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was throughout an Oriental of the ordinary stamp, coarse, full of the most sensual appetites, superstitious, cruel, perfidious, and unscrupulous; but so vigorous in organization, so powerful in physical endowments, that his defiant laying about him and his unshaken courage in resistance frequently looked like genius. * * He was the only enemy, before the Parthian wars, who gave serious trouble to the Romans in the East. * * The Mithridatie wars formed at once the last movement of the political opposition offered by Hellas to Rome, and the beginning of a revolt against the Roman supremacy resting on very different and far deeper grounds of antagonism—the national reaction of the Asiatics against the Occidentals." * The peninsula of Asia Minor, peopled by the two great races, the Semitic and Indo-European, in a mixture which has not yet been satisfactorily analyzed, and overlaid with a network of Greek cities which groaned under the oppression of the Roman proconsuls and publicans, offered a fit theatre for the enterprize which Mithridates spent the first years of his reign in strengthening himself to undertake.
From his very accession, he had a special ground of quarrel with the Romans, who had resumed during his minority the gift of Lesser Phrygia, with which his father's alliance had been rewarded. But, instead of making any premature attack, he sought first those accessions of empire to the East and North, which he steadily pursued during the greater part of his reign. Gradually extending his power over Colchis and the Caucasian region on the eastern and northern shore of the Euxine, he came into contact with the kingdom of Bosporus, which had risen out of the old Greek settlements in the neighbourhood of the Cimmerian Bosporus, with a capital at Panticapaeum (Kertck) in the Tauric Chersonese ( Crimea). This kingdom was founded as early as the time of the battle of Salamis (b.c. 480) by the Archffianactidae, who were succeeded, about B.c. 438, by the line of Spartacus. These reigned down to Parisades, who was glad to purchase protection from the Sarmatians, Roxolani, and other barbarous tribes of the steppes about the sea of Azov, by becoming the tributary of the king of Pontus. After his death Mithridates incorporated the kingdom in his dominions; he made its capital a favourite residence, and found a refuge in the Crimea when he was driven by the Romans out of Asia.| On the East of Pontus, Mithridates subdued the
* Mommsen, History of Rime, Vol. III. pp. 275—8.
f Tlie beautiful Greek temple at Kertch, ascribed to Mithridates, with its fine museum of local antiquities, was wantonly destroyed during the Crimean War.
B.C. 92.] SULLA AND THE PARTHIANS. 105
mountain tribes on the borders of Armenia, added Lesser Armenia to his kingdom, and cemented by the hand of his daughter an alliance with Tigranes, king of Great Armenia. These conquests provided an unlimited supply of hardy soldiers, and gave him the maritime command of the Euxine.
Mithridates now felt himself strong enough to attempt schemes of aggrandizement in Asia Minor. Claiming the principality of Paphlagonia nnder the will of the last of those native rulers, who boasted their descent from that Pylaemenes who had led the Paphlagonians to the aid of Troy, Mithridates formed an alliance with Nicomedes II., King of Bithynia, for the partition of the country. It was the greater object of his ambition to bring again beneath his rule the large region of Cappadocia, to which Pontus itself had originally belonged, and whose satraps had achieved their independence in the wars that followed the death of Alexander. About B.c. 96, the reigning king, Ariarathes VI., was killed by an assassin named Gordius, who was no doubt instigated by Mithridates, the king's own brother-in-law. A contest ensued between rival claimants set up by Mithridates and Nicomedes and the sons of the late king, one of whom was killed and another expelled by Mithridates. The Romans now thought it time to interpose, and Sulla, who was propraetor in Cilicia, received orders to march into Cappadocia. Mithridates was still so cautious of a direct collision with Rome, that he left the defence of the province to Gordius and an Armenian contingent sent by Tigranes, whom Sulla with his small force drove out of the country. It was in following up this success that the Roman eagles first appeared on the Euphrates, which was destined soon to be once more "the bordering flood," dividing the Eastern Empire of the Parthians from the Western Empire of the Romans. As yet, however, neither was content to own such a divided dominion. Sulla doubtless looked across the stream to the lands overrun by Alexander, in the assurance that their reconquest would be a matter of course when the time should come, while the Parthians anticipated their victories over Crassus and Julian. So, when the Parthian king Arsaces IX., surnamed Mithridates II., who was then at variance with Tigranes, sent an embassy to meet the Roman general on the Euphrates, there was a contest for the precedence due to the master of the world. Sulla was more exalted in the eyes of his countrymen by his persistence in assuming the place of honour between the king of Cappadocia and the Parthian envoy than by the check he had given to Mithridates, and the Parthian was put to death by his offended master. Meanwhile, Mithridates had yielded to the demands of Sulla, and the people of Cappadocia had been permitted to choose their own king, Ariobarzanes I., surnamed Philoromaeus, who was, however, destined to be more than once expelled. Paphlagonia was also evacuated (b.c. 92).
On the death of Nicomedes II. in the following year, Mithridates again interfered in Bithynia, to support Socrates, the late king's younger son, against his elder brother Nicomedes III. Philopator, who was recognized by the Romans, while Tigranes again invaded Cappadocia, and drove out Ariobarzanes. Both kings went in person to Rome, and the consular Manius Aquillius, sent as a special envoy to Asia, with only the support of the small force in the province under Lucius Cassius, restored them to their precarious thrones. Mithridates not only offered no open resistance, bnt even pat Socrates to death. His excessive caution at this juncture betrays the want of real genius; for Rome was just involved in the crisis of the Social War, and the Italians were eagerly soliciting his aid. Probably, from the known character of the Roman government of the day, he judged that their vacillating policy and their reluctance to appeal to arms gave him a fair chance of accomplishing his designs in Asia without the risk of an open conflict (b.c. 90). But he was not permitted thus to take his own course. At the instigation of Aquillius, Nicomedes declared war against Mithridates, closed the Bosporus to his vessels, and laid waste the fertile plains of western Pontus. Still Mithridates refrained from retaliation till he had applied to the Roman legate either to restrain the aggressor or to permit him to defend himself. Aquillius, who had resolved on war for his own profit and glory, intimated that resistance to Bithynia would be deemed hostility to Rome. With the courage of despair, the king exclaimed,—" Does not even he who must succumb at last defend himself against the robber?" The advance of his son into Cappadocia was followed by a declaration of war from the Roman envoy (b.c. 89).
