The Annalist: The Year 168 BCE

(PHGCOM/British Museum)


  • The Illyrian king Genthios defects to Perseus for 300 talents, although only 10 are actually paid;
  • A Macedonian fleet surprises a Pergamenian transport fleet taking Galatian auxiliary horsemen to Greece;
  • The praetor Lucius Anicius Gallus defeats and captures Genthios, ending the war in Illyria within the month;
  • The consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus takes command of the Roman army at Phila;
  • Perseus fortifies the Macedonian positions on the banks of the river Elpeios;
  • Paullus sends Scipio Nasica and his son Fabius on a mission through the Olympus range, around the Macedonian positions;
  • Seeing the enemy appear behind him, Perseus is forced to withdraw from the river and makes his camp at Pydna;
  • On 22 June, the Macedonian army is destroyed in the Battle of Pydna;
  • Perseus flees to Samothrake and later surrenders to the praetor Gnaeus Octavius;
  • After the Roman victory at Pydna, Rhodian citizens accused of sympathising with or actually aiding Perseus are executed;
  • The Roman envoy Gaius Popilius Laenas ends the Sixth Syrian War by drawing a circle in the sand around the Seleucid king Antiochos IV;
  • The censors Gaius Claudius Pulcher and Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus conclude the census.

168 BCE was the final year of the Third Macedonian War. The new consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus – son of the consul killed at Cannae – and Gaius Licinius Crassus assumed their offices on the traditional date of 15 March. Since the Roman calendar of those days was about two months ahead of ours, it was probably January. While it was Crassus’ first consulship, Paullus had been consul before in 182 BCE. A year later, he had won a great victory over the Ligurian Ingauni for which he had been awarded a triumph. Just a few days after Paullus and Crassus had assumed the consulship, Roman envoys reported to the Senate about the situation in Macedonia and Greece. It had already been decided that Paullus was to be sent to Macedonia and he could depart for his province immediately after the Latin Games. The praetor peregrinus Lucius Anicius Gallus was given a command in Illyria while the praetor Gnaeus Octavius had been put in charge of the fleet at Oreos. Fresh soldiers were recruited and the Romans had every intention of finishing the war against King Perseus this year.

King Eumenes II of Pergamum (photo: Sailko; CC BY 3.0 license).

The Third Macedonian War continues

And yet the year started off badly for the Romans. By this time, the Illyrian king Genthios had defected to Perseus for 300 talents of silver, although the latter would actually only pay him ten talents. Oaths were taken and hostages exchanged. At about the same time, anti-Roman sentiments were growing on Rhodos, which so far had also done little to support the Roman cause. Perseus sent envoys to the courts of King Antiochos IV of the Seleucid Empire and King Eumenes of Pergamum. The latter would later be accused of having offered Perseus to stay neutral in the conflict and to mediate between the Macedonians and the Romans in return for large sums of 500 and 1.500 talents respectively.

It is difficult to say whether this claim regarding King Eumenes’ role as a sort of double agent had any truth in it, and it seems to have been penned only after the Third Macedonian War had already ended. But in any case Roman doubts about the loyalty of their ally were growing. It should be noted that no money was actually paid to Eumenes, so there was certainly no ‘smoking gun’. Livius claims that Perseus was a miser and therefore did not pay, and for the same reason dismissed an offer of some 20.000 Bastarnae led by their chieftain Clondicus to fight for him. A much more plausible explanation is, however, that the Macedonian treasury was quickly becoming exhausted: the king also had to pay his own soldiers, at least 40.000 men, who were now under arms for the fourth year in succession.

Early in the year, there was an important success for Perseus at sea. A Macedonian fleet managed to surprise a Pergamenian transport fleet that was sailing from Elaia – the port of Pergamum – to Chios. On board were a few hundred Galatian auxiliary horsemen with their horses. The 35 hippagogoi – ships adapted to transport horses – were sailing without an escort of warships, and therefore were an easy prey for Perseus’ fleet. Upon seeing the Macedonian ships, the Pergamenian crews panicked, and many Galatian troopers were either killed or captured in the ensuing fight. Some of the horses on the ships drowned, while others were hamstrung by the Macedonians. After the Pergamenian defeat, the Rhodians stepped forward and offered to mediate between King Perseus and the Romans. The Romans were not amused by this action: they had not asked for it and already had doubts about the loyalty of their Rhodian allies.

Anicius defeats the Illyrians

Map of Epirus and Illyria (source: Ancient World Mapping Center. “À-la-carte”; CC BY 4.0)

It was probably early May when the praetor Lucius Anicius Gallus landed in Apollonia. The main difference between him and his predecessors in the region was the fact that he commanded a proper Roman army. The legates that had fought in Illyria and Epirus before him seem to have mostly relied on local troops: soldiers levied in the Greek colonies and especially among the Illyrian tribes and the Chaonians and Thesprotians, Epirote tribes that had remained loyal to Rome. By contrast, Gallus had been given two Roman legions of 5.200 infantry and 300 cavalry each, as well as 10.000 Latin and Italian allies and 800 more allied horsemen. His force of almost 22.000 men comfortably outnumbered the army of King Genthios, which was about 15.000 men strong and was concentrated in the city of Lissos. The praetor had every intention of finishing the war quickly, but before he could march north, he first had to deal with an Illyrian pirate fleet of some 80 lemboi that was threatening Epidamnos and Apollonia.

The praetor quickly put out to sea, defeated the pirates, captured some of the lemboi and drove off the rest. He then rejoined the army, marched north, raised the siege of Bassania (a town allied to the Romans) and then advanced on Lissos. Genthios decided not to risk a fight here and withdrew to his capital at Skodra, which he considered to be more defensible. The king probably could have held out here for a long time, but decided to fight the Romans on the plains in front of the city instead. The Illyrians were thoroughly defeated and many were killed in a stampede as they tried to get back into the city. Genthios then asked for an armistice of three days to consider his position. It was granted to him by Gallus, and when the king realised that his brother would not be arriving with reinforcements, he decided to surrender.

The praetor now captured Skodra, freed two Roman envoys that had been imprisoned by Genthios and then had the king’s wife, two sons and brother taken to the Roman camp. They would later be sent to Rome, together with the king’s mother and other important Illyrian prisoners. According to Livius, the praetor had finished the war within thirty days, so it must have been early June when hostilities in Illyria ceased. The complete Roman victory there certainly did much to boost Roman morale. Perseus, by contrast, must have been relieved that he had only paid Genthios 10 talents instead of the promised 300. His newfound ally had proved to be worthless.

The situation in Macedonia

Equipment of a Republican military tribune.

Lucius Aemilius Paullus had set out from Brundisium a little later than the praetor, probably in late May. It must have been early June when the consul arrived in the Roman camp near Phila. Like his predecessor Quintus Marcius Philipppus, Paullus was about sixty years, but much unlike his predecessor – who was known for his corpulence – he was in excellent physical condition. His first wife Papiria had born him two sons. After his divorce from Papiria, Paullus had remarried and had two more sons with his second wife, whose name is not known.[1] He then decided to have his sons from his first marriage adopted by members of illustrious patrician families. His eldest son was adopted into the gens Fabia and took the name Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus. His second son was adopted by Publius Scipio, the eldest son of Scipio Africanus. Publius Scipio suffered from poor health all his life, never became active in politics and had no children of his own. His adopted son became known as Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, the future conqueror of Carthage.

Much of what we know about Paullus’ actions in Macedonia ultimately comes from Polybius, a Greek historian who was an intimate friend of Scipio Aemilianus. Polybius for obvious reasons chose to portray his friend’s father in a very positive light. Later sources such as Livius and Plutarchus made extensive use of Polybius’ work (much of which is lost), so they tend to be positive as well. This means we should not be blind to the bias in their work and carefully scrutinise all the claims about Paullus that they make. Both Livius and Plutarchus for instance claim that discipline in the Roman camp had broken down and that there had been several cases of insubordination against officers. Paullus had to restore order quickly and made it clear that he was the general and the men’s obligation was to obey. Both authors were likely exaggerating, and a similar claim of restoring order and discipline in the army had already been made with regard to the consul of 170 BCE, Aulus Hostilius Mancinus. Nevertheless, the fact that the war was dragging on and that most of the men had been sitting idle since Quintus Marcius Philippus had retired to his winter quarters may certainly have had an effect on morale.

Coin with the head of the hero Perseus (source: Classical Numismatic Group Inc.).

The consul took a few important measures. He improved the water supply of the Roman camp by having the men dig cisterns. He also prohibited the pickets (vigiles) from carrying shields, as he had discovered that the men often used the shields to lean on and then doze off. Since it was exceptionally hot during the day, the consul also began replacing the outposts twice a day, so that fresh troops would always be available if the enemy attacked. After things had been put in order, the consul marched his troops towards the river Elpeios. The Macedonians had made their camp on the other bank, which Perseus had transformed into an almost impregnable fortress, with defensive works and artillery everywhere. The king had even constructed a dam that ran from the shore into the sea, so it would be impossible for the consul to either cross the river or to flank it.

