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European Kingdoms

Eastern Mediterranean

 

Roman Governors of Macedonia & Thrace
168 BC - AD 395

The descent of Macedonia's kings through the Argead line of rulers culminated in the reign of Alexander 'the Great'. Based on foundations which had been laid down by his father, he led his Macedonians - along with all of Greece - to conquer the Persian empire. Following his early death in 323 BC his Greek empire broke up into several sections which maintained Hellenic European cultural influence across a great span of the ancient world.

In Macedonia it was Cassander, son of the great regent, Antipater, who seized control. He drove out his rivals and eventually killed Alexander's son and wife, becoming the first Antipatrid king in Macedonia. Antigonus II of the Antigonids controlled no territory at all in his early years, other than a besieged capital. But he subsequently managed to win some victories in Greece, thanks to which he ended up being the first Antigonid king there.

He founded a new ruling house in Macedonia and southern Thrace combined which would last until Roman occupation ended independent Greek rule. Roman control of Greece followed the defeat of Perseus, the last of the native Macedonian kings.

All around the eastern Mediterranean, those states which had been created by the Macedonian empire were falling to Rome, as was Greece itself, and the loss of Macedonia was a great blow for Greek freedom. Following their defeat at the First Battle of Pydna on 22 June 168 BC, the Antigonids were immediately removed from power and the kingdom was dismantled and replaced by four republics.

Information on Roman governors here seems to be very sparse. Multiple rebellions and uprisings occurred in Macedonia, but more especially in Thrace, which was still very tribal and prone to violent actions. The situation there calmed down in the first century AD following the near destruction of the Bessoi, one of Thrace's most warlike tribes, but incursions by tribes from the Danube area continued to be a serious problem.

Rome's colosseum

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Continuity and Innovation in Religion in the Roman West, R Haeussler, Anthony C King & Phil Andrews, from Liber Prodigiorum, Julius Obsequens, from Periocha, Livy, from Res Gestae, Ammianus Marcellinus, from Valerius Maximus, Pseudo-Quintilian, and Paulus Orosius, from Epitome of Roman History, Florus, from Historia Romana, Cassius Dio, from Flavius Eutropius, from Strategemata, Frontinius, from 'Breviary', Sextus Festus, from St Jerome Emiliani (Hieronymus), from Getica, Jordanes, from The Celts in Macedonia and Thrace, G Kazarov, from The Origin of the Gundestrup Cauldron, Antiquity, Vol 61, 1987, A K Bergquist & T Taylor, from The Getae in Southern Dobruja in the Period of the Roman Domination: Archaeological Aspects, S Torbatov, and from External Links: Journal of Celtic Studies in Eastern Europe and Asia-Minor, and Scordisci Swords From Northwestern Bulgaria.)

168 - 166 BC

Gaius Publilius

Roman governor.

fl c.150 BC

Lucius Fulcinius

Roman governor.

150 BC

Andriscus of Macedon, ruler of Adramyttium in Aeolis, claims to be the son of Perseus, the last Antigonid king. He breaks the Roman hold over the former kingdom when he leads a popular uprising in the Fourth Macedonian War.

Philip V of Macedonia
This silver tetradrachm bears the head of Philip V of Macedonia, one of its great later kings but one who was also the cause of Roman intervention

149 - 148 BC

Andriscus / Philip VI

Son of Perseus? Defeated by Rome.

149 - 148 BC

Andriscus invades Macedonia from Thrace in 149 BC and defeats an army under the Roman praetor, Publius Juventius. Then he proclaims himself King Philip VI of Macedonia. In the following year, his popular uprising is put down by the legions at the Second Battle of Pydna, and they establish a permanent residence in Greece.

The Achaean League of Greek states rises up against this presence and is swiftly destroyed. Rome also destroys Corinth as an object lesson and annexes Greece, including Macedonia and Thrace.

146 BC

The four client republics are dissolved and Macedonia officially becomes the Roman province of Macedonia, which also includes Epirus, Thessaly, and areas of Illyria, Paeonia, and Thrace. With these regions under tighter control, Rome is free to take a tougher line against the recalcitrant Scordisci tribe in the Balkans and the various Thracian tribes to the east of Greece.

Roman forum in Stobi
Shown here are the ruins of the Roman forum at Stobi in what is now North Macedonia (known for some time as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' (FYROM))

146? - ? BC

Gnaeus Egnatius

Roman proconsul. Built the Via Egnatia across Greece.

