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Appian's History of Rome: The Mithridatic Wars §§31-35


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. Fortunately, the Mithridatic wars belong to these better preserved parts. They are a very valuable source for the history of the Roman expansion in what is now called Turkey.

The translation was made by Horace White; notes and additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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Sulla. Glyptothek München (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
Sulla (Glyptothek, München)
[§31] [87] Two Athenian slaves in Piraeus -either because they favored the Romans or were looking out for their own safety in an emergency- wrote down everything that took place there, enclosed their writing in leaden balls, and threw them over to the Romans with slings. As this was done continually it came to the knowledge of [the Roman commander Lucius Cornelius] Sulla, who gave his attention to the missives and found one which said, "Tomorrow the infantry will make a sally in front upon your workers, and the cavalry will attack the Roman army on both flanks."

Sulla placed an adequate force in ambush and when the enemy dashed out with the thought that their movement would completely surprise him he gave them a greater surprise with his concealed force, killing many and driving the rest into the sea. This was the end of that enterprise. 


 
When the mounds began to rise Archelaus erected opposing towers and placed the greatest quantity of missiles on them. He sent for reinforcements from Chalcis and the other islands and armed his oarsmen, for he considered himself in extreme danger. As his army was superior in number to that of Sulla before, it now became much more so by these reinforcements. He then darted out in the middle of the night with torches and burned one of the tortoises and the machines alongside of it; but Sulla made new ones in ten days' time and put them in the places of the former ones. Against these Archelaus established a tower on that part of the wall.

[§32] Having received from [king] Mithridates [VII Eupator of Pontus] by sea a new army under command of Dromichaetes, Archelaus led all his troops out to battle. He distributed archers and slingers among them and ranged them close under the walls so that the guards above could reach the enemy with their missiles. Others were stationed around the gates with torches to watch their opportunity to make a sally. The battle remained doubtful a long time; each side yielding by turns.

First the barbarians gave way until Archelaus rallied them and led them back. The Romans were so dismayed by this that they were put to flight next, until [Lucius Licinius] Murena ran up and rallied them. Just then another legion, which had returned from gathering wood, together with some soldiers who had been disgraced, finding a hot fight in progress, made a powerful charge on the Mithridateans killed about 2,000 of them and drove the rest inside the walls.

Archelaus tried to rally them again and stood his ground so long that he was shut out and had to be pulled up by ropes. In consideration of their splendid behavior Sulla removed the stigma from those who had been disgraced and gave large rewards to the others.

[§33] [87/86] Now winter came on and Sulla established his camp at Eleusis and protected it by a deep ditch, extending from the high ground to the sea so that the enemy's horse could not readily reach him. While he was prosecuting this work, fighting took place daily, now at the ditch, now at the walls of the enemy, who frequently came out and assailed the Romans with stones, javelins, and leaden balls. Sulla, being in need of ships, sent to Rhodes to obtain them, but the Rhodians were not able to send them because Mithridates controlled the sea.

He then ordered [Lucius Licinius] Lucullus, a distinguished Roman who later succeeded Sulla as commander in this war, to proceed secretly to Alexandria and Syria, and procure a fleet from those kings and cities that were skilled in nautical affairs, and to bring with it the Rhodian naval contingent also. Lucullus had no fear of the hostile fleet. He embarked in a fast sailing vessel and, by changing from one ship to another in order to conceal his movements, arrived at Alexandria.

[§34] [86] Meanwhile the traitors in Piraeus threw another message over the walls, saying that Archelaus would on that very night send a convoy of soldiers with provisions to the city of Athens, which was suffering from hunger. Sulla laid a trap for them and captured both the provisions and the soldiers.

On the same day, near Chalcis, Minucius wounded Neoptolemus, Mithridates' other general, killed 1,500 of his men, and took a still larger number prisoners.

Not long after, by night, while the guards on the walls of Piraeus were asleep, the Romans took some ladders from the engines nearby, mounted the walls, and killed the guards at that place. Thereupon some of the barbarians abandoned their posts and fled to the harbor, thinking that all the walls had been captured. Others, recovering their courage, slew the leader of the assailing party and hurled the remainder over the wall. Still others darted out through the gates and almost burned one of the two Roman towers, and would have burned it had not Sulla ridden up from the camp and saved it by a hard fight lasting all that night and the next day. Then the barbarians retired.

Archelaus planted another great tower on the wall opposite the Roman tower and these two assailed each other, discharging all kinds of missiles constantly until Sulla, by means of his catapults, each of which discharged twenty of the heaviest leaden balls at one volley, had killed a large number of the enemy, and had so shaken the tower of Archelaus that it was rendered untenable, and the latter was compelled, by fear of its destruction, to draw it back with all speed.

[§35] Meanwhile famine pressed more and more on the city of Athens, and the ball throwers in Piraeus gave information that provisions would be sent thither by night. Archelaus suspected that some traitor was giving information to the enemy about his convoys. Accordingly, at the same time that he sent it, he stationed a force at the gates with torches to make an assault on the Roman works if Sulla should attack the provision train. So it turned out that Sulla captured the train and Archelaus burned some of the Roman works.

At the same time Arcathias, the son of Mithridates, with another army invaded Macedonia and without difficulty overcame the small Roman force there, subjugated the whole country, appointed satraps to govern it, and advanced against Sulla, but was taken sick and died near Tisaeus. In the meantime the famine in Athens became very severe. Sulla built stockades around it to prevent anybody from going out so that, by reason of their numbers, the hunger should be more severe upon those who were shut in.






Appian   :   Roman History   :   Mithridatic wars   :   part 8




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