Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Care to express an opinion on a current or past historical event?

Need to ask a question from our many visitors?

Just visit our Forum and leave your message.


Weekly Poll


The History Of Pontus
Book: Chapter I.
Author: Rollins, Charles
Date: 1731

Section I, Part II.

The Romans, seized with dread, kept close within their intrenchments.
Sylla, not being able by his discourse and remonstrances to remove their fear,
and not being willing to force them to fight in their present discouragement,
was obliged to lie still, and suffer, though with great impatience, the
bravadoes and insulting derision of the barbarians. They conceived so great a
contempt for him in consequence, that they neglected to observe any
discipline. Few of them kept within their intrenchments; the rest, for the
sake of plunder, dispersed in great troops, and removed considerably, and even
several days' journey, from the camp. They plundered and ruined some cities
in the neighborhood.

Sylla was in the last despair when he saw the cities of the allies
destroyed before his eyes, for want of power to make his army fight. He at
last thought of a stratagem, which was to give the troops no repose, and to
keep them incessantly at work in turning the little river Cephisus, which was
near his camp, and in digging deep and large fosses, under pretence of their
better security; but with the design, that when they should be tired of such
great fatigues, they might prefer the hazard of a battle to the continuance of
their labor. His stratagem was successful. After having worked without
intermission three days, as Sylla, according to custom, was taking a view of
their progress, they cried out to him with one voice, to lead them against the
enemy. Sylla suffered himself to be exceedingly entreated, and did not comply
for some time: but when he saw their ardor increase from this opposition, he
made them stand to their arms, and marched against the enemy.

The battle was fought near Cheronaea. The enemy had possessed
themselves, with a great body of troops, of a very advantageous post, called
Thurium: it was the ridge of a steep mountain, which extended itself upon the
left flank of the Romans, and was well calculated to check their motions. Two
men of Cheronaea came to Sylla, and promised him to drive the enemy from his
post, if he would give them a small number of chosen troops, which he did. In
the mean time he drew up his army in order of battle, divided his horse
between the two wings, taking the right himself, and giving the left to
Murena. Galba and Hortensius formed a second line. Hortensius, on the left of
it, supported Murena; while Galba, on the right, did the same for Sylla. The
barbarians had already begun to extend their horse and light-armed foot, in a
large compass, with the design of surrounding the second line, and charging it
in the rear.

At that instant, the two men of Cheronaea having gained the top of
Thurium, with their small troops, without being perceived by the enemy, showed
themselves on a sudden. The barbarians, surprised and terrified, immediately
took to flight. Pressing against each other upon the declivity of the
mountain, they ran precipitately down it before the enemy, who charged and
pursued them closely down the hill; so that about three thousand men were
killed upon the mountain. Of those that escaped, some fell into the hands of
Murena, who had just before formed himself in battle. Having marched against
them, he intercepted, and made a great slaughter of them: the rest, who
endeavored to regain their camp, fell back on the main body of their troops
with so much precipitation, that they threw the whole army into terror and
confusion, and made their generals lose much time in restoring order, which
was one of the principal causes of their defeat.

Sylla, to take advantage of this disorder, marched against them with so
much vigor, and passed the space between the two armies with such rapidity,
that he prevented the effect of their chariots armed with scythes. The force
of these chariots depended upon the length of their course, which gave
impetuosity and violence to their motion; instead of which, a short space,
that did not leave room for their career, rendered them useless and
ineffectual, as the barbarians experienced at this time. The first chariots
came on so slowly, and with so little effect, that the Romans easily pushed
them back, and with great noise and loud laughter called for more, as was
customary at Rome in the chariot-races of the circus.

After those chariots were removed, the two armies came to blows. The
barbarians presented their long pikes, and kept close order with their
bucklers joined, so that they could not be broken; and the Romans threw down
their javelins, and, with sword in hand, removed the enemies' pikes, in order
to join and charge them with great fury. What increased their animosity was
the sight of fifteen thousand slaves, whom the king's generals had withdrawn
from them by the promise of their liberty, and posted among the heavy-armed
foot. Those slaves had so much resolution and bravery, that they sustained
the shock of the Roman foot without giving way. Their battle was so deep and
well closed, that the Romans could neither break nor move them, till the
light-armed foot of the second line had thrown them into disorder, by the
discharge of their arrows, and of stones from their slings, which forced them
to give ground.

