Roman Empire > Roman Empire History > The Third Macedonian, Achaean, And Third Punic Wars - b.C. 179-146

The Third Macedonian, Achaean, And Third Punic Wars - b.C. 179-146

In B.C. 179 Philip died, and was succeeded by his son Perseus, the last monarch of Macedonia. The latter years of the reign of Philip had been spent in preparations for a renewal of the war, which he foresaw to be inevitable; and when Perseus ascended the throne, he found himself amply provided with men and money for the impending contest. But, whether from a sincere desire of peace, or from irresolution of character, he sought to avert an open rupture as long as possible, and one of the first acts of his reign was to obtain from the Romans a renewal of the treaty which they had concluded with his father. It is probable that neither party was sincere in the conclusion of this peace, at least neither could entertain any hope of its duration; yet a period of seven years elapsed before the mutual enmity of the two powers broke out into open hostilities. Meanwhile, Perseus was not idle; he secured the attachment of his subjects by equitable and popular measures, and formed alliances not only with the Greeks and the Asiatic princes, but also with the Thracian, Illyrian, and Celtic tribes which surrounded his dominions. The Romans naturally viewed these proceedings with jealousy and suspicion; and at length, in 172, Perseus was formally accused before the Roman Senate by Eumenes, king of Pergamus, in person, of entertaining hostile designs against the Roman power. The murder of Eumenes near Delphi, on his return homeward, of which Perseus was suspected, aggravated the feeling against him at Rome, and in the following year war was declared.

Perseus was at the head of a numerous and well-appointed army, but of all his allies, only Cotys, king of the Odrysians, ventured to support him against so formidable a foe. Yet the war was protracted three years without any decisive result; nay, the balance of success seemed on the whole to incline in favor of Perseus, and many states, which before were wavering, now showed a disposition to join his cause. But his ill-timed parsimony restrained him from taking advantage of their offers, and in B.C. 168 the arrival of the Consul L. Æmilius Paullus completely changed the aspect of affairs. Perseus was driven from a strong position which he had taken up on the banks of the Enipeus, forced to retreat to Pydna, and, finally, to accept an engagement near that town. At first the serried ranks of the phalanx seemed to promise superiority; but its order having been broken by the inequalities of the ground, the Roman legionaries penetrated the disordered mass, and committed fearful carnage, to the extent, it is said, of 20,000 men. Perseus fled first to Pella, then to Amphipolis, and finally to the sanctuary of the sacred island of Samothrace, but was at length obliged to surrender himself to a Roman squadron. He was treated with courtesy, but was reserved to adorn the triumph of his conqueror. Such was the end of the Macedonian empire. The Senate decreed that Macedonia should be divided into four districts, each under the jurisdiction of an oligarchical council.

Before leaving Greece, Paullus was commanded by the Senate to inflict a terrible punishment upon the Epirotes, because they had favored Perseus. Having placed garrisons in the seventy towns of Epirus, he razed them all to the ground in one day, and carried away 150,000 inhabitants as slaves. Epirus never recovered from this blow. In the time of Augustus the country was still a scene of desolation, and the inhabitants had only ruins and villages to dwell in.

Paullus arrived in Italy toward the close of B.C. 167. The booty which he brought with him from Macedonia, and which he paid into the Roman treasury, was of enormous value; and his triumph, which lasted three days, was the most splendid that Rome had yet seen. Before his triumphal car walked the captive monarch of Macedonia, and behind it, on horseback, were his two eldest sons, Q. Fabius Maximus, and P. Scipio Africanus the younger, both of whom had been adopted into other families. But his glory was darkened by the death of his two younger sons, one dying a few days before, and the other a few days after his triumph.

After the triumph Perseus was thrown into a dungeon, but, in consequence of the intercession of Paullus, he was released, and permitted to end his days in an honorable captivity at Pella. His son Alexander learned the Latin language, and became a public clerk at Rome.