The insurrection of the Italian allies, broken but still unsubdued, and the growing civil discords of Rome, gave Mithridates a breathing-space, which he used for immense preparations. His alliance with Tigranes was drawn into a league for the conquest of Asia Minor, of which Mithridates was to have the dominion and the Armenian the spoil. To the Greek cities Mithridates gave himself out as a liberator from the Roman yoke, nor did his envoys restrict their efforts to Asia. The Cretan league, the last remnant of free Hellas, furnished him with numerous recruits; and attempts
RC. 88.] THE FIRST M1THRIDATIC WAR. 107
were made to rouse Macedonia and Thrace. The kingdoms of Syria, Egypt, and Numidia, were tempted with the opportunity of shaking off their vassalage to Home; and the neutrality of Parthia was secured by the offence which had been given by Sulla. Mithridates took the field with an army of 250,000 infantry and 40,000 horse, which bore all the characters of an Asiatic host in the variety and splendour of its equipments and the want of unity in its organization. It was, however, commanded by experienced Greek generals, the chief of whom were the brothers Neoptolemus and Archelaus; and the Italian refugees formed the nucleus of a foreign legion, armed after the Roman fashion. A fleet of 300 decked and 100 open vessels rode upon the Euxine, whence innumerable corsairs issued forth to prey upon the commerce of the Mediterranean. To oppose these forces the Romans had only the small provincial army and the untrustworthy militia of the Greek cities, stationed on the frontiers of Bithynia, Galatia, and Cappadocia, under L. Cassius, M' Aquillius, and Q. Oppius; while the army of Nicomedes held an advanced position in Paphlagonia, and his fleet, in conjunction with a Roman squadron, blockaded the Bosporus.
At the very time when Rome was torn by the intestine conflict, to decide whether Sulla or Marius should have the command against Mithridates—in the spring of B.C. 88—the storm burst upon the undefended province. A brilliant victory over Nicomedes in Paphlagonia was followed by the successive defeats of the Roman generals, who shut themselves up in fortresses, while the conqueror overran the province of Asia. His policy in dismissing his Greek prisoners, and the news of the civil war at Rome, decided the subjects, both Hellenic andAsiatic, to welcome Mithridates as a deliverer. Even the islands joined in the divine honours paid to him, and Mytilene delivered up Aquillius, who was paraded throughout Asia with every indignity, and finally brought to Pergamus and set before Mithridates, who ordered molten gold to be poured down his throat,—a savage satire on the motive with which he had provoked the war. A far more savage deed of impolitic cruelty revealed the true character of the war and its leader. From Ephesus Mithridates issued an edict for the simultaneous massacre of all Italians, whether slaves or free, without distinction of age or sex; and the command was the more zealously obeyed as a means of wiping off the debts of the provincials. In one day 150,000, or, on the lowest computation, 80,000 persons were put to death, and their bodies cast out to the dogs and birds of prey. Their property was swept into the treasury of the king, who now fixed his court at Pergamus, as the monarch of Asia, leaving his son Mithridates to reign as viceroy at his former capital of Sinope, and erecting Cappadocia, Phrygia, and Bithynia into satrapies. His followers were enriched with gifts of land and money, and the states which had submitted to him were rewarded with freedom from taxation for five years. Caria and Lycia were the only countries not overrun; Magnesia on the Mseander the only city that still held out The Mgsean was in the full possession of the Pontic fleet, and nearly all the islands had submitted; but Rhodes afforded an asylum to the Romans who had escaped with the governor L. Cassius, and Mithridates was foiled in a great effort to take the city. But the schemes of Mithridates were not limited to the conquest of Asia; he had resolved, like Antiochus, to make Greece his battle-ground for empire. He had already for some time instigated the Thracian tribes to attack Macedonia, which was now entered by an army under his son Ariarathes, while his fleet—after perpetrating savage massacres in Delos and Eubcea — began vigorous operations on the coast Meanwhile his envoys were busy among the Greek states. At Athens, in particular, a creature of his, named Aristion, who had been first a slave and afterwards a teacher of philosophy, and whose skill in speaking was supported by the wildest fables concerning the great king's power and allies,* persuaded the Attic mob and their literary leaders to revolt from Rome, and to deliver up the Piraeus to the fleet of Mithridates, while he himself exercised a sanguinary despotism by the aid of Pontic troops. The example of Athens was followed by the revolt of all Greece as far as Thessaly; and the Roman general Bruttius Sura had hard work to defend Macedonia. An embassy from the Italians who were still in arms now invited Mithridates to pass over into Italy; but he knew that the insurrection had been quelled, he had neither the inclination nor the ability to act the part of Hannibal, and he preferred to await the attack which Sulla was now ready to make upon his forces in Greece.
Sulla landed in Epirus in the spring of B.C. 87, with five legions, amounting to not more than 6000 men,f with an empty military chest, and without a single ship of war. But the general knew
* It is liardly credible that ho promised aid from Carthage, as being still a flourishing state.
t The Social War, by cutting off the auxiliary force of the Italian allies, had reduced the legions to about half their former strength.