Achaean War

In order to screen a foul transaction, Diaeus, the president of the Achaean league for the time being, about 605 threw out in the diet the assertion that the special privileges conceded by the Achaean league to the Lacedaemonians as members--viz. their exemption from the Achaean criminal jurisdiction, and the right to send separate embassies to Rome--were not at all guaranteed to them by the Romans. It was an audacious falsehood; but the diet naturally believed what it wished, and, when the Achaeans showed themselves ready to make good their assertions with arms in hand, the weaker Spartans yielded for the time, or, to speak more correctly, those whose surrender was demanded by the Achaeans left the city to appear as complainants before the Roman senate. The senate answered as usual that it would send a commission to investigate the matter; but instead of reporting this reply the envoys stated in Achaia as well as in Sparta, and in both cases falsely, that the senate had decided in their favour. The Achaeans, who felt more than ever their equality with Rome as allies and their political importance on account of the aid which the league had just rendered in Thessaly against the pseudo-Philip, advanced in 606 under their -strategus- Damocritus into Laconia: in vain a Roman embassy on its way to Asia, at the suggestion of Metellus, admonished them to keep the peace and to await the commissioners of the senate. A battle took place, in which nearly 1000 Spartans fell, and Sparta might have been taken if Damocritus had not been equally incapable as an officer and as a statesman. He was superseded, and his successor Diaeus, the instigator of all this mischief, zealously continued the war, while at the same time he gave to the dreaded commandant of Macedonia assurances of the full loyalty of the Achaean league. Thereupon the long-expected Roman commission made its appearance, with Aurelius Orestes at its head; hostilities were now suspended, and the Achaean diet assembled at Corinth to receive its communications. They were of an unexpected and far from agreeable character. The Romans had resolved to cancel the unnatural and forced(20) inclusion of Sparta among the Achaean states, and generally to act with vigour against the Achaeans. Some years before (591) these had been obliged to release from their league the Aetolian town of Pleuron;(21) now they were directed to renounce all the acquisitions which they had made since the second Macedonian war--viz. Corinth, Orchomenus, Argos, Sparta in the Peloponnesus, and Heraclea near to Oeta--and to reduce their league to the condition in which it stood at the end of the Hannibalic war. When the Achaean deputies learned this, they rushed immediately to the market-place without even hearing the Romans to an end, and communicated the Roman demands to the multitude; whereupon the governing and the governed rabble with one voice resolved to arrest at once the whole Lacedaemonians present in Corinth, because Sparta forsooth had brought on them this misfortune. The arrest accordingly took place in the most tumultuary fashion, so that the possession of Laconian names or Laconian shoes appeared sufficient ground for imprisonment: in fact they even entered the dwellings of the Roman envoys to seize the Lacedaemonians who had taken shelter there, and hard words were uttered against the Romans, although they did not lay hands on their persons. The envoys returned home in indignation, and made bitter and even exaggerated complaints in the senate; but the latter, with the same moderation which marked all its measures against the Greeks, confined itself at first to representations. In the mildest form, and hardly mentioning satisfaction for the insults which they had endured, Sextus Julius Caesar repeated the commands of the Romans at the diet in Aegium (spring of 607). But the leaders of affairs in Achaia with the new -strategus- Critolaus at their head -strategus- (from May 607 to May 608), as men versed in state affairs and familiar with political arts, merely drew from that fact the inference that the position of Rome with reference to Carthage and Viriathus could not but be very unfavourable, and continued at once to cheat and to affront the Romans. Caesar was requested to arrange a conference of deputies of the contending parties at Tegea for the settlement of the question. He did so; but, after Caesar and the Lacedaemonian envoys had waited there long in vain for the Achaeans, Critolaus at last appeared alone and informed them that the general assembly of the Achaeans was solely competent in this matter, and that it could only be settled at the diet or, in other words, in six months. Caesar thereupon returned to Rome; and the next national assembly of the Achaeans on the proposal of Critolaus formally declared war against Sparta. Even now Metellus made an attempt amicably to settle the quarrel, and sent envoys to Corinth; but the noisy -ecclesia-, consisting mostly of the populace of that wealthy commercial and manufacturing city, drowned the voice of the Roman envoys and compelled them to leave the platform. The declaration of Critolaus, that they wished the Romans to be their friends but not their masters, was received with inexpressible delight; and, when the members of the diet wished to interpose, the mob protected the man after its own heart, and applauded the sarcasms as to the high treason of the rich and the need of a military dictatorship as well as the mysterious hints regarding an impending insurrection of countless peoples and kings against Rome. The spirit animating the movement is shown by the two resolutions, that all clubs should be permanent and all actions for debt should be suspended till the restoration of peace.

The Achaeans thus had war; and they had even actual allies, namely the Thebans and Boeotians and also the Chalcidians. At the beginning of 608 the Achaeans advanced into Thessaly to reduce to obedience Heraclea near to Oeta, which, in accordance with the decree of the senate, had detached itself from the Achaean league.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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