The Asiatic Vespers (also known as the Asian Vespers, Ephesian Vespers, or the Vespers of 88 BC) refers to an infamous episode during the First Mithridatic War. In response to increasing Roman power in Anatolia, the king of Pontus, Mithridates the Great, tapped into local discontent with the Romans and their taxes to orchestrate the execution of all Roman and Italian citizens in Asia Minor. The massacre was planned scrupulously to take place on the same day in several towns scattered over Asia Minor: Ephesus, Pergamon, Adramyttion, Caunus, Tralles, Nysa, and the island of Chios. Estimates of the number of men, women, and children killed range from 80,000 to 150,000. Slaves who helped to kill their Roman masters and those who spoke languages other than Latin were spared. The massacre led to the Roman Senate committing a huge invasion force aimed at breaking the power of the Kingdom of Pontus and eventually annexing their territory in a series of conflicts known as the Mithridatic Wars.
The date of the massacre is disputed by modern historians who have written about the question at length. Sherwin-White places the event in late 89 or early 88 BC. Badian, saying "precision seems impossible," places it in the first half of 88 BC, no later than the middle of that year.
The name "Vèpres éphésiennes" was coined in 1890 by historian Théodore Reinach to describe the massacre, making a retrospective analogy with the Sicilian Vespers of 1282. Subsequent historians have adopted some variation of the phrase, using Vespers as a euphemism for "massacre".
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- Sherwin-White, A.N., 1980. "The Opening of the Mithridatic War," Miscellanea di studi classici in onore di Eugenio Manni, ed. M.J. Fontana, M.T. Piraino, F.P. Rizzo, vol. VI, Rome.
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