Philip V and The Second Macedonian War


“And Now There Was Rome”

The Roman declaration of war found Philip V in a position of great inferiority to Rome. He had carefully adhered to the treaty of 205 by confining his military activities to The East and could not have expected Roman hostilities. Yet, he had made powerful enemies of Attalus and Rhodes,who worked against him in Rome. He made is fatal error when, in defense of his ally, Arcanania, he broke the treaty and attacked Athens.

In 201, two young men from Arcanania had been executed by the Athenians for having participated in the Eleusian mysteries without having been initiated and the Archananians retaliated by devastating some of the lands of Attica. Philip, as an ally of the Archananians aided them in their raids and thereby provided Rome with the excuse they had been looking for to destroy Macedon. Philip and Macedon, since The Second Punic war had been associated in the Roman mind with the enemy, Carthage. Philip’s vague treaty with Carthage had firmly fixed him in the Roman mind as an enemy of Rome and his hostile actions in Illyria had greatly exacerbated an already bad relationship. Philip had tried valiantly to change the Roman’s perception of Macedon, but had never succeeded in gaining anything more than temporary and grudging approval of his actions.

The Roman mind had been made up and nothing Philip could do would change it. It seems, in the end, he simply accepted that. Rome at once attacked Philip’s outposts in Illyria. His past attempts to establish a seaport on The Adriatic had made Rome irrationally suspicious. Her sea power was far superior to Macedon’s and Philip could pose no threat to her. Still, Rome saw Philip as an enemy. The Romans took the macedonian town of Patrea and massacred it’s inhabitants. Then, using her bases on Corcyra, she blockaded the coast of Epiros. Rome and Macedon began to align allies for the war. the Aetolian League and The Achaean League at once sided with Rome. They were joined by King Amyndandros of Athamania high in The Pindos Range.

While Epiros tried to remain neutral, Arcanania and Corinth allied themselves with Macedon. In 197 Boeotia deserted the Macedonians and allied themselves with Rome. Philip stood alone against Rome; neither of his allies could send any troops. From the beginning Philip was on the defensive. He seems to have realized Rome’s superiority and to have mounted a campaign of delay. Hammond posits that Philip still hoped to come to terms with Rome and avoid a decisive battle.Titus Quinctius Flamininus marched north into Boeotia where he was joined by allied troops from Aetolia, Crete and Athamania. He passed north of Thebes and encamped south of Pharae. Philip, marching south toward Thebes, seemingly unaware of the position of the Romans camped on the north side of the Karadagh hills.

The two armies were now separated only by a low range of hills and, at first, didn’t seem to realize this. Philip and Flamininus both sent troops to forage on the hill tops. There they met.After a few days of skirmishing, both armies were forced to move west in search of water and fodder. With the Karadagh hills between them they came to a place where the tops of the hills were thought to resemble the heads of dogs . The place was called Cynocephalae, “dogs heads”.The battle which was here to ensue was to demonstrate once and for all the superiority of the flexible Roman legion over the Macedonian phalanx which had heretofore been invincible.

Cynocephalae clearly demonstrates the disciplined maneuverability of the Roman legion which now made it the world’s superior military force.The fighting began on a foggy morning in June of 197 when two small opposing forces met by chance on a hilltop. No battle had been planned in the hills; Philip knew that his inferior forces stood a much better chance on flat open ground, but as the mists began to rise, Philip saw the battle on the hilltop and at once sent reinforcements. Flammininus watching from the Roman side did the same. The battle of Cynocephalae was now inevitable.At first, the Macedonians were victorious, routing the Romans and pursuing them down the Roman side of the hill. Philip thought the day was his and sent his phalanx up the Macedonian side of the hill. The advancing phalanx pushed the Romans back over the hill and it appeared as if Philip had the best of the engagement.Then a second legion appeared on another ridge. History does not record the name of its commander, but he outflanked the Macedonians, wheeled his legion in close order, and attacked from the rear.

The heavily armed Macedonian phalanx with their great lances could not face about in order and were cut down to a man in hand to hand combat by the lighter faster Romans. The long history of the invincible Macedonian phalanx was effectively over. The great war machine created by Philip II was no longer the greatest military force on earth and now there was Rome. Philip regrouped what little was left of his army and fled to the pass of Tempe which he could still hold with a small force indefinitely. here news reached him of the defeat of his forces in Caria. His force in Corinth was besieged within the city walls, and the Acarnanians had been defeated.

The war was effectively over and he asked for and was granted a truce of four months for the price of 200 talents and the delivery of his son, Demetrius and some prominent Macedonian citizens to Rome as hostages. The truce offered Philip no respite as it was immediately broken by the Dardanians, allies of Rome, who forthwith marched into upper and central Macedon and began pillaging and devastating the land. Philip’s enemies smelled blood. The canton of Orestis rose in open rebellion. Despite his desperate position Philip was able to raise another army of 6000 infantry and 500 cavalry and to drive the Dardanians out of Macedon.

The Roman senate proposed peace and the terms set by the comitia were delivered to Philip. He was to pay 500 talents at once and 500 more in installments. He was to give up his entire navy keeping only 5 ships. He was to allow the independence of the canton of Orestis and to withdraw all troops in Greece to a position north of Mount Olympus and keep them within the ancient boundaries of Macedon. Philip at this point had no choice; he accepted. Macedon was reduced to the small border state it had been before the reign of Philip II, Rome declared itself the savior of Greece and began the systematic looting of Hellas. They significantly occupied Demetrias, Chalcis, and Corinth which were called, ” the fetters of Greece”.