Mithridates Vi. or Mithridates Eupator or Mithridates Magnus or Mithridates the Great
surnamed EUPATOR, and also DIONYSUS, but more commonly known by the name of THE GREAT (a title which is not, however, bestowed on him by any ancient historian), was the son and successor of the preceding. We have no precise statement of the year of his birth, and great discrepancies occur in those concerning his age and the duration of his reign. Strabo, who was likely to be well informed in regard to the history of his native country, affirms that he was eleven years old at the period of his accession (x. p. 477), and this statement agrees with the account of Appian, that he was sixty-eight or sixty-nine years old at the time of his death, of which he had reigned fifty-seven. Memnon, on the other hand (100.30, ed. Orell.), makes him thirteen at the time when he ascended the throne, and Dio Cassius (35.9) calls him above seventy years old in B. C. 68, which would make him at least seventy-five at his death, but this last account is certainly erroneous. If Appian's statement concerning the length of his reign be correct, we may place his accession in B. C. 120.
We have very imperfect information concerning the earlier years of his reign, as indeed during the whole period which preceded his wars with the Romans; and much of what has been transmitted to us wears a very suspicious, if not fabulous, aspect.
According to Justin, unfortunately our chief authority for the events of this period, both the year of his birth and that of his accession were marked by the appearance of comets of portentous magnitude.
The same author tells us that immediately on ascending the throne he found himself assailed by the designs of his guardians (perhaps some of those who had conspired against his father's life), but that he succeeded in eluding all their machinations, partly by displaying a courage and address in warlike exercises beyond his years, partly by the use of antidotes against poison, to which he began thus early to accustom himself.
In order to evade the designs formed against his life, he also devoted much of his time to hunting, and took refuge in the remotest and most unfrequented regions, under pretence of pursuing the pleasures of the chase. (Just. 37.2
.) Whatever truth there may be in these accounts, it is certain that when he attained to manhood, and assumed in person the administration of his kingdom, he was not only endowed with consummate skill in all martial exercises, and possessed of a bodily frame inured to all hardships, as well as a spirit to brave every danger, but his naturally vigorous intellect had been improved by careful culture.
As a boy he had been brought up at Sinope, where he had probably received the elements of a Greek education; and so powerful was his memory, that he is said to have learnt not less than twenty-five languages, and to have been able in the days of his greatest power to transact business with the deputies of every tribe subject to his rule in their own peculiar dialect. (Justin. l.c.
; Plin. Nat. 25.2
; A. Gel. 17.17
; V. Max. 8.7
, ext. 16; Strab. xii. p.545
The first steps of his career, like those of most Eastern despots, were marked by blood.
He is said to have established himself in the possession of the sovereign power by the death of his mother, to whom a share in the royal authority had been left by Mithridates Euergetes; and this was followed by the assassination of his brother. (Memnon, 100.30; Appian, App. Mith. 112
As soon as he had by these means established himself firmly on the throne of Pontus (under which name was comprised also a part of Cappadocia and Paphlagonia), he began to turn his arms against the neighbouring nations. On the West, however, his progress was hemmed in by the power of Rome, and the minor sovereigns of Bithynia and Cappadocia enjoyed the all-powerful protection of that republic.
But on the East his ambition found free scope.
He subdued the barbarian tribes in the interior, between the Euxine and the confines of Armenia, including the whole of Colchis and the province called Lesser Armenia (which was ceded to him by its ruler Antipater), and even extended his conquests beyond the Caucasus, where he reduced to subjection some of the wild Scythian tribes that bordered on the Tanais.
The fame of his arms and the great extension of his power led Parisades, king of the Bosporus, as well as the Greek cities of Chersonesus and Olbia, to place themselves under his protection, in order to obtain his assistance against the barbarians of the North--the Sarmatians and Roxolani Mithridates entrusted the conduct of this war to his generals Diophantus and Neoptolemus, whose efforts were crowned with complete success: they carried their victorious arms from the Tanais to the Tyras, totally defeated the Roxolani, and rendered the whole of the Tauric Chersonese tributary to the kingdom of Pontus.
A fortress called the tower of Neoptolemus, at the mouth of the river Tyras (Dniester), probably marks the extreme limit of his conquests in that direction; but he is said to have entered into friendly relations with and possessed much influence over the Getae and other wild tribes, as far as the borders of Thrace and Macedonia.
After the death of Parisades, the kingdom of Bosporus itself was incorporated with his dominions. (Strab. vii. p.306
, xi. p. 499, xii. p. 540, 541, 555; Appian, App. Mith. 15
; Memnon, 100.30 ; Just. 37.3
; Niebuhr, Kl. Shift.
While he was thus extending his own sovereignty, he did not neglect to strengthen himself by forming alliances with his more powerful neighbours, especially with Tigranes, king of Armenia, to whom he gave his daughter Cleopatra in marriage, as well as with the warlike nations of the Parthians and Iberians.
