The twelve tetrarchs, one of whom was appointed to preside over each of the four cantons in each of the three tribes, formed, with their council of 300 men, the supreme authority of the nation, and assembled at the "holy place" (-Drunemetum-), especially for the pronouncing of capital sentences. Singular as this cantonal constitution of the Celts appeared to the Asiatics, equally strange seemed to them the adventurous and marauding habits of the northern intruders, who on the one hand furnished their unwarlike neighbours with mercenaries for every war, and on the other plundered on their own account or levied contributions from the surrounding districts. These rude but vigorous barbarians were the general terror of the effeminate surrounding nations, and even of the great-kings of Asia themselves, who, after several Asiatic armies had been destroyed by the Celts and king Antiochus I. Soter had even lost his life in conflict with them (493), agreed at last to pay them tribute.


In consequence of bold and successful opposition to these Gallic hordes, Attalus, a wealthy citizen of Pergamus, received the royal title from his native city and bequeathed it to his posterity. This new court was in miniature what that of Alexandria was on a great scale. Here too the promotion of material interests and the fostering of art and literature formed the order of the day, and the government pursued a cautious and sober cabinet policy, the main objects of which were the weakening the power of its two dangerous continental neighbours, and the establishing an independent Greek state in the west of Asia Minor. A well-filled treasury contributed greatly to the importance of these rulers of Pergamus. They advanced considerable sums to the kings of Syria, the repayment of which afterwards formed part of the Roman conditions of peace. They succeeded even in acquiring territory in this way; Aegina, for instance, which the allied Romans and Aetolians had wrested in the last war from Philip's allies, the Achaeans, was sold by the Aetolians, to whom it fell in terms of the treaty, to Attalus for 30 talents (7300 pounds). But, notwithstanding the splendour of the court and the royal title, the commonwealth of Pergamus always retained something of the urban character; and in its policy it usually went along with the free cities. Attalus himself, the Lorenzo de' Medici of antiquity, remained throughout life a wealthy burgher; and the family life of the Attalid house, from which harmony and cordiality were not banished by the royal title, formed a striking contrast to the dissolute and scandalous behaviour of more aristocratic dynasties.

Greece Epirots, Acarnanians, Boeotians

In European Greece--exclusive of the Roman possessions on the west coast, in the most important of which, particularly Corcyra, Roman magistrates appear to have resided,(1) and the territory directly subject to Macedonia--the powers more or less in a position to pursue a policy of their own were the Epirots, Acarnanians, and Aetolians in northern Greece, the Boeotians and Athenians in central Greece, and the Achaeans, Lacedaemonians, Messenians, and Eleans in the Peloponnesus. Among these, the republics of the Epirots, Acarnanians, and Boeotians were in various ways closely knit to Macedonia--the Acarnanians more especially, because it was only Macedonian protection that enabled them to escape the destruction with which they were threatened by the Aetolians; none of them were of any consequence. Their internal condition was very various. The state of things may to some extent be illustrated by the fact, that among the Boeotians --where, it is true, matters reached their worst--it had become customary to make over every property, which did not descend to heirs in the direct line, to the -syssitia-; and, in the case of candidates for the public magistracies, for a quarter of a century the primary condition of election was that they should bind themselves not to allow any creditor, least of all a foreign one, to sue his debtor.

The Athenians

The Athenians were in the habit of receiving support against Macedonia from Alexandria, and were in close league with the Aetolians. But they too were totally powerless, and hardly anything save the halo of Attic poetry and art distinguished these unworthy successors of a glorious past from a number of petty towns of the same stamp.

The Aetolians

The power of the Aetolian confederacy manifested a greater vigour. The energy of the northern Greek character was still unbroken there, although it had degenerated into a reckless impatience of discipline and control. It was a public law in Aetolia, that an Aetolian might serve as a mercenary against any state, even against a state in alliance with his own country; and, when the other Greeks urgently besought them to redress this scandal, the Aetolian diet declared that Aetolia might sooner be removed from its place than this principle from their national code. The Aetolians might have been of great service to the Greek nation, had they not inflicted still greater injury on it by this system of organized robbery, by their thorough hostility to the Achaean confederacy, and by their unhappy antagonism to the great state of Macedonia.

The Achaeans

In the Peloponnesus, the Achaean league had united the best elements of Greece proper in a confederacy based on civilization, national spirit, and peaceful preparation for self-defence. But the vigour and more especially the military efficiency of the league had, notwithstanding its outward enlargement, been arrested by the selfish diplomacy of Aratus. The unfortunate variances with Sparta, and the still more lamentable invocation of Macedonian interference in the Peloponnesus, had so completely subjected the Achaean league to Macedonian supremacy, that the chief fortresses of the country thenceforward received Macedonian garrisons, and the oath of fidelity to Philip was annually taken there.

Sparta, Elis, Messene

The policy of the weaker states in the Peloponnesus, Messene, and Sparta, was determined by their ancient enmity to the Achaean league --an enmity specially fostered by disputes regarding their frontiers --and their tendencies were Aetolian and anti-Macedonian, because the Achaeans took part with Philip.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book