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23-09-2015, 03:53

The First Macedonian War

Now that he had satisfactorily settled matters in Greece, Philip V turned his attention to Illyria. Over the winter of 217 to 216 he constructed a fleet of a hundred small, fast galleys to support his campaigns against them by land. His fleet, however, was no match for the Romans’ heavy quinquiremes, should these attempt to stop him, and Philip’s actions show that he felt this keenly - the mere report of a Roman fleet’s presence caused him to break off a naval expedition to the west of Greece in 216. By land, however, Philip conquered territory on the Illyrian borders (Pol. V 108-110).

In Italy, meantime, Hannibal had just defeated the Romans in another battle, Cannae, and now it appeared only a matter of time until he forced the Romans to capitulate. Philip V needed Roman influence in the Adriatic eliminated if he were to conquer Illyria, and Hannibal was not averse to securing Macedonia’s friendship. So Philip V and Hannibal in 215 concluded a treaty of mutual nonaggression in which Philip carefully avoided committing himself to providing any concrete aid to Hannibal in the war against Rome. Ostensibly Philip was interested only in securing control over territory to the east of the Adriatic, as emerges from the following clause which Hannibal agreed to impose upon Rome in the event of his victory: “that the Romans shall not control Corcyra, Apollonia, Epidamnus, Pharos, Dimale, Parthini, or Atintania” (Pol. VII 9). Philip V, therefore, was not directly helping Hannibal, and his stated limited goal, if taken at face value, meant that he posed little threat to the Romans. These, however, were not inclined to take at face value what Philip stated in the treaty.

On the contrary, they viewed Philip V’s alliance with Carthage as a direct threat to their existence. After all, Hannibal was trying to destroy Rome, and Philip V was now a friend of Hannibal. Moreover the last Hellenistic king who had taken an interest in affairs in Italy, Pyrrhus, had marched to within forty miles of Rome (see chap. 22). What made Philip V any different from Pyrrhus?

The Romans’ view was certainly influenced by the nature of their life-and-death struggle against Carthage, a war which at first glance seems fundamentally different from the Hellenistic world’s wars, which did not normally place a state’s existence at stake. Yet this may have resulted more from an effective balance of power and practical reality rather than from rulers’ actual desires. Hellenistic kings certainly could conceive of the full conquest of another Hellenistic kingdom. When, for example, Seleucus I Nicator defeated Lysimachus at Cyrupedium in 281, he undertook to assume the rule of Lysimachus’ entire kingdom (Macedonia, Thrace, and the bulk of western Asia Minor), and only his death prevented him from doing so completely. When Ptolemy III Euergetes invaded the Seleucid Kingdom in 245 during the Third Syrian War, disturbances at home recalled him from an ambitious campaign which had taken him into Iran: this was no small war with limited goals, and had Ptolemy III been able to campaign a few years longer, the entire Seleucid Kingdom would have been his for the taking - and few will wish to argue that he would not have stretched forth his hand to take it. Finally, Hellenistic kings often opportunistically altered or radically expanded their plans for conquest whenever circumstances such as an enemy’s weakness allowed - as the campaigns of Antiochus III (discussed below) demonstrate. The Romans’ view of the threat which Philip V posed to them was in keeping with the Hellenistic conception of warfare, and their response to Philip V’s treaty with Hannibal need not have been a gross overreaction.

Despite desperate circumstances in the war against Carthage, they dispatched thirty warships to Taras as reinforcements for the twenty-five already there with instructions to watch over Philip V (Liv. XXIII 38). He himself, expecting that Hannibal would occupy the Romans sufficiently, brought his fleet into the Adriatic again in 214 and attacked Illyria by land and by sea. He took Oricum and besieged Apollonia. Although hard-pressed in Italy, the Romans sent a legion under M. Valerius Laevinus to Illyria; Valerius retook Oricum, and a subordinate defeated Philip V at Apollonia. In his hasty retreat Philip V lost his fleet and large numbers of troops (Liv. XXIV 40 - probably exaggerating). Concurrently, Philip V had sent Demetrius of Pharos to attack Messenia, which Philip a year earlier had allegedly considered taking by subterfuge (Pol. VII 12). The attack failed, and Demetrius lost his life (Pol. III 19; cf. Paus. IV 29).

All the same, in 213 and 212 Philip V returned to the attack in Illyria, though this time he confined himself mostly to the inland regions (e. g., Atintania) where he made good progress (Liv. XXVII 30; XXIX 12 - referring to earlier conquests, probably dating to the period 213-212), capturing Lissus, a Syracusan colony on the Adriatic (Pol. VIII 13-14). Without allies the Romans could not continue this sideshow, so in 211 they concluded an alliance with the Aeto-lians who by now were willing to wage war against Macedonia again (Liv. XXVI 24). Since Philip V had become engaged in various conflicts against the Darda-nians and in Thrace (210), he could not immediately respond to this. Both Valerius and the Aetolians campaigned against the Acarnanians, who asked Philip V for help in 209 (Liv. XXVI 25). Meanwhile, other states were joining the war against Philip V - Messenia (naturally enough, after the events of 214), Elis and Sparta (the Aetolians’ allies from the last war against Philip V), and, most significantly, Pergamum (Pol. IX 30).

The Aetolians elected Attalus I of Pergamum as their strategos for 208 (see Box 21.3 for the office) and, together with the Lacedaemonians, attacked the Achaian League. When Philip V marched towards the Peloponnese, the Aeto-lians attempted to block him at Thermopylae but Philip defeated them twice in short order (Liv. XXVII 29-30). Later in the year Philip won a victory over the Eleans (Liv. XXVII 32). Also in 208 the Roman and Pergamene fleets (under the command of P. Sulpicius Galba and Attalus I) began cooperating in the Aegean, albeit to little practical effect. Attacks on Oreus (on Euboea) and Opus (in Eastern Locris) in 207 succeeded initially, but Philip surprised Attalus I at Opus, where the Pergamenes were gathering booty, and inflicted a severe defeat from which Attalus I barely escaped with his life. Philip now marched into central Greece, took the Locrian town of Thronium, and recaptured Oreus. Meanwhile the Bithynian king, Prusias I - evidently in alliance with Philip - attacked Pergamum, and Attalus I returned home to deal with this new foe (Liv. XXVIII 7; cf. Pol. X 41-42).

In 207 Philip V had to return to the north in order to beat back yet another invasion by the Dardanians (Liv. XXVIII 8), and there was little fighting in Greece. All the same the Aetolians by now had had enough. In early 206 they made peace with Philip V on his terms. In that year the Romans sent

P. Sempronius Tuditanus to Illyria with some 11,000 troops, but Philip V’s arrival in Illyria confined him to Apollonia. The Romans themselves made peace with Philip at Phoenice in 205 on the basis of a division of the disputed territory in Illyria (Liv. XXIX 12). From their perspective the Romans had at least kept Philip tied down in Greece and Illyria, preventing him from assisting Hannibal in Italy. A final reckoning with Philip could be postponed for now.

Philip V, frustrated in his attempt at expansion in the West, but viewing the war with Rome over, turned towards the East.