Roman right, leading to heavy casualties. Another group of Scipio’s troops entered the battle and their numbers overwhelmed the Galatians, who retreated with losses. The clashes continued for a day, as Antiochus also bolstered his contingents, but the sheer numbers of the Romans made the defense of the crossing untenable since they started forcing the river in other places, too, so the king ordered his soldiers back. After moving across, Scipios started erecting a camp at the confluence of Hermos and Phrygius, but were attacked yet again. The building of the camp was stopped a few times until the legionaries were forced to get into a battle line and push the king’s troops back.

After hours of skirmish, the camp was finally built. The Seleucids had much more cavalry than their foes, so the Romans wanted to fight near their camp in the narrowest part of the valley, while Antiochus wasn’t keen on giving up his advantage in the number of horsemen and preferred a wider section, so both armies formed up in front of their fortifications. This continued for 4 days, with neither side moving forward. But January was coming, so it was the Romans who advanced. However, Antiochus still didn’t think that it was enough and on the 6th day, the Romans repositioned even closer to the enemy camp.

The king considered the battlefield satisfactory and accepted the battle on the 22nd of December. The always controversial topic of the sizes of the armies is no different for this battle. Our main sources for the battle are Roman historian Livy and the Achaean historian Polybius and neither was kind to Antiochus. According to them, the Seleucids outnumbered the Romans 2-to-1. It seems that both think that 25 thousand or so legionaries remained in Greece, but further events that we will talk about disproves this and modern historians think that armies were equal in size, each around 70 thousand.

Scipio commanded an army made up of 20 thousand Romans, 40 thousand Italian allies, and more than 10 thousand Achaeans, Macedonians, Thracians, and Pergamene, among them 20 thousand hastati, 20 thousand principes, 8 thousand triarii, and a few thousand velites. They were supported by 4000 cavalry, majority among them the Roman and Italic Equites and 1000 Attalid heavy cavalry, 3000 Pergamene and Achaean peltasts, 2000 Macedonian phalangites, and others. The Romans had 16 North African elephants, but Scipio decided not to use them against the bigger and more ferocious Seleucid Indian elephants. Opposing them were 34 thousand heavy footmen, including 16,000 phalangites, 10 thousand silver shield hypaspists, 3 thousand Galatian and 2 thousand Cappadocian swordsmen, and 23 thousand light and missile infantry, among them peltasts, Cretan archers, and Illyrian skirmishers. As we mentioned before, Antiochus’ army had more cavalry than their foe: 8 thousand heavy cavalry made up of Armenian and Iranian cataphracts, Median agema, hetairoi from the Macedonian elite, and 4000 light horsemen from Galatia, Dacia, Dahae, Arabia, and Greek Asia Minor fighting as Tarentines.

The king also had 54 elephants and an unknown number of scythed chariots. The Roman center and left wing, which was defended by the Phrygius, consisted of the legionaries in 3 lines – a traditional triplex acies in checkerboard pattern, with the left reinforced by 1000 Roman horsemen and the elephants in reserve behind the center. The right anchored by the Hermos had Achaean and Pergamene peltasts in the first rank and 3 thousand cavalrymen in the second. Various units of skirmishers and velites formed the vanguard, while the Macedonian and Thracian allies remained to defend the camp, commanded by the military tribune Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The consul Lucius Scipio commanded the center, king Eumenes the right, and the former consul Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus the left.

Scipio Africanus had suffered from sickness for weeks, so it seems that it was his brother Lucius who was the overall commander. On the other side of the plain, the Seleucid center commanded by general Zeuxis was built around all the phalangites and Galatian infantry, divided into units of 1500 footmen with 2 elephants between each battalion, for a total of 22 beasts. Antiochus himself commanded the right wing with 4000 heavy cavalry in the first line, 16 elephants and light Dahae cavalry behind them, with the Silver Shields behind them. The Kings heir’s Seleucus was leading the left-wing of the army, guarded by 4000 heavy horsemen. In front of his force was a unit of scythed chariots, while the elephants and the light cavalry formed the 2nd line, with the peltasts and Cappadocians positioned in the third line.

The primary sources fail to place the missile infantry for Antiochus, but modern historians conclude that the skirmishers and the Arab camel archers were in the vanguard. Again, our understanding of the early stage of the battle is uneven. It was customary for the skirmishers to open a battle and it seems that it was the case in this engagement too. In this case, it is possible to deduce that the Romans gained an upper hand. Livy mentions that it rained prior to the battle and that the Seleucid missile units, who relied on bowstrings, were at a disadvantage.

