Philip V – The Butcher of Hellas


In the spring of 205, Philip began to rebuild his navy. He concentrated his efforts upon amassing a sea power far larger than the one he had burned in Illyria in 214. He acquired the services of an Ætolian named, Diarchus, who set out at once to raid and plunder the islands of The Cyclades in order to raise money to finance Philip’s shipbuilding. As Philip was operating in The Agean, outside their area of interest, The Romans took no notice of his piratical depredations,

By 202, he had acquired a formidable sea force and began to attack the Greek cities to the east without provocation. One by one, the islands and cities began to fall to him throughout the Greek world. His attacks upon the grain importing cities on The Black Sea and in The Hellespont and Propontis can only indicate his intention to control all of Hellas from the sea. He captured Thassos and defeated the fleet of Rhodes. He took Samos from Ptolemy and descended upon Ionia where he went far enough inland to ravage the lands of his old enemy, Attalus Of Pergamon. Philip, “The Beloved Of Hellas”, was re named, “The Butcher Of Hellas”.

Attalus, Byzantium, Rhodes, and Chios formed an alliance against Philip and dealt him a disastrous defeat in a great sea battle off the coast of Chios, More lives were lost in this battle than in any previous battle and Philip lost half of his fleet. He barely managed to get the remains of his forces safely to the mainland of Asia Minor where the Rhodians and Attalus blockaded him in the port of Bargylia in Caria.

Up to now, Philip’s activities had not concerned Rome. The war with Carthage seemed to have turned in her favor and with the victory over Hannibal at Zamia, in 202, she appeared to have gained the upper hand. Philip had not crossed Roman interests until he attacked Attalus, their old friend and ally. Pergamon and Rhodes appealed to Rome.

The crafty Philip slipped through the blockade at Bargylia and returned to Greece where he, at once, became involved in a war between Attica and Arcarnania, an area southwest of Macedon and south of Epiros, with whom he was allied. Philip sent troops to ravage the Attic countryside.

Attalus Of Pergamon, now in his 70s, had chased Philip back to Greece and was quartered off the coast of Attica on Ægina. When the Athenians invited him to visit their city, he readily accepted in the knowledge that there was a Roman delegation already in the city to investigate the situation. With the assurance of aid from Rome, Pergamon, and Rhodes, Athens declared war upon Macedon.

Philip at once reacted by setting up a base of operations an Euboea and began, once again, to ravage the Attic countryside. The Rhodians had already set sail for The Agean to clean out the Macedonians remaining there and Attalus returned at once to Ægina. With no allies to aid them, The Athenians could do little more than watch as Philip’s army marched right up to their walls with the Roman delegates still in the city.

After carefully avoiding conflict with Rome when she was at her weakest, Philip now confronted her in her gathering might.

Rome did not negotiate.

An ultimatum was delivered to Philip which simply ordered him to cease attacking any and all Greek states and to settle with Attalus for damages done to him. It was an order de haute en bas which required, not an answer, but rather submission. Philip’s immediate and predictable reaction was to renew his attack upon Attica. In hindsight, it seems suicidal madness or phenomenal stupidity but Philip did not know Rome.

Leaving his general, Nicanor, to conduct the Attic war, Philip once again descended upon The Hellespont through which the grain which fed Athens passed.He would cut off her food supply from the north. In the summer of 200. he besieged the city of Abydos who’s citizens committed suicide en masse rather than face the mercies of The Butcher Of Hellas. While before the walls of Abydos, another Roman delegation headed by Marcus Æmelius Lepidus, arrived with a second ultimatum which restated the first with the addition that Philip would also pay damages to Rhodes and refrain from attacking Egypt as he had done by taking Samos from Ptolemy. Philip rejected the Roman demands out of hand telling Lepidus that if The Romans wanted war, The Macedones would accommodate temple left immediately and Philip, after depopulating the city of Abydos, returned to Macedon.

It was the year 200 BCE. and Rome had just ended the 18 years of The Second Punic War which had cost her dearly in more than money. It took two attempts to pass a formal declaration of war with Macedon but it was passed and duly ratified by the comitia centuriata. The doors of The Temple Of Janus were reopened. A Roman army landed in Illyria at Apollonia. The Roman navy stood ready off Corcyra. The ultimate doom of Macedon as a nation began to unfold.