, (or Γενθιος
--the latter is, according to Schweighäuser, the reading of all the MSS. of Polybius), son of Pleuratus, a king of the Illyrians. contemporary with Perseus, the last king of Macedonia.
He is first mentioned as having incurred the displeasure of the Romans on account of the piracies of his subjects, who infested all the Adriatic, and his answers to their complaints were far from satisfactory. (Liv. 40.42
This was as early as B. C. 180; eight years afterwards, when it was seen that matters were clearly tending to a rupture between the Romans and Perseus, fresh complaints were made against Gentius by the people of the Greek city of Issa, who accused him of joining with the king of Macedonia in preparing war against Rome. (Liv. 42.26
.) Yet it does not appear that any negotiations had actually taken place between them at this time, and it is certain that Gentius did not openly declare in favour of Perseus until long after. Immediately on the breaking out of the war (B. C. 171), fifty-four light vessels belonging to him, which were stationed at Dyrrachium, were seized by the praetor, C. Lucretius, under pretence that they were sent thither to the assistance of the Romans. (Liv. 42.48
It is not clear whether Gentius had yet made up his mind which side he would take: perhaps he was waiting to see the prolable result of the war. Several embassies had been previously sent him by the Romans, but without effect; and it was even said that one of the ambassadors, L. Decimius, had allowed himself to be, bribed by the Illyrian king. (Liv. 42.26
The envoys of Perseus could it first obtain little more success: Gentius represented that he could not stir without money, which the Macedonian king was unwilling to grant; and it was not till the fourth year of the war (B. C. 168) that Perseus, alarmed at the successes of the Remnans, consented to secure the alliance of the Illyrian by the payment of a sum of 300 talents.
A treaty having been concluded on these terms, and confirmed by oaths and the sending of mutual hostages, Gentius allowed himself to be led into acts of direct hostility against the Romanas, before he had actually received the stipulated sum: but as soon as Perseus saw that he was so far committed that he could no longer withdraw from the contest, he immediately recalled the messengers, who had actually set out with the money, and refused to fulfil his agreement. (Plb. 28.8
; Liv. 44.23
.) Yet, though thus scandalously defrauded by his ally, Gentius made no attempt to avert the war, but assembled forces both by sea and land.
The contest was, however, very brief: no sooner had the Roman praetor, L. Anicius, entered Illyricum at the head of an army, than many towns submitted to him. Gentius threw himself into the strong fortress of Scodra; but having been defeated in a combat beneath the walls, he despaired of success, and placed himself at the mercy of the Roman general.
The whole war is said to have been terminated within the space of thirty days. Anicius spared the life of his captive, but sent him to Rome, together with his wife and children, to adorn the triumph which he celebrated the following year (B. C. 167). From thence Gentius was sent a prisoner to Spoletium, where he probably ended his days in captivity. (Liv. xliv, 30-32, 45.43; Plb. 30.13
; Appian, App. Ill. 9
; Eutrop. 4.6
According to Polybius, Gentius was immoderately given to drinking, which inflamed his naturally cruel and violent disposition, and led him to commit great excesses. Soon after his accession he put to death his brother, Pleuratus, who had been engaged to marry Etuta, the daughter of a Dardanian prince, and kept the intended bride for himself. (Plb. 29.5
; Liv. 44.30
He subsequently married a princess of the name of Etleva, who was sent captive to Rome together with him. (Liv. 44.32
According to Pliny (Plin. Nat. 25.34
) and Dioscorides (3.3), the herba Gentiana,
well known for its medicinal properties, derives its name from this Gentius, who first made known its value. [E.H.B.