After suffering casualties, Antiochus’ archers started retreating behind the main line and as the Roman skirmishers moved forward, it became dangerous to keep the elephants close to the front, as they tended to become frenzied under fire. The Seleucid center then closed its ranks. With no light footmen to defend the line, the Seleucid heir ordered his chariots to counterattack. A scythed chariot was a fearsome weapon against tight groups, but the Roman skirmishers were in a loose formation, so when the chariots charged, they were able to disperse and allow the enemy through. Skirmishers then turned and started sending volleys into the charioteers, while Eumenes then sent his light cavalry to attack them.

Many horses and riders were killed and the rest panicked and turned back to find refuge behind their lines. At this point, the Arab camel archers were sent forward to assist the charioteers, as the Seleucid officers knew that the camel’s scent might scare the Roman horses and save the chariot corps. This backfired spectacularly, as the chariot riders were not able to control their horses anymore and basically smashed into their own camel riders. The details are scarce, but the Seleucid left lost all cohesion and soon was attacked by the full force of the king of Pergamon. The light cavalry and the infantry weren’t able to withstand this charge, and even though the hetairoi and cataphracts were much more disciplined, they were more used to fighting as an attacking force.

Slowly but surely, they were first pushed back, and then broken. Things were completely different on the Seleucid right, owing to the fact that the width of the battlefield was 5 kilometers, which prohibited information from reaching the flanks in time. Seeing his missile infantry on the backfoot, the Seleucid king allowed them to pass and then counterattacked with his heavy and light cavalry. This charge quickly scattered the enemy in front of them. The cavalry then got into a single line on the go, and that seemingly shocked the Roman left, who were marching forward behind their velites and now were in a wider place on the battlefield.

Ahenobarbus attempted to widen his front by sending his small cavalry contingent to defend the flank. This wasn’t enough: the Roman horsemen were crushed and the side of the legionary formation was now open to further attacks. Apparently, the Seleucids destroyed the enemy formation here and started chasing them towards the camp. Hundreds died in this chase, but eventually they reached the camp. Here Lepidus attempted to form a line, but the panic was too strong and his troops were ordered to kill the retreating legionaries.

The harsh treatment finally stopped those attempting to run. Buoyed by the Macedonian pikes the Roman line was able to put some distance between them and Antiochus. The king’s light cavalry was supposed to attack from behind, but got too distracted by the riches of the camp, which gave the Romans enough leeway to put their back against the walls of the camp. Antiochus hadn’t received any news from his army for some time and wasn’t eager to attack the pikes, so he ordered his warriors to break off and return. Meanwhile, the Roman center pushed forward, and the remainder of the Seleucid right, seeing that their center would be surrounded, attempted to join them in defense.

Indeed, soon the center of the Antiochus’ force was encircled. For some time, the Romans tried to use their missiles to weaken the phalanx, but it wasn’t too effective. Eumenes and Scipio knew that the Seleucid leader would eventually return, so they ordered a unit of cavalry to block him and commanded their heavy infantry to close in. The phalangites formed a pike wall and attempted to retreat towards their own camp, but it was difficult while they were attacked from all sides. Antiochus’s cavalry easily broke the unit sent to block them, but by the time they arrived, the phalanx was finally broken and its desperate members were chased and killed by the Roman cavalry.

Some units were able to retreat from the battlefield, but it seems that the majority of the Seleucid army was either killed or captured. We don’t have a good source for the Roman casualties, however, it can be concluded that they were in the thousands. Antiochus’ decision to place himself on the right, which was the place of honor, was the biggest mistake he made, as it precluded him from personally stabilizing the situation on his left. In the aftermath of the battle, Antiochus started retreating towards Apamea, while the Romans took Sardis. The king wanted to continue fighting, as his empire was vast and rich enough to field another army, but even the mightiest kings should consider the opinion of their subjects after two decisive defeats, and both the courtiers and commoners wanted peace, so in early 189 BC Antiochus sent envoys to discuss the terms.

The Roman demands were steep, but the Seleucids agreed without much discussion: The defeated empire had to withdraw from lands to the west and north to the Taurus mountains and pay 15,000 talents as war indemnity. Antiochus had to give up Hannibal and a number of other enemies of Rome, and promised not to participate in any wars in Europe. The king also gave away all of his elephants with a promise not to procure more in the future. The Seleucids were only allowed to keep a navy of 10 ships and not to sail beyond Calycadnus. The Romans took 20 hostages, including the son of the king – another Antiochus.

