Roman Macedonian Wars

215 to 168 B.C.
Rome — versus — Macedonia

Second Macedonian War — 200-196 B.C.     Third Macedonian War — 172-168 B.C.     

The three Roman-Macedonian Wars, fought between 215 and 168 BC resulted in the collapse of the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia, and the effective annexation of the territories controlled by the Macedonian empire into the Roman sphere of influence. The difficulty in understanding the course of these wars, comes not from the military campaigns, which involved a few pitched battles, but few serious reversals, but rather, in trying to understand the complicated politics that underlay them.

The Macedonian Wars began during the Second Punic War, when Rome was still governed as a republic rather than an empire. Rome acquired a great deal of territory in Spain, Africa, and Greece over a short period of time, and was at first undecided as to how to govern the new provinces outside of Italy. Meanwhile, the city-states of Greece were under the influence of the Macedonians, but were governed somewhat independently. The Achaean League, a group of Greek city states pressing for Greek independence was sometimes allied, and sometimes opposed to both Rome and Macedonia. In Rome, a significant portion of the aristocracy were great admirers of Greek culture and learning, while other Roman leaders considered the Greeks intolerably corrupt, and still others were merely covetous of Greece's wealth and commercial enterprises. Some Greek cities were in favor of an alliance with Rome, while others were wholly suspicious. If the fate of Greece, under its new master appeared to waver at times between liberation and subjugation, it was due largely to these political factors, rather than military ones.

Second Macedonian Wars : 200 to 196 B.C.

The first Macedonian war occurred when Philip V of Macedon allied himself with Hannibal during the second Punic War. The alliance did not amount to much, strategically, but resulted in a few skirmishes on the shore of the Adriatic between Roman forces and Macedonians. It was not until several years after the Second Punic War was brought to a close, that Rome launched a punitive expedition to Macedonia, in order to prevent Philip V from making further alliances unfriendly to Rome.

The Consul in charge of the campaign to Rome was Flamininus, who fortunately for the Greeks, was a great admirer of Greek culture and tried to convince many of the Greek city states to join in an alliance with Rome against Macedonia. In this he was largely successful, and the battle of Cynoscephalae, fought in 197 BC was a decisive win for the Romans. At this point the Romans imposed severe restrictions on Philip V's foreign policy, and "freed" the Greek cities who had made alliances with them, from Macedonian control.

DateBattle Summary
198 BC  
Battle of Avus (Second ) Romans victory
Fought B.C. 198, between 20,000 Macedonians under Philip, and two Roman legions under T. Quinctius Flamininus. A force of 4,000 legionaries penetrated to the rear of Philip's camp, and when Flamininus attacked in front, they fell upon the Macedonian rear, and completely routed them, with a loss of 2,000.
197 BC  
Battle of Cynoscephalae (Third ) Romans victory
Fought B.C. 197, between the Romans, 26,000 strong, under Flamininus, and the Macedonians, in about equal force under Philip. The Roman vanguard, coming unexpectedly upon the enemy, was repulsed, but Flamininus bringing up the legionaries, the battle became more equal. On the right Philip, with half his phalanx, drove back the Romans, but his left wing was utterly routed, and the victorious Roman right then turned and attacked the Macedonian right in flank and rear, and won a complete victory. The Macedonians lost 13,000 killed and wounded The Roman losses were small.

Short Biography
Flamininus Led Rome against Philip V in second Macedonian War.
Philip V of Macedon King of Macedon during the Second Punic War, and First and Second Macedonian Wars

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Third Macedonian War : 172 to 168

The treaty with Macedonia after the second Macedonian war, limited its influence but did not destroy it. When Perseus, the son Philip V came to the throne in 179, he did what he could to help restore Macedonian influence and was aided by all forms of intrigue between the Greek city states, Rome, and various other forces in Asia Minor. Ten years before Perseus came to the throne, Antiochus the Great had attempted an invasion of Greece, with the help (of course) of some disaffected Greek city states, and Rome had met him in several battles in Thessaly and Asia Minor. This re-injected Rome into Greek affairs, and by the time Perseus came to the throne, Rome's promises of "freedom" to the Greek city states, had been revealed to mean "free to do as Rome wants".

Rome declared war on Macedon in 172 BC, because many of the activities of Perseus, in the foreign policy arena, were unfriendly to Rome, but in early engagements, Rome did do well against the Macedonian phalanx. It was not until the Romans recruited Aemilius Paulus, a retired general, that they began winning victories over Macedonia. Finally, in a great battle at Pydna, the Macedonian phalanx was entirely routed by superior Roman tactics and discipline. After this, the Macedonian Empire was divided into four provinces, independently governed, but under the influence of Rome.

The Greeks were not entirely happy under this arrangement and twenty years later, the Achaean League rose up in revolt against Rome, but was summarily crushed. The subsequent destruction of Corinth, ostensibly to "Punish" the Greeks for their rebellion, was actually orchestrated entirely by the "commerce" minded senators of Rome, who sought to destroy Greece's most prosperous trading center, purely out of commercial jealousies. They were the same party that sought to destroy the city of Carthage, even after it posed no military threat to Rome, for entirely similar motivations.

DateBattle Summary
171 BC  
Battle of Larissa (Third ) Macedonians victory
Fought 171 B.C., between the Romans, 40,000 strong, under P. Licinius Crassus, and 43,000 Macedonians, under Perseus. The Romans were defeated with a loss of 2,200 killed and 600 prisoners.
168 BC  
Battle of Pydna (Amenian vs. Sassanid ) Romans victory
Fought June 22, 168 B.C., between the Romans, under Aemilius Paulus, and the Macedonians, under Perseus. The Macedonian phalanx attacked the Roman line, and drove them back on their camp, but becoming disordered by the uneven ground, was broken by the legionaries and cut to pieces. The result was a total defeat of the Macedonians, with a loss of 20,000 killed and 11,000 prisoners. The phalanx here fought its last fight and perished to a man.

Short Biography
Aemilius Paulus Led Rome against Macedonia at the Battle of Pydna and was victorious.
Perseus of Macedon Last Macedonian King of the Antigonid dynasty. Lost to the Romans at the Battle of Pydna.

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