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Philopoemen

(c. 253—182 bc)


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(c.253–182bc),

son of Craugis of Megalopolis, statesman and general of the Achaean Confederacy, called ‘the last of the Greeks’ by an anonymous Roman. Philopoemen's first known activity dates from the 220s, when he helped defend Megalopolis against the Spartan king Cleomenes III (223) and impressed Antigonus III Doson at the battle of Sellasia. He subsequently spent ten years in Crete as mercenary captain, perhaps serving Macedonian interests. During the First Macedonian War as hipparch (cavalry commander) of the Confederacy (209) and twice strategos (chief magistrate and general: 208/7 and 206/5) he defeated and killed the Spartan ruler Machanidas at Mantinea (207). Under Nabis Sparta continued to trouble the Peloponnese. Philopoemen campaigned against him both as volunteer (202/1) and as strategos (201/299) and, after six more years in Crete, again as strategos (193/2) when, after Nabis' murder by the Aetolians, he united Sparta with the Confederacy, against Flamininus' wishes.

Sparta's entry to the Confederacy raised the problem of dealing with the masses of Spartans exiled by the social-revolutionary regimes of the last generation. Philopoemen wished to restore only Achaean supporters, but by adopting an uncompromising hostility to traditional Spartan concerns (in 188, after massacring a group of exiles at Compasion, he destroyed Sparta's city-walls and dismantled the characteristic education (agōgē) and legal systems, replacing them with Achaean institutions) he provoked opposition even among Achaean friends in Sparta. Spartan opponents appealed against Achaean policies to the Roman senate, which repeatedly suggested solutions, all of which Philopoemen and his supporters (especially Lycortas) rejected—indeed, they refused on principle to recognize any Roman competence in Achaean internal affairs, since Rome had formally recognized Achaean independence by granting a treaty. This rigorous and offensive attitude split Achaean politics also on this issue (Aristaenus, Callicrates), but Philopoemen died before a solution was reached. He was said to have been poisoned after being captured by renegade Messenians (182). At his public funeral Lycortas' son Polybius carried the urn and later wrote a biography (not extant), and defended his memory in his Histories.

R. M. Errington

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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