Ancient History & Civilisation

5. THE SETTLEMENT OF GREECE

After the battle the Aetolians, who had contributed largely to the victory of the Roman right wing, were eager to invade Macedon and to destroy its power once and for all. But this suited neither Rome nor Philip. Sweeping the Aetolians aside Flamininus announced that in answer to Philip’s overtures and subject to the Senate’s approval he had determined to make peace with Philip on the terms laid down at Nicaea, namely, that Philip should abandon all his dependencies outside Macedon. Philip was too clear-sighted to refuse. Further resistance might involve the extinction of the independent existence of Macedon. True, he might hope for the intervention of his ally Antiochus. But if, when the Syrian came, he was too weak to treat him as an equal, he would be regarded as a mere dependant like the kings of Bithynia and Cappadocia. How much better to retain his kingdom intact and to renew war on more equal terms if Antiochus did come later, than to risk all on a gambler’s chance.

Flamininus also was ready for peace, not only for fear that he might be superseded in his command, but for very solid impersonal reasons. To destroy Macedon utterly was to court danger on all sides. It would remove the barrier which held back the barbarian Thracians, Illyrians and Gauls from the Greek frontiers.19 If this barrier were to be removed either Rome or Greece would have to step in; but Rome was unwilling to undertake military occupation in the Balkan peninsula, while to allow the Greeks to advance in this direction would lead to interminable rivalry and confusion. Further, a prostrate Macedon would benefit not only Greek and barbarian but also Antiochus, who having wrested Coele-Syria from Ptolemy was free to re-establish his authority beyond the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor and on the Asiatic shores of the Aegean. Although their relations with him had officially been friendly, the Romans could not but see that he had a formal right to intervene, since he was allied with Philip to share the Ptolemaic dependencies, while Rome had insisted on the restitution of the territory in Asia which Philip had occupied. But while Antiochus was not averse to seeing Macedon weakened, as that would give him supremacy in the Graeco-Oriental world, he can hardly have been eager to see the Macedonian control in the Balkans and Aegean merely replaced by that of Rome. Thus many motives, chief among them fear of Antiochus, induced Flamininus to meet Philip at Tempe, where despite the protests of Rome’s allies an armistice was concluded during which all parties were to submit all details to the Senate. The Aetolians in particular were disillusioned and embittered; the Greeks were forced to see that Rome intended to settle affairs in her own way.20

Anxiety about insurrections in Cisalpine Gaul and Spain (pp. 263ff.) and still more about Antiochus, induced Rome to conclude peace with Philip on terms not unduly severe (winter 197–196). The terms, which were expounded in a senatorial decree, showed that the peace was more than a treaty with Philip; it was a manifesto to Greece and a warning to Antiochus: all the rest of the Greeks in Asia and Europe were to be free and governed by their own laws; the Greek cities subject to or held by Philip were to be surrendered to Rome; he was to evacuate and free certain cities in Asia Minor; all prisoners, deserters and his fleet to be surrendered; an indemnity of 1,000 talents to be paid, half at once, half by annual instalments. Yet Philip was not humbled as Carthage had been.21

In the spring of 196 ten commissioners were sent to Greece with the senatorial decree to settle affairs there with Flamininus, who had pacified some trouble in Boeotia by a show of force. They then published the Senate’s decision, which was received with some uneasiness: what would happen to the ‘Fetters of Greece’ when surrendered to Rome? To allay this disquiet and to prove the sincerity of the Senate’s intentions, Flamininus staged his famous declaration at the Isthmian Games. To the assembled Greeks a herald proclaimed that a number of Greek peoples whom he named were by order of the Roman Senate and the proconsul Titus Quinctius Flamininus declared free without garrisons or tribute to be governed by their own ancestral laws. Flamininus, his ambition at last sated, was almost mobbed by the enthusiastic crowd. The proclamation, together with the Senate’s manifesto, was the high-water mark of Rome’s philhellenic policy. She proclaimed freedom for Greece, and more, she proclaimed herself to be the permanent protectress of Greek liberty throughout the world, a liberty to be respected alike by the Greeks themselves, by the conquered Philip and by the aggressive Antiochus (see further p. 233).

This glorious moment was soon followed by a reaction in Greece. Although Rome imposed no tribute or garrisons, she was still the protectress and as such proceeded to ‘settle Hellenic affairs’. The ten commissioners started on this disillusioning task and had accomplished enough by the end of the year to allow them to return to Rome, leaving Flamininus to complete the settlement. It is hardly necessary to follow the details: the Aetolians claimed back all their past conquests, but were only granted Phocis, Eastern Locris and part of Thessaly; the rest of Thessaly was grouped into four small federal states, while Euboea was made into a separate league; Corinth was added to the Achaean League. But before returning home the commission had accomplished two things of importance. An alliance was concluded with Philip, Antiochus’ former ally, so that Rome might now hope to use him against Antiochus; and secondly the disgruntled Aetolians, who were on the point of revolting, were persuaded to refer their troubles to Rome. But the commissioners could not advise the immediate evacuation of Greece, however ominous this might seem to the Greeks, who began to doubt Rome’s integrity. Friendship with Philip, the pacification of Aetolia, the continued military occupation of Greece, all pointed in one direction – Antiochus, who had crossed to Europe.

In 195 Flamininus assembled delegates from all Greek states in Corinth to confer about liberating Argos from the clutches of Nabis of Sparta. All voted in favour of this crusade, except the Aetolians whose claims had not yet been settled. An allied army and navy was launched against Sparta and the power of Nabis was broken. But Flamininus would not go as far as his allies desired; as with Philip, he wished to cripple, but not destroy. Once again it was the Romans and not the allies who dictated the terms, which included the surrender by Nabis of Argos and other towns and of his fleet, an indemnity, and the renouncing of the right to make war or alliances. At the Nemean festival the freedom of Argos was proclaimed and the city reentered the Achaean League. In the next year, 194, Flamininus persuaded the Senate, in spite of the danger from Antiochus, to redeem its pledge and to recall the army from Greece. He presided over a pan-Hellenic conference at Corinth, where he announced the Roman evacuation of Greece and amid much fatherly advice he urged the Greeks to make right use of their new freedom. The Roman garrisons were withdrawn from all towns, including the three ‘Fetters’, and Flamininus returned to Rome, where he celebrated a magnificent triumph. His ideals and ambitions were fulfilled. The Greeks were free, under a Roman protectorate. But they had paid a heavy price for their freedom and many besides the Aetolians looked askance at the settlement and the new regime. How they would respond to their fresh responsibilities the future alone would show.

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