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Rome’s relations with the states and peoples of the Mediterranean in the second century BC.

After the end of the 2nd Punic War (218-201 BC), the Roman Republic began to pursue an active policy towards the Hellenistic states. In the first half of the second century BC, it leads to military clashes —

  • with Macedonia,
  • with the Seleucid kingdom, and the
  • lliances of the Greek cities.

For several decades, the Romans found strong allies among the Hellenistic states, created military-political coalitions, and skillfully used the internal contradictions between the Hellenistic powers and the social struggle within the Greek world. Rome is spreading its expansion more and more, gradually conquering one country after another.

The reasons and goals of the aggressive policy of the Romans in the East in the second century BC lie in the very nature of Roman society at that time. The rapid growth of slave-owning relations (which was facilitated by the successful wars in the West, which gave a lot of slaves and material values) led to profound changes in the economy, it led to the development of commodity production, expanded the scope of slave labor. Hence the desire to seize new lands, slaves, and to be able to exploit the natural wealth and population of the eastern countries. The beginning of the Roman aggression against the Hellenistic world was laid by the capture of the northwestern Illyrian coast of the Balkan Peninsula by the Romans.

With the expansion of economic ties with the East, the inclusion of the Greek cities of the Eastern coast of the Apennine Peninsula in the Roman-Italian Union, the Senate increasingly understood the need to establish its dominance in the Adriatic Sea that washed it from the east.

War with the Illyrian tribes (229-228 and 219 BC)

The Illyrian tribes were the closest neighbors of the Roman Republic on the Western coast of the Balkans. They lived in conditions of military democracy, only the most developed of them (for example, in the region with the center of Skodra) began the process of forming a state. The scanty soil of their mountainous country encouraged the Illyrians to seek other sources of income in addition to farming. Illyrians found them in the sea robbery, which in the III century BC. After the fall of the maritime power of Tarentum and Syracuse in the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, it reached such a scale that it disrupted the trade relations of both Greek cities and Roman merchants. The Illyrian capture of Korkira — an important island on the sea route from Italy to the east, was the cause of the war with the Illyrians. The formal reason was the complaints of Italian merchants and requests for help from several Greek cities. The Romans sent in 229 BC. against the Illyrians, the fleet and quickly defeated the enemy’s fast but light ships, the landing army of the Romans occupied the Illyrian coast, destroying fortifications and cities, and drove the local population inland. The territory of the state of Skodra was reduced. The Illyrian tribes were tributaries of Rome.

By seizing the Illyrian coast, the Romans established political influence over many Greek cities in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. Their harbors became the anchorages of the Roman fleet in the Adriatic Sea. Thus, Rome acquired important strong points for further offensive to the East. Rome’s capture of the Illyrian coast cut off Macedonia’s access to the Adriatic Sea. Instead of the weak and scattered Illyrian tribes, the powerful Rome became Macedonia’s western neighbor.

2nd Macedonian War (200-197 BC)

At the time when the Romans were at war with Hannibal, a military-political alliance of Macedonia and the Seleucid kingdom emerged in the East. Philip V of Macedon and Antiochus III sought to re-divide the Eastern Mediterranean regions. Taking advantage of the weakening of Egypt under the infant king Ptolemy V, Philip V and Antiochus III concluded an agreement to seize and divide the Ptolemaic possessions in the Aegean islands, Asia Minor and Syria. It was assumed that Antiochus would take possession of Kelesyria, Phoenicia and Cyprus, and Philip — the Asia Minor territories of Egypt in Caria, the islands of the Aegean Sea and Cyrene. However, this treaty did not involve joint military actions and mutual assistance of the allies, because of their mutual distrust and rivalry in the struggle for hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean. Having concluded the treaty, Antiochus III occupied all of Kelesyria, while Philip captured the Greek cities in the straits, sacked the coast of Pergamum, and occupied Caria. Philip’s conquests and the threat of Macedonia becoming the strongest state in the Aegean caused the Kingdom of Pergamum, Rhodes, Byzantium, Athens, and other Greek cities to turn against Philip V. Thus, an anti-Macedonian military alliance was formed in the Aegean Basin. In the war with the Pergamo-Rhodes alliance, Philip V was defeated in the naval battle of the island of Chios (201 BC).

Organization of the Roman army in the third century BC.

Organization of the Roman army in the third century BC.