News then reached the camp that King Genthios had been defeated and that the war in Illyria was over. This was a great boon for the Romans, but they still had to find a way to cross the river. Paullus now convened his war council (consilium) and discussed a clever plan. On his staff were several young noblemen from illustrious families. One of them was Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, son of the consul of 191 BCE. Others were Cato the Censor’s son Marcus (who would marry Paullus’ daughter Aemilia Tertia, then still a child) and his own sons Fabius and Scipio Aemilianus. The consul now had a special assignment for Nasica and Fabius: they were given a sizeable force and were sent on a secret mission.

Around and across the Elpeios

Roman extraordinarius (source: Europa Barbarorum).

Veles (source: Europa Barbarorum)

Accounts about the size of the force commanded by the two men vary. Livius claims they had 5.000 men under their command, but Plutarchus gives slightly larger numbers, based on a letter penned by Nasica himself: 3.000 Italians (perhaps the elite extraordinarii) and the left ala of the army, comprising a further 5.000 men. Also part of the force were 120 horsemen and some 200 Thracians and Cretans, as well as two local merchants who served as guides. The Roman column first marched south towards Herakleion, ostensibly to join the fleet command by Gnaeus Octavius and to participate in naval operations. But then the column suddenly swung west into the mountains and marched north again through the Olympus range. Nasica and Fabius had orders to appear behind the Macedonian lines on the third day. The consul would in the meantime stage diversionary attacks across the river. These were bound to fail – as they indeed did – and cost the lives of some of the light troops, but they would distract Perseus and make sure that Nasica and Fabius could fulfil their mission.

The plan came together perfectly. The Roman column moved through the Olympus range undetected and unopposed. It then surprised a Macedonian garrison and massacred most the enemy in their sleep, although Nasica himself would claim that there was a vicious fight and that he had personally killed with his spear a Thracian mercenary attacking him. Whatever the correct version of events, the Romans were now behind Perseus and were threatening Pydna. At the same time the Roman fleet led by Octavius was threatening both the king’s left flank and Central Macedonia. Perseus now had no option but to abandon his positions on the Elpeios and withdraw to Pydna. The king was faced with a difficult choice: he could either divide his army into several smaller units and try to defend the Macedonian cities, or he could keep his forces together and offer battle on the plains of Pydna. The king seemed to prefer the latter, as the plains were ideal terrain for his pike phalanx, the most important element of the Macedonian army. The stage was now set for the decisive Battle of Pydna.

Theatre of the Third Macedonian War (source: Ancient World Mapping Center. “À-la-carte”; CC BY 4.0)

The Battle of Pydna

Lunar eclipse (photo: Alfredo Garcia, Jr ).

Nasica and Fabius now rejoined the army of the consul, and together they marched north in pursuit of Perseus. The younger officers were eager to offer battle immediately. Both sides were about evenly matched in numbers[2], but Paullus knew that the men were tired and thirsty from a long march under the hot sun and ordered to construct a camp in the hills on rough terrain instead. This was excellent terrain for the Roman infantry, while the Macedonian pikemen could not manoeuvre here at all. It was now 21 June, the day of the summer solstice. That night a lunar eclipse took place. Livius claims that it had been predicted by the tribune and former praetor Gaius Sulpicius Gallus, an authority on astronomical matters, although perhaps Gallus simply explained the phenomenon to the men afterwards. Livius also claims that the Macedonian camp was struck with fear when the moon disappeared, but it seems rather unlikely that the Macedonians had no knowledge of lunar eclipses.

The next day, 22 June, neither the consul nor the king wanted to fight a battle. The Romans were loath to leave their strong position in the hills, while the king did not want to give up the advantage of fighting on the flat terrain of the plains. Still, the Battle of Pydna would be fought on this day, and it should not come as a surprise that that it started accidentally. Close to the Macedonian camp there was a river which both the Romans and the Macedonians used to draw water from. Both sides had stationed troops on the banks to protect the foragers. On the Roman side there were two allied cohorts, one comprising Marrucini, the other made up of Paeligni, two Italian tribes allied to the Romans. Also present were two turmae of Samnite cavalry, while a little bit further back there was a larger outpost with three more cohorts of infantry (from the Latin colonies of Firmum and Cremona and from the tribe of the Vestini), as well as two more turmae of cavalry from the Latin colonies of Placentia and Aesernia. Livius’ description of these allied troops gives us a good impression of the composition of the allied alae in the Roman armies of those days.

