Macedonian–Carthaginian Treaty

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The Macedonian–Carthaginian Treaty was an anti-Roman treaty between Philip V of Macedon and Hannibal, leader of the Carthaginians, which was drawn up after the Battle of Cannae when Hannibal seemed poised to conquer Rome. Philip V, who feared Roman expansion, wanted to ride on the coat tails of the victor in the Second Punic War (218-201 BC). The discovery of this treaty inevitably led to the outbreak of the First Macedonian War (214-205 BC) between Rome and its Greek allies against Macedonia.


A Carthaginian coin possibly depicting Hannibal as Hercules (i.e. Heracles)

Having left Spain for Italy to wage war against Rome, thus causing the Second Punic War, Hannibal garnered victory after victory in a series of lightning battles against the legions of the burgeoning Italic power.

With the help of his brothers Hasdrubal and Mago, his brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair, as well as other Carthaginian commanders, Hannibal managed to keep the Iberian front battling, which forced the Romans to redirect manpower away from the Italic front. The alliance with Philip V was an attempt to open another front in the east, which would have further stretched Roman resources and soldiers.

Philip V[edit]

Roman power had been steadily spreading on the eastern coast of the Adriatic sea. The Illyrians, once ruled by queen Teuta, had been subjugated under the pretext that they were involved in piracy on the Dalmatian and Albanian coasts against merchants from Rome.[1] By Philip's time, virtually every city and port on the eastern Adriatic coast was under Roman influence or protectorate.

The Romans had also provided their support to many Greek coastal cities and islands (like Apollonia and Corfu) members of the Aetolian League, which fought against Macedon and the rest of Greece in search of independence. The Seleucid kings of Syria and Attalus I of Pergamon were stirring trouble on the eastern borders of Macedon. Philip V, therefore, needed a powerful ally to halt Rome's expansion towards the Balkans and palliate the danger on Macedon's western border; Hannibal seemed the perfect candidate.

Diplomatic mission[edit]

Livy, the Roman historian of the 1st century, narrates in Ab Urbe condita ("Since the founding of Rome"), Liber XXIII, 33-39, how Philip, having observed Hannibal's victories, sent a delegation in the summer of 215 BC to meet him on the Italic peninsula to secure an alliance.[2][3][4]

The Greek ambassadors, avoiding the most obvious points of disembarkment from Greece, Brindisi and Taranto, landed near Capo Colonna, in Calabria, by the temple of Juno Lacinia. From there, they moved towards Capua, where Hannibal had set headquarters, hoping not to be intercepted by Roman legions.

Unable to avoid detection, the delegation was escorted to the praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinus for questioning. The Athenian commander Xenophanes, leader of the expedition, improvised by declaring that the delegation had been sent by king Philip to secure an agreement of amicitiam societatemque (friendship and alliance) with the Roman people.
The praetor welcomed the delegation and sent it on its way to Rome, providing an escort and key tactical information on where the Carthaginians were camped. Armed with this knowledge, the Macedonians reached Hannibal's camp with little effort, and could complete the mission assigned.[5]

The text of the treaty, recorded by historian Polybius, can be found in the boxes below.

The capture[edit]

Once the treaty was completed, the delegation and Carthaginians officers Mago, Gisgo and Bostar, undertook their return journey to Macedonia to obtain Philip's signature.[6] Their ship was, however, intercepted by Roman warships led by Valerius Flaccus, who did not believe Xenophanes' story and ordered a search of the vessel and its occupants. The discovery of Punic apparel and of the treaty prompted Flaccus to send the prisoners to Rome on five ships, so as to keep them separate and limit the risk of escape. After a brief stop in Cumae for further interrogation by consul Tiberius Sempronius Graccus, the delegation faced the Senate and was incarcerated. Only one member of the delegation managed to escape and return to Macedon, where he was unable to recollect the exact terms of the treaty to king Philip, who was forced to send a second delegation to meet Hannibal and draft the agreement anew.[7]

In response to the threat presented by the Macedonian-Carthaginian alliance, the Senate decreed that twenty-five ships be added to the contingent already under Flaccus' command and sent to Apulia, where they were expected to monitor Philip's movements.[8]

In reality, because summer had elapsed by the time the second delegation reached Hannibal and concluded the treaty, its terms were never executed—military operations were usually suspended in winter. Furthermore, the discovery of the alliance by the Roman senate factually nullified the element of surprise, which greatly diminished the treaty's value in the context of the second Punic war.[9][10] Nevertheless, the discovery of the treaty led to debates in the Roman Senate about how to handle Macedonia and, eventually, the outbreak of the First Macedonian War (214-205 BC). This conflict was centered largely in Illyria (modern-day Albania) but included the theater of Greece due to Roman allies there simultaneously waging war against Macedonia.[11][12][13]


