Demetrius of Pharos: Wikis


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Demetrius of Pharos (also Pharus) betrayed Corcyra to Rome, in 229 BC, during the First Illyrian War, after which he ruled a portion of the Illyrian Adriatic coast. He was expelled from Illyria by Rome after the Second Illyrian War and became a trusted councilor at the court of Philip V of Macedon, where he remained until his death at Messene in 214 BC.


Early career

Demetrius was a Greek[1][2][3] from the Greek colony on the island of Pharos (modern Hvar in Croatia), in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Dalmatia. Under the Illyrian king and dynast Agron, he ruled Pharos, from his stronghold (near modern Stari Grad), overlooking a sheltered harbor.[4] After Agron's death in 231 BC, Demetrius continued as ruler of Pharos under the regency of Queen Teuta, Agron's second wife and stepmother of Agron's son Pinnes, who was too young to rule.[5]

First Illyrian War

In 229 BC, continuing the expansion of Illyrian power that Agron had begun, Teuta laid siege to Corcyra (modern Corfu), which surrendered, and Demetrius was placed in charge.[6] That same season, in the first engagement of the First Illyrian War, Demetrius betrayed Teuta, gave up Corcyra to the Romans, and went over to the Roman side, acting as their guide for their campaign in Illyria. Rome was quickly victorious, Teuta fled to Rhizon in Dalmatia (modern Risan, Montenegro), and Demetrius was placed in charge[7] of most of the rest of Illyria, as a client of Rome.[8]

After the war

Following the war, Demetrius married Triteuta, Agron's first wife and mother of Pinnes, which consolidated his position.[9] Allied with the Macedonian king Antigonus III Doson against the Spartan king Cleomenes III, Demetrius commanded 1600 Illyrians at the Battle of Sellasia in 222 BC.[10] After Sellasia, Demetrius began attempting to extend his control over Illyria at the expense of Rome.[11]

The Illyrian wars


Piracy, a well-established practice and probably an important source of income among the Illyrians,[12] had been one of the causes of the First Illyrian War. One of the conditions imposed by Rome, following that war, expressly prohibited Illyrian warships south of Lissus.[13] Nevertheless, in 220 BC, with 90 of the Illyrian galleys called lembi, Demetrius and his fellow Illyrian Scerdilaidas embarked on a piratical expedition, in violation of the treaty with Rome. Together with the Aetolians, they unsuccessfully attacked Pylos, an Achaean town on the Messenian coast, in the Peloponnesus of Greece.

Scerdilaidas with 40 ships sailed back to Naupactus, where having reached an agreement with the Aetolians, together proceeded to invade Achaea. With help from Cynaethan traitors, they attacked, seized and burned Cynaetha, a town in the north of Arcadia, located on the northern slope of the Aroanian Mountains. They also attacked but failed to take Cleitor.

Meanwhile Demetrius continued on into the Aegean with 50 ships. He sailed to the Cyclades, where he extorted tribute from some of the islands and plundered the others.[14] Chased by Rhodian warships,[15] Demetrius put into Cenchreae, a town on the Aegean coast of Greece near Corinth.

At the same time the Macedonian representative in Achaea, Taurion, learned of Scerdilaides' and the Aetolians' invasion. Taking his cue from the Aetolians, Tauron agreed to drag Demetrius' ships across the Isthmus to bring them into play in the Aegean, in return for Demetrius' assistance against the Aetolians. Although Demetrius conducted a few raids on the Aetolian coast, he was too late to hinder the Aetolians' return from Achaea.[16]

These events precipitated the Second Illyrian War.

The Second Illyrian War

The following spring, in 219 BC, the Roman Senate sent the Consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus, with an army to Illyria.[11] Upon discovering Rome's intent, Demetrius put to death those Illyrians who opposed his rule, fortified Dimale[17] and went to Pharos. After a siege of seven days, Dimale was taken by direct assault.