Replica of a Roman gladius (left).

It must have been about three o’clock in the afternoon when a pack animal in the Roman army – most likely a mule – escaped from its masters, jumped into the river and ran to the other side. Three Italian soldiers immediately went after it, waded through the water and killed two Thracians that tried to get hold of the animal. The Thracians were part of a unit of some 800 soldiers, and many of them wanted to avenge their fallen comrades. They crossed the river and assaulted the Italians stationed there. Soon more troops were sucked into the fighting and a full-scale battle seemed inevitable. Perseus seems to have responded slightly faster than Paullus. He marched his heavy infantry and cavalry out of camp, crossed the river and made the pikemen join the battle. His elite agema confronted the Marrucini and Paeligni, who could not make any headway against the dense mass of pikes. Plurarchus relates how the commander of the Paeligni snatched the unit’s standard and hurled it into the enemy formation. The Paeligni bravely surged forward to get the precious object back, but they failed to break into the phalanx and many were quickly killed or wounded.

The agema now began pushing back the Marrucini and Paeligni, who managed to withdraw in good order. The fight then moved to broken terrain. This terrain clearly favoured the Romans. The phalanx broke up into its constituent parts, and large gaps appeared between the agema and the Thracians and other allies on the left, and the Bronze Shields (Chalkaspides) and White Shields (Leukaspides) on the right. By now the consul Paullus had arrived on the battlefield – the battle must have been fought extremely close to the Roman camp – and had taken command of the situation. The first Roman legion began infiltrating the enemy formation and small groups of soldiers led by centurions cut the Bronze Shields to pieces, attacking their flanks and rear. The second Roman legion, commanded by the former consul Lucius Postumius Albinus (see 173 BCE), fought against the White Shields in a similar manner and with similar success. The Roman legionaries with their stabbing swords and large body shields made short work of the pikemen, who simply did not stand a stance with their cumbersome sarissas, smaller shields and inferior side arms.

Depiction of the Battle of Pydna by Peter Connolly (1935-2012).

At the same time, the consul committed the allied cavalry and his battle elephants against the enemy left flank. Perseus had deployed his elephantomachae here – ‘elephant fighters’ -, special cavalry units with horses that were used to the sight, smell and sound of elephants, and with men wearing spiked helmets and shields. These anti-elephants units proved to be utterly useless. And while the elephants were causing considerable confusion among the troops on the Macedonian left flank, the allied right ala had recovered and defeated the Thracians and the other Macedonian allies. Only the elite agema kept on fighting until it was finally destroyed. There seems to have been little fighting on the Macedonian right flank, where more allies and mercenaries – likely Cretans and Celts – would have been stationed. It is not inconceivable that these never arrived given the fact that the battle had only started by chance. Even more surprisingly, most of the Macedonian cavalry seems to have never been engaged. This makes sense for the Macedonian left flank, where the Romans had committed their elephants, but it remains inexplicable with regard to the right flank, where the Macedonian king traditionally commanded his elite Companion cavalry (hetairoi in Greek).

Perseus’ behaviour during the battle has been hotly debated by historians. It is clear that he had not intended to fight that day, but Polybius’ claim – repeated by Plutarchus – that the king fled almost as soon as the battle had started, using his wish to sacrifice to Herakles as a pretext, sounds rather far-fetched. Perseus was certainly not a coward. Plutarchus also quotes a certain Poseidonios[3], who claims that the king had been kicked by a horse the previous day, and in spite of his injury participated in the battle and was even wounded. However this may be, Perseus ultimately left the battlefield with most of his cavalry while his infantry was being cut to pieces. Between 20.000 and 25.000 Macedonians were killed, most of them probably after their units had been routed. The Roman cavalry mercilessly pursued their fleeing opponents for the rest of the day and cut them down wherever they found them. Thousands of Macedonians who surrendered were taken prisoner. Those that managed to escape from the Roman onslaught soon overtook the king and his horsemen as they were riding north to Pella. Plutarchus claims the foot soldiers hurled insults at their mounted comrades and accused them of cowardice and treason.

Aftermath of the Battle of Pydna

Sanctuary of the Great Gods, Samothrake (photo: Ggia, CC BY-SA 3.0 license).

