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BC 179-379 AD - Roman Macedonia

The kingdom of Macedonia in the East, with the Grecian republics, composed a political system, very complicated in itself, but first brought into connexion with Rome after the Illyrian war, and the connexion of Phillip II with Hannibal. Of the three powers of the first rank — Syria, Macedonia, and Egypt — the two first were allied against the latter, which was on friendly terms with Rome. The powers of the second rank — the Aetolian league, the kings of Pergamus, the republic of Rhodes, and other smaller states, such as Athens — were already allies of Rome, and had been leagued with her against Philip.

The Achaean confederacy, on the contrary, was attached to the Macedonian interest. Hardly was the peace made with Carthage when the war broke out with Phillip of Macedonia. In the beginning of this war, the Romans were unfortunate, till Titus Quinctius Flamiminius, by his policy and military talents, laid the foundation for the power of Rome in the East. By the decisive battle of Cynocephale, Philip lost his previous superiority, and his influence over Greece, whose dependence upon Rome was secured by Quinctius granting her freedom. Roman deputies, such as retained Carthage and Numidia in subjection, exercised a supervision in Greece and Macedonia, and interfered in the domestic policy of these states.

In the conquest of Macedon the Romans experienced considerable difficulties. Philip, the last, but one, of the Macedonian kings, after quarrelling with the Romans, was obliged to enter into an unfavorable treaty with them; but on the accession of his son Perseus, (179 BC) the Macedonians renewed the war. The Romans were for the first time called upon to resist the Macedonian phalanx, a square body of 16,000 men, having 1000 men in front, and 16 in depth. Each soldier carried a pike 23 feet long; the pikes of the fifth rank extended beyond the front of the phalanx, and hence the shock of such a body of men was almost irresistible. In their first encounter with the Macedonians, the Romans were defeated with the loss of 2200 men. Perseus did not avail himself of this success, and the war was protracted without any decisive advantage on either side.

Paulus Emilius, a commander of much experience, was now sent to Macedon. Perseus made great preparations to receive him, and resolved to hazard a general engagement. The light troops of the Macedonians charged the Romans with incredible vigour, and did great execution, while the phalanx was engaged with the main body of the Roman infantry. Upon seeing this advantage Emilius is said to have rent his garments, and abandoned himself to despair; when perceiving that the phalanx lost its order in some particular places, he commanded his light troops to charge them at these weak points. By this skilful manuver this formidable body was thrown into disorder, and the Macedonian king, followed by his army, sought for safety in flight, after leaving about 20,000 dead on the field. The whole kingdom now submitted to the conquerors. Perseus took refuge in Samothracia, but was at last obliged to surrender to the consul, who carried him in triumph to Rome. The Roman dominion over Macedon was occasionally disturbed by some pretenders to the throne; but the kingdom was finally reduced to a Roman province. After the conquest of Macedonia, Rome openly pursued her plan of universal dominion, and spared no means for attaining it.

After unparalleled oppressions, Carthage was destroyed. This was accomplished in the third Punic war, which lasted from AUC 604 to 608, when the proud Carthage was destroyed (146 BC). At the same time, a new war was carried on in Macedonia, against Andriscus, who had placed himself at the head of the disaffected, but who submitted to Metellus. Then commenced the Achaean war, the object of which was the dissolution of the Achaean league. Mummius terminated this war in 146 BC, by the destruction of Corinth; Greece and Macedonia were reduced to Roman provinces. Thus had Rome, within the space of 118 years, made herself mistress of the world.

Macedonia Prima was the region east of the Strymon, of which Amphipolis was the capital; Macedonia Secunda lay between the Strymon and the Axius, and Thessalonica was its metropolis ; and the other two regions were situated to the south towards Thessaly, and on the mountains to the west. This was the division adopted by Paulus AEmilius after the battle of Pydna. But the arrangement was only temporary. The whole of Macedonia, along with some adjacent territories, was made one pro vince, and centralised under the jurisdiction of a proconsul, who resided at Thessalonica. This province included Thessaly, and extended over the mountain chain which had been the western boundary of ancient Macedonia, so as to embrace a sea-board of considerable length on the shore of the Adriatic.

Across the breadth of Macedonia ran one of the greatest roads of the Empire. It is evident that, after Constantinople was founded, a line of communication between the Eastern and Western capitals was of the utmost moment ; but the Via Egnatia was constructed long before this period Strabo, in the reign of Augustus, relates that it was regularly made and marked out by milestones, from Dyrrhachium on the Adriatic, to Cypselus on the Hebrus, in Thrace ; and even before the close of the republic, Cicero spoke, in one of his speeches, of "that military way of ours, which connects us writh the Hellespont."

The Cimbric Wars [113-101 BC] were fought against the hordes in the marches and countermarches between the Danube and Spain who had set the whole of central Europe in commotion and, in particular, had pushed the Balkan tribes upon the borders of Roman Macedonia. The senate accordingly had to send consular armies into that region for several years, and Macedonia soon became the favorite field of operation for triumph-hunting consuls. Some of the generals secured the desired honor by simply defending the province. Others seized the occasion to push the war into the hinterland, and, as a result of their operations, the province of Macedonia was extended eastward into Thrace and northward through Dalmatia.