  1. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe condita, XX:12-13.
  2. ^ Bringmann, K. & W. J. Smyth. A History of the Roman Republic. Polity, 2007, ISBN 0-7456-3370-6, ISBN 978-0-7456-3370-1, pp. 78-83.
  3. ^ Michelet, Jules (W. Hazlitt, transl.). History of the Roman Republic. London: D. Bogue, 1847, pp. 185-8
  4. ^ Mommsen, T., Bryans, C., & F.R.J. Hendy. The History of the Roman Republic: Abridged from the History by Professor Mommsen. C. Scribner's sons, 1889, pp. 401-8.
  5. ^ Robinson, Cyril E. A History of the Roman Republic. Rome: Barnes & Noble, 1932, pp. 310-317.
  6. ^ Lancel, S. (Nevill, A. transl.). Hannibal. Blackwell Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0-631-21848-3, ISBN 978-0-631-21848-7, p. 117.
  7. ^ Cottrell, L. Hannibal: Enemy of Rome. Da Capo Press, 1992, ISBN 0-306-80498-0, ISBN 978-0-306-80498-4, pp. 156-9.
  8. ^ Hoyos, B. Dexter. Unplanned Wars: The Origins of the First and Second Punic Wars. Walter de Gruyter, 1998, ISBN 3-11-015564-8, ISBN 978-3-11-015564-8, p. 151.
  9. ^ Bagnall, N. The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean. Macmillan, 2005, ISBN 0-312-34214-4, ISBN 978-0-312-34214-2 [sic], pages 168, 200-3.
  10. ^ Bagnall, N. The Punic Wars, 264-146 BC: 264-146 BC. Osprey Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-84176-355-1, ISBN 978-1-84176-355-2, pages 56, 61, 66.
  11. ^ Errington, Robert Malcolm (1990). A History of Macedonia. Translated by Catherine Errington. Berkeley, Los Angeles, & Oxford: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06319-8, pp 191-194.
  12. ^ Bringmann, Klaus (2007) [2002]. A History of the Roman Republic. Translated by Smyth, W. J. Cambridge & Malden: Polity Press. ISBN 0-7456-3371-4, pp 79-80, 82.
  13. ^ Eckstein, Arthur M. (2010). "Macedonia and Rome, 221–146 BC". In Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian. A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. Oxford, Chichester, & Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-7936-2, pp 231-233.
  14. ^ Also see Titus Livius, translated by Aubrey De Selincourt. The War with Hannibal: Books XXI-XXX of the History of Rome from Its Foundation. Penguin Classics, 1965, ISBN 0-14-044145-X, ISBN 978-0-14-044145-1, pages 209-10.

Further reading[edit]

On the Second Punic war[edit]

On the Treaty[edit]

  • Rollin, Charles. The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians and Grecians, Leavitt & Allen, 1857, page 429.
  • Lazenby, John Francis. Hannibal's War: A Military History of the Second Punic War, University of Oklahoma Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8061-3004-0, ISBN 978-0-8061-3004-0, page 159.
  • Walbank, Frank William. Philip V of Macedon, Archon Books, 1967, page 70.
  • Austin, N.J.E. & N.B. Rankov. Exploratio: Military and Political Intelligence in the Roman World from the Second Punic War to the Battle of Adrianople, Routledge, 1995, ISBN 0-415-04945-8, ISBN 978-0-415-04945-0, page 35.
  • Dillon, Matthew & Lynda Garland. Ancient Rome: From the Early Republic to the Assassination of Julius Caesar, Taylor & Francis, 2005, ISBN 0-415-22459-4, ISBN 978-0-415-22459-8, page 215.
  • Dorey, Thomas Alan & Donald Reynolds Dudley. Rome Against Carthage, Seeker and Warburg, 1971, pages 120-1.
  • Bagnell Bury, J., Cook, S.A., Adcock, F.E., Charlesworth, M.P., Hepburn Baynes, N. & C.T. Seltman. The Cambridge Ancient History : Rome and the Mediterranean, 218-133 B. C., Macmillan, 1923, pages 119, 121.
  • Shuckburgh, Evelyn Shirley. A History of Rome to the Battle of Actium, Macmillan and co., 1894, page 335.
  • Appianus of Alexandria. The Roman History of Appian of Alexandria, The Macmillan company, 1899, page 243.
  • Lancel, Serge & Antonia Nevill. Hannibal, Blackwell Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0-631-21848-3, ISBN 978-0-631-21848-7, page 117.
  • Titus Livius. The History of Rome, BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008, ISBN 0-554-32769-4, ISBN 978-0-554-32769-3, page 347.
  • Polybius (F.O. Hultsch & E.S. Shuckburgh). The Histories of Polybius, Indiana University Press, 1962, page 515.
  • Frey, Marsha. The History of Diplomatic Immunity, Ohio State University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8142-0740-5, ISBN 978-0-8142-0740-6, page 59.

See also[edit]