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Fourth Macedonian War

(150-148 BCE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman legionnaires against a phalanx
Roman legionnaires against a phalanx | Author: Thibault Ollier

Fourth Macedonian War was a clash between Rome and Macedonia in 150-148 BCE. This time the Romans competed with the army of a certain Andriscus, who considered himself the son of Perseus.

Background of events

In 168 BCE the Macedonian king Perseus suffered defeat at Pydna, which resulted at the end of the so-called Third Macedonian War. Rome planned to strengthen its rule on the Balkan peninsula by creating a network of client states in the region that would provide the Romans with influence and at the same time prevent the need to maintain a permanent military contingent.

The first step of the Romans regarding Macedon was to overthrow the monarchy and expel the ambitious and dangerous Perseus. In order to weaken the Macedonian state, four republics were created, which were forced to pay tribute to Rome, were given limited opportunities to cooperate with each other, and the troops were to be sufficient only to repel hostile barbarian tribes in the north.

The new order introduced by the Romans brought not only humiliation to Macedonia, but also poverty. The victorious Roman army plundered huge amounts of Macedonian treasures and works of art that were brought to the capital. Moreover, ordinary citizens suffered from fiscalism and the additional fees demanded by the Romans. The mood in society was very bad, especially after the Roman army left Macedonia in 167 BCE. Macedonian society was not used to the new republican system, and the effectiveness of the government had nothing to do with the monarchy. Rome, in turn, was shaping “its” elite of politicians who were pro-Roman.


Perseus was a Macedonian king who lost the Third Macedonian War (172-168 BCE) and lost power. After his defeat, he fled to the island of Samothrace, where he took refuge in a temple. However, the victorious Roman commander – the consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus – captured him and led him in triumph. Later, according to tradition, Perseus died.

After more than 10 years of trying to adapt Macedonians to the new political realities, a certain Andriscus (also called Andriskos) appeared on the scene, who proclaimed himself Philip, the son of Perseus, demanding the right to the throne. The man had nothing to do with the former monarch and, based on his resemblance to Perseus, tried to take advantage of the moods hostile to the Romans and seize power. According to ancient sources, Andriscus came from the lower social spheres (he was a fuller), from the areas of northwest Asia Minor. Andriscus was to learn about his rights to the throne from a letter he was said to have received from his foster father Creten, and was written by Perseus himself. Thanks to him, Andriscus was supposed to find out where the treasures of the king were located1. Ancient sources, however, most agree that Andriscus was a fraud. Polybius, in turn, claims that everyone knew at the time that the real Philip died two years after his father’s death, in 166 BCE2.

In 154 or 153 BCE Andriscus set out from Aeolia, led by his followers, to Macedonia, where he was however repulsed by the combined forces of the Macedonian republics. The self-proclaimed king of Macedonia then travelled to Syria, where he joined the armies of the Seluite king Demetrius I Soter as a mercenary. In the Seleukid army, he continued to seek support for his cause, which over time so irritated Demetrius that he sent him to the Roman Senate as a prisoner of war. The Senate, without taking the man seriously, exiled Andriscus to one of the Italian cities; however, he fled and went to Greece.

While in Miletus, Andriscus again called for his support for the Macedonian throne, which forced the local authorities to imprison him and ask Roman representatives to decide what to do with him. To their surprise, the Romans again did not consider the prisoner a serious threat and ordered his release.

Andriscus, who was not fortunate enough, went to Pergamon, where he received the support of Perseus’ former mistress – Calippa, who also gave him regalia. During his subsequent journeys, he managed to gain significant support in Byzantium and Thrace. Especially the Thracian king Teres III3, who belonged to the Antigonid family through marriage, gave him the most help, even coronating him and gaining the support of another Thracian tribe.

Andriscus’ campaign

In 149 BCE Andriscus, led by his comrades and Thracian soldiers, entered Macedonia from the north. The first clashes were not promising for the pretender to the throne; however, his determination led his troops to conquer Macedonia east of the Strymon River (the present Struma in Bulgaria). He chose Pella as his capital and proclaimed himself King Philip of Macedon.

Soon the still-conquered Macedonian republics were also defeated, and Andriscus was proclaimed king of all Macedonia. As it turns out, Macedonians, despite almost twenty years of democracy, still preferred the former rule of kings and it was not important for them who and where their ruler really came from.

Opinions of extant ancient sources about Andriscus are very unfavourable to him. Both Diodorus, as well as Titus Livius and Cassius Dio, speak unfavourably of him. Diodorus openly calls him Pseudo-Philip, who, after his initial victories over the Romans in his rule, showed cruelty and disregard for the law. Moreover, he was supposed to be brutal and arrogant by nature4. Andriscus during his reign showed an anti-Roman and anti-republican attitude.

Andriscus’ ambitions reached far and that is why he began fighting with the Thessaly and Achaean Leagues for the lands that once belonged to Macedonia, and were located in the south. Both leagues tried to stop the Macedonians until they received support from the Romans.