Developing military actions against Philip V, the allies turned to Rome for help. The Romans were not interested in strengthening Macedonia. Philip’s conquest of the Aegean Islands and the southwestern regions of Asia Minor would have made political and economic penetration into the Aegean basin more difficult, and the capture of Cyrene could have jeopardized Roman navigation throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. In Rome, it was taken into account that Philip V had lost part of his army and fleet in the war with Rhodes and Pergamum, and had neither the time nor the means to quickly restore his strength. In addition, by going to war with Philip, Rome could gain strong allies in the person of Rhodes and Pergamum. The question of war with Macedonia was decided positively in the Senate and was brought before the People’s Assembly, which finally authorized the war. At the same time, an embassy was sent to the East, which was to achieve the neutrality of Antiochus III and strengthen the alliance of the Romans with the anti-Macedonian coalition. The Roman ambassadors succeeded, by agreeing to Antiochus ‘ capture of Kelesyria, in securing his neutrality during the war between Philip and the anti-Macedonian coalition led by the Roman Republic. An alliance was concluded with Pergamum and Rhodes, which lasted for more than a quarter of a century and played a decisive role in the struggle of the Romans with Macedonia.

Map of the Battle of Kinoskefaly.

Map of the Battle of Kinoskefaly.

In the autumn of 200 BC, the Roman army landed in Greece and began to advance into Macedonia. The Allied fleet, which dominated the Aegean Sea, blocked the Macedonian coast. However, during the first two years of the war, the Romans did not make significant progress. Philip repulsed the Roman-directed attack from the north of the Thracian tribes and defended himself stubbornly, sometimes turning into an attack, against his opponents. But when the Romans, skilfully using the anti-Macedonian movement in Greece, involved the Aetolian and then Achaean alliances in the war in 199 BC (198 BC). Philip found himself in a difficult position.

In 198 BC, the Roman army was led by Titus Quinctius Flamininus, a capable general and skilled diplomat. The decisive battle between the Romans and Macedonia took place in Thessaly in a hilly area at Cynoscephalae (“Dog’s Heads”) (197 BC). After being defeated, Philip began negotiations for peace.

Conclusion of a peace agreement

In the Senate, when discussing peace with Philip, demands were made for a continuation of the war with Macedonia, and although the same demands were made among Rome’s allies (for example, the Aetolians), the Senate decided to end the war and dictate terms of peace that Philip V could accept. Philip had to give up all possessions outside of Macedonia, pay Rome 1,000 talents, give up his navy to the Romans, with the exception of six ships, return all prisoners of war, and reduce the army to 5,000 men. He had no right to start a war without the knowledge of Rome, i.e. he lost his independent foreign policy. In addition, he had to recognize the freedom of the Greek cities.

Silver tetrdrachma approx. 220 BC with the image of Philip V

Silver tetrdrachma approx. 220 BC with the image of Philip V

The last point of the treaty was the most difficult for Philip V: it closed Macedonia in its own narrow borders. At the Isthmian Games in 196 BC, it was officially announced that the Roman Senate and the general Titus Flamininus would grant freedom to the Greek cities. The announcement caused widespread jubilation in Greece.

Peace with Macedonia was concluded, but the Roman army continued to remain in Greece until 194 BC. e. In Corinth, Chalcis, Demetriades, Roman garrisons were introduced. Titus Flamininus and a commission from Rome set about arranging Greek affairs —

  • The boundaries of individual cities were redefined and often arbitrarily defined,
  • the Romans introduced timocratic constitutions in the cities of Thessaly
  • and reorganized the League of Thessaly on the Achaean model.

These measures of the Romans soon showed the Greeks that their liberation was only a change of masters: Macedonian rule was replaced by Roman rule, which caused discontent in a certain part of Greek society. However, the aristocratic strata supported the Romans, seeing them as a force capable of keeping the masses calm. The Roman command very soon justified the hopes placed on it by the aristocrats: Titus Flamininus, at the request of the Achaean oligarchs, on behalf of all the Hellenes, declared war on the Spartan tyrant Nabis, whose social reforms were radical and spread from Sparta to the neighboring regions of Argos and Mycenae. In 195 BC, Nabis was defeated. Sparta lost all its conquests and paid 500 talents of military indemnity. Social reforms were canceled. In addition, the mass of people on the territory of Greece was enslaved, many cities of Greece were ravaged and devastated by the Roman legionaries.

The Roman government was motivated by internal and external reasons to end the Second Macedonian War and conclude peace with Philip. In Rome and Italy, an epidemic disease was rampant, and in the north in the valley of the Po River in 200 BC, Gallic tribes rebelled, from which the Romans took the land, dividing it among the veterans of the 2nd Punic War. The Gauls were joined by the Ligurians. The rebels besieged and captured a number of Roman fortresses, destroyed their garrisons and the Roman colonists settled here. For several years, the Romans fought the rebels.

The War with the Celtiberians (195-179 BC)

An even more serious situation arose in Spain. Fighting in the Iberian Peninsula with the Carthaginians during the 2nd Punic War, Scipio concluded a number of allied treaties with the Iberian tribes, some of them recognized themselves as subjects of Rome and paid tribute to him. The Iberians, however, believed that Rome’s victory over Carthage did not mean their submission to the Romans. The introduction of provincial government caused an uprising in 197 BC in both Near and Far Spain. The rebels were joined by the old Phoenician cities, led by Malaca, as well as the Celtiberians, and a little later-and the Lusitanians . The Roman garrisons were defeated.

