By: stefano sandano
Rome’s actions here stand in stark contrast to its behavior in Spain. To judge by actions alone, the Roman senate could be thought to have had no desire for a permanent military presence in the region. It would be mistaken, however, to infer that consequently Rome’s leaders did not regard themselves as preeminent here. After his victory, Flamininus proclaimed the freedom of a number of Greek cities at the Isthmian Games, where thousands had gathered for the festival. Proclamations of freedom had a long and honored place in Hellenistic diplomacy, and Flamininus’ decree shows how Romans adapted themselves to local practices while maintaining their own leadership. Kings typically issued proclamations of freedom to win over allies, and to weaken rivals by encouraging their subject cities to defect. Such “freedom” usually meant no foreign garrisons, no tribute, and no change to existing laws; however, it did not mean that the newly freed city could also omit to acknowledge the leadership of a larger and more powerful state.
Subsequent events would reveal how seriously the senate took its claims to leadership. The first major military intervention following the Second Macedonian War came shortly after the withdrawal of Roman armies. Antiochus III, king of Syria, had restored much of the grandeur and power of the Seleucid dynasty, and, after a seven-year campaign into eastern Iran, he was regarded by some as a second Alexander. While Rome was engaged with Philip V, Antiochus had extended his power in Asia Minor, largely surrounding the small kingdom of Pergamum; he had even recovered part of Thrace, which had once belonged to his predecessors. Before the beginning of the Syrian War (192–189), he had frequent exchanges of embassies with the Romans, as well as with a number of Greek cities and rulers; there were also such exchanges among the Greek cities and leagues themselves. In all this diplomacy, Antiochus achieved some success, most notably an alliance with the Aetolians, former allies of Rome, who felt they had not been sufficiently rewarded for their participation in the Second Macedonian War.
Hostilities began in 192, when Antiochus sent a small force across the Aegean Sea to Greece, where it joined with the armies of some allied states. Early in 191, the consul Manius Acilius Glabrio crossed with his army from Brundisium to Apollonia, marched across the mountains into Thessaly, and defeated Antiochus and his allies at Thermopylae. In the next year, the senate sent a commander with an army and a fleet across the Aegean, where they joined forces with Eumenes, who had succeeded Attalus as king of Pergamum. Finally in 189, Lucius Cornelius Scipio, the brother of Africanus, defeated Antiochus’ army at Magnesia. Antiochus had to abandon all his claims to Asia Minor, refrain from making alliances in Greece and around the Aegean, surrender most of his ships and his war elephants, and pay an exceptionally large indemnity.
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