Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Hannibal, Antiochus III and the Syrian War

Antiochus III
After his defeat at Zama and his adventures during the Macedonian Wars, continuing his battle against Rome, Hannibal turned up at the court of Antiochus III - 'Antiochus the Great', the Syrian king and ruler of the Seleucid Empire. Here Hannibal was temporarily sheltered from the Romans, although this refuge did not prove to be long-lived.

After Rome had declared Greece free in 196 Antiochus III, King of Seleucid Asia, had reconquered to the East and South, and tried to reassert himself in Greece. The Romans first tried to manage the situation by selling out Rhodes and Pergamum.

Hannibal himself turned up at the court of Antiochus III, the Ruler of Syria (Seleucid dynasty). Possibly due to Hannibal's desire to attack Rome by taking advantage of the simmering resentment against Rome in Greece and certainly with the incitement of he Aetolians, Antiochus and Hannibal invaded Thrace (in Greece) in 192.

The invasion force consisted of an army of 10,500 Syrian troops who were joined by 4000 troops from the Aetolian league. However, the rest of Greece took no part, making it ultimately a futile gesture that merely inflamed the Romans without having a chance of achieving anything substantial.  The Roman forces already in Greece took the initiative without even calling for reinforcements from Italy. The combined invading force was outflanked and defeated at the famous location of Thermopylae in 191. Antiochus and Hannibal fled from Europe.

There were further battles at Corycus (191), with the Rhodians at Side (190); the Rhodians also saved the Roman fleet at Myonessus.
In 189 Scipio Africanus and his brother, the (possibly incompetent) consul Lucius Scipio, destroyed Antiochus' fleet, chased him back to Asia Minor, and defeated him at Magnesia - Hannibal was present at this crushing defeat.

The Treaty of Apamea in 188 BC marked the end of the war and was a peace treaty between the Roman Republic and Antiochus III (no longer hailed as 'the Great' one suspects). The Romans forced Antiochus to pay the largest fine recorded from the ancient world—15,000 talents. Antiochus also had to relinquish most of his ships and his war elephants and withdraw his troops from Asia Minor to his capital at Antioch in Syria.

Most of Antiochus' coastal possessions were handed over to Eumenes II, King of Pergamum, who now controlled most of Asia Minor (but would need Roman aid in order to control his subjects). Rhodes also received territory on the mainland opposite their island.

By the end of 188 BC there were no Roman forces east of Italy, although they continued to have much influence hereafter; the Greeks went to Rome seeking favours.

After these victories, Roman commanders became increasingly arrogant and ruthless in their dealings with the Greek world. They intervened in domestic political struggles, almost invariably on the side of the aristocrats, who were usually wealthy landowners.

Rome gave some formerly independent Greek cities to Pergamum, without appeal. Rome was no more a champion of Greek liberty than any other person or power who claimed to be. Rome took no land, just wanted money - and Hannibal. But Hannibal had fled to the court of King Prusias I of Bithynia.

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