In 195 BC, a Roman army led by the Consul Marcus Porcius Cato was sent to Spain. At the cost of great sacrifices, Cato managed to defeat the main forces of the rebels, he made a number of punitive expeditions, sold the inhabitants of some Iberian communities into slavery, and disarmed others, but could not end the war.

Until the late 180s BC, the Romans suffered setbacks in Spain. Only by concentrating a 45,000-strong army there did Rome finally, by 179 BC, put down this revolt. A significant role in its suppression was played by the diplomacy of the praetor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus. The Celtiberians recognized the power of Rome, pledged to pay tribute and field an auxiliary army. Roman provincial rule in Spain was restored.

The reasons for the defeat of the Iberian tribes were their relatively low social development, fragmentation and intertribal hostility, and, finally, the superiority of military equipment and military art of the Romans. Almost twenty years of war with the Iberian tribes, which absorbed significant military forces and large material resources, made it difficult for Rome to develop aggressive actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

War of the Roman Republic with the Seleucid Empire (192-188 BC)

Military actions of King Antiochus III

While the Roman legions were fighting in Spain, the ruler of the great Seleucid empire, King Antiochus III, began military operations in the west of Asia Minor. By this time, the Seleucid monarchy was the strongest state in the Hellenistic world, claiming hegemony over the entire Eastern Mediterranean.

Having seized a number of areas in Southern Syria and Palestine, previously part of the possessions of the Ptolemies, Antiochus III dictated peace terms to Egypt. Having secured his rear from the south and put to sea with 200 ships, Antiochus III began to capture the cities of the southern and western coasts of Asia Minor. He made military alliances:

  • with the Galatians
  • with Cappadocia

Thus surrounding the hostile kingdom of Pergamum with its allies. Antiochus then crossed into Thrace, and here subdued the Greek cities on the banks of the Propontis and the Hellespont, which had previously been held by Philip of Macedon.

Bust of Antiochus III. Louvre, France. By Auguste Girodon, 1902

Bust of Antiochus III. Louvre, France. By Auguste Girodon, 1902

The occupation of the Thracian Chersonese made Antiochus the master of the straits to the Black Sea, which Pergamum and Rhodes could not reconcile themselves to. The Rhodians declared war on Antiochus in 197 BC and, starting military operations at sea, turned to Rome for help. But the Romans, not yet finished the war in Greece, avoided direct intervention in a new war. However, they declared themselves the defenders of the Greek cities and demanded that Antiochus release them. At the same time, the Romans insisted on the return to Egypt of the lands taken from it by Antiochus. Antiochus rejected these demands.

In an effort to win over the Greeks, he developed an active diplomatic activity in Greece, where discontent with Rome deepened. The popular masses in the cities opposed Rome for an alliance with Antioch, while the ruling elite remained loyal to the Romans and with their help suppressed popular movements. So it was, for example, in Athens. Since that time, the anti-Roman movement in Greece has merged with the democratic movement. However, the Syrian king managed to win over only the Aetolian League and small towns in Greece.

The Roman government, preparing for war with Antioch, strengthened its old alliance with Rhodes and Pergamum. The Achaean Alliance sided with Rome. Roman diplomacy succeeded, at the cost of tacit rejection of certain points of the peace treaty, in deterring Philip from helping Antiochus.

In 192 BC, Antiochus III, summoned by the Aetolians, crossed to the Balkan Peninsula and stopped at Thermopylae.

The Aetolians, the allies of the Syrian king, who were charged with guarding the mountain passes, were unable to hold them. The Roman army under Marcus Atilius Glabrio defeated the main army of Antiochus. Under the pressure of the Romans, Antiochus III left Greece and withdrew his troops to Ephesus; his Greek allies requested peace from Rome and were to join the Achaean Alliance at Rome’s request. The latter became the main force in Greece and the conductor of Roman influence in it.

The expulsion of Antiochus from Europe did not mean the end of the war. The fighting power of the Seleucid empire was not destroyed in the Battle of Thermopylae. Rome, seeking to spread its influence in the East, was bound to encounter it.

The defeat of Antiochus

The Roman army was commanded by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio, and as a legate he was accompanied by his brother, the victor of Hannibal at Zama, Publius Cornelius Scipio, who actually led the military operations. The Roman fleet, with the help of the Rhodian and Pergamon ships, defeated the fleet of Antiochus III, gaining dominance in the Aegean Sea, created the possibility of transporting Roman troops to Asia Minor.

At Magnesia in 190 BC, a decisive battle between the Romans and Antiochus took place. The army of Antiochus III was defeated and almost destroyed.