141 BC

Having organised its forces in Greece, Rome makes its first move against the Scordisci by launching an offensive which, to its surprise, fails. The Scordisci repulse the attack and launch a counter-attack on Macedonia, although this is also repulsed. Thanks to this stalemate a period of peace follows.

c.140 - 130 BC

Sakas have long been pressing against the borders of the far distant Greek kingdom of Bactria. Now, following a long migration from the borders of the Chinese kingdoms, the Greater Yuezhi start to invade Bactria from Sogdiana to the north.

Within a decade, around the time of the death of Indo-Greek King Menander in 130 BC, the Greater Yuezhi overrun Bactria and end Greek rule there.

Menander coin
This photo depicts the single obverse side of a coin that was issued by the Indo-Greek King Menander, known in India as the great King Milinda

? - 119 BC

Pompeius

Roman governor. Killed.

119/117 BC

Although generally ascribed to 119 BC, Kazarov places this event in 117 BC. After a general period of peace lasting for more than fifteen years, the Scordisci manage to push all the way through the Roman defences, reaching the Aegean coast.

The Roman governor of Macedonia, Pompeius, is killed during an attack on Argos. A force which is led by Quaestor Marcus Annius finally ends their adventure, pushing them back. A subsequent attack by the Scordisci together with the Thracian Maedi tribe is also repulsed.

The involvement of the Maedi tribe in the second attack marks the beginning of a new, more widespread involvement in the frequent campaigns between Romans and barbarians.

While the Celts in Thrace and the lower Balkans continue to offer the biggest threat to Roman expansion, the native Balkan tribes frequently support them, especially the Bastarnae, Dardani, and the free Thracian tribes (the Bessoi, Denteletes, Maedi, and Triballi). It takes this Macedonian raid to make Rome fully aware of the severity of the threat to its security in the region.

Histria
The Danube delta homeland of the Peucini Bastarnae was just north of the former Greek port of Histria, which may have been conquered when the tribe temporarily held power to the south of the delta region

115 BC

Following the scare of 119 BC, former consul Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus is sent to Macedonia. Eburnus has established his reputation as a strict disciplinarian (and later goes so far as to execute his own son for 'immorality' in 104 BC, for which he is prosecuted).

Plans are drawn up for the Roman conquest of Thrace, probably by him (according to Orosius, Pseudo-Quintilian, and Valerius Maximus). As part of this strategy a Roman fortress is established at Heracleae Sintica (modern Rupite, near Petritch in south-western Bulgaria) with a garrison of two cohorts which are commanded by one 'Lucullus'.

Located on the strategic Struma river valley, and possibly already inside Celtic territory, it is the only practical route for moving a large military force into western Thrace. The invasion begins in 114 BC, led by Consul Gaius Porcius Cato.

South Struma Valley
The South Struma valley, showing the kind of territory the Romans had to pass through during their relatively successful campaign of 75 BC against the Scordisci

110 - 107 BC

Marcus Minucius Rufus?

Roman governor? Crushed the Bessoi.

109 BC

Greater retaliation is delivered by Rome when a Roman army enters Thrace under the command of Marcus Minucius Rufus. According to several Roman writers and also an inscription at Delphi (which is probably ordered by Rufus himself), both the Scordisci and the Thracian Bessoi tribe are defeated.

If true it would be the first Scordisci defeat since 135 BC, or even earlier. The attack targets not only barbarian military means but, in a change to previous encounters, targets the civilian populations in a rather brutal manner. Rome triggers a pattern of increasing atrocities in its war against the tribes in Thrace and the Balkans.

Interestingly, the campaign ignores the perils of the Struma Valley and instead proceeds along the much more open valley of the River Hebrus (the modern Maritsa), which is much more suitable for a Roman army.

It also seems to be aimed at the heart of territory which is controlled by the previously peaceful Bessoi tribe, although it happily involves any other tribes, especially the Scordisci. As the Bessoi live along the Hebrus they make an ideal target without the involvement of dangerous forays away from the river valley.

Gradishte fortress
The fortress at Gradishte was Thracian, seemingly lying at the heart of the Bessoi territory in the Rhodopi Mountains and the northern foothill mountain plain, on the upper and middle streams of the River Maritsa

No territory is gained as a result of the raid, but it lays down a marker for the future. To take the gloss off the campaign's success, during their homeward march a large part of the Roman army drowns when ice on the river breaks underfoot.

The attack on the Bessoi also turns them into one of Rome's most bitter enemies in Thrace, and forces them into forging closer links with the Celts in Thrace.

