Ancient History & Civilisation


The Aetolians were not satisfied with these arrangements. Some of the cities that Rome had freed had once been under Aetolian domination, and were not now restored to the League. The Second Macedonian War was hardly over when the Aetolians invited Antiochus III to rescue Greece from Rome. Pergamum and Lampsacus, caught between the restless Gauls on the north and the expanding Seleucid power on the south, appealed to Rome for help against Antiochus. The Senate sent its ablest general, Publius Scipio Africanus, victor of Zama. With a few legions and the troops of Eumenes II, the Roman generals defeated Antiochus at Magnesia, and turning northward, drove back the Gauls. The Romans extended their protection over nearly all the Mediterranean coast of Asia, and then returned to Italy. Eumenes was grateful, but mainland Greece denounced him as a traitor to Hellas for calling in the barbarous Romans against his fellow Greeks.

For fickle Greece already regretted that she had ever accepted the favors of her rude rescuer from the west. It was observed that though Flamininus and his successors had given Greece freedom, they had taken in payment—from any city that had supported Philip or Antiochus or the Aetolians—so much booty that the Greeks dreaded another such liberation. For three days, in Flamininus’ triumph, the spoils of his Grecian campaign passed in continuous train before the eyes of Rome: on the first day arms, armor, and innumerable statues of marble or bronze; on the second day 18,000 pounds of silver, 3,714 pounds of gold, and 100,000 silver coins; on the third day 114 coronets.13 Moreover, the Romans had supported, and now through their representatives continued actively to support, the moneyed classes in Greece against the poorer citizens, and had forbidden all manifestations of class war. The Greeks did not want peace at such a price; they wished to be free to settle their own disputes, and to give play to national territorial ambitions; they could not bear changelessness. Soon the rival leagues were at odds, and faction ran rife everywhere. Each city or group laid conflicting claims before the Roman Senate; the Senate dispatched commissions to investigate and adjudicate; the Greeks denounced this interference as vassalage. The chains of foreign control were invisible but real; year after year the Greeks—all but the rich—felt them more sharply, and prayed for an end to this freedom. The Senate began to listen to those of its members who contended that there would never be order or quiet in Greece until Rome took full control.

In 179 Philip V died, and his eldest son Perseus, not without bloodshed, inherited his throne. Seventeen years of peace had restored the economy of Macedon, and had raised up a fresh generation of youths for the jaws of war. Perseus negotiated an alliance with Seleucus IV, and married Seleucus’ daughter; Rhodes joined the alliance, and sent a great fleet to escort the bride. All Greece rejoiced, and saw in Perseus a living hope against the power of Rome. Eumenes II, fearful for the independence of Pergamum, journeyed to Rome and urged the Senate, for its own sake, to destroy Macedon. On his way home he was almost killed in a private quarrel. It suited Rome to interpret the brawl as a plot of Perseus to assassinate the king; and a patriotic exchange of diplomatic recriminations announced the Third Macedonian War. Only Epirus and Illyria had the courage to help Perseus; the Greek states sent him secret letters of sympathy, but did nothing. In 168 Aemilius Paulus annihilated the Macedonian army at Pydna, destroyed seventy Macedonian cities, banished their upper classes to Italy, and quartered the kingdom into four autonomous but tributary republics, among which all trade and intercourse were forbidden. Perseus was imprisoned in Italy, and died of maltreatment in two years. Epirus was devastated, and 100,000 Epirots were sold into slavery at a dollar a head.14 Rhodes, which had played no active part in the war, was punished by the liberation of her possessions on the Asiatic coast, and by the establishment of a competitive and free port at Delos. The private papers of Perseus were captured, and all Greeks who had offered him aid or comfort were banished or jailed. A thousand of the Achaean League’s most prominent representatives, including Polybius, were deported to Italy; they remained in exile there for sixteen years, during which seven hundred of them died. The admiration of Greece for Rome the liberator had never been so intense as was now the Greek hatred of Rome the conqueror.

The severity of the victors had unwilled results. The weakening of Rhodes ended her policing of the Aegean, and revived a trade-destroying piracy. The removal of so many aristocrats left the field open to radical leadership in the cities of the Achaean League, and the class war enjoyed one of its bitterest periods. The rich clung to the protection of Rome, the poor demanded the expulsion both of the rich and of the Roman power. In 150 the surviving Achaean exiles returned from Italy, and joined in the demand for the repudiation of Roman authority in Greece. To weaken the Achaean power Rome sent to Greece a commission that ordered Corinth, Orchomenos, and Argos to secede from the League. The ladies of Corinth replied by emptying pails of refuse upon the heads of the commissioners.15 In 146 the League voted for a war of liberation, hoping that Rome’s campaigns in Spain and Africa would divert her energies and incline her to a complaisant peace. A fever of patriotism swept the cities of the League. Slaves were freed and armed, a moratorium on debts was proclaimed, and land was promised to the poor, while the unhappy rich, trembling between socialism and Rome, reluctantly contributed their jewelry and their money to the cause of freedom. Athens and Sparta remained aloof, but Boeotia, Locria, and Euboea committed themselves bravely to the war. The republics of Macedonia joined in open revolt against Rome.

The angry Senate sent over an army under Mummius and a fleet under Metellus. Their combined forces overcame all resistance, and in 146 Mummius captured Corinth, the citadel of the League. Whether to destroy a commercial rival in the east as the younger Scipio was in that year destroying Carthage in the west, or to give rebellious Greece a lesson after the fashion of Alexander at Thebes, the rich city of merchants and courtesans was put to the flames, all the men were slaughtered, and all the women and children were sold into slavery. Mummius carried off to Italy whatever wealth could be moved, including the works of art with which the Corinthians had adorned their cities and their homes. Polybius tells how Roman soldiers used world-famous paintings as boards for their games of draughts or dice. The League was dissolved, and its leaders were put to death. Greece and Macedonia were united into one province under a Roman governor. Boeotia, Locris, Corinth, and Euboea were subjected to annual tribute; Athens and Sparta were spared, and were allowed to remain under their own laws. The party of property and order was upheld everywhere, and all attempts to wage war, or make revolutions, or change the constitution, were proscribed. The turbulent cities had at last found peace.

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