With Antiochus III, peace was concluded (Apamean) in 188 BC. e. Antiochus had to pay Rome 15 thousand talents, his fleet was reduced to 10 ships, he was obliged not to have elephants in the Western army, lost all territories in Asia Minor.

The Romans divided the lands they had won from Antiochus in Asia Minor among their allies. Most of them went to Pergamum and Rhodes. Pergamus was also given the lands captured by Antiochus in Europe. As a result, Pergamum became a large and powerful state. Rome’s policy of most favoring Pergamum was directed against Macedonia.

Thus, within a short time, Rome, using the rivalry of the Hellenistic powers and relying on the Rhodes-Pergamon alliance, inflicted a military defeat on the two largest states of the Hellenistic world:

  • Macedonia
  • Syria

The war with Rome hastened the disintegration of the Seleucid empire. Some of its regions — Armenia and Sophene-fell away from the Syrian kingdom and gained independence. Many of the eastern regions were captured by Parthia.

The war with Antiochus ‘ ally, the Aetolian Alliance, continued after the Battle of Magnesia. The Aetolians resisted fiercely, and it was only when Philip, the Epirotes, and the Illyrians advanced on them from the north, and the Achaean troops from the south, that Aetolia fell. It was plundered and devastated, its territory was significantly reduced. Since that time, Aetolia has lost its political significance.

The massacre of the Aetolians and the shameless interference of the Romans in the internal affairs of the Greek cities, the patronage of Rome to the Achaean Union, which was self-governing in the Peloponnese, strengthened the anti-Roman movement in Greece. In a number of places, it resulted in open revolts, brutally suppressed by the Romans. On the other hand, the Greek elite increasingly linked their destinies with Rome and sacrificed the independence of the country for their own interests.

Political struggle in Rome in the 80s of the second century BC.

Foreign policy in the East was the subject of a sharp political struggle in Roman society itself. The democratic part of it demanded the expansion of possessions in the Po Valley, in the area inhabited by the Gauls and Ligurs, and the introduction of colonies there, in which citizens, especially veterans of the Punic War, could receive land allotments. The people’s assemblies played a significant role and did not always authorize the decisions of the Senate, in particular on foreign policy issues, as was the case, for example, with the declaration of war on Macedonia. In the 80s, the reform of the centuriate comitia, begun under Gaius Flaminius, was completed, which marked the well-known democratization of the Roman state system. Finally, apparently, at the same time, the qualification of the last, V class of the Servian Constitution from 11 thousand assov was reduced to 4 thousand. This innovation, reflecting the beginning of the process of ruining the peasantry, filled up the democratic part of the People’s Assembly. The reduction of the qualification for the V class was undoubtedly intended to increase the contingents of the Roman army.

The nobility, in turn, sought to keep the entire administration of the state in their hands and monopolize the higher magistracies among the senate oligarchy.

Procedure for election to positions
In 180 BC, a law introduced by Willius was adopted, which established the procedure for passing magistracies. Only those who had passed the lower ranks could be elected consul and praetor:

  • quaestor
  • aediles

An age limit was also set:

  • for aediles and quaestors-28 years,
  • for a praetor-40,
  • for a consul-43 years.

The occupation of higher positions was to be preceded by military service. This law created obstacles for young and popular people to get the highest position. The nomination of candidates became dependent on the senate nobility, which led to the strengthening of the latter.

In the very environment of the nobility, individual noble families constantly competed for the highest positions in the state. Since the end of the third century BC, in addition, two political trends have become more and more clearly defined, whose representatives, reflecting the economic and cultural interests of various strata of the Roman nobility, understand the foreign policy tasks of the state and its internal policy in different ways.

The confrontation between Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus and Marcus Porcius Cato

The priest of Isis (the so-called Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus). Marble. Rome, Capitoline Museums, New Palace, Gallery.

The priest of Isis (the so-called Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus). Marble. Rome, Capitoline Museums, New Palace, Gallery.

At the head of one of these groups was Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, one of the most talented generals and major political figures of the Roman Republic. His military successes during the 2nd Punic War created him a wide popularity among the Roman people. From 199 to 184 BC, Scipio was the princeps of the Senate, i.e. his name was first on the senate list and he had the right to be the first to express his opinion, which was often guided; for almost 15 years, he and his supporters exerted a huge influence on the entire political life of Rome. In the field of foreign policy, the group led by Scipio stood for the creation of a number of Roman-dependent states from the conquered areas, without introducing provincial governments into them and leaving them some independence. The peace treaties with Carthage after the 2nd Punic War, with Philip after the Second Macedonian War, and with Antiochus III, which are similar in their terms, reflect this foreign policy line.

In domestic politics, Scipio’s grouping, while defending the rule of the senatorial nobility, at the same time provided for the widespread allotment of land to low-income citizens, primarily veterans, as well as the relief of military service and other burdens on the people. During the years of her leadership of the Roman state, numerous colonies were brought to the north of Italy and the Adriatic coast.

