The only one of these states possessing any importance was the Spartan military monarchy, which after the death of Machanidas had passed into the hands of one Nabis. With ever-increasing hardihood Nabis leaned on the support of vagabonds and itinerant mercenaries, to whom he assigned not only the houses and lands, but also the wives and children, of the citizens; and he assiduously maintained connections, and even entered into an association for the joint prosecution of piracy, with the great refuge of mercenaries and pirates, the island of Crete, where he possessed some townships. His predatory expeditions by land, and the piratical vessels which he maintained at the promontory of Malea, were dreaded far and wide; he was personally hated for his baseness and cruelty; but his rule was extending, and about the time of the battle of Zama he had even succeeded in gaining possession of Messene.

League Of The Greek Cities Rhodes

Lastly, the most independent position among the intermediate states was held by the free Greek mercantile cities on the European shore of the Propontis as well as along the whole coast of Asia Minor, and on the islands of the Aegean Sea; they formed, at the same time, the brightest elements in the confused and multifarious picture which was presented by the Hellenic state-system. Three of them, in particular, had after Alexander's death again enjoyed their full freedom, and by the activity of their maritime commerce had attained to respectable political power and even to considerable territorial possessions; namely, Byzantium the mistress of the Bosporus, rendered wealthy and powerful by the transit dues which she levied and by the important corn trade carried on with the Black Sea; Cyzicus on the Asiatic side of the Propontis, the daughter and heiress of Miletus, maintaining the closest relations with the court of Pergamus; and lastly and above all, Rhodes. The Rhodians, who immediately after the death of Alexander had expelled the Macedonian garrison had, by their favourable position for commerce and navigation, secured the carrying trade of all the eastern Mediterranean; and their well-handled fleet, as well as the tried courage of the citizens in the famous siege of 450, enabled them in that age of promiscuous and ceaseless hostilities to become the prudent and energetic representatives and, when occasion required, champions of a neutral commercial policy. They compelled the Byzantines, for instance, by force of arms to concede to the vessels of Rhodes exemption from dues in the Bosporus; and they did not permit the dynast of Pergamus to close the Black Sea. On the other hand they kept themselves, as far as possible, aloof from land warfare, although they had acquired no inconsiderable possessions on the opposite coast of Caria; where war could not be avoided, they carried it on by means of mercenaries. With their neighbours on all sides they were in friendly relations--with Syracuse, Macedonia, Syria, but more especially with Egypt--and they enjoyed high consideration at these courts, so that their mediation was not unfrequently invoked in the wars of the great states. But they interested themselves quite specially on behalf of the Greek maritime cities, which were so numerously spread along the coasts of the kingdoms of Pontus, Bithynia, and Pergamus, as well as on the coasts and islands of Asia Minor that had been wrested by Egypt from the Seleucidae; such as Sinope, Heraclea Pontica, Cius, Lampsacus, Abydos, Mitylene, Chios, Smyrna, Samos, Halicarnassus and various others. All these were in substance free and had nothing to do with the lords of the soil except to ask for the confirmation of their privileges and, at most, to pay a moderate tribute: such encroachments, as from time to time were threatened by the dynasts, were skilfully warded off sometimes by cringing, sometimes by strong measures. In this case the Rhodians were their chief auxiliaries; they emphatically supported Sinope, for instance, against Mithradates of Pontus. How firmly amidst the quarrels, and by means of the very differences, of the monarchs the liberties of these cities of Asia Minor were established, is shown by the fact, that the dispute between Antiochus and the Romans some years after this time related not to the freedom of these cities in itself, but to the question whether they were to ask confirmation of their charters from the king or not. This league of the cities was, in this peculiar attitude towards the lords of the soil as well as in other respects, a formal Hanseatic association, headed by Rhodes, which negotiated and stipulated in treaties for itself and its allies. This league upheld the freedom of the cities against monarchical interests; and while wars raged around their walls, public spirit and civic prosperity were sheltered in comparative peace within, and art and science flourished without the risk of being crushed by a dissolute soldiery or corrupted by the atmosphere of a court.

Philip, King Of Macedonia

Such was the state of things in the east, at the time when the wall of political separation between the east and the west was broken down and the eastern powers, Philip of Macedonia leading the way, were induced to interfere in the relations of the west. We have already set forth to some extent the origin of this interference and the course of the first Macedonian war (540-549); and we have pointed out what Philip might have accomplished during the second Punic war, and how little of all that Hannibal was entitled to expect and to count on was really fulfilled. A fresh illustration had been afforded of the truth, that of all haphazards none is more hazardous than an absolute hereditary monarchy. Philip was not the man whom Macedonia at that time required; yet his gifts were far from insignificant He was a genuine king, in the best and worst sense of the term. A strong desire to rule in person and unaided was the fundamental trait of his character; he was proud of his purple, but he was no less proud of other gifts, and he had reason to be so.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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