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The second fall of Thermopylae 191 BC

11/03/2012

Civil disputes continued to ravage Greece though the second century BC. The anti-Macedonian party represented by the Aetolians invited the Romans to help them. In 197 BC the Aetolians gave victory to the Romans by attacking the flank of the Macedonian phalanx at Cynoscephalae. Macedonia became a vassal of the Romans and was forced to support them militarily. At the same time in the distant East, Antiochus III of the Seleucids reduced his opponents. After the defeat of Philip V at the hands of the Romans, Antiochus found the opportunity to expand westwards. He came to Greece with the promise that he will liberate the people from the Romans. The unpredictable Aetolians were the only ones who sided with him, while the other Greeks tired of their wars viewed the Seleucids with apprehension. The old Antiochus married a young girl from Chalcis and his army was dispersed to winter quarters. Without the supervision of the King, discipline collapsed.

Legionaries fortifying their camp. Source «BRITANNIA«

In 191 BC Antiochus stopped the Roman advance at the Straits of Thermopylae. H fortified the narrow pass and assigned the defense of the three mountain passes of Oeti (Teichio, Rodountia, «Kallidromo«) to the Aetolians. The Romans because of the confined space they could not charge the Seleucids and suffered heavily from phalangites and light troops supporting the Greek heavy infantry. But Roman detachments were sent to force the other mountain passes. In the two passes, the Aetolians fought stubbornly and thwarted the Roman efforts but in the third pass («Kallidromo») Marcus Cato literally caught them sleeping. These are panic-stricken refugees crushed upon the army of the Antiochus with the legionaries following them closely in hot pursuit. Trapped in narrow pass the Seleucids were wiped out. Antiochus IMA escaped to Asia via the Aegean and believing that the naval ability of the Romans was low. But thanks to the help of Eumenes of Pergamon and of Rhodes the Romans passed to Anatolia and smashed at the battle of Magnesia in 190 BC

Sources

Pausanias «Description of Greece» John Dreyden London: Macmillan, 1889

Plutarch «Flamininus» Loeb Classical Library 1920

Livius «History of Rome» J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., London, 1905

Polyvios «Histories» Evelyn S. Shuckburgh London: Macmillan, 1889

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