Battle of Zela (67 BC)

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The battle of Zela, not to be confused with the more famous battle in 47 BC, was fought by the town of Zile in the Kingdom of Pontus during the Third Mithridatic War and resulted in king Mithridates' successful reclamation of his kingdom after numerous defeats and setbacks. His luck was short-lasting, however, as within a few years he would be completely defeated, this time by Pompey the Great.[1]

In the spring of 67 BC, most Roman troops had left Pontus for Mesopotamia. Two Fimbrian legions (around 10 thousand men, probably less since they had been serving, fighting and campaining for more than a decade) refused to leave and fell easy prey for Mithridates. The Roman legatus mobilized slaves to fight alongside legionnaires, but the Pontic forces won the first battle. The Romans lost around five hundred men and retreated. Mithridates was wounded in the face with an arrow but recovered in a few days.[2]

The battle of Zela, the second encounter of the 67 BC campaign, was a Roman attempt to regain control after their tactical loss to Mithridates. It was preceded by a freak tornado; both sides interpreted the omen as a call to a final, decisive battle. The Romans attacked the Zela camp at night. The Pontics repelled the first strike and drove the Romans back into their trenches which were soon "clogged with dead Romans".[2] Mithridates was critically wounded again, and once again a shaman by the name of Agari healed the king with snake venom. Only hours after the near-fatal wound, Mithridates was back in his saddle. By this time, the Romans had already fled, leaving seven thousand dead, including 24 tribunes and 150 centurions.[3]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Mayor, p. 310.
  3. ^ Mayor, p. 311.

Coordinates: 40°18′N 35°53′E / 40.300°N 35.883°E / 40.300; 35.883