109 - 90 BC

While no further campaigns appear to be mounted by Rome during the closing years of the second century BC, the Scordisci and their Thracian allies, especially the Maedi, continue to attack Roman Macedonia.

These attacks continue into the early years of the first century BC. Archaeology shows a dramatic increase in the levels of La Tène militarisation during this period, as Scordisci society gears up to face the continuing conflict.

Scordisci weapons
This photo displays material which was gathered from the Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, now located in north-western Bulgaria

The constant warfare is also reflected in mass burials such as the one found at Slana Voda, where a large number of Celtic battle casualties are buried at the same time. Hoards of Hellenic and Roman plunder are notable from the same period, especially in the form of coins, alongside Celtic issues which often depict attacks against Roman resources.

Finds also include a dense collection of La Tène swords in sites between the rivers Timok and Iskar in modern north-western Bulgaria - the largest concentration of such Celtic materials in Europe. Rome has sown the seeds of warfare and is now reaping the whirlwind of endless attacks by the new enemies it has made.

c.94? - c.92? BC

Lucius Julius Caesar III

Roman governor. Killed in the Roman Civil War in 87 BC.

c.92 - ? BC

Sentius

Roman governor.

90 BC

Rome's forces in the Balkans have increasingly been feeling the strain of the constant attacks on them. Now the dam bursts under the weight of yet another combined attack by the Scordisci and Maedi.

Jakimovo treasure horde
A silver or gilt plate depicting a Scordisci chieftain, part of the Jakimovo horde which was discovered in north-western Bulgaria, dated to the second or first century BC

The Roman historian Florus provides a detailed description of events. The Scordisci and Maedi, supported by the Thracian Denteletes and by the Dardanii, swarm through Dalmatia, Macedonia, and Thessaly, reaching as far as Epirus on the Adriatic.

They vent the frustration of years of warfare against the Romans by freely destroying and plundering, although Florus paints a typically pro-Roman picture of barbarian atrocities, citing the Scordisci especially as 'the cruellest of all the Thracians... and to their strength was added cunning as well'. The attack deprives Rome of control over many areas of the Balkans and northern Greece.

88 BC

By this time the Scordisci and their allies have swept through northern Greece and have reached Dodona in Epirus. Roman accounts have them destroying the temple of Zeus there, one which the Romans themselves had destroyed in 167 BC and which, presumably, had been rebuilt by the Greeks in the meantime. The Romans express suitable outrage at the destruction.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla was the victor in Rome's first full-scale civil war (88-82 BC), after which he became dictator of the Roman republic, thereby laying out a path which others could follow in the same century

85 - 84 BC

Rome is finally able to respond to their ongoing disaster in the Balkans and Greece. Sulla leads an army against the Scordisci, apparently 'punishing' them according to Roman writers. Certainly prisoners are treated cruelly, with fire and sword being used to inflict severe cruelties upon them (so says Flores).

However, Sulla merely serves to further fan the flames. As soon as he leaves for Asia, the Celts and Thracians overrun the southern Balkans and northern Greece and penetrate the Peloponnese. They reach Delphi by the end of 85 BC to vandalise many of the religious sites there.

81 BC

Cornelius Scipio arrives to lead a fresh Roman campaign in the Balkans. Again, the effort appears punitive, with no long-term strategy to secure the territory. The Scordisci and Thracian tribes are undaunted by the action.

Roman consuls
Rome's republic was usually headed by two consuls and the Senate, but on a very few occasions the post was replaced, usually by military appointments

78 - 76 BC

Appius Claudius Pulcher

Roman governor. Consul of Rome in 79 BC. Died on campaign.

76 BC

The new Roman governor of Macedonia, Appius Claudius Pulcher, leads a large army against the Scordisci confederation - the same Celts who had destroyed Cato's army and garrison in 114 BC.

This time, however, the Scordisci employ different tactics. Pulcher's army is probably superior to Cato's, so he is allowed to penetrate the Thracian mountains unmolested.

There, a vicious and drawn-out series of skirmishes and small-scale battles takes place between Romans and natives, with the Celts especially employing highly successful guerrilla tactics to wear down the opposition. Following months of constant alerts, illness, and defeats, Pulcher dies and the remnants of his army withdraws from western Thrace.

76 - 72? BC

Gaius Scribonius Curio

Roman governor. Consul of Rome in 76 BC. Died 53 BC.

75 BC

Despite the disappointment of 76 BC, Rome is making gradual progress in other parts of Thrace. The campaigns of Cnaeus (or Gaius) Scribonius Curio in western Thrace from 75 BC see Roman forces penetrate the previously hostile Struma Valley to reach the Danube.

