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Antiochus The Great

Antiochus the Great


Antiochus the GreatAntiochus, surname the Great, was the most distinguished of those sovereigns who are known in history as the Successors, that is, of Alexander the Great. The long reign of this warlike king, the third of his name, constitutes the most eventful period of Syrian history. His kingdom, of which Antioch was the capital, included at his accession Syria, Babylonia, Media and part of Asia Minor, and he did much to recover, consolidate and enlarge his empire.


Antiochus III. was a son of Seleucus Callinicus, and was born about 238 B.C. On the death of his brother Seleucus III., surname Ceraunus or the Thunderbolt, he ascended the throne in 223 B.C, at the age of fifteen. His cousin, Achreus, recovered for him all the provinces of Asia Minor, which Attalus, King of Pergamus, had annexed to that short lived kingdom. In 220 B.C., Antiochus commanded in person an armyy which defeated important rebellions in Media and Persis, and made a successful expedition into Atropatene. During his absence, Achreus, discontented with a subordinate position, assumed, in Asia Minor, the diadem and the title of king. Antiochus remonstrated, but did not march immediately against him, as he was about to begin a war against Ptolemy, King of Egypt, for the possession of Coele-Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine. In this enterprise he was successful at first, and in 214 B.C., captured the chief towns of Phoenicia; but in the following year he was defeated in a great battle at Raphia near Gaza. By the treaty then made the disputed provinces were ceded to the King of Egypt. Antiochus was now free to turn his attention to Achaeus. and in 216 B.C., he led all army against the rebellious prince, whom he defeated and deprived of his conquest. Achaeus having taken refuge in Sardis, Antiochus besieged that city and took it after a siege of two years in 214 B.C. , and put Achreus to death.


His next expedition was to the northeast against Arsaces In. or Artabanus, King of Parthia, in which he captured Hecatompylus, the capital of Parthia, in 213, and crossed the mountains into Hyrcania; but be soon ended the war by a treaty of peace by which the independence of Arsaces was recognized. A short war against Euthydemus, King of Bactria, ensued. Antiochus then, following in the foot steps of Alexander, marched into India or rather Afghanistan in 212 B.C., and renewed the alliance between Syria and several Indian princes. After an absence of seven years he returned to Syria in 205 B.C.


Still regarding the prosperous kingdom of the Ptolemies with envious eyes, he formed an alliance with Philip V., of Macedon, for the conquest of Egypt, which they proposed to divide between themselves. Having invaded Palestine, Antiochus gained a decisive victory over the Egyptians near Paneas in 19B B.C. The war was soon ended by a treaty of peace, and King Ptolemy married Cleopatra, a daughter of Antiochus. Antiochus next invaded Asia Minor, where he overcame all resistance, and then crossing into Europe. about 196 B.C. , took the Thracian Chersonesus. Here his triumphant progress was arrested by the Romans, whose hostility he unwisely provoked. They sent an embassy, demanding that he should evacuate the Chersonese and restore to the King of Egypt the provinces which he had acquired by conquest. These demands were rejected and preparations made for war.


The king's resolution to reject the Roman ultimatum was confirmed by the great Hannibal, who, banished from Carthage, took refuge at the Syrian court in 195 B.C. Antiocbus, however, did not follow the shrewd advice of Hannibal in respect to the:: conduct of the war. The Carthaginian advised the immediate invasion of Italy, while the Romans were engaged in a war against the Gauls but Antiochus lost time in vain efforts to negotiate with the Romans. The veteran Hannibal was employed as a subordinate commander, instead of having the chief control of the war. In 192 B.C. Autiochus ventured into Greece at the request of his allies, the AEtolians, and captured Chalcis. He was defeated at Thermopylae in 19f, by the Roman Consul Acilius Glabrio, and was compelled to return to Asia. The defeat of bis fleet in two Daval battles induced him to make overtures for peace, but the conditions offered by the Romans were so hard, that he resolved to try the fortune of another campaign. The Romans were masters of the sea, and their army, commanded by L. Cornelius Scipio and his brother, the famous Scipio Africanus, the conqueror of Hannibal, crossed the Hellespont without opposition. In 190 B.C. the Romans gained a decisive victory at the foot of Mount Sipylus, near Magnesia. Antiochus, having lost 50,000 killed in this battle, sued for peace, which was gran ted to him 188 B.C., on condition that he should cede to the victors all Asia Millar west of Mount Taurus, and pay a contribution of 12,000 talents. He was also required to give them his son Antiochus as a hostage. Amenia, taking advantage of his weakness, revolted in 189 B.C., and became independent.


