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Appian's History of Rome: The Mithridatic Wars §§61-65


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)
[§61] [Autumn 85] Having settled the affairs of Asia, [the Roman commander Lucius Cornelius] Sulla bestowed freedom on the inhabitants of Ilium, Chios, Lycia, Rhodes, Magnesia, and some others, either as a reward for their cooperation, or a recompense for what they had bravely suffered on his account, and inscribed them as friends of the Roman people.

[Winter 85/84] Then he distributed his army among the remaining towns and issued a proclamation that the slaves who had been freed by Mithridates should at once return to their masters. As many disobeyed and some of the cities revolted, several massacres ensued, of both free men and slaves, on various pretexts. The walls of many towns were demolished. Many others were plundered and their inhabitants sold into slavery.


The theater of Ephesus. Photo Jona Lendering.
Theater of Ephesus, where Sulla addressed the Ephesians

The Cappadocian faction, both men and cities, were severely punished, and especially the Ephesians, who, with servile adulation of the king, had treated the Roman offerings in their temples with indignity. After this a proclamation was sent around commanding the principal citizens to come to Ephesus on a certain day to meet Sulla. When they had assembled Sulla addressed them from the tribune as follows:

[§62] "We first came to Asia with an army when Antiochus[III the Great], king of Seleucid Syria, was despoiling you. We drove him out and fixed the boundaries of his dominions beyond the river Halys and Mount Taurus. We did not retain possession of you when we had delivered you from him, but set you free, except that we awarded a few places to [king]Eumenes[II Soter of Pergamon] and the Rhodians, our allies in the war, not as tributaries, but as clients. The proof of this is that when the Lycians complained of the Rhodians we deprived them of their authority. Such was our conduct toward you.


 
You, on the other hand, when [king] Attalus Philometor had left his kingdom to us in his will, gave aid to Aristonicus against us for four years. When he was captured, most of you, under the impulse of necessity and fear, returned to your duty. Notwithstanding all this, after a period of twenty-four years, during which you had attained to great prosperity and embellishment, public and private, you again became puffed up by ease and luxury and took the opportunity, while we were preoccupied in Italy, some of you to call in [king] Mithridates [VI Eupator of Pontus] and others to join him when he came.

Most infamous of all, you obeyed the order he gave to kill all the Italians in your communities, including women and children, in one day. You did not even spare those who fled to the temples dedicated to your own gods. You have received some punishment for this crime from Mithridates himself, who broke faith with you and gave you your fill of rapine and slaughter, redistributed your lands, canceled debts, freed your slaves, appointed tyrants over some of you, and committed robberies everywhere by land and sea; so that you learned immediately by experiment and comparison what kind of defender you chose instead of your former ones. The instigators of these crimes paid some penalty to us also. It is necessary, too, that some penalty should be inflicted upon you in common, as you have been guilty in common, and something corresponding to your deserts.

But may the Romans never even conceive of impious slaughter, indiscriminate confiscation, servile insurrections, or other acts of barbarism. I shall spare even now the Greek race and name so celebrated throughout Asia, and for the sake of that fair repute that is ever dear to the Romans. I shall only impose upon you the taxes of five years, to be paid at once, together with the cost of the war expended by me, and whatever else may be spent in settling the affairs of the province. I will apportion these charges to each of you according to cities, and will fix the time of payment. Upon the disobedient I shall visit punishment as upon enemies."

[§63] [84] After he had thus spoken Sulla apportioned the fine to the delegates and sent men to collect the money. The cities, oppressed by poverty, borrowed it at high rates of interest and mortgaged their theaters, their gymnasiums, their walls, their harbors, and every other scrap of public property, being urged on by the soldiers with contumely. Thus was the money collected and brought to Sulla.

