Third Mithridatic War
This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Third Mithridatic War|
|Part of the Mithridatic Wars|
A bust of King Mithridates VI of Pontus
Kingdom of Pontus|
Kingdom of Armenia
Kingdom of Iberia
|Commanders and leaders|
Lucius Licinius Lucullus|
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Mithridates VI of Pontus|
Tigranes II of Armenia,
Oroeses of Albania,
Artoces of Iberia
The Third Mithridatic War (73–63 BC) was the last and longest of three Mithridatic Wars and was fought between Mithridates VI of Pontus, who was joined by his allies, and the Roman Republic and her allies. The war ended in defeat for Mithridates, ending the Pontic Kingdom, and resulted in the Kingdom of Armenia becoming an allied client state of Rome.
- 1 Prior to war
- 2 Forces and initial deployments, 74–73 BC
- 3 Mithridates’ defeat in western Asia, 73-72 BC
- 4 Lucullus invades Pontus, 71-69 BC
- 5 The First Roman-Armenian War, 69-67 BC
- 6 Mithridates return to Pontus
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
Prior to war
The period between the Second and Third wars of Rome and the Pontic Kingdom (81–75 BC) is discussed under the Kingdom of Pontus. There it can be seen how the long piracy wars were a development out of the First Mithridatic War and especially of the alliance between Mithridates VI and Sertorius, which in joining those two threats into a unity much larger than its parts had the serious potential of overturning Roman power. The immediate cause of the Third War was the bequest to Rome by King Nicomedes IV of Bithynia of his kingdom upon his death (74 BC).
Forces and initial deployments, 74–73 BC
Having launched an attack at the same time as a revolt by Sertorius swept through the Spanish provinces, Mithridates was initially virtually unopposed. The Senate responded by sending the consuls Lucius Licinius Lucullus and Marcus Aurelius Cotta to deal with the Pontic threat. The only other possible general for such an important command, Pompey, was in Hispania to help Metellus Pius crush the revolt led by Sertorius. Lucullus was sent to govern Cilicia and Cotta to Bithynia. According to Appian and Plutarch Lucullus had 30,000 infantry and 1,600-2,500 cavalry while Mithridates was rumoured to have as many as 300,000 men in his force.
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 and defeated Cotta at the battle of Chalcedon, 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. There Cotta was forced to remain until Lucullus could come to his rescue.
Mithridates’ defeat in western Asia, 73-72 BC
Having made his way to Nicomedia, Cotta watched in frustration as Mithridates marched on taking Nicaea, Lampsacus, Nicomedia and Apameia, all major cities in the region. Only nearby Cyzicus held to the Roman cause, probably because many of its citizens (serving in Cotta's army as auxiliaries) had died figthting against Mithridates at Chalcedon. The Pontic army marched on Cyzicus and began a siege.
Lucullus was camped somewhere along the Sangarius river in Bithynia when he received news of Cotta's defeat. His soldiers urged him to leave Cotta to his own folly and march on undefended Pontus with its rich potential for loot. Lucullus ignored them and headed toward Chalcedon. Marcus Marius, a Roman rebel cooperating with Mithridates, blocked and confronted him. They faced off at Otroea near Nicaea (present-day Iznik). Although Lucullus commanded 30,000 infantry and 2,500 horse, he was daunted by the size of the opposing army and reluctant to engage. The arrival of an omen, as reported by Plutarch, was thus fortuitous:
|“||But presently, as they were on the point of joining battle, with no apparent change of weather, but all on a sudden, the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. In shape, it was most like a wine-jar (pithos), and in colour, like molten silver. Both sides were astonished at the sight, and separated. This marvel, as they say, occurred in Phrygia, at a place called Otryae.||”|
No battle occurred. For Marius, delay posed a logistical problem. He had only a few days of supplies for his troops. Lucullus learned of the shortage through prisoner interrogations and decided to wait him out. Marius was forced to move on without the fight he had sought.
