Proconsul Titus Quinctius Flaminius and Rome's War with the East

  By Sam Edwards, 3 August 2007; Revised 20 January 2008
Contents »

General context and introduction

"“Hardly had peace been signed with Carthage when the Roman people were asked by the senate to declare war against Philip, King of Macedon. Doubtless the ordinary Roman citizen was somewhat surprised and wondered what Greek politics had to do with Rome, but he was soon to learn that Rome’s interests and obligations were no longer confined to Italy” "
-- H.H. Scullard, A History of the Roman world 753 BC to 146 BC, Part III – Rome and Greece, chapter 1 –The Hellenistic world

The period of 200 BC in the context of Classical history is one of great importance and of great significance for the Roman republic in particular. Not only did it represent (as I will show) the beginnings of a Hellenisation of Roman culture, politics and society that was to culminate in high Byzantine and late Roman culture, but it was the first time that Rome had ever politically intervened in (or indeed taken an interest in) Greek affairs since the first decades of the republic. It was only after Rome had secured her borders in the successful Latin and Samnite wars under adept commanders such as M. Furius Camillus, D. Junius Brutus and L. Papirius Cursor, that she was fit to show her face with any confidence on the larger world stage. The early years of the republic were plagued with public strife, war and political unrest. These years preoccupied the Roman republic to such an extent that even huge affairs in Greece such as the Persian wars, Alexander’s conquests, the wars of the successors and the Peloponnesian wars went unnoticed, as did probably most Greek events. This was because the Roman state was literally fighting for its survival in these shadowy centuries, surrounded by many hostile peoples. Again, when Rome had dominated Italy, and naturally (by controlling various ports around Italy) the commercial links of the Mediterranean, she began to fight those three famous wars with Carthage, again under “self defence”. As will be shown in this essay, this almost cultural Roman self-denial of imperialism (almost no imperialist rhetoric of any considerable nature was used in Punic wars) began to transfer itself even into theatres where Rome’s interests were blatantly imperialistic. Even in the three Macedonian wars (almost contempary to the Punic wars, Rome embarked upon these ventures to defend itself from Hannibal’s ally, Macedon, which might invade at any time across the Adriatic just as Pyrrhus did), Rome still used the “victim mentality” which for so long, on Italian soil had been legitimate. It is this period of 200 BC – 197 BC where the first seeds of imperialism were set and the watchful eye of the Hellenistic Greek saw Rome for what it was – a growing superpower.

For this “tug of war” for Greek sovereignty between Rome and between the Diodachs, it is important to understand exactly why Greece was so important in this period and why it played such a large focal point for the propaganda war between the Romans and Diodachs. The motive was not, as might be expected, economic – Rome had her massive spoils from the Punic wars, and the Diodachs collectively owned the massive wealth of Persia, Western India, Egypt, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. The motive was probably antiquity. Greek stood for so much for both Roman and Diodach (whichever of the kingdoms they came from…) – for the Roman, it was one of the main players in their great myths such as the Aeneid and the Iliad (which were generally taken literally as historical documents), and for the Diodach (despite their attachment to Macedon as their “father nation”), it was the source of much of their culture. Macedonian culture and art was heavily influenced by the (for a long time) more civilized and developed Greeks. Also, although Greece was certainly much reduced in it’s power, it still had influence, however, this influence was nothing like what it was in the “glory years” of Athens in the 5th century BC. The previously “pseudo-Barbarian” areas like Athamania, Phocis, Aetolian and Locris began to form unified leagues and/or autocracies, that by a mutual recognition of their common interest to keep Greece independent, managed to do so. The reason for this shift of power to the established city-states of Corinth, Athens and suchlike, is mainly because of Diodachi intervention. The Ptolemies and Macedonians were constantly “playing off” Greek cities against each other, fighting each other via proxy, and the proud but stubborn city states were naïve enough to trust whichever one allowed them the most independence. The Chremondiean and Lamian wars (just two examples of these wars via proxy) effectively stripped Athens of what little naval and commercial power that it had left. This occurred to practically all the ancient and respected Greek city-states who, stripped of their larger commercial and territorial assets by Diodachi aggression, probably had to resort to the old military hoplite system and/or mercenaries for military power rather than the “special forces” deployed in the Peloponnesian wars. Although this “puppet” period of Greece shifted power massively from the old cities to the new leagues, it rather ironically heralded a burst in philosophical progress, which culminated in the likes of the Stoics and the development of the two Neo-Socratic schools: the Cyrenaics and Cynics. It was this Greece - the puppet weakling – that the Roman legionaries in the Macedonian wars marched into, but a Greece that in it’s period of most humiliation further developed Hellenic culture to unseen heights.

"“Greece was important to the Hellenistic kingdoms as a source of trained man-power: poets, doctors, philosophers, engineers and, above all, soldiers. Ultimately, much of the population seems to have been drained away. In the third century B.C., a united Greece could still have been powerful; but the same disintegrating competitiveness which had lost better chances in the past was still operative. Nevertheless, steps were taken which were intelligent, and remain interesting: federalism among small communities, modernisation at Sparta; only too late” "
-- A.R. Burn, penguin/pelican history of Greece, chapter 17.1

It is this period that creates the one of the largest debates in classical history – was the Roman republic imperialistic? Scholars have pondered over this point for the best part of half a century, and have still yet to come to a conclusive answer. The two giants of this debate in more recent times are N.G.L Hammond and H.H. Scullard. Hammond maintains that the Roman and Macedonian states were both imperialist in “the modern sense of the term”, whilst Scullard believes that the “imperialism” of the Roman republic was fundamentally due to a complex net of social, political and economic factors which marked the era. Although one may drift to various stances in this debate, any dogma is pointless as the debate is, and probably will continue to be, frustratingly inconclusive. The author personally drifts towards Hammond’s school of thought on this subject, as will be seen in the essay below, but either side holds many logical and brilliant arguments. Although almost all of Rome’s wars before those with Pyrrhus were primarily defensive, there is no better period in republican history to illustrate the debate on “imperialism” than the string of wars that were fought against the Hellenistic “allies” (it is thought) of the Carthaginians.

