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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





The Mithridatic And Civil Wars








There reigned at this time in Pontus, the northeastern State of Asia
Minor, bordered on the south by Cappadocia, on the east by Armenia, and
the north by the Euxine, a powerful prince, Mithridates VI., surnamed
Eupator, who traced an unbroken lineage to Darius, the son of the
Hystaspes, and also to the Seleucidae. He was a great eastern hero, whose
deeds excited the admiration of his age. He could, on foot, overtake the
swiftest deer; he accomplished journeys on horseback of one hundred and
twenty miles a day; he drove sixteen horses in hand at the chariot races;
he never missed his aim in hunting; he drank his boon companions under the
table; he had as many mistresses as Solomon; he was fond of music and
poetry; he collected precious works of art; he had philosophers and poets
in his train; he was the greatest jester and wit of his court. His
activity was boundless; he learned the antidotes for all poisons; he
administered justice in twenty-two languages; and yet he was coarse,
tyrannical, cruel, superstitious, and unscrupulous. Such was this
extraordinary man who led the great reaction of the Asiatics against the
Occidentals.

The resources of this Oriental king were immense, since he bore
rule over the shores of the Euxine to the interior of Asia Minor. His
field for recruits to his armies stretched from the mouth of the Danube to
the Caspian Sea. Thracians, Scythians, Colchians, Iberians, crowded under
his banners. When he marched into Cappadocia, he had six hundred scythed
chariots, ten thousand horse, and eighty thousand foot. A series of
aggressions and conquests made this monarch the greatest and most
formidable Eastern foe the Romans ever encountered. The Romans, engrossed
with the war with the Cimbri and the insurrection of their Italian
subjects, allowed his empire to be silently aggrandized.

The Roman Senate, at last, disturbed and jealous, sent Lucius Sulla
to Cappadocia with a handful of troops to defend its interests. On his
return, Mithridates continued his aggressions, and formed an alliance with
his father-in-law, Tigranes, king of Armenia, but avoided a direct
encounter with the great Occidental power which had conquered the world.
Things continued for awhile between war and peace, but, at last, it was
evident that only war could prevent the aggrandizement of Mithridates, and
it was resolved upon by the Romans.

The king of Pontus made immense preparations to resist his powerful
enemies. He strengthened his alliance with Tigranes. He made overtures to
the Greek cities. He attempted to excite a revolt in Thrace, in Numidia,
and in Syria. He encouraged pirates on the Mediterranean. He organized a
foreign corps after the Roman fashion, and took the field with two hundred
and fifty thousand infantry and forty thousand cavalry--the largest army
seen since the Persian wars. He then occupied Asia Minor, and the Roman
generals retreated as he advanced. He made Ephesus his head-quarters, and
issued orders to all the governors dependent upon him to massacre, on the
same day, all Italians, free or enslaved--men, women, and children, found
in their cities. One hundred and fifty thousand were thus barbarously
slaughtered in one day. The States of Cappadocia, Sinope, Phrygia, and
Bithynia were organized as Pontic satrapies. The confiscation of the
property of the murdered Italians replenished his treasury, as well as the
contributions of Asia Minor. He not only occupied the Asiatic provinces of
the Romans, but meditated the invasion of Europe. Thrace and Macedonia
were occupied by his armies, and his fleet appeared in the AEgean Sea.
Delos, the emporium of Roman commerce, was taken, and twenty thousand
Italians massacred. Most of the small free States of Greece entered into
alliance with him--the Achaeans, Laconians, and Boeotians. So commanding was
his position, that an embassy of Italian insurgents invited him to land in
Italy.

The position of the Roman government was critical. Asia Minor, Hellas, and
Macedonia were in the hands of Mithridates, while his fleet sailed without
a rival. The Italian insurrection was not subdued, and political parties
divided the capital.

At this crisis Sulla landed on the coast of Epirus, but with an
army of only thirty thousand men, and without a single vessel of war. He
landed with an empty military chest. But he was a second Alexander--the
greatest general that Rome had yet produced. He soon made himself master
of Greece, with the exception of the fortresses of Athens and the Piraeus,
into which the generals of Mithridates had thrown themselves. He
intrenched himself at Eleusis and Megara, from which he commanded Greece
and the Peloponnesus, and commenced the siege of Athena. This was attended
with great difficulties, and the city only fell, after a protracted
defense, when provisions were exhausted. The conqueror, after allowing his
soldiers to pillage the city, gave back her liberties, in honor of her
illustrious dead.