He thus found himself in possession of such great power and extensive resources, that he began to deem himself equal to a contest with Rome itself. Many causes of dissension had already arisen between them, and the Romans had given abundant proofs of the jealousy with which they regarded the rising greatness of Mithridates, but that monarch had hitherto avoided an open rupture with the republic. Shortly after his accession they had taken advantage of his minority to wrest from him the province of Phrygia, which had been bestowed by Aquillius upon his father. (Just. 38.5
; Appian, App. Mith. 2.57
At a subsequent period also they had interposed to prevent him from making himself master of Paphlagonia, to which kingdom he claimed to be entitled by the will of the last monarch. (Just. 37.4
.) On both these occasions Mithridates submitted to the imperious mandates of Rome ; but he was far from disposed to acquiesce permanently in the arrangements thus forced upon him for a time; and it can hardly be doubted that he was already aiming at the conquest of the neighbouring states which enjoyed the protection of the Roman republic, with a view to make himself master of the whole of Asia. Cappadocia above all appears to have been the constant object of his ambition, as it had indeed been that of the kings of Pontus from a very early period. Ariarathes VI., king of that country, had married Laodice, the sister of Mithridates, notwithstanding which, the latter procured his assassination, through the agency of one Gordius. His design was probably to remove his infant nephews also, and unite Cappadocia to his own dominions; but Laodice having thrown herself upon the protection of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, he turned his arms against that monarch, whom he expelled from Cappadocia, and set up Ariarathes, one of the sons of Laodice, and his own nephew, as king of the country.
But it was not long before he found a cause of quarrel with the young man whom he had thus established, in consequence of which he invaded his dominions with a large army, and having invited him to a conference, assassinated him with his own hand. he now placed an infant son of his own, on whom lie had bestowed the name of Ariarathes, upon the throne of Cappadocia, but the people rose in rebellion, and set up the second son of Ariarathes VI. as their sovereign. Mithridates hereupon invaded Cappadocia again, and drove out this new competitor, who died shortly after.
But the Roman senate now interfered, and appointed a Cappadocian named Ariobarzanes to be king of that country (B. C. 93). Mithridates did not venture openly to oppose this nomination, but he secretly instigated Tigranes, king of Armenia, to invade Cappadocia, and expel Ariobarzanes.
The latter. being wholly unable to cope with the power of Tigranes, immediately fled to Rome; and Sulla, who was at the time praetor in Cilicia, was appointed to reinstate him, B. C. 92. Mithridates took no part in preventing this; and clearly as all things were in fact tending to a rupture between him and Rome, he still continued nominally to enjoy the friendship and alliance of the Roman people which had been bestowed by treaty upon his father. (Just. 38.1
; Appian, App. Mith. 10
; Memnon, 100.30; Plut. Sull. 5
But this state of things did not last long; and the death of Nicomedes II., king of Bithynia, by opening a new field to the ambition of Mithridates, at length brought matters to a crisis.
That monarch was succeeded by his eldest son Nicomedes III., but Mithridates took the opportunity, on what pretext we know not, to set up a rival claimant in the person of Socrates, a younger brother of Nicomedes, whose pretensions he supported with an army, and quickly drove Nicomedes out of Bithynia, B. C. 90.
It appears to have been about the same time that he openly invaded Cappadocia, and for the second time expelled Ariobarzanes from his kingdom, establishing his own son Ariarathes in his place. Both the fugitive princes had recourse to Rome, where they found ready support: a decree was passed that Nicomedes and Ariobarzanes should be restored to their respective kingdoms, and the execution of it was confided to two consular legates, the chief of whom was M'. Aquillius, while L. Cassius, who commanded in the Roman province of Asia, was ordered to support them with what forces he had at his disposal. (Appian, App. Mith. 10
; Just. 38.3
; Memnon, 100.30; Liv. Epit.
It is not very easy to understand or account for the conduct of Mithridates at this period, as related to us in the very imperfect accounts which we possess.
It seems probable that he was emboldened to make these direct attacks upon the allies of Rome by the knowledge that the arms of the republic were sufficiently occupied at home by the Social War, which was now devastating Italy.
But, although that war did in fact prevent the Romans from rendering any efficient support to the monarchs whose cause they had espoused, Mithridates offered no opposition to their proceedings, but yielded once more, as it would seem, to the very name of Rome, and allowed the consular legates and L. Cassius, at the head of a few cohorts only, to reinstate both Nicomedes and Ariobarzanes.
He even went so far as to put to death Socrates, whom he had himself incited to lay claim to the throne of Bithynia, and who now, when expelled by the Romans, naturally sought refuge at his court. (Appian, App. Mith. 11
; Just. 38.5
.) Yet about this time we are told, that ambassadors having been sent to him by the Italian allies that were in arms against Rome to court his alliance, he promised to co-operate with them, when he had first expelled the Romans from Asia. (Diod. xxxvii. Exc. Phot.
It is difficult to judge whether he was really meditating a war with Rome, but did not yet consider his preparations sufficiently advanced to commence the contest, or was desirous by a show of moderation to throw upon the Romans the odium of forcing on the war. If the latter were his object, his measures were certainly not ill chosen; for it is clear even from the accounts transmitted to us, that whatever may have been the secret designs of Mithridates, the immediate occasion of the war arose from acts of aggression and injustice on the part of the Romans and their allies.
No sooner was Nicomedes replaced on the throne of Bithynia than he was urged by the Roman legates to invade the territories of Mithridates, into which he made a predatory incursion as far as Amastris. Mithridates offered no resistance, but sent Pelopidas to the Romans to demand satisfaction, and it was not until his ambassador was sent away with an evasive answer that he prepared for immediate hostilities, B. C. 88. (Appian, App. Mith. 11
.) His first step was to invade Cappadocia, from which he easily expelled Ariobarzanes for the third time. Shortly afterwards his two generals, Neoptolemus and Archelaus, advanced against Bithynia with an army of 250,000 foot and 40,000 horse. They were met by Nicomedes, supported by the presence of the Roman legate Aquillius and Mancinus, with such forces as they had been able to raise in Asia, but with very few Roman troops, on the banks of the river Amneius in Paphlagonia, when a great battle ensued, which terminated in the complete victory of the generals of Mithridates. Nicomedes fled from the field, and, abandoning Bithynia without another blow, took refuge at Pergamus. Aquillius was closely pursued by Neoptolemus, compelled to fight at disadvantage, and again defeated; and Mithridates, following up his advantage, not only made himself master of Phrygia and Galatia, but invaded the Roman province of Asia. Here the universal discontent of the inhabitants, caused by the oppression of the Roman governors, enabled hint to overrun the whole province almost without opposition : the Roman officers, who had imprudently brought this danger upon themselves, were unable to collect any forces to oppose the progress of Mithridates, and two of them, Q. Oppius and Aquillius himself, the chief author of the war, fell into the hands of the king of Pontus. (Appian, App. Mith. 15
; Memnon, 31; Just. 38.3
; Liv. Epit.
