Friday, August 03, 2012


In 192 BC Antiochus III (the Great) invaded Greece, and was elected the commander in chief of the Aetolian League. Declaring himself the "champion of Greek freedom against Roman domination", Antiochus waged war against the Roman Republic in mainland Greece, only to be defeated by the Romans under Manius Acilius Glabrio at Thermopylae in 191 BC, forcing him to withdraw to Asia Minor.

 The Romans were subsequently drawn into Asia as allies of Pergamum, and against the armies of Antiochus and his allies – the Galatian Celts. Antiochus appears to have enlisted the support of the Galatians through a mixture of threats and promises (App., syr., II , 6), and throughout the course of the war he made extensive use of Celtic troops (Livy, 37:38; 38:18). At the decisive battle of Magnesia ad Sipylum, in 190 BC, he relied heavily on the Galatians, especially their cavalry. Despite the support of the Celts, the Romans, led by Scipio Asiaticus, subsequently won a resounding victory over Antiochus at Magnesia, and thus the war.
  In the aftermath of this victory the new Roman commander, Gnaeus Manlius Vulso, blazed a path through the region, looting, robbing and extorting plunder from the local population, and destroying those who resisted (Livy 38:15). However, this was only a foretaste of what had was to come, for the Roman commander had set himself a very specific task – the extermination of the Asian Celts.
 The rationale behind Manlius' campaign against the Galatians in 189 BC is a valuable insight into the Roman psyche. Unlike the rich cities which the Romans had just plundered, the area in which the Galatians lived was neither rich nor fertile. Indeed, much of the region in which the Galatians lived was barren and extremely poor. For example, the Axylon region inhabited by the Tolistoboii (-bogi) tribe is described thus – 'not only does it bear nothing in the shape of timber, but not even brambles or thorn bushes grow here, or anything which can serve for fuel. The inhabitants use cow-dung instead of wood' (Livy, 38:18). Neither was Manlius under orders from Rome to destroy the Galatians. Indeed, he would later be called to task for the Galatian campaign by his enemies in Rome before the senate. Here a section of the testimony of L. Furius Purpurio and L. Aemilius Paulus against him – 'When he found that the king's subjects remained perfectly quiet and that there was nothing to justify hostilities, he led his troops round against the Gallograeci, a nation against whom no declaration of war had been made either by the authority of the senate or the order of the people' (Livy, 38, 46).