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The Campaign of Cn. Manlius Vulso in Asia Minor

  • John D. Grainger


The unanimity of opinion on the purposes and methods of the military expedition led by Cn. Manlius Vulso into Asia Minor in 189 B.C. arouses suspicion. Investigation shows a process of repetition of phrase and attitude traceable to the ancient sources, without any serious consideration of actual events. Thus Livy quotes a hostile description of Manlius as “a mercenary consul” who had conducted “a private piratical expedition” (38.45.8). Scullard, in more than one account, allows that he had “reduced to submission the Galatians… but he marred this necessary piece of police work by his cruelty and avarice”, and in it he “acquired a staggering amount of booty and money by systematic extortion and warfare”. This wholesale swallowing of the Livian account without any critical investigation is repeated by Errington, who has it that Manlius led “a major plundering expedition… primarily directed against the Gauls (Galatians), who had supported Antiochos, though he also passed through northern Caria, Lycia and Pisidia”.



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1 38.45.9: (Livian references are by numbers only; P. = Polybios); Livy is using direct speech, but attributed it to both L. Furius Purpureo and L. Aemilius Paullus, domestic enemies of Manlius.

2 Scullard, H. H., Roman Politics, 220–150 B.C., 2nd ed., London 1973, 139.

3 Scullard, H. H., History of the Roman World 753–146 B.C., London 1960, 261; this interpretation recurs in his Scipio Africanus, Soldier and Politician, London 1970, 311–16.

4 Errington, R. M., “Rome against Philip and Antiochos”, CAH VIII, 2nd ed., 288.

5 Scullard, , Roman Politics, 139, and Roman World, 262.

6 Badian, E., Roman Clientelae, 264–70 B.C., Oxford 1958, 88.

7 Gruen, E. S., The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome, Berkeley 1984, at 218, 230, 549, 732, for example.

8 Harris, W. V., War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, 327–70 B.C., Oxford 1985, 223–5.

9 Sherwin-White, A. N., Roman Foreign Policy in the East, 168 B.C.–A.D. 1, Norman, Oklahoma 1981, 21.

10 E.g., Will, E., Histoire Politique du Monde Hellénistique, vol. 2, 2nd ed., Nancy 1984, 184–5; Grimal, P., Le Siècle des Scipions, Paris 1975, 199; Nicolet, C., Rome et la Conquête du Monde Mediterranéan, vol. 2, Paris 1978, 748, and Préaux, C., Le Monde Hellénistique, vol. 1, Paris 1987, 161, give it scarcely any attention.

11 E.g., Heuss, A., Römische Geschichte, 3rd ed., Brunswick, 1971, 110, or Bengtson, E., Griechische Geschichte, 4th ed., Munich 1977, 471.

12 de Sanctis, G., Storia dei Romani, vol. 4, Florence 1964, 122.

13 Frank, T., Roman Imperialism, New York 1914, 177–9.

14 Magie, D., Roman Rule in Asia Minor, Princeton 1950, 21.

15 E. T. Sage, at p. 81, n. 2 or vol. XI of the Loeb edition; it is also possible, as Walbank, F. W. suggests (A Commentary on Polybius, vol. III, Oxford 1979) that the origin was in Eratosthenes, son of Agakles (FGH, 745), but the evidence for this is thin; he dismisses, surely rightly, the notion that Polybios accompanied the expedition in person.

16 Livy's work on the period following Vulso's return, including his problems with his triumph, is discussed by Evans, R. J., “The Structure and Source of Livy 38.44.8–39.44.9”, Klio 75, 1993, 180–17; he suggests Cato as the source for Livy on Roman events; note also the comments of Develin, R., The Practice of Politics at Rome, 366–167 B.C., Collection Latomus 188, Brussels 1985, on Vulso as “a particular target of the moralizing tradition” (p. 212).

17 Scullard, , Roman Politics, 135–6; denied by Briscoe, J.. A Commentary on Livy Books XXXIV–XXXVII, Oxford 1981, who insists that the proper procedure was followed. It is certainly odd that no fuss was made if there was a subterfuge, yet a certain stretching of the rules might well be condoned; it was a major political upset, after all. See also Develin, , Practice of Politics 168, who points to Manlius' weak credentials for office, but also comments on the various disadvantages of Lepidus and Messalla.

18 37.37.4–5 has Eumenes putting his ships into winter quarters, and worried that winter was close, well before the battle; on the day of battle the weather was foggy and cloudy; December 20 or January 10 are Walbank's, F. W. conclusions, Philip V of Macedon, Cambridge 1940, 332. The official messengers with news of the victory did not reach Rome (37.51.8–9) until after the consular elections.

19 Bar-Kochva, B., The Seleucid Army, Cambridge 1976, 162–73, with full references to earlier discussions.

20 This is a notoriously difficult matter, for it seems that Polybios and Livy's annalist sources are in disagreement: cf. Brunt, P. A., Italian Manpower 225 B.C.–A.D. 14, Oxford 1971, 657–8.

21 I accept that these calculations are imprecise, and can be criticised in every detail; I am concerned to establish an order of magnitude rather than a precise total.

22 See appendix.

23 P. 10.16.2–9 on Roman plundering methods; Shatzman, I., “The Roman General's Authority over Booty”, Historia XXI, 1972, 206–23; P. 6.33.2.

24 C. Helvius had been Cato's colleague as aedile in 199 and as praetor in 198; Helvius' brother was praetor in 197 in Spain; it would be quite normal for him to take his brother out as assistant—as, indeed, Vulso did.

