Polybius The Rise of the Roman Empire

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The Rise of the Roman Empire Polybius


“The fact is that we can obtain no more than an impression of a whole from a part, but certainly neither a thorough knowledge nor an accurate understanding. We must conclude then that specialized studies or monographs contribute very little to our grasp of the whole and our conviction of its truth. On the contrary, it is only by combining and comparing the various parts of the whole with one another and noting their resemblances and their differences that we shall arrive at a comprehensive view, and thus encompass both the practical benefits and the pleasure that the reading of history affords.” [p 45]
[How true, indeed. By combining and comparing various statements from the ancient authors can we arrive to the truest picture of the ancients themselves. Let them speak of themselves, and let their true sentiments flood the pages uncorrupted and free of any biased and preconceived prejudices. Only then, can we assess the magnitude of their purity of soul, and the passion for their national aspirations.]
[1] Polibius reports on the speech made by Agelaus of Naupactus at the first conference in the presence of the King and the allies. He spoke as follows:

“I therefore beg you all to be on your guard against this danger, and I appeal especially to King Philip. [Macedonian king Philip V] For you the safest policy, instead of wearing down the Greeks and making them an easy prey for the invader, is to take care of them as you would of your own body, and to protect every province of Greece as you would if it were a part of your own dominions. If you follow this policy, the Greeks will be your friends and your faithful allies in case of attack, and foreigners will be the less inclined to plot against your throne, because they will be discouraged by the loyalty of the Greeks towards you.” [p .300] book 5.104

Points of Interest: Clear distinction between Greece (to protect every province of Greece) and Macedonia (as you would if it were a part of your own dominions). Furthermore, the Macedonians were still wearing down the Greeks even into the times of Philip V.

[2] [Book XVIII, 1] Philip V from Macedon invites Flamininus (Roman commander) to explain what he, Philip, should do to have peace:

“The Roman general replied that his duty dictated an answer which was both simple and clear. He demanded that Philip should withdraw from the whole of Greece, restore to each of the states the prisoners and deserters he was holding, hand over to the Romans the region of Illyria which he had seized after the treaty that had been made in Epirus, and so on….”

[Point of interest: “Philip should withdraw from the whole of Greece,” Flamininus, the Roman general, clearly separates Macedonia from Greece, and demands from the Macedonin king to withdraw from Greece into his own Macedonia.]
[3] (Book XVIII. 3) A man named Alexander of Isus, who had the reputation of being both an experienced statesman and an able orator, rose to speak:

‘Why,’ he asked Philip V, ‘had he sold into slavery the people of Cius, which was also a member of the Aetolian League, when he himself was on friendly terms with the Aetolians?’

[Philip sells the people of Cius into slavery. Cuis’ population was not a Macedonian population. Philip’s action underlines one fundamental fact: Greece was a conquered territory, and Greek cities were dispensable.]
[4] (Book XVIII. 5) Philip V from Macedon responds to the Greek and Roman demands:

“But what is most outrageous of all is that they should attempt to put themselves on the same footing as the Romans and demand that the Macedonians should withdraw from the whole of Greece. To use such language is arrogant enough in the first place, but while we may endure this from the Romans, it is quite intolerable coming from the Aetolians. In any case,’ he continued, ‘what is this Greece which you demand that I should evacuate, and how do you define Greece? Certainly most of the Aetolians themselves are not Greeks! The countries of the Agraae, the Apodotea, and the Aphilochians cannot be regarded as Greek. So do you allow me to remain in those territories.”

From the above encounters we infer: They, the Greeks, would like to see him, King Philip V from Macedon, leave Greece and go to his own kingdom in Macedonia, and by the strongest implication, we concur that:

(a) Ancient Greeks did not regard the ancient Macedonians as their kinsmen.

(b) Ancient Macedonians did not regard the Greeks as their own people.

(c) Ancient Macedonians had conquered the Greek states.

(d) Ancient Macedonians had enslaved the Greeks and sold them as slaves.

(e) Macedonia was not a Greek land.

[5] …”For there can be no doubt that by their indefatigable energy and daring they raised Macedonia from the status of a petty kingdom to that of the greatest and most glorious monarchy in the world. And apart what was accomplished during Philip’s lifetime, the successes that were achieved by Alexander after his father’s death won for them a reputation for valour which has been universally recognized by posterity.”…. [Polybius: The Rise of the Roman Empire, published by Penguin Classics, Book VIII.9 page 371.]

As with his predecessors, other ancient authors, Polybius clearly separates the ancient Macedonians from the ancient Greeks. As a matter of fact, the ethnic difference between these two people was not a matter for discussion – it was an accomplished fact.

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