But a year was wasted, and without ships it was impossible for
Sulla to secure his communications. He sent one of his best officers,
Lucullus, to Alexandria, to raise a fleet, but the Egyptian court evaded
the request. To add to his embarrassments, the Roman general was without
money, although he had rifled the treasures which still remained in the
Grecian temples. Moreover, what was still more serious, a revolution at
Rome overturned his work, and he had been deposed, and his Asiatic command
given to M. Valerius Flaccus.

Sulla was unexpectedly relieved by the resolution of Mithridates to carry
on the offensive in Greece. Taxiles, one of the lieutenants of the Pontic
king, was sent to combat Sulla with an army of one hundred thousand
infantry and ten thousand cavalry.

Then was fought the battle of Chaeronea, B.C. 86, against the advice
of Archelaus, in which the Romans were the victors. But Sulla could not
reap the fruits of victory without a fleet, since the sea was covered with
Pontic ships. In the following year a second army was sent into Greece by
Mithridates, and the Romans and Asiatics met once more in the plain of the
Cephissus, near Orchomenus. The Romans were the victors, who speedily
cleared the European continent of its eastern invaders. At the end of the
third year of the war, Sulla took up his winter quarters in Thessaly, and
commenced to build ships.

Meanwhile a reaction against Mithridates took place in Asia Minor.
His rule was found to be more oppressive than that of the Romans. The
great mercantile cities of Smyrna, Colophon, Ephesus, and Sardis were in
revolt, and closed their gates against his governors. The Hellenic cities
of Asia Minor had hoped to gain civil independence and a remission of
taxes, and were disappointed. And those cities which were supposed to be
secretly in favor of the Romans were heavily fined. The Chians were
compelled to pay two thousand talents. Great cruelties were also added to
fines and confiscations. Lucullus, unable to obtain the help of an
Alexandrian fleet, was more fortunate in the Syrian ports, and soon was
able to commence offensive operations. Flaccus, too, had arrived with a
Roman army, but this incapable general was put to death by a mob-orator,
Fimbria, more able than he, who defeated a Pontic army at Miletopolis. The
situation of Mithridates then became perilous. Europe was lost; Asia Minor
was in rebellion; and Roman armies were pressing upon him.

He therefore negotiated for peace. Sulla required the restoration
of all the conquests he had made: Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Galatia,
Bithynia, the Hellenic cities, the islands of the sea, and a contribution
of three thousand talents. These conditions were not accepted, and Sulla
proceeded to Asia, upon which Mithridates reluctantly acceded to his
terms.

Sulla then turned against Fimbria, who commanded the Roman army
sent to supplant him, which, as was to be expected, deserted to his
standard. Fimbria fled to Pergamus, and fell on his own sword. Sulla
intrusted the two legions which had been sent from Rome under Flaccus to
the command of his best officer, Murena, and turned his attention to
arrange the affairs of Asia. He levied contributions to the amount of
twenty thousand talents, reduced Mithridates to the rank of a client king,
richly compensated his soldiers, and embarked for Italy, leaving Lucullus
behind to collect the contributions.

Thus was the Mithridatic war ended by the genius of a Roman
general, who had no equal in Roman history, with the exception of Pompey
and Julius Caesar. He had distinguished himself in Africa, in Spain, in
Italy, and in Greece. He had defeated the barbarians of the West, the old
Italian foes of Rome, and the armies of the most powerful Oriental monarch
since the fall of Persia. He had triumphed over Roman factions, and
supplanted the great Marius himself. He was now to contend with one more
able foe, Lucius Cornelius Cinna, who represented the revolutionary forces
which had rallied under the Gracchi and Marius--the democratic elements of
Roman society.

When Sulla embarked for the Mithridatic war, Cinna, supported by a
majority of the College of Tribunes, concerted a reaction against the rule
which Sulla had re-established--the rule of the aristocracy. But Cinna, a
mere tool of the revolutionary party,--a man without ability,--was driven
out of the city by the aristocratic party, and outlawed, and L. Cornelia
Mesula was made consul in his stead. The outlaws fled to the camp before
Nola. The Campanian army, democratic and revolutionary, recognized Cinna
as the leader of the republic. Gaius Marius, then an exile in Numidia,
brought six thousand men, whom he had rallied to his standard, to the
disposal of the consul, and was placed by Cinna in supreme command at
Etruria. A storm gathered around the capitol. Cinna was overshadowed by
the greatness of that plebeian general who had defeated the Cimbrians, and
who was bent upon revenge for the mortification and insults he had
received from the Roman aristocracy. Famine and desertion soon made the
city indefensible, and Rome capitulated to an army of her own citizens.

