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War of Rome with Achaean League

(146 BCE)


Shield wall - an array usually used by hoplites

After defeating Andriscus, Rome left troops in the Balkans with the intention of dealing with the Achaean League, where anti-Roman attitudes intensified. Over the past decades, the Union has been the strongest federal organization in Greece.

His attempts to subordinate policies that opposed his domination, such as Sparta, came to the opposition of the Romans, who were satisfied with the world of individual policies, traditionally divided and ongoing disputes. In addition, in the cities of the federation, there was a vivid memory of the internment of the Union’s elites and purges carried out by Rome in Greece after the Third Macedonian War. In the cities of the Union, as well as throughout Helladia, demands for independence from the Republic resounded ever more strongly. The Achaean, like other Greek policies, supported the Romans during the war with Andriscus, but after the first successes of the Macedonian usurper, the Achaean politicians decided to take advantage of Rome’s weakening.

At that time, the Achaean strategist Kalikrates died, called by historians “ancient Quisling” because of his extremely pro-Roman attitude. This event paved the way for independent Achaean leaders such as Diajos and Kritolaos. Also in other Greek policies, representatives of the independence camp took power, and spokesmen of Rome, installed thereafter the battle of Pydna, was removed from the helm of government.

Beginning of conflict


Roman officers. 1-tribune, 2-standard-bearer, 3-legate.

The tension between the Greeks and Rome escalated in 148 BCE when the authorities of the Achaean League issued the Sparta war against the will of the senate. Despite the orders of Roman MPs to stop the fighting and to submit to arbitration in Rome, the Achaeans fought a victorious battle with the Spartans, putting dead bodies of 1000 enemy soldiers. However, for fear of the power of the Tiber, they did not decide to get Sparta alone.

Annoyed senators sent a commission to Corinth, headed by Lucius Aurelius Orestes. The legates made unbelievable demands to the Achaeans: recognition of the independence of the cities that were part of the Achaean League – Sparta, Corinth, Herakia Trachinska, Argos and Orchomenos. They argued that these policies had previously belonged to Philip V, and their residents were not Achaia. Fulfilling these demands in practice meant the end of the Union. Senators knew well that this ultimatum would cause indignation among the Achaeans. It also happened – the Spartans who were in Corinth at that time became the object of attacks, and the Roman deputies themselves, insulted by the people, barely escaped with their lives.

For now, however, the Romans did not want to start hostilities in the Balkans, because they needed troops on other fronts – in Spain, and above all within the walls of Carthage. At the time, however, a conflict could still have been avoided, since moderate politicians exercised power in the Achaean League. They sent a message to the Tiber to apologize for the brawls in Corinth and to insult the Roman legates. Envoys headed by Thearidas met Roman legates along the way, headed by Sextus Julius Caesar. He called on the deputy of Thearidas to go with him to the Peloponnese. Negotiations took place in Ajgion, but Kritolaos was already the strategist of the Achaean League, pursuing a policy of confrontation with the Republic. The talks were at a standstill – neither the Achai nor the Romans reached an agreement. It was agreed that the Achaia would send a message to Rome, and the Sparta case would be discussed in Tegei. However, the delegates of Sparta and Rome waited in vain for the arrival of the Achaean representatives in this city, and when Kritolaos himself arrived, they heard from him that it was necessary to wait for the resolution of the union’s assembly, which is to take place in … half a year. The meeting of the Achaean League was convened in the spring of 146 BC, the Prime Minister of Macedonia, through his emissaries, through his emissaries, warned the Achaia against secession with Rome, the however anti-Roman sentiment was very common in Corinth. If you believe Polibiusz, representatives of the lower classes of society were hostile towards the Republic, who, unlike the rich Achaia, did not have much to lose. Roman MPs were again insulted and banished from the city. The attitude of the council of elders trying to stop Kritolaos no longer helped. He accused his opponents of espionage of Rome. Sparta was issued to the war, which meant an armed confrontation with the Romans. Kritolaos, who was in fact equipped with monarchical power, headed the entire movement.

Achaean-Roman war


Kritolaos headed by small forces headed for Herakleja Trachińska. He received the support of Thebes, the Union of Beocki, Fockeyians, East Lokres and Eubean Chalkis policies. The Romans sent a consular army of Lucius Mummius against the rebels (2 legions supported by Italian reinforcements – 20,000 soldiers in total). Meanwhile, Praetor Metellus headed south and, after crossing the Sperchejos River, surprised Kritolaos’ troops. Frightened by the emergence of a new Roman army, he ordered a retreat to Elatea. The clash took place near Skarfaefa, where Kritolaos’ army was cut down and its commander-in-chief fell. A 1,000-strong detachment of Arkadians led by Diajos, going to the aid of Kritolaos, received news of the pogrom of his army under Elataa. The Arkadians began their retreat, but they suffered a devastating defeat at Cheronea. Another squad of Achaea from Patraj was defeated in Lokrid by the legionnaires of Metellus. The Roman commander seized the unprotected Thebes, but generously spared his inhabitants.