lxxvi. lxxvii. lxxviii.; Oros. 6.2
; Eutrop. 5.5
; Flor. 3.6
; Strab. xii. p.562
These events took place in the summer and autumn of B. C. 88; before the close of that year they were known at Rome, and Sulla was appointed to take the command in the war which was now inevitable. Meanwhile, Mithridates continued his military operations in Asia, with a view to make himself master of the whole of that country before the Romans were prepared to attack him. All the cities of the main land except Magnesia and some of those of Lycia had opened their gates to him; but the important islands of Cos and Rhodes still held out; and against them Mithridates now directed his arms. Cos was quickly subdued; but the Rhodians were well prepared for defence, and possessed a powerful fleet; so that Mithridates, though he commanded his fleet and army in person, and exerted the most strenuous efforts, was ultimately compelled to abandon the siege.
After this he made a fruitless attempt upon the city of Patara in Lycia; and then resigning the command of the war in that quarter to his general, Pelopidas, took up his winter-quarters at Pergamus, where he gave himself up to luxury and enjoyment, especially to the society of his newlymarried wife Monima, a Greek of Stratoniceia. (Appian, App. Mith. 21
It was in the midst of these revelries that he issued the sanguinary order to all the cities of Asia to put to death on the same day all the Roman and Italian citizens who were to be found within their walls. So hateful had the Romans rendered themselves during the short period of their dominion, that these commands were obeyed with alacrity by almost all the cities of Asia, who found the opportunity of gratifying their own vengeance at the same time that they earned the favour of Mithri dates, by carrying into effect the royal mandate with the most unsparing cruelty.
The number of those who perished in this fearful massacre is stated by Memnon and Valerius Maximus at eighty thousand persons, while Plutarch increases the amount to a hundred and fifty thousand. (Appian, App. Mith. 22
; Memnon, 31, Plut. Sull. 24
; Liv. Epit.
lxxviii.; Dio Cass. Fr.
115; Eutrop. 5.5
; Oros. 6.2
; Flor. 3.5
; Cic. p. Leg. Manil. 3, pro Flacc.
24, 25; Tac. Ann. 4.14
; V. Max. 9.2
. ext. 3.)
But while he thus created an apparently insuperable barrier to all hopes of reconciliation with Rome, Mithridates did not neglect to prepare for the approaching contest; and though he remained inactive himself at Pergamus, he was busily employed in raising troops and collecting ships, so that in the spring of B. C. 87 he was able to send Archelaus to Greece with a powerful fleet and army. During the subsequent operations of that general [ARCHELAUS], Mithridates was continually sending fresh reinforcements both by land and sea to his support; besides which he entrusted the command of a second army to his son Arcathias, with orders to advance through Thrace and Macedonia, to co-operate in the war against Sulla.
The intended diversion was prevented by the death of Arcathias; but the following year (B. C. 86) Taxiles followed the same route with an army of 110,000 men; and succeeded in uniting his forces with those of Archelaus. Their combined armies were totally defeated by Sulla at Chaeronea; but Mithridates, on receiving the news of this great disaster, immediately set about raising fresh levies, and was soon able to send another army of 80,000 men, under Dorylaus to Euboea. Meanwhile, his severities in Asia, coupled with the disasters of his arms in Greece, seem to have produced a general spirit of disaffection; the cities of Chios, Ephesus, and Tralles, besides others of less note, drove out his governors and openly revolted : and the assassination of the tetrarchs of Galatia, whom he put to death from suspicions of their fidelity, led to the loss of that important province. (Appian, App. Mith. 27
; Plut. Sull. 11
; Memnon, 32, 33.)
He now also found himself threatened with danger from a new and unexpected quarter. While Sulla was still occupied in Greece, the party of Marius at Rome had sent a fresh army to Asia under L. Flaccus, to carry on the war at once against their foreign and domestic enemies ; and Fimbria, who had obtained the command of this force by the assassination of Flaccus [FIMBRIA], now advanced through Bithynia to assail Mithridates, B. C. 85.
The king opposed to him a powerful army, under the command of his son, Mithridates, seconded by three of his generals; but this was totally defeated by Fimbria, who quickly followed up his advantage, and laid siege to Pergamus itself: from hence, however, Mithridates fled to Pitane, where he was closely blockaded by Fimbria; and had Lucullus, the quaestor of Sulla, who commanded the Roman fleet in the Aegaean, been willing to co-operate with the Marian general, it would have been impossible for the king to avoid falling into the hands of his enemies.
But the dissensions of the Romans proved the means of safety to Mithridates, who made his escape by sea to Mitylene. (Appian, App. Mith. 51
; Plut. Luc. 3
; Memnon, 34; Oros. 6.2
; Liv. Epit.
It was not long afterwards that he received the tidings of the complete destruction of his armies in Greece, near Orchomenus; and the news of this disaster, coupled with the progress of Fimbria in Asia, now made Mithridates desirous to treat for peace, which he justly hoped to obtain on more favourable terms than he could otherwise have expected, in consequence of the divided state of his enemies.