The peace would not be signed until the next year, as it had to be ratified by the Roman senate, but in the end, the Seleucid lands in Europe were given to the Thracian kingdom, while the territories in Asia were divided between Rhodes and Pergamon. This weakened the Seleucid empire. Antiochus was killed by a mob in Babylon in 187, while Armenia, Atropatene, and Parthia, who were already somewhat autonomous, rebelled and became independent. The Seleucid dynasty would rule for another 120 years, but their realm would continuously shrink. In 189, Rome sent two new consuls to Greece and Asia Minor to finish the wars.

The first - Gnaeus Manlius Vulso not only made sure that the Seleucids fulfilled the terms of the treaty, but also went to war with Galatia. The Galatian War, that the Romans won handily, is beyond the scope of this article, but it was remarkable for two reasons: it showed that Rome could now easily invade Asia Minor, and was the first time a Roman general declared war without the approval of the Senate, and this set a precedent that would lead to the downfall of the Republic. While all that was happening in the east, the ceasefire between Rome and Aetolia ended in early 189 and using the absence of the Roman armies, the Aetolians attacked Philip of Macedon and easily pushed him out of Thessaly. However, soon the second consul Marcus Fulvius Nobilior arrived. Supported by the Epirotes, he besieged Ambracia and that forced the Aetolian army to retreat from Macedon, as they were worried about being outflanked.

Although Ambracia managed to resist for months, it was clear to the League that it won’t be able to fight on without the Seleucids, so using Athenian mediation they started peace negotiations with Rome. Again, the demands were heavy, but the Aetolians had no other choice but to accept: The league lost half of its members and territory, and also was prohibited from having a foreign policy without Rome’s approval. Although technically independent, the League stopped being a major player after this treaty. In 184 the second son of Philip V - Demetrius, went on a return visit to Rome. After Cynoscephalae Demetrius was the boy taken as a hostage by the Romans and he had emerged from that experience a committed Romanophile.

This only intensified when the senate decided to give the sympathetic Demetrius their official support, and he returned to Macedon in 184 with a very different attitude to his father. Macedonian court politics during this period were especially fierce. While the Seleucid conflict was raging, the royal court in Pella had become bitterly divided over the Roman issue, and it was almost as if two courts existed at once. One of these circles consisted of those advisors and highborn men who favoured peace and accomodation with Rome, and was gathered around Demetrius. On the other hand, another group formed around the duo of Philip V and his eldest son Perseus, and was packed with firebrands who advocated resistance against the invaders from the west.

Both factions began an underhand war of propaganda against one another, using rumour and intrigue as weapons. Perseus’ mother was routinely slandered as being of low birth and a one-time concubine. Therefore, it was implied that Perseus was less legitimate than Demetrius, who was the younger sibling. Demetrius realised that, despite his friendliness with Rome, Perseus had influence with his father and became certain that his days were numbered. He made a mistake at this point, confiding his fears to one of his father’s courtiers named Didas, telling him he planned to flee to Rome.

This man promptly told Philip, who also discovered a letter speaking of Demetrius’ ‘lust for the throne’. Despite it probably being a forgery, Didas poisoned Demetrius in the winter of 181 on the order of Philip. This was the only dynastic murder of the entire Antigonid dynasty, and its outcome was a surge in hostility between Rome and Macedon. The situation destabilised even further in 179, when after over four decades of rule, Philip V passed away in Amphipolis while preparing for a campaign against the Thracians. With his rival Demetrius also dead, Perseus became the king of Macedon.

He did what new Antigonid kings always had to, immediately reaffirming old friendships and building new ones. Rivals to the throne were eliminated and, in this new Rome-dominated world, it was necessary to send emissaries to the senate hoping for their official recognition of Perseus’ accession to the throne. Reluctantly, this was granted. On the diplomatic front, Perseus also entered into many alliances and diplomatic arrangements with the various Greek city-states, making no secret of Macedon’s continuing interest in Greece. Naturally, this was to the great annoyance of the Romans.

Furthermore, to the east, Perseus astutely married his sister to Prusias II of Bithynia and the king himself married the daughter of Seleucid monarch Seleucus IV. So in addition to playing nice with the Greeks, Perseus was also swiftly gaining a network of useful allies in Asia Minor, much to the increasing anger of Pergamon, which was excluded from these affairs. Its king - Eumenes II, played his kingdom’s usual part as a sycophantic informant to their Roman lords in the west. Initial insistences and warnings by Eumenes to the Roman senate fell on receptive ears, primarily because they wished to keep their hegemony over Greece. In 175 and 174, repeated Roman warnings to Perseus refused to cow the young king.

