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Macedonia and Greece after Third Macedonian War

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Battle of Pydna, Christian Jegou
Battle of Pydna, Christian Jegou

Defeat of Perseus – King of Macedonia – in 168 BCE and the pacification of his allies brought great wealth to Romans. At the same time, however, the Roman Republic faced the difficult task of determining the future of Hellas. Creation of client regions or incorporation of lands into Rome was considered.

Background of events

Battle of Pydna marked the end of the Third Macedonian War. From Amphipolis, the defeated Perseus went to Samothrace to secure asylum in the temple there. When the Roman fleet blocked the island, the king decided to seek refuge in the kingdom of Kotys, his ally. However, the Cretan carrier deceived Perseus by taking money and leaving the king on shore.

When the Roman praetor promised Macedonians personal freedom, his closest comrades departed from the ruler. So Perseus gave himself over to the Romans, who took him back by ship to Amphipolis. Legions moved deeper into the Macedonian lands to occupy more cities. Some of them, like Pella, Beroja or Thessalonike, have capitulated. The Romans entered Meliboji on the coast of Magnesia, captured by the fleet of Praetorius. Ajginion was resisting, whose inhabitants organized a trip outside the walls. They killed 200 legionaries, but they surrendered to the enemy’s advantage. After seizing and plundering Pella, Roman troops moved to Amphipolis, which had been previously abandoned by the Macedonian crew. Before autumn, all the cities of Macedonia passed into Roman hands. It was the end of the Antigonid monarchy. The winners’ orders were to be guarded by the consul’s army, spread on the winter lodges around Amfipolis and surrounding towns. The severe fate met cities “discredited” cooperation with Perseus. Agasai was plundered, despite the fact that his authorities made an alliance with Consul Martius during the war. However, later this polis denounced obedience to the Romans after their troops withdrew. Ajneja met a similar fate, whose inhabitants, according to Liwius, resisted the legions more than other cities.

Initially, the Romans did not make a final decision about Perseus’ subjects. When the discussion on the subject emerged in the Senate, most patres supported the sentence Marcus Porcius Cato, who stated that: “Macedonia must remain free because it cannot be permanently occupied”. Some senators could support the open annexation of Macedonia, but maintaining Roman administration and garrisons on its territory was considered too expensive. However, the Romans wanted to profit from the defeated, which was reflected in the instructions of the senate commissioners for consul Emilius Paulus, commander of the occupation forces in Greece. Paulus met with them in the Illyrian Apollonia and in Amphipolis to discuss political solutions regarding, among others defeated Macedonia. He called 10 representatives of Greek cities to Amphipolis, who were ordered to bring with him all documents and letters from Perseus and money

previously given to them by this ruler. On a designated day, 10 Roman legates sat on the tribunal against a standing crowd of Greeks, accompanied by liqueurs. In Latin, the consul informed the assembled will of the senate and at the same time his decision agreed with the legates regarding the “political device” of Hellas. Macedonian envoys also learned about the fate of their homeland in Amphipolis. Macedonia was supposed to be free in theory and retain internal autonomy. The state was divided into four independent republics (Latin . Regiones, gr . Merides), which were to elect their representatives and pay tribute to Rome every year (its amount was set at half the amount of land tax previously paid to Antigonids). Macedonians also had to pay tribute to maintain their administrative apparatus. The boundary of the newly created districts was marked out partly along the great and inaccessible rivers Strymon, Axios and Nestos. In the capitals of the republics, assemblies were called, elected officials and collected taxes. The institution of the All-Macedonian People’s Assembly was abolished.

  • I regio with the capital in Amfipolis from the north bordered with Thracian tribes. Within its borders delineated by the Strymon and Nestos rivers was the country of Bizalt and Heraklea Syntycka as well as cities and fortresses east of the Nestos, without Maronea, Ajnos and Abder, being free cities by the will of Rome;
  • II regio with the capital in Thessalonike between the rivers Aksios and Strymon did not include Bizaltia and Synthetic Herakleia. It included Pajonia;
  • III regio with the capital in Pella covered the area between Aksios and Peneius, from the northwest it was limited by the Bora mountain massif, in the north by Stobi;
  • IV regio bordered on the west with Epir and Iliria, it included Eordaea, Lynkestis and Pelagonia. The administrative center was in the latter land.
Roman legionaries in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE.