At Pydna, the Macedonian army had been effectively destroyed. By contrast, Roman casualties were incredibly light: between 80 and 100 men had been killed and many more wounded. Even though these figures might appear to be much too low, we should keep in mind that the battle only lasted about one hour and that none of the Roman units engaged – not even the Paeligni who suffered the heaviest casualties – were ever routed. Marcus Cato had distinguished himself during the battle, recovering the sword that he had lost in the fighting. For a long time, the consul Paullus feared that his second son Scipio Aemilianus – who was just seventeen years old at the time – had been killed, but the young man later returned to the Roman camp in good health.

The road to the Macedonian capital of Pella now lay wide open for the Romans. Perseus realised he could not stay here and fled further east to Amphipolis in Thrace, arriving there on 24 June. By this time, the king was accompanied only by some 500 Cretans and his sons.[4] When the king failed to rally support in Thrace, he boarded a ship and sailed to Samothrake (on 25 June), an island famous for its Pan-Hellenic Sanctuary of the Great Gods. The king took refuge in a temple there. Since resistance was futile, almost all of Macedonia had in the meantime surrendered to the consul and important cities such as Pydna, Beroia, Thessalonike and Pella fell into Roman hands. Cities in Thessaly that were still loyal to Perseus were stormed and pillaged. The consul first sent a delegation including his son Fabius to Rome to report about the victory and then moved his camp to Pydna. He subsequently advanced on Pella, reaching the Macedonian capital after a march of two days. When it was reported to him that the king had fled to Samothrake, Paullus quickly broke camp again and marched on Amphipolis.

Remains of the Circus Maximus.

News of the Roman victory at Pydna had by this time already reached Italy. Livius, perhaps citing an unreliable tradition, claims that on the fourth day after the battle, the crowd at the Circus suddenly began cheering and applauding when a rumour about a great victory in Macedonia was circulating. On 4 July, a herald reached the consul Gaius Licinius Crassus with official news about the defeat of Perseus, and on 13 July, Fabius and the other envoys finally arrived in Rome. A grateful Senate ordered five days of public thanksgiving for Paullus’ victories against the Macedonians and another three days for Anicius Gallus’ victories against the Illyrians.

Meanwhile, Perseus was still on Samothrake. A Roman diplomatic delegation sent to the island to demand his surrender had achieved nothing. Now the praetor Gnaeus Octavius arrived with his fleet. One by one Perseus’ companions began defecting to the Romans. The king tried to flee to his ally, King Cotys of the Thracian tribe of the Odrysians. But after he had paid a handsome sum to a Cretan to take him to Thrace by ship, the Cretan double-crossed him and sailed back to Crete. This was the limit for Perseus. He now surrendered to Octavius, who took him to the consul’s camp at Amphipolis. Paullus welcomed his prisoner with all due regards. The war being concluded, the consul sent his army to its winter quarters early in the season.


Antiochos IV Epiphanes (source: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.).

The Romans now had time to deal with the situation in Egypt. Early this year, a delegation from Ptolemaios VIII Physcon and his sister Cleopatra II had addressed the Senate to complain about Antiochos IV’s invasion of Egypt. The delegates had probably left Egypt when Alexandria, seat of the rival government set up by Physcon and Cleopatra, was still under siege from the Seleucids. Antiochos had later given up the siege and had withdrawn his army, keeping a strong garrison in the important city of Pelousion. The king relied on his nephew Ptolemaios VI, Physcon’s older brother, whom he had left behind as a puppet ruling from Memphis.

The Senate, unaware of what was going on in Egypt, had decided to send a delegation led by Gaius Popilius Laenas, the consul of 172 BCE, to the region to investigate. The delegation had sailed to the island of Delos in the Aegean Sea, where it had waited until the war against King Perseus had been won. The delegates had then taken a detour after a pressing invitation from the Rhodians to address their popular assembly. Popilius and his colleague Gaius Decimius decided to play ‘good cop, bad cop’: while the former severely harangued the Rhodians for their attitude during the Third Macedonian War, the latter merely blamed a few individuals and not Rhodos as a whole for inciting the masses against the Romans. The result was that the assembly decided to condemn to death those suspected of sympathising with or actually aiding Perseus.

Map of Egypt and Syria (source: Ancient World Mapping Center. “À-la-carte”; CC BY 4.0)

One of the so-called ‘Tombs of the Kings’, Paphos, Cyprus.

