The Annalist: The Year 194 BCE

(photo: Uploadalt/British Museum).

Under the consulships of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus and Tiberius Sempronius Longus, the Romans had a fairly uneventful year. Envoys from Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, arrived in Rome, where they were welcomed in the temple of Apollo outside the sacred pomerium. The terms that had been agreed with Titus Quinctius Flamininus in Greece were ratified quickly and without any discussion. Both consuls were given Italy as their province, although Scipio tried to be sent to Macedonia to keep a watchful eye on Antiochos the Great. There was some discussion, but although Scipio was the princeps senatus, his political influence seems to have been meagre at best. The majority of the senators decided that the war in Greece and Macedonia was over, and that Flamininus and his army could be recalled. Scipio and Longus were ordered to raise new legions for a possible war with the Celts of Cisalpine Gaul.

Constitutional issues

An interesting constitutional problem arose with regard to the status of Latins living in Roman colonies. Colonies of Roman citizens were traditionally administered from Rome, while Latin colonies had their own administration. The former were usually quite small, sometimes just villages with 300 inhabitants. They could normally be found in coastal areas, where the inhabitants were required to patrol the seas. The latter were much larger and were required to provide the Roman armies with soldiers. This year, some Latins who had signed up for the recently founded Roman colonies at Puteoli, Salernum and Buxentum claimed that their signing up made them Roman citizens as well. The Senate declared that they were not, but this incident shows that Roman citizenship was already coveted by many. New Roman colonies were also founded at Liternum in Campania – where Scipio owned a villa – and at Croton in the deep south of Italy. Two larger Latin colonies of some 3.000 inhabitants were founded in the territory of the Bruttii and near Thurii.

Sextius Aelius Paetus (one of the consuls of 198 BCE) and Gaius Cornelius Cethegus (one of the consuls of 197 BCE) were elected the new censors. Scipio Africanus was reappointed as the princeps senatus and just three senators were struck from the roll. The censors also took controversial measures, ordering the curule aediles to reserve separate seats for the senators during the Roman Games. This was unheard of: senators had always sat among the common people during these games. The new rule was widely resented.

Italy

The proconsul Lucius Valerius Flaccus followed up on his victory over the Boii of the previous year by routing a combined army of the Boii and the Insubres. The battle took place near Mediolanum, present-day Milan. The new consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus also fought the Boii, but he got himself into trouble when his camp was surrounded by a large Celtic army. The Boii were led by a prince named Boiorix – which means “Boii king” and may be a title rather than a name – and his two brothers. Longus was loath to risk a battle and sent a runner to Scipio with a request for aid. The Boii, however, stormed the Roman camp before reinforcements could arrive. The Romans tried to sally, and there was fierce fighting at the two principal gates. Since there was hardly any room for manoeuvring or for using edged weapons, the battle quickly evolved into a pushing match.

A senior Roman centurion (primuspilus) and a tribune tried to get the Roman lines to advance by snatching the maniples’ standards from their bearers and hurling them into the mass of enemies. This worked for a while, but then the Boii managed to force their way in through a third gate, the porta decumana, killing a quaestor and dozens of soldiers. The consul kept his nerve and sent in several maniples of the extraordinarii, who drove the Boii out of the camp again. The fighting continued for hours, until the heat got the better of the Celts. The Boii were driven back to their own camp and the consul sounded the retreat. Some soldiers refused to listen, hoping that they could take the enemy camp all by themselves. They were quickly routed by the Boii and forced to run for their lives. The battle had resulted in a Roman victory, but casualties on both sides had been significant. Scipio did not arrive in time to be of any assistance. In fact, the victor of Hannibal seems to have achieved very little this year.

Spain

Now that Cato had left Spain, many of the tribes rose up in revolt again. The praetors sent to govern Nearer and Further Spain fought the rebels with mixed results. The governor of Nearer Spain, Sextus Digitius, suffered severe losses. Some 50% of his troops were killed or injured. The other praetor was Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, the man who had been proclaimed the very best man in all of Rome (vir optimus Romae) and who had been sent to Ostia to welcome the sacred stone representing the Magna Mater in 204 BCE. Scipio Nasica won many battles in Further Spain and was said to have reduced fifty towns in the region.

Greece

At the beginning of Spring, Titus Quinctius Flamininus came to Corinth to address the Achaeans. He announced that he would be taking his army back to Italy and that he would order the Roman garrison to leave the Acrocorinth immediately. Demetrias and Chalkis, the other “fetters of Greece”, would be evacuated shortly afterwards. The crowd cheered him as he spoke these words and Flamininus had them witness the garrison leaving its position on the citadel. He then asked the Achaeans to help him locate all the Roman citizens that had been sold as slaves when, after their disastrous defeat at Cannae, the Romans refused to ransom any prisoners of war. Many of these slaves had ended up in Greece, and of these some 1.200 were still alive. The Achaeans set them free and compensated their owners by paying a handsome sum of 500 drachmas per slave. This made a grand total of 100 talents for the liberty of these Romans. But it was a small price for the liberty of the Greeks.

Flamininus ordered his legate to assemble his army and march to Orikos in Epirus. He travelled to Euboea himself, where he removed the Roman garrison from Chalkis. The next stop was Demetrias in Magnesia, where the Roman garrison was also withdrawn. The proconsul had kept his promise that all Greece was to be free, although he had made sure that pro-Roman administrations were in charge of most cities. Flamininus then travelled to Orikos himself and rejoined his army. He embarked his troops and set sail for the port of Brundisium. Upon his return to Rome, the proconsul was obviously awarded a triumph. Cato had triumphed earlier that year for his victories in Spain, but Flamininus’ triumph was much more spectacular, if only because it lasted three days. Flamininus’ chariot was preceded by Demetrios, son of King Philippos of Macedonia, and by Armenas, son of the tyrant Nabis of Sparta. Many of the Romans rescued from slavery also marched in the triumph, with their heads shaven and wearing the traditional felt caps (pileus) of freedman.

Sources

Primary sources

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