Despite a series of devastating defeats, the Achaeans did not lose their spirit. Their commander Diajos sent 4,000 armed men under the command of Alkamenes to protect Megara, and himself ordered the concentration of all Achaean League troops on Corinthian Istrian. He ordered every policy to send armed slaves to the place of concentration. As you can see, the insurgents lost the support of the richer polis strata. By the way, real and alleged supporters of the Romans were dealt with – they were executed or thrown into prison. In this way, Diajos rejected any deal with Metellus. The latter headed south, forcing Achaeas easily to step down from Megara. Metellus was still trying to deal with Istma because he wanted to end the war before the senate sent a new commander. When they sent Consul Mummius to Metellus patres, he was no longer thinking about arrangements.

The decision took place at Leukopetra in Istma at the turn of August and September 146 BC. In the first phase of the battle, the Achaean defeated the front guard of Mummius, chasing her to the very outskirts of the Roman camp. However, when the battle took place, there could be only one result. Greek horsemen chased the sight of the Roman cavalry several times more numerous. The Achaean hoplites left on the battlefield with grim bravery resisted the legionaries until elite Roman soldiers rushed to their flank. Then Diajos’s warriors rushed to escape, mercilessly cut out by the Romans. Diajos himself, seeing that all was lost, returned to his native Megalopolis, killed his wife and took his own life. Remnants of the insurgent army gathered near Corinth, but there was no resistance. It was the Corinthians who opened the city gates to the legions! Mummius, however, postponed entering Corinth for three days, because he feared an ambush. When the legions finally entered the city, they slaughtered the survivors in it. Women and children were sold into captivity. The city was spent on looting and flames. Numerous works of art were taken to Rome. There was a dispute among historians about the reason for the Romans’ behaviour. It was thought that this was a conscious action, calculated to destroy the competition for Roman merchants, which was Corinth. There is no doubt that the destruction of the city was intended to cast terror on other Hellas polis and to make the Greeks aware of the inevitability of Roman rule.

Greek states after 146 BC


Ruins of ancient Corinth.

Part of the territory of Corinth was given to Sykion, the rest received the status of ager publicus. Leading repression fell on the leading supporters of the uprising – they were executed and their property confiscated. The Romans also deprived the defensive walls of Thebes and Chalkis. In this last city, the executioners of citizens recognized by the Romans as enemies were handed over. The winners took numerous works of art from Tespia, probably the city of Beocja met a similar fate. Even the statues of Philo-Boy were sent to Rome as prey. However, thanks to the intervention of Polybius, who was acquainted with the Roman elite, these sculptures were to be returned to the Greeks. Some cities that took part in the war against Rome were charged with tribute. Greek policies fighting on the wrong side were subjected to the control of the governor of Macedonia, and the Achaean League, Beotia, and East Locris and Phocis were liquidated. Only after some time they were recreated, however, their competences did not go beyond the religious and local sphere. The Achaean League was territorially stripped down, and the oligarchs ruled it according to the will of the senate. However, it seems that Roman authorities generally did not interfere in the internal policy of Greek policies. They did not try to force the system of oligarchs everywhere. As a result of subordinating some policies to the governors of Macedonia, the model of Greek contacts with the Roman authorities changed.

From then on, the Hellenes could appeal to the governor of Macedonia in important matters, and not directly to Rome. The Achaean war has adversely affected the economic situation of cities supporting Kritolaos. However, not all Greeks felt the consequences of this conflict. Research suggests that lands such as Athens, Messenia, Delphi or Delos did not experience any deep economic collapse during this period. As you can see, Roman politicians tried to implement the principle of “divide and rule”. It was about creating economic and legal differences between individual city-states in order to make it difficult for them to form a common front against the Republic in the future.

Author: Marcin Bąk

Sources

  • Bravo B., Wipszycka E., Historia starożytnych Greków, t. III, Warszawa 1992
  • Kęciek K., Wojny macedońskie, Warszawa 2012
  • Carry M., Scullard H. H., Dzieje Rzymu. Od czasów najdawniejszych do Konstantyna, Warszawa 1992

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