At Pharos, by disguising the size of his attacking forces, Aemilius Paullus tricked Demetrius into leaving his stronghold (at modern Stari Grad), and marching down to the harbor to oppose the Roman landing. However the consul had already landed the majority of his force the previous night, and when Demetrius emerged from the town, the Roman forces emerged from the woods where they had hidden. Attacked on two sides, and cut off from the protection of the city walls, the battle was lost and Demetrius fled, making his way to the court of Philip V of Macedon, who was now the Macedonian king following the death of Antigonus.[18]

Urging war with Rome

Demetrius was received warmly by the young king (whose father was also called Demetrius), becoming one of Philip's most trusted advisors. According to Polybius, Demetrius was instrumental in turning Philip's ambitions toward Illyria and Rome.

In 217 BC when Philip learned of the victory of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, over the Romans, at Lake Trasimene, Philip at first showed the letter only to Demetrius. Perhaps seeing a chance to recover his possessions in Illyria and exact a measure of revenge on Rome, Demetrius immediately advised the young king to make peace with the Aetolians, with whom Philip was currently at war, and turn his attentions westward. In a summary of the strategy the situation called for, Polybius makes Demetrius say:

"For Greece is already entirely obedient to you, and will remain so: the Achaeans from genuine affection; the Aetolians from the terror which their disasters in the present war have inspired them. Italy, and your crossing into it, is the first step in the acquirement of universal empire, to which no one has a better claim than yourself. And now is the moment to act when the Romans have suffered a reverse."[19]

Philip was easily convinced and followed Demetrius' advice.[20]

Evidence of Demetrius' influence can be seen in the treaty of alliance between Philip and Hannibal of 215 BC. One of its articles specified that any peace made with Rome would include as terms that the Romans would relinquish control of Corcyra, Apollonia, Epidamnus, Pharos, Dimale, Parthini, and Atitania and "to restore to Demetrius of Pharos all those of his friends now in the dominion of Rome."[21]

In 217 BC Philip made war against the Illyrian Scerdilaidas, to recover some territory recently lost and to expand his control westward. Polybius gives as Philip's (and Demetrius') motives that:

… he thought it a matter of the most vital importance to bring Illyria into a state of good order, with a view to the success of all his projects, and above all of his passage into Italy. For Demetrius was so assiduous in keeping hot these hopes and projects in the king's mind, that Philip even dreamed of them in his sleep, and thought of nothing else but this Italian expedition. The motive of Demetrius in so acting was not a consideration for Philip, for he certainly did not rank higher than third in the calculations of Demetrius. A stronger motive than that was his hatred of Rome: but the strongest of all was the consideration of his own prospects. For he had made up his mind that it was only in this way that he could ever recover his principality in Pharos.[22]

Such "dreams" eventually led to war with Rome (See: First Macedonian War, Second Macedonian War)

Effect on Philip's character

Polybius also blamed Demetrius' influence for Philip's tyrannical behavior.[23] One incident involved Philip's apparent role in a massacre carried out by the people against their leaders that occurred at Messene in 215 BC.[24] Arriving on the scene the day after the massacre and wanting to seize the acropolis, Philip asked his advisors whether the entrails of a sacrifice which had been made indicated that he should "quit the citadel or hold it". Polybius quotes Demetrius as responding:

"If you have the heart of an augur — to quit it as quick as you can: but if of a gallant and wise king, to keep it, lest if you quit it now you may never have so good an opportunity again: for it is by thus holding the two horns that you can alone keep the ox under your control."[25]

However, in this instance Philip took the more moderate advice of Aratus, who advised him to leave. Nevertheless, the incident at Messene marked, according to Polybius, the beginning of Philip's "deterioration" of character, as well as his loss of popularity.[26]

Comparing Demetrius to Aratus, Polybius says that "the life of Aratus sufficiently proved that he would not have committed such an act of wickedness, but that such principles exactly suited Demetrius of Pharos."[27] Polybius goes on to cite examples where the moderating influence of Aratus had caused the Greeks to regard Philip "with favour, owing to the greatness of character which he displayed", while under Demetrius' guidance, Philip "lost the goodwill of the allies and his credit with the rest of Greece"[28]