Titus's Consulship Begins and the Aftermath of the Second Punic War

Titus Quinctius Flaminius began his life in Rome, but as yet historians are unsure who his parents were. From examining earlier consul’s heritage, it would seem that Titus’s “gens” or clan – the Quinctii – was indeed a prosperous and highly political one that had Senatorial roots deep in the republic’s past, as were his immediate genetic family- the Flaminii. Sources would seem to indicate that at beginning of his career, he was the patrician (family head) of the gens Quinctii. This meant that he was head of the family and had powers of life and death over the young in it. The origins of this family are not fully known, but some scholars have put forward a hypothesis based on the etymology of the word “Flaminius” that it has a reference to the Flamen Dialis” – the chief priest of Jupiter. If this hypothesis is correct, then it would show that Titus’s family would definitely have had an immense amount of influence in the senate. Throughout the period 437-431 BC, Titus Quinctius Pennus and Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus both stood as consuls, and marriage had brought Titus’s family into the “Posthumius Gens” - another well respected family – through the Consul Aulus Posthumius Tibertus. There were many other illustrious members of the Quinctii gens, but they would be far too numerous to list here. All three were respected soldiers and public servants in their day, so thus Titus came from a highly respectable and wealthy background. What is known is that he began to learn the rudiments of military command and obedience sometime during the second Punic war, where he served as a military tribune under Consul Marcellus. Marcellus’s emphasis on defense during his command of the Roman army against Hannibal must have had a dramatic effect upon Titus’ understanding of military strategy, as throughout his military commands, we can see a very cautious commander whose tactics were exercised with the utmost precision. For example, much to the distress of the Aetolians, Titus put more emphasis on creating a peace treaty with Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, after the short lived war with that city. He was reluctant to storm Sparta and seek vengeance for Nabis’s (supposed) tyranny of the Greek people, which is what many commanders of the time would have done, and what the Allied Commanders would have wanted.

One great mystery about this man is his mastery of Greek culture and language – not many Roman nobles (despite popular belief) spoke Greek until later in the republic, and if they spoke Greek at this period, they were ashamed of it and spoke it badly. Titus probably didn’t visit Greece in his youth or at any other time, as Greece was politically an area of much turbulence, and Romans considered much culture to be too exotic and strange for many of their tastes (despite their culture being fundamentally Greek!). So where did Titus learn his Greek from? some sources, such as those of Mahaffy’s “Alexander’s empire”, say that he knew about Greek “on account of his culture”, perhaps indicating that he himself was of Greek ancestry. This theory is very unlikely, however, because most famous Roman “Gens” were (unlike many famous European monarchs who would claim that they were…) actually descended right down to the founders of their nation – in this case, the noblemen who founded the republic in 509 BC. Rome and Latium were in the Geopolitical sphere known as “Greater Greece”, and so thus were certainly subject to large amounts of Hellenic influence from colonies in southern France, Sicily and Southern Italy, but although this explains Rome’s general connection with the Hellenic civilization, it still doesn’t explain why Titus was so fluent in Greek language and knowledgeable in Greek culture when travel to such areas wasn’t readily available and everyday, personal Greek influence in Rome was negligible.

However, there was a large movement during the second Punic war within the Roman government of “Philhellenism”. The Flaminii and Scipii families both seemed to support this movement heavily, probably because both families saw the need to get Rome as many allies as they could in an age where Rome was threatened by many large, powerful enemies to the east and south. The largest opponents of this policy were the Claudii. Although party politics didn’t exist in Rome fully, and Roman citizens didn’t vote for Consular candidates because of a general political agenda, there were often cases where families and social groups would unite for one particular purpose for a short time (these political alliances usually broke up quite quickly in the dangerous and fluctuating world of Roman republican politics). At this time, Rome’s agenda on foreign policy were divided on one thing – how Rome should survive against the combined powers of the Diadochi and Carthaginian states. The Flaminii group suggested a policy of military, diplomatic and economic aid for Greece against Rome’s enemies, whereas the other opinion was the Rome should remain fundamentally isolationalist until she had re-gained her strength after the numerous military defeats and economic stagnation that had marked the 2nd Punic war. Although the Claudii’s suggestion of isolationalist policy seems to be the most logical when considering Rome’s position at this time, the swift intervention into Greece did produce the desired results to Rome, and not the political chaos which the Anti-Philhellenists would have expected. Whether or not this success of the philhellenic policy of Rome was due simply to the luck of Titus being Consul and would have failed if another less able man was instead of him, it is very hard to say. In the long run, however, the philhellenic policy was the most viable because at one time or another, Macedon and the Seleucids, supported by their some of their puppet Greek allies, would have attacked Italy indefinitely. Political affairs were very long and drawn out, and consular candidates had to spend years (a little less in Titus’s case, as is explained below) preparing to office and winning the goodwill of both the plebeians and the nobles. Titus, therefore, in order to have become Consul at so early a stage, must have been considerably involved in the philhellenic movement of the time, giving a little evidence about his early career. By the time he achieved the rank of consul, the philhellenic movement must have won because firstly, the plebs voted him in to the post, and secondly, because the senate (which would have vetoed and thus destroyed his philhellenic legislation if they were anti-philhellenes) didn’t object to his operations in Greece, granted him a triumph on his return and voted him amble supplies, thus practically encouraging him.