Moreover, he performed a grand spectacle of marching his entire army on a peaceful parade through Delphi - the sacred centre of the Greek world. The message was clear: HE was the protector of the Greeks, not the Romans. Increasingly urgent embassies from Pergamon began to beseech the Roman senate for help, and in early 172 Eumenes himself came to plead his case. He not only repeated previous claims that Perseus had simply inherited his father’s preparations and resolution for war against Rome, but also claimed that the peace since 189 had allowed Macedon to fully recover its strength. Finally, the Pergamene king played his trump card, stating to the Romans that “I felt it would be utterly disgraceful if I failed to reach Italy to warn you, before he arrived here with his army.”.

Cynically playing on the tradition post-Hannibalic fear of invasions in their homeland, Eumenes got his way. The subsequent diplomatic pressure and investigations into Perseus’ conduct would turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the king could see the senate was intent on destroying him. Therefore, he was required to take steps to be ready for them, it was his only choice. Philip V may have been the aggressor in the previous war, but now the Romans were hungry for conflict with Perseus. Roman envoys sent to negotiate a truce with the Macedonian king then boasted of deceiving him into thinking there was even a chance of peace.

In fact, the truce was purely a measure in order to gain more time for the Romans to prepare for war, as they refitted a fleet of old ships and embarked a powerful army from Brundisium to Apollonia. This Roman ‘new cunning’ of deception and underhanded tactics was not met with approval from all quarters. More traditionalist senators remembered a time when the Romans treated their enemies as honoured and honourable men. It turned out that such methods were no way to run an empire. Whatever the case, the Roman senate had decided that the only way to maintain their position in Greece was to have no equals at all.

The Antigonid monarchy had to disappear, and the Third Macedonian War began. Roman consul Publius Licinius Crassus crossed the Adriatic in the late summer of 171BC in order to take control of the legions there. At the same time, Eumenes of Pergamon arrived at Chalcis with his fleet, disembarking with 6,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry of his own. At sea the Romans had unquestioned mastery of the Aegean sea, so they dismissed the allied vessels, only retaining Eumenes’ assistance. They only wanted the help of those allies who they knew were most loyal, and were hesitant to be indebted to friends such as the Rhodians who would probably want peacetime gains for their wartime performance.

Meanwhile, Perseus advanced south into Thessaly - ravaging lands on the way, and encamped just to the south of Mount Ossa, having taken command of the army his father had begun to rebuild. At the same time, Licinius secured the Greek west coast and advanced into Thessaly via Athamania. When the consul arrived at the Greek city of Larissa, he encamped just outside the town by a hill called Callinicus, where he was reinforced by Eumenes’ Pergamene forces. As the Macedonians had grown bolder due to their opposed ravaging of the Thessalian countryside, Perseus decided to match them toward the Roman camp, erecting their own around five miles away. After resting his army for the night, Perseus drew up his line into formation and marched his cavalry, as well as the light infantry forwards.

The phalangists stayed behind in reserve. Odrysian king Cotys IV commanded the Thracian cavalry and interspersed light infantry on the left flank, while Macedonian horsemen and Cretan skirmishers on the right were led by Midon of Beroea. Both wings were flanked by the King’s Cavalry and auxiliary infantry from various foreign nations, while the centre was made up of Perseus’ elite agema, the sacred cavalry and 400 slingers in front. Opposite the Macedonians, Licinius’ field army formed up its heavy infantry safely behind their camp’s ramparts, sending their own cavalry and skirmishers out to meet the enemy. The Roman right wing, commanded by Caius Licinius Crassus consisted of the Italian equites with velites scattered between them, while the left under Valerius Laevinus commanded the Greek allied cavalry and infantry on the left.

In the centre, Quintus Mucius led a force of Gauls, Thessalians and other volunteer cavalry. Missile fire from javelins and sling stones opened the battle, causing light casualties on both sides before Cotys’ Thracian horsemen charged. They fought like wild beasts, according to Livy, and swiftly smashed through the Roman right wing cavalry. At the same time, Perseus and his elite agema troops broke the Roman centre. Believing he could turn the battle into a decisive engagement, Perseus was about to order his phalanx into the battle, but was persuaded not to take such a risk by Euander the Cretan.

Thanking Euander for his wise counsel and taking the victory where he could, Perseus withdrew back to his camp. 200 Roman cavalry and 2000 infantry had died, and only 60 of Perseus’ men had died. Further skirmishes followed this battle, but the campaigning season of 171 was essentially over. The Romans proceeded to occupy themselves by brutally razing the anti-Roman cities in Boeotia. Haliartus was completely annihilated after a short siege, 2,500 men were sold into slavery and the town remained desolate for decades afterwards.

