He not only showed the valour of a soldier and the eye of a general, but he displayed a high spirit in the conduct of public affairs, whenever his Macedonian sense of honour was offended. Full of intelligence and wit, he won the hearts of all whom he wished to gain, especially of the men who were ablest and most refined, such as Flamininus and Scipio; he was a pleasant boon companion and, not by virtue of his rank alone, a dangerous wooer. But he was at the same time one of the most arrogant and flagitious characters, which that shameless age produced. He was in the habit of saying that he feared none save the gods; but it seemed almost as if his gods were those to whom his admiral Dicaearchus regularly offered sacrifice--Godlessness (-Asebeia-) and Lawlessness (-Paranomia-). The lives of his advisers and of the promoters of his schemes possessed no sacredness in his eyes, nor did he disdain to pacify his indignation against the Athenians and Attalus by the destruction of venerable monuments and illustrious works of art; it is quoted as one of his maxims of state, that "whoever causes the father to be put to death must also kill the sons." It may be that to him cruelty was not, strictly, a delight; but he was indifferent to the lives and sufferings of others, and relenting, which alone renders men tolerable, found no place in his hard and stubborn heart. So abruptly and harshly did he proclaim the principle that no promise and no moral law are binding on an absolute king, that he thereby interposed the most serious obstacles to the success of his plans. No one can deny that he possessed sagacity and resolution, but these were, in a singular manner, combined with procrastination and supineness; which is perhaps partly to be explained by the fact, that he was called in his eighteenth year to the position of an absolute sovereign, and that his ungovernable fury against every one who disturbed his autocratic course by counter-argument or counter-advice scared away from him all independent counsellors. What various causes cooperated to produce the weak and disgraceful management which he showed in the first Macedonian war, we cannot tell; it may have been due perhaps to that indolent arrogance which only puts forth its full energies against danger when it becomes imminent, or perhaps to his indifference towards a plan which was not of his own devising and his jealousy of the greatness of Hannibal which put him to shame. It is certain that his subsequent conduct betrayed no further trace of the Philip, through whose negligence the plan of Hannibal suffered shipwreck.

Macedonia and Asia Attack Egypt

When Philip concluded his treaty with the Aetolians and Romans in 548-9, he seriously intended to make a lasting peace with Rome, and to devote himself exclusively in future to the affairs of the east. It admits of no doubt that he saw with regret the rapid subjugation of Carthage; and it may be, that Hannibal hoped for a second declaration of war from Macedonia, and that Philip secretly reinforced the last Carthaginian army with mercenaries.(2) But the tedious affairs in which he had meanwhile involved himself in the east, as well as the nature of the alleged support, and especially the total silence of the Romans as to such a breach of the peace while they were searching for grounds of war, place it beyond doubt, that Philip was by no means disposed in 551 to make up for what he ought to have done ten years before. He had turned his eyes to an entirely different quarter.

Ptolemy Philopator of Egypt had died in 549. Philip and Antiochus, the kings of Macedonia and Asia, had combined against his successor Ptolemy Epiphanes, a child of five years old, in order completely to gratify the ancient grudge which the monarchies of the mainland entertained towards the maritime state. The Egyptian state was to be broken up; Egypt and Cyprus were to fall to Antiochus Cyrene, Ionia, and the Cyclades to Philip. Thoroughly after the manner of Philip, who ridiculed such considerations, the kings began the war not merely without cause but even without pretext, "just as the large fishes devour the small." The allies, moreover, had made their calculations correctly, especially Philip. Egypt had enough to do in defending herself against the nearer enemy in Syria, and was obliged to leave her possessions in Asia Minor and the Cyclades undefended when Philip threw himself upon these as his share of the spoil. In the year in which Carthage concluded peace with Rome (553), Philip ordered a fleet equipped by the towns subject to him to take on board troops, and to sail along the coast of Thrace. There Lysimachia was taken from the Aetolian garrison, and Perinthus, which stood in the relation of clientship to Byzantium, was likewise occupied. Thus the peace was broken as respected the Byzantines; and as respected the Aetolians, who had just made peace with Philip, the good understanding was at least disturbed. The crossing to Asia was attended with no difficulties, for Prusias king of Bithynia was in alliance with Macedonia. By way of recompense, Philip helped him to subdue the Greek mercantile cities in his territory. Chalcedon submitted. Cius, which resisted, was taken by storm and levelled with the ground, and its inhabitants were reduced to slavery--a meaningless barbarity, which annoyed Prusias himself who wished to get possession of the town uninjured, and which excited profound indignation throughout the Hellenic world. The Aetolians, whose -strategus- had commanded in Cius, and the Rhodians, whose attempts at mediation had been contemptuously and craftily frustrated by the king, were especially offended.

The Rhodian Hansa And Pergamus Oppose Philip

But even had this not been so, the interests of all Greek commercial cities were at stake. They could not possibly allow the mild and almost purely nominal Egyptian rule to be supplanted by the Macedonian despotism, with which urban self-government and freedom of commercial intercourse were not at all compatible; and the fearful treatment of the Cians showed that the matter at stake was not the right of confirming the charters of the towns, but the life or death of one and all.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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