Titus’s actions as a military Tribune in the 2nd Punic war contributed greatly to his understanding of military tactics - Marcellus’s principle of starving out Hannibal during the second Punic war was remarkably similar to Titus’s tactic of leaving Nabis to gradually disintegrate rather than fully attack his holdings. Titus must have achieved numerous honours during that war, as he soon after gained enough public and senatorial support to be appointed Governor of Tarentum and in 204 BC was elected Pro-Praetor with Gaius Hostilius Tutulus. His administration of justice was renowned, and this can also be seen in the Macedonian war through his highly skillful diplomatic skills with the Greek allied command and the Greek people. He was given the right to found two colonies, Narnia (later under the administration of the famous Pliny the Younger) and Cossa. This gradually accumulation of power saw him rise rapidly through the ranks of Tribune (representative of the people) then Curule Aedile (one of the many types of governmental public servant) and finally Quaestor (treasurer) His aspirations then moved to the highest post in the republic – the Consul. Oddly enough, he did not, like many previous and later Consuls, follow the Cursus Honorum; a custom which expected an aspiring politician to have served in most previous governmental ranks before setting himself up as a consular candidate for the elections. This apparent inobservance of traditional Roman republican custom angered the two tribunes of the people, Marcus Fulvius and Manius Curius, who were heavily opposed to his candidateship, but the senate overruled their opposition. One interesting point to make at this juncture is the contradiction of their post – the post of Tribune was supposed to be a mechanism to allow the people to represent their wishes to the senate. The people had not voted in Titus and supposedly in accordance to republican law had their objection voiced legitimately by the two said consuls. The rejection of the senate of a legitimate veto of their vote for Titus Quinctius Flaminius as Consul doesn’t only show an inobservance to the principle of the “Cursus Honorum” which had not been followed by Titus, but also the fundamental republican principles of the Roman republic – the senate had overrode the wishes of the people, showing a society that was run at this time fundamentally by the “Optimates” of the republic. Moreover, the wishes of the Tribunes need not have been those of the people, as the Tribunal post was used in the later centuries of the republic as little more than a post through which designing Optimates could ascend the “Cursus Honorum”, and the historical context could imply that this was the case with the two tribunes mentioned above – the “Curii” and “Fulvi” were both highly respected “gens" that had been some of the leading consular families for generations. Therefore, the reason for this is probably because of the decadence of the late republic (as maintained by Ronald Syme) – by this stage, many posts which were democratic in theory were used by the rich of Rome to advance their status and not to aid politics. As was usually the case in most Roman republican elections, Titus’s was probably rigged – a political candidate must have followed the Cursus Honorum if he wished to rise up the political ranks, and the fact that one exception was made for him clearly shows some kind of political interference took place. It is doubtful that even Titus’s eloquence was enough to convince the senate (as I have shown, it would seem that even the Tribunes – the representatives of the people – were not on his side) to abandon the entire principle behind the Cursus Honorum, but when we consider how influential the Quinctii were as such a large gens, it is no surprise.

Despite this opposition, in the year 198 BC, Titus Quinctius Flaminius was elected along with Sextus Aelius Paetus as Consul of the Roman republic. He would prove to be a decisive figure in the second Macedonian war (200-196 BC) against Philip V and the latter developments (such as his victory over the Spartan tyrant Nabis in 195 BC), which would gradually lead to the outbreak of the Syrian war (191-188 BC) against Antiochus III of Selucus. He concerned himself mainly with the Macedonian war, naturally being of grave importance to the security of Rome and Latium because of its close proximity to them. Events such as the Pyrrhic wars (which, in 283 BC showed to Rome that their eastern seaboard was in fact open to invasion from Greece) and the first Macedonian war showed the danger, which Rome was in from the Hellenistic kingdoms and city-states. The crumbling nation of Macedon had been looking at these wars between the two new superpowers with some interest, and realized that by joining the victor; they could gain considerable advantages, both economically and territorially. From a geographical perspective, Rome was the most plausible target for the Macedonians, as they were only separated from it by the Ionian and Adriatic seas to the west, and had Seleucid support in the Middle East. Many of the most illustrious Roman historians have illustrated this pro-Punic pondering on Philip’s part, such as Livy –

"This war, a struggle between the two wealthiest peoples of the world, had attracted the attention of kings and all nations elsewhere. Philip, king of Macedon, was particularly concerned in its progress because of his proximity to Italy and the fact that he was separated from it only by the Ionian sea. His first reaction to the news that Hannibal had crossed the alps was a simple one: he was glad that war had broken out between Rome and Carthage, but still doubtful, while the resources of the two nations were as yet unknown, he hoped that he would be victorious "
-- Livy book 22.33

This was firmly cemented in a diplomatic alliance that placed Macedonia as an official enemy in the eyes of the Roman republic-the treaty of military alliance with Hannibal Barca of Carthage in 215 BC. In that year, Livy reports offhandedly in his books concerning the second Punic war (218-201 BC) how Philip finally made up his mind-

"When there had been three battles and three Carthaginian victories, he sided with success and sent a deputation to Hannibal "
-- Livy book 22.33

The three Carthaginian victories that Livy is alluding to here are probably the battles of Cannae, Trebia and Lake Trasimene, all of which were decisive Carthaginian victories in the earlier stages of the war which, until around 216 BC, gave the impression that the Carthaginians were winning to the onlooker. It would seem that Philip made his decision to join the side of the Carthaginians far too early – only the 3rd year in a 17-year war. When Philip signed the treaty with Hannibal, the brilliant commanders and statesmen of the second and perhaps most famous of the punic wars such as Cato the Censor, Quintus Fabius Maximus “the delayer” and Marcellus had not shown their true abilities yet. These were all die-hard radicals and dictators who came in a moment of crisis to assist the republic, and perhaps Philip’s ultimate defeat in the Macedonian wars can be attributed to his inappropriately quick judgment.