The province of Asia had her fill of misery. She was assailed openly by a vast number of pirates, resembling regular fleets rather than robber bands. Mithridates had first fitted them out at the time when he was ravaging all the coasts, thinking he could not long hold these regions. Their numbers had then greatly increased, and they did not confine them-selves to ships alone, but openly attacked harbors, castles, and cities. They captured Iassus, Samos, and Clazomenae, also Samothrace, where Sulla was staying at the time, and it was said that they robbed the temple at that place of ornaments valued at 1,000 talents.

Sulla, willing perhaps that those who had offended him should be maltreated, or because he was in haste to put down the hostile faction in Rome, left them and sailed for Greece, and [Spring 83] thence passed on to Italy with the greater part of his army. What he did there I have related in my History of the Civil Wars.
 

Second Mithridatic War

[§64] The Second Mithridatic War began in this way. [Lucius Licinius] Murena, who had been left by Sulla with [Gaius Flavius] Fimbria's two legions to settle affairs of the rest of Asia, sought trifling pretexts for war, being ambitious of a triumph. Mithridates, after his return to Pontus, went to war with the Colchians and the tribes around the Cimmerian Boshporus [1] who had revolted from him. The Colchians asked him to give them his son, Mithridates, as their ruler, and when he did so they at once returned to their allegiance.

The king suspected that this was brought about by his son through his own ambition to be king. Accordingly he sent for him and first bound him with golden fetters, and soon afterward put him to death, although he had served him well in Asia in the battles with Fimbria.

Against the tribes of the Bosphorus he built a fleet and fitted out a large army. The magnitude of his preparations gave rise to the belief that they were made not against those tribes, but against the Romans, for he had not yet restored the whole of Cappadocia to [king]Ariobarzanes[I Philoromaeus], but still retained a part of it.

He also had suspicions of Archelaus. He thought that the latter had yielded more than was necessary to Sulla in his negotiations in Greece. When Archelaus heard of this he became alarmed and fled to Murena, and by working on him persuaded him to anticipate Mithridates in beginning hostilities. Murena marched suddenly through Cappadocia and attacked Comana, a very large country town belonging to Mithridates, with a rich and renowned temple, and killed some of the king's cavalry.

When the king's ambassadors appealed to the treaty he replied that he saw no treaty; for Sulla had not written it out, but had gone away after the terms had been fulfilled by acts.[2] When Murena had delivered his answer he began robbing forthwith, not sparing the money of the temples, and he went into winter quarters in Cappadocia.

[§65] Mithridates sent an embassy to the Senate and to Sulla to complain of the acts of Murena. [May 83] The latter, meantime, had passed over the river Halys, which was then swollen by rains and very difficult to cross. He captured 400 villages belonging to Mithridates. The king offered no opposition, but waited for the return of his embassy. Murena returned to Phrygia and Galatia loaded down with plunder.

There he met [Quintus] Calidius, who had been sent from Rome on account of the complaints of Mithridates. Calidius did not bring a decree of the Senate, but he declared in the hearing of all that the Senate ordered Murena not to molest the king, as he had not broken the treaty. After he had thus spoken he was seen talking to Murena alone.


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

Murena abated nothing of his violence, but again invaded the territory of Mithridates. The latter, thinking that open war had been ordered by the Romans, directed his general, Gordius, to retaliate on their villages. Gordius straightway seized and carried off a large number of animals and other property and men, both private citizens and soldiers, and took position against Murena himself, with a river flowing between them. Neither of them began the fight until Mithridates came up with a larger army, when a severe engagement immediately took place on the banks of the river. Mithridates prevailed, crossed the river, and got the better of Murena decidedly. The latter retreated to a strong hill where the king attacked him. After losing many men Murena fled over the mountains to Phrygia by a pathless route, severely harassed by the missiles of the enemy.





Appian   :   Roman History   :   Mithridatic wars   :   part 14





Note 1:
This is not the Bosphorus near modern Istanbul, but the Strait of Kertch between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. It was called after the ancient Cimmerians, who had lived here and gave their name to the Crimea.

Note 2:
Even worse, the treaty had not been ratified by the Roman Senate.





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