or PERSES 1
), the last king of Macedonia, was the eldest son of Philip V.
According to some of the Roman writers he was the offspring of a concubine, and consequently not of legitimate birth. (Liv. 39.53
, &c.) Plutarch, on the contrary (Aemil.
8), represents him as a supposititious child, and not the son of Philip at all: but it is probable that both these tales were mere inventions of his enemies: at least it is clear that he was from the first regarded both by his father and the whole Macedonian nation as the undoubted heir to the throne.
He was early trained to arms, and was still a mere boy when he was appointed by his father to command the army destined to guard the passes of Pelagonia against the Illyrians, B. C. 200 (Liv. 31.28
). In B. C. 189 we again find him leading an army into Epeirus, where he besieged Amphilochia, but was compelled by the Aetolians to retire. (Id. 38.5. 7.)
The favour shown by the Romans to his younger brother Demetrius had the effect of exciting the jealousy of Perseus, who suspected that the Roman senate intended to set up Demetrius as a competitor for the throne on the death of Philip: and the popularity of the young prince among the Macedonians themselves was ill calculated to allay these apprehensions. Perseus in consequence set to work to effect the ruin of his brother, and at length by a long train of machinations and intrigues [DEMETRIUS] succeeded in convincing Philip that Demetrius entertained a treasonable correspondence with the Romans, and thus prevailed on him to order the execution of the unhappy prince. (Liv. 39.53
; Plb. 24.3
; Diod. xxix. Exc. Vales.
p. 576; Just. 32.2
; Zonar. 9.22
; Plut. Aemil.
It is said that Philip subsequently detected the treachery of Perseus, and had even determined to exclude him from the throne, but his own death, which was brought on by the grief and remorse caused by this discovery, prevented the execution of his designs, B. C. 179. Perseus instantly assumed the sovereign power, and his first act was to put to death Antigonus, to whose counsels he ascribed the hostile intentions of his father. (Liv. 40.54
; Just. 32.3
; Zonar. 9.22
The latter years of the reign of Philip had been spent in preparations for a renewal of the war with Rome, which he foresaw to be inevitable: and when Perseus ascended the throne, he found himself amply provided both with men and money for the impending contest.
But, whether from a sincere desire of peace, or from irresolution of character, he sought to avert an open rupture as long as possible; and one of the first acts of his reign was to send an embassy to Rome to obtain the recognition of his own title to the throne, and a renewal of the treaty concluded with his father.
This embassy was the more necessary as he had already by his hostilities with a Thracian chief, named Abrupolis, who was nominally in alliance with Rome, afforded a pretext to the jealousy of that power; but for the moment this cause of offence was overlooked, Perseus was acknowledged as king, and the treaty renewed on the same terms as before. (Diod. xxix. Exe. Vatic,
p. 71; Appian. Mac.
9.3; Polyb. xxii. Exc. Vat.
p. 413; Liv. 41.24
It is probable that neither party was sincere in the conclusion of this peace; at least neither could entertain any hope of its duration; yet a period of seven years elapsed before the mutual enmity of the two powers broke out into actual hostilities. Meanwhile Perseus was not idle: and his first measures were of a liberal and judicious character.
He secured the attachment of his own subjects by rescinding the unpopular acts of his father's reign, by recalling all exiles and publishing a general act of amnesty. (Plb. 26.5
At the same time he sought to conciliate the favour of the Greeks, many of whom were inclined to his cause in preference to that of Rome; and entered into extensive relations with the Thracian, Illyrian, and Celtic tribes, by which his kingdom was surrounded. Nor did he neglect to cultivate the friendship of the Asiatic princes, who on their part (with the exception of Eumenes) seem to have eagerly sought his alliance. Seleucus IV Philopator gave him his daughter Laodice in marriage, while Prusias king of Bithynia gladly accepted the hand of his sister, (Liv. 42.12
; Polyb. 26.7; Inscr. Del. apud Marm. Oxon. ;
But every attempt to strengthen himself by foreign alliances was resented by the Romans as an infraction of the treaty with them. The Dardanians complained to the senate at Rome of the aggressions of the Bastarnae, and accused Perseus, apparently not without reason, of supporting the invaders. News was also brought to Rome that Macedonian envoys had been secretly received at Carthage; and the king soon after gave fresh cause of offence by an expedition against the Dolopians, in which, after reducing that tribe, he repaired at the head of an army, though in the most peaceful manner, to Delphli, under pretence of a vow, but in reality to make a show of his power and force in the eyes of the Greeks. Numerous embassies were sent by the Romans to complain of these proceedings, as well as to spy into the real state of affairs in Macedonia, while Perseus in return was not sparing of apologies and excuses.