This type of increasingly notorious Roman savagery in Greece, along with Perseus’ victory at Callinicus, made the Macedonian king appear to be a Champion of the Greeks. Most who believed this were still too frightened of Rome to take action, but the Molossians of Epirus did defect. One setback after another appeared to be striking the Romans in this conflict, and this was only compounded when Perseus launched a successful raid on the Roman fleet at Oreus, destroying ships and spoiling grain supplies. Despite these republican failures and Macedonian successes, Perseus knew that he could not grind Rome to victory, he needed a decisive victory in battle. By the end of 169, Rome’s position in Greece appeared precarious, and only the arrival of the new consul - Lucius Aemilius Paullus in 168 BC breathed fresh life into the floundering Roman cause in Greece.

The first century Greek biographer Plutarch informs us that this scion of the prominent Aemilii patrician family did not even want to be consul at this point, as he had already failed during his run for a second term. However, his previous victories against the Lusitani and Inguani tribes had not been forgotten. The senate believed him to be the best candidate on their list to bring order to Greece once again. Eventually, overwhelmed by the constant requests for him to stand for office, Aemilius was elected and immediately given the Macedonian command. Plutarch also tells us that after his election as consul for 168, Aemilius went home to find his daughter in distress.

Naturally, the father asked what was the matter. His daughter, embracing Aemilius with sad tears in her eyes, told the consul that their little dog was dead. That dog’s name, so the story goes, was Perseus. Possibly apocryphal stories aside, the force which Aemilius took command of was large: two especially strengthened Roman and allied legions totalling around 22,000 legionary heavy infantry. The allied legions now comprised various peoples who, until recently, had been long standing enemies of Rome, such as the Etruscans and Samnites.

Supporting the heavy troops were thousands more light infantry, including velites, Pergamene troops and Greek allies. 4,000 cavalry also mounted up in the Roman army, including a thousand of the infamous Numidian cavalry under their prince Misagenes. With the North African troops also came 22 imposing war elephants. Perseus meanwhile had around 44,000 foot and 4,000 horse on his side of the field. 21,000 of the infantry comprised the fearsome phalangists with their Sarissa pikes and phalanx formation, which reached a mile in length.

Supporting this moving wall of pikes were light troops, auxiliaries such as the Thracian javelinmen and Illyrian archers. After advancing into Thessaly in the summer of 168, Aemilius marched south, meeting Perseus at the foot of mount Olympus, where he had drawn up his army in a highly defensible position. The Antigonids were dug in on the west bank of the Elpeus river, just east of the mountain and had easy access to the nearby town of Dium. With typical Roman grit, it seems like the fact that Perseus had such a position did not bother the legionaries and, eager to redeem their honour after Callinicus, urged Aemilius to attack immediately As a retort, Aemilius told his men to mind their place and underlined the fact that they would fight when and how he told them to. In order to dislodge Perseus from his defensive position, Aemilius assigned a subordinate - Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, to launch a feint towards the sea with 3,500 allied infantry and 5,000 legionaries.

Under the cover of darkness, he would march through an unguarded pass in order to surprise Perseus. This might have gotten the jump on Macedon’s king, but a Cretan auxiliary in the Roman army defected and informed his fellow Greeks of the Roman plan. Reacting immediately to this alarming news, Perseus sent a general named Milo with 2,000 Macedonians and 10,000 Thracian mercenaries to oppose the Roman passage. Though Nasica hadn’t expected this resistance, upon his arrival in the pass he ordered a charge. The mountain fighting in the narrow defiles and passages was bloody and brutal, and Nasica himself supposedly came toe to toe with a fearsome Thracian soldier, slaying him with the pilum javelin.

Rome’s legionaries doggedly stabbed and slashed their way through the mountain pass, routing the Macedonians, who then fled back to the main army and informed Perseus of the defeat. Realising that the loss of this mountain pass would render his position vulnerable, the king immediately decamped and marched away from the mountain. While Aemilius moved through the mountain pass and emerged onto the foothills around Mount Olocrus, Perseus drew up his army behind a river on the plain below, near the town of Pydna. The handpicked field of battle was fantastic for the Macedonian phalanx, and Perseus’ position atop a small ridge and behind the river gave him a distinct advantage. Aemilius knew this and so did not advance just yet, remaining in his camp on the hills.

