The Ancient Greece Part II

The supremacy of Macedonia

Taking advantage of the weakness and discords between states and within each of them, Philip II of Macedon managed to extend his influence in the central Greece: the battle of Chaeronea (338), with the decisive victory of Philip, seemed to mark the end of Greek freedom. The Greek states (except Sparta) were forced to recognize the supremacy of Macedonia and to participate in a federation (league of Corinth), of which Philip was declared hegemon and whose purpose was the war against Persia. In 336 Philip II was killed (336) and his successor, Alexander the Great, after having reaffirmed the Macedonian dominance with the destruction of the insurgent Thebes (335), it passed to Asia where it took possession of the Persian Empire. The Greeks, however, were not yet subjected: in 331 Sparta had risen, in 323, at the announcement of Alexander’s death, a general insurrection broke out in Greece, the so-called Lamia war (➔ Lamia). Both times Antipater, ruler of Macedonia, got the better of the rioters.

Oligarchic orders were established everywhere in Greece subject to Macedonia. In the new political reality, the Greeks lost the importance of the past: the epicenter was by now in Asia where a new geopolitical order arose from the struggles and understandings between Alexander the Great’s generals. But the support of the Greeks was still sought: the proclamations (318 and 315) of Poliperconte, successor of Antipater, and of Antigonus Monophthalmus, which restored their freedom to the Greeks, were expedients with which the Hellenistic kings tried to induce them to take sides with their own part or to tolerate their domination. The Greece was for about fifty years subdued those who dominated Macedonia. The confusing events of this age are little known in detail, except for Athens, where the oligarchic domination of Demetrio Falereo (317-307) succeeded that of Demetrio Poliorcete and then of his son Antigono Gonata, closed by a new anti-Macedonia uprising that dragged on for some years (about 267-262) without success.

The Greece was in the meantime undergoing the invasion of the Celts (280), held back by the Boeotians and the Aetolian league, which from modest beginnings in the 4th century. it had risen to great power. A characteristic phenomenon of this period was in fact the rise to relevant authority of leagues of peoples hitherto unrelated to national events, the Aetolians and the Achaeans. The former, with the defense of Delphi from the Celts, obtained primacy over the Delphic amphitia, the latter became the most powerful league of the Peloponnese. In the Peloponnese, Sparta also tended to regain its place in the struggle for hegemony on the peninsula; the Achaeans appealed against Cleomenes III of Sparta to Antigono Dosone, regent of Macedonia, who intervened and defeated the Spartan army in Sellasia (222). Antigonus then seemed to succeed in the national union of the Greeks, as all the Greeks were included in the Hellenic league he founded, with the exception of Athenians and Aetolians. This exclusion was decisive for the destiny of the league: the Aetolians attacked the Achaeans and Philip V, who succeeded Antigonus, although eager to support the Achaean allies, was forced to conclude the peace of Naupatto (217), which the gravity of the events in the West, engaged in the Second Punic War, and the Roman danger.

The Roman rule

The Romans, who intervened twice (239 and 219) in Illyria, were a dangerous opponent for Macedonia on the north-western borders: Philip, taking advantage of the war in progress between Rome and Carthage, took possession of the Roman possessions in the eastern Adriatic and squeezed alliance with Hannibal. Rome reacted by calling together the various enemies that Philip had in Greece, first of all the Aetolian league, and in Asia Minor, such as the kingdom of Pergamum. The conflict (First Macedonian War: 215-205) ended with nothing and was only a marginal event in the context of the Second Punic War. The war re-exploded when Philip, initiating a policy of expansion in Asia, attacked the kingdom of Pergamum and penetrated into Greece trying to conquer Athens. Beaten in Cinoscefale (197), Philip had to accept harsh conditions of peace (Second Macedonian War: 200-196). The victorious Roman general, Tito Quinzio Flaminino, proclaimed the freedom of all Greeks at the Isthmian feasts of 196.

But the anti-Roman war continued, even if on the part of the Greeks it was never possible to reach a simultaneity of efforts; the Aetolians and Antiochus III of Syria promoted the resistance: the first had to resign themselves to peace after losing the most important stronghold, Ambracia (189); Antiochus, defeated at Thermopylae (191) and then in the battle of Magnesia (190), was forced to accept the harsh peace of Apamea. Meanwhile Macedonia, in the last years of Philip V’s life, had again given itself a formidable army: the Romans provoked a new war (third Macedonian war: 171-168) against his son, Perseus, who after some success was definitively beaten at Pydna (168).

In 148 the Achaean league did not want to submit to the injunctions of Rome and unleashed another conflict (➔ acaica, war) which ended with the Achaean defeat of Leucopetra and the destruction of Corinth (146). The subject Greece was then placed under the control of the governor of the province of Macedonia, established in 148: however, still in 88 the anti-Roman uprising of which Mithridates VI Eupator was the greatest exponent found wide resonance in Greece and particularly in Athens, which resisted for a long time at the siege of Silla until (1 March 86) the city was taken. Later Greece was involved in the civil wars that troubled the Roman world (from the battle of Pharsalus, 48 BC, to that of Actium, 31 BC).

Established in 27 BC as the province of Achaea, the Greece knew its decline in the first centuries of the Empire, just interrupted by more favorable periods, coinciding with the reigns of the Philelleni emperors (Nero, Adriano, Gallieno). The decline was accelerated by epidemics, such as that of 165 AD, and by the barbarian incursions: of the costoboci in 170 and the Germanic peoples starting from the second half of the 3rd century. A.D.

The Ancient Greece 2