The Romans now insisted on an annual tribute of 2,000 talents. As the revenues of Syria were inadequate for this demand, Antiochus attempted to plunder the treasures of a temple in Susiana or Etymais, and provoked a riot in which he was killed in 187 B.C. Though the entire career of Antiochus was consumed in war, in which he vainly emulated the conquests of Alexander the Great he is said to have been a humane and liberal monarch and a patron of learning. He was succeeded by his son, Seleucus Philopator.




When advice was brought to Antiochus that the Romans had passed the Hellespont, he began to think himself undone. He now would have been very glad to deliver himself from a war in which he had engaged rashly, and without examining seriously all its consequences. This made him resolve to send an ambassador to the Romans, to propose conditions of peace. A religious ceremony had retarded the march of the army, it having halted for several days that were the festival days at Rome, in which the sacred shields, called Ancilia, were carried in solemn procession with great pomp. Scipio Africanus, being one of the Salii, or priests of Mars, whose office it was to keep these shields, had not yet crossed the sea.


This delay gave the king some hopes; for he imagined that the Romans, immediately upon their arrival in Asia, would attack him. Besides, the noble character he had heard of Scipio Africanus, as his greatness of soul, his generosity and clemency to those he had conquered, both in Spain and Africa, gave him hopes that this great man, now satiated with glory, would not be averse to an accommodation; especially as he had a present to make to him, which could not but be infinitely agreeable. This was his own son, a child, who had been taken at sea, as be was going in a boat from Chalcis to Orcum.


Heraclides Byzantinus, who was the speaker in this embassy, opened the speech with saying that the very circumstance which had frustrated all the rest of the negotiations for peace between his master and the Romans, now made him hope success in the present; because all the difficulties which had hitherto prevented their taking effect, were entirely removed: that the king, to put a stop to the complaints of his still keeping possession of any city in Europe, had abandoned Lysimachia that as to Smyma, Lampsacus, and Alexandria of Troas, he was ready to give them up to the Romans, and any other city belonging to their allies, which they should demand of him; that he would consent to refund the Romans half the expenses of this war. He concluded with exhorting them to call to mind the uncertainty and vicissitudes of human things, and not lay too great a stress On their present prosperity that they ought to rest satisfied with making Europe, whose extent was so immense, the boundaries of their empire : that if they were ambitious of joining some part of Asia to it, the king would acquiesce with their desire, provided the limits of it were clearly settled.


The ambassador imagined that these proposals, which seemed so advantageous, could not be rejected but the Romans judged differently. With regard to the expenses of the war, as the king had very unjustly been the occasion of it, they were of opinion that he ought to defray the whole expense: they were not satisfied with his evacuating the garrisons he had in Ionia and Etolia but pretended to restore all Asia to its liberty, in the same manner as they bad done Greece, which could not be effected, unless the king abandoned all Asia on this side Mount Taurus.


Heraclides, not being able to obtain anything in the public audience, endeavored, pursuant to his private instructions, particularly to conciliate Scipio Africanus. He began by assuring him that the king would send him his son without ransom. Afterwards, being very little acquainted with Scipio's greatness of soul, and the character of the Romans, be promised him a large sum of money and assured him that he might entirely dispose of all things in his power, if he would mediate a peace for him. To these overtures, Scipio made the following answer: "I am not surprised to find you unacquainted both with me and the Romans, as you do not even know the condition of the prince who sent you hither. If, as you assert, the uncertainty of the fate of war should prompt us to grant you peace upon easier terms, your sovereign should have kept possession of Lysimachia, in order to have shut us out of the Chersonesus or be should have met us in the Hellespont, to have disputed our passage into Asia. But, by abandoning them to us, he put the yoke on his own neck; so that all he now has to do, is to submit to whatever conditions we shall think fit to prescribe. Among the several offers he makes me, I cannot but be strongly affected with that which relates to the giving me back my son I hope the rest will not have the power to tempt me. As a private man, I call promise to preserve eternally the deepest sense of gratitude for so precious a gift as he offers me in my sou but as a public one, be must expect nothing from me. Go, therefore, and tell him, in my name, that the best counsel I can give him is to lay down his arms and not reject any articles of peace which may be proposed to him. This is the best advice I could give him as a good. and faithful friend.


Antiochus thought that the Romans could not have prescribed harder conditions had they conquered him and such a peace appeared to him as fatal as the most unfortunate war. He therefore prepared for a battle, as the Romans did also on their side.


The king was encamped at Thyatira, where, hearing that Scipio lay in at Elea, he sent his son to him. This was a remedy that operated both on the body and mind, and restored both joy and health to the sick and afflicted father. After embracing him a long time in his arms, "Go," says he to the envoys, and thank the king from me and tell him that, at present, the only testimony I can give him of my gratitude, is to advise him not to fight, till he hears of my having arrived in the camp." Perhaps Scipio thought that a delay of some days would give the king an opportunity of reflecting more seriously than he had hitherto done, and incline him to conclude a solid peace.


