Aetolian War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Cretan War

caption=Map of Aetolia
date=191 BC - 189 BC
place=Aetolia, Greece
result=Roman victory
casus=Aetolia's support of Antiochus
combatant1=Aetolian League, Athamania
combatant2=Rome, Achean League, Macedon
commander2=Marcus Acilius Glabrio, Marcus Fulvius, Philip V

The Aetolian War (191 BC-189 BC) was fought between the Romans and their Achean and Macedonian allies and the Aetolian League and their allies, the kingdom of Athamania. The Aetolians had invited Antiochus the Great to Greece, who after his defeat by the Romans had returned to Asia. This left the Aetolians and the Athamanians without any allies. With Antiochus out of Europe the Romans and their allies attacked the Aetolians. After a year of fighting the Aetolians were defeated and forced to pay 1,000 talents of silver to the Romans.


After the Macedonian defeat in the Second Macedonian War a dispute broke out between the Romans and the Aetolians over the terms of the treaty. The Romans had the backing of the other allies, the Pergamese and the Rhodians and the Aetolians lost the dispute. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] The Aetolians wanted revenge and in 192 BC they sent out envoys to the King of Sparta, Nabis, King Philip V of Macedon and the Seleucid emperor, Antiochus the Great. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] Nabis who had been forced to comply to humiliating terms in 195 BC after he was defeated by Rome and the Achean League, accepted only to be assassinated by the Aetolians. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] Philip who was still paying reparations to Rome after his defeat in the Second Macedonian War and had his son as hostage in Rome refused the offer. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] Antiochus saw this as an opportunity to expand his European territory and accepted the alliance; and set out to Greece.

Antiochus landed at Demetrias with 10,000 infantry and 500 cavalry and set about trying to recruit some nations into his alliances against Rome. The Romans, alarmed by Antiochus' arrival in Greece, sent the consul Marcus Acilius Glabrio with an army to defeat him. The two armies met at Thermopylae, and only 500 of the Seleucids survived. After this defeat, Antiochus and the surviving part of his army returned back to Asia. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ]

Thessalian Campaign

This left the Aetolians and the Athamanians with no allies and the victorious Roman army marching unopposed in Thessaly. Acilius went with his army to Heraclea. Acilius sent an envoy to the Aetolian garrison in the city telling them to surrender the city and to thinking about seeking a pardon for their misjudgement from the Senate. The Aetolians didn't reply and the Romans began preparing to take the city by force. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ]

The Romans started the siege by battering the city wall with battering rams. To counter this the Aetolians made frequent sallies. The siege proved exhausting for the defenders because the Romans had a large number of men and when the men that were fighting grew tired they were replaced by fresh soldiers, while the Aetolians didn't have enough soldiers to do this which caused stress for the defenders. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ]

After twenty-four days of fighting, the consul knew the Aetolians were exhausted from the length of the siege and from the reports that deserters had given him, thought of a plan. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] At midnight he gave the signal for all the soldiers to come back to camp. When they returned to camp he kept them inactive until 3am when he ordered that the siege operations begin again. The siege operations stopped at midnight. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] The Aetolians, thinking that the Romans were also exhausted, left their posts and returned at 3am. The consul knowing that his plan had succeeded order an all out assault from three different directions. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] Acilius ordered Tiberius Sempronius who was in charge of a third of the men to stay alert and await orders thinking the Aetolians who rush to where the shouting was heard. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] When the sleeping Aetolians heard the Roman army approaching they hurried prepared for battle and tried to make their way to the fighting in the darkness. The Romans started scaling the walls with ladders and climbing over the ruins of some the walls. As all the Aetolians rushed to where the Romans has scaled Acilius signaled for Sempronius to attack the section of the wall that was left undefended. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] The Aetolians seeing Sempronius group coming retreated to the citadel. The consul then allowed the victorious soldiers to loot the city.

When the looting finished Acilius ordered the army to be split into two groups. One group was to go around to the other side of the citadel where there was a hill of equal height as the citadel so the Romans could fire missiles into the citadel from there. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] The other group was to attack the citadel from the front. Upon seeing the two pronged attack, the Aetolians decided to surrender. Amongst the people that surrendered was the chief of the Aetolians, Damocritus. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ]

While the Romans were attacking Heraclea, Philip with his army and a few Romans started besieging Lamia, which was seven miles away from Heraclea. The Romans and the Macedonians displayed great energy as if they were competing against each other. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] Since they were making little progress in the siege, Philip met with several of the most prominent fearing that if the Romans captured Heraclea first, the Lamians would surrender to the Romans. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] Philip's fears became reality when a Roman messenger ordered him to abandon the siege. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ]


The Aetolians still hoping that Antiochus would return to Greece with a new force sent envoys to him. The envoys were also told that if Antiochus couldn't come to Greece he should money and reinforcements. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] Antichos gave them the money to maintain the war and promised to send reinforcements. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ]

But the fall of Heraclea broke the Aetolians fighting spirit and they sent envoys to the Romans. The consul granted them a ten-day truce and he also sent Lucius Valerius Flaccus to discuss the matters the Aetolians wanted to discuss. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] The Romans demanded the surrender of Dicaarchus, Monestas of Epirus and Amynander of Athamania. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ] The Aetolians decided to obey the Romans and they sent men to collect the commended men. However, a few days later Nicander, one of the envoys who went to Antiochus arrived back in Aetolia after having been detained by Philip of Macedon. His arrival and news that Antiochus was going to send reinforcements convinced the Aetolians to continue fighting.

When Acilius heard that the Aetolians wouldn't comply to the Roman demands he marched with his army and started to besige Naupactus. The siege had lasted for two months when Titus Quinctius Flamininus came to Naupactus. While he was walking around the city walls he was recognised and many people flocked to the city walls and started calling on him to save them. The leading Aetolian citizens went out to meet Flamininus and they agreed that Flamininus would send an envoy to Rome to bring forward the Aetolians case. The Roman army then abandoned the siege and went to Phocis. [Livy, "Rome and the Mediterranean" ]

When the Aetolians returned from Rome and told the Aetolian leaders there was no hope of peace, the Aetolains seized the passage at Mount Corax so they could block off the pass. The Acheans began ravaging the coast of Aetolian facing the Peloponnese. The Aetolian expected Acilius to attack Naupactus again but instead he launched a sudden attack on Lamia. The Lamian despite the great confusion managed to repulse the first Roman attack. Acilius recalled his men back to camp and told them to only come back to camp if they had captured the city. A few hours later the Romans captured the city.

The Romans seeing that they couldn't advance to Naupactus instead attacked Amphissa. The Romans deployed their siege engines and they successfully battered down some parts of the walls. However the inhabitants continued to hold out until the new consul, Lucius Cornelius Scipio together with his brother Scipio Africanus. Upon their arrival the inhabitants fled the city and locked themselves inside the citadel.

Afterwards, Athenian envoys arrived from Athens and asked the Romans to consider the propect of peace with the Aetolians.



Primary Sources

*Livy. "Rome and the Mediterranean" ISBN 0-14-044318-5

econdary Sources

*Peter Green. "Alexandeer to Actium: The Historic Evolution of the Hellenistic Age". ISBN 0-500-01485-X

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