By this time, Antiochos had invaded Egypt again. The two Ptolemies had reconciled and the older of the two had returned to Alexandria where he was greeted by the masses who had earlier made his brother king. Antiochos had now lost his puppet ruler and immediately struck back by launching a combined land and naval operation against Egyptian possessions. In spring, the Seleucid fleet was sent to Cyprus to annex it, while the army again penetrated deep into Egyptian territory. The desperate Egyptians called upon the Achaean League to send them reinforcements. Polybius, his father Lykortas and several prominent Achaeans were in favour of helping their allies, but the majority decided against a military intervention, fearing that Rome would not be pleased. Antiochos now took Memphis and swung north to Alexandria. At Eleusis, just four miles from the Egyptian capital, he met with Popilius, who had just arrived. It was now probably July. The king wanted to shake hands with the Roman envoy, whom he must have known personally from his time spent in Rome as a hostage (see 176-175 BCE), and extended his hand. But Popilius gave him the writing tablets containing the Senate’s demand of an immediate cessation of hostilities and told the king to read these first.

Antiochos asked for time to consult with his council, whereupon the Roman legatus used his staff (virga) to draw a circle around the king in the sand. Popilius ordered Antiochos to give him an answer for the Senate before leaving the circle. The king was nonplussed, but quickly gave in and promised to do what the Senate ordered. Then, and only then, did Popilius shake the king’s hand as a friend and ally of the Roman people. The Romans had ended the war with a proverbial line in the land. Antiochos withdrew his forces from Egypt and the envoys sailed to Cyprus, which had already been overrun by Seleucids troops. These were also expelled from the island, and Egypt was at peace again, although it should be clear that the two brothers ruling the reeling kingdom were both highly dependent on continued Roman support.

The rest of the year

The Forum Romanum today.

168 BCE had been a very successful year for the Romans. They had defeated the Illyrians and the Macedonians and had captured their kings, Genthios and Perseus. They had also ended a conflict between two former superpowers without even committing any troops. Ptolemaios VI and Ptolemaios VIII almost instantly sent a delegation to Rome to thank the Senate for its aid. Eumenes, Attalos and Athenaios also sent envoys from Pergamum to Rome to congratulate the Romans on their splendid victories. These had in part been due to troops sent by their faithful ally in Africa, King Masinissa of Numidia. His son Masgaba was given a grand welcome when he visited Rome this year. Misagenes, another son who had actually commanded Numidian troops in combat, may have visited as well.

Gaius Claudius Pulcher and Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus concluded the census this year. They had closely worked together the previous year, but now seem to have fallen out over the distribution of freedmen among the four urban tribes. The nature of the conflict is not easy to understand, mostly because Livius’ text – our main source – has a few gaps. Anyhow, the conflict was solved when straws were drawn and the freedmen were enrolled in the tribus Esquilina only. After their term of office, which lasted eighteen months, had expired, the censors requested it to be prolonged so that they could investigate the state of maintenance of public buildings and the letting of public contracts. Their request was, however, vetoed by a tribune. His reason: he had not been enrolled in the Senate and was now out for revenge.


Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Adrian Goldsworthy, In the Name of Rome, p. 90-104;
  • Adrian Goldsworthy, Antony and Cleopatra, p. 43-45.


[1] Paullus had several daughters as well. Plutarchus claims that his daughter Aemilia Tertia had a pet dog named Perseus. When the dog died just prior to the campaign against King Perseus, Paullus took that as a good omen (The Life of Aemilius 10.6-7). Plutarchus’ own source was Cicero.

[2] Plutarchus claims that Perseus had an army of 40.000 infantry and 4.000 cavalry (The Life of Aemilius 13.4). The consul’s army was an enlarged consular army of possibly up to 28.000 infantry and perhaps 2.000 cavalry, but there must have been several units of allied Greek infantry and cavalry (e.g. Thessalian horsemen) in the Roman army, as well as several Thracians and Cretans, even though these units are hardly ever mentioned in the sources. Mysteriously absent are the numbers of Numidian infantry and cavalry serving in the Roman army. These must have been significant, especially as regards the cavalry. Livius (42.52) had previously given the size of the Roman army as 37.000 infantry and 2.000 horsemen.

[3] Was it the historian Poseidonios (ca. 135-51 BCE)? This seems unlikely, as Plutarchus claims that his Poseidonios “lived in those times and took part in those actions”. No history of Perseus is known from the historian Poseidonios, although he did continue Polybius’ Histories after 146 BCE.

[4] The king’s own son was called Alexander. His adopted son – actually his half-brother – was called Philippos.


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