The Siege of Cyzicus
While Mithridates was besieging Cyzicus Lucullus and his army arrived; the Romans, with the help of some turncoats, were able to establish a counter-siege, trapping Mithridates' army on the Cyzicus peninsula. During the siege Mithridates sent his cavalry, with the sick and the wounded away, but they were ambushed and slaughtered at the river Rhyndacus. In the middle of a snowstorm, Lucullus met these forces with ten cohorts and attacked them in mid-crossing on both sides of the river. Plutarch and Appian record 15,000 men and 6,000 horses as being captured during the battle. The disaster at the Rhyndacus combined with the famine and a plague which had struck his main army forced Mithridates to completely abandoned his position, sailing north while his army marched overland. Lucullus pursued the army and defeated them at the confluence of the Aesepus and Granicus Rivers slaughtering many (20,000 were killed while crossing the river Granicus). Eventually, of the 300,000 who had set out for Bithynia only 20,000 effective troops remained. The siege of Cyzicus and the subsequent retreat could be considered an unmitigated disaster.
Marius had taken to the sea. Along with Alexandros the Paphlagonian and Dionysios Eunuchos ("the Eunuch"), he was placed in joint command of 50 ships and 10,000 handpicked men, among them, in the words of Mommsen, "the flower of the Roman emigrants." Their intention seems to have been to sail east into the Aegean, but Lucullus mounted an attack against them. He captured a detachment of 13 ships between the island of Tenedos and the mainland harbor of the Achaeans. The main Pontic force, however, had drawn their ships to shore at a site difficult of approach, the small island of Neae between Lemnos and Scyros; Lucullus then sent infantry by land across Neae to their rear, killing many and forcing the rest back to sea. Lucullus sunk or captured 32 ships of the royal fleet provided by Mithradates and additional transport vessels. Dionysios committed suicide, but Alexandros was captured and held for display in Lucullus's anticipated triumph. Among the dead were a number of men who had been on Sulla's proscription lists. Marius at first escaped, possibly from a sinking ship, since he was later found ashore taking refuge in a cave.
Like Sertorius himself, Marius at some point had lost an eye; when Lucullus gave the order to track down enemy survivors, he specified that no one-eyed men should be killed, so that he could personally oversee the renegade's death: "Lucullus wished Marius to die under the most shameful insults." Orosius reports that he atoned for his rebellious spirit with penalties he earned.
Lucullus invades Pontus, 71-69 BC
In 72 BC Lucullus marched his army through Galatia and into Pontus. The Galatians were only too happy to supply the Romans because they detested Mithridates and were keen to see the Roman legions pass through their country without being plundered. Once Lucullus was in the Pontic heartland and he let his troops plunder the rich and fertile area. Mithridates could do nothing to stop the despoiling of his lands for he had to rebuild his army. He eventually assembled 40,000 men (4,000 cavalry) near Cabira and waited for Lucullus.
Lucullus's supply lines now came north from Cappadocia, a Roman ally to the south of Pontus. A heavily armed supply convoy, escorted by no less then ten cohorts of infantry, under the command of the legate Sornatius was attacked by the Pontic cavalry. The Romans held off the attack inflicting terrible losses on the Pontic horsemen. When a second supply convoy, also heavily armed, under the command of Marcus Fabius Hadrianus made for Lucullus's camp Mithridates decided to use a combined arms (infantry and cavalry) force. Some 4,000 cavalry and infantry fell upon the convoy, unfortunately, the Romans realized the narrow valley at the scene limited the effectiveness of their opponents' cavalry, they counter-attacked and wiped out half the attacking force.
After the Battle of Cabira in Pontus, Mithridates fled to Armenia and his army disintegrated. 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. After reducing the Pontic coast, Cotta began besieging Heraclea, which took him two years to complete, sacking the city in 71 BC. During this time he was forced to dismiss one of his quaestors, P. Oppius, charging him with bribery and conspiracy.
With Mithridates out of his reach Lucullus set about consolidating his hold on Pontus. Amisus, an important Greek city in Pontus, was still holding out. Lucullus took Amisus but not without regret; his soldiers ransacked the city and turned it into a ruin. Lucullus, a great admirer of Greek culture, lamented that Sulla had been blessed because he was able to save Athens, while the gods had ordained the faith of Lucius Mummius Achaicus, the destroyer of Corinth, for him.
