Perseus of Macedon

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Perseus of Macedon coin cropped.png
Portrait of Perseus on the obverse of a tetradrachm
King of Macedon
Reign179–168 BC
Predecessor Philip V of Macedon
SuccessorMonarchy abolished
(Andriscus claimed in 149 BC)
Born212 BC
Pella, Macedonia
Died166 BC (aged 46)
Alba Fucens, Italy, Roman Republic
Spouse Laodice V
Issue Alexander (son of Perseus)
Greek Περσεύς (Perseus)
House Antigonid dynasty
Father Philip V of Macedon
Mother Polycratia of Argos
Religion Greek polytheism

Perseus (Greek : Περσεύς, romanized: Perséus; c.212 – 166 BC) was king of the ancient kingdom of Macedon from 179 until 168 BC. He is widely regarded as the last king of Macedonia and the last ruler from the Antigonid Dynasty, as his defeat by Rome at the Battle of Pydna during the Third Macedonian War effectively ended Macedonia as an independent political entity. [1] [2]


Early life

Perseus was the son of king Philip V of Macedon and a concubine, probably Polycratia of Argos. [3] His father spent most of his reign attempting to maintain Macedonian hegemony over Greece against heavy Greek resistance and, in his later reign, against an expansionist Roman Republic. Philip V failed in this endeavor: following defeat in the Second Macedonian War he was compelled to accept Roman power in Greece, and later helped Rome in the War against Nabis (195 BC) and Aetolian War (191-189 BC). [4] Perseus is recorded as having commanded Macedonian troops in both the Second Macedonian War and Aetolian War. Being a son of a concubine, Perseus feared that the throne might pass on to his legitimate younger brother Demetrius, who had been sent as a hostage to Rome following the Second Macedonian War and now led a pro-Roman faction within the Macedonian court. In 180 BC Perseus forged a letter supposedly from the Roman general Titus Quinctius Flamininus, which suggested that Demetrius was planning to overthrow Philip V. This successfully convinced Philip V to execute Demetrius. [5] Philip died the next year and was succeeded by Perseus on 22 June 168 BC.


Tetradrachm of Perseus, minted between 179-172 BC at Pella or Amphipolis. The reverse depicts Zeus' eagle on a thunderbolt, with the legend BASILEOS PERSEOS ("King Perseus"). Perseus of Macedonia Tetradrachm 90060057.jpg
Tetradrachm of Perseus, minted between 179–172 BC at Pella or Amphipolis. The reverse depicts Zeus' eagle on a thunderbolt, with the legend ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΠΕΡΣΕΩΣ ("King Perseus").

In 172 BC, Eumenes II of Pergamon, fearing the expansion of Macedonian power in the Eastern Mediterranean, gave a speech to the Roman Senate in which he accused Perseus of threatening the stability of the Greek world. [7] Soon Rome and Perseus went to war in the Third Macedonian War (171-168 BC). Although Perseus had some initial success, the war ended with the King's surrender to the Roman general Lucius Aemilius Paullus after his decisive defeat at the Battle of Pydna, and his eventual imprisonment in Rome with his half-brother Philippus and son Alexander. [8] Blaise Pascal mentions in his Pensées (Lafuma 15) that Perseus was blamed for not committing suicide, supposedly after his defeat at Pydna. The Antigonid kingdom was dissolved, and replaced with four republics. Perseus was led as a captive in the triumph of Paullus, then thrown in prison, where – according to Plutarch – after two years, the Romans decided to kill him, and had him kept from sleeping to the point that he died from exhaustion in 166 BC. [9] Livy, however, writes that he was shown clemency, and kept in good conditions at Alba Fucens for the rest of his life. [10]

In 178 BC, he had married Laodice V, the daughter of Seleucus IV from Syria. One son of Perseus and Laodice, Alexander was still a child when Perseus was defeated by the Romans, and after the triumph of Aemilius Paullus in 167 BC, was kept in custody at Alba Fucens, together with his father. He became a skillful metalworker, learned the Latin language, and became a public notary. [11] [12] [13]


In 149 BC, a certain Andriscus, claiming to be Perseus' son, announced his intention to retake Macedonia from the Romans. He broke off the Roman rule for about a year, but was defeated in 148 BC by the Romans, thereby ending the reign of the last Macedonian king. In 146 BC, the four republics were dissolved, and Macedon officially became the Roman province of Macedonia.

See also

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  1. Green, Peter (1990). Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of The Hellenistic Age. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 430.
  2. Hammond, N.G.L.; Walbank, F.W. (1988). A History of Macedonia Volume III: 336-167 B.C. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 558. ISBN   9780198148159.
  3. Livius. xxxix. 53
  4. "Perseus | king of Macedonia | Britannica". Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  5. S. Gruen, Erich. "Last Years of Philip V". Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies.
  6. Hoover, Handbook of Coins of Macedon, Part I, p. 411.
  7. Eckstein, Arthur M. (2010). "Macedonia and Rome, 221–146 BC". In Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian (eds.). A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 241–242. ISBN   978-1-4051-7936-2.
  8. William Smith (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1870. "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, page 270 (V. 3)". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2007-10-17.]
  9. Plutarch, Life of Aemilius, 34 & 38, Loeb Classical Library edition, 1918
  10. Livy, Book XLV
  11. Livy, xlv. 42
  12. Plutarch, Aem. Paul. 37
  13. Smith, William (1867). "Alexander". In William Smith (ed.). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology . Vol. 1. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 124.


Perseus of Macedon
Born: c. 212 BC Died: 166 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Macedon
179168 BC
Succeeded by
Four Roman client republics in Macedon
Andriscus claimed in 149 BC