Ancient Warfare VIII Issue 6: The Savage Captor: Taken Captive, the Roman conquest of Greece.

Ancient Warfare VIII Issue 6: The Savage Captor: Taken Captive, the Roman conquest of Greece.

Ancient Warfare VIII Issue 6: The Savage Captor: Taken Captive, the Roman conquest of Greece.

For most of Ancient Greek history the rising power of Rome barely rates a mention. The Romans first came to Greek attention after their wars against King Pyrrhus of Epirus in southern Italy, starting in 280 BC. The first Roman intervention east of the Adriatic was an attack on Illyrian pirates in 230-228 BC. The first serious Roman intervention in Greece didn’t come until the Second Macedonian War (200-196 BC). This was the turning point - the Romans defeated the Macedonians at Cynoscephalae in 197, a victory that established them as a major power in Greece. Over the next fifty years they went from one power amongst many to being the dominant power in Greek, with victories at Pydna in the heart of Macedonia in 168 BC and the destruction of Corinth in 146 BC standing out. These wars produced one of the great historians, Polybius, who was a Greek taken to Rome in 167 BC as a hostage, where he made contacts with many within the Roman elite. One purpose of his work was to try and explain how Rome had risen to such great power in a comparatively short period of time.

A key feature of Greek accounts of this conquest is the brutality of Roman warfare. The articles here provide a series of reasons for that, but the ironically the most important is that the Romans didn’t come as conquerors. What they wanted was a stable peaceful Greece to act as an eastern buffer. As a result they weren't interesting in capturing cities intact, but instead were more willing than their Greek opponents to sack and destroy cities. Greek and Hellenistic commanders also saw their opponent's troops as potential recruits, whereas Roman commanders had plenty of men available in Italy.

Other articles on the theme look at the Greek attitude to Roman warfare, the Roman monument at Delhi to their victory of Pydna, with a Latin inscription, the key battle of Cynoscephalae and a comparison of Roman and Macedonian infantry equipment.

Away from the main theme there is a biography of Philopoemon, a Greek general of the same period who spent most of his life fighting on Crete or against the Spartans, a reminder that the Greeks were still producing great commanders even as the Romans began to end their independence. There is also a look at the role of weapons in normal Greek society, and how political elites controlled the distribution of weapons to the wider population.

Further away from the theme is a look at the role of women in Iberia, Gaul, Britain and Germany between 300 BC and 100 AD, a wide time span forced by the lack of sources. Roles included leadership, providing encouragement (both before and during the battle), religious leadership and diplomacy.

Finally there is a look at the Roman recovery of eastern Gaul in 356-9 AD, one of the last successes of the Western Empire, and a sign that it still had some vitality even close to the end.

Set in stone: The Pydna monument at Delphi
The basest violence and lawlessness: Greek reactions to Roman warfare
Soldiers of Rome: Two Roman legionaries of the Republic
The last of the Greeks: Philopoemen
The Dog's Head: The Battle of Cynoscephalae, 197 BC
Arms make the man: Weapons, armour and Greek society
Pilum vs Pike: Equipment of the Roman-Macedonian Wars
Fight like a woman: Women and warfare in the Late Iron Age
Recovery of Eastern Gaul: Julian's campaigns against the Germans

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