The fall of the Macedonian monarchy made Rome the real mistress of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. The most haughty monarchs trembled before the Republic. Antiochus Epiphanes had invaded Egypt, and was marching upon Alexandria, when he was met by three Roman commissioners, who presented him with a decree of the Senate, commanding him to abstain from hostilities against Egypt. The king, having read the decree, promised to take it into consideration with his friends, whereupon Popillius, one of the Roman commissioners, stepping forward, drew a circle round the king with his staff, and told him that he should not stir out of it till he had given a decisive answer. The king was so frightened by this boldness that he immediately promised to withdraw his troops. Eumenes, king of Pergamus, whose conduct during the war with Perseus had excited the suspicion of the Senate, hastened to make his submission in person, but was not allowed to enter Rome. Prusias, king of Bithynia, had the meanness to appear at Rome with his head shaven, and in the dress of a liberated slave. The Rhodians, who had offered their mediation during the war with Perseus, were deprived of Lycia and Caria. In Greece itself the Senate acted in the same arbitrary manner. It was evident that they meant to bring the whole country under their sway. In these views they were assisted by various despots and traitors in the Grecian cities, and especially by Callicrates, a man of great influence among the Achæans, who for many years had lent himself as the base tool of the Romans. He now denounced more than a thousand Achæans as having favored the cause of Perseus. Among them were the historian Polybius, and the most distinguished men in every city of the League. They were all apprehended and sent to Italy, where they were distributed among the cities of Etruria, without being brought to trial. Polybius alone was allowed to reside at Rome in the house of Æmilius Paullus, where he became the intimate friend of his son Scipio Africanus the younger. The Achæan League continued to exist, but it was really subject to Callicrates. The Achæan exiles languished in confinement for seventeen years. Their request to be allowed to return to their native land had been more than once refused; but the younger Scipio Africanus at length interceded on their behalf, and prevailed upon Cato to advocate their return. The conduct of the aged Senator was kinder than his words. He did not interpose till the end of a long debate, and then simply asked, "Have we nothing better to do than to sit here all day long debating whether a parcel of worn-out Greeks shall be carried to their graves here or in Achaia?" A decree of the Senate gave the exiles permission to return; but, when Polybius was anxious to obtain from the Senate restoration to their former honors, Cato bade him, with a smile, beware of returning to the Cyclops' den to fetch away any trifles he had left behind him.

The Achæan exiles, whose numbers were now reduced from 1000 to 300, landed in Greece (B.C. 151) with feelings exasperated by their long confinement, and ready to indulge in any rash enterprise against Rome. Polybius, who had returned with the other exiles, in vain exhorted them to peace and unanimity, and to avoid a hopeless struggle with the Roman power. Shortly afterward an adventurer laid claim to the throne of Macedonia (B.C. 149). He was a man of low origin called Andriscus, but he pretended to be the son of Perseus, and assumed the name of Philippus. At first he met with some success, and defeated the Roman Prætor Juventius, but, after reigning scarcely a year, he was conquered and taken prisoner by Q. Metellus.

The temporary success of Andriscus had encouraged the war-party in the Achæan League. Polybius had quitted the country to join his friend Scipio in Africa; and Diæus and Critolaüs, the most violent enemies of Rome, had now undisputed sway in the League. Diæus incited the Achæans to attack Sparta, on the ground that, instead of appealing to the League respecting a boundary question, as they ought to have done, they had violated its laws by sending a private embassy to Rome. The Spartans, feeling themselves incompetent to resist this attack, appealed to the Romans for assistance; and in B.C. 147 two Roman commissioners were sent to Greece to settle these disputes. The commissioners decided that not only Sparta, but Corinth, and all the other cities, except those of Achaia, should be restored to independence. Their decision occasioned serious riots at Corinth. All the Spartans in the town were seized, and even the Roman commissioners narrowly escaped violence. On their return to Rome a fresh embassy was dispatched to demand satisfaction for these outrages. But the violent and impolitic conduct of Critolaüs, then Strategus of the League, rendered all attempts at accommodation fruitless, and, after the return of the embassadors, the Senate declared war against the League. The cowardice and incompetence of Critolaüs as a general were only equaled by his previous insolence. On the approach of the Romans from Macedonia under Metellus he did not even venture to make a stand at Thermopylæ; and, being overtaken by them near Scarphea, in Locris, he was totally defeated, and never again heard of. Diæus, who succeeded him as Strategus, displayed rather more energy and courage, and made preparations to defend Corinth. Metellus had hoped to have had the honor of bringing the war to a conclusion, and had almost reached Corinth, when the Consul L. Mummius landed on the Isthmus and assumed the command. The struggle was soon brought to a close. Diæus was defeated in battle; and Corinth was immediately evacuated, not only by the troops of the League, but also by the greater part of the inhabitants. On entering the city, Mummius put to the sword the few males who remained, sold the women and children as slaves, and, having earned away all its treasures, consigned it to the flames (B.C. 146). Corinth was filled with masterpieces of ancient art; but Mummius was so insensible to their surpassing excellence as to stipulate with those who contracted to convey them to Italy that, if any were lost in the passage, they should be replaced by others of equal value! Mummius then employed himself in chastising and regulating the whole of Greece; and ten commissioners were sent from Rome to settle its future condition. The whole country, to the borders of Macedonia and Epirus, was formed into a Roman province, under the name of Achaia, derived from that confederacy which had made the last struggle for political existence. The Roman commissioners then proceeded northward, and also formed Macedonia into a province. Polybius, who had hastened to Greece immediately after the capture of Corinth, exerted all his influence to alleviate the misfortunes of his countrymen, and to procure for them favorable terms. As a friend of Scipio he was received by the Roman commissioners with great distinction, and obtained from them a relaxation of some of the most severe enactments which had been made against the Achæans.

