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Appian's History of Rome: The Mithridatic Wars §§56-60

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)
[§56] [85] The ambassadors of [king] Mithridates[VII Eupator of Pontus] returned with ratifications of all the terms except those relating to Paphlagonia, and they added that Mithridates could obtain better conditions, "if he should negotiate with your other general, [Lucius Valerius] Flaccus." [The Roman commander Lucius Cornelius] Sulla was indignant that he should be brought into such comparison and said that he would bring [Gaius Flavius] Fimbria to punishment, and would go himself to Asia and see whether Mithridates wanted peace or war.

Having spoken thus he marched through Thrace to Cypsella after having sent [Lucius Licinius] Lucullus forward to Abydus, for Lucullus had arrived at last, having run the risk of capture by pirates several times. He had collected a sort of a fleet composed of ships from Cyprus, Phoenicia, Rhodes, and Pamphylia, and had ravaged much of the enemy's coast, and had skirmished with the ships of Mithridates on the way.

[August 85] Then Sulla advanced from Cypsella and Mithridates from Pergamon, and they met in a conference. Each went with a small force to a plain in sight of the two armies. Mithridates began by discoursing of his own and his father's friendship and alliance with the Romans. Then he accused the Roman ambassadors, committeemen, and generals of doing him injuries by putting Ariobarzanes[I Philoromaios] on the throne of Cappadocia, depriving him of Phrygia, and allowing [king] Nicomedes [IV Philopator of Bithynia] to wrong him. "And all this," he said, "they did for money, taking it from me and from them by turns; for there is nothing of which most of you are so liable to accusation, o Romans, as the love of lucre. When war had broken out through the acts of your generals all that I did was in self-defense, and was the result of necessity rather than of intention."

King Mithridates VI of Pontus as Heracles. Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Mithridates VI as Heracles (Louvre)

[§57] When Mithridates had ceased speaking Sulla replied: "Although you called us here," he said, "for a different purpose, namely, to accept our terms of peace, I shall not refuse to speak briefly of those matters. I restored Ariobarzanes to the throne of Cappadocia by decree of the Senate when I was governor in Cilicia, and you obeyed the decree. You ought to have opposed it and given your reasons then, or forever after held your peace.

Manius [Aquilius] gave Phrygia to you for a bribe, which was a crime on the part of both of you. By the very fact of your getting it by bribery you confess that you had no right to it. Manius was tried at Rome for other acts that he had done for money and the Senate annulled them all. For this reason they decided, not that Phrygia, which had been given to you wrongfully, should be made tributary to Rome, but should be free. If we who had taken it by war did not think best to govern it, by what right could you hold it?

Nicomedes charges that you sent against him an assassin named Alexander, and then Socrates Chrestus, a rival claimant of the kingdom, and that it was to avenge these wrongs that he invaded your territory. However, if he wronged you, you ought to have sent an embassy to Rome and waited for an answer. But although you took swift vengeance on Nicomedes, why did you attack Ariobarzanes, who had not harmed you? When you drove him out of his kingdom you imposed upon the Romans, who were there, the necessity of putting him back. By preventing them from doing so you brought on the war.

You had meditated war a long time, because you hoped to rule the whole world if you could conquer the Romans, and the reasons you tell of were mere pretexts to cover your real intent. The proof of this is that you, although not yet at war with any nation, sought the alliance of the Thracians, Sarmatians, and Scythians, sought aid from the neighboring kings, built a navy, and enlisted pilots and helmsmen.

[§58] "The time you chose convicts you of treachery most of all. When you heard that Italy had revolted from us you seized the occasion when we were occupied to fall upon Ariobarzanes, Nicomedes, Galatia, and Paphlagonia, and finally upon our Asiatic province.

When you had taken them you committed all sorts of outrages on the cities, appointing slaves and debtors to rule over some of them, and freeing slaves and canceling debts in others. In the Greek cities you destroyed 1,600 men on one false accusation. You brought the tetrarchs of Galatia together at a banquet and slew them. You butchered or drowned all residents of Italian blood in one day, including mothers and babes, not sparing even those who had fled to the temples. What cruelty, what impiety, what boundless hate did you exhibit toward us!

After you had confiscated the property of all your victims you crossed over to Europe with great armies, although we had forbidden the invasion of Europe to all the kings of Asia. You overran our province of Macedonia and deprived the Greeks of their freedom. Nor did you begin to repent and tell Archelaus to intercede for you, until I had recovered Macedonia and delivered Greece from your grasp, and destroyed 160,000 of your soldiers, and taken your camps with all their belongings.

I am astonished that you should now seek to justify the acts for which you asked pardon through Archelaus. If you feared me at a distance, do you think that I have come into your neighborhood to have a debate with you? The time for that passed by when you took up arms against us, and we vigorously repelled your assaults and repelled them to the end."

While Sulla was still speaking with vehemence the king yielded to his fears and consented to the terms that had been offered through Archelaus. He delivered up the ships and everything else that had been required, and went back to his paternal kingdom of Pontus as his sole possession. And thus the first war between Mithridates and the Romans came to an end.

[§59] Sulla now advanced within 400 meters of Fimbria and ordered him to deliver up his army since he held the command contrary to law. Fimbria replied jestingly that Sulla himself did not now hold a lawful command. Sulla drew a line of circumvallation around Fimbria, and many of the latter's soldiers deserted openly. Fimbria called the rest of them together and urged them to stand by him. When they refused to fight against their fellow citizens he rent his garments and besought them man by man. As they still turned away from him, and still more of them deserted, he went around among the tents of the tribunes, bought some of them with money, called these to the assembly again, and got them to swear that they would stand by him.

Those who had been suborned exclaimed that all ought to be called up by name to take the oath. He summoned those who were under obligations to him for past favors. The first name called was that of Nonius, who had been his close companion. When even he refused to take the oath Fimbria drew his sword and threatened to kill him, and would have done so had he not been alarmed by the outcry of the others and compelled to desist.

Then he hired a slave, with money and the promise of freedom, to go to Sulla as a pretended deserter and assassinate him. As the slave was nearing his task he became frightened, and thus fell under suspicion, was arrested and confessed. Sulla's soldiers who were stationed around Fimbria's camp were filled with anger and contempt for him. They reviled him and nicknamed him Athenio - a man who was once a king of fugitive slaves in Sicily for a few days.

[§60] Thereupon Fimbria in despair went to the line of circumvallation and asked for a colloquy with Sulla. The latter sent Ritulius instead. Fimbria was disappointed at the outset that he was not deemed worthy of an interview, although it had been given to the enemy. When he begged pardon for an offense due to his youth, Ritulius promised that Sulla would allow him to go away in safety by sea if he would take ship from the province of Asia, of which Sulla was proconsul.

Fimbria said that he had another and better route. He went to Pergamon, entered into the temple of Aesculapius, and stabbed himself with his sword. As the wound was not mortal he ordered a slave to drive the weapon in. The latter killed his master and then himself. So perished Fimbria, who next to Mithridates had most sorely afflicted Asia.

Sulla gave his body to his freedmen for burial, adding that he would not imitate [his opponents Lucius Cornelius] Cinna and [Gaius] Marius, who had deprived many in Rome of their lives and of burial after death. The army of Fimbria came over to him, and he exchanged pledges with it and joined it with his own. Then lie directed Curio to restore Nicomedes to Bithynia and Ariobarzanes to Cappadocia and reported everything to the Senate, ignoring the fact that he had been voted an enemy.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Mithridatic wars   :   part 13

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