The general’s officers, especially Nasica, quickly became restless and wanted to attack immediately. Stoically, Aemilius smiled and advised Nasica not to be so hasty, informing him of the folly of attacking a phalanx on such ground. The Romans did not waste their time, and constructed a marching camp for that night. When darkness had fallen and the soldiers were resting around the various campfires and sleeping in their tents, the moon suddenly grew dark, its white colour shifting to a dull red. The superstitious men in the Macedonian camp were deeply affected and surprised by what was apparently a bad omen.

A moon which seemed to bleed red, had Zeus abandoned them? At the same time, the equally pious Romans did not react as badly, why was this? A military tribune of the Roman army - Caius Sulpicius Gallus, was a learned Astronomer. The day before, he approached his general and gained his permission to assembly the soldiers, informing them that such an event - that we know as a solar eclipse, would occur on the following night. He urged the soldiers not to see such a thing as an ill omen, as it was a regular, predictable and natural thing. Therefore, when the eclipse did occur, the Roman soldiers simply followed their commander in offering sacrifices to the Greek gods, promising to hold games in Heracles’ honour. The gestures worked and the Roman soldier’s morale was unaffected.

With both leaders engaging one another in a dangerous staring contest, it would take a spark for the flames to ignite. Said spark came in the form of a misbehaving mule. In order to fill up jugs of water for the thirsty Roman soldiers, who wore heavy armour, a small train of mules was led down to a stream below the foothills by lighter troops. Like the stubborn creatures they are, one of the parched pack animals supposedly scented the water and bolted away from its handlers. The water-gatherers ran after it, and discovered that a group of Perseus’ Thracian troops were doing the same.

Moreover, the enemy was attempting to steal their mule. The irritated, frustrated and scorching Roman soldiers were not going to give up that mule, and a brawl broke out over the animal. Runners on both sides went to get help, while the mule probably just ran off. Perseus saw an opportunity to draw the Romans down from the uneven foothills of Mount Olocrus, and marched his entire army out of the camp and straight towards the brawl at the stream. The Romans could see what was going on from their camp, and they were furious, demanding angrily to be allowed to march out and fight.

Aemilius risked mutiny if he refused and so, gave the signal to form up. After only allowing his legions a brief amount of time to form up, he swiftly commanded the advance, aiming to save the men at the stream. At that moment, the marching phalangists were given the order to lower their pikes. In unison, the first five ranks held their sarissae horizontally, and the ranks behind kept them at a 45 degree angle. Then, they advanced.

Against the barely armoured Roman light troops, whose main job was to skirmish at a distance, the phalangists met almost no serious resistance, and simply tore through the enemy ranks. Valiantly trying to buy the Romans more time, an auxiliary tribal leader named Salvius obtained his unit’s standard and threw it into the phalanx. This galvanised the pressured soldiers, and they furiously tried to get it back. This resulted in massive casualties, but slowed the advance of the phalanx and allowed some men to escape. Aemilius’ main force was now closing in, and the swarm of velites and other skirmishers threw their missiles at the phalanx, mostly to no effect.

The legionary heavy infantry, having witnessed the slaughter of their more lightly armoured comrades, became frightened and began to slow down. They saw the sheer size of the steamroller that approached them and their morale started to wane. Aemilius had to act right now, otherwise his shortsword armed men were going to be slaughtered on the flat ground. So, the general ordered an immediate withdrawal and ceded the plains to Perseus, moving for the foothills once again. Owing to the phenomenal discipline of the Roman legions, the retreat was carried out successfully, and Aemilius now had some breathing room to attack.

Wheeling his horse to the right flank, he ordered the wing of 34 elephants to charge forward, with a mass of cavalry behind them. The Thracian and mercenary skirmishers immediately in the path of this charge were ideal troops for dealing with elephants, but they were exhausted and failed to concentrate enough missiles. The elephant vanguard caught them on a bad day, and they carved a bloody hole into Perseus’ left wing. The cavalry then streamed around the elephants and mopped up those that were left, leaving the agema on the leftmost edge of the phalanx completely exposed. The victorious Roman right wing chased the retreating skirmishers, and then slowly began to reform slightly behind Perseus’ line.

Throughout this battle on the edge of the field, the phalanx had been pursuing the withdrawing legions into the foothills and onto rough ground. With the infantry screen already gone, the rightmost legionary unit swung inward and drove into the phalanx’s vulnerable left. At the same time, gaps gradually began to open in the phalanx due to the increasing uneven terrain. Aemilius took full advantage of this, riding up and down the line, shouting at his men to attack. Whether or not he was heard, the Roman centurions knew what they were doing, and led their men into the now-exposed arteries of the Macedonian phalanx.