He accordingly commissioned Archelaus, who was still in Euboea, to open negotiations with Sulla, which led to the conclusion of a preliminary treaty: but on the conditions of this being reported to the king, he positively refused to consent to the surrender of his fleet. Sulla hereupon prepared to renew hostilities, and in the spring of the following year (B. C. 84) crossed the Hellespont; but Archelaus succeeded in bringing about an interview between the Roman general and Mithridates at Dardanus, in the Troad, at which the terms of peace were definitively settled. Mithridates consented to abandon all his conquests in Asia, and restrict himself to the dominions which he held before the commencement of the war; besides which he was to pay a sum of 2000 talents for the expences of the war, and surrender to the Romans a fleet of 70 ships fully equipped. Thus terminated the first Mithridatic war.
The king withdrew to Pontus, while Sulla turned his arms against Fimbria, whom he quickly defeated; and then proceeded to settle the affairs of Asia, and re-establish Nicomedes and Ariobarzanes in their respective kingdoms; after which he returned to Rome, leaving L. Murena, with two legions, to hold the command in Asia. (Appian, App. Mith. 54
; Plut. Sull. 22
4; Memnon, 35 ; Dio Cass. Frag.
174-176; Liv. Epit.
lxxxiii. ; Oros. 6.2
The attention of Mithridates was now attracted towards his own more remote provinces of Colchis and the Bosporus, where symptoms of disaffection had begun to manifest themselves: the Colchians, however, submitted immediately on the king appointing his son Mithridates to be their governor, with the title of king, and even received their new ruler with such demonstrations of favour as to excite the jealousy of Mithridates, who, in consequence, recalled his son, and placed him in confinement.
He now assembled a large force both military and naval, for the reduction of the revolted provinces; and so great were his preparations for this purpose, that they aroused the suspicions of the Romans, who pretended that they must be in fact designed against them. Murena, who had been left in command by Sulla, was eager for some opportunity of earning the honour of a triumph, and he now (B. C. 83), under the flimsy pretext that Mithridates had not yet evacuated the whole of Cappadocia, marched into that country, and not only made himself master of the wealthy city of Comana, but even crossed the Halys, and laid waste the plains of Pontus itself. To this flagrant breach of the treaty so lately concluded, the Roman general was in great measure instigated by Archelaus, who, finding himself regarded with suspicion by Mithridates, had consulted his safety by flight, and was received with the utmost honours by the Romans. Mithridates, who had evidently been wholly unprepared to renew the contest with Rome, offered no opposition to the progress of Murena; but finding that general disregard his remonstrances, he sent to Rome to complain of his aggression.
But when in the following spring (B. C. 82) he found Murena preparing to renew his hostile incursions, notwithstanding the arrival of a Roman legate, who nominally commanded him to desist, he at once determined to oppose him by force, and assembled a large army, with which he met the Roman general on the banks of the Halys.
The action that ensued terminated in the complete victory of the king; and Murena, with difficulty, effected his retreat into Phrygia, leaving Cappadocia at the mercy of Mithridates, who quickly overran the whole province.
But shortly afterwards A. Gabinius arrived in Asia, bringing peremptory orders from Sulla to Murena to desist from hostilities; whereupon Mithridates once more consented to evacuate Cappadocia. (Appian, App. Mith. 64
; Memnon, 36.)
He was now at leisure to complete the reduction of the Bosporus, which he successfully accomplished, and established Machares, one of his sons, as king of that country.
But he suffered heavy losses in an expedition which he subsequently undertook against the Achaeans, a warlike tribe who dwelt at the foot of Mount Caucasus. (Appian, ib. 67.) Meanwhile, he could not for a moment doubt that, notwithstanding the interposition of Sulla, the peace between him and Rome was in fact a mere suspension of hostilities; and that that haughty republic would never suffer the massacre of her citizens in Asia to remain ultimately unpunished. (See Cic. pro L. Manil.
3.) Hence all his efforts were directed towards the formation of an army capable of contending not only in numbers, but in discipline, with those of Rome; and with this view he armed his barbarian troops after the Roman fashion, and endeavoured to train them up in that discipline of which he had so strongly felt the effect in the preceding contest. (Plut. Luc. 7
In these attempts he was doubtless assisted by the refugees of the Marian party, L. Magius and L. Fannius, who had accompanied Fimbria into Asia ; and on the defeat of that general by Sulla, had taken refuge with the king of Pontus.
At their instigation also Mithridates sent an embassy to Sertorius, who was still maintaining his ground in Spain, and concluded an alliance with him against their common enemies. (Appian, App. Mith. 68
; Oros. 6.2
; Pseud. Ascon. ad Cic. Verr.
1.34, p. 183, ed. Orell.)
It is remarkable that no formal treaty seems ever to have been concluded between Mithridates and the Roman senate; and the king had in vain endeavoured to obtain the ratification of the terms agreed on between him and Sulla. (Appian, ib. 67.) Hence, on the death of the latter, B. C. 78, Mithridates abandoned all thoughts of peace ; and while he concluded the alliance with Sertorius on the one hand, he instigated Tigranes on the other to invade Cappadocia, and sweep away the inhabitants of that country, to people his newlyfounded city of Tigranocerta.
But it was the death of Nicomedes III., king of Bithynia, at the beginning of the year B. C. 74, that brought matters to a crisis, and became the immediate occasion of the war which both parties had long felt to be inevitable.
