The “Roman Conquests” series by Pen & Sword books is a nice collection of books collecting the information about Rome’s campaigns of expansion in a district into one book. Often this is spread about in many books, often ones that the semi-casual reader can’t easily find.
This book covers what I think of as an almost ‘absent minded’ period of growth. Rather than have any plan, provinces were acquired by inheritance, wars were entered while Rome was busy elsewhere but won nonetheless. I don’t think at any time Rome had some plan of becoming the master of the Eastern Mediterranean, but once they were in the region, they had no objection to settling matters in their favor. And no one in the area could face Rome’s strength, even when distracted with other matters.
The first contact with the power in the region, the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus III came in the latter stages of the Roman “conquest” of Greece. His expeditionary force to help the Greek states objecting to Roman hegemony was run out of the area fairly easily. It did not help relations that Hannibal was staying with the king in his court.
The next struggle was for some of the states of Asia Minor that had allied with the Romans. The Romans again outfought the Seleucid army and most of Asia Minor was freed from Seleucid rule, although not yet under Rome. Rome began using its influence even more after the war, in one great story sending a single senator, Popillius Laenas to meet an invasion of Egypt alone. He famously drew a “line in the sand” around the feet of the Seleucid king and told him to decide before crossing it – if he crossed to the side of Egypt, it was to be war with Rome, otherwise he could go home.The king went home, and the power of that state was gone.
After this there were the wars with Mithridates of Pontus, who fought war after war with Rome while they were occupied with civil strife at home. He was a punching bag for Sulla, Lucullus, and finally Pompey but was saved from final destruction by the distractions of Roman politics, only to come back for more. At the end Rome was the ruler of the entire region.