Popilius Makes Antiochus Stop the War
When Antiochus had advanced to attack Ptolemy in order
Antiochus is met near Alexandria (Livy, 45, 12) by C. Popilius Laenas, who forces him to abstain from the war.
to possess himself of Pelusium, he was met by
the Roman commander Gaius Popilius Laenas.
Upon the king greeting him from some distance,
and holding out his right hand to him, Popilius
answered by holding out the tablets which contained the decree of the Senate, and bade
Antiochus read that first: not thinking it right,
I suppose, to give the usual sign of friendship until he knew
the mind of the recipient, whether he were to be regarded as a
friend or foe. On the king, after reading the despatch, saying
that he desired to consult with his friends on the situation,
Popilius did a thing which was looked upon as exceedingly
overbearing and insolent. Happening to have a vine stick in
his hand, he drew a circle round Antiochus with it, and ordered
him to give his answer to the letter before he stepped out of
that circumference. The king was taken aback by this haughty
proceeding. After a brief interval of embarrassed silence, he
replied that he would do whatever the Romans demanded.
Then Popilius and his colleagues shook him by the hand, and
one and all greeted him with warmth. The contents of the
despatch was an order to put an end to the war with Ptolemy
at once. Accordingly a stated number of days was allowed
him, within which he withdrew his army into Syria, in high
dudgeon indeed, and groaning in spirit, but yielding to the
necessities of the time.
Popilius and his colleagues then restored order in
Popilius goes on to Cyprus and forces the army of Antiochus to evacuate it.
Alexandria; and after exhorting the two kings to
maintain peaceful relations with each other, and
charging them at the same time to send Polyaratus to Rome, they took ship and sailed
towards Cyprus, with the intention of promptly
ejecting from the island the forces that were also gathered
there. When they arrived, they found that Ptolemy's generals
had already sustained a defeat, and that the whole island was
in a state of excitement. They promptly caused the invading
army to evacuate the country, and remained there to keep
watch until the forces had sailed away for Syria. Thus did
the Romans save the kingdom of Ptolemy, when it was all but
sinking under its disasters.
The previous defeat of Perseus really secured the salvation of Egypt.
Fortune indeed so
disposed of the fate of Perseus and the Macedonians, that the restoration of Alexandria and
the whole of Egypt was decided by it; that is
to say, by the fate of Perseus being decided previously: for if
that had not taken place, or had not been certain, I do not
think that Antiochus would have obeyed these orders.