That monarch left his dominions by will to the Roman people; and Bithynia was accordingly declared a Roman province : but Mithridates asserted that the late king had left a legitimate son by his wife Nysa, whose pretensions he immediately prepared to support by his arms. (Eutrop. vi 6
; Liv. Epit.
xciii.; Appian, App. Mith. 71
; Epist. Mithrid. ap. Sallust. Hist.
iv. p. 239, ed. Gerlach ; Vell. 2.4
It was evident that the contest in which both parties were now about to engage would be a struggle for life or death, which could be terminated only by the complete overthrow of Mithridates, or by his establishment as undisputed monarch of Asia.
The forces with which he was now prepared to take the field were such as might inspire him with no unreasonable confidence of victory.
He had assembled an army of 120,000 foot soldiers, earned and disciplined in the Roman manner, and sixteen thousand horse, besides an hundred scythed chariots : but, in addition to this regular army, lie was supported by a vast number of auxiliaries from the barbarian tribes of the Chalybes, Achaeans, Armenians, and even the Scythians and Sarmatians. His fleet also was so far superior to any that the Romans could oppose to him, as to give him the almost undisputed command of the sea.
These preparations, however, appear to have delayed him so long that the season was far advanced before he was able to take the field, and both the Roman consuls, Lucullus and Cotta, had arrived in Asia. Neither of them, however, was able to oppose his first irruption; he traversed almost the whole of Bithynia without encountering any resistance; and when at length Cotta ventured to give him battle Under the walls of Chalcedon, he was totally defeated both by sea and land, and compelled to take refuge within the city. Here Mithridates at first prepared to besiege him, but soon changed his intention. and moved with his whole army to Cyzicus, to which important city he proceeded to lay siege, both by sea and land. His military engines and works were managed by a Greek named N iconides, who displayed the utmost skill and science in this department; while the attacks of the besieging forces were unremitting.
But the Roman general Lucullus, who had advanced from Phrygia to the relief of Cotta, and followed Mithridates to Cyzicus, had been allowed, by the negligence of the king, or the treachery, as it was said, of the Roman L. Magius, who enjoyed a high place in his confidence, to occupy an advantageous position near the camp of Mithridates, where he almost entirely cut him off from receiving supplies by land, while the storms of the winter prevented him from depending on those by sea. Hence it was not long before famine began to make itself felt in the camp of Mithridates, and all his assaults upon the city having been foiled by the courage and resolution of the besieged, he was at length compelled (early in the year 73) to abandon the enterprise and raise the siege.
But a large detachment of his army, which he at first sent off into Bithynia, was intercepted and cut to pieces by Lucullus; and when at length he broke up his camp, his main body, as it moved along the coast towards the westward, was repeatedly attacked by the Roman general, and suffered very heavy loss at the passage of the Aesepus and Granicus.
The king himself proceeded by sea to Parium, where he collected the shattered remnants of his forces, and leaving a part of his fleet under Varius to maintain possession of the Hellespont and the Aegaean, withdrew himself with the rest, after a fruitless attempt upon Perinthus, to Nicomedia. Here he was soon threatened by the advance of three Roman armies under Cotta and the two lieutenants of Lucullus, Triarius and Voconius Barba.
These generals had made themselves masters in succession of Prusias and Nicaea, and were preparing to besiege Mithridates himself at Nicomedia, when the king received intelligence of the defeat of his fleet under Varius at Tenedos, and becoming in consequence apprehensive for the safety of his communications by sea, hastened to set sail for Pontus. On his voyage he encountered a violent storm, by which he lost many of his ships, and was himself compelled to make his escape in the light galley of a pirate captain.
He obtained, however, an important advantage by the surprise of the free city of Heracleia, which had hitherto remained neutral, but was now compelled to receive a Pontic garrison. Afrer this he returned to Sinope. (Appian, App. Mith. 69
; Plut. Luc. 7
; Memnon, 37-42 ; Liv. Epit.
xciii. xcv.; Eutrop. 6.6
The great army with which Mithridates had commenced the war was now annihilated; and he was not only compelled to retire into his own dominions, but was without the means of opposing the advance of Lucullus into the heart of Pontus itself.
But he now again set to work with indefatigable activity to raise a fresh army; and while he left the whole of the sea coast of Pontus open to the invaders, he established himself in the interior at Cabeira, where he soon gathered a numerous force around his standard, while he sent to his son Machares and his son-in-law Tigranes, to request succours and auxiliaries. Lucullus. having in vain tried to allure him to the relief of Amisus. the siege of which he continued throughout the winter, on the approach of spring (B. C. 72) advanced into the interior, and took up a position opposite to him at Cabeira. Mithridates was superior in cavalry, on which account the Roman general avoided an action in the plains, and the campaign was chiefly occupied with mutual attempts to cut off each other's convoys of provisions, which led to repeated partial engagements, with various vicissitudes of fortune.
At length a large detachment of the king's army was entirely cut off, and Mithridates hereupon determined to remove his camp : but the orders to this effect by some mismanagement gave rise to a panic in the undisciplined multitudes which composed his army; great confusion arose, and Lucullus having sent his cavalry to take advantage of this, a general rout was the consequence. Mithridates himself with difficulty made his way through the tumult, and must have fallen into the hands of the Romans, had not the cupidity of some of his pursuers, who stopped to plunder a mule laden with gold, given him time to effect his escape.
He fled to Comana, where he was again able to assemble a body of 2000 horse, but he despaired of opposing the farther progress of Lucullus, and accordingly sent his faithful eunuch Bacchides to put to death his wives and sisters whom he had left at Pharnacia, while he himself took refuge in the dominions of his son-in-law Tigranes.