Marius, now master of Rome, entered the city, and a reign of terror
commenced. The gates were closed, and the slaughter of the aristocratic
party commenced. The consul Octavius was the first victim, and with him
the most illustrious of his party. The executioners of Marius fulfilled
his orders, and his revenge was complete. He entered upon a new consulate,
execrated by all the leading citizens. But in the midst of his victories
he was seized with a burning fever, and died in agonies, at the age of
seventy, in the full possession of honor and power. Cinna succeeded him in
the consulship and Rome was under the government of a detested tyrant. For
four years his reign was absolute, and was a reign of terror, during which
the senators were struck down, as the French nobles were in the time of
Robespierre. Cinna, like Robespierre, reigned with the mightiest plenitude
of power, united with incapacity.

In this state of anarchy Sulla's wife and children escaped with
difficulty, and Sulla himself was deprived of his command against
Mithridates. But Cinna, B.C. 84, was killed in a mutiny, and the command
of the revolutionists devolved on Carbo. The situation of Sulla was
critical, even at the head of his veteran forces. In the spring of the
year following the death of Cinna, he landed in Brundusium, where he was
re-enforced by partisans and deserters. The Senate made advances to Sulla,
and many patricians joined his ranks, including Cneius Pompeius, then
twenty-three years of age.

Civil war was now inaugurated between Sulla and the revolutionary
party, at the head of which were now the consul Carbo and the younger
Marius. Carbo was charged with Upper Italy, while Marius guarded Rome at
the fortress of Praeneste. At Sacriportus Sulla defeated Marius, and
entered Rome. But the insurgent Italians united with the revolutionary
forces of Rome, and seventy thousand Samnites and Lucanians approached the
capital. At the Colline gate a battle was fought, in which Sulla was
victorious. This ended the Social war, and the subjugation of the
revolutionists soon followed.

Sulla was now made dictator, and the ten years of revolution and
insurrection were at an end in both West and East. The first use which
Sulla made of his absolute power was to outlaw all his enemies. Lists of
the proscribed were posted at Rome and in the Italian cities. It was a
fearful visitation. A second reign of terror took place, more fearful and
systematic than that of Marius. Four thousand seven hundred persons were
slaughtered, among whom were forty senators, and one thousand six hundred
equites.

The next year Sulla celebrated his magnificent triumph over
Mithridates, and was saluted by the name of Felix. The despotism at which
the Gracchi were accused of aiming was introduced by a military conqueror,
aided by the aristocracy.

Sulla then devoted himself to the reorganization of the State. He
conferred citizenship upon all the Italians but freedmen, and bestowed the
sequestered estates of those who had taken side against him or his
soldiers. The office of judices was restored to the Senate, and the
equites were deprived of their separate seats at festivals. The Senate was
restored to its ancient dignity and power, and three hundred new members
appointed. The number of praetors was increased to eight. The government
still rested on the basis of popular election, but was made more
aristocratic than before. The Comitia Centuriata was left in possession of
the nominal power of legislation, but it could only be exercised upon the
initiation of a decree of the Senate. The Comitia Tributa was stripped of
the powers by which it had so long controlled the Senate and the State.
Tribunes of the people were selected from the Senate. The College of
Pontiffs was no longer filled by popular election, but by the choice of
their own members. A new criminal code was made, and the several courts
were presided over by the praetors. Such, in substance, were the Cornelian
laws to restore the old powers of the aristocracy.

Having effected this labor, Sulla, in the plenitude of power,
retired into private life. He retired, not like Charles V., wearied of the
toils of war, and disgusted with the vanity of glory and fame, nor like
Washington, from lofty patriotic motives, but to bury himself in epicurean
pleasures. In the luxury of his Cumaenon villa he divided his time between
hunting and fishing, and the enjoyments of literature, until, worn out
with sensuality, he died in his sixtieth year, B.C. 78. A grand procession
of the Senate he had saved, the equites, the magistrates, the vestal
virgins, and his disbanded soldiers, bore his body to the funeral pyre,
and his ashes were deposited beside the tombs of the kings. A splendid
monument was raised to his memory, on which was inscribed his own epitaph,
that no friend ever did him a kindness, and no enemy a wrong, without
receiving a full requital.





Next: Rome From The Death Of Sulla To The Great Civil Wars Of Caesar And Pompey

Previous: The Revolt Of Italy And The Social War



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