Political calculation made the liberation of Greece a possibility for the Romans; it was converted into a reality by the Hellenic sympathies that were at that time indescribably powerful in Rome, and above all in Flamininus himself. If the Romans are liable to any reproach, it is that all of them, and in particular Flamininus who overcame the well-founded scruples of the senate, were hindered by the magic charm of the Hellenic name from perceiving in all its extent the wretched character of the Greek states of that period, and so allowed yet further freedom for the doings of communities which, owing to the impotent antipathies that prevailed alike in their internal and their mutual relations, knew neither how to act nor how to keep quiet. As things stood, it was really necessary at once to put an end to such a freedom, equally pitiful and pernicious, by means of a superior power permanently present on the spot; the feeble policy of sentiment, with all its apparent humanity, was far more cruel than the sternest occupation would have been. In Boeotia for instance Rome had, if not to instigate, at least to permit, a political murder, because the Romans had resolved to withdraw their troops from Greece and, consequently, could not prevent the Greeks friendly to Rome from seeking their remedy in the usual manner of the country. But Rome herself also suffered from the effects of this indecision. The war with Antiochus would not have arisen but for the political blunder of liberating Greece, and it would not have been dangerous but tor the military blunder of withdrawing the garrisons from the principal fortresses on the European frontier. History has a Nemesis for every sin--for an impotent craving after freedom, as well as for an injudicious generosity.

Notes For Chapter VIII

1. III. III. Acquisition Of Territory In Illyria

2. III. VI. Stagnation Of The War In Italy

3. There are still extant gold staters, with the head of Flamininus and the inscription "-T. Quincti(us)-," struck in Greece under the government of the liberator of the Hellenes. The use of the Latin language is a significant compliment.

4. III. III. Acquisition Of Territory In Illyria

Chapter IX

The War With Antiochus Of Asia

Antiochus The Great

In the kingdom of Asia the diadem of the Seleucidae had been worn since 531 by king Antiochus the Third, the great-great-grandson of the founder of the dynasty. He had, like Philip, begun to reign at nineteen years of age, and had displayed sufficient energy and enterprise, especially in his first campaigns in the east, to warrant his being without too ludicrous impropriety addressed in courtly style as "the Great." He had succeeded--more, however, through the negligence of his opponents and of the Egyptian Philopator in particular, than through any ability of his own--in restoring in some degree the integrity of the monarchy, and in reuniting with his crown first the eastern satrapies of Media and Parthyene, and then the separate state which Achaeus had founded on this side of the Taurus in Asia Minor. A first attempt to wrest from the Egyptians the coast of Syria, the loss of which he sorely felt, had, in the year of the battle of the Trasimene lake, met with a bloody repulse from Philopator at Raphia; and Antiochus had taken good care not to resume the contest with Egypt, so long as a man--even though he were but an indolent one--occupied the Egyptian throne. But, after Philopator's death (549), the right moment for crushing Egypt appeared to have arrived; with that view Antiochus entered into concert with Philip, and had thrown himself upon Coele-Syria, while Philip attacked the cities of Asia Minor. When the Romans interposed in that quarter, it seemed for a moment as if Antiochus would make common cause with Philip against them--the course suggested by the position of affairs, as well as by the treaty of alliance. But, not far-seeing enough to repel at once with all his energy any interference whatever by the Romans in the affairs of the east, Antiochus thought that his best course was to take advantage of the subjugation of Philip by the Romans (which might easily be foreseen), in order to secure the kingdom of Egypt, which he had previously been willing to share with Philip, for himself alone. Notwithstanding the close relations of Rome with the court of Alexandria and her royal ward, the senate by no means intended to be in reality, what it was in name, his "protector;" firmly resolved to give itself no concern about Asiatic affairs except in case of extreme necessity, and to limit the sphere of the Roman power by the Pillars of Hercules and the Hellespont, it allowed the great-king to take his course. He himself was not probably in earnest with the conquest of Egypt proper--which was more easily talked of than achieved--but he contemplated the subjugation of the foreign possessions of Egypt one after another, and at once attacked those in Cilicia as well as in Syria and Palestine. The great victory, which he gained in 556 over the Egyptian general Scopas at Mount Panium near the sources of the Jordan, not only gave him complete possession of that region as far as the frontier of Egypt proper, but so alarmed the Egyptian guardians of the young king that, to prevent Antiochus from invading Egypt, they submitted to a peace and sealed it by the betrothal of their ward to Cleopatra the daughter of Antiochus. When he had thus achieved his first object, he proceeded in the following year, that of the battle of Cynoscephalae, with a strong fleet of 100 decked and 100 open vessels to Asia Minor, to take possession of the districts that formerly belonged to Egypt on the south and west coasts of Asia Minor--probably the Egyptian government had ceded these districts, which were -de facto- in the hands of Philip, to Antiochus under the peace, and had renounced all their foreign possessions in his favour--and to recover the Greeks of Asia Minor generally for his empire. At the same time a strong Syrian land-army assembled in Sardes.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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