Scipio’s opponents were led by Marcus Porcius Cato. The natural intelligence, understanding of the political situation and the pressing tasks of the Roman ruling nobility made Cato an outstanding political figure of his era. Cato was a consistent opponent of the policies of Scipio and his supporters. He brought to the fore the interests of the growing slave economy of Rome and the developing commodity production, which required numerous slaves and new foreign markets. On the side of Cato were many representatives of the nobility-Fabia, Sem Ironia, Claudia, etc. Cato was a proponent of turning the conquered areas into provinces in order to exploit the local population and natural resources as widely as possible. Waging wars in Spain, he organized the mining of ore in the territory of the Celtiberians, which gave a huge income to the state, and included the surrounding tribes in the Roman provinces. These measures showed the advantage of the provincial system of government. When discussing peace with Philip, Cato was in favor of continuing the war until the final defeat of Macedonia.

A bust of a Roman from Otricoli, which is traditionally identified with Cato the Elder. 80 BC, Rome, Torlonia Museum.

A bust of a Roman from Otricoli, which is traditionally identified with Cato the Elder. 80 BC, Rome, Torlonia Museum.

In the field of domestic politics, Cato was a champion of the old Roman customs and state norms, in fact, he defended the interests of the Roman aristocracy of his time. He severely rebuked Scipio and his followers for introducing them to Hellenistic culture and adopting Greek customs, arguing for the purity of the old customs of the early Republic. He denounced the growing desire for luxury in Roman society and, as a censor, introduced a luxury tax. In essence, these speeches were directed against individual representatives of the nobility, who belonged to the camp hostile to Cato, and were a means of political struggle with opponents.

The political struggle between these groups reached a special strength in the 180-ies. It took the form of lawsuits brought against the adherents of both Cato and Scipio. Cato himself was brought to trial, but he managed to justify himself. Publius Cornelius Scipio was also brought to justice. Apparently, the charges of hiding money from the spoils of war and of bribery applied both to Publius Scipio himself and to his brother Lucius.

Publius Scipio denied the charges in the popular assembly. But he was forced to retire from political affairs. The decisive blow to Scipio’s group was dealt by Cato’s censorship in 184 BC. When compiling the list of senators, the adherents of the policy recommended by Scipio were removed from the Senate.

The 3rd Macedonian War (171-168 BC)

The focus of Roman policy in the East from the mid-170s BC was again the relationship with Macedonia. During the time since the Second Macedonian War, Philip, despite the terms of the treaty that limited his actions, sought to conduct an independent foreign policy, to restore his military power.

For 26 years of peace, Philip, bypassing the treaty with Rome, created a strong army: although the Macedonian military forces, according to the terms of the peace, consisted of 5 thousand, Philip annually recruited 4 thousand soldiers, trained them and sent them home, recruiting new ones; intensively developing gold deposits, Philip created reserves of military materials and food. He took drastic measures to secure his northern borders, pitting the Thracian tribes against each other and forming alliances with the strongest of them. Macedonia experienced an economic recovery during these years. It exported timber, salt, and metals in large quantities. Philip’s treasury was full.

Creating an anti-Roman coalition

The Romans sought to prevent the strengthening of the Macedonian state. In particular, they tried to create a pro-Roman party among the highest Macedonian nobility and to raise to the Macedonian throne their protege — the son of Philip Demetrius, who lived for many years in Rome as a hostage. However, this political intrigue of the Romans failed: Demetrius was executed and on the Macedonian throne after the death of Philip, his other son Perseus, a staunch opponent of Rome, took over. Perseus led an open anti-Roman policy. He began to form an anti-Roman coalition. Illyria and Epirus joined him. The intervention of the Romans in the internal affairs of the Greeks brought Perseus numerous allies. The coalition was directed against Rome and against its ally, the Kingdom of Pergamum. Perseus ‘ anti-Roman activities became known in Rome. At a closed session of the Senate with the participation of the king of Pergamum, the war with Macedonia was decided and declared in 171 BC.

At first, the Romans conducted military operations sluggishly and suffered defeats. Roman diplomats sought to break up the anti-Roman coalition created by Perseus. The Greek allies of Macedonia proved unreliable, and with the arrival of the Roman legions in Greece, they once again sided with Rome. Perseus, abandoned by his Greek allies, tried to negotiate peace with Rome, but the Senate rejected his proposals.