Demetrius was killed the following year attempting to take Messene. After having rejected Demetrius' advice the previous year, Philip had returned in 214 BC, resolved to follow it.[29]


  1. ^ "The ruler of Pharos was a Greek, Demetrius",Lectures on Ancient History: From the Earliest Times to the Taking of ... - Page 353by Barthold Georg Niebuhr
  2. ^ Hellenistic Civilization - page 97 by Francois Chamoux,"came under the command of a Greek from the Adriatic, Demetrius of Pharos"
  3. ^ A History of Rome to A.D. 565 - page 111by Arthur Edward Romilly Boak, William Gurnee Sinnigen,"The island of Pharos and some adjacent territory in Illyria were given to a Greek adventurer, Demetrius of Pharos"
  4. ^ Wilkes, p. 115.
  5. ^ Agron's first wife, the mother of Pinnes, was Triteuta; J.J. Wilkes, The Illyrians, 1992, p. 120, ISBN 0631198075,Page 162,"... " The decade after 229 BC witnessed a revival of Illyrian power under Demetrius of Pharos, who had succeeded Teuta and married Triteuta, mother of the infant King Pinnes. ..."
  6. ^ Polybius, 2.10; Wilkes, p. 160.
  7. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, p. 120, ISBN 0631198075,page 161, "... Gulf of Kotor. The Romans decided that enough had been achieved and hostilities ceased. The consuls handed over Illyria to Demetrius and withdrew the fleet and army to Epidamnus , ..."
  8. ^ Polybius, 2.11.
  9. ^ Wilkes, p. 162.
  10. ^ Polybius, 2.65.
  11. ^ a b Polybius, 3.16.
  12. ^ Polybius, 2.4–5, 2.8–9; Walbank, p. 109.
  13. ^ Polybius, 2.12.
  14. ^ Polybius, 3.16, 4.16, 4.19.
  15. ^ For the Rhodians, who made their living as maritime traders, piracy was a serious problem; with Macedon and Egypt having abandoned their control in the Aegean, it fell to Rhodes to police these waters. See: Walbank, p. 109 and Strabo, 14.2.5.
  16. ^ Polybius, 4.19.
  17. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, p. 120, ISBN 0631198075.,Page 163,"... ' Unlike Teuta in 229 BC, Demetrius was prepared for the Roman invasion. He placed a garrison in Dimale (Dimallum), a fortress inland ..."
  18. ^ Polybius, 3.18–19.
  19. ^ Polybius, 5.101.
  20. ^ Polybius, 5.102–105.
  21. ^ Polybius, 7.9.
  22. ^ Polybius, 5.108.
  23. ^ Polybius, 5.12.
  24. ^ Strabo 8.4.8; Livy 32.21; Plutarch, Aratus 49.3; Walbank, p. 72.
  25. ^ Polybius, 7.11.
  26. ^ Polybius, 7.12.
  27. ^ Polybius, 7.13.
  28. ^ Polybius, 7.14.
  29. ^ Polybius, 3.19; Walbank, p. 78.


  • Livy, History of Rome, Rev. Canon Roberts (translator), Ernest Rhys (Ed.); (1905) London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.
  • Plutarch, "Aratus" in Plutarch's Lives, Arthur Hugh Clough (editor), John Dryden (translator). Two volumes. Modern Library; Modern Library Paperback Ed edition (April 10, 2001). Downloadable version at Project Gutenberg. Vol. 2: ISBN 0375756779.
  • Polybius, Histories, Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (translator); London, New York. Macmillan (1889); Reprint Bloomington (1962).
  • Strabo, Geography, translated by Horace Leonard Jones; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. (1924). Books 8-9: ISBN 0-674-99216-4, Books 13-14: ISBN 0-674-99246-6.
  • Walbank, F. W., Philip V of Macedon, The University Press (1940).
  • Wilkes, John, The Illyrians (Peoples of Europe), Blackwell Publishers, (December 1, 1995) ISBN 0-631-19807-5.


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