Metellus and Mummius both triumphed on their return to Rome, the former taking the surname of Macedonicus, the latter that of Achaicus.

Carthage, so long the rival of Rome, had fallen in the same year as Corinth. The reforms introduced by Hannibal after the battle of Zama had restored some degree of prosperity to the state; and, though the Roman party obtained the supremacy after he had been compelled to fly to Antiochus, the commercial activity of the Carthaginians restored to the city much of its former influence. Rome looked with a jealous eye upon its reviving power, and encouraged Masinissa to make repeated aggressions upon its territory. At length the popular party, having obtained more weight in the government, made a stand against these repeated encroachments of Masinissa. Thereupon Cato recommended an instant declaration of war against Carthage; but this met with considerable opposition in the Senate, and it was at length arranged that an embassy should be sent to Africa to gain information as to the real state of affairs. The ten embassadors, of whom Cato was the chief, offered their arbitration, which was accepted by Masinissa, but rejected by the Carthaginians, who had no confidence in Roman justice. The deputies accurately observed the warlike preparations and the defenses of the frontier. They then entered the city, and saw the strength and population it had acquired since the Second Punic War. Upon their return Cato was the foremost in asserting that Rome would never be safe as long as Carthage was so powerful, so hostile, and so near. One day he drew a bunch of early ripe figs from beneath his robe, and, throwing it upon the floor of the Senate-house, said to the assembled fathers, who were astonished at the freshness and fineness of the fruit, "Those figs were gathered but three days ago at Carthage; so close is our enemy to our walls" From that time forth, whenever he was called upon for his vote in the Senate, though the subject of debate bore no relation to Carthage, his words were, "Delenda est Carthago," "Carthage must be destroyed"

Cato's opinion prevailed, and the Senate only waited for a favorable opportunity to destroy the city. This soon occurred. The popular party having driven into exile the powerful partisans of Masinissa, the old Numidian king invaded the Carthaginian territory, and defeated the army which had been raised to oppose him (B.C. 150). This led to a change in the government, and the aristocratical party, once more restored to power, hastened to make their submission to Rome. But the Romans had resolved upon war, and, when the Carthaginian embassadors arrived at Rome, the two Consuls were already levying troops. The embassadors, knowing that resistance was hopeless, sought to appease the anger of the Senate by unconditional obedience. They were ordered to send 300 youths of the noblest families to meet the Consuls at Lilybæum, and were told that the Consuls would acquaint them with the farther orders of the Senate. At Lilybæum the Consuls found the hostages awaiting them, and then promised the Carthaginian envoys that the decision of the Senate should be announced to them in Africa. Upon reaching Utica, which surrendered to them in despair, the Consuls informed the Carthaginians that, as their state would henceforth be under the protection of Rome, they had no longer any occasion for arms, and must surrender all the munitions of war. Even this demand was complied with, and the Roman commissioners who were sent to Carthage brought to the Roman camp 200,000 stand of arms, and 2000 catapults. The Consuls, thinking that the state was now defenseless, threw off the mask, and announced the final resolution of the Senate: "That Carthage must be destroyed, and that its inhabitants must build another city ten miles distant from the coast" When this terrible news reached Carthage, despair and rage seized all the citizens. They resolved to perish rather than submit to so perfidious a foe. All the Italians within the walls were massacred; the members of the former government took to flight, and the popular party once more obtained the power. Almost superhuman efforts were made to obtain means of defense; corn was collected from every quarter; arms were manufactured day and night; the women cut off their long hair to be made into strings for the catapults, and the whole city became one vast work-shop. The Consuls now saw that it would be necessary to have recourse to force; but they had no military ability, and their attacks were repulsed with great loss. The younger Scipio Africanus, who was then serving in the army as military tribune, displayed great bravery and military skill, and, on one occasion, saved the army from destruction. Still no permanent success was gained, and Scipio returned to Rome, accompanied by the prayers of the soldiers that he would come back as their commander. In the following year (B.C. 148) the new Consul L. Calpurnius Piso was even less successful than his predecessors. The soldiers became discontented; the Roman Senate and people, who had anticipated an easy conquest, were indignant at their disappointment, and all eyes were turned to Scipio. Accordingly, when he became a candidate for the ædileship for the ensuing year (B.C. 147), he was unanimously elected Consul, though he was only thirty-seven years old, and had not, therefore, attained the legal age for the office.