Battle of Pydna

Diagram of the Battle of Pydna, 168 BC

Diagram of the Battle of Pydna, 168 BC

In 169 BC, the legions under the command of the Consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus launched an offensive against Macedonia. Perseus retreated to Pydna, determined to defend the mountain passes into Macedonia. Here, at Pydna, in 168 BC, a decisive battle took place, which Perseus lost. Perseus escaped, but was overtaken and captured by the Romans. He was spared his life, settled in Italy, and died a Roman prisoner two years later. After defeating the Macedonians, Aemilius Paulus marched with his army against Perseus ‘ allies, the Illyrians and Epirus. He destroyed the Epirote cities and completely devastated this country; 150 thousand people. The Epirotes were sold into slavery. As a result of the victory over Perseus, the Romans destroyed the Macedonian state. A special Senate commission divided the country into four districts. Each district was completely independent-it minted its own coins and had no right to communicate with other districts. Citizens of a given district did not have the right to purchase land in another district. It was forbidden to develop gold placers, export salt and ship timber. This caused enormous damage to the Macedonian population and hindered the normal functioning of its economy. Illyria was also divided into three districts and arranged according to the example of Macedonia. In Greece, the Romans punished everyone who was on the side of Perseus. More than 1,000 Achaeans were sent to Rome as hostages, including the later famous historian Polybius. The rule of the Romans in Greece, which was in the interests of the ruling circles, met with the deaf discontent of the broad masses of the population. Attempts to protest were brutally suppressed.

The destruction of the unified Macedonian state led to a dramatic change in the entire foreign policy of Rome in the East. First of all, for Rome, there was no need to preserve the Rhodes-Pergamon alliance and further strengthen these states. On the contrary, Rome was now interested in weakening them. Taking advantage of the revolt of the Galatians, who had been placed under the protectorate of Pergamum by Rome, the Romans declared Galatia independent. They also recognized Paphlagonia as free. In order to create difficulties for the Kingdom of Pergamum, the Romans entered into an alliance with Bithynia, which was constantly at war with Pergamum, and with Heraclea Pontius, a trading rival of the Kingdom of Pergamum, thereby creating a cause for constant friction between these states.

Results of the Third Macedonian War

Even more severe was the policy of Rome towards Rhodes. The Third Macedonian War damaged the Rhodian trade, disrupting normal economic ties in the Eastern Mediterranean. Rhodes repeatedly called for an end to the war before the Roman command. Finally, the Rhodians declared that if the war did not end, Rhodes would have to go to war against the Romans. They even entered into a military alliance with Crete, but clearly overestimated their strength and after the victory over Perseus asked the Roman Senate to grant them forgiveness and alliance. The Romans took advantage of this opportunity to weaken Rhodes: at the cost of depriving all possessions in Asia Minor, the Rhodians avoided war with Rome and received the title of “friends and allies of the Roman people”, which in fact covered up direct dependence on Rome.

Wanting to infringe on the economic interests of Rhodes, Rome declared the island of Delos a “free” port — “porto franco”. All trade and communications with the East now went through it. Delos became the main port center in the Aegean Sea, in particular the center of the slave trade.

In the following decade, there was an intense penetration of Roman merchants and moneylenders to the East. Roman usurers pushed back local creditors, ensnared the population of many countries of the Eastern Mediterranean with debt bondage, and seized eastern trade and handicraft production into their own hands.

The uprising of Andriscus and the war of Rome with the Achaean Alliance (149-148 BC).

The cavalier management of the Romans intensified the anti-Roman movement in Greece and Macedonia. It resulted in an open struggle for liberation from Roman rule.

The movement began in Thrace. It was headed by a Greek named Andrisk. He pretended to be the rightful heir to the Macedonian throne, Philip, the son of Perseus. Having formed an army, Andrisk entered Macedonia, where he received wide support from the population. The rebels defeated the Roman legion sent against them in 149 BC. The rebellion was expanding. The rebel army invaded Thessaly. The Romans were forced to send a strong army against the rebels, led by Quintus Caecilius Metellus, who was assisted by the king of Pergamum. In 148 BC. The rebel troops were defeated, and Andrisk was captured and executed. The uprising in Macedonia gave rise to a radical change in the country’s governance. The division into four regions was abolished, and the former Macedonian state was declared a Roman province of Macedonia in 148 BC. It included Epirus, the Greek cities of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium 1, and the islands of the Ionian Sea. The new province was of great importance in the system of the Roman state, not only for its natural wealth and large taxable population, but also for its strategic position as a springboard for an offensive against the Thracian tribes and for further aggression against the Hellenistic states in the East. The entire province was crossed by the Roman-built Egnativa military road from Dyrrachium to Byzantium.

After the transformation of Macedonia into a province, the Romans abandoned the system of dependent states and moved to direct territorial conquests in the East. All subsequent victorious wars with the Hellenistic states lead to the formation of new Roman provinces. The formation of the province of Macedonia led to a change in Roman policy towards the Achaean Alliance, which for almost fifty years had been supported by Rome and on which the Romans had relied in Greece.