The newly formed political structures were to be separated as closely as possible, and their mutual economic relations, as well as their relations with Greece, were severely limited. The inhabitants of each of them were forbidden to marry outside its borders and purchase land in the remaining regiones. The three republics neighboring the barbarian tribes in the north had the right to maintain their own armed forces to repel their attacks. As you can see, the Romans did not want to get involved in protecting the “burning border” of the northern country. Economically, Macedonia was to remain weak, so the exploitation of gold and silver in local mines and the felling of wood for shipbuilding was banned. Iron and copper mining was allowed, however, these investments were charged half the tax previously paid to the monarchs.

At the next meeting convened by the consul, a few days later, political principles were announced that were to apply in the Macedonian republics. Their inhabitants were to choose officials (synhedroi) for each of them, and 4 tribute collectors were appointed for the Republic. During the assembly, the list of eminent citizens was read out to the gathered

Macedonia, who were to be deported to the Adriatic with sons over 15 years of age. According to Livius’ accounts, Macedonian courtiers, land and fleet commanders and officials were deported to the West. Probably the same fate befell the “royal boys” serving for more than a year. Macedonia was therefore deprived of its leadership elite – senior officials, military and diplomats. The authorities of Orestis and Dassaretis were to watch over the obedience of the inhabitants of Macedonia.

The creation of four Macedonian republics was a turning point in the Romans’ attitude towards the conquered peoples. Although these structures could govern themselves and the Senate was not interested in their internal politics, they patres decided for the first time to interfere in the political issues of the defeated, liquidating the monarchy popular among Macedonians and imposing a republican system on them . They rebelled against this, and there were also bloody riots. This explains the permission of the Senate to open mines in Macedonia in 158 BCE. Profits from the extraction of ore were shared between Rome and the Macedonian Republic, in which the mines operated. As a result, the gold and silver mine in Pangajon undertook abundant coin issuance. The system created by Rome in Macedonia was questioned during the Andriskos coup in 148 BCE, which local troops could not cope with. After the intervention of the consular army and the end of the fighting, the system of 4 republics was liquidated, forming a Roman province, including Thessaly and Epirus.

The lands of Macedonia in antiquity.

Rome’s attitude towards other Greek states

After defeating Perseus, the winners decided to punish Macedonia supporters in Hellas. Emilius Paulus commissioned radical pro-Roman politicians from Etholia, Akarnania, Beocia and Epirus to draw up lists of citizens suspected of promacedonian sympathies. The “culprits” were divided into 3 categories: those who successfully dragged their countrymen during the war to Perseus; those who tried the deal unsuccessfully and finally people accused of expressing sympathy for Antigonidus, but not taking appropriate action in this regard. It is in these three categories that the largest number of Greek citizens policies has been included. In practice, any influential politician who did not belong to the zealous supporters of Rome could be added to her. It is known that in 167 BCE about 1000 men were taken to Italy from hostages of the Achaean Union as hostages, and from all over Greece over 2,000 people. Among them was the future story of Polibius, his father

