Battle of Cabira

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Battle of Cabira
Part of Third Mithridatic War
Date 72 BC
Location Cabira
Result Roman victory
Roman Republic Pontus
Commanders and leaders
Lucullus Mithridates VI of Pontus

The Battle of Cabira was fought in 72 or 71 BC between the forces of the Roman Republic under Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus and those of the Kingdom of Pontus under Mithridates the Great. It was a decisive Roman victory.


The Kingdom of Bithynia had been bequeathed to the Roman Republic on the death of King Nicomedes in 74 BC. Mithridates, who had long presumed the kingdom for himself, invaded the country in 73 BC, putting the small Roman garrison under pressure and isolating them from assistance. Lucullus was in Cilicia and immediately set out to confront the Pontic army.

Lucullus established a counter-siege during Mithridates investment of Cyzicus and successfully mounted a naval expedition against Mithridates's navy in the Black Sea and crushed a contingent of Pontic troops at the Rhyndacus. Having failed to take the city before the onset of winter, Mithridates was forced to withdraw. He fled via ship while his army was to make its way over land to the port of Lampsacus. These men continued to be harried by Lucullus, who met them at the confluence of the Aesupus and the Granicus. Marcus Aurelius Cotta then invested Heraclea Perinthus before returning to Rome.


Without confirmation from the Senate, Lucullus moved east into Pontus. In the summer of 72 or 71 BC, he reached the Lycus valley. Losing an initial skirmish against Mithridates's cavalry, he took up a defended position on the hills opposite Cabira and both sides waited.

Lucullus's supply lines came north from Cappadocia. A Pontic attack on a grain caravan turned into the decisive battle, when Lucullus realized the narrow valley at the scene limited the effectiveness of his opponent's cavalry. The Romans won tellingly, and the disorder caused by Mithridates's preparations to depart the area led to the complete destruction and looting of his camp.


The battle was a key point in the war against Mithridates and forced him to retreat nearly penniless to his ally, Tigranes of Armenia. Lucullus continued the ongoing sieges throughout Pontus and organized it as a new Roman province, while Appius Claudius was sent to find Armenian allies and demand Mithridates from Tigranes. Tigranes refused, stating he would prepare for war against the Republic.


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  • Rickard, J. Military History Encyclopedia on the Web. "Third Mithridatic War, 74-63 B.C." Accessed 3 September 2011.
  • Sherwin-White, Adrian N. "Lucullus, Pompey, and the East." In Crook, J.A. & al. (eds.) The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 9: The Last Age of the Roman Republic, 146-43 BC. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge), 1994.