But while Rome may not have had 'skin in the game' directly, she did so indirectly through her relationship with Pergamum. Readers may have noticed in my previous post that Pergamum was a long standing "Friend of Rome". This was a formal arrangement, an alliance between large power and smaller one that created mutual obligations. A good modern analogy is the relationship between small Australia and the much larger U.S.A, a long standing alliance going back to WW 2.
Much to say on these matters but very little time to write it. If my memory serves, Rome did not have any alliance as such with Pergamum. Pergamum enjoyed amicitia with Rome but this was nothing like the ANZUS Alliance which is a formal, binding alliance. Rome was not bound to go to war on Pergamum's behalf just as it felt no need to go to war on behalf of any other state enjoying such 'friendship'. Rome's relationship with Aitolia is different: here a binding alliance held. It was alliance - on equal terms - that Antiochos sought for he already enjoyed amicitia with Rome. Something which had existed from at least 200 and which fulsomely renewed in 198/7.
I still think the analogy holds true, and as we shall see there was a formal treaty of alliance between Pergmum and Rome. A binding treaty of alliance ‘foedus’ would have legally bound Rome to defend its ally ( and I’ll come back to this). The next best thing was ‘amicitia’, which was formally documented by placing a bronze tablet in the Capitol, and created various rights and privileges to the “Friend.”
This created mutual moral obligations between the parties of a diplomatic and political nature, to their mutual advantage, including Roman protection, and finally, for the sake of completeness there was ‘deditio in fidem’ by which a State sought Rome’s protection, but Rome had a free hand as to whether or not to go to war.
Philip's alliance with Hannibal of Carthage in 215 BC caused concern in Rome, then involved deeply in the Second Punic War. In 211 BC, a treaty was signed between Rome and the Aetolian League, a provision of which allowed for the inclusion of certain allies of the League, Attalus being one of these. Pergamum thus became a formal ‘ally’ of Rome as well as a ‘Friend’. Attalus was elected one of the two strategoi (generals) of the Aetolian League, and in 210 BC his troops participated in capturing the island of Aegina, acquired by Attalus as his base of operations in Greece.
In the following spring (209 BC), Philip marched south into Greece. Under command of Pyrrhias, Attalus' colleague as strategos, the allies lost two battles at Lamia. Attalus himself personally went to Greece in July and was joined on Aegina by the Roman proconsul P. Sulpicius Galba who wintered there. The following summer (208 BC) the combined fleet of thirty-five Pergamene and twenty-five Roman ships failed to take Lemnos, but occupied and plundered the countryside of the island of Peparethos (Skopelos), both Macedonian possessions. Attalus and Sulpicius then attended a meeting in Heraclea Trachinia of the Council of the Aetolians, at which the Roman argued against making peace with Philip. To cut a long story short, the War petered out by 205 BC and the ‘Peace of Phoinike’ was signed, which declared Attalus and Pergamum a “Friend of Rome” inter alia.
Like Attalos I, you are tending to over egg matters with "staunch ally" and "darkest hour". I'd suggest there is very little evidence of Antiochos looking to ally himself with Carthage. There is a strong Roman scent to the Hannibal stories and Antiochos had been seeking Roman alliance over 196/95. Matters might have cooled between the two powers over 194/3 but Antiochos had no intention of poking Rome in the eye. His campaign in PSidia (rather than Thrace) is a good indicator of such.
I don’t believe ‘staunch ally’ and ‘darkest hour’ are exaggerations at all. The second Punic War was certainly the worst threat the Republic faced, and hence its darkest hour, as Rome would remember for centuries with the dread cry of “Hannibal ad Portas”. Even when Rome had been occupied by the Gauls, who extorted a huge ransom, she had not come so close to destruction.
As to ‘staunch ally’, Pergamum and Aetolia had prevented Philip consummating his alliance with Hannibal by sending troops to Italy, and freeing up whole Roman armies. Rome owed them ‘Big Time’. But Rome was to incur an even bigger obligation to Attalus and Pergamum.
In 205 BC, following the "Peace of Phoinike", Rome turned to Attalus, as its only friend in Asia, for help concerning a religious matter. An unusual number of meteor showers, and a famine, caused concern in Rome, and an inspection was made of the Sybilline books, which discovered verses saying that if a foreigner were to make war on Italy, he could be defeated if the Magna Idaea, the Great Mother Goddess, associated with Mt Ida in Phrygia, were brought to Rome. This was the oldest and most venerated Goddess of Asia Minor, and consisted of a large black stone, itself of meteoric origin.Hoping to bring about a speedy conclusion to the war with Hannibal, a distinguished delegation, led by M.Valerius Laevinus was dispatched to Pergamum, to seek Attalus' aid. According to Livy, Attalus received the delegation warmly, and "handed over to them the sacred stone which the natives declared to be 'the Mother of the Gods', and bade them carry it to Rome."
In Rome the goddess became known as the Magna Mater and a great statue was made, with the black meteor as the head. Rome’s obligations to Pergamum were now profound, and Antiochus can have been in little doubt that Rome would ‘protect’ Pergamum if she was threatened.
As to an alliance with Carthage against Rome, that was plainly Antiochus’ intention in providing Hannibal with a fleet and 10,000 men to restore Hannibal’s rule there, and as I have said previously, the subterfuge that it was intended to invade Italy or Sicily would only have fooled the most credulous. Not even Hannibal was going to achieve much against Italy with a mere 10,000 men, but they would have been ample to take over a disarmed Carthage. Sadly for Hannibal’s hopes, his invasion force was diverted by Antiochus to Greece instead.
As to ‘poking Rome in the eye’, the mere invasion of Greece was a total humiliation to Rome’s setting up the “Freedom of the Greeks”. Worse still, when Antiochus threatened to ‘take up arms’ on treacherous Aetolia’s behalf from a mere 100 miles or so from Italy across the Adriatic, this was an out-and-out threat which Rome could not and did not ignore, mobilising fleets and armies. As I mentioned earlier, Antiochus badly misjudged Rome’s response to threats, real or perceived.
If we moderns need to try to see this from a particular view that view should be the Seleukid view! Looking back from the world of 150 odd BCE, it would be quite easy to see Antiochos and his actions over 204-193 as aimed at Rome and / or titling at ta hola.
Indeed it is. Beyond protesting diplomatically against Antiochus’ actions against the independent cities of Asia Minor many of whom were “Friends of Rome” or had made ‘deditio in fidem’, when Antiochus threatened them, Rome made no aggressive moves against Antiochus, whilst he did against Rome.
I don't think that was the case. I certainly don't think Antiochos can be demonstrated to have harboured any ambitions of another "Pyrrhic War". Rather, his actions speak to avoiding confrontation with Rome until matters took a deadly turn via Aitolia and Pergamum.
I’d agree – what Antiochus was attempting to do was bully Rome into accepting his conquests in Asia Minor and Thrace, without actually having to go to war, but he really stepped over the mark. He certainly took no steps to avoid confrontation with Rome, rather the opposite. Even stripped of source bias, he is clearly the aggressor here. And it wasn’t under Aetolian influence that Antiochus sought re-instate Hannibal in Carthage and acquire an ally against Rome, or many of his other actions that Rome perceived as threatening. If anyone is 'over-egging' matters, it is you attempting to be an apologist for Antiochus, who was certainly no mild-mannered man of peace seeking to avoid confronting Rome !
I daresay Aetolia will come under the microscope next.....