The Roman War of Antiochos the Great

The Roman War of Antiochos the Great

The Roman War of Antiochos the Great

The Roman War of Antiochos the Great

Synopsis

This is the first detailed study of the collision of the two greatest powers of the Hellenistic world. The Roman Republic, victorious over Carthage and Macedon, met the Seleukid kingdom, which had crushed Ptolemaic Egypt. The preliminary diplomatic sparring was complicated by Romes attempts to control Greece, and by the military activities of Antiocohos the Great, and ended in war. Despite well-meaning attempts on both sides to avoid and solve disputes, areas of disagreement could not be removed. Each great power was hounded by the ambitions of its subsidiary clients. When the Aitolian League deliberately challenged Rome, and Rome seemed not to respond, Antiochos moved into Greece to take Romes place. The Roman reaction produced the war, and a complex campaign by land and sea resulted in another Roman victory.

Excerpt

The rise of Rome to paramount power in the Mediterranean basin is quite correctly one of the major preoccupations of historical studies. The Roman empire is, after all, the major element in ancient history, the hinge between ancient and medieval, and its influence is with us still. However, it is all too easy to assume that Rome’s eventual power and success was an inevitable historical outcome, and that therefore it is only Rome’s achievement which needs serious study. Thus the city’s progress to the domination of Italy, its conflict with and victory over Carthage, and then to its domination of the eastern Mediterranean, is a sequence which tends to push its victims to one side. The study of Carthage, for example, is scarcely a central issue in ancient studies, and even Hellenistic Greece has often been relegated to an appendix of its supposedly glorious ‘classical’ period.

Into this historical dustbin the Seleukid empire is also consigned. Its long existence—almost two and a half centuries in the central area of Syria—provides a link between the almost coterminous Achaimenid empire and the Roman empire, but to study it as a subject in itself is thought somewhat eccentric. When I suggested some years ago to a publisher that a biography of Antiochos the Great might be a good subject for a book the idea was rejected, yet there are biographies of some of the most obscure of Roman emperors. So a king who ruled all the lands from India to Greece for a third of a century is not regarded as a suitable subject, yet the halfmad emperors Nero and Caligula rate repeated study. The effect on world-history of these two men must be rated as minimal; that of Antiochos is almost as great as that of Alexander or Constantine.

Of course, Antiochos fell into a war with Rome, was defeated, and surrendered a large territory as a result. The outcome can thus be used to justify a concentration on Rome, since it was Rome’s success in this war which was one of the foundations for the later empire, and one of the factors in the eventual disintegration of the Seleukid kingdom. In addition this was the third defeat of a great power by Rome in less than two decades—Carthage, then Macedon, then the Seleukid kingdom—and by far the least well documented . . .

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