1902 Encyclopedia > Titus Quinctius Flamininus

Titus Quinctius Flamininus
Roman general and statesman
(c. 228 - c 174 BC)

TITUS QUINCTIUS FLAMININUS, a Roman general and statesman, well known as the liberator of Greece, was born about 228, and died about 174 B.C. The patrician family of the Quinctii had already made their mark in Roman history, but of Titus's immediate ancestors nothing is known except that, according to the Fasti Capitolini, his father bore the same name. He began his public life as a military tribune under Marcellus. On the death of his commander he was appointed propraetor of Tarentum and the neighbouring district. His administrative abilities were recognized even in this subordinate post, and in 202 B.C. he was appointed one of a commission of three to supplement the colony of Venusium, whose numbers had been drained by the war with Hannibal. In 199 B.C. he was made quaestor, and the next year, skipping the regular stages of aedile and praetor, he obtained the consulship, notwithstanding the opposition of the tribunes on account of his youth. The scanty records of his early years furnish nothing which will adequately account for this marvellously rapid promotion, but it is explained and justified by his subsequent career. Flamininus was one of the first and most successful of the rising school of Roman statesmen, the opponents of the narrow and almost provincial patriotism of which Cato was the type, the disciples of Greek culture, and the advocates of a wide imperial policy. His winning manners, his polished address, his knowledge of men, and the personal fascination which was mainly owing to these qualities, and lastly his knowledge of Greek, which, according to Plutarch, he spoke like his native language, all marked him out as the fittest representative of Rome in the East, and it was an auspicious lot for Rome which assigned to the consul the province of Macedonia, and the conduct of the war with Philip. No sooner was he appointed than he set to work to collect new levies, selecting the picked veterans who had served in the Spanish and African campaigns. His predecessors in the province, Sulpicius and Publius, had been dilatory and incompetent, not quitting Rome till their year of office had nearly expired. Flamininus sailed in the early spring, and, leaving his troops at Corcyra to follow him, crossed in a single galley to the mainland and hurried to the Roman camp in Epirus, dismissed his predecessor Publius Villius, and in a council of war determined to storm the pass of Antigonea, a narrow gorge a little below Clissoura, which was occupied by the enemy. Repulsed in the direct attack, he consented to parley with Philip, and the two commanders met on the banks of the Aous and conversed across the narrow stream. Flamininus at once revealed his intended policy, and in stern and uncompromising terms demanded the liberation of Greece and Thessaly. Philip indignantly broke up the conference, exclaiming that harder terms could not have been proposed to him had he been conquered. This bold attitude of defiance and assertion of the claims of oppressed nationalities was in a great measure the secret of Flamin-inus's success. The news soon spread that a Roman had come, not to transfer the yoke of slavery, but to vindicate the liberties of Greece. Charops, an Epirot chieftain, re-vealed to Flamininus a by-path across the mountains by which the pass could be turned; a signal fire showed that the expedition had succeeded; and a simultaneous attack in front and rear completely routed the Macedonians, who were only saved from total destruction by the nature of the ground, which rendered pursuit impossible. Flamininus found himself master of Epirus, and he cemented a lasting friendship with the Epirots by his mildness and moderation, which contrasted with the extortions and ravages of Philip. From Epirus he passed into Thessaly, and took Phaloria, though he was obliged to raise the siege of Atrax on the Peneus. Thence he marched into Locris, where Anticyra served him as a basis for further operations, and enabled him to communicate with the fleet, which was commanded by his brother Lucius. Many towns in Phocis opened their gates to him, and Elatea the capital was taken after a long resistance. His principal efforts were now directed to win over the Achaean league, and in this he was so far success-ful that a conference of the Greeks was held near Nicaea on theMeliac gulf, under his presidency, to treat with Philip. A truce of two months was agreed to, on condition of the evacuation of all the towns of Phocis and Locris, to enable both parties to send deputies to Rome. The Greek deputies were instructed to demand the expulsion of Macedonian garrisons from Demetrias, Chalcis, and Corinth, as the only guarantee for the freedom of Greece. When the senate demanded of Philip's ambassadors whether he was ready to grant these terms, they replied that they had no instruc-tions, and were sent back and told to treat directly with Flamininus, whose command, which was just expiring, they extended for a second year. Flainininus, having thus secured his own object, showed no disposition to temporize with Philip, and the negotiations were abruptly broken off. The perfidy of Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, secured him a valuable ally and the help of Argos, which Philip had delivered over to Nabis to garrison. Thebes, and with it Bceotia, was gained over partly by persuasion and partly by stratagem, and in the ensuing spring, 197 B.C., Flamin-inus took the field with nearly all Greece at his back. After a cavalry skirmish near Phera, the main armies met at Cynoscephalae, a low range of hills so called from a fanciful resemblance to dogs' heads. It was the first time that the Macedonian phalanx and the Roman legion had met in open fight, and the day decided which nation was to be master of Greece and perhaps of the world. It was a victory of in-telligence over brute force, and, where numbers and courage were equally matched, the superior strategy and presence of mind of the Roman general turned the scale. The left wing of the Roman army was retiring in hopeless confusion before the deep and serried ranks of the Macedonian right led by Philip in person, when Flamininus, leaving them to their fate, boldly charged the left wing under Nicanor, which was forming on the heights. The phalanx was like a steam hammer, irresistible if it hit its object, but moving only in one direction, and easily thrown out of gear. Before the left wing had time to form, Flamininus was upon them, and a massacre rather than a fight ensued. This defeat was turned into a general rout by a nameless tribune who collected twenty companies and charged in rear the victorious Macedonian phalanx, which in its pursuit had left the Roman right far behind. 8000 Macedonians were killed and 5000 taken prisoners, while the Romans lost only 700. Macedonia was now at the mercy of Rome, and Flamininus might have dictated what terms he liked, but he showed his usual moderation and farsightedness in disregarding the root-and-branch politics of his ^Etolian allies, whose heads were turned by the part they had taken in the victory, and contenting himself with his previous demands. Philip lost all his foreign possessions, but retained his Macedonian kingdom almost entire. Such a valuable bulwark against the outer world of Thracians and Celts was not lightly to be removed. Ten commis-sioners arrived from Rome to regulate the final terms of peace, and at the Isthmian games which were celebrated at Corinth in the spring of 196 B.C. a herald proclaimed to the assembled crowds that " the Roman people, and T. Quinctius their general, having conquered King Philip and the Macedonians, declare all the Greek states which had been subject to the king henceforward free and inde-pendent." A shout of joy arose so loud that it was heard by the sailors in the harbour, and in Plutarch's time the legend told how birds flying over the course had dropped down stunned by the noise. The games were forgotten, and all crowded round the proconsul eager to kiss the hands of the liberator of Greece, who was almost smothered with chaplets and garlands. This day was indeed the climax of Flamininus's career, of which even the stately triumph that two years later he obtained at Rome must have seemed but a pale reflection.