Archelaus having made his right wing advance to surround the left of the
Romans, Hortensius led on the troops under his command to take him in flank;
which Archelaus seeing, he ordered two thousand horse to wheel about.
Hortensius, upon the point of being overpowered by that great body of horse,
retired by degrees towards the mountains, perceiving himself too far from the
main body, and upon the point of being surrounded by the enemy. Sylla, with
great part of his right wing that had not yet engaged, marched to his relief.
From the dust raised by those troops, Archelaus judged what they were, and
leaving Hortensius, he turned about towards the place Sylla had quitted, in
hopes he should find no difficulty in defeating the right wing without its

Taxiles at the same time led on his foot, armed with brazen shields,
against Murena; while each side raised great cries which made the neighboring
hills resound. Sylla halted on that noise, not knowing well to which side he
should hasten. At length he thought it most expedient to return to his former
post, and support his right wing. He therefore sent Hortensius to assist
Murena with four cohorts, and taking the fifth with him, he flew to his right
wing, which he found engaged in battle with Archelaus, neither side having the
advantage. But as soon as he appeared, that wing, taking new courage from the
presence of their general, opened their way through the troops of Archelaus,
put them to flight, and pursued them vigorously for a considerable time.

After this great success, without losing a moment, he marched to the aid
of Murena. Finding him also victorious, and that he had defeated Taxiles, he
joined him in the pursuit of the vanquished. A great number of the barbarians
were killed in the plain, and a much greater cut to pieces in endeavoring to
gain their camp; so that, of many thousand men, only ten thousand escaped, who
fled to the city of Chalcis. Sylla wrote in his memoirs, that only fourteen
of his men were missing, and that two of them returned the same evening.

To celebrate so great a victory, he gave the music-games at Thebes, and
caused judges to come from the neighboring Grecian cities to distribute the
prizes; for he had an implacable aversion to the Thebans. He even deprived
them of half their territory, which he consecrated to Apollo Pythius, and
Jupiter Olympus; and decreed, that the money he had taken out of the temples
of those gods should be repaid out of their revenues. ^755

[Footnote 755: A. M. 3819. Ant. J. C. 85.]

These games were no sooner over, than he received advice, that L.
Valerius Flaccus, of the adverse party (for, at this time, the divisions
between Marius and Sylla were at the highest) had been elected consul, and had
already crossed the Ionian sea with an army, in appearance against
Mithridates, but in reality against himself. For this reason he began his
march to Thessaly, as with design to meet him. But on his arrival at the city
of Melitea, in Thessaly, news came to him from all sides, that all the places
he had left in his rear were plundered by another of the king's armies,
stronger and more numerous than the first: for Dorylaus had arrived at Chalcis
with a great fleet, on board of which were eighty thousand men, the best
equipped, the most warlike, and best discipline of all the troops of
Mithridates, and thrown himself into Boeotia, and possessed himself of the
whole country, in order to bring Sylla to a battle. Archelaus would have
diverted him from that design, by giving him an exact account of the battle he
had so lately lost; but his counsel and remonstrances had no effect. He soon
knew that the advice he had given him was highly reasonable and judicious.

He chose the plain of Orchomenos for the field of battle. Sylla caused
fosses to be dug on each side of the plain, to deprive the enemy of the
advantage of an open country, and to remove them towards the marshes. The
barbarians fell furiously on the workmen, dispersed them, and put to flight
the troops that supported them. Sylla, seeing his army flying in this manner,
quitted his horse immediately, and seizing one of his ensigns, he pushed
forward towards the enemy through those that fled, crying to them, "For me,
Romans, I think it glorious to die here. But for you, when you shall be asked
where you abandoned your general, remember to say, it was at Orchomenos." They
could not suffer those reproaches, and returned to the charge with such fury
that the troops of Archelaus turned their backs. The barbarians came on again
in better order than before, and were again repulsed with greater loss.

The next day at sunrise, Sylla led back his troops towards the enemy's
camp, to continue his trenches, and falling upon those who were detached to
skirmish and drive away the workmen, he charged them so furiously, that he put
them to flight. These threw the troops who had continued in the camp, into
such terror, that they were afraid to stay to defend it. Sylla entered it
with those that fled, and made himself master of it. The marshes in a moment
were dyed with blood, and the dike filled with dead bodies. The enemies, in
different attacks, lost the greater part of their troops; Archelaus continued
a great while hid in the marshes, and escaped at last to Chalcis.

The news of all these defeats threw Mithridates into great consternation.
However, as that prince was by nature fruitful in resources, he did not lose
courage, and applied himself to repair his losses by making new levies. But
from the fear that his ill success might give birth to some revolt or
conspiracy against his person, as had already happened, he took the bloody
precaution of putting all whom he suspected to death, without sparing even his
best friends.

He was not more successful in Asia then his generals had been in Greece.
Fimbria, who commanded a Roman army there, beat the remainder of his best
troops. He pursued the vanquished as far as the gates of Pergamus, where
Mithridates resided, and obliged him to quit that place himself, and retire to
Pitane, a maritime place of Troas. Fimbria pursued him thither, and invested
him by land. But as he had no fleet to do the same by sea, he sent to
Lucullus, who cruised in the neighboring seas with the Roman fleet, and
represented to him that he might acquire immortal glory by seizing the person
of Mithridates, who could not escape him, and by putting an end to so
important a war. Fimbria and Lucullus were of two different factions. The
latter would not be concerned in the affairs of the other. So that
Mithridates escaped by sea to Mitylene, and extricated himself out of the
hands of the Romans. This fault cost them very dear, and is not extraordinary
in states where misunderstandings subsist between the ministers and the
generals of the army, which make them neglect the public good, lest they
should contribute to the glory of their rivals. ^756

[Footnote 756: Plut. in Sylla, pp. 466-468. Id. in Lucul. p. 593. Appian.
pp. 204-210.]

Lucullus afterwards beat Mithridates at sea twice, and gained two great
victories over him. This happy success was the more surprising, as it was not
expected from Lucullus to distinguish himself by military exploits. He had
passed his youth in the studies of the bar; and during his being quaestor in
Asia, the province had always enjoyed peace. But so happy a genius as his did
not want to be taught by experience, what is not to be acquired by lessons,
and is generally the growth of many years. He supplied that defect in some
measure, by employing the whole time of his journey, by land and sea, partly
in asking questions of persons experienced in the art of war, and partly in
instructing himself by the reading of history; so that he arrived in Asia a
complete general, though he left Rome with only a moderate knowledge in the
art of war. ^757

[Footnote 757: Ad Mithridaticum bellum missus a senatu, non modo opinionem
vicit omnium quae de virtute ejus erat, sed etiam gloriam superiorum. Idque eo
fuit mirabilius, quod ab eo laus imperatoria non expectabatur, qui
adolescentiam in forensi opera, quaestrurae diuturnum tempus, Murena bellum in
Ponto gerente, in Asiae pace consumpserat. Sed incredibilis quaedam ingenii
magnitudo non desideravit indocilem usus disciplinam. Itaque, cum totum iter
et navigationem consumpsisset, partim in percontando a peritis, partim in
rebus gestis legendis; in Asiam factus imperator venit, cum esset Roma
profectus rei militaris rudis. - Cic. Acad. Quaest. l. iv. n. 2.]

While Sylla was very successful in Greece, the faction that opposed him,
and at that time engrossed all power at Rome, had declared him an enemy to the
commonwealth. Cinna and Carbo treated the noblest and most considerable
persons with every kind of cruelty and injustice. Most of these, to avoid
this insupportable tyranny, had chosen to retire to Sylla's camp, as a place
of safety; so that in a short time Sylla had a little senate about him. His
wife Metella, having escaped with great difficulty with her children, brought
him an account that his enemies had burned his house and ruined his lands; and
begged him to depart immediately to the relief of those who remained in Rome,
and were upon the point of being made victims of the same fury.

Sylla was in the greatest perplexity. On the one side, the miserable
condition to which his country was reduced, inclined him to march directly to
its relief; on the other, he could not resolve to leave imperfect so great and
important an affair as the war with Mithridates. While he was in this cruel
dilemma, a merchant came to him, to treat with him in secret from Archelaus,
and to make him some proposals of an accommodation. He was so exceedingly
rejoiced when this man had explained his commission, that he made all possible
haste to have a conference with that general.

They had an interview upon the banks of the sea, near the little city of
Delium. Archelaus, who did not know how important it was to Sylla to have it
in his power to repass into Italy, proposed to him the uniting his interest
with that of Mithridates; and added, that his master would supply him with
money, troops, and ships, for a war against the faction of Cinna and Marius.

Sylla, without seeming offended at first with such proposals, exhorted
him, on his side, to withdraw himself from the slavery in which he lived,
under an imperious and cruel prince. He added, that he might take upon him
the title of king in his government, and offered to have him declared the ally
and friend of the Roman people, if he would deliver up to him the fleet of
Mithridates under his command. Archelaus rejected that proposal with
indignation, and even expressed to the Roman general, how much he thought
himself injured by the supposition of his being capable of such a treason.
Upon which Sylla, assuming the air of grandeur and dignity so natural to the
Romans, said to him: "If, being only a slave, and at best but an officer of a
barbarian king, you look upon it as a baseness to quit the service of your
master, how dare you to propose the abandoning the interests of the republic
to such a Roman as me? Do you imagine our condition and affairs to be equal?
Have you forgot my victories? Do you not remember that you are the self-same
Archelaus whom I have defeated in two battles, and forced in the last to hide
himself in the marshes of Orchomenos?"

Archelaus, confounded by so haughty an answer, sustained himself no
longer in the sequel of the negotiation. Sylla got the ascendant entirely;
and, dictating the law as victor, proposed the following conditions: "That
Mithridates should renounce Asia and Paphlagonia: That he should restore
Bithynia to Nicomedes, and Cappadocia to Ariobarzanes: that he should pay the
Romans two