The pressure now began to mount. Fighting in unfavourable close quarters combat and hit on the flank, the phalanx began to slowly fragment. Aemilius, who had retreated to a position of command on the heights, saw small streams of Antigonid troops fleeing from the rear of the infantry block. The coup de grâce was delivered by the now-regrouped Roman right flank. The elephants and cavalry now charged at the disintegrating army of Perseus’ and utterly routed it.

Last to fall were the 3,000 elite agema of Perseus. Not a single one of these valiant men fled and they fought to the last men, while their king fled on his horse. One of the greatest phalanxes ever had been crushed, and Alexander the Great’s military legacy was finally buried, the legion would rule the field of battle from this point on. 20,000 of Perseus’ troops were killed and 11,000 more were captured, including Perseus himself. This man, who was to be the final Antigonid king, was captured after hiding his crown, removing his royal robes and taking refuge in a temple on Samothrace.

When brought before Aemilius, Perseus wept pitifully, much to the Roman general’s disgust. Given the ‘title’ of Macedonicus by the senate, the victorious general was voted a triumph and rode through Rome on his chariot. The treasures of Macedon and his victorious troops marched behind him. Finally, Perseus followed them in chains, still sobbing. Macedon proved to be too dangerous for Rome to allow it to remain independent, so in the aftermath of the war, the Antigonid monarchy was dissolved into four semi-states, or merides, each with a capital, and elected officials, but subject to the laws imposed by the Romans.

The regions were allowed to keep small garrisons along the borders with outside tribes, but not allowed to have an independent foreign policy, or engage in trade between them and intermarry. Their economy was further weakened by an excessive tribute paid to Rome, as well as a ban on gold and silver mining, logging, and shipbuilding. On top of that, the Romans enacted revenge on the Molossians who supported Perseus. 70 of their cities were destroyed and 150 thousand Epirotes were enslaved. All this caused resentment and impoverishment, which made the populace anti-Roman.

Soon those who would use this appeared on the horizon. A youth called Andriskos, born in Adramyttium in Asia Minor, had an uncanny resemblance to the late Macedonian king Perseus, and in 150 BC he started telling everyone who would listen that he was the king’s son Philip and that he was planning to restore Antigonid rule over Macedon. Andriskos traveled to Macedon but failed to garner any support, as the local nobles were happy with Roman rule. He then attempted to get the assistance of the Seleucid ruler Demetrius I, but the latter had his internal problems and didn’t want to anger the Romans, so the pretender was sent into Roman custody. The Senate didn’t consider Andriskos to be dangerous, so he was sent to Magna Graecia to live in custody, but managed to run away and ended up in Miletus.

He once again started looking for supporters and gained them among the anti-Roman locals. Andriskos then traveled to Thrace, where the local chiefs, worried about the strengthening Roman influence, supported him, giving him a small army. We don’t know all the details but in early 149 BC, the pretender entered Macedon. The nobles attempted to gather a force to stop him, but their armies were defeated somewhere in Odomantice. Thus, Andriskos became the king as Philip VI and restored the Macedonian monarchy.

Pro-roman nobles lost their standing, while the general population celebrated their independence. The Fourth Macedonian War had begun. In the same year, he invaded the Roman-allied Thessalian league. The timing was perfect, as the best generals of the Republic were busy besieging Carthage during the Third Punic War and fighting in the Lusitanian War in Spain. The Roman commander in the area, Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, marched for Thessaly and started negotiating with Andriskos, hoping to buy time for his Achaean allies and the nearby Pergamene garrisons to join him.

Indeed, the general was reinforced by these allies and even one legion from Italy. This was a signal to Andriskos that his enemies were getting stronger, so he attacked and crushed the allies, taking over most of Thessaly. Inspired, Andriskos sent envoys to Carthage offering the revival of the old alliance. The winter stopped the hostilities, but the Romans were, as usual, full of energy. A veteran of the Third Macedonian War, praetor Quintus Caecilius Metellus, was ordered to form another army, and in early 148 his legions embarked on Pergamene transports.

In the past, the Roman armies landed in Epirus and then moved into the Greek heartland from there, but Metellus decided to outsmart his opponent and made landfall in Macedon, making his way south. This threatened Andriskos’ kingdom and forced him to double time towards the enemy. The two sides met at the same place the fate of the Third Macedonian War was sealed 20 years ago - Pydna. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the battle and even the number of combatants is a mystery. The battle started when the cavalry vanguards of the two armies met each other, and the Macedonian horsemen had the upper hand, sending their counterparts fleeing.