25 L. Scipio had promised double pay and rations after the battle (37.59.6); they could look forward to more at the triumph.

26 Watson, G. R., The Roman Soldier, London 1969, 8990, discusses what “two obols” might mean in Roman currency (see also his references in note 220, pp. 187–8).

27 Griffith, G. T., The Mercenaries of the Hellenistic World, Cambridge 1935, 302, n. 6.

28 It seems highly unlikely that the soldiers would have to wait a full year for their miserable pay; I am assuming the later imperial method was rooted in republican practice.

29 Calculated as follows: 2 obols per day for four months = 2 × 30 × 4 = 240 ob. = 40 drs per soldier; 35,000 soldiers at 40 drs = 1,400,000 drs = 233 1/3 talents, rounded up to 250 talents to allow for extra pay for troopers, centurions, and officers. Once again, this is a highly approximate figure, but complete accuracy is not required, any more than it is attainable.

30 The absence of Roman coins in Greece (not to mention Asia) at this time is pointed out by Crawford, M. H., Coinage and Money under the Roman Republic, London 1985, 116–18 (“… Roman operations east of the mountain spine of the Balkan peninsula in this period left virtually no trace in the shape of Roman coinage of any sort”). This requires us to believe either that denarii were melted down and recoined as drachmai, or that the soldiers were paid in local currency. In his triumph Scipio Asiagenus carried Attic tetradrachms, cistophori, and “Philips” which had been brought to Rome, but no denarii.

31 I have used W. G. Calder and G. E. Bean's Classical Map of Asia Minor for distances, which are all in Roman miles.

32 37.45.14 (500 talents); the terms as stated provide for grain to be given only to Eumenes, but when Manlius marched inland next year Seleukos accepted that he was obligated to supply the Romans (38.13.8).

33 See, on Seleukid numbers, Bar-Kochva, , Seleucid Army, 619.

34 Parker, R. A. and Dubberstein, W. H., Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.–A.D. 45, 3rd ed., Providence 1956, 22; the earliest date attested for the joint kingship of father and son is 11 October 189; given the time it would take for the news to travel to Babylonia and the new formula to come into use, the appointment of Seleukos as king will have taken place before Antiochos returned to Syria from Apamea-Kelainai after the truce was agreed, that is, in January or February.

35 The truce was between the consul and the king: no mention is made by either side of their allies. Presumably it was assumed that they were covered: this turned out not to be the case.

36 OGIS 234.

37 Welles, C. B., Royal Correspondence of the Hellenistic Period, New Haven 1934, no. 38.

37a The route through these hills is in part the subject of a posthumous article by Hall, A. S.: “Sinda”, in Studies in the History and Topography of Lycia and Pisidia, ed. French, D. H. (B.I.A.A. Monograph No. 19, 1994), 4852. See also, in the same volume, French, D. H., “Isinda and Lagbe”. 5394, for comments on the next section of Vulso's route.

38 See the description in Bean, G. E., Turkey's Southern Shore, London 1975, 2538.

39 38.15.7–12; this is one part of the route which is difficult to locate; cf. Walbank, , Commentary III, 205–13, with references to other studies, and for the historical geography of the area, Bean, G. E.Notes and Inscriptions from Pisidia, Part I”. AS IX, 1959, 67117 (with a discussion of Manlius' route through Pisidia on pp. 113–17), Part II, AS X, 1960, 4382, and Hall, A. S., “R.E.C.A.M. Notes and Studies No. 9: the Milyadeis and their Territory”, AS XXXVI, 1986, 137–57.

40 60,000 medimnoi is 2,880,000 choinices; the basic ration for a soldier is reckoned by Engels, D., Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, Berkeley 1978, 123–5, as 2 choinices; Manlius had therefore collected 1,440,000 rations, enough for 41 days for 35,000 troops; he had also collected more from Seleukos at Antiocheia, and had clearly started out on his march with a good stock; from that total must be subtracted wastage.

41 This total of 98 miles in 7 days is an average of 14 miles per day; this is about the same as that achieved by Alexander's army, according to Engels, , Logistics, 153–6, even taking into account the shorter Roman mile.

42 Livy's account of these negotiations gives no indication of time, but the ten commissioners appointed to implement the details did not reach Asia until next year (38.6.11).

43 37.56.7–10; Pamphylia was still in dispute next year: 38.39.127 and P. 21.45.11.

44 38.37.5–6 and 39.6; 300 talents, I cannot refrain from noting, would pay the Roman army for four months.

45 38.37.9; I make the assumption that Manlius took only part of his force to Pamphylia: he moved a good deal faster (120 miles in 3 days) which excludes the full army being present; perhaps he took only the cavalry.

46 The commission (listed at 37.55.7) was notably high powered, with much experience, even if none were the “eastern experts” whom we are now told did not exist; all had been praetors between 203 and 190, three were of consular rank, and two were future consuls; prorogation: 38.35.8.

47 I take the talent to weigh 80 lb or 6,000 denarii. The great value comes above all from the “Philips”, pieces of 20 drachmai.

48 Cf. Brunt, , Italian Manpower, 657–8 for a discussion of the size of Acilius' army; I round numbers down to make some account for casualties, and I take Fulvius' army to be the same size as Acilius'. These figures are undoubtedly wrong, for there are too many uncertainties—I am sure, for example, that 35,000 is too high a number, for I can make no real allowance for casualties or deserters. But my aim, once again, is an order of magnitude, and I am reasonably confident that the total wealth is about right.

The Campaign of Cn. Manlius Vulso in Asia Minor

  • John D. Grainger


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