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Appian's History of Rome: The Mithridatic Wars 81-85


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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King Mithridates VI of Pontus as Heracles. Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Mithridates VI as Heracles (Louvre)
[81] [72] It was his [Mithridates's] great object to cut off [the Roman commander Lucius Licinius] Lucullus' supplies, which were drawn from Cappadocia alone, but when his cavalry came upon the advance guard of the convoy in a narrow defile, they did not wait till their enemies had reached the open country. Consequently their horses were useless in the narrow space, where the Romans hastily put themselves in line of battle across the road. Aided, as foot-soldiers would naturally be, by the difficulties of the ground, they killed some of the king's troops, drove others over precipices, and scattered the rest in flight. A few of them arrived at their camp by night, and said that they were the only survivors, so that rumor magnified the calamity which was indeed sufficiently great.


Mithridates heard of this affair before Lucullus did, and he expected that Lucullus would take advantage of so great a slaughter of his horsemen to attack him forthwith. Accordingly he fell into a panic and contemplated flight, and at once communicated his purpose to his friends in his tent. They did not wait for the signal to be given, but while it was still night each one sent his own baggage out of the camp, which made a great crush of pack animals around the gates.

When the soldiers perceived the commotion, and saw what the baggage carriers were doing, they imagined every sort of absurdity. Filled with terror, mingled with anger that the signal had not been given to them also, they demolished and ran over their own fortification and scattered in every direction over the plain, helter-skelter, without orders from the commanding general or any other officer. When Mithridates heard the disorderly rush he dashed out of his tent among them and attempted to say something, but nobody would listen to him. He was caught in the crowd and knocked from his horse, but remounted and was borne to the mountains with a few followers.

[82] When Lucullus heard of the success of his provision train and observed the enemy's flight, he sent out a large force of cavalry in pursuit of the fugitives. Those who were still collecting baggage in the camp he surrounded with his infantry, whom he ordered for the time to abstain from plunder, but to kill indiscriminately. But the soldiers, seeing vessels of gold and of silver in abundance and much costly clothing, disregarded the order. Those who overtook Mithridates himself cut open the pack saddle of a mule that was loaded with gold, which fell out, and while they were busy with it they allowed him to escape to Comona.


Coin of king Tigranes II the Great of Armenia. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Tigranes II (British Museum, London)

From thence he fled to [king] Tigranes[the Great of Armenia] with 2,000 horse-men. Tigranes did not admit him to his presence, but ordered that royal entertainment be provided for him on his estates. Mithridates, in utter despair of his kingdom, sent the eunuch Bacchus to his palace to put his sisters, wives, and concubines to death as he could. These, with wonderful devotion, destroyed themselves with daggers, poison, and ropes. When the garrison commanders of Mithridates saw these things they went over to Lucullus in crowds, all but a few. 

[71] Lucullus marched among the others and regulated them. He also sent his fleet among the cities on the Pontic coast and captured Amastris, Heraclea, and some others.


 
[83] [70] Sinope continued to resist him vigorously, and the inhabitants fought him on the water not without success, but when they were besieged they burned their heavier ships, embarked on the lighter ones, and went away. Lucullus at once made it a free city, being moved thereto by the following dream. It is said that Autolycus, the companion of Heracles in his expedition against the Amazons, was driven by a tempest into Sinope and made himself master of the place, and that his consecrated statue gave oracles to the Sinopeans. As they were hastening their flight, they could not embark it on shipboard, but wrapped it up with linen cloths and ropes. Nobody told Lucullus of this beforehand and he knew nothing about it, but he dreamed that he saw Autolycus calling him, and the following day, when some men passed him carrying the image wrapped up, he ordered them to take off the covering and then he saw what he thought he had seen in the night. This was the kind of dream he had.