Emboldened by that Andriskos sent some of his troops back to Thessaly in order to continue the conquest. Soon the main bodies of the armies were close and the infantry clashed in the center. Once again, the details are lost to time and it is unknown if the Macedonians fought in their traditional phalanx, but initially the two groups of footmen fought to a standstill and it seemed that the battle would come down to the battle between horsemen. That is when Andriskos was betrayed by the commander of the cavalry, a nobleman named Telestos. The Macedonian center was attacked from all sides and was almost completely crushed.

After the battle, Andriskos attempted to flee to Thrace, but his allies didn’t want to draw the ire of the victors even more. Andriskos was captured and given to the Romans, who sent him to Italy, where he was executed. This was the end of the Fourth Macedonian War. This time Macedon didn’t even get a semblance of independence. Commanded by the Senate, Metellus turned Macedon, Epirus, Southern Illyria, and Ionian islands into the province of Macedonia and became its first governor.

However, the situation was getting volatile elsewhere in Greece. Sparta, now led by Menalcidas, had been trying to break away from the Achaean League for some time. In 147 BC, their delegation went to Rome to ask the Senate for assistance, but before the Romans were able to respond, Spartan territory was invaded by the strategos of the League, Damocritus. Menalcidas was defeated, but the Achaeans failed to take the city itself. For that Damocritus was deposed and replaced by the even more extreme Diaeus.

That is when a Roman embassy arrived to meet with the Achaean assembly. Unexpectedly for the Achaeans, the embassy not only supported Sparta’s independence but also demanded Argos, Corinth, and Orchomenus, possibly to spark a conflict. The Achaeans obviously refused and sent their own embassy to Rome demanding the resolution to be rescinded. The Senate said no. It was clear that the Achaean league and other Greeks were angry at the Roman takeover of Macedon and Epirus, so, joined by the Boeotians and Euboeans, in 146 BC they declared war on the Roman Republic, starting the Achaean War.

Another anti-Roman strategos - Critolaos - was elected and his army, supported by the Thebans, marched for Thessaly. However, before they were able to reach Thermopylae, the Roman army under Metellus caught them at a place called Scarpheia in Locris. The Greeks didn’t expect a battle; their army was crushed and the general killed. Afterwards, the Roman governor continued south. The Argives attempted to stop his advance in Chaeronea, but were crushed.

Diaeus took over command in Achaea and in a short time managed to create a 16,000 strong army, hoping to defend at the isthmus of Corinth. Unfortunately for him, the Roman army was reinforced by the consul Lucius Mummius, as well as a Pergamene detachment, bringing its numbers to 27 thousand. The two sides met at a place called Leukapetra. Once again, we don’t have much in terms of details. Apparently, the Romans didn’t want to charge across the narrow isthmus, even despite outnumbering the enemy 2-to-1.

For some time, the Roman army remained in the camp and it seems that they got complacent, as Diaeus was able to use his light infantry to attack the camp and inflict heavy casualties. The next day, the Romans marched directly towards the enemy and as they were supported by the Pergamene navy, Diaeus was forced to accept the battle. The two infantry bodies clashed in the center and the Achaeans managed to stop the legionaries. However, Diaeus had very few horsemen and the Romans used that - on both flanks Mummius’ cavalry destroyed their counterparts and then attacked the Greek infantry from all sides. The battle was effectively over and the whole Achaean army was crushed.

In the aftermath, the Romans razed Corinth, similar to Carthage months prior - all men were killed, all women and children enslaved, and the city was burned to the ground. This left Rome without trading rivals in the Mediterranean and as no military power could oppose the Republic, the Achaean League, Aetolian League, and others were disbanded and the entire region was added to the Province of Macedonia. Greece would remain under Roman control for centuries, despite 2 more rebellions in Macedon and an attempt by Greek cities to support Pontus during the First Mithridatic War. The Roman takeover of Greece was a prime example of the imperial Divide et Impera principle: the Republic managed to ally with one faction against the other and keep all of the cities, states, and leagues constantly divided, until it was time to conquer everything. Still, Greek culture flourished and over the next 2000 years became a crucial part of the Pax Romana, Christianity, the Muslim Golden Age, and then the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment.

How Rome Conquered Roman Documentary Ancient Macedon Thermopylae Decisive Battles Philip Seleucids Aous Magnesia Achaean War Callinicus Flamininus SeleucidHow Rome Conquered Documentary Ancient Macedon Thermopylae Decisive Battles Philip Seleucids Aous Magnesia Achaean War Callinicus Flamininus Seleucid First

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