Samnite soldiers
Roman military tactics may have owed something to the Samnites, with this efficient and seasoned warrior force matching the Romans and bettering them in the fourth century BC

They take large numbers of prisoners along the way, including a chieftain of the Maedi named Spartacus. Plutarch states that his wife is also taken prisoner. Some ancient sources state that Spartacus is in fact a Roman auxiliary who is later condemned to slavery, but all generally agree on his Thracian origins.

72 BC

One of the final acts by Gaius Scribonius Curio as governor of Macedonia is to occupy the lands of the Dardanii. His success is in the fact that he expands the province as far north as the Danube.

c.70 - 65 BC

Aesillas

Roman governor.

c.63 - 60 BC

Gaius Antonius Hybrida

Roman governor.

62 - 61 BC

In response to Rome's incursions into the Danube delta, which are seen as a major threat by all the peoples of the region, King Burebista of the Getae has united all of the Getae into a single kingdom.

He has also established overlordship of the neighbouring Bastarnae and Sarmatians. Burebista's powerful forces raid regularly into Roman-held territory.

Sarmatian warrior
Sarmatians followed the Agathyrsi and Scythians onto the Pontic steppe, and were followed by the Alani and, unfortunately for all of them, the Huns

In 62 BC the Greek cities rebel against Roman rule, and in the following year the Bastarnae manage to isolate the Roman infantry of the inept proconsul of Macedonia, Gaius Antonius (uncle to Mark Antony). The entire force is massacred. The Roman hold over the region collapses.

57 - 55 BC

Lucius Calpurnius Piso

Roman governor. His son returned in 11 BC to quell uprising.

55 BC

Rabokentus of the Bessoi is mentioned by Cicero in relation to action that is taken by Lucius Calpurnius Piso, to suppress unrest in the province. Rabokentus is murdered by Piso after the latter accepts a bribe from Kotys II of the Astean, a typical example of Roman officials playing off the native leaders against one another.

42 BC

During his reign, Raskouporis of Sapes has already granted assistance to both Pompey and Caesar during their struggle for power. Now, immediately after the murder of Julius Caesar, he supports the Roman republican faction under Brutus and Cassius against Mark Antony and Octavian. In return, Brutus and Cassius lead campaigns against the tribal Bessoi in the highlands in defence of their allies.

Caesar Augustus
During his long 'reign' as Rome's first citizen, Octavian brought peace to the city and oversaw its transition from failing republic to vigorous and expanding empire

fl 29 - 28 BC

Marcus Licinius Crassus

Roman governor.

29 BC

The Bastarnae cross the Haemus in support of the Scordisci in modern north-western Bulgaria. They attack a Thracian tribe known as the Dentheletae who are allies of Rome. General Marcus Licinius Crassus, proconsul of Macedonia, goes to assist the Dentheletae with help from the Getae under King Roles, and the Bastarnae withdraw.

Crassus follows them and eventually engages them in battle. Caught unawares, the Bastarnae are routed and their king is killed in combat against Crassus. According to Roman writers, thousands of Bastarnae perish in the ensuing slaughter.

28 BC

Dio Cassius Cocceianus reports that Marcus Licinius Crassus undertakes a punitive expedition against the Thracians (in what is now southern Bulgaria), mainly against the Bessoi. The ancient sanctuary of Dionysos, described by Herodotus, is captured, taken away from the Bessoi priests and priestesses, and delivered to the Astean, who are Roman allies.

Roman Plovdiv
Following the destruction of the Bessoi, the Plovdiv region of modern Bulgaria witnessed a golden age of Roman monumental building and civilisation

The Bessoi do not accept the settling of these Odrysian Thracians in their ancient sanctuary so they revolt. This first uprising is quickly suppressed.

Crassus also 'punishes' the Scordisci tribes of north-western Bulgaria. By this time Rome has engaged the Thracian kingdom of Sapes to act as a proxy government over local Thracian affairs and to oversee the gradual Romanisation of the region. It seems that Thracian resistance to Rome to any substantive degree has finally come to an end.

19 BC

King Kotys III of Sapes is killed by Raskouporis II. Roimitalkes II, the son of the victorious king is given the lands to the north of the Haemus in Thrace while Kotys' son, Roimitalkes III, gets the lands to the south, both ruling under the guardianship of the Roman governor of Macedonia.

16 BC

The Celts of the former Scordisci confederation have one last surprise remaining for Rome. As it stamps its authority on the Balkans, Celtic tribes swoop down from the Thracian mountains. They swarm into Macedonia and once again lay waste to the Roman province.

