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Bill Thayer

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I: Part 10

This webpage reproduces part of
The Epitome of Roman History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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I: Part 12

Lucius Annaeus Florus

The two books of the Epitome,
extracted from Titus Livius,
of all the wars of seven hundred years

Book I (continued)

 p179  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XL. The Mithridatic War

III, 5 The Pontic races lie to the North on the left​1 and derive their name from the sea of Pontus. The earliest king of these regions and races was Aeetas, after him came Artabazes, who was sprung from one of the seven Persians,​2 and then came Mithridates, by far the greatest of their rulers; 2 for, while four years sufficed to defeat Pyrrhus and thirteen to defeat Hannibal, Mithridates resisted for forty years, until, defeated in three great wars, he was brought to nought by the good fortune of Sulla, the valour of Lucullus and the might of Pompeius. 3 He had alleged to our ambassador Cassius as the cause of the war that his frontiers were being violated by Nicomedes, king of Bithynia; but, in fact, carried away by boundless ambition, he was consumed by a  p181 burning desire to possess himself of all Asia and, if he could, of Europe also. 4 Our weaknesses gave him hope and confidence; for a tempting opportunity was offered while we were preoccupied by civil wars, and the activities of Marius, Sulla and Sertorius made it known far and wide that the flank of the empire was unprotected. 5 While the State was thus wounded and distracted, suddenly, as though it had chosen the opportune moment, the tempest of the Pontic war broke forth from the furthest outpost of the North against a people who were both weary and preoccupied.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6 The first assault immediately won Bithynia; whereupon Asia was seized by a general panic, and without delay our cities and peoples revolted to the king. 7 He was on the spot, he was insistent, he practised cruelty as though it were a virtue. For what could be more outrageous than that one decree of his by which he gave orders for the murder of all those in Asia who were of Roman citizen­ship? At the same time the sanctity of private houses, temples and altars, and all laws, human and divine, were violated. 8 The alarm thus inspired in Asia also opened to the king the gates of Europe. He, therefore, sent his generals, Archelaus and Neoptolemus, and (except Rhodes, which supported us more loyally than ever) all the Cyclades, Delos, Euboea and Athens itself, the glory of Greece, were occupied. 9 The dread of the king now spread to Italy and Rome itself. Our great commander, Sulla, therefore, hastened to oppose him and, as he advanced with violence unabated, stayed his further progress by, as it were, a mere gesture of the hand. 10 First, he compelled Athens, where cornº was first discovered, by siege  p183 and famine (the story is scarcely credible) to feed on human flesh; then the harbour of Piraeus, surrounded by six or more walls, was destroyed. When he had subdued the most ungrateful of men, he nevertheless (to use his own words) "spared them because of their shrines and past glory, as an act of respect towards their dead forefathers." 11 Then, when he had driven the king's garrisons out of Euboea and Boeotia, he scattered the whole of his forces in one battle at Chaeronea and in another at Orchomenus, and then, immediately crossing over into Asia, overwhelmed the king himself. The war would have been brought to an end if Sulla had not preferred a speedy rather than a thorough triumph over Mithridates. 12 The following was the state of affairs which Sulla had established in Asia: a treaty was made with the people of Pontus; Bithynia was handed over by Mithridates to Nicomedes, Cappadocia to Ariobarzanes, Asia was again ours, as before; but Mithridates had been only repulsed. This condition of affairs, so far from breaking the spirit of the people of Pontus, only inflamed them; 13 for the king, lured on as it were by the bait of Asia and Europe, now sought to recover them by right of arms, as though they did not belong to others but had been snatched from him, because he had failed to retain his conquests. 14 And so, just as fire not wholly extinguished bursts forth again into greater flames, so Mithridates, with greatly increased forces and indeed with the whole weight of his kingdom, overran Asia afresh by land and sea and river.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 15 The noble city of Cyzicus with its citadel, walls, harbour and marble towers is the glory of the coast of Asia. This he had attacked with all his forces,  p185 as though it were a second Rome. 16 But a messenger who, by an extraordinary feat, had made his way through the midst of the enemy's fleet buoyed up by an inflated skin, steering with his feet and presenting to distant observers the appearance of some sea-monster, had inspired the townspeople with confidence to resist by the news of Lucullus' approach. 17 Soon afterwards, when ill-fortune went over to the king's side and, owing to the length of the siege, famine afflicted him and pestilence as a result of famine, he retreated. Lucullus followed him and dealt him so heavy a blow that the rivers Granicus and Aesepus ran with blood. 