Perseus of Macedon

Perseus (Greek: Περσεύς, Perseus; c. 212 – 166 BC) was the last king (Basileus) of the Antigonid dynasty, who ruled the successor state in Macedon created upon the death of Alexander the Great. He also has the distinction of being the last of the line, after losing the Battle of Pydna on 22 June 168 BC; subsequently, Macedon came under Roman rule.

Perseus of Macedon BM.jpg
Tetradrachm of Perseus of Macedon, in the British Museum
Basileus of Macedonia
Reign179–168 BC
PredecessorPhilip V of Macedon
SuccessorRoman conquest and partition of Macedon
Born212 BC
Pella, Macedonia
Died166 BC (aged 59)
Alba Fucens, Roman Italy
SpouseLaodice V
IssueAlexander (son of Perseus)
GreekΠερσεύς (Perseus)
HouseAntigonid dynasty
FatherPhilip V of Macedon
MotherPolycratia of Argos
ReligionGreek polytheism

Early lifeEdit

Perseus was the son of king Philip V of Macedon and a concubine, probably Polycratia of Argos.[1] He therefore feared that the throne might pass on his legitimate younger brother Demetrius, not least due to interference from the Romans, who considered their former hostage Demetrius a true friend. Perseus thus staged a plot to make their father believe that his brother was a traitor, and as a result Philip had Demetrius executed.


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").[2]

In 179 BC Philip V of Macedon died and Perseus took the throne. Although his role in killing Demetrius had not endeared him to the Romans, one of his first acts on becoming king was to renew the treaty with the Republic. Yet, Perseus' other actions troubled the Senate. His interference in the affairs of his neighbors, his ousting of the Roman ally Abrupolis from his territories in Thrace, his armed visit to Delphi, his avoidance of the Roman ambassadors to Macedonia, and his dynastic marriages all gave the Romans cause for concern.

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.[3] 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 B.C.[4] Livy, however, writes that he was shown clemency, and kept in good conditions at Alba Fucens for the rest of his life.[5]

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 conquered 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.[6][7][8]


In 149 BCE, 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 BCE by the Romans, thereby ending the reign of the last Macedonian king. In 146 BCE, the four republics were dissolved, and Macedon officially became the Roman province of Macedonia.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Livius. xxxix. 53
  2. ^ Hoover, Handbook of Coins of Macedon, Part I, p. 411.
  3. ^ William Smith (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1870. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2007-10-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)]
  4. ^ Plutarch, Life of Aemilius, 34 & 38, Loeb Classical Library edition, 1918
  5. ^ Livy, Book XLV
  6. ^ Livy, xlv. 42
  7. ^ Plutarch, Aem. Paul. 37
  8. ^ Smith, William (1867). "Alexander". In William Smith (ed.). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 124.


  • Oliver D. Hoover, Handbook of Coins of Macedon and Its Neighbors. Part I: Macedon, Illyria, and Epeiros, Sixth to First Centuries BC [The Handbook of Greek Coinage Series, Volume 3], Lancaster/London, Classical Numismatic Group, 2016.

External linksEdit

Perseus of Macedon
Born: c. 212 BC Died: 166 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Philip V
King of Macedon
179–168 BC
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Macedonia annexed by Rome