After Amisus Lucullus besieged Sinope, Pontus' main port city, which was also holding out against the Romans. There was significant resistance; the garison was doing well in defending the coastal city on water as well as land. Finally, defenders gave up, they burned their heavier ships while escaping on lighter vessels. Lucullus granted the city its freedom because the real resistance had not come from the Sinopians themselves but from Cilician troops Mithridates had garisoned there.
While Lucullus stayed in the East, Cotta returned to Rome in 70 BC, where he at first was widely acclaimed for his victory at Heraclea. 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.
The First Roman-Armenian War, 69-67 BC
After the Battle of Cabira Mithridates fled to his father-in-law Tigranes II the king of the Armenian Empire. Lucullus, busy mopping up resistance in Pontus and Armenia Minor (also part of Mithridates's former dominions), sent his brother-in-law Appius Claudius Pulcher as an emissary to the Armenian king demanding he hand over Mithridates. Since handing over his son-in-law would make him look like nothing more than a puppet of Rome Tigranes had no other choice than to refuse and prepare for war.
In the spring of 69 BC Lucullus marched his army from Cappadocia across the Euphrates into Greater Armenia (the Armenian Empire's heartland) and the Roman-Armenian War began.
Tigranes sent one of his nobles, Mithrobarzanes, with 2,000-3,000 cavalry to expel the invader. Mithrobarzanes charged the Romans while they were setting up their camp, but was met by a 3,500-strong sentry force and his horsemen were routed. He perished in the attempt.
Battle of Tigranocerta
Lucullus began a siege of the new Armenian imperial capital of Tigranocerta in the Arzenene district. Tigranes, with his main host, returned from mopping up a Seleucid rebellion in Syria, and sought battle with the Romans. Lucullus' army annihilated the Armenian host, despite odds of about more than two to one against him. This was the famous battle of Tigranocerta. It was fought on the same (pre-Julian) calendar date as the Roman disaster at Arausio 36 years earlier, the day before the Nones of October according to the reckoning of the time (or October 6), which is Julian October 16, 69 BC. Tigranes then retired to the northern regions of his kingdom to gather another army and defend his hereditary capital of Artaxata. Meanwhile, Lucullus moved off south-eastwards to the kingdom of the Kurds (Korduene) on the frontiers of the Armenian and Parthian empires. During the winter of 69-68 BC both sides opened negotiations with the Parthian king, Arsaces XVI, who was presently defending himself against a major onslaught from his rival Phraates III coming from Bactria and the far east.
Battle of Artaxata
In the summer of 68 BC Lucullus marched against Tigranes and crossed the Anti-Taurus range heading for the old Armenian capital Artaxata. Once again Tigranes was provoked to attack and in a major battle at the Aratsani River Lucullus defeated the Armenian army. Soon he left this campaign and when winter came on early in the Armenian tablelands, his troops mutinied, refusing to go further, and he was forced to withdraw southwards back into Arzenene. From there he proceeded back down through Korduene into old Assyria and in the late autumn and early winter besieged and took Nisibis, the main Armenian fortress city in Northern Mesopotamia.
Mithridates return to Pontus
In the spring of 67 BC, while Lucullus was laying siege to Nisibis, Mithridates suddenly returned to Pontus. The Romans had not expected Mithridates to strike at them in Pontus and he caught several small Roman detachments unaware. The legate Gaius Valerius Triarius who was nearby bringing two legions to reinforce Lucullus took over command of all Roman forces in Pontus. A battle took place on a plain near Zela (the Battle of Zela); the Romans were defeated, leaving 7,000 dead, including 24 tribunes and 150 centurions. Mithridates was back in control of Pontus.
During the winter of 68-67 BC at Nisibis, Lucullus’ authority over his army was seriously undermined by the efforts of his young brother-in-law Publius Clodius Pulcher, apparently acting in the interests and pay of Pompey the Great, who was eager to succeed Lucullus in the eastern command. After mutiny spread in the legions with the troops refusing to obey Lucullus' commands, the senate sent Pompey to succeed Lucullus. This lull allowed Mithridates and Tigranes to retake part of their respective kingdoms.
