But when Machares also, the son of Mithridates, who held the Bosporus, sent Lucullus a crown valued at a thousand pieces of gold, begging to be included in the list of Rome's friends and allies, Lucullus decided at once that the first war was finished. He therefore left Sornatius there as guardian of Pontus, with six thousand soldiers,
while he himself, with twelve thousand footmen and less than three thousand horse, set out for the second war.1
He seemed to be making a reckless attack, and one which admitted of no saving calculation, upon warlike nations, countless thousands of horsemen, and a boundless region surrounded by deep rivers and mountains covered with perpetual snow.
His soldiers, therefore, who were none too well disciplined in any case, followed him reluctantly and rebelliously, while the popular tribunes at Rome raised an outcry against him, and accused him of seeking one war after another, although the city had no need of them, that he might be in perpetual command and never lay down his arms or cease enriching himself from the public dangers.
And, in time, these men accomplished their purpose. But Lucullus advanced by forced marches to the Euphrates. Here he found the stream swollen and turbid from the winter storms, and was vexed to think of the delay and trouble which it would cost him to collect boats and build rafts. But at evening the stream began to subside, went on diminishing through the night, and at daybreak the river was running between lofty banks.
The natives, observing that sundry small islands in the channel had become visible, and that the current near them was quiet, made obeisance to Lucullus, saying that this had seldom happened before, and that the river had voluntarily made itself tame and gentle for Lucullus, and offered him an easy and speedy passage.
Accordingly, he took advantage of his opportunity and put his troops across, and a favourable sign accompanied his crossing. Heifers pasture there which are sacred to Persia Artemis, a goddess whom the Barbarians on the further side of the Euphrates hold in the highest honour. These heifers are used only for sacrifice, and at other times are left to roam about the country at large, with brands upon them in the shape of the torch of the goddess. Nor is it a slight or easy matter to catch any of them when they are wanted.
One of these heifers, after the army had crossed the Euphrates, came to a certain rock which is deemed sacred to the goddess, and stood upon it, and lowering its head without any compulsion from the usual rope, offered itself to Lucullus for sacrifice. He also sacrificed a bull to the Euphrates, in acknowledgment of his safe passage.
Then, after encamping there during that day, on the next and the succeeding days he advanced through Sophené. He wrought no harm to the inhabitants, who came to meet him and received his army gladly. Nay, when his soldiers wanted to take a certain fortress which was thought to contain much wealth,
‘Yonder lies the fortress which we must rather bring low,’ said he, pointing to the Taurus in the distance;
‘these nearer things are reserved for the victors.’ Then he went on by forced marches, crossed the Tigris, and entered Armenia.