Strengthening the anti-Roman movement

The uprising in Macedonia could not but affect the internal situation in the cities of Greece: it strengthened the anti-Roman movement. The devastating wars of the last decades, which were waged on its territory, and the domination of the Achaean oligarchy supported by Rome, brought the social struggle in the Greek cities to an extreme. The Achaean Alliance, seeking to expand the territories under its control, began a war with Sparta, which had separated from it, in 148 BC. The Romans this time came to its defense and demanded that the Achaean Union refuse to include not only Sparta, but also all the cities of Greece that the Achaean Union captured after the Second Macedonian War. The leaders of the Achaean league, overestimating their strength, began a war with Rome. This war was popular among the democratic part of the population of the Achaean cities. It also found support in Central Greece. The Achaean strategists, having announced a postponement of the payment of debts, accepted into the army all who could wield weapons. They even armed 12,000 slaves. An extraordinary tax was imposed on the wealthy Achaean citizens to cover the military expenses.

Defeat of the Achaean Alliance

but all these measures were in vain, the small armed forces of the Greek cities were opposed by the huge military machine of the Roman state. In the battle of Isthmus, the Achaeans were completely defeated. The Roman consul Lucius Mummius in 146 BC captured and destroyed the largest center of the Achaean Union — the rich trading city of Corinth. Its inhabitants were sold into slavery. Thus was destroyed a strong competitor of the Roman-Italian merchants in the waste Mediterranean. The Achaean League and all other Greek unions were dissolved, and the cities were made dependent on the Roman governors of Macedonia. The Romans introduced a uniform political system in the Greek cities, placing a pro-Roman oligarchy at their head. Only Athens and Sparta remained nominally independent, but the Areopagus became the center of government in Athens, and Gerussia in Sparta.

The troops of Mummius subjected Greece to a terrible defeat. Many ancient monuments and valuable works of art were taken to Rome and simply destroyed. Polybius says that Roman soldiers played dice in the paintings of the greatest artists thrown out of the temples in Corinth.

3rd Punic War (149-146 BC)

The Roman Republic in the second century BC had the goal of weakening and, if possible, destroying the Carthaginian state. The Romans could never forget the invasion of Italy by Hannibal’s army. In addition, numerous Roman merchants, usurers and businessmen insisted on the destruction of a rich trading city — a strong rival and competitor. By the middle of the second century BC, Carthage had recovered from its defeat and was once again a populous and wealthy city. Its trade, by sea and by land, was flourishing, its agriculture was booming, and its treasury was full. The Roman Senate closely monitored the situation in Carthage, and special commissions of the Senate were repeatedly sent there. The Romans were aware that the rich Carthage could very quickly assemble a large mercenary army and once again prove a formidable opponent.

Coin with the image of Masinissus. Ca. 203-148 or 148-118 BC.

Coin with the image of Masinissus. Ca. 203-148 or 148-118 BC.

It is not surprising that the Romans were concerned about the prosperity of Carthage. According to the peace treaty of 201 BC, Carthage could not fight any wars without the consent of the Romans. This was constantly used by the neighbors of Carthage, in particular the king of the neighboring Numidian kingdom Masinissa, an old ally of Rome. Relying on the tacit and vocal support of the Romans, Masinissa took one district after another from the Carthaginians. When Carthage complained to the Roman Senate, a special senate commission not only approved the seizure, but even awarded the Carthaginians a fine for the illegal use of this territory in former times. Emboldened, Masinissa added two other fertile areas. The Roman commission did not dare to approve this seizure. However, the Romans did not require Masinissa to clear the occupied territories, essentially authorizing this action of Masinissa. The patience of the Carthaginians was exhausted. To repel the attacks of Masinissa, an army was formed, representatives of the militant party were put at the head of the administration, and supporters of the pro-Roman group and Masinissa were expelled from Carthage.

These military preparations did not go unnoticed in Rome. And the Roman Senate began to discuss the issue: What about Carthage? The conflict of the Carthaginians with Masinissa created a favorable opportunity for the massacre of the hated city. Therefore, in the Senate, the point of view of those who stood for the complete destruction of Carthage won. This group was led by Marcus Porcius Cato, who always ended his speeches in the Senate on any topic with the words: “However, I believe that Carthage must be destroyed.”

While the question of the conflict between Masinissa and Carthage was being discussed in the Senate, hostilities began between them. The Carthaginian forces were defeated. Masinissa, having captured new territories, received a large contribution. However, the Romans were no longer interested. Under the pretext that the Carthaginians had violated the treaty of 201 BC, the Roman Senate declared war on the unfortunate city, which was called the 3rd Punic War (149-146 BC).

The landing of the Roman army in Africa

Birsa Hill (Carthage). The ruins of the Phoenician quarter.

Birsa Hill (Carthage). The ruins of the Phoenician quarter.