The Macedonian Cold War

This diplomatic siding with the enemy of Rome, finally lead to the first Macedonian war that lasted from 215 BC to 205 BC. Rome feared that their intervention in 215 BC had not been decisive enough, and Philip’s power was once again growing too strong. It is quite possible that Philip felt threatened by the 211 BC “Anti-Macedonian alliance” between the Aetolian confederations (who had been involved in a full scale war with Philip V), Republican Rome and Attalus I of Pergamum. It is obvious from Philip’s point of view that he was being threatened, and needed to defend his interest. It is consequently of no surprise that an arms race with Rome and the Macedonians had been steadily progressing throughout this period, and in the year 207 BC, Philip V built 100 new warships. This shift of allegiance towards Carthage manifested itself in the support that Philip V had to the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca throughout the war.

Philip had taken an active step in the opposite direction from the Romans by firstly signing a treaty of allegiance with the Carthaginians, secondly by initiating an arms race and thirdly by skirmishing and later actually attacking Roman forces. Naturally, this was all the Roman senate needed as a pretext for war with Macedon. Military movements had already commenced, with Pro-Praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinius taking 38 warships to Macedonia, and legate Marcus Aurelius building up Roman military muscle in the region. Both feared that Philip would take the same step as Pyrrhus and attempt to cross into Italy over the Adriatic and had thus sent a message to the senate emphasizing their concerns and asking for war. Finally, in 201 (in the same year that the final peace treaties were drawn up for the Carthaginian surrender) the Senate declared war on Macedon for the second time in just 15 years (the third would come when Perseus, Philip’s successor and incidentally, the last Dynastic Macedonian king would attempt to re-gain what his predecessor had lost from the Romans). The Greek city states were also getting increasingly concerned with Philip V’s actions, which culminated in Philip’s attack of Athens and Attalus’s appeal to Rome in 200 BC. Finally, in those years, the Athenians and many other cities also declared war upon Philip. One of the largest dilemmas about this string of wars that emerged in the east was their purpose, for many reasons which will be discussed later on. Philip was further provoking the Romans by attacking one of major allies of the Romans in the 1st Macedonian war (214-205 BC) when the legions were preoccupied fighting Hannibal in Italy- the Attalids of Pergamum. Polybius gives an account of another less ambitious attempt by Antiochus to conquer parts of Caria for his domains, which we can place around 200 BC through comparing Livy and Polybius’s accounts. It would seem that Philip was counting on the 2nd Punic war to drag on for much longer than it did, because in 200 BC, the final touches were being added to the peace treaties with Carthage. He was relying on Roman preoccupation to enable him to annex Eastern Greek land without fear of reciprocation. Philip’s wish to annex some of these colonies of Asia minor seems to draw a strikingly similar parallel with Antiochus III’s wish to do the same – this perhaps further supports the conclusion that the two had some form of military alliance, for when Macedon was in grave peril at the end of the 2nd Macedonian war (discussed later in this essay), Antiochus had already begun to encroach suspiciously near to the Greek territories of Asia minor…

However, for all general purposes, the senate did not need to aid the Greeks. Their decision for war is even more confusing when their fundamentally isolationalist attitude toward foreign policy is taken into account. They viewed over seas communications and annexations as both a nuisance and an expense. Indeed, many of Rome’s wars at this time were fought primarily for defensive reasons against hostile enemies, but the benefits that Rome gained from this war are simply far too great to assume that it was only looked upon as defensive. Elizabeth Rawlinson summarizes this on going debate in her section of the “Oxford Classical history” – the expansion of Rome:

"It was further argued that the historians always showed Rome to have declared war for defensive reasons, or to assist allies to whom she had obligations and a reputation for “fides” (good faith) to keep up. For the idea of “Bella Iustrum” or “Just war”, undertaken in, say – defence or to aid her allies obsessed her. Rome perhaps wrongly believed that she was under threat there has been an argument over whether there was, or Rome though there was, a secret pact between Antiochus and Philip in 200 BC… "
-- Elizabeth Rawlinson The Oxford history of Greece – the expansion of Rome – Roman imperialism

As is later demonstrated in this history, the enormous gains that this war had for Rome must have played some part in the senate’s decision. “Bella Iustrum” cannot have been constantly followed, despite Livy’s apparent insistence, during these wars, which so much expense and manpower would have been needed from Rome to continue. From a financial perspective, Rome could not have afforded to keep these wars going without taking something off the side to ensure that their coffers were re-stocked with gold. Although, for example, Carthage had been a dangerous enemy in the Punic wars, which were a genuine threat to Roman existence, the dominance that they had over Roman markets and economic influence was enough to fight over in itself. Rome became considerably richer after the Punic wars, and became an economic giant through all the new trade routes they could dominate. It is hard to see why the second Macedonian war could have been any different when we consider the gains that the Romans got from it. Much of the cold war between Macedonia and the Roman republic can be seen occurring in one province – Illyria. In 229 BC, Illyria was occupied by Roman forces under the pretext that it was to protect the Adriatic from pirates. However, as far as we know, no Roman fleet was stationed to prevent such activities, and none of the forts in the area were mobilized against such pirates, and when considering Illyria’s strategic position in relation to northern Macedonia, it is perhaps a little too coincidental. This is just one example of Roman imperial intervention, but there were many incidences where Roman forces occupied a settlement in this politically volatile area under some similar poorly disguised pretext. Other such activities that lead up to war were the Macedonian opportunistic attacks on Apollonia in 214 BC when the Roman army was occupied against the Carthaginian forces and the Macedonian occupation of Dassaretis. This provoked an earlier war against Macedon which was to rage until 205 when the treaty of Phoenice ended the hostilities. It was, on this occasion, Macedonian imperialism, but each side did blatantly provocative actions, which did not help the deteriorating diplomatic situation. Rome helped to speed up the rot by aiding Macedonian fugitives such as Scerdilaidas and Demetrius. Rather than “Bella Iustrum”, the war was fought for a variety of imperialistic concerns rather than purely ideological and diplomatic ones.