It appears that these events took place before the close of the year B. C. 72. (Plut. Luc. 14
; Appian, App. Mith. 78
; Memnon, 43, 44; concerning the chronology see LUCULLUS, Vol. II. p. 834, note.)
Tigranes was at this moment the most powerful monarch of Asia [TIGRANES
]; but though he had previously promised assistance to Mithridates, he appears to have been unwilling to engage openly in war with Rome; and on this account, while he received the fugitive monarch in a friendly manner, and assigned him all that was requisite for maintaining his royal dignity, he refused to admit him to his presence, and showed no disposition to attempt his restoration.
But the arrogance of the Romans brought about a change in his policy; and Tigranes, offended at the haughty conduct of Appius Claudius, whom Lucullus had sent to demand the surrender of Mithridates, not only refused this request, but determined at once to prepare for war with the Romans. Community of interests now led to a complete reconciliation between the two monarchs; and Mithridates, who had spent a year and eight months in the dominions of his son-in-law without being admitted to a personal interview, was now made to participate in all the councils of Tigranes, and appointed to levy an army to unite in the war.
But it was in vain that in the ensuing campaign (B. C. 69) he urged upon his son-in-law the lessons of his own experience, and advised him to shun a regular action with Lucullus : Tigranes, confident in the multitude of his forces, gave battle at Tigranocerta and was defeated, before Mithridates had been able to join him.
But this disaster, so precisely in accordance with the warnings of Mithridates, served to raise the latter so high in the estimation of Tigranes, that from this time forward the whole conduct of the war was entrusted to the direction of the king of Pontus.
During the ensuing winter both monarchs were busily engaged in raising a fresh army, into which Mithridates endeavoured to introduce some discipline, as well as to arm a large body of them after the Roman fashion. They at the same time endeavoured to procure the important assistance of the Parthian king, to whom Mithridates addressed a letter, urging him to consult his true interest by espousing their cause before it was too late, and not to wait until the Romans attacked him in his turn. Whether the epistle to this effect preserved among the fragments of Sallust really bears any resemblance to that composed by the king of Pontus we have unfortunately no means of determining. (Plut. Luc. 19
; Appian, App. Mith. 84
; Memnon, 46, 55- 58; Dio Cass. Fr.
178, 35.1-3; Liv. Epit.
xcviii.; Oros. 6.3
; Eutrop. 6.8
; Epist. Mithr. ad Arsacem, apud Sall. Hist.
iv. p. 238, ed. Gerlach.)
But the Parthian king still wavered, and in the following summer (B. C. 68), Lucullus crossed the Taurus, penetrated into the heart of Armenia, and again defeated the allied monarchs near the city of Artaxata.
But the early severity of the season, and the discontent of his own troops, checked the farther advance of the Roman general, who turned aside into Mesopotamia. Here Mithridates left him to lay siege to the fortress of Nisibis, which was supposed impregnable, while he himself took advantage of his absence to invade Pontus, at the head of a large army, and endeavour to regain possession of his former dominions.
The defence of Pontus was confided to Fabius, one of the lieutenants of Lucullus; but the oppressions of the Romans had excited a general spirit of disaffection, and the people crowded around the standard of Mithridates. Even the Thracian mercenaries in the army of Fabius turned against their general, who was totally defeated by Mithridates, and compelled to shut himself up in the fortress of Cabeira. Triarius, another of the Roman generals, now advanced to his support with a fresh army, and the king retreated before this new adversary, and withdrew to Comana, where he took up his winterquarters.
But the following spring (B. C. 67) hostilities were resumed on both sides; and Triarius, who was anxious to engage Mithridates before Lucullus himself should arrive, allowed himself to be attacked at disadvantage, and was totally defeated.
The destruction of the Roman army would have been complete had not the king himself been wounded in the pursuit, which was in consequence checked for a time; but even thus the blow was one of the severest which the Roman arms had sustained for a long period : 7000 of their troops fell, among which was an unprecedented number of officers; and their camp itself was taken. (D. C. 35.4
; Appian, App. Mith. 87
; Plut. Luc. 31
; Cic. pro Leg. Manil.
The advance of Lucullus himself from Mesopotamia prevented Mithridates from following up his advantage, and he withdrew into Lesser Armenia, where he took up a strong position near Talaura, to await the approach of Tigranes.
He doubtless expected that the Roman general would quickly resume the offensive; but the farther proceedings of Lucullus were paralysed by the mutinous and disaffected spirit of his own soldiers; and on the arrival of Tigranes the two monarchs found themselves able to overrun almost the whole of Pontus and Cappadocia without opposition.
Before the close of the year 67 Mithridates saw himself once more in possession of the greater part of his hereditary dominions. (Plut. Luc. 35
; Appian, App. Mith. 90
; D. C. 35.14
; Cic. pro Leg. Mlanil.
But early in the following year (66) the conduct of the war was entrusted by the Romans to the general whose fame was at this moment eclipsing all others--the illustrious Pompey, and one of the first measures of the new commander was to secure the friendship and alliance of the Parthian king Phraates III., a step by which he not only deprived Mithridates of all hopes of the co-operation of that monarch, but precluded him from the support of Tigranes also, by compelling the Armenian king to look to the defence of his own dominions against the Parthian. Thus thrown back upon his own resources, Mithridates made overtures for peace; but Pompey would listen to no terms except those of unqualified submission and the surrender of all Roman deserters, and these conditions the king of Pontus rejected with scorn.
He still found himself at the head of an army of 30,000 foot and 2000 horse, with which, however, he did not venture to meet the enemy in the field, and avoided an action with Pompey, while he protracted the campaign, and gradually withdrew towards the frontiers of Armenia.
