Ancient History & Civilisation

4. THE END OF GREEK INDEPENDENCE

The four Macedonian Republics for some time proved a successful experiment, especially considering that the people were not used to self-government. In 158 the Senate reopened the royal mines and allowed the Republics the right of coinage. The first serious trouble arose from a pretender to the Macedonian throne. This adventurer, named Andriscus, who claimed to be a son of Perseus, at first failed to gain support in Macedon or Syria, and even when aided by Thracian troops and money he only climbed to the throne of Macedon after two victories in the field (149). Rome was slow to act, especially in view of the lack of Macedonian enthusiasm for the pretender. But he was soon strong enough to defeat a small Roman force which was sent against him. In 148 Caecilius Metellus arrived with two legions and quickly ended Andriscus’ career. To prevent similar disturbances in the future, Rome took a momentous departure from her old policy of leaving Greece free and ungarrisoned. Macedon was declared a Roman province governed by a Roman magistrate, and Illyricum and Epirus were added to his sphere of administration.13 But it was not intended to alter the conditions of the local communities as fixed by Aemilius Paullus; the tribute probably was not increased, while the restrictions between the now abolished Republics were removed. With her frontiers severely guarded Macedon entered on a period of comparative peace, and before the death of Polybius the Via Egnatia had been completed from Epidamnus on the west coast to Cypsela near the Dardanelles, a length of 535 miles; but her independent history was ended.

In Greece, as in Macedon, permanent changes were at length introduced. The Senate’s refusal to free the thousand deported Achaeans was a bitter pill for the League to swallow; to free them would be to admit that their detention had been unjust. Only after sixteen years was the remnant set free (151/50). Meantime the League had been robbed of its most experienced statesmen and had been at the mercy of the hated pro-Roman Callicrates, whom even the children in the streets called ‘traitor’. The Senate in vain tried to compensate for detaining the prisoners by ensuring that her envoys in Greece were men of character and by allowing the League or its cities to arbitrate in disputes between Sparta and Megalopolis in 164 and between Athens and Oropus in 156. When Callicrates died in 150 the last check on the anti-Roman party was removed and the Achaeans’ anger blazed forth, fanned by the extremist Diaeus. Mistaking Rome’s conciliatory attitude for weakness they saw their opportunity for revenge now that Roman armies were engaged in Spain, Africa and Macedon. The cause of the outbreak was Achaea’s attempt to coerce Sparta, who had seceded from the League. When Sparta complained at Rome the Senate ordered the Achaeans to restore full independence to Sparta, and to Corinth and Argos who did not desire it (148). At Corinth, where anti-Roman feeling ran strong among the proletariat, the Senators bearing the decree were mobbed and the punishment of those responsible was refused. A conciliatory message from the Senate caused a second hostile demonstration at Corinth. Achaea then declared war on Sparta and Heracleiaad-Oetam, and there was a general rally among the masses in Boeotia and Euboea in her favour. But the Achaeans’ action was aimed at Rome, and while their new general and dictator, Critolaus, was busy storming Heracleia instead of organizing his defences, a Roman army under Metellus descended from Macedon and swept him aside (146). A second army, raised by Diaeus, checked Metellus at Corinth, but in vain. His successor, Mummius, arrived with four legions and routed the enemy at the Isthmus; he then entered Corinth.14

For a moment Rome’s patience broke under the strain and she decided to punish Corinth for violating the sanctity of her ambassadors and to make an example of her to all Greece. Mummius was ordered to sell the remaining inhabitants into slavery and to level the city to the ground; her artistic treasures were shipped to Rome, whether or not there is truth in the anecdotes which told how the troops played dice on famous masterpieces and how the matter-of-fact Mummius contracted that any lost on the voyage should be replaced. Details of the Senate’s settlement are obscure. Individuals were punished. The Achaean and at least all hostile leagues were temporarily dissolved. The cities, at any rate those which had remained loyal to Rome, were probably immune from taxation, while the prohibition of commercium between cities was probably only a temporary restriction. Democracies were abolished and timocracies established in those parts of Greece which had been reduced in war. As Greece had no frontiers to be protected, she was not made into a province till a century later. But she was placed under the supervision of the governor of Macedonia who was responsible for settling disputes and maintaining order.

The punishment of Corinth was cruel but effective. There is little evidence to support the view that it was dictated by commercial jealousy. It was a lesson to all Greece that Rome was tired of her quarrels, and the lesson was not in vain. That an oligarchical state should seek to impose an aristocratic form of government on Greece was natural enough, especially as it facilitated the transaction of business; at the same time the Greeks retained considerable local autonomy. Indeed, after some years the commercial barriers between cities were removed and even the leagues were revived on a social and religious basis. The long chapter of Greek independence was ended. But peace did not necessarily bring prosperity or happiness. Hellas had fallen from her high estate. And it is more just to charge Greece herself with slow suicide than to accuse Rome of murder or even homicide.15

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