The Roman Conquests
You might think that the Romans had all they could do to fight the Carthaginians in Spain, Italy, and Africa; but even while the Second Punic War was still raging, they were also obliged to fight Philip V., King of Macedon.
As soon as the struggle with Carthage was ended, the war with Philip was begun again in earnest. The army was finally placed under the command of Flamininus, who defeated Philip, and compelled him to ask for peace. Then he told the Greeks, who had long been oppressed by the Macedonians, that they were free from further tyranny.
This announcement was made by Flamininus himself at the celebration of the Isthmian Games; and when the Greeks heard that they were free, they sent up such mighty shouts of joy that it is said that a flock of birds fell down to the earth quite stunned.
To have triumphed over the Carthaginians and Macedonians was not enough for the Romans. They had won much land by these wars, but were now longing to get more. They therefore soon began to fight against Antiochus, King of Syria, who had been the ally of the Macedonians, and now threatened the Greeks.
Although Antiochus was not a great warrior himself, he had at his court one of the greatest generals of the ancient world. This was Hannibal, whom the Carthaginians had exiled, and while he staid there he once met his conqueror, Scipio, and the two generals had many talks together.
On one occasion, Scipio is said to have asked Hannibal who was the greatest general the world had ever seen.
"Alexander!" promptly answered Hannibal.
"Whom do you rank next?" continued Scipio.
"And after Pyrrhus?"
"Myself!" said the Carthaginian, proudly.
"Where would you have placed yourself if you had conquered me?" asked Scipio.
"Above Pyrrhus, and Alexander, and all the other generals!" Hannibal exclaimed.
If Antiochus had followed Hannibal's advice, he might, perhaps, have conquered the Romans; but although he had a much greater army than theirs, he was soon driven out of Greece, and defeated in Asia on land and sea by another Scipio (a brother of Africanus), who thus won the title of Asiaticus.
Then the Romans forced Antiochus to give up all his land in Asia Minor northwest of the Taurus Mountains, and also made him agree to surrender his guest, Hannibal. He did not keep this promise, however; for Hannibal fled to Bithynia, where, finding that he could no longer escape from his lifelong enemies, he killed himself by swallowing the poison contained in a little hollow in a ring which he always wore.
The Romans had allowed Philip to keep the crown of Macedon on condition that he should obey them. He did so, but his successor, Perseus, hated the Romans, and made a last desperate effort to regain his freedom. The attempt was vain, however, and he was finally and completely defeated at Pydna.
Perseus was then made a prisoner and carried off to Italy, to grace the Roman general's triumph; and Macedon (or Macedonia), the most powerful country in the world under the rule of Alexander, was reduced to the rank of a Roman province, after a few more vain attempts to recover its independence.