The Roman army landed in Africa. The Romans assumed that Carthage would not be able to wage war, and the Carthaginian government was indeed willing to accept any terms of peace. Initially, the Romans demanded the surrender of hostages, the disarmament of the city, the transfer of all weapons, military materials and throwing weapons. When all their conditions were fulfilled, the Romans additionally put forward another condition — the city of Carthage should be moved from the seashore to the interior of the country. This last demand provoked an outburst of indignation from the Carthaginians. It was decided to fight to the last strength. It was the courage of despair. To lull the vigilance of the Roman generals, who were standing near the unarmed Carthage, the Carthaginians asked for 30 days to think. In deep secrecy, they used this precious time to strengthen the walls, to build additional fortifications, to prepare new weapons, throwing weapons, to conduct a general arming of the population, to raise funds for the recruitment of mercenaries.

When the time was up, and the Roman legions had reached the walls, they saw before them a mighty fortress, defended by the entire population. The Romans expected that the war with Carthage would be an easy “military walk”, and were not ready for a long siege. The first attempts to take Carthage were easily repulsed. The Romans were forced to begin a long siege of the city. Summer heat and disease mowed down the soldiers, discipline in the army began to fall. The Carthaginians grew bolder. They not only began to make successful sorties, but, having recruited an army outside of Carthage, they began to harass the Roman troops throughout the territory. In addition, Masinissa died soon after and his help stopped.

The situation of the Roman army deteriorated. The Roman Senate looked with alarm at the unexpected development of hostilities. To improve the situation, he went to an extraordinary measure: the consul for 147 BC and commander-in-chief was appointed a young, not yet passed the proper ladder of magistracy, Scipio Aemilianus, a budding general and a talented diplomat. Scipio first of all restored the shattered discipline of the army by expelling merchants, women, and outsiders. He defeated the Carthaginian detachments operating throughout the territory in the rear of the Romans, and concentrated all the troops around Carthage. A system of fortifications was built, by which the besieged city was cut off from the outside world.

At the entrance to the Carthaginian harbor, a dam was erected, i.e. the sea route was closed. In Carthage, isolated from the outside world, famine and disease began. When the garrison of Carthage weakened, a general assault was made (146 BC). For six days there was fighting on the walls and streets of the city. We had to take every house with a fight. The city taken by the instructions of the Roman Senate was burned and destroyed. The place was cursed and the ruins were ploughed through as a sign that no man should ever settle here.

The territory of Carthage was declared a Roman province of Africa. Most of its land became the state property of Rome, and a tax was imposed on the population. However, some cities-Utica, Hadrumet and others, which were loyal allies of Rome, retained self-government and received freedom from taxes.

Wars in the Iberian Peninsula (154-139 BC)

In 154 BC, Rome was attacked by the Lusitanians, who lived outside the Roman provinces. They were supported by the tribes that were under the control of the Roman governors and suffered heavily from their arbitrariness and treachery. The Roman governor, who opposed the Lusitanians, was completely defeated (153 BC). After this defeat, the Celtiberian tribes, who inhabited the central part of the Iberian Peninsula, also rose up against the Romans. The situation became so dangerous that the Senate sent a consular army to Iberia. Military operations in Iberia were concentrated in two areas:

  1. against the Celtiberians in Near Spain
  2. against the Lusitanians in the Far Province.

In Near Spain, the consular army failed to make progress, while in Far Spain, the Lusitanians were driven out of the Roman province.

In 151 BC, the Romans also managed to suppress the revolt of the Celtiberians, making peace with them. However, the new Roman consul who arrived in Iberia in 150 BC treacherously violated the peace treaty and resumed hostilities, subjecting the Bacchaeans, who remained friendly with the Romans, to brutal plunder. Such treachery caused a general uprising of many Spanish tribes. The Lusitanians took advantage of this and again began military operations against the Romans. The Roman troops were in a difficult situation. In addition, the rebellious tribes appeared in 149 BC. a talented leader-Viriat, a bold and resourceful organizer, who enjoyed great authority not only among the Lusitanians, but also among other tribes. For a full 10 years, Viriatus fought against the regular Roman troops, repeatedly defeating them. He ably maintained the harmony in his brave but undisciplined army, found a way out of what seemed to be the most hopeless situation. The success of Viriatus was so great that the Romans recognized him as a Lusitanian king, and his kingdom as independent of Rome.

The success of Viriat was aided by the fact that in the first half of the 140s, the Romans waged heavy wars in Africa and in Greece. The Roman armies sent to Spain were not distinguished by high fighting qualities, their discipline was weak, and their training was low. The warriors plundered the population. The warlords did not lag behind them. The incompetence and treachery, the greed and cowardice of the Roman commanders in the Spanish war were so blatant that even the Roman Senate was forced to bring some of them to justice.

However, by the end of the 140s, the situation had changed. Stronger armies were sent to Spain, led by able commanders. In addition, there were disagreements in the Viriatha camp. The Romans conspired with the entourage of Viriatus, who stabbed this brave and talented man (139 BC). Deprived of their leader, the Lusitanian army was defeated by the Romans, Lusitania was conquered, and the Roman legions went to the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.

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