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Perseus

(179—168 bc)


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(179–168bc),

elder son and legitimate successor of Philip V, was born about 213/2. He took part in his father's campaigns against the Romans and then, as ally of Rome, against the Aetolians. Perseus stood against the pro-Roman policies and royal aspirations of his brother Demetrius (executed for treason by Philip in 180) and succeeded to the throne on Philip's death in 179. After renewing his father's treaty with Rome, he secured his popularity at home with a royal amnesty and set about extending his influence and connections in the Greek world at large. In the early 170s he married Laodice, daughter of Seleucus IV, gave his sister in marriage to Prusias (II) of Bithynia, won the goodwill of Rhodes, and restored Macedon's position in the Delphic Amphictiony. The mid-170s saw his popular involvement in social conflicts in Aetolia and Thessaly, his reduction of Dolopia, and a remarkable tour de force through central Greece. Perseus' success evoked at Rome hostile suspicion, evident from the early 170s and increasing thereafter as Perseus came to be for many an alternative focus to Rome in the states of Greece. Much of the expansion of Perseus' influence was at the expense of Eumenes II of Pergamum, widely and correctly perceived theretofore as supporter of Rome. Eumenes denounced Perseus at length to the Romans (172) and provided them with a series of pretexts for war with Macedon, declared in 171. That Perseus had warlike designs against Rome must be doubted, as his susceptibility to the deceptive diplomacy of Quintus Marcius Philippus in the winter of 172/1 suggests. His aim was to restore the prestige of Macedon in Greece, and a situation wherein ‘the Romans would be chary … of giving harsh and unjust orders to the Macedonians’ (Polyb. 27. 9. 3). Perseus' decision to accept war with Rome has, with reference to the military manpower available to Rome, been viewed as foolish; it has also, with different sort of reason, been compared to the decision of the Greeks in October 1940. His strategy of defence on the Macedonian frontiers was at first successful, and a cavalry victory in 171 revealed a groundswell of support in Greece. But his diplomacy won over only the Illyrian king Genthius, whose support proved of little moment. The Romans entered Macedonia, and the Macedonian phalanx fought its last battle on unfavourable ground at Pydna, on the morrow of the lunar eclipse in June 168. Perseus himself, after firing the royal records, was taken on Samothrace later in the year. He graced the triumphal procession of Lucius Aemilius Paullus in 167 and died in captivity a few years later at Alba Fucens.

Peter Sidney Derow

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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