According to an old practice which dated from the time when the state did not pay its soldiers nor furnish their armor, the legions were, until the time of Gaius Marius [Consul 108-102, 87] , recruited from property-owning citizens. Able-bodied but un-propertied men were ineligible for service in the legion according to the old regime, and Rome, accordingly, found difficulty in making up a respectable levy in time of war. Marius presently took matters into his own hands and called for volunteers 8 from all classes. However, in order to make his levy a success, Marius had spread a report abroad that the state would allot lands to the army after the war. The public lands of Italy were gone, but he proposed to give his men whatever public lands the state owned in Greece and Macedonia. The senate opposed the scheme, and riots ensued, in which the tribune acted with such violence that Marius himself had to throw in his support with the senate.

Claudius Gothicus [Claudius II, not to be confused with Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, r 41-54 AD, the third Julio-Claudian emperor] was about 54 years of age when he ascended the throne in AD 268. He was of humble origin, and had risen by his military abilities to high offices of trust under the emperors Decius, Valerian, and Gallienus. In the arduous task which Claudius had undertaken of restoring the empire to its ancient splendour, it was first necessary to revive among his troops a sense of' order and obedience. With the authority of a veteran commander, he represented to them that the relaxation of discipline had introduced a long train of disorders. He painted in the most lively colours the exhausted state of the treasury, the desolation of the provinces, the disgrace of the Roman name, and the insolent triumph of rapacious barbarians.

The various nations of Germany and Sarmatia who fought under the Gothic standard had already collected an armament more formidable than any which had yet issued from the Euxine (a.d. 269). They sailed with an immense fleet into the ^Egean Sea, anchored at length near the foot of Mount Athos, and assaulted the city of Thessalonica, the wealthy capital of all the Macedonian provinces. Their attacks were soon interrupted by the rapid approach of Claudius. Impatient for battle, the Goths immediately broke up their camp, relinquished the siege of Thessalonica, left their navy at the foot of Mount Athos, traversed the hills of Macedonia, and pressed forwards to engage the last defence of Italy. In the neighbourhood of Naissus, a city of Dardania, the emperor gained a decisive victory over this host of barbarians, who are said to have lost 50,000 men. But this victory, though it greatly weakened, did not crush the Goths. The war was diffused over the provinces of Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia.

The Roman world was divided between Constantine and Licinius, the former of whom was master of the West, and the latter of the East. A year had scarcely elapsed after the death of Maximin, before the victorious emperors turned their arms against each other (AD 314). The successive defeats of Licinius had ruined his forces, but they had displayed his courage and abilities; and, accordingly, when he sued for peace, the good sense of Constantine preferred a great and certain advantage to a third trial of the chance of arms. He consented to leave Licinius in the possession of Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt; but the provinces of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Dacia, Macedonia, and Greece, were yielded to the Western empire.

According to the plan of government instituted by Diocletian, the four princes had each their Praetorian prefect; and after the monarchy was once more united in the person of Constantine, he still continued to create the same number of Four Præfects, and intrusted to their care the same provinces which they already administered. The important provinces of Pannonia, Dacia, Macedonia, and Greece, once acknowledged the authority of the prefect of Illyricum. By 330 AD the civil government of the empire was distributed into thirteen great Dioceses, each of which equalled the just measure of a powerful kingdom. The first of these dioceses was subject to the jurisdiction of the count of the East. The place of Augustal prcefect of Egypt was no longer filled by a Roman knight; but the name was retained. The eleven remaining dioceses — of Asians, Politics, and Thrace; of Macedonia, Dacia, and Pannonia, or Western Illyricum; of Italy and Africa: of Gaul, Spain, and Britain — were governed by twelve vicars or vice-præfects,* whose name sufficiently explains the nature and dependence of their office.

The Sarmatians, who are first mentioned by Herodotus under the name of Sauromatae, are the ancestors of the modern Slavonians. The greater part of the distressed nation implored the protection and forgiveness of the emperor, and solemnly promised the most inviolable fidelity to the empire which should graciously receive them into its bosom. According to the maxims adopted by Probus and his successors, the offers of this barbarian colony were eagerly accepted; and a competent portion of lands in the provinces of Pannonia, Thrace, Macedonia, and Italy, were immediately assigned for the habitation and subsistence of 300,000 Sarmatians (AD 334).

The emperor Gratian was far advanced on his march towards the plains of Hadrianople when he was informed that his colleague had been slain in battle, and that two-thirds of the Roman army were exterminated by the sword of the victorious Goths. The great Theodosius, a name celebrated in history and dear to the catholic church, was summoned to the Imperial court at Sirmium, and was compelled to accept, amidst the general acclamations, the diadem, the purple, and the equal title of Augustus (AD 379, Jan. 19). The provinces of Thrace, Asia, and Egypt, over which Valens had reigned, were resigned to the administration of the new emperor; but as he was specially intrusted with the conduct of the Gothic war, the Illyrian praefecture was dismembered, and the two great dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia were added to the dominions of the Eastern empire.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2012 16:22:28 ZULU