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The Third Macedonian War Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History 241 BC to 146 BC Notes

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How does Pydna portray Roman politics of the period?
Polybius (39.1-8) is very clear about what he thought the Roman conduct of the war against Perseus showed; for him it was the first note of a new policy which is fully revealed in the extermination of Carthage in 146 who, despite not being guilty of any offence and obeying all orders, were destroyed with great severity. In the period between Apamea and Pydna, following a trend which can be traced from the end of the second Macedonian War and through the Syrian War, Rome showed a much sharper concern for the domination of her imperium in the east, a much heightened sensitivity to any potential threats to this and a state of near paranoia of disloyalty in previously close and profitable allies, namely Eumenes of Pergamum and Rhodes. This is what characterises this period most strongly and Rome's actions with regard to these two allies, but most of all with regard to the Macedonians before and after the war, shows this trend quite clearly. They adopt an altogether more ruthless and openly self-serving attitude of how to deal with states in the East; Polybius claims that the speech of the Achaean envoy Callicrates to the senate was the exact moment at which the Romans changed their outlook and actively began working to enhance those who appealed to their authority and diminish those who did not. This man, Polybius says, was "the initiator of great calamities for all Greece, and especially for the Achaeans" (24.10). Perseus did not pose, in any way, the same sort of threat that the expansion of Philip or Antiochus had done earlier and so why the Romans chose to go to war with him is harder to explain unless we accept a developing atmosphere of ill-founded suspicions, desires to protect the ever growing imperium and hawkish belligerence in Rome. Furthermore this helps to explain their actions with regard to Eumenes and Rhodes who had, in reality, done very little to merit the harsh treatment they receive from Rome and had been loyal and profitable allies for decades, one hundred and forty years in the case of Rhodes. The most likely explanation of why Rome went to war with Perseus was not, as Polybius says, the fact he inherited a war that had been planned long ago by his father Philip, but rather that Roman suspicion of him had reached such a point that armed conflict became inevitable. Firstly he was suspected of arranging the death of his brother Demetrius, who had won great favour in the senate and showed strongly pro-Roman tendencies, the motivation for his assassination; one thing this could imply to a Roman was that Perseus was inherently hostile to them. Secondly, and more importantly, is the way he sought to consolidate Macedonia's position in mainland Greece and win the support of his neighbours with diplomatic overtures; this could pose a threat to Roman hegemony in the area as well as the settlement imposed by Flamininus after the second Macedonian war by providing an alternate political focus for the people of Greece. Errington argues this is simply a normalisation of friendly relations between neighbours and that both Philip and Perseus had done all that they could to mollify the senate when their motives were suspected. However, this would not have been acceptable to the Romans who did not want anything to threaten their imperium in the region. For example at Delphi two representatives of Perseus are listed in the members of the Amphiktyonic council, a body which had been pro-Roman since it had

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