After Sinope Lucullus restored to their homes the citizens of Amisus, who had fled by sea in like manner, because he learned that they had been settled there by Athens when she held the empire of the sea; that they had had a democratic form of government at first, and afterward had been subject for a long time to the kings of Persia; that their democracy had been restored to them by decree of Alexander [the Great]; and that they had finally been compelled to serve the kings of Pontus. Lucullus sympathized with them, and in emulation of the favor shown to the Attic race by Alexander he gave the city its freedom and recalled the citizens with all haste. Thus did Lucullus desolate and repeople both Sinope and Amisus.

He entered into friendly relations with Machares, the son of Mithridates and ruler of the Bosphorus, who sent him a crown of gold. He demanded the surrender of Mithridates from Tigranes. Then he went back to the province of Asia.

When the installment of tribute imposed by Sulla became due, he levied upon one-fourth of the harvest, and imposed a house-tax and a slave-tax. He offered a triumphal sacrifice to the gods for the successful termination of the war.

[84] [69] After the sacrifices had been performed, he marched with two legions and 500 horse against Tigranes, who had refused to surrender Mithridates to him. Lucullus crossed the Euphrates, but he required the barbarians, through whose territory he passed, to furnish only necessary supplies since they did not want to fight, or to expose themselves to suffering by taking sides in the quarrel between Lucullus and Tigranes.

No one told Tigranes that Lucullus was advancing, for the first man who brought this news he hanged, considering him a disturber of the good order of the cities. When he learned that it was true, he sent Mithrobarzanes forward with 2,000 horse to hinder Lucullus' march. He entrusted to Mancaeus the defense of Tigranocerta, which city, as I have already said, the king had built in this region in honor of himself, and to which he had summoned the principal inhabitants of the country under penalty of confiscation of all of their goods that they did not transfer to it.

He surrounded it with walls 25 meters high and wide enough to contain stables for horses. In the suburbs he built a palace and laid out large parks, enclosures for wild animals, and fish-ponds. He also erected a strong tower nearby. All these he put in charge of Mancaeus, and then he went through the country to collect an army. Lucullus, at his first encounter with Mithrobarzanes, defeated him and put him to flight. Sextilius shut up Mancaeus in Tigranocerta, plundered the palace outside the walls, drew a ditch around the city and tower, moved machines against them, and undermined the wall.

[85] While Sextilius was doing this, Tigranes brought together some 250,000 foot and 50,000 horse. He sent about 6,000 of the latter to Tigranocerta, who broke through the Roman line to the tower, and seized and brought away the king's concubines.

With the rest of his army Tigranes marched against Lucullus. Mithridates, who was now for the first time admitted to his presence, advised him not to come to close quarters with the Romans, but to circle around them with his horse only, to devastate the country, and reduce them by famine if possible, in the same way that he had been served by Lucullus at Cyzicus, where he lost his army without fighting.

Tigranes derided such generalship and advanced and made preparations for battle. When he saw how small the Roman force was, he said jestingly, "If they are here as ambassadors they are too many; if as enemies, altogether too few."

Lucullus saw a hill favorably situated in the rear of Tigranes. He pushed his horse forward from his own front to worry the enemy and draw them upon himself, retiring as they came up, so that the barbarians should break their own ranks in the pursuit. Then he sent his own infantry around to the hill and took possession of it unobserved. When he saw the enemy pursuing as though they had won the fight, and scattered in all directions, with their entire baggage train lying at the foot of the hill, he exclaimed, "Soldiers, we are victorious," and dashed first upon their baggage carriers.

These immediately fled in confusion and ran against their own infantry, and the infantry against the cavalry. Presently the rout was complete. Those who had been drawn a long distance in pursuit of the Roman horse, the latter turned upon and destroyed. The baggage train came into collision with others tumultuously. They were all packed together in such a crowd that nobody could see clearly from what quarter their discomfiture proceeded. There was a great slaughter. Nobody stopped to plunder, for Lucullus had forbidden it with threats of punishment, so that they passed by bracelets and necklaces on the road, and continued killing for a distance of 20 kilometers until nightfall. Then they betook themselves to plunder with the permission of Lucullus.






Appian   :   Roman History   :   Mithridatic wars   :   part 18




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