1 ABOUT this time almost all the kingdoms of the world underwent alterations, in consequence of a succession of new princes. In Macedonia, Philip, on the death of Antigonus his guardian, who was also his father-in-law, assumed the government at the age of fourteen. In Asia, after Seleucus was killed,1 Antiochus, though still in his minority, was made king. In Cappadocia, the father of Ariarathes, yet a boy, had resigned the sovereignty to him. Of Egypt Ptolemy had made himself master, after putting to death his father and mother; from which crime he had afterwards the surname of Philopator.2 As for the Spartans, they had elected Lycurgus in the room of Cleomenes. And that no changes might be wanting at that period, Hannibal, at a very early age, was appointed general of the Carthaginians, not for want of older men, but because of his hatred to the Romans, with which they knew that he had been imbued from his boyhood; the mischief that he did, however, was not so pernicious to the Romans as to Africa itself. In these youthful rulers, although they had no directors of maturer years, yet, as each was anxious to tread in the steps of his predecessors, great talent and ability appeared. Ptolemy was the only exception, who reckless as he had been in the attainment of power, was equally remiss in the administration of it. As to Philip, the Dardanians, and all the neighbouring people, who cherished. as it were, an immortal hatred to the kings of the Macedonians, were perpetually molesting him in contempt of his youth. He, on the other hand, after repulsing his enemies, was not content with having defended his own dominions, but manifested the greatest eagerness to make war upon the Aetolians.
2 While he was meditating this enterprise, Demetrius king of the Illyrians, who had lately been conquered by Aemilius Paulus, the Roman consul, applied to him with earnest entreaties for aid, and complaints of the injustice of the Romans, “who,” he said, “not content within the limits of Italy, but grasping, with presumptuous hopes, at the empire of the whole world, made war upon all kings. Thus, aspiring to the dominion of Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain, and finally to that of all Africa, they had engaged in a war with the Carthaginians and Hannibal; and that hostilities had been directed against himself too, for no other reason than that he appeared to lie near Italy, as if it were unlawful for any king to be on the borders of their empire. And that Philip also himself must take warning by his case, since the nearer3 and more valuable his kingdom, the more determined enemies would he find the Romans to be.” In addition, he said, that “he would give up his kingdom, which the Romans had seized, to Philip himself as he should be better pleased to see his ally, rather than his enemies, in possession of his dominions " With such representations as these, he prevailed upon Philip to lay aside his designs on the Aetolians, and to make war upon the Romans; Philip supposing that there would be the less difficulty in the undertaking, as he had heard that they had already been beaten by Hannibal at the lake Trasimenus. Not to be distracted, therefore, with more than one war at the same time, he concluded a peace with the Aetolians, not as if intending to carry war elsewhere, but as if he wished to promote the tranquillity of Greece, “which,” he asserted, “had never been in greater danger, as the new empires of the Carthaginians and Romans were rising in the west, who forbore from attacking Greece and Asia only till they should decide their dispute for the sovereignty by the sword, when the superior power of the two would immediately invade the east.
3 “He contemplated therefore,” he said, “that cloud of cruel and sanguinary war which was rising in Italy; he contemplated the storm roaring and thundering from the west, which, to whatever parts of the world the tempest of victory might carry it, would pollute everything with a vast shower of blood. That Greece had frequently felt great disturbances at one time from the wars of the Persians, at another from those of the Gauls, at another from those of the Macedonians, but that they would think all those to have been but trifling, if the force, which was now collecting in Italy, should once pour itself forth from that country. He saw what cruel and bloody conflicts those two powers were maintaining with each other, with all the strength of their forces, and all the abilities of their generals; and that such fury could not end with the destruction of one party only, without ruin to the neighbouring people. That the cruel resolutions of the conquerors, it was true, were less to be dreaded by Macedonia than by Greece; for Macedonia was both more remote, and better able to defend itself; but he knew that those who contended with such spirit would not be content with Greece as a limit to their conquests, and that he himself should have to fear a conflict with the party that should get the advantage.” Concluding, on this pretext, the war with the Aetolians, and thinking of nothing else but the contest of the Carthaginians and Romans, he carefully weighed the strength of each. But neither did the Romans, with the Carthaginians4 and Hannibal on their necks, appear free from apprehension of Macedonia; indeed, both the ancient valour of the Macedonians, their glory in having conquered the east, and the character of Philip, who was fired with the ambition of rivalling Alexander, and whom they knew to be active and eager for the field, gave them sufficient cause for alarm.
4 Philip, as soon as he heard that the Romans had been defeated by the Carthaginians in a second battle, openly declared himself their enemy, and began to build ships for transporting an army into Italy. He then sent a deputy to Hannibal with a letter, with the view of forming an alliance with him. This deputy was taken prisoner, and brought before the senate, but released unharmed; not from respect to the king, but that one who appeared still undetermined might not be rendered a decided enemy. But afterwards, when news was brought to the Romans that Philip was preparing to transport troops into Italy, they despatched the praetor Laevinus, with a well appointed fleet, to hinder him from crossing.
Laevinus, sailing over to Greece, prevailed on the Aetolians, by making them numerous promises, to take up arms against Philip, who, on his side, solicited the Achaeans to go to war with the Romans. Meanwhile the Dardanians began to ravage the country of Macedonia, and, carrying off twenty thousand prisoners, recalled Philip from his war with the Romans to defend his own territories. At the same time the praetor Laevinus, having made an alliance with king Attalus, proceeded to lay waste Greece; of which the several states, dismayed at such calamities, importuned Philip with embassies for succour; while the princes of the Illyrians, sticking close to his side, demanded, with constant solicitations, the performance of his promises to them. In addition, the plundered Macedonians called on him for vengeance. Beset by such and so many difficulties, he was in doubt to what he should first turn his attention; but he promised them all to send them assistance shortly; not that he was able to do what he promised, but in order to keep them, by feeding them with hopes, in the bond of alliance with him. His first expedition, however, was against the Dardanians, who, watching for his absence, were ready to fall on Macedonia with a still heavier force. He made peace, too, with the Romans, who were well content to put off war with Macedonia for a time. He laid a plot, moreover, for the life of Philopoemen, strategus of the Achaeans, who, he understood, was soliciting some of his allies to join the Romans; but Philopoemen, having discovered and escaped the plot, induced the Achaeans, by the influence which he had with them, to abandon Philip’s cause.
1 Interfecto Seleuco.] See the end of book xxviii. This was Seleucus II, named Callinicus.
2 Father-loving, ironically.
3 Wetzel has promptius in his text, with most other editors, but in his note, prefers propius, which appears in some editions.
4 All the editions have Sed nec Romani, tametsi Poeni et Hannibal in cervicibus erant, &c. But tametsi, as Wetzel notices, has no place here. Six of the old editions, he adds, have quibus instead of it.