The concept of “Bella Iustrum” may appear to be the acts of a philanthropist ideally, but in reality, “Bella Iustrum” in its pure form could not have occurred, or Rome would simply not have had the money to continue growing. In short, the gradual rise to dominance of the Roman state in direct equilibrium with these republican “Bella Iustrum” wars is enough to show that there was more behind it than simple aid to allies. Livy’s belief that Rome was genuinely being a benefactor of freedom by offering to help the Greeks is naive and (when considering the Punic wars) immature. His views on the matter are idealistic rather than realistic. However, as can be seen in many histories and discourses on the Roman republic, he is one of our only sources available. Many of Rome’s records were stored in a pseudo-religious capability by the “Pontifex Maximus” or the chief priest, whose secondary duty is was preserve the annals of Rome. After the Gallic invasion of 390 BC, many of the earlier records of the republic were lost, and many noble families, hoping to re-write history to brighten their forebears, fabricated a great deal of these annals. For this reason, Livy had to use a mix of legend, assumption, popular belief and earlier Greek sources such as Polybius. However, despite all of his merits, Livy essentially wrote for the dual purposes of political propaganda and entertainment, and although he was dedicated to his work, he not a serious historian and lacked the historical skills of his main source; Polybius. This can be illustrated in a below source:

"“Essentially a literary artist and court historian, without a fundamental grasp of Geography, military science, or politics, Livy brought to bear upon the historic traditions of Rome an unexcelled narrative skill, a superb prose style, and all the techniques of rhetoric and drama, to create what was virtually a prose epic of the glories of Rome’s past. His basic aim was not critical enquiry, but moral reform through lessons to be drawn from an idealized past, through emphasis on ancient virtues, heroism, patriotic sacrifice and religious piety. Insufficiently critical of his sources, and making no pretension to a systematic philosophy of history, Livy selected and emphasized what suited his purposes, infusing his history with his ethnical aim and a prosenatorial bias. Eloquent but fictitious speeches and elaborate but generically similar descriptions of battles about in Livy’s history, and in the early books he recounts at great length many traditional Roman legends. Nevertheless, for many periods of the republic Livy is our best or only authority” "
-- Roman Civilization, Sourcebook I: the republic, chapter 1.2, Livy, Naphtali Lewis and Mayer Reinhold, 1966 edition

Although Livy’s work parallels Virgil’s “Aeneid” in its role in the Augustan period as political propaganda, Livy hardly prostituted his work for this purpose. Augustus’s patronage of such artists and writers was helpful in his image of “re-creating” the republic after it’s turbulence in the late 2nd and 1st centuries BC, but it did not intrude fully on their work and artistic license. P.G. Walsh, who wrote a highly-acclaimed book on the historiography of Livy, gives this good example of Livy’s considerable independence in the face of the new “regime”:

"“Augustus obviously made a determined attempt to befriend the historian, and from Tacitus one learns that they were on intimate terms. The evidence is important: “Titus Livy…praised Cnaeus Pompey to such heights that Augustus called him a Pompeian, but this did not detract from their friendship” "
-- P.G. Walsh, Livy – His historical aims and methods, 1 – the Personal background

Therefore, we cannot be sure in this essay if Livy is being entirely truthful, or is injecting his work with a sufficient dosage of patriotism. Some critics have even gone as far to say that he equates figures such as Numa (an early king of Tarquin Rome) and Hercules to Augustus in an obsequious attempt at flattery. Whilst this is one extreme, it does hold some truth in that Livy – like all historians of the age – had no previous historiography of any real kind to base his work on, and thus cannot be held responsible in his lack of watching for bias. He lived in an age of internalization and xenophobia, meaning that many of the events portrayed in this history based on Livy’s sources will be very critically examined, as a healthy dose of skepticism is needed in dealing with this particular historian. 

Proconsul Titus enters Macedonia and the First Major Victories of the War

When Titus Quinctius began his Consulship, the war had been raging for some 5 years, with limited results. There had been some minor successes for Philip against the Aetolians, Athamenes and the Dardani, but there had been a few victories for the allies. The legate Marcus Aurelius and king Attalus of Pergamon captured a variety of walled towns, including the port of Oreus, which was a particularly notable victory. A.R Burn in his history of Greece describes the contrast between the old and this brilliant new commander-

"Very unwillingly, the war-weary people were induced to vote for the campaign. Legions were raised, consisting of volunteers only; and after three indecisive campaigns a new, young and brilliant commander, Flaminius, beat the Macedonian Phalanx by sweeping away its flank guards, with help of Aetolian cavalry, and taking it in the rear "
-- A.R. Burn, penguin/pelican history of Greece, chapter 17.3

The Macedonians soon took to the defensive in Aetolia and Thessaly by fortifying the Northern passes such as the Aous, which lead to Epirus. Roman fears were confirmed, and it looked that the Macedonians were going to make a move for a crossing over to Italy, prompting the allies into action. The senate allotted him the command of Macedonia and the Greek situation, and after taking with him 3000 legionary infantry and 300 legionary cavalry, along with 5000 infantry and cavalry of Auxiliary status. During his recruitment, many of his troops that he selected for his command were veterans of the various Spanish and Gallic campaigns; those who had served with exemplary courage, or had won the golden (first to go over the wall in a siege) or grass (for saving the life of a fellow citizen during combat) crowns during combat, for example. Exactly how much of his success can be attributed to the crack troops under his command is debatable. When Hannibal crossed the alps, the composition and type of troops that his army then possessed after that long and dangerous trek was not at all what he needed nor wanted for his attempted attack against Italy. But does that necessarily mean that the general was, theoretically any less brilliant? When Hannibal had the troops that he needed (for example, in the first part of the march in Spain), he achieved much. This same approach can be applied to Titus. Although he may have had crack troops under his command, they could only be utilized by a brilliant general in the way that they were. The opposite view can be illustrated by H.H. Scullards’ “A History of the Roman world 753 BC to 146 BC”:

"“The troops employed by Flaminius were largely composed of Scipio’s veterans from Spain and Africa and there can be little doubt where the tribune had learnt his lesson in tactics. Flaminius was the victory of Cynocephale, but he was building on the foundations laid by another. And he was soon to realize that it was almost more difficult to make peace than war amongst the bickering states of Greek” "
-- H.H. Scullard, A History of the Roman world 753 BC to 146 BC, Part III – Rome and Greece, chapter 4 –The second Macedonian war

According to secondary sources such as Plutarch, Flaminius didn’t serve in Africa under Scipio Africanus, but there could obviously have been other ways that he learnt some tactics from Scipio. In any case, the majority of his military service in the Punic wars was spent with Consul Marcellus in Northern Italy, and the majority of his tactics seem to bear the hallmarks of being those of Marcellus’s than Scipio, but since almost all supreme commanders in the war shared their tactics and frequently liaised, Titus could easily have picked up some tactics from Scipio. In fact, when looking from another perspective, it could be said that Titus’s approach to the strategic situation at Cynoscephalae was similar to the typical approach that Scipio might have attempted in his place.
In 198 BC, after a short spell in Rome, Titus crossed over from Brundisium in South-Eastern Italy to Corcyra in Northern Greece, where he gained a further 8000 infantry and 800 horse of auxiliary status. He then crossed over to the Roman camp there in a Quinquereme to the nearest part of Epirus that was not in the hands of the enemy. He sent Publius Villius Tappulus back to Rome having replaced him as Consul. Publius had not achieved anything worthy of note during his consulship in Macedonia (199 BC), and, apart from a few minor sieges and battles, had done nothing to further the allies’ prospect of victory. Before Publius’s consulship in Macedonia, however; the Roman forces under Gaius Claudius (the second consul for the year 200 BC) had captured Chalsis (a large Macedonian-held fort which was threatening the naval activities of Athens), but this victory was soon forgotten due to Philip’s attack of Athens (which then had only a small garrison of Pergamene troops and a mercenary force under the command of Dioxippus) and the earlier siege of Abydus. That year, Athens declared war upon Macedonia…
The Consulship of Claudius had shown some improvements in the war, but Titus had observed the previous consul’s meager progress of skirmishing, and decided to bring the Macedonians to the field as soon as was plausible. He requested that his brother, Lucius Quinctius Flaminius be given permission by the senate to be commander of the Roman naval force in Greece. According to Plutarch, Lucius was diametrically opposed to his brother in every way, and he rather sternly remarks-
"“Titus had a brother, Lucius Flaminius, very unlike him in all points of character, and, in particular, low and dissolute in his pleasures, and flagrantly regardless of all decency” "
-- Plutarch, life of Titus Quinctius Flaminius

Lucius had already been granted a Praetorship the year before and as a result held a significant amount of influence in the republican government. Lucius also brought with his navy around 3000 young soldiers who had defeated the Carthaginian general Asdrubal in Spain under Scipio Africanus.
Soon after Titus had struck camp, Philip camped upon the nearby Aous Mountains with his army and engaged in some small skirmishes, thus denying Titus access into mainland Greece except from the sea. However, some cattle farmers came to Titus’s camp and showed him a route, which Philip’s men had neglected to guard. To reinforce their story by showing their allegiance to the allied cause, they told him the name of a pro-Roman Greek in Epirus – Charops, son of Machatas, who held a large amount of influence in the city. Titus took this information as true and sent 4000 infantry with 300 cavalry through the pass, which the farmers had reported. When it was deemed safe, the main body of the army quietly followed, and hid by day in the woods. That night, they flanked the Macedonian positions overlooking Epirus on the mountains, which was where the Macedonians still believed them to be. The Macedonian Phalanx could not keep up its decisive advantage when being attacked from three sides, in hill terrain with woods around – the phalanx was a military tactic more suited to the open field. Plutarch sums up this decisive advantage that the Phalanx could have in his "lives":

"“For the Macedonian Phalanx is like some single powerful animal, irresistible so long as it is embodied into one, and keeps its order, shield touching shield, all as in a piece; but if it be once broken, not only is the joint-force lost, but the individual soldiers who composed it; lose each one of their single strength ” "
-- Plutarch, life of Titus Quinctius Flaminius

Three parties of legionaries and auxiliaries attacked the Macedonian camp, pushing them into a general rout, chasing them down from the Aous Mountains. It was in this manner that Titus secured the first bridgehead into Northern Greece from which he could transport troops from Italy. The Greek Auxiliary and allied forces under Alcaeus’s command composed this poem –
"“Naked and tomb less see, O passer by, the thirty thousand men of Thessaly, Slain by the Aetolians and the Latin band, that came with Titus from Italia’s land; Alas for mighty Macedon! That day, Swift as a roe, King Philip fled away" "
-- Plutarch, life of Titus Quinctius Flaminius

…To which the Macedonians responded...

"“Naked and leafless see, O passer-by, the cross that shall Alcaeus crucify” "
-- Plutarch, life of Titus Quinctius Flaminius

Philip marched the remnants of his army through Thessaly, burning and pillaging many of the Greek towns and cities, which were directly on the road to Epirus to deny Titus the chance to gain more supplies. Many of these towns, such as Phacium, Iresiae, Euhydrium, Eretria and Palaepharsalus were completely destroyed. Throughout the war, Philip attempted to use a “scorched earth” policy to gain the upper hand against the allies’ large army. This tactic can be seen throughout almost the whole of the war and was a common practice of many armies of the time in many conflicts. After the Roman victory, Roman allies began to capture various strong points held by the Macedonians around their region – Amynander, king of the Athamenes began to move towards the town of Gomphi and the surrounding region after receiving confirmation from the Consul, and the Aetolian forces captured the fortress of Cyphaera.

