BMCR 1997.04.11

1997.4.11, Warrior, Initiation of the Second Macedonian War

Valerie M. Warrior, The initiation of the Second Macedonian War : an explication of Livy Book 31. Historia. Einzelschriften ; Heft 97. Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1996. 118 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 9783515068536

In the past few years the scholarly interest in Livy has turned away from Books 1 and 21-22 to explore both the often neglected 6-10 and the later books. 1 Warrior’s study of Book 31 (201-199 BCE) attempts to sort out the details of the events prior to the Second Macedonian War.

In the “Preface” (pp. 9-11), Warrior gives a brief overview of the types of scholarship that she believes have fragmented the picture provided by Livy’s original narrative. In particular, she singles out two approaches which result in a distorted view of Livy’s account. Studies which focus on political and military events to the exclusion of religious matters fail to understand the delay in the departure of the consular army and attempt to compensate by arguing for a long delay between the two votes for war (see chronology below). Likewise, studies founded on source criticism which has privileged Polybian sections over information based on the annalists have failed to provide a coherent view of the events in Book 31. According to Warrior, the key to understanding the events leading up to the Second Macedonian War is to take a more comprehensive look at Livy’s narrative and to place the events within an extrapolated Julian calendar. 2

Before proceeding to her own explication of Book 31, Warrior surveys the interpretations of previous scholars. “Chapter I: Modern Interpretations: History and Historiography” (pp. 13-22) focuses on the shift among scholars of source criticism from trusting the evidence only in Polybian sections (Nissen, Holleaux, McDonald, Walbank)—despite the fact that the Polybian narrative which is, in theory, behind these sections is extant only in fragments—to an acceptance of the Roman annalistic sources (Klotz, Magie, Bickermann) and finally to an approach which takes each historical event individually, finding sometimes Polybius, sometimes the annalists more trustworthy (Balsdon, Briscoe). Warrior’s rejection of the “Polybius is always right” mentality is especially welcome. Warrior’s discussion of the problems of source criticism quickly becomes intertwined with a review of different interpretations of Rome’s motivations for warfare (whether it was a conscious goal of expansion or defensive imperialism) and other studies of specific events in Book 31, which she characterizes as “the piece-meal, archival approach.” (p. 21). 3 Chapter I concludes with the assertion that addressing problems of historiography must necessarily precede any interpretation of the historical events and in particular that the authenticity of Roman sources must be examined more rigorously.

Chapter II, “Design, Structure, and Chronology” (pp. 23-35), begins with the recognition that Livy’s own conception of the most effective way to present the material governs the amount of detail in his accounts of individual events and that Livy’s choices sometimes frustrate the desires of modern historians. Warrior states that Livy’s overall organizational scheme groups events geographically first, and then chronologically within each section.

Although Briscoe treats 31.1.1-6 as the proemium, Warrior argues that the proemium actually extends to 31.1.10, including the reference to the preces Atheniensium, which Warrior argues is a foreshadowing statement. The narrative of events, therefore, begins with “sub idem fere tempus” at 31.2.1 and provides only a brief account of the end of the consular year (31.2.1-4.7). 31.5-13 presents a more elaborate narrative of events at Rome including the votes about whether or not to declare war on Philip. Warrior here argues that the period between the two votes of the Comitia Centuriata was very brief: when the first vote failed, the consul delivered a speech and on its heels the second vote for war passed. At 31.14.1-2 the consuls depart from Rome and arrive in Macedonia. 31.14.3-18.9 covers the arrival of the Athenian embassy to the consuls at Macedonia and provides information by means of a flashback about Philip’s location and the events which have lead up to the hostilities between Philip and the Athenians. This section displays the same brevity that characterized 31.2.1-4.7, revealing Livy’s attempt to convey the information, but not delay his account of the campaign (31.22.4 -47.3) any more than necessary. 31.19-22.3 deals with events in other areas of Roman activity, but Livy quickly returns to the activities of the consuls, announcing at 31.22.4 their arrival at Epirus. Sections 31.47.4-50.11 wrap up the events of the year. After this analysis of the design and structure of 31, Warrior briefly addresses the chronology, arguing that the one date we can know with certainty is 15 March 200, when the consuls took office and put the initial resolution before the senate. Based on her own analysis, the assumptions that 201, 197, 193 were intercalary years, and a later reference to an eclipse in 190, Warrior suggests that 15 March 200 was equivalent to 14 January 200 in an extrapolated Julian calendar and that 15 March 199 would have been equivalent to 4 January 199. The only other date that can be fixed is the date of the profanation of the Eleusinian Mysteries by the two Acarnanians. Since the festival takes place during the autumnal equinox, the profanation took place in September 201 in the extrapolated Julian calendar. Establishing these fixed points allows Warrior to develop a relative chronology of the events which leading up to the war.