18 The crafty king, who had had experience of Roman avarice, ordered that gold and money should be scattered in their path by his flying troops in order to delay his pursuers. His flight by sea was no more fortunate than by land; for a tempest which arose in the Black Sea attacked his fleet of more than a hundred ships laden with material of war, 19 and shattered them with such terrible loss as to produce the effect of a naval defeat and make it appear as if Lucullus, by some compact with the waves and storms, had handed over the king to the wind to be defeated. 20 All the resources of his powerful kingdom were now exhausted, but his misfortunes only served to raise his spirit. 21 Turning, therefore, to the neighbouring peoples he involved almost the whole of the East and the North in his ruin. The Iberians,​a1 the Caspians, the Albanians,​a2 and both the Armenian peoples​3 were rallied to his cause, Fortune thus seeking fresh opportunities to win honour, fame and new titles of glory for her favourite Pompeius. 22 He, seeing that fresh flames of rebellion were being kindled in Asia  p187 and that one king after another was rising, considered that he ought not to delay, and before the nations could consolidate their strength, built a bridge of boats over the Euphrates, and was the first to cross that river by this means, and coming up with the king as he was fleeing through the middle of Armenia, defeated him, with his usual good luck, in a single battle. 23 The engagement took place at night, and the moon took sides in it; for when the goddess, as if fighting on Pompeius' side, had placed herself behind the enemy and fa­cing the Romans, the men of Pontus aimed at their own unusually long shadows, thinking that they were the bodies of their foes. 24 That night saw the final defeat of Mithridates; for he never again effected anything, although, like a snake, which, though its head is crushed, threatens to the last with its tail, he tried every expedient. 25 For, after escaping from the enemy to the Colchians, he formed a plan (though it remained only a plan) of bridging the Bosporus and then crossing through Thrace, Macedonia and Greece and making a sudden inroad in Italy; 26 but, baulked by the desertion of his subjects and the treachery of his son Pharnaces, he ended by the sword a life which he had in vain tried to destroy with poison.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 27 Meanwhile Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, pursuing the remnants of rebellious Asia, was hastening through nations and lands lying far apart. Following the Armenians eastward he captured Artaxata, the very capital of that race, and bade Tigranes, who implored his pardon, retain his kingdom. 28 To the North, following the route to Scythia by the stars, as sailors steer at sea, he defeated the Colchians, pardoned the Iberians, and spared the Albanians.  p189 Having pitched his camp at the very foot of the Caucasus, he ordered their king, Orodes, to descend into the plain, while he commanded Arthoces, who was ruler of the Iberians, to hand over his children as hostages; he even rewarded Orodes, who actually sent a golden bed and other gifts from his kingdom of Albania. 29 Furthermore, turning his army southwards, he passed through the Lebanon in Syria and through Damascus, and bore the Roman standards through the famous scented groves and woods of frankincense and balm. He found the Arabs ready to carry out any orders which he might give. 30 The Jews attempted to defend Jerusalem; but this also he entered and saw the great secret of that impious nation laid open to view, the heavens beneath a golden vine.​4 Being appointed arbitrator between the two brothers who were disputing the throne, he decided in favour of Hyrcanus and threw Aristobulus into prison, because he was seeking to restore his power. 31 Thus the Roman people, under the leader­ship of Pompeius, traversed the whole of Asia in its widest extent and made what had been the furthest province into a central province;​5 for with the exception of the Parthians, who preferred to make a treaty, and the Indians, who as yet knew nothing of us, all Asia between the Red and Caspian Seas and the Ocean was in our power, conquered or overawed by the arms of Pompeius.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The meaning apparently is that the Pontus (Black Sea) was regarded as lying to the left of ships sailing to Asia.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Polyb. V.43.2 says "Mithridates boasted that he was a descendant of one of the seven Persians who destroyed the Magus" (see Herod. III.61), "and that he had received from his forefathers in direct succession the dominion along the Black Sea originally bestowed upon them by Darius."

[decorative delimiter]

3 i.e. Greater and Lesser Armenia.

[decorative delimiter]

4 That is, the image of the God of the Sky (Jehovah); cf. Juvenal, VI.545: interpres legum Solymarum et magna sacerdos|arboris ac summi fida internuntia caeli: see also Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l'art dans l'antiq., II, fig. 8, 235.

[decorative delimiter]

5 i.e. brought under Roman rule territory beyond the province of Asia.

Thayer's Note:

a1 a2 Not the Iberians of Spain, but those, unrelated, of the Asian Iberia (see in some detail Strabo, XI.3); not the modern people called Albanians, who did not yet exist, but the Caucasian Albanians, an ancient people who lived in what is now Azerbaijan (Strabo, XI.4). The general geographical setting, with Albania and Iberia mentioned together, is given by Strabo in the passage leading up to those, XI.2.15.

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Page updated: 13 Apr 18