Pompey in command
On the approach of Pompey, Mithridates retreated into the centre of his kingdom trying to stretch and cut off the Roman supply lines but this strategy did not work (Pompey excelled at logistics). Eventually Pompey cornered and he defeated the king at the river Lycus (see: battle of Lycus). As Tigranes II of Armenia, his son-in-law, refused to receive him into his dominions (Greater Armenia), Mithridates fled to Colchis, and hence made his way to his own dominions in the Cimmerian Bosporus. Pompey marched against Tigranes, whose kingdom and authority were now severely weakened. Tigranes then sued for peace and met with Pompey to plead a cessation of hostilities. The Armenian Kingdom became an allied client state of Rome. From Armenia, Pompey marched north against the Caucasian tribes and kingdoms who still supported Mithridates.
In 65 BC, Pompey had set out in pursuit of Mithridates, meeting opposition from the Albanians who tried to overrun his camps and the Iberians whom he defeated at the battle of the Pelorus. After defeating the Albanians and Iberians he advanced into Colchis as far as Phasis, where he met up with Servilius, the admiral of his Euxine fleet. From Phasis, Pompey marched east again for he had heard the Iberians were gathering their army again, he caught them at the river Abas where he decisively defeated them (see: battle of Abas).
Complete Roman victory
After his defeat by Pompey in 65 BC, Mithridates VI fled with a small army from Colchis to Crimea and attempted to raise yet another army to take on the Romans but failed to do so. In 63 BC, he withdrew to the citadel in Panticapaeum. His eldest son, Machares, now king of Cimmerian Bosporus, whose kingdom had been reorganized by the Romans, was unwilling to aid his father. Mithridates had Machares murdered and took the throne of the Bosporan Kingdom, intent on retaking Pontus from the Romans. His younger son, Pharnaces II, backed by a disgruntled and war weary populace, led a rebellion against his father. This betrayal, after the decisive defeat in battle, hurt Mithridates more than any other and seeing his loss of authority he attempted suicide by poison. The attempt failed as he had gained immunity to various poisons from taking tiny doses of all available poisons throughout his life to guard against assassination. According to Appian's Roman History, he then ordered his Gallic bodyguard and friend, Bituitus, to kill him by the sword: Mithridates' body was buried in either Sinope or Amaseia, on the orders of Pompey.
- Anthon, Charles & Smith, William, A New Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology and Geography, 1860, pg. 226
- Appian, Mithridatica, XI.72; Plutarch, Life of Lucullus, 8.
- Holmes, T. Rice, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, Vol. I, 1923, pg. 180
- Appian Mithridates. 71; Plutarch. Lucullus. 8
- T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952), pg. 99
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, Rome's indomitable Enemy, pp 106-113; Plutarch Life of Lucullus, 8.
- Keaveney, Lucullus, p. 77.
- Plutarch, Lucullus 8.
- Plutarch, Life of Lucullus 8.6–7, Loeb Classical Library translation, Bill Thayer's edition at LacusCurtius.
- Lee Fratantuono, Lucullus, p. 60; Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, p. 112.
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, Rome's Indomitable Enemy, pp 112-113.
- Theodor Mommsen, The History of Rome, vol. 4, p. 329.
- Keaveney, Lucullus, p. 85.
- Orosius 6.2.21–22.
- Plutarch, Lucullus 12.5.
- Orosius 6.2.2.
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great: Rome's Indomitable Enemy; Plutarch, Life of Lucullus, 14.
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great: Rome's Indomitable Enemy, p. 119; Appian, Mithridatica, 78.
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great: Rome's Indomitable Enemy p. 121; Lee Fratantuono, Lucullus: the Life and Campaigns of a Roman Conqueror p. 69.
- Holmes, T. Rice, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, Vol. I, 1923, pg. 184
- T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952), pgs. 110, 116 & 122
- T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952), pg. 110
- Lee Fratantuono, Lucullus: the Life and Campaings of a Roman Conqueror p. 72; Keaveny, Sulla, the Last Republican, p.124.
- Lee Fratantuono, Lucullus: the Life and Campaings of a Roman Conqueror pp 73-74; Plutarch, Life of Lucullus, 13; Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos, VI 3.2-3.3.
- T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952), pg. 127
- T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952), pgs. 127 & 144
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, pp 123-125; Lee Frantatuono, Lucullus, p. 77.