Chapter III (pp. 37-89) lays out the entire chronology of the events in Book 31. Warrior has divided this chapter into six smaller sections. Section I extrapolates a chronology of the events in Greece which lead to the Athenian declaration of war against Philip and the raids by Nicanor and Philocles (autumn 201-summer 200). Section II covers roughly the same time period (autumn 201-April 200) but focuses on events involving Rome directly, namely the embassy to Rome of Attalus and the Rhodians to inform the Romans of Philip’s actions and the appointment of a Roman embassy to Egypt. Section III (November 201-March 200) organizes the actions of the consuls in Rome and the special imperium given to M. Valerius Laevinus. Section IV covers a new time period beginning with the inauguration of the new consuls (mid-January 200) and ending with the departure of the army for Macedonia (late October 200). Section V “Events in the eastern Mediterranean from late April 200 to the arrival of the consular army in Macedonia and the fall of Abydus (late October),” overlaps with Section IV chronologically but focuses more on events outside Rome. Section VI wraps up the events during the autumn of 200 and consular 199. A brief “Conclusion” (p. 91-94) and three appendices follow Chapter III: Appendix I on “The interpretation of autumno ferme exacto (L.31.22.4); Appendix II on the “Athenian appeals to the Romans”; and Appendix III “The Activities of M. Aurelius (Cotta)”. The appendices do not offer any new conclusions, but rather they collect and restate the evidence for each topic. A final comprehensive chronological table (pp. 105-7) and a “Select Bibliography” round out the work.

The bulk of Warrior’s argument takes place in “Chapter III: Chronological Reconstruction” and the chronological tables within this chapter and at the end of the book provide a clear map of the events based on her reading of the text. In order to address Warrior’s contribution to the debates regarding Livy’s presentation, it will be best to reproduce the table and deal with her arguments in regard to specific events.

The departure of the embassy of Attalus and the Rhodians to Rome occurred before or about the same time as the profanation of the Mysteries because a Polybian reference (16.24.1-3) tells us that Philip was at Bargylia at the beginning of winter and knew that embassies had been sent to Rome against him.

Warrior concludes that the date for the Eleusinian Mysteries in 201 is in September based on Livy’s statement at 31.47.1-2 that the Mysteries were celebrated on the autumnal equinox. Thus the Acarnanians must have been executed some time after September 201 and the meeting of the Boule—at which punishment for profanation would have been addressed—which occurs at the end of the nine-day celebration of the Mysteries.

M. Valerius Laevinus was invested with propraetorian imperium based on the information received from Attalus and the Rhodians and sent to Vibo to take thirty-eight ships from Octavius in November. His actions reinforce the message of Roman intentions and authority being spread through Greece by the envoys. Unlike other scholars who reject this episode as a doublet of actions during the First Macedonian War (23.32.17), Warrior argues that Laevinus’ mission is a necessary and logical step in Rome’s systematic preparations for war with Philip. 4 Rejection of Laevinus’ mission requires scholars such as Holleaux and Walbank to assert that Rome suddenly changed its policy against war (based on an assumption about a long delay between the two votes for war in the Comitia Centuriata). Warrior points out that because Laevinus was sent as a propraetor, his imperium would not prevent the province from being assigned to one of the consuls elected in 200. Laevinus, therefore, serves as a bridge between the consular years 201 and 200 and would send a message to Philip that the Romans were ready to begin hostilities again. And a man of Laevinus’ experience, who had already destroyed Philip’s navy in the Adriatic in 214, would have been a logical and formidable choice for the mission.

Although the envoys to Egypt were appointed in late September 201, Warrior argues that they did not depart until mid-March because, as senior senators and men about to address the situation with Macedon, they needed to be present at the discussion of the senate. As a result, their mission was changed to include a trip to Greece before sounding out Ptolemy about his support. Polybian testimony supports the presence of the envoys in Greece (16.27.4) and to Attalus’ delight the Romans were prepared to engage in hostilities with Philip (16.25.4; 16.26.6). Thus, according to Warrior, the envoys must have left after the vote of the Comitia Centuriata to declare war (28 February 200) and Livy’s “interim … missi” must not be taken too seriously. Indeed Warrior draws a parallel between this combination of diplomatic (envoys) and military (Laevinus’ arrival at Apollonia) against Philip and Rome’s similar tactics against Antiochus the Great (35.22.4-39.8) and against Perseus of Macedon (42.36.8-49.1).

It is in this section that Warrior makes an especially important contribution. Holleaux, McDonald, and Walbank try to explain the late departure by proposing a long delay between the two votes for war, but Warrior points out that the motion is passed on the second vote with only a speech by the consul intervening. More importantly, however, Warrior explains that the key to understanding the late date lies in the necessity of the consuls to deal with a variety of religious sacrifices, games and a gift to Jupiter, and especially the expiation of the sacrilege at Locri, which delayed their departure for their provinces. Warrior notes that in 216, 213, 209, 208, and 207 the consuls delayed their departure from Rome in order to attend to matters of religion. In addition, since the expense of the war preparations prevented the third payment to those who had supplied money for the Second Punic War (210), the consuls were required to assess and lease public land for a nominal fee to those to whom the money was owed. Only then could they finally depart to their respective provinces. Furthermore, Warrior states that the best period for sailing around Cape Malea is November and thus makes October an appropriate time for the forces to gather at Apollonia. Warrior also argues that the indictio belli was delivered by an agent of Galba and not by any of the three envoys, since Galba was informed by the senate that he could choose anyone other than a senator to deliver the message, and all three of the envoys were senators.