Soon after these events, as multitude of Greek peoples, such as the Achaeans, the Opuntians, and the Aetolian confederation were all eager for an official Roman military alliance against Philip V. Titus was renowned for his diplomatic skills and ability with people, so much so that Plutarch calls him “A Greek in voice and language”. Plutarch, being a Greek living under the Roman yoke some 250 years later, would have given the more generally accepted heroic view of Titus when writing his lives. Titus’s evidently impressive oratory and political skills, when combined with his natural charisma, military excellence and knowledge of the Greek world gave him the position of a natural leader against Philip for the allies. After this, most of Greece began to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Titus’s forces – even another Diadochi (decedent states of Alexander the Great) king - Attalus of Pergamum- followed the general consensus and joined the Romans. Philip attempted to reverse this process by sending his delegate, Clemedon, to convince the Aetolians, Phocians and Locrians to leave the king’s alliance with little success.

In the year 197 BC, the annual election for the Consuls commenced in Rome, with Gaius Cornelius (Cethegus) and Quintus Minucius (Rufus) being elected Consuls for that year. So successful was the Macedonian campaign under Titus, that the senate and people voted him a proconsul, allowing his consular powers to be extended for the duration of the war. The senate also voted him more reinforcements to join his now vast allied army; 6000 infantry, 300 cavalry and 3000 seamen, according to Livy, but this does not take into account the various auxiliaries, mercenaries and divisions put under his command in Greece. Lucius, Titus’s completely opposite brother, was also given senatorial permission to command the Roman fleet in Greece for the continuation of the war with Philip. Lucius seems to have used this permission to maximum and devastating effect – he was a competent naval commander and this permission greatly swung the maritime theatre of the war to Rome’s favour.

That year, after returning from the elections in Rome and receiving his reinforcements, Titus wintered in Phocis and Locris. His army by now would probably have been very cumbersome and because of its’ enormous size, logistic problems were probably (we can assume) encountered. The evidence for this lies in, as has been said, the size of his army, the amount of fronts that he had to defend and fluctuating Greek loyalties from some states. These “fluctuating loyalties” can be seen most clearly in an internal dispute broke out in Opus, where one faction called for Aetolian support, but the other Roman. This was just one example of the widening gap in relations and friendly dispositions between the Roman republic and Aetolian confederation. The Aetolians arrived before the Romans and shut them out of the city, and neither Titus’s appeals nor threats would make the Aetolians leave the town. Just before the situation became drastic, a messenger arrived from King Philip calling Titus and his Greek allies to a meeting at the shore of the Malian gulf near Nicaea. King Amynander, King Attalus, Titus and many other Greek leaders were there. The Romans demanded to Philip that he should withdraw from all the Greek states, which he had captured, restore all the temples that he had desecrated and sacked, and return to the Romans the province of Illyricum, which had been a focal point of the cold war some years earlier. Pergamum asked for nothing more than the return of the prisoners, which Philip had captured, from them in numerous naval battles, as well as the unanimous demands for withdrawal. Almost all the Greek states that had taken part in the war or those that had been affected by it asked for the withdrawal of Macedonian garrisons from Greece and to have their lands returned to them. Philip refused the majority of these demands, but he did respect the request of the Romans for the return of Illyricum, and returned to them almost the entire coast. At this juncture, virtually all the Greek states in Greece proper went over to the Roman side, except for Thebes (which agreed to join the Roman cause after Titus appeared with his army) and Sparta, under the rule of the tyrant Nabis. 

The Seleucids Watch from Afar and Hannibal Returns

All over Greece, Macedonian held towns and cities were falling to the combined might of the Greek and Roman armies. Philip had suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the Dassareti (and later, the Romans) that Titus offered a peace treaty. Naval operations were also taxing Philip’s forces to the limit- the fleets of Lucius (Titus’s brother) and Alattus III (the king of Pergamon) were beginning to press hard on some ports such as Eretria, and had devastated large tracts of land. Titus’s terms were that the war would end, as long as Philip respected Greek self-determination, customs and laws. The treaty also demanded the he withdraw all his forces from Greece, and that he should pay according to Plutarch, 1000 Talents, but according to Livy, 200 Talents, and all his shipping except for ten vessels, and that one of his sons, Demetrius, should be sent to Rome to assure the compliance of the terms of the treaty. Other nations apart from the Macedonians, however, also sent deputations. It is important to notice that in the Aetolian deputation, there was a degree of uncertainty if they should either joins a defensive or offensive alliance with Rome. The language of this deputation and the demand for a thousands talents from the Senate is reminiscent of the diplomatic troubles that Titus had experienced with them in Greece.

Titus was, however, at a loss for official action – his hands were tied without the agreement of the senate, so a truce was arranged for four months for the journey, and to see if the senate wished for peace with Macedon. Titus was aware that because Antiochus III was preparing for war in Asia, creating a state of security in Greece was vital. Many cities in the Western districts of Asia Minor such as Ionia and Caria, had been highly alarmed at his encroachments, and had sent pleas for help to Greece proper. Cities such as Lampsacus and Smyrna requested direct intervention. By 196 BC, Antiochus had a foothold in Thrace, and war seemed inevitable.

However, this was not the first time that Greece and Rome had experienced diplomatic tensions with the Seleucids- they had been an irritant to many nations for some time– seemingly endless invasions of Ptolemaic Egypt (the most recent being in 217 BC, but was repulsed by Ptolemy IV Philopator’s victory at the battle of Raphia), constant threats to Armenia (in 212 BC he forced Xerxes of Armenia to accept his authority over the region), his invasions of Parthia (Commencing in 209 BC, when he reached the capital, Hecatompylus, leading in the Parthian king, Arsaces II to sue for Peace). With regards to Philip’s involvement in Antiochus’s imperialistic designs, there were several joint military commands between Antiochus and Philip to oust Ptolemy V Epiphanes from the Egyptian throne in 204/205. They also co-operated in that same year with the systematic attacks of Ptolemaic strongpoints throughout the Aegean. When these joint commands are placed in the context of a “secret alliance” between the Macedonians and the Seleucids, the Roman accusation suddenly becomes more credible. If the alliance with Philip – an enemy of Rome – was not enough provocation, then it was even more when we regard the attacks into Ptolemaic Egypt – which was more or less the only Diadochi state that Rome was relatively well-disposed towards (this shows the contradiction of Bella Iustrum yet again – the senate would have argued that they were defending Ptolemaic Egypt against senseless aggression, which would be credible if only Rome had not depended on North Africa and Egypt for corn and other supplies…). However, this piece of evidence, plus both Philip and Antiochus’s endorsement of Hannibal and his wars are more than enough to support the hypothesis of a secret military alliance. Perhaps most importantly, though, in the provocation of Rome to declare war on Antiochus was his aid of the fugitive Hannibal Barca, who he made his military advisor, placed him under an uncomfortable amount of suspicion from Rome (He was under a considerable amount already for his actions in Egypt which have been previously discussed).

Hannibal’s slide from the power of Carthage began with the anger of his people and the betrayal of his government. Hannibal had been almost personally responsible for prompting two wars with Rome- both of which Carthage lost. In the second – and perhaps most famous – Punic war, Hannibal attacked the Roman-allied Spanish town of Sagnatum despite protestation from the Carthaginian assembly. At the end of the third Punic war, Carthage was in ruins- economic sanction and repeated military action had left it’s infrastructure in ruins, which is more than can be said for the fighting spirit of it’s people. Oddly enough, the people elected Hannibal to restore Carthage and attempt to curb many of the domestic and economic problems that were ravaging it. Despite this, Hannibal decided to ally himself with the Seleucids for another war with Rome. The Carthaginian senate got wind of this, reported it to Rome. Livy reports the he fled from Carthage in disguise for fear of his life. It would seem that Hannibal kept his pledge to destroy Rome until the day he died, on 183 BC, of suicide, trying to escape from Roman agents sent to apprehend him.

Thus, Antiochus’s granting of sanctuary to a dangerous Roman enemy was placed him among not just possible Roman enemies, but also Carthaginian and possibly Numidian ones (although the Numdians had provided Hannibal with cavalry and would at later points go at war with Rome in the late republican Jugerarthine war, and the imperial Tacferinian war, they were at this point on good terms with Rome, and were probably not well disposed to the man that had lead their country to near ruin) Hannibal seems, from many accounts, to have had a great deal of influence of Antiochus. Perhaps Antiochus believed that having a strategist like Hannibal in his court could save his crumbling kingdom. In any case, he managed to convince Antiochus to make more and more offensive actions towards Roman areas of influence. The Diadochi as a whole clearly imperialistic, but we can clearly see from various sources that Hannibal had a large part to play in influencing Antiochus’s decision. In this case, it is Appian of Alexandria who provides us with this information:

"As Antiochus intended to invade Greece first and thence begin his war against the Romans, he communicated his design to Hannibal. The latter said that as Greece had been wasted for a long time, the task would be easy; but that wars which were waged at home were the hard ones to bear, by reason of the scarcity which they caused, and that those which took place in foreign territory were much easier to endure. Antiochus could never vanquish the Romans in Greece, where they would have plenty of home-grown grain and all needed material. Hannibal urged him to occupy some part of Italy and make his base of operations there, so that the Romans might be weakened both at home and abroad. "I have had experience of Italy," he said, "and with 10,000 men I can occupy some convenient place and write to my friends in Carthage to stir up the people to revolt. As they are already discontented with their condition, and harbor ill-will toward the Romans, they will be filled with courage and hope if they hear that I am ravaging Italy again." Antiochus listened eagerly to this advice, and as he considered a Carthaginian accession a great advantage (as it would have been) for his war, directed him to write to his friends at once. "
-- Appian of Alexandria book 11.6


Titus Livy also recalls the meeting between Antiochus and Hannibal, but in a less detailed way than Polybius. In any case, both of the above and below sources indicate that Hannibal was driving Antiochus heavily towards war. It would appear that Hannibal joined Antiochus’s court while Titus was occupied in the Peloponnese against Nabis. Although Titus and the Greek command were aware that Antiochus was pursuing his own imperialism in Asia Minor and may very soon invade Greece, they would not know that Hannibal Barca was behind it until Carthage confirmed Rome’s suspicions.


"Scarcely had they started on their mission when envoys came from Carthage with the intelligence that Antiochus was undoubtedly preparing for war with the advice and assistance of Hannibal, and apprehensions were felt as to the outbreak of a war with Carthage at the same time. As was stated above, Hannibal, a fugitive from his native country, had reached the court of Antiochus, where he was treated with great distinction, the only motive for this being that the king had long been meditating a war with Rome, and no one could be more qualified to discuss the subject with him than the Carthaginian commander. He had never wavered in his opinion that the war should be conducted on Italian soil; Italy would furnish both supplies and men to a foreign foe. But, he argued, if that country remained undisturbed and Rome were free to employ the strength and resources of Italy beyond its frontiers, no monarch, no nation could meet her on equal terms. "
-- Livy book 34.60

Polybius also mentioned in his works the character of Antiochus III “the great”, and his account of this m