Of the rest of his public life, which was mainly occupied in consolidating the fruits of the victory of Cynoscephalse, we can only give the barest outline ; but we will first attempt to estimate his work, and discuss how far he merited the proud title of benefactor of Greece, which Greeks and Romans alike bestowed on him. That he was animated by an ardent love of the Greek name and race, as genuine as that of Byron, of Canning, or of Kanaris, admits of no reasonable doubt. To attribute to Flamininus a Macchiavel-lian policy, as if he could have foreseen Corinth overthrown and Achaia turned into a Roman province, is not only disingenuous but absurd. There is more force in the charge which Mommsen brings against o him, that his Hellenic sympathies prevented him from seeing the innate weakness and mutual jealousies of the Greek states of that period, whose only hope of peace and safety lay in sub-mitting to the protectorate of the Roman republic. But if the event proved that the liberation of Greece was a political mistake, it was a noble and generous mistake, and reflects nothing but honour on the name of Flamininus.

The only military enterprise that remained after the conquest of Philip was to crush Nabis, who still held Argos, as well as his own tyranny of Sparta. In allowing the conquered tyrant to retain his native possessions, Flamininus was probably influenced by consideration for the Spartans, who would never, except under compulsion, have submitted to the Achaean league.

His last act before returning home is characteristic of the man. Of the Achaeans, who vied with one another in showering upon him honours and rewards, he asked but one personal favour, the redemption of the Italian captives who had been sold as slaves in Greece during the Hannibalic war. These to the number of 1200 were presented to him on the eve of his departure, and formed the chief ornament of his triumph.

In 192 B.C., on the rupture between the Romans and Antiochus, Flamininus returned to Greece, this time as the civil representative of Rome. His personal influence and skilful diplomacy secured the wavering Achaean states, cemented the alliance with Philip, and contributed mainly to the Roman victory of Thermopylae. Chalcis and Naupactus, which had joined the enemy, owed their preservation to his interposition with the consul Glabrio. In 189 B.C. he was made censor. In this office his fair fame was sullied by an unseemly quarrel with Cato. Brotherly affection tempted him to shield from just punishment a dissolute and brutal ruffian. In 183 B.C. he undertook an embassy to Prusias, to induce the king of Bithynia to deliver up Hannibal. Hannibal forestalled his fate by taking poison, and his dying words justly stigmatized this pitiful victory over a defenceless and destitute old man. The only excuse for his conduct is that it was prompted not by wanton cruelty or love of revenge,—motives which were wholly alien to his character,—but by restless ambition and an inordinate love of glory, the infirmities of a truly noble nature. The history of his later years is a blank, and we only learn from his biographer Plutarch that his end was peaceful and happy. (F. S.)

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