Although the superiority of the forces of Antiochus, which were much more numerous than those of the Romans, might naturally induce him to venture a battle immediately, yet the wisdom and authority of Scipio, whom he considered as his last refuge, in case any calamitous accident should befall him, prevailed over the former consideration. He passed the river Phrygius, which is supposed to be the Hermus, and posted himself near Magnesia, at the foot of Mount Sipylus, where be fortified his camp so strongly as not to fear being attacked in it. The consul followed soon after. The armies continued several days in sight, during which Antiochus did not once move out of his camp. His army consisted of 7O,000 foot, 12,000 horse, and fifty-four elephants that of the Romans was composed, in the whole, of but 30,000 men and sixteen elephants.


The consul, finding that the king lay still, summoned his council, to debate on what was to be done, in case he should persist in refusing to venture a battle. He represented that, as the winter was approaching, it would be necessary, notwithstanding the severity of the season, for the soldiers to keep the field or, if they should go into winter quarters, to discontinue the war until the following year.


The Romans never showed so much contempt for an enemy as on this occasion they all cried aloud that it would be proper to march immediately against the enemy j to take advantage of the ardor of the troops, who were ready to force the palisades and pass the entrenchments; to attack the enemy in their camp, in case they would not quit it. There is some probability that the consul was desirous of anticipating the arrival of his brother, since his presence only would have diminished the glory of his success.


The next day, the consul, after viewing the situation of the camp, advanced with his army toward it in order of battle. The king, fearing that a longer delay would lesson the courage of his own soldiers and animate the enemy, at last marched out with his troops, and both sides prepared for a decisive battle.


Everything was uniform in the consul's army, with regard to the men as well as arms. It consisted of two Roman legions, of 5,400 men each, and two such bodies of Latin infantry. The Romans were posted in the center, and the Latins in the two wings, the left of which extended toward the river. The first line of the center was composed of pikemen, or hastati the second of principes, and the third of triarii these, properly speaking, composed the main body. On the side of the right wing, to cover and sustain it, the consul had posted, on the same line, 3,000 Achaean infantry and auxiliary forces of Eumenes and, in a column. 3,000 horse, eight hundred of which belonged to Eumenes, and the rest to the Romans. He posted at the extremity of this wing, the light armed Trallians and Cretans. It was not thought necessary to strengthen the left wing in this manner, because the rivers and banks, which were very steep seemed a sufficient rampart but, for greater security, four squadrons of horse were posted there. To guard the camp, they left 2,000 Macedonians and Thracians, who followed the army as volunteers. The sixteen elephants were posted behind the triarii, as a reserve and as a rear-guard. It was not thought proper to oppose them to those of the enemy, not only because the latter were greatly superior in number, but because the African elephants were very much inferior, both in size and strength, to those of India, and therefore were not able to oppose them.


The king's army was more varied, on account of the different nations which composed it, and the disparity of their arms. Sixteen thousand foot, armed after the Macedonian fashion, and who composed the phalanx, formed the main body. This phalanx was divided into ten bodies, each of fifty men in front by thirty-two deep; and two elephants were posted in each of the intervals which separated them, It was this which formed the principal strength of the army. The sight only of the elephants inspired terror. Their size was increased by the ornament of their heads and their plumes of feathers, which were embellished with gold, silver, purple, and ivory vain ornaments, which invite an enemy by the hopes of spoils, and are no defense to an army. The elephants carried towers on their backs, in which were four fighting men, besides the leader or guide. To the right of this phalanx was drawn up, in a column, part of the cavalry, 1,500 Asiatic Gauls, 3,000 cuirassiers armed cap-apie, and 1,000 horse, the Bower of the Medes and other neighboring nations. A body of sixteen elephants was posted next in files. A little beyond was the king's regiment, whose arms were of silver. After them 1,200 Arabian bowmen to whom were added 2,500 Mysians. Then 3,000 light-armed Cretans and Trallians. The right wing was closed by 4,000 slingers and archers, half Cyrteans and half Elymaens. The left wing was drawn up in nearly the same manner, except that before part of the cavalry were posted the chariots armed with scythes; with the camels, mounted by Arabian bowmen, whose swords, made thin, in order that the riders might reach down from the backs of these beasts, were six feet long. The king commanded the right Seleucus, his son, and Antipater, his nephew, the left and three lieutenant-generals the main body.


