previous next


The Romans cross the Adriatic -- Antiochus occupies Thermopylæ -- Battle at Thermopylæ -- Antiochus defeated -- Flees to Asia -- The two Scipios sent against him

[17] The Romans crossed hastily from Brundusium to Apollonia with the forces that were then ready, being 2000 horse, 20,000 foot, and a few elephants, under the command of Acinius Manius Glabrio. They marched to Thessaly and relieved the besieged cities. They expelled the enemy's garrisons from the towns of the Athamanes and made a prisoner of that Philip of Megalopolis who was still expecting the throne of Macedonia. They also captured about 3000 of the soldiers of Antiochus. While Manius was doing these things, Philip made a descent upon Athamania and brought the whole of it under subjection, King Amynander fleeing to Ambracia. When Antiochus learned these facts, he was terrified by the rush of events and by the suddenness of the change of fortune, and he now perceived the wisdom of Hannibal's advice. He sent messenger after messenger to Asia to hasten the coming of Polyxenidas. Then from all sides he drew in what forces he had. These amounted to 10,000 foot and 500 horse of his own, besides some allies, with which he occupied Thermopylæ in order to put this difficult pass between himself and the enemy while waiting for the arrival of his army from Asia. The passage at Thermopylæ is long and narrow, flanked on the one side by a rough and inhospitable sea and on the other by a deep and impassable morass. It is overhung by two mountain peaks, one called Tichius and the other Callidromus. The place also contains some hot springs, whence comes the name Thermopylæ (the Hot Gates).

[18] There Antiochus built a double wall on which he placed engines. He sent Ætolian troops to occupy the summits of the mountains to prevent anybody from coming around secretly by way of the hill called Atropos, as Xerxes had come upon the Spartans under Leonidas, the mountain paths at that time being unguarded. One thousand Ætolians occupied each mountain. The remainder encamped by themselves near the city of Heraclea. When Manius saw the enemy's preparations he gave the signal for battle on the morrow and ordered two of his tribunes, Marcus Cato and Lucius Valerius, to select such forces as they pleased and to go around the mountains by night and drive the Ætolians from the heights as best they could. Lucius was repulsed from Mount Tichius by the Ætolians, who at that place fought well, but Cato, who moved against Mount Callidromus, fell upon the enemy while they were still asleep, about the last watch. Nevertheless there was a stiff fight here, as he was obliged to climb over high rocks and precipices in the face of an opposing enemy. Meantime Manius was leading his army against Antiochus' front in straight lines, as this was the only way possible in the narrow pass. The king placed his light-armed troops and peltasts in front of the phalanx, and drew up the phalanx itself in front of the camp, with the archers and slingers on the right hand next to the foot-hills, and the elephants, with the guard that always accompanied them, on the left near the sea.1

[19] Battle being joined, the light-armed troops assailed Manius first, rushing in from all sides. He received their onset bravely, first yielding and then advancing and driving them back. The phalanx opened and let the light-armed men pass through. It then closed and pushed forward, the long pikes set densely together in order of battle, with which the Macedonians from the time of Alexander and Philip have struck terror into enemies who have not dared to encounter the thick array of long pikes presented to them. At this juncture the Ætolians were seen fleeing from Callidromus with loud cries, and leaping down into the camp of Antiochus. At first neither side knew what had happened, and there was confusion among both in their uncertainty but when Cato made his appearance pursuing the Ætolians with shouts of victory and was already close above the camp of Antiochus, the king's forces, who had been hearing for some time back fearful accounts of the Roman style of fighting, and who knew that they themselves had been enervated by idleness and luxury all winter, took fright. Not knowing how large Cato's force was, it was magnified to their minds by terror. Fearing for the safety of their camp they fled to it in disorder, with the intention of defending it against the enemy. But the Romans were close at their heels and entered the camp with them. Then there was another flight of the Antiocheans as disorderly as the first. Manius pursued them as far as Scarphia, killing and taking prisoners. Returning thence he plundered the king's camp, and by merely showing himself drove out the Ætolians who had broken into the Roman camp during his absence.

[20] The Romans lost about 200 in the battle and the pursuit; Antiochus about 10,000, including prisoners. The king himself, at the first sign of defeat, fled precipitately with 500 horse as far as Elateia, and from Elateia to Chalcis, and thence to Ephesus with his bride Eubœa, as he called her, with his ships; but not all of them, for the Roman admiral made an attack upon some that were bringing supplies, and sunk them. When the people of Rome heard of this victory, so swiftly and easily gained, they offered sacrifice, being satisfied with their first trial of the formidable reputation of Antiochus. To Philip, in return for his services as an ally, they sent his son Demetrius, who was still a hostage in their hands.

[21] While these things were going on in the city, Manius received the supplications of the Phoceans, the Chalcideans, and others who had coöperated with Antiochus, and he relieved their fears. He and Philip ravaged Ætolia and reduced its cities. He captured, in hiding, Democritus, the general of the Ætolians, who had threatened Flamininus that he would pitch his camp on the banks of the Tiber. Manius, with an army laden with baggage and spoils, made his way to Callipolis over Mount Corax, the highest, rockiest, and most difficult in that region. Many soldiers, by reason of the badness of the road, fell over precipices and were dashed in pieces with their arms and accoutrements. Although the Ætolians might have punished them severely, they were nowhere to be seen, having sent an embassy to Rome to treat for peace. In the meantime Antiochus ordered the satraps of upper Asia to send their army down to the coast in all haste, and he fitted out a fleet which he put under the command of Polyxenidas, an exile from Rhodes. He crossed over to Chersonesus and again fortified it. He also strengthened Sestos and Abydos, through which the Roman legions would be obliged to pass if they should invade Asia. He made Lysimacheia his principal magazine for the present war and accumulated large supplies of arms and provisions in it, believing that the Romans would presently attack him with large land and sea forces. The latter appointed Lucius Scipio as the successor of Manius in the command, as he was then consul, but as he was inexperienced in war they appointed as his lieutenant his brother, Publius Scipio, who had humbled the Carthaginian power and who first bore the title of Africanus.

1 The words right and left are transposed in the text. As Antiochus was looking toward Thessaly, his right hand was on the sea-shore and his left against the mountains.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (L. Mendelssohn, 1879)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: