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Unwise Parsimony of Perseus

The ambassador sent to Genthius returned without
Genthius being unpersuaded by the second mission, Perseus sends a third, but still without offering money.
having accomplished anything more than the previous envoys, and without any fresh answer; for Genthius remained of the same mind,— willing to join with Perseus in his war, but professing to be in want of money. Perseus disregarded the hint, and sent another mission under Hippias to conclude the treaty, without taking any notice of the main point, while professing a wish to do whatever Genthius wished. It is not easy to decide whether to ascribe such conduct to mere folly, or to a spiritual delusion. For my part, I am inclined to regard it as a sheer spiritual delusion when men aim at bold enterprises, and risk their life, and yet neglect the most important point in their plans, though they see it all the time and have the power to execute it.
The dislike of Perseus to give money turned out happily for Greece.
For I do not think it will be denied by any man of reflection that, had Perseus at that time been willing to make grants of money either to states as such, or individually to kings and statesmen, I do not say on a great scale, but even to a moderate extent, they would all—Greeks and kings alike—have yielded to the temptation. As it was, he happily did not take that course, which would have given him, if successful, an overweening supremacy; or, if unsuccessful, would have involved many others in his disaster. But he took the opposite course: which resulted in confining the numbers of the Greeks who adopted the unwise policy at this crisis to very narrow limits. . . .

[Perseus now returned from Stubera to Hyscana, and after a vain attempt upon Stratus in Aetolia, retired into Macedonia for the rest of the winter. In the early spring of B. C. 169 Q. Marcius Philippus began his advance upon Macedonia from his permanent camp in Perrhaebia. Perseus stationed Asclepiodotus and Hippias to defend two passes of the Cambunian mountains, while he himself held Dium, which commanded the coast road from Thessaly into Macedonia. Marcius however, after only a rather severe skirmish with the light-armed troops of Hippias, effected the passage of the mountains and descended upon Dium. The king was taken by surprise: he had not secured the pass of Tempe, which would have cut off the Romans from retreat; and he now hastily retired to Pydna. Q. Marcius occupied Dium, but after a short stay there retired upon Phila, to get provisions and secure the coast road. Whereupon Perseus reoccupied Dium, and contemplated staying there to the end of the summer. Q. Marcius took Heracleum, which was between Phila and Dium, and made preparations for a second advance on Dium. But the winter (B. C. 169-168) was now approaching, and he contented himself with seeing that the roads through Thessaly were put in a proper state for the conveyance of provisions. Livy, 43, 19-23; 44, 1-9.]

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 43-44, commentary, 44.7
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    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 43, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 44, 1
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