But he was no match for the generalship of his adversary, who attacked him during a night march through a narrow pass which had been previously occupied by the Roman troops: the greater part of the army of Mithridates was cut to pieces, and the king himself escaped with only a few horsemen and his concubine Hypsicratea, the faithful companion of all his fortunes, to the frontier fortress of Synoria. Here he once more assembled a considerable force, with which he prepared to withdraw into Armenia; but Tigranes, who suspected him of fomenting the intrigues of his son against him, now refused to admit him into his dominions, and no choice remained for Mithridates but to plunge with his small army into the heart of Colchis, and thence make his way to the Palus Maeotis and the Cimmerian Bosporus. Arduous as this enterprise appeared it was successfully accomplished.
After crossing the Phasis he deemed himself secure from the pursuit of Pompey, and took up his quarters for the winter at Dioscurias (the extreme eastern limit of the Greek settlements in this part of the Euxine), where he levied additional troops and also assembled a small fleet.
With these combined forces he resumed his progress in the following year (65), and succeeded in effecting his passage, partly by force, partly by persuasion, through all the various barbarian tribes that occupied the country between the Caucasus and the Euxine, and reached in safety the city of Phanagoria on the Bosporus. His son Machares, to whom he had confided the government of these regions, but who had long before made his submission to Lucullus, fled on learning his approach, and soon after put an end to his own life. Mithridates, in consequence, established himself without opposition at Panticapaeun, the capital of the kingdom of Bosporus. (Appian, App. Mith. 97
; D. C. 36.28
; Plut. Pomp. 32
; Liv. Epit.
ci. ; Oros. 6.4
; Strab. xi. pp. 496, 497, xii. p. 555.)
He had now nothing to fear from the pursuit of Pompey, who appears to have at once abandoned all thoughts of following the fugitive monarch into the wild and inaccessible regions beyond the Phasis, and turned his arms first against Tigranes, and afterwards against Syria.
It was probably this sense of security that emboldened him in the year 64 to send ambassadors to Pompey to sue for peace, offering to submit on terms similar to those which had been lately granted to Tigranes, namely, that he should be allowed to retain possession of his hereditary dominions, as a tributary to Rome. Pompey, however, insisted that the king should come in person to make his submission, and this Mithridates resolutely refused.
The negotiations were in consequence broken off; and while Pompey regulated the affairs of Pontus, which he reduced to the condition of a Roman province, Mithridates on his part commenced the most extensive preparations for a renewal of the contest. Far from contenting himself with the possession of the remote province of the Bosporus, in which, from its inaccessible position, he might defy the arms of Rome, he now conceived the daring project of marching round the north and west coasts of the Euxine, through the wild tribes of the Sarmatians and Getae, which had been in part already visited by his generals Neoptolemus and Diophantus, and having gathered around his standard all these barbarian nations, of whose hostility towards Rome there could be no question, to throw himself with these accumulated masses upon the frontiers of the Roman state, and perhaps penetrate even into Italy itself.
With these views, he was busily engaged in assembling such a fleet and army as would be sufficient for an enterprise of this magnitude.
But his proceedings were much delayed at first by a violent earthquake, which overthrew whole towns and villages, and subsequently by a long and painful illness, which incapacitated him for any personal exertion.
At length, however, his preparations were completed, and he found himself at the head of an army of 36,000 men and a considerable fleet.
But during his illness, while he lived in complete seclusion, visible to none but a few chosen eunuchs, disaffection had made rapid progress among his followers.
The fill extent of his schemes was probably communicated to few ; but enough had transpired to alarm the multitude, and neither the soldiers nor their leaders were disposed to follow their aged monarch on an enterprise which they might well regard as little less than desperate.
In this state of things an act of private revenge led to the revolt of the important town of Phanagoria, where the sons of Mithridates, who held the citadel, were compelled to surrender to the insurgents, and the flame of insurrection quickly spread to several other cities of the Tauric Chersonese. Still the spirit of the old king was unbroken: he endeavoured to renew his alliances with the neighbouring Scythian chieftains, and sent some of his daughters to them as brides, under the escort of some confidential eunuchs, who, however, followed the general example, and betrayed their charge into the hands of the Romans.
A more formidable conspiracy was now organised by Pharnaces, the favourite son of Mithridates, and whom he had declared heir to his crown.
The designs of the young man were discovered, and his accomplices put to death, but Mithridates was persuaded to spare his son's life, and Pharnaces immediately availed himself of his impunity to break out into open insurrection.
He was quickly joined both by the whole army and the citizens of Panticapaeum, who unanimously proclaimed him king ; and Mithridates, who had taken refuge in a strong tower, after many fruitless messages and embassies to his son, saw that no choice remained to him but death or captivity. Hereupon he took poison, which he constantly carried with him; but his constitution had been so long inured to antidotes, that it did not produce the desired effect, and he was compelled to call in the assistance of one of his Gaulish mercenaries to despatch him with his sword. (Appian, App. Mith. 107
; D. C. 37.3
; Plut. Pomp. 41
; Oros. vi 5 ; Eutrop. 6.12
; Liv. Epit.
cii.; Flor. 3.6
; J. AJ 14.3.4
; V. Max. 9.2
, ext. 3; Gel. 17.16
; Aur. Vict. de Vir. Illust.
76, 77; Vell. 2.40
The death of Mithridates took place in the year 63 B. C. (D. C. 37.10
The dread that his name still inspired at Rome is strongly displayed in a passage of Cicero's speech on the Agrarian laws, delivered early in that very year (De Leg. Ayrar.
