The Awakening of the Roman Empire
As the Macedonian empire established control over mainland Greece, Philip having been succeeded by his son, Alexander the Great, the Romans were still struggling to bring the whole of Italy under their control. Whilst the Macedonians conquered the rest of the world, Rome was still caught up in infighting, turning its attention on its own affairs. The rise of the Macedonian empire was not seen as a threat, even when it bordered on the Italian peninsular, as Rome remained insular, even as it was culturally influenced by classical Greek thought.
However, this isolation ended after the Second Punic War, when Carthage and Philip V of Macedonia allied themselves to extend their empire into Rome. This changed their perceptions of the Hellenistic world, so now it was a direct threat to their survival. Also, Pergamum and the island of Rhodes were worried about the secret alliance between Philip V of Macedonia and Antiochus of the Seleucid empire, so requested for Roman aid to fend off a possible invasion.
In order to halt the Macedonian empire, they warned Philip to stop expanding further and taking over Greek territory. When their words fell on defiant ears, the Roman army marched in 200 B.C. defeating Philip within three years, and announced that all Greek cities were now freed from Macedonian rule.
Antiochus, took advantage of this to declare he would release the Greek mainland from Roman rule, and attacked. The might of the Roman army proved too strong for him, as in 189 B.C. his army was decimated at the Battle of Magnesia.
Rome was sincerely uninterested in empire-building, seizing no territory from the defeated party, only demanding monetary penalties from Antiochus. They pulled out their forces from Greece, as they still regarded it as sharing a cultural kinship, and so were loathe to invade it, preferring to style themselves as the “protectors” of Greece, preventing any party – particularly the Macedonians - from invading under the guise of unification.
However, Perseus, Philip V’s son, restarted his father’s expansionistic goal, increasing the military power of Macedonia, and he again stirred up nationalistic passions in Greece, as the autonomy provided by Rome lost its appeal. This new war, the Third Macedonian War, was crushed in 168 B.C., and Macedonia was split into four federal states and left in the hands of pro-Roman Macedonians.
The Macedonians failed to learn their lesson, despite repeated defeats at Roman hands, and the Fourth Macedonian War erupted, led by Andriscus who termed himself the son of Perseus. Aggrieved at the continued resistance, they placed the territory – now a province - under direct Roman rule, dissolving the Greek Achaean League and destroying both Carthage and Corinth.
Wiser now, Romans had woken to the fact that leniency would get them nowhere, and kindness would be merely taken as a sign of weakness. Hence, there was a mindshift, as they resolved to be brutal, crushing or coercing all opposition with overwhelming power instead of trying to persuade. Such an exercise of power to control would be a conclusion that Machiavelli would approve of, as “it is better to be feared than loved”, if one cannot manage both simultaneously.
Previously, Rome had dealt with attacks as they came, being reactive instead of proactive, thus accumulated an “empire” unintentionally. Neither did they keep the conquered territory occupied for long, leaving it to its own devices as they pulled out. However, the Third Macedonian War, in which loot from conquest and the penalties paid by conquered cities flooded the Roman Treasury, opened up their eyes to the fact that empire-building was a profitable enterprise, and more favourable in public opinion than taxes.
This new wealth also led to social tension, as the income gap widened and the class divisions became more apparent. This would lead to the demise of the Roman Republic in favour of a dictatorship, as the institutes of democracy were not strong enough to keep the dissent under control.