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, p. 126; Lee Frantatuono, Lucullus, p. 77.
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, pp 127-128; Lee Frantatuono, Lucullus, pp 83-84; Plutarch, Life of Lucullus, XII.84.
- Plutarch Camillus 19.11, Lucullus 27.8-9
- See Roman calendar, sub-heading Conversion of pre-Julian dates)
- Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, Rome's Indomitable Enemy, p.140.
- Lee Fratantuono, Lucullus, the life and campaigns of a Roman Conqueror, p.108; Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, Rome's Indomitable Enemy, pp 140-142; Mayor, p. 311; Appian, Mithridatica, 89; Cassius Dio, Roman History, 36.12.
- A History of Rome, LeGlay, et al. 100
- Hojte, Jakob Munk. "The Death and Burial of Mithridates VI". Retrieved 3 February 2015.
- FHG = Karl Müller (ed.) Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum
- FGrH = Felix Jacoby (ed. & critical commentary), Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (commenced 1923)
- Memnon of Herakleia Pontike, 9th century epitome in the ΒΙΒΛΙΟΘΗΚΗ of Photius of Byzantium (codex 224)
- ed. René Henry Photius Bibliotheque Tome IV: Codices 223–229 (Association Guillaume Budé, Paris, 1965), pp. 48–99: Greek text with French translation
- ed. K. Müller FHG III, 525: Greek text with Latin translation
- ed. F. Jacoby FGrH no.434: Greek text, detailed commentary in German
- Phlegon of Tralles fragmenta
- ed. K. Müller FHG III, 602ff.
- ed. F. Jacoby FGrH no. 257=
- English translations and commentary by William Hansen, Phlegon of Tralles' Book of Marvels (University of Exeter Press, 1996)
RE = Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, eds. Pauly, Wissowa, Kroll
- Major studies
- Eckhardt, Kurt. "Die armenischen Feldzüge des Lukullus",
- I. Introduction. Klio, 9 (1909), 400–412
- II. Das Kriegsjahr 69. Klio, 10 (1910), 72–115
- III. Das Kriegsjahr 68. Klio, 10 (1910), 192–231
- Holmes, T. Rice: The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, vol.I (1923), 398–436
- Gelzer, Matthias: "L. Licinius Lucullus cos.74", RE vol.XIII (1926), s. v. Licinius (104), colls. 376–414.
- Magie, David: Roman Rule in Asia Minor, to the End of the Third Century after Christ 2 vols. (Princeton University Press, 1950)
- Van Ooteghem, J: Lucius Licinius Lucullus, (Brussels, 1959)
- Keaveney, Arthur: Lucullus. A Life. (London/New York: Routledge, 1992). ISBN 0-415-03219-9.
- Shorter articles
- Anderson, J G C: "Pompey's Campaign against Mithradates", JRS 12 (1922), 99ff.
- Downey, Glanville: "Q. Marcius Rex at Antioch", Classical Philology 32 (1937), 144–151
- Bennett, William H: "The Death of Sertorius and the Coin", Historia, 10 (1961), 459–72
- McGing, B C: "The Date of the outbreak of the Third Mithridatic War", Phoenix, 38 (1984), 12–18
- Williams, Richard S: "The Appointment of Glabrio (COS.67) to the Eastern Command", Phoenix 38 (1984), 221–234
- Tatum, W J: "Lucullus and Clodius at Nisibis (Plutarch, Lucullus 33–34)", Athenaeum, 79 (1991)
|Library resources about |
Third Mithridatic War
- Burcu Erciyas, Deniz. 2005. Wealth, aristocracy and royal propaganda under the Hellenistic kingdom of the Mithridatids in the central Black Sea region of Turkey. Leiden: Brill.
- Gabrielsen, Vincent, and John Lund, eds. 2007. The Black Sea in Antiquity: Regional and interregional economic exchanges. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.
- McGing, Brian C. 1986. The foreign policy of Mithridates VI Eupator king of Pontos. Leiden: Brill.
- Sherwin-White, Adrian N. 1984. Roman foreign policy in the East 168 B.C. to A.D. 1. London: Duckworth.
- Sullivan, Richard D. 1990. Near Eastern royalty and Rome: 100–30 B.C. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.