2.19), and we may thus readily credit the statement of Plutarch, that his death was regarded by the army as equal to a great victory. His body was sent by Pharnaces to Pompey at Amisus, as a token of his submission; but the conqueror caused it to be interred with regal honours in the sepulchre of his forefathers at Sinope. (Plut. Pomp. 42
; App. Mith. 113
; D. C. 37.14
According to the statement of Appian already cited, he was sixty-eight or sixty-nine years old at the time of his death, and had reigned fifty-seven years, of which twenty-five had been occupied, with only a few brief intervals, in one continued struggle against the Roman power.
The estimation in which he was held by his adversaries is the strongest testimony to his great abilities: Cicero calls him the greatest of all kings after Alexander
2.1), and in another passage says that he was a more formidable opponent than any other monarch whom the Roman arms had vet encountered (pro Muren.
15; see also Veil. Pat. 2.18). Nor can we doubt the truth of these enlogiums, when we contemplate the circumstances in which he was placed, and the instruments with which he had to work.
The numerous defeats of Mithridates are a proof not so much of his own deficiency as a general, as of the inferiority of his troops to those which were opposed to him.
This was the radical defect, which he was unable to cure.
After the unsuccessful issue of his war with Sulla, all his efforts were directed, as we have already seen, to the training up a disciplined army, capable of contending with the Roman legions ; and even after the failure of this first experiment he still seems to have formed armies, comparatively small in numbers, but well organised, instead of the unwieldy and undisciplined multitudes of Tigranes.
But he latterly became convinced of the impossibility of coping with the Romans in the field, and on all occasions sought to avoid a pitched battle, and draw his enemies into positions where he might cut them off from their supplies, or take advantage of the rugged and difficult nature of the country in which he had involved them. If he was frequently foiled in these projects, we must remember that he was opposed to generals such as Lucullus and Pompey.
But whatever opinion may be entertained of the skill and ability of Mithridates as a general in conducting his campaigns, there can be no question as to the undaunted spirit and energy with which he rose superior to all his defeats, and was ever ready to recommence the unequal contest.
What little we know of his character in other respects is far from favourable; and notwithstanding his Greek education and habits, presents all the characteristics of a genuine Eastern despot. His unreasonable suspicions of those around him, which lost him the province of Galatia and the services of Archelaus; the reliance placed on eunuchs for all confidential purposes; the barbarous execution of several of his numerous sons for various and often trivial causes; and the truly Oriental jealousy which led him to order the death of his wives and sisters, when he found himself compelled to fly from his kingdom--not to speak of the severe punishment inflicted on the people of Chios for a trifling and apparently involuntary offence (App. Mith. 47
); and the general massacre of the Roman citizens throughout Asia--are sufficient evidence that neither his great abilities nor his superior education had produced in him any tendency to real enlightenment or humanity. Yet he was not without a love of the fine arts; and among the vast treasures accumulated in his treasuries at Cabeira and elsewhere were many valuable pictures and statues, and a splendid collection of engraved gems or precious stones. (Strab. xii. p.556
; Plin. Nat. 33.12.54
; Manil. Astron.
Of his numerous wives or concubines, the names of a few only have been preserved to us: among the most conspicuous of which are: Laodice, put to death early in his reign; Berenice and Monima, both of whom were put to death at Pharnacia [MONIMA], STRATONICE and Hypsicratea, the last of whom is said to have accompanied him on all his campaigns, and shared with him every danger and privation. (Plut. Pomp. 32
; V. Max. 4.6
. ext. § 2.)
By these various wives he was the father of a numerous progeny, many of whom, however, perished before him. Of his sons, Arcathias died in Greece, Mithridates and Xiphares were put to death by his orders, and Machares only escaped the same fate by a voluntary death ; five others, named Artaphernes, Cyrus, Dareius, Xerxes, and Oxathres, had fallen into the hands of Pompey, and served to adorn his triumph (App. Mith. 117
); while Pharnaces succeeded to the throne of the Bosporus. Of his daughters the following are mentioned in history : 1. Cleopatra, married to Tigranes, king of Armenia; 2. Drypetine, put to death by the eunuch Menophilus ; 3. Another Cleopatra, present with her father at the Bosporus (App. Mith. 108
); 4. Mithridatis ; and 5. Nyssa, who poisoned themselves at the same time with their father (ib. iii.); and 6 and 7. Orsabaris and Eupatra, who were taken prisoners by Pompey (ib. 117).
The portrait of Mithridates which appears on his coins is remarkable for the fire and energy of his countenance, which accords well with all we know of his character; while the beautiful execution of the coins themselves, both in gold and silver, bears testimony to his patronage of the arts. They usually bear a date, which refers to an era commencing with the year B. C. 297, and which continued to be used by the kings of Bosporus long afterwards, though its origin is unknown.
MITHRIDATES, a son of the preceding, who was appointed by his father to take the command of the army which he opposed to the Roman general, Fimbria, in B. C. 85. Though supported by Taxiles, Diophantus, and Menader, three of the ablest generals of Mithridates, he was totally defeated by Fimbria, who surprised his camp, and cut to pieces the greater part of his forces; he himself made his escape to Pergamus, where he joined his father. (Memnon, 34; Appian, App. Mith. 52
After the termination of the war with Sulla, he was appointed by his father to the government of Colchis, with the title of king. The Colchians, who were previously in a state of revolt, immediately submitted to the young prince, and received him with such demonstrations of favour as excited the jealousy of the elder Mithridates, who, in consequence, recalled him; and after keeping him some time in captivity, ultimately put him to death. (App. Mith. 64