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Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars (§§41-45)


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of Appian's book on the Syrian War, or Syriaca, have also come down to us. It deals with the war that the Romans and the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great fought in 192-188, but also discusses, as an appendix, the history of the Seleucid Empire. Therefore, the Syriaca is a valuable source for the history of the ancient Near East between the reign of Alexander the Great and the Roman conquest.

The translation was made by Horace White; notes and additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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[§41] In this way [Publius Cornelius] Scipio disdained to notice an accusation unworthy of his career, being wiser, as I think, than Aristides when charged with theft, or Socrates when accused as he was. Each of these under a like calumny made no reply, unless Socrates said what Plato makes him say.[1]

Scipio was more lofty-minded than Epaminondas, too, when he held the office of boeotarch with Pelopidas and one other. The Thebans gave each of them an army and sent them to assist the Arcadians and Messenians, in war against the Lacedaemonians, but recalled them on account of certain calumnies, before they had accomplished what they intended to do. Yet they did not turn over the command to their successors for six months, nor until they had driven out the Lacedaemonian garrisons and substituted Arcadians in their places. Epaminondas had compelled his colleagues to take this course and had undertaken that they should be held guiltless.

When they returned home the prosecuting officers put them on trial for their lives, separately (for the law made it a capital offense to withhold by force a command which had been assigned to another), but the other two escaped punishment by exciting pity and by long speeches, putting the blame on Epaminondas, who had authorized them to say this and who so testified while they were speaking. He was tried last. "I acknowledge," he said, "that I retained the command beyond my time, contrary to law, and that I coerced those whom you have just acquitted. Nor do I deprecate the death penalty, since I have broken the law. I only ask, for my past services, that you inscribe on my tomb, 'Here lies the victor of Leuctra. Although his country had not dared to face this enemy, or even a stranger that wore the Doric cap, he led his fellow-citizens to the very doors of Sparta. His country put him to death for violating the laws for her own good.'"

After saying this he stepped down from the rostrum and offered to surrender his person to those who wished to drag him to punishment. The judges, moved to shame by the speech, and to admiration of the defense, and to reverence for the man who had spoken, did not wait to take the vote, but ran out of the court-room. The reader may compare these cases together as he likes.




[§42] [189] [Gnaeus] Manlius [Vulso], who succeeded Scipio as consul, went to the countries taken from [king] Antiochus [III the Great] and regulated them.

The Tolistoboii, one of the Galatian tribes in alliance with Antiochus, had taken refuge on Mount Olympus in Mysia. With great difficulty Manlius ascended the mountain and pursued them as they fled until he had killed and hurled over the rocks so large a number that it was impossible to count them. He took 40,000 of them prisoners and burned their arms, and as it was impossible to take about with him so many captives while the war was continuing, he gave them to the neighboring barbarians.

Among the Tectosagi and the Trocmi he fell into danger by ambush and barely escaped. He came back against them, however, and found them packed together in a great crowd in camp. He enclosed them with his light-armed troops and rode around ordering his men to shoot them at a distance, but not to come in contact with them. The crowd was so dense that no dart missed its mark. He killed 8000 of them and pursued the remainder beyond the river Halys.

Ariarathes [IV Eusebes], king of Cappadocia, who had sent military aid to Antiochus, became alarmed and sent entreaties, and 200 talents in money besides, by which means he kept Manlius out of his country. The latter returned to the Hellespont with vast treasures, uncounted money, and an army laden with spoils.




[§43] Manlius had done well so far, but he managed very badly afterward. He scorned to go home by water in the summer time. He made no account of the burden he was carrying. He neglected to keep the army in good discipline while on the march, because it was not going to war, but returning home with its spoils. He marched by a long, narrow, and difficult road through Thrace in a stifling heat. Nor did he send word to [king] Philip[V] of Macedonia to meet and escort him. He did not divide his army into parts, so that it might move more lightly and have what was needed more handy. Nor did he keep his baggage in good order for easy defense. He led his army higgledy-piggledy, all strung out, with the baggage in the center of the line, so that neither the vanguard nor the rear-guard could render assistance quickly by reason of the length and narrowness of the road.

So, when the Thracians attacked him in flank from all directions, he lost a large part of the spoils, and of the public money, and of the army itself. He escaped into Macedonia with the remainder --by which means it became very plain how great a service Philip had rendered by escorting the Scipios, and how Antiochus had blundered in abandoning the Chersonesus.

Manlius passed from Macedonia into Thessaly, and thence into Epirus, crossed to Brundusium, dismissed what was left of his army to their homes, and returned to Rome.




[§44] The Rhodians and Eumenes [II Soter], king of Pergamon, were very proud of their share in the alliance against Antiochus. Eumenes set out for Rome in person and the Rhodians sent envoys. The Senate gave to the Rhodians Lycia and Caria, which they took away from them soon afterward, because in the war with Perseus, king of Macedonia, they showed themselves rather favorable to him. They bestowed upon Eumenes all the rest of the territory taken from Antiochus, except the Greek cities in Asia. Of the latter, those that were formerly tributary to Attalus, the father of Eumenes, were ordered to pay tribute to Eumenes, while those which formerly paid to Antiochus were released from tribute altogether and made independent. In this way the Romans disposed of the lands they had gained in the war.

Coin of the Seleucid king Seleucus IV Philopator.
Seleucus IV Philopator

[§45] [3 July 187] Afterward, on the death of Antiochus the Great, his son Seleucus succeeded him. He gave his son Demetrius as a hostage in place of his brother Antiochus [2]. [3 September 175] When the latter arrived at Athens on his way home, Seleucus was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy of a certain Heliodorus, one of the court officers [3]. When Heliodorus sought to possess himself of the government he was driven out by Eumenes [II Soter of Pergamon] and Attalus, who installed Antiochus therein in order to secure his good-will; for, by reason of certain bickerings, they had already grown suspicious of the Romans.

Coin of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Antiochus IV Ephiphanes

Thus Antiochus [IV], the son of Antiochus [III] the Great, ascended the throne of Syria. He was called Epiphanes, "the Illustrious", by the Syrians, because when the government was seized by usurpers he showed himself to be their true sovereign. By cementing the friendship and alliance of Eumenes he governed Syria and the neighboring nations with a firm hand. He appointed Timarchus as satrap of Babylon and Heraclides as treasurer, two brothers, both of whom had been his favorites.[164] He made an expedition against Artaxias, king of Armenia, and took him prisoner.





Appian   :   Roman History   :   Syrian wars   :   part ten




Coin of the Seleucid king Demetrius I Soter.
Demetrius I Soter
Note 1:
Two famous Athenians who were falsely accused: Aristides 'the Just', one of the founders of the Athenian empire, and the philosopher Socrates. The philosopher Plato published a treatise called the Apology of Socrates, but Appian rightly doubts its authenticity.

Note 2:
Antiochus III was succeeded by his oldest son Seleucus IV Philopator. His younger brother Antiochus lived in Rome as a hostage, but returned to Syria when the new king had sent his son Demetrius. After the death of Seleucus in 175, Antiochus became king: Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the bęte noire of the Books of the Maccabees. Demetrius became king too. After the brief reign of Antiochus V Eupator (164-161), Demetrius I Soter accepted the royal diadem (161-150).

Note 3:
This Heliodorus is the same as the man who attempted to take money from the Temple in Jerusalem.





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