Roman Stobi
The Roman city of Stobi (now in North Macedonia, otherwise known as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia') was a sophisticated and attractive Roman city in Macedonia

The attack surely comes from the Rhodope Mountains in south-western Bulgaria, making it the last hurrah of the Scordisci and providing Rome with a brutal reminder that although the cities and plains may be civilised, the mountains of central and western Thrace are still areas to be feared.

15 - 11 BC

Vologeses is a Dionysian priest (and possible king) who leads his fellow mountain Bessoi in one of the most prolonged uprisings against the Romans. Their initial aim is to free and re-conquer the sanctuary of Dionysos.

Other Thracians join the uprising, and it quickly grows into a storm. Dio Cassius relates that a number of regions in Thrace are ravaged and the Odrysians of Astean are persecuted by the revolting Bessoi.

Raskouporis II of Astean is killed and his relative, Roimitalkes I of Sapes, is forced to seek protection from the Romans. To suppress the uprising, the Romans receive help from Pamphylia.

Under Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, son of former Governor Lucius Calpurnius Piso, they manage to quell the revolting Bessoi by drowning the country in blood and fire.

Roimitalkes coin
A coin issued during the reign of Roimitalkes which, although it is Thracian, bears heavy similarities to Roman coins

AD 9

With the formation of the new Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Moesia, and Thrace, the province of Macedonia acquires the physical dimensions it retains throughout the empire period. It also gains safety and security at last, with the Thracian tribes fully pacified and external threats kept away by the buffer provinces around it.

c.10

The long-since isolated and very distant Indo-Greek kingdom disappears under Saka pressure. It seems to be Rajuvula, kshatrapa in Mathura at this time, who invades what is virtually the last free Indo-Greek territory in the eastern Punjab.

He kills Strato II and his son. Pockets of Greek population probably remain for some centuries under the subsequent rule of the Kushans and Indo-Parthians, and a possible enclave of Greek rule is apparently maintained briefly in Paropamisadae.

Map of Central Asia & India c.50 BC
By the period between 100-50 BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen and the remaining Indo-Greek territories (shown in white) had been squeezed towards eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented, and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India. The dates within their lands (shown in yellow) show their defeats of the Greeks which had gained them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the Satvahanas of India (click or tap on map to view full sized)

32 - ?

Publius Memmius Regulus

Roman praefectus of Macedonia.

114/115

Publius Iuventius Celsus

Roman praefectus of Thrace.

267/268 - 269

The Peucini Bastarnae are specifically mentioned in the invasion across the Roman frontier. Part of the barbarian coalition which includes Goths and Heruli, they use their knowledge of boat building from several centuries of living on the Black Sea coast and in the Danube estuary to help build a fleet in the estuary of the River Tyras (now the Dniester).

The force of which they are part sails along the coast to Tomis in Moesia Inferior. They attack the town but are unable to take it.

Sailing on, they are frustrated twice more, at Marcianopolis and Thessalonica in Macedonia. Athens is also attacked, captured, and plundered by the Heruli (in 267-268). Finally, they move into Thrace where they are crushed by Emperor Claudius II at Naissus in 269.

Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus Goth depiction
The Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus depicts a Roman victory over Goths around AD 250, but victory in the many Roman-Goth conflicts of this period was just as likely to go the other way

c.285 - 318

Following reforms by Roman Emperor Diocletian at the end of the third century, Epirus Vetus is removed from the province of Macedonia. In the less well-recorded fourth century, Macedonia itself is divided into 'Macedonia Prima' (the south) and 'Macedonia Salutaris' (the north).

In 318 these two provinces form part of the diocese of Macedonia, one of three dioceses which is included in the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum.

395

Greece becomes the central segment of the Eastern Roman empire. It remains so until the Byzantine empire's final conquest in 1453 by the Ottoman empire. Only in the twentieth century does an independent Greek kingdom rise out of two millennia of Turkic occupation or Romanised empire.

However, by that time Macedonia, on the northern edge of modern Greece's territory, has been influenced by later arrivals, such as early Slav groups in the fifth and sixth centuries, and at least one major group of Bulgars in the seventh century.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 632-665
In AD 632, Qaghan Koubrat came to power as the head of an Onogur-Bulgar confederation, and three years later he was able to throw off Avar domination to found Great Bulgaria (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The territory of the kingdom at its height is today split between Greece's province of Macedonia (the heartland of the early kingdom) and North Macedonia (the expanded territories which include Paeonia).

 
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