At length, in B. C. 172, Eumenes, king of Pergamus, repaired in person to Rome and laid before the senate an elaborate statement of the power, the resources, and the hostile designs of the Macedonian king. On his return through Greece he was attacked near Delphi by a band of assassins, who are said to have been employed by Perseus, a suspicion to which the latter certainly afforded some countenance, by taking the leader of them--a Cretan named Evander--into his immediate service. Another plot which the Romans pretended to have discovered at the same time, for poisoning some of their chief officers [RAMMIUS], was probably a mere fiction to inflame the minds of the populace against Perseus. War was now determined by the senate, but it was not declared till the following spring (B. C. 171), and even then the Romans were not fully prepared to commence hostilities. Perseus, on the other hand, found himself at the head of a splendid army, fully equipped and ready for immediate action: but instead of making use of this advantage, he still clung to the delusive hopes of peace, and was persuaded by Q. Marcius Philippus, with whom he held a personal conference in Thessaly, to send ambassadors once more to Rome. Tlese soon returned, as was to be expected, without having even obtained an answer; but in the mean while the Romans had completed their levies, transported their army into Epeirus, and the consul P. Licinius Crassus was ready to take the field. (Liv. 41.19
; Plb. 26.9
, Exc. Vat.
p. 413; Diod. xxx. Exc. Leg.
pp. 623, 624; Appian, Mac.
Perseus was now at length convinced that he had no hope of any longer delaying the contest ; and at a council of war held at Pella, it was determined to have immediate recourse to arms. Though supported by no allies, except Cotys king of the Odrysians, he found himself at the head of an army of 39,000 foot and 4,000 horse, with which he invaded Thessaly, and after taking some small towns, encamped near Sycurium in the valley of the Peneius.
The consul Licinius soon arrived in the same neighbourhood, and an action ensued between the cavalry of the two armies, in which the Macedonians were victorious; and if Perseus had chosen to follow up his advantage with vigour, might probably have led to the total defeat of the Romans.
But the king wavered, drew off his forces, and even sent to the consul to renew his offers of peace, which were haughtily rejected by Licinius.
The rest of the campaign passed over without any decisive result. The Romans in their turn obtained a slight advantage, and Perseus at the close of the summer withdrew into Macedonia, whither Licinius made no attempt to follow him. (Liv. 42.50
; Plb. 27.8
; Appian Mac.
Exc. 10; Plut. Aenmil.
9; Zonar. 9.22
; Eutrop. 4.6
; Ores. 4.20.)
The second year of the war (B. C. 170) passed over without any striking action, but was on the whole favourable to Perseus. The Macedonian fleet defeated that of the Romans at Oreus; and the consul, A. Hostilius Mancinus, after an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate into Macedonia, through the passes of Elymiotis, remained inactive in Thessaly. Meanwhile, the Epeirots declared in favour of Perseus, by which his frontier became secured on that side; and so little cause did there appear to dread the advance of the Romans, that the king found leisure for an expedition against the Dardanians, by which he obtained a large booty. (Plut. Aemil.
9; Liv. 43.18
.) During the heart of the following winter he crossed the mountains into Illyria with an army, but not so much with a view to conquest, as in order to gain over Gentins, king of the Illyrians, to his alliance.
That monarch was favourably disposed towards the Macedonian cause, but was unable to act without money, and this Perseus was unwilling to give.
A second expedition into Acarnania was also productive of little result. (Liv. 43.18
The arrival of the new consul Q. Marcius Philippus, in the spring of 169, for a moment gave fresh vigour to the Roman arms.
By a bold but hazardous march he crossed the mountain ridge of Olympus, and thus descended into Macedonia near Heracleiumo. Had Perseus attacked him before he reached the plains he might probably have destroyed the whole Roman army: but instead of this he was seized with a panic terror, abandoned the strong position of Dium, and hastily retreated to Pydna. Marcius at first followed him, but was soon compelled by want of provisions to fall back to Phila, and Perseus again occupied the line of the Enipeus. (Liv. 44.1
; Plb. 29.6
; Diod. xxx. Exc. Vales.
pp. 578, 579; Exc. Vat.
pp. 74, 75 ; Zonar. 9.22
The length to which the war had been unexpectedly protracted, and the ill success of the Roman arms, had by this time excited a general feeling in favour of the Macedonian monarch; Prusias, king of Bithynia, and the Rhodians, both interposed their good offices at Rome to obtain for him a peace upon moderate terms; and even his bitter enemy Eumenes began to waver, and entered into secret negotiations with the same view. [EUMENES.] These were, however, rendered abortive by the refusal of Perseus to advance the sum of money demanded by the king of Pergamus as the price of his interposition; and the same unseasonable niggardliness deprived the king of the services of 20,000 Gaulish mercenaries, who had actually advanced into Macedonia to his support, but retired on failing to obtain their stipulated pay. 'Many of the Greek states, also, which had been from the commencement of the war favourably disposed towards Perseus, might undoubtedly have been induced at this juncture openly to espouse his cause, had he been more liberal of his treasures: but his blind avarice led him to sacrifice all these advantages. Even when he was compelled to advance 300 talents to Gentius, in order to secure his cooperation, he contrived basely to defraud his ally of the greater part of the money. [GENTIUS]. (Liv. 44.14
; Plut. Aemil.
12, 13; Plb. 28.8
, Exc. Vat.
p. 427-431 ; Diod. xxx. Exc. Vales.
p. 580, Exc. Vat.
p. 73, 74; Dio Cass. Fr.
73; Appian. Mac.
While Perseus was thus compelled by his own ill-timed avarice to carry on the contest against Rome single-handed, the arrival of the new consul, L. Aemilius Paulus, who took the command of the Roman army early in the summer of 168, speedily changed the face of affairs. Finding the position of Perseus on the bank of the Enipeus so strong as to be unassailable in front, he dexterously turned its flank by sending Scipio Nasica with 8000 men across the mountain pass of Pythium, and thus compelled the Macedonian king to fall back upon Pydna. Here the latter was at length induced to await the approach of the enemy, and it was in the plain near that town that the battle was fought which decided the fate of the Macedonian monarchy (June 22, B. C. 168 2
). For a time the serried ranks of the phalanx seemed likely to carry every thing before them, but its order was soon broken by the inequalities of the ground; and the Romans rushing in, made a fearful carnage of the Macedonian infantry, of whom not less than 20,000 were slain, while the cavalry fled from the field almost without striking a blow. Perseus himself was among the foremost of the fugitives: he at first directed his flight to Pella, but finding himself abandoned by his friends, he hastened from thence to Amphipolis, accompanied only by three foreign officers and 500 Cretan mercenaries.
With these few followers, and the treasures which had been collected at Amphipolis, he threw himself for safety into the sacred island of Samothrace. (Liv. 44.32
; Plut. Aemil.
13-23; Plb. 29.6
; Zonar. 9.23
; Eutrop. 4.7
; Oros. 4.20
; Veil. Pat. 1.9.)
Here he was quickly blockaded by the praetor Cn. Octavius with the Roman fleet, and though the latter did not venture to violate the sanctuary in which the king had taken refuge, Perseus found himself abandoned, in succession, by his few remaining followers; and after an ineftectual attenipt to escape by sea to Thrace, was at length compelled to surrender himself and his children into the hands of the Roman praetor. When brought before Aemilius, he is said to have degraded himself by the most abject supplications : but he was treated with kindness and courtesy by the Roman general, who allowed him every degree of liberty compatible with his position.
The following year he was carried to Italy, where he xvas compelled to adorn the splendid triumph of his conqueror (Nov. 30. B. C. 167), and afterwards cast into a dungeon, from whence, however, the inteicession of Aemilius procured his release, and he was permitted to end his days in an honourable captivity at Alba.
He survived his removal thither during a period which is variously stated at from two to five years (Diod. Exc. Phot.
p. 516; Vell. 1.11
; Porphyr. apud Euseb. Arm.
p. 158) ; and died, according to some accounts, by voluntary starvation, while others-fortunately with less probability-represent him as falling a victim to the cruelty of his guards, who deprived him of sleep. (Liv. 45.4
; Plut. Aemil.
26, 27, 34, 37; Diod. xxx. Exc. Vat.
p. 78; Exc. Vales.
p. 581, Exc. Phot.
p. 516; Dio Cass. Fr.
74, 75 ; Zonar. 9.23. 24
; Eutrop. 4.7. 8
; Oros. l.c. ; V. Max. 5.1.1
; Just. 33.2
The character of Perseus has been represented in the most unfavourable light by the Roman his torians, who have sought, by blackening his name, to palliate the gross injustice by which the republic forced him into the war that ended in his ruin.
But with every allowance for this partiality, it is impossible not to regard him as at once odious and despicable. Polybiuis, indeed, tells us (26.5). that at the beginning of his reign he conciliated the minds of his subjects by the mildness of his rule, and that the temperance of his private life presented a strong contrast to that of his father.
But it is clear, from the words of the historian, that these fair appearances did not last long. Avarice appears to have been his ruling passion and to this, as we have seen, he sacrificed even tuially his kingdom and his life.
But there are many other yet darker stains upon his character: his perfidy to his friends, and the mean jealousy with which he sought to avenge upon others the consequences of his own misconduct, are enough to condemn his name to infamy.
The weakness of his character is glaringly conspicuous throughout the whole history of his life: and his conduct of the war displays the same vacillating uncertainty of purpose which he had evinced during the transactions that had preceded it. Even if the cowardice of which he is accused at Pydna be exaggerated by his enemies (see Plut. Aemil.
19), the panic terror with which he had abandoned his strong position in the preceding campaign, and the abject meanness of his conduct before Paullms, are sufficient evidences of his pusillanimity.
A history of the reign and life of Perseus was written. by a Greek author of the name of Posidonius, who is repeatedly cited by Plutarch (Aemil. 19, 21), as a contemporary and eye-witness of the events which he related. Among modern writers Flathe Geschichte Macedoniens,
vol. ii. p. 533-566) has entered into a laborious vindication of the Macedonian king.
Perseus had been twice carried; the name of his first wife, whom he is said to have killed with his own hand in a fit of passion (Liv. 42.5
) is not recorded; his second, Laodice, has been already mentioned.
He left two children; a son, ALEXANDER, and a daughter, both apparently by his second marriage, as they were mere children when carried to Rome. Besides these, he had adopted his younger brother Philip, who appears to have been regarded by him as the heir to his throne, and became the partner of his captivity. (Liv. 42.52
; Plut. Aemil.
33, 37 ; Zonar. 9.24