A thick fog rising in the morning, the sky grew so dark that it was not possible for the kings soldiers to distinguish one another and act in concert, on account of their great extent and the damp, occasioned by this fog, greatly relaxed the bow·strings, the slings, and the thongs which were used for throwing javelins. The Romans did not suffer the same disadvantages, because they used scarcely any but heavy arms., swords, and javelins; and as the front of their army was of less extent, they could the more easily see one another. The chariots armed with scythes, which Antiochus had flattered himself would terrify the enemy, and throw them into confusion, first occasioned the defeat of his own forces. Eumenes, who well knew both where their strength and weakness lay, opposed to them the Cretan archers, the slingers and horsemen, who discharge javelins; commanding them to charge them, not in a body, but in small platoons; and to pour on them, from every quarter, darts, stones and javelins shouting as loud as possible all the while. The horses, frightened at these shouts, ran away with the chariots, scoured the field on all sides, and turned against their own troops, as well as the camels. That empty terror thus removed, they fought hand to hand.


But this soon proved the destruction of the king's army . for the troops which were posted near these chariots, having been broken and put to flight by their disorder, left every part naked and defenseless, even to the very cuirassiers. The Roman cavalry vigorously charging the latter, it was not possible for them to stand the attack so that they were broken immediately, many of them being killed on the spot, because the weight of their arms would not permit them to fly. The whole left wing was routed, which spread an alarm to the main body, formed by the phalanx, and threw it in disorder. The Roman legions now charged it advantageously; the soldiers who composed the phalanx not having an opportunity to use their long pikes, because those who fled had taken refuge among them, and prevented their fighting, while the Romans poured their javelins upon them from all sides. The elephants drawn up in the intervals of the phalanx were of no service to it. The Roman soldiers, who had been used to fight in the wars of Africa against those animals, had learned bow to avoid their impetuosity, either by piercing their sides with their javelins, or by ham-stringing them with their swords. The first ranks of the phalanx were therefore thrown into disorder, and the Romans were all the point of surrounding the rear ranks, when advice was brought that their left wing was in great danger.


Antiochus, who had observed that the flanks of this left wing were quite uncovered, and that only four squadrons of horse had been posted near it, as supposing it sufficiently defended by the river, charged it with his auxiliary forces and his heavy armed horse, not only in front, but in bank; because the four squadrons, being unable to withstand the charge of all the enemy's cavalry, had retired upon the main body, and left open their ground near the river. The Roman cavalry having been thrown into disorder, the infantry soon followed it, and were driven as far as the camp. Marcus Emilius, a military tribune, had remained to guard the camp. Seeing the Romans flying toward it, be marched out at the head of all his troops to meet them, and reproached them with their cowardice and ignominious Bight. He also commanded his soldiers to sheathe their swords in all they met, who refused to face about against the enemy. This order, being given so seasonably, and immediately put in execution, had the desired effect. The stronger fear prevailed over the less. Those who were fiying, first halted, and afterwards returned to the battle. Emilius, with his body of troops, which consisted of two thousand brave, well-disciplined men, opposed the king, who was vigorously pursuing those who fled. Attalus, the brother of Eumenes, having quitted the right wing, an receiving advice that the left was defeated, flew to it very seasonably with two hundred horse. Antiochus, being now charged on every side, turned his horse and retired. Thus the Romans, having defeated the two wings, advanced over heaps of slain as far as the king's camp, and plundered it.


It was observed that the manner in which the king drew up his phalanx, was one of the causes of his losing the battle. In this body the chief strength of his army consisted, and it had hitherto been thought invincible. It was composed entirely of veteran, stout, and well-disciplined soldiers. To enable his phalanx to do him greater service, he ought to have given it less depth and a greater front j whereas, in drawing them lip thirty-two deep, half of them were of no use; and he filled tip the rest of the front with new-raised troops, without courage and experience, who consequently could not be depended on. This, however, was the order in which Philip and Alexander used to draw up their phalanx. There fell this day, in the battle, in the pursuit, and the plunder of the camp, 50,000 foot and 4,000 horse; 1,400 were taken prisoners, with fifteen elephants and their guides. The Romans lost but three hundred foot and twenty-four horse Eumenes lost twenty-five. By this victory the Romans acquired all the cities of Asia Minor, which now submitted vol· untarily to them. Neither Hanuiballlor Scipio Africanus were in the battle. 'rhe former was blocked up by the Rhodians in Pamphylia, with the Syrian fleet and the latter lay ill in Elea. Antiochus withdraw to Sardis with as many of his forces who had escaped the slaughter as he could assemble. From that city he marched to Celaenae in Phrygia, to which place he heard that his son Seleucus had fled. He found him there, and both passed Mount Taurus with the utmost diligence, in order to reach Syria.-C. ROLLIN.


Antiochus the Great

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