Rome and the Eastern Mediterranean
During the forty years embraced by this chapter, Rome’s foreign policy underwent a subtle change. Starting with the Greek particularistic principle of temporary alliances which had led to something like a protectorate system, Rome gradually turned to a policy of annexation in Greece. The philhellenic protectorate policy of the Scipios and Flamininus was abandoned in favour of a return to the old system of alliance, which really meant dependence. This reaction, led by Cato, was based on a dislike of things Greek and of the deleterious effect of eastern conquest on the character of Rome’s generals. Further, the people looked askance at the increasing power which foreign conquest vested in the Senate and its prominent members. But beside this partly conscious reaction, Rome was driven on by circumstances. The view that she deliberately encouraged quarrels and rivalries in Greece in order to regain a foothold there is hardly acceptable, but having guaranteed the freedom of Greek cities, she could not disregard their quarrels and still more their appeals. The period shows a welter of disputes referred to the Senate. Rome showed herself slow to intervene, slow even to enforce her decisions, but it is little wonder if her patience was gradually broken down by this bombardment from the Greeks, whom she wished to ignore. We must now trace her relations fi rst with Greece and then with Macedon till the outbreak of the Third Macedonian War.