The Fall Of Macedon

Near the end of the 3rd century BC, Rome was embroiled in war with Carthage when they intercepted a ship carrying Macedonian delegates and a Carthaginian ambassador. Even more important than who was on this ship was what they were carrying: a proposed treaty between Hannibal, Commander-in-Chief of Carthage, and Philip V, King of Macedon. The terms stated that in the event of a Roman defeat at the hands of Hannibal, Carthage would have sole right to negotiate the Roman surrender but would protect Macedon against any reprisals. As we now know, Rome did not fall to Hannibal and Macedon quickly found itself alone in a fight for its independence and dwindling power.

Macedon had more than just Rome to contend with at this time. In the 4th century neighbouring cities in central Greece had formed a confederation to oppose Alexander the Great and after the death of Alexander, continued to oppose Macedonia under the rule of Alexander’s Diadochi. This confederation was called the Aetolian League and would have mixed success fighting the Macedonians throughout the next century. In the Social War of 220-217 BC, the Aetolians would lose to Philip V, newly crowned King of Macedon. A tit-for-tat would see the Aetolian city of Thermos sacked by Philip as an act of retaliation. The Aetolians grew desperate and entered into a pact with an emerging power of the Mediterranean, one that wished to see the subjugation of Greece as a whole, Rome.

Rome had found itself its first Greek ally and an important stepping stone in its pursuit of control over Greece. With the Second Punic War in full-swing, the Romans were stretched thin and had trouble halting Macedon’s advance on Roman territory in the Balkans. Philip had seized on the opportunity of Rome’s preoccupation with Carthage to attempt an invasion of Italy. He attempted to convince the Aetolians to join his campaign for universal dominion and sued for peace, which the Aetolians accepted. The reasons for doing so were made clear in a speech by Agelaus of Naupactus:

For even now it is evident to any one who pays even a moderate attention to public affairs, that whether the Carthaginians conquer the Romans, or the Romans the Carthaginians, it is in every way improbable that the victors will remain contented with the empire of Sicily and Italy.

Five years had passed since this peace when Philip was intending to come to the aid of Hannibal and the Aetolians was noticing Rome’s fortunes improving. Taking advantage of Rome’s offer of further support in a war against Macedon, the Aetolian League partnered with the Kingdoms of Sparta and Pergamon and set their sights once more on Philip. The Romans had managed to capitalise on the animosity between the Aetolians and Macedonians to force the Greek states to fight each other once more while it was handling Hannibal and the Carthaginians.

Philip had early success against the Aetolians and Rome sent reinforcements to ensure Philip remained preoccupied and far away from Hannibal. The Aetolians eventually found themselves alone after King Attalus I fled back to his home of Pergamon after hearing of moves being made against his empire. With Rome still tied up, the Aetolian League was forced to sue for peace with Philip. The Romans, now confident they had achieved their goal of delaying Philip’s conquest of Italy, followed suit.

KINGDOM OF MACEDON. Macedon First Meris

Tetradrachm (167-149 BC)

Dates: 167-149 BC

Mint: Amphipolis

Obv: Diademed and draped bust of Artemis to right, bow and quiver over her shoulder; all at the center of a Macedonian shield ornamented with stars within crescents

Rev: MAKEΔONΩN / ΠΡΩTHΣ. Club facing right between two lines of inscription; above, NAK monogram; below, HP monogram; around, oak wreath with ties and thunderbolt to left

Dimensions: 33.23mm,15.68g, 4h

Ref: AMNG III 176; SNG Copenhagen 1314-5

The Treaty of Phoenice was signed between the Kingdom of Macedon and Rome in 205 BC, ending the First Macedonian War and seeing Philip renounce his treaty with Hannibal. Merely five years later, Philip’s desires for expansion had again aroused the ire of several Greek states and a second war seemed inevitable. The Aetolian League were joined by Rhodes, Athens, the Kingdom of Pergamon, Sparta, the Illyrians, and finally the Roman Republic. This partnership between the Aetolian League and Rome would come to be a pact with the devil, for as Agelaus had said over a decade earlier, the victor of the Punic Wars will not be content with Italy and Sicily.

The war would not go so well for Philip this time. In a peace treaty of 196 BC, Philip was forced to give up all his territories in southern Greece, Thrace, and Anatolia. His navy was to be destroyed and Macedonia prevented from harvesting timber in its own lands to prevent any future rearmament. Macedonia would also aide Rome in future conquests through the provision of material support.

Philip had two sons at this time, Perseus and the younger Demetrius. Demetrius had been stoking Rome’s fears of a possible resurgence of Philip and his empire with Demetrius hoping to gain Rome’s support and skip over his older brother Perseus in the line of succession. Perseus was keen to this threat to his power and had Demetrius put to death shortly before inheriting the throne from his father in 179 BC. This action was unlikely to put Rome at ease and soon the two powers were at war for the third time.

Rome would finally succeed at ending the Antigonid dynasty of the Kingdom of Macedon in 168 BC. Macedon became a Roman protectorate and was split into four administrative districts with capitals in Amphipolis, Thessalonica, Pella, and Pelagonia. Macedon retained some autonomy during this time and Rome didn’t miss the opportunity to make all aware of this:

It was resolved that the Macedonians and Illyrians should be free peoples, so that it might be clear to all the world that the arms of Rome did not carry slavery to the free, but on the contrary freedom to the enslaved – Livy, History of Rome.

Nonetheless, the Romans intended to stymie Macedon and prevented any of the four districts from trading with each other, limited the mining of gold and silver, and banned marriages between individuals of different districts. During this time, two of the four districts struck silver coins free from any ties to their Roman rulers. One of these coins is pictured above, a tetradrachm of the First Meris (first district) minted at Amphipolis. This specific example may be a local imitation replicating an extant type, the main differences being the less fine portrait of Artemis on the obverse.

These tetradrachms of Macedon were minted for less than twenty years. Andriscus, a Macedonian pretending to be the son of Perseus, claimed the throne of Macedon for himself and waged another war with Rome. His attempts were, however, short-lived. After early successes, Andriscus was defeated and captured by the Romans, who then executed him at the resulting triumph in Rome. Macedonia was made a Roman province and lost its autonomy.

The Aetolians feared little better. After having earlier sided with Rome, they turned and supported Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire in his own war against Rome. Ironically, Antiochus was safeguarding none other than Hannibal at the time. Antiochus would eventually lose his war against Rome and the Aetolians would find themselves in a similar position to Macedon. Only two years after Macedon’s loss of autonomy, Aetolia would follow suit in 146 BC and were incorporated into the province of Achaea. Rome had achieved universal dominion over Greece.