Rome and Antiochus
Antiochus had landed in Europe. After conquering Palestine, he turned to his hereditary possessions in Asia Minor and Thrace, now held by Ptolemy or Philip. In 197 he started a military promenade along the coast of Asia Minor. He was checked momentarily by Rhodes, who refused him the opportunity of joining his ally Philip. But when news of Cynoscephalae arrived, the danger was past and he easily bought over the Rhodians by some territorial concessions in Caria. He gradually made his way to the Hellespont, though respecting the boundaries which he had long ago guaranteed to Attalus. 1 Eumenes, Attalus’ successor, however, was alarmed to fi nd Pergamum surrounded on all sides by the advancing tide. At his advice the cities of Smyrna and Lampsacus, who had refused to submit to Antiochus and were being taken by force, appealed for protection to Rome, although they had no substantial claim on her. The appeal was welcomed and the Senate, which was concluding peace with Philip, issued its proclamation that ‘Greeks in Europe and Asia were to be free and autonomous’. Beside this warning, which extended their philhellenic policy to Asia, the Senate tried to embarrass Antiochus by sending to him an ambassador who was to protect the interests of Egypt which Rome had conveniently neglected for three years. Undaunted, Antiochus crossed to Europe by the early summer of 196 and established himself on the Thracian coast. ‘To him this was his last conquest, the recovery of the last piece of his heritage; but in the eyes of the Romans, Thrace could only be the fi rst stage of an invasion planned to drive them from Greece.’ (Holleaux, CAH , VIII, p. 184.)
A diplomatic duel followed which merely caused Rome and Antiochus to harden their hearts. Antiochus who had sent envoys to Flamininus at Corinth,
received a brusque reply after the Isthmian Games: ‘he must abstain from attacking autonomous cities in Asia and go to war with none of them; he must evacuate those which had been subject to Ptolemy or Philip; he was forbidden to cross into Europe with an army (which he had as a matter of fact already done); for no Greek henceforth was to be attacked in war or to be enslaved to any one; fi nally ambassadors would wait on Antiochus.’ 2 These ambassadors, supported by the knowledge of Rome’s alliance with Philip, explained the situation to Antiochus in much the same terms. The king replied that he could not understand the Romans interfering in Asia when he did not in Italy; he was merely recovering his ancestral kingdom in Thrace. He then played his trump card: the Romans need not worry about Ptolemy’s possessions because he had just concluded an alliance with him. The Romans were outwitted. Though not admitting their claim to interfere, Antiochus took the wind out of their sails still more by offering to submit the cases of Lampsacus and Smyrna to the arbitration of Rhodes. Matters were thus brought to a standstill. The king would not admit, and the Romans would not abate their demands. Neither side wanted war and the question might have been settled amicably by an equitable recognition and defi nition of the king’s ‘sphere of infl uence’ in Thrace. But Rome could neither believe that his intentions were pacifi c, nor tolerate a great power in the east which might one day grow to rivalry and hostility. The conference was interrupted by a report of Ptolemy’s death. This was false, but it occasioned the ending of the king’s minority and his accession to the throne as Epiphanes Eucharistos (an event celebrated on the Rosetta stone).