Philip V  [238 - 179 BCE]

Venturesome son of Demetrius II, whose repeated attempts to expand Macedonian influence only succeeded in losing control of the western Balkan peninsula & Greece to Rome. Since Philip was just 9 when his father was killed (229 BCE), his father's cousin [Antigonus Doson] married his mother & ruled as king. Instead of usurping power for himself, Philip's stepfather prepared his ward to be king & even had the foresight to create a council of royal advisors for his stepson.

Philip, however, was just 17 when Antigonus died (221 BCE), leaving him to manage a complex volatile political situation. Though he was energetic & ambitious, his decisions proved that he lacked his stepfather's wisdom & diplomatic skills which were sorely needed to preserve Macedonian supremacy in the Balkans.  With Antigonus dead, his newly reconstituted Hellenic league split into feuding factions (220 BCE). Sparta declared its independence & persuaded the Aetolian league [a confederacy of Greek cities on the north side of the gulf of Corinth] to attack Macedonia's Greek allies, the Achaean league [a confederation of cities in the northern Peloponnese].  When the Achaeans called for Macedonian aid, Philip -- who had unwisely dissolved his council of advisors -- decided to conclude a unilateral treaty (217 BCE) with his nearer neighbors [the Aetolians] rather than aiding Macedonia's more distant allies [the Achaeans]. This diplomatic blunder cost Macedonia most of its hard won support in the Peloponnese & created the conditions for Greeks to ally themselves with Rome instead.

The reason for Philip's shortsightedness was concern for Macedonia's own northern borders & the prospect of extending Macedonian control over the northwestern Balkan peninsula. In 229 BCE Rome had briefly invaded Macedonia's neighbor, Illyria, which was a safe haven for Adriatic pirates.  A decade later, when the Illyrians threatened to disrupt Adriatic trade again, Rome swiftly & decisively defeated them (219 BCE). The Illyrian ruler, Demetrius of Pharos, found refuge in the court of the youthful Philip, who had just become king, and persuaded him to join forces to repel the threat of Roman invasion. Within months Hannibal of Carthage launched a devastating invasion of Italy that began the second Punic war (218 BCE). With Roman forces focused on defending their home turf, Philip invaded Illyria to expel Roman garrisons, meeting with mixed success.

By 215 Hannibal had inflicted so many crushing defeats on Roman armies defending Italy that many old Hellenic cities in the south of the peninsula decided to support him. In order to isolate & encircle Rome he formed an alliance with Philip. Philip, who was just 23, saw this as an opportunity to make Macedonia not only the undisputed master of the whole Balkan peninsula but even of southern Italy.

Unfortunately for Philip, however, Romans intercepted his correspondence with Hannibal. So his alliance only succeeded in making him public enemy number two in Rome. Rather than wait for Philip to join forces with Hannibal, Rome declared a preemptive war on Macedonia (214 BCE) & recruited the Aetolian league & Attalus of Pergamum (in Asia Minor) as allies. Instead of fulfilling his dream of Macedonian expansion & conquest, Philip found himself fighting a defensive battle on all his borders. Most damaging to his vision of Macedonian hegemony was the fact that he was finally forced into a no win war with the leagues of Greek cities on his southern border that he had tried to avoid three years earlier.  This time, the Achaeans were no longer enthusiastic Macedonian allies. Still Philip managed to win enough battles over the next decade to force the Aetolians to sue for peace on his terms (206 BCE). Without further allies in Greece, Rome declared an end to the war with Macedonia  (205 BCE), having achieved its goal of keeping Philip from aiding Hannibal.

The so-called "Peace of Phoenice," however, failed to bring lasting peace. Rather, it freed Roman forces to lay siege to Carthage, preventing the reinforcement of Hannibal's troops. Hannibal was recalled to Carthage where he was finally defeated (202 BCE), ending the second Punic war.

Meanwhile, Philip totally misjudged his strength & the balance of power in his stalemate with Rome.  Seeking to punish Egypt for its neutrality in the first Macedonian war, he joined forces with Antiochus III to attack & divide Egypt's Aegean possessions (203 BCE). Just as Rome was celebrating its victory over Carthage, Philip attacked Pergamum & Rhodes. When Philip refused a Roman ultimatum to desist, Rome came to the aid of its besieged allies.  With Philip's army engaged in Asia, the Aetolians again rebelled & joined forces with Rome. This time Philip's overextended forces were no match for his opponents. The once invincible Macedonian phalanx was decisively defeated at the battle of Cynoscephalae ["Dog's Head"] in Thessaly by the more flexible combat tactics of the Roman legions (197 BCE).

Though Philip escaped with his life & his throne, the conditions of the Roman dictated treaty deprived Macedonia of any claim of dominion over Greeks or their territory. At the pan-Hellenic games of 196 BCE, all Greek cities & their citizens were declared "free" -- and under the "protection" of Rome. To guarantee Philip's compliance, his youngest son was sent as a hostage to Rome.

Finally wiser from failed ventures, Philip spent the rest of his reign restructuring his kingdom's internal affairs & securing its borders. He even helped the Romans end an Aetolian revolt against Roman domination. Though the Macedonian homeland survived as a technically "independent" state through the reign of Philip's oldest son [Perseus], after 196 BCE it was just a client of Rome & never again a major force in Mediterranean politics.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 12.414.
                  Polybius, Histories 18.1-12, 18-39.
                  Plutarch, Philopoemen 12, 15.
_____, Flaminius 1-10, 14-15, 17.
                  Cassius Dio, Roman History 18.

Other resources on line:

Silver tetradrachma with bust of diademed Philip V on the face & figure of Athena with shield & thunderbolt on the reverse, flanked by the inscription (reading from right to left) Baslieos Philippou ["of King Philip"]. This coin is typical of those minted early in Philip's reign (ca. 220 BCE) while he still claimed leadership of the Hellenic league. Coins minted after 200 BCE replaced Athena [the patron goddess of Greek democracy] with a wreathed war club.

For high resolution images of this and other coins of Philip see Ancient Coinage of Macedonia, Philip V in David Surber's excellent ancient coins website: Wildwinds.

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