The commitment of the Romans

The Senate finally saw the problems in Macedonia and sent an expeditionary force under the command of the legate Scipio Nasica Corculum. As it turns out, the original intention of the Romans was to try to reach an amicable agreement, without the use of force. The whole situation proves that the Romans did not have a greater idea of ​​what was happening in the region in recent years and what real threat they led to.

The first clashes were unfavourable for the Romans

During the negotiations, Andriscus demanded that the Romans recognize his right to the throne, which was naturally rejected by the Roman side. The legate at the head of his troops supported the forces of the Thessalians and Achaeans and stopped the enemy’s offensive.

The legate, aware of his small forces, asked the Senate for support. Praetor Publius Juwentius Thalna with one legion was sent to the area of ​​operations; his army also consisted of the support of the Greek allies. For several months, the praetor tried to stabilize the situation in the region, but in the end – probably due to Andriscus’ disregard – he suffered a major defeat in one of the battles and died himself. The battle was of great psychological importance, as it was one of the greatest defeats suffered by the Romans in the clash with the Hellenic states. Greek cities allied with Rome lost their trust in the protector, and moreover, Carthage, who fought Rome in the Third Punic War, expressed a willingness to cooperate with Andriscus and even offered him financial support or the fleet.

At that time, Andriscus boasted the highest support among the Macedonian people, and his army of Thracians and Macedonian phalanx was making a bold conquest of Thessalia. In his own country, Andriscus, in turn, increased the persecution of political opponents, especially those sympathetic to the republican system and the Romans.

Regular War

The Roman Senate, not wanting to allow a tightening of the alliance between Macedonia and Carthage, decided to maximize the effort and – despite being involved on several fronts simultaneously – set up an army composed of two legions under the command of praetor Quintus Cecilius Metellus, whom he also granted proconsular powers, making him equal in terms of possibilities with other consuls.

Coin of Quintus Cecilus Metellus Macedonicus.
British Museum | Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Metellus entered the theatre of operations in the summer of 148 BCE, receiving the support of the fleet of King Attalus II of Pergamon. The campaign was conducted both by water and by land, which forced Andriscus to withdraw to Pydna, a place where his alleged father had suffered a defeat 20 years earlier. The second battle of Pydna ended with a Roman victory again. The Macedonian king fled the battlefield and then went to Thrace, where he planned to gather a new army. Subsequent clashes also ended in defeats for him. Finally, Metellus managed to ask one of the Thracian chiefs to hand him over Andriscus.

The warfare in Macedonia continued until the end of 147 BCE because in the meantime a certain Alexander had proclaimed himself the “next” son of Perseus. However, his forces were defeated, and Metellus restored peace.


The victory of the Romans was complete. Metellus, with the consent of the Senate, imposed high financial burdens on Macedonia and Byzantium, and his army plundered more Macedonian and Greek treasures. Metellus returned to Rome in 146 BCE, and Andriscus graced his triumph, then to be slain. It should be added that Metellus was nicknamed Macedonicus for his successes, and soon he was elected a consul, and then he received the governorship of Hispania Citerior.

After the fourth defeat, there could be only one road left for Macedonia. The Romans, realizing the weakness of the republican authority in this area, decided to send a praetor and a legion permanently, and soon established the province of Macedonia. This decision was also due to the fact that Andriscus, during his reign, effectively removed all politicians associated with Rome, which raised concerns about losing control over Macedonia again.

The next appearance of the Macedonians took place only once, in 143 BCE, when another self-proclaimed king was also defeated. Another event that threatened the influence of the Romans in the Balkan peninsula was the war with the Achaean League in 146 BCE, which Polybius criticized and considered a suicidal and unnecessary spurt of Greek cities5. The result of this clash was the full victory of the Romans and the destruction of Corinth that year.

  1. Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica, XXXII.15
  2. Polybius, The Histories, XXXVII.2
  3. Teres III was the son of Cotys IV, who in turn was a staunch ally of Perseus. Moreover, Teres' wife was the granddaughter of Perseus.
  4. Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica, XXXII.17.9a
  5. Polybius, The Histories, XXXVIII.3, 5-6
  • Benedetto Bravo, Ewa Wipszycka, Historia starożytnych Greków. Tom 3: Okres hellenistyczny
  • Burton P.J., Rome and the Third Macedonian War
  • Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica
  • Historia Powszechna t. 4. Konsolidacja hellenizmu. Początki Rzymu i przemiany świata klasycznego, kons. prof. dr hab. E. Papuci-Władyka, prof. dr hab. J. Ostrowski
  • Cassius Dio, Roman history
  • Morgan M.G., The Rise and Fall Caecilii Metelli
  • Morgan M.G., Metellus Macedonicus and the Province Macedonia
  • Polybius, The Histories
  • Livy, Ab urbe condita
  • Schreiber Łukasz, Kilka uwag na temat cenzury Kwintusa Cecyliusza Metellusa Macedońskiego, Zeszyty Prawnicze 21.3/2021
  • Wikipedia

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