This remarkable man was, as we have already said, the son of L. Æmilius Paullus, the conqueror of Macedonia. He was adopted by P. Scipio, the son of the great Africanus, and is therefore called Scipio Africanus Minor, to distinguish him from his grandfather by adoption. To these names that of Æmilianus is sometimes added to mark the family of his birth, so that his full designation was P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus Æmilianus. His intimacy with the historian Polybius has been already mentioned. He appears from his earliest years to have devoted himself with ardor to the study of literature; and he eagerly availed himself of the superior knowledge of Polybius to direct him in his literary pursuits. He was accompanied by the Greek historian in almost all his campaigns, and, in the midst of his most active military duties, lost no opportunity of enlarging his knowledge of Greek literature and philosophy by constant intercourse with his friend. Nor did he neglect the literature of his own country, for Terence was admitted to his intimacy, and he is even said to have assisted him in the composition of his comedies. His friendship with Lælius, whose tastes and pursuits were so congenial to his own, has been immortalized by Cicero's celebrated treatise "On Friendship"

Plan of Carthage
Plan of Carthage.

A. Inner Port.
B. Outer Port.
C. Outlet to Sea.
D. Scipio's Mole.
E. New Outlet to Sea, cut by the Carthaginians

Scipio landed in Africa in B.C. 147. His first step was to restore discipline to the army. He next took by storm Megara, a suburb of Carthage, and then proceeded to construct a work across the entrance of the harbor to cut off the city from all supplies by sea. But the Carthaginians defended themselves with a courage and an energy rarely paralleled in history. While Scipio was engaged in this laborious task, they built a fleet of fifty ships in their inner port, and cut a new channel communicating with the sea. Hence, when Scipio at length succeeded in blocking up the entrance of the harbor, he found all his labor useless, as the Carthaginians sailed out to sea by the new outlet. But this fleet was destroyed after an obstinate engagement which lasted three days. At length, in the following year (B.C. 146), Scipio had made all his preparations for the final assault. The Carthaginians defended themselves with the courage of despair. They fought from street to street, and from house to house, and the work of destruction and butchery went on for six days. The fate of this once magnificent city moved Scipio to tears; and, anticipating that a similar catastrophe might one day befall Rome, he is said to have repeated the lines of the Iliad over the flames of Carthage: "The day shall come when sacred Troy shall perish, and Priam and his people shall be slain"

Scipio returned to Rome in the same year, and celebrated a splendid triumph on account of his victory. The surname of Africanus, which he had inherited by adoption, had now been acquired by his own exploits.

A portion of the dominions of Carthage was assigned to Utica. The remainder was formed into a Roman province under the name of Africa. Carthage itself was leveled to the ground, and a curse pronounced upon any who should rebuild the city. C. Gracchus, however, only twenty-four years afterward, attempted to found a new city upon the ancient site under the name of Junonia; but evil prodigies at its foundation, and the subsequent death of Gracchus, interrupted this design. The project was revived by Julius Cæsar, and was carried into effect by Augustus; and Roman Carthage, built at a short distance from the former city, became the capital of Africa, and one of the most flourishing cities in the ancient world. In the fifth century it was taken by Genseric, and made the capital of the Vandal kingdom in Africa. It was retaken by Belisarius, but was finally captured and destroyed by the Arabs in A.D. 647. Its site is now desolate, marked only by a few ruins.

Personification of the River Tiber
Personification of the River Tiber
Roman Empire History

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