Lykortas and Xenon and Stratios from Peneius. These people were to be a guarantee of the obedience of Greek cities to the Republic. It was not until around 150 BCE that, thanks to the influence of Scipio Emilianus and his acquaintance with Polibius, some of the interned Achaeans returned to their homeland. The inhabitants of Antyssa on Lesbos were relocated to another town on this island. The reason for this was the admission of the Macedonian garrison to the city during the war. A public execution was organized in Amphipolis of two promacedonian politicians – Etola Archedamos and Beota Neon, the last comrades of Perseus. According to Livius, they were beheaded, but they could be punished ad bestias, i.e. thrown to be eaten by wild animals. There was a real purge in Epirus. The consular army gathered in Orikon on the Adriatic, and inhabitants of the Epirotsky Union cities were announced to withdraw their legions from their lands. The Romans ordered them to surrender gold until a specific day, while secretly sending troops to various Epirock polis. The Greek believers in the new lords opened their gates to the legions, while supporters of Macedonia were removed. Some of them died at the hands of the Romans, some committed suicide, while others were deported to Italy. The inhabitants of Epirus were attacked at the same time in 70 cities, their cities were robbed, 150,000 people were abducted, others were murdered. Middle Epirus was depopulated and lay fallow for many years. In Etholia, radically pro-Roman politicians Tejsipos and Lykiskos murdered their political opponents with the support of the squad of Praetor Aulus Baebius. 550 alleged or true opponents of the Republic were killed during the Ethol Assembly. Others were banished for the alleged anti-Roman attitude. When during a trip to Greece, Consul Emilius Paulus met with a group of Ethol Nobils who complained about the purges inspired by Lykiskos and Teisipos, the Roman did not believe them and confirmed the legitimacy of the banishment. What’s more, he ordered the confiscation of a large part of the territory of the Ethol Union. Patres did not forgive the Rhodes authorities either. On Tiber, they were remembered an attempt to mediate between Perseus and Rome during the Third Macedonian War. The Rhodes elite wanted to avoid being accused of anti-Roman sentiment and, on the advice of Roman MPs, sentenced all those who supported Perseus with word or deed. The rhodium politicians who previously supported Antigonid preferred to die on their own or emigrated. One of them, Polyaratos wandered around Egypt, Rhodes and Asia Minor. Captured by the Romans, he was sent to Rome, where he was sent to katu. When the Rhodesian embassy amused Rome in 167 BCE, one of the praetors of Iuwentius Thalna made a request for an island war. He was opposed by M. Porcjus Kato (who preached the need for honesty towards all countries except Carthage) and the tribunes of the people. The Senate took away the possessions in Asia Minor – Rhodes and Karia. A blow to the elite of this island polis was the announcement of the two cities of Kaunos and Stratonikaja as free cities. This meant a loss of 120 talents that the Rhodes’ praises obtained annually from these localities. Finally, control over the temple of Apollo Delphi was taken away from them and transferred to Athens. A real blow to Rhodes was Rome’s announcement of a duty-free port by Rome, which left the Rhodes with no customs duties and had to abandon the merchant fleet. Even the tried and tested ally of the Republic in Asia Minor – Pergamon – became convinced of the Roman power. The rulers of this kingdom took a pro-Roman course, especially after the offensive of Philip V in Asia Minor and the Aegean Sea in 201/200 BCE It was the Pergamon deputies and the emissaries of Rhodes who pleaded with the Senate to intervene against the actions of the Macedonian king in these areas. The alliance with Rome became beneficial for the Pergamon ruler also during the offensive of Antiochus III in Asia Minor. After defeating Seleucid, Pergamon received considerable areas from the Romans lost by this ruler. However, the Quirites did not want to tolerate the increase in power of their ally. When the Galatians rebelled in 169 BCE, they were tamed by the ruler of Pergamon Eumenes II. To the amazement of all, the senate took the king from his victory, granting autonomy to the Galatians. In the new political situation created after the taming of Macedonia and Greece, Eumenes ceased to be needed by the Romans.


Roman policy towards the Hellenistic East had multiple purposes. Purges carried out in Macedonia and among Perseus’s supporting nations could have been an attempt to completely neutralize anti-Roman forces in Hellas. They also provided a way to enrich Roman society and its elites. Defeating Perseus and pacifying his allies brought great wealth to the Romans. It was then that in 167 BCE Rome was exempted from direct tax – tributum. Last but not least, care was taken to prevent the growth of power from countries such as Pergamon, who had previously been generously rewarded for their loyalty to Rome. This did not mean, however, the introduction of a more direct form of government over the Greeks. They retained their internal autonomy, their own authorities and rights. The Romans were not interested in the complexities of the Greek world, forever divided and attached to their independence. And for the Hellenes themselves Rome was a power, but it was just another player in the Mediterranean basin who were looking for mediation in internal conflicts and disputes.

Author: Marcin Bąk
  • Bravo B., Wipszycka E., Historia starożytnych Greków, t. III, Warszawa 1992
  • Carry M., Scullard H. H., Dzieje Rzymu. Od czasów najdawniejszych do Konstantyna, Warszawa 1992
  • Goldsworthy A., Pax Romana. War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World, London 2016
  • K. Kęciek, Wojny macedońskie, Warszawa 2012
  • Illustration No. 1: A. Goldsworthy, Roman Warfare, London 2007
  • Illustration No. 2: K. Kęciek, Wojny macedońskie, Warszawa 2012

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