Marcus Aurelius Cotta (consul 74 BC)

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Marcus Aurelius Cotta was a Roman politician and general who was consul in 74 BC and was one of the early Roman commanders who fought in the Third Mithridatic War.

Biography[edit]

Cotta, hailing from a distinguished plebeian family, was the son of Lucius Aurelius Cotta who was consul in 119 BC, while his older brother Gaius Aurelius Cotta preceded him as consul in 75 BC. His younger brother Lucius Aurelius Cotta was consul in 65 BC. Aurelia Cotta, the mother of Julius Caesar, was his halfsister.

Climbing the cursus honorum, it is assumed that he held the post of praetor in 77 BC.[1] Elected consul in 74 BC alongside Lucius Licinius Lucullus, he was soon concerned with the escalating situation in the east brought about by the acquisition of the new province of Bithynia and the subsequent renewal of conflict with King Mithridates VI of Pontus who had invaded Bithynia. Having received Bithynia as his proconsular command[2] he received command of a fleet to protect his province and was dispatched to the east towards the end of his period as consul.[3]

The original plan was that Cotta should tie down Mithridates' fleet, while Lucullus attacked by land. Cotta was therefore ordered to station his fleet at Chalcedon, while Lucullus marched through Phrygia with the intention of invading Pontus. Lucullus had not advanced far when news came through that Mithridates had made a rapid march westward, attacked Cotta, and forced him to flee behind the walls of Chalcedon. Sixty-four Roman ships had been captured or burnt, and Cotta had lost three thousand men.[4] There Cotta was forced to remain until Lucullus could to come to his rescue.[5]

Having made his way to Nicomedia, Cotta watched in frustration as Mithridates, learning that his fleet had been destroyed by Lucullus, escaped the city and sailed down the Bosporus to the town of Heraclea Pontica.[6] Joined by Lucullus at Nicomedia in 73 BC, Cotta was assigned the task of securing Lucullus' rear by taking the town of Heraclea, which Mithridates had reinforced with 4,000 troops.[7] After reducing the Pontic coast, Cotta began besieging Heraclea, which took him two years to complete, sacking the city in 71 BC.[8] During this time he was forced to dismiss one of his quaestors, P. Oppius, charging him with bribery and conspiracy.[9]

Returning to Rome in 70 BC, Cotta was at first widely acclaimed for his victory at Heraclea.[10] However, around 67 BC he was accused of appropriation of war booty by Gaius Papirius Carbo. He was convicted of the offence and expelled from the Senate.[11]


Political offices
Preceded by
Lucius Octavius and Gaius Aurelius Cotta
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Licinius Lucullus
74 BC
Succeeded by
Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus and Gaius Cassius Longinus Varus

Sources[edit]

  • T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952).
  • Holmes, T. Rice, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, Vol. I (1923)
  • Anthon, Charles & Smith, William, A New Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology and Geography (1860).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Broughton, pg. 85
  2. ^ Anthon & Smith, pg. 226
  3. ^ Holmes, pg. 180
  4. ^ Holmes, pg. 180; Appian. Mithridates. 71; Plutarch. Lucullus. 8
  5. ^ Broughton, pg. 99
  6. ^ Holmes, pg. 183
  7. ^ Holmes, pg. 184
  8. ^ Broughton, pgs. 110, 116 & 122
  9. ^ Broughton, pg. 110
  10. ^ Broughton, pg. 127
  11. ^ Broughton, pgs. 127 & 144