Tracing their descent from Antigonus Monophthalmus (the “One-Eyed”), one of Alexander the Great’s generals and diadochi, the Antigonoids of Macedon ruled almost the entirety of Greece for over a century.
The beginning of the end came in 197BC at the battle of Cynoscephalae.
The lead-up was the War Against Hannibal (called the Second Punic War) between Rome and Carthage. This devastating conflict lasted seventeen years and ravaged the western Mediterranean. Seeing an opportunity, Philip V, the king of Macedon, decided to enter into an alliance with the Carthaginians against Rome – the burgeoning power of the Republic was a threat to his territories in the west. The distraction of a foreign invasion and the near-destruction of their city was all Philip needed to make a move against the “Latins”.
An already accomplished soldier and an able statesman, Philip found it difficult to make significant gains. Finally, on his third attempt, he managed to wrest control of Illyria from the Romans.
The Romans though, not to be outdone, managed to stir up trouble amongst the Greeks by allying themselves with the Aetolian League and Pergamum, neutralising the Macedonian threat.
This was the First Macedonian War.
After the defeat of Hannibal and the conclusion of hostilities in the west in 201BC, Rome found itself with an experienced army and a reason to invade Philip’s territories.
It was time for settling accounts…
The man sent to humble Philip was named Titus Quinctius Flamininus. Promising “liberty for the Greeks”, Flamininus managed to outmaneuver Philip at every turn and eventually proved the superiority of the Roman legion over the Macedonian phalanx by his victory at Cynoscephalae.
Philip was forced to make peace, and limit his authority to the borders of Macedon. Thus ended the Second Macedonian War.
Changing his tack, Philip pursued a cooperative relationship with Rome that was ultimately undermined by the growing rift between his sons, Perseus and Demetrius. Pro-Roman Demetrius eventually went too far and reluctantly, Philip ordered his execution in 180BC.
Philip V died a year later.
His first-born and successor, Perseus, quickly managed to antagonise the Romans, and the Third Macedonian War erupted in 171BC.
After some initial successes, Perseus was decisively beaten at the battle of Pydna in 168BC by Lucius Aemilius Paullus and captured. He ended his days as a prisoner of Rome.
After this conquest the Antigonoid kingdom was dissolved and replaced by four republics, who in turn were dissolved a few years later and replaced by the Roman province of Macedonia.
Paul K. Davis, noted military historian, wrote of the defeat of the last Antigonoid king: “Pydna marked the final destruction of Alexander’s empire and introduced Roman authority over the Near East.”
One might conclude then that Philip V and Perseus have no right to be compared to Alexander, since they presided over the ultimate failure of his dream. In terms of military genius, leadership, vision, magnanimity and legacy, they don’t measure up.
Then again, they dared the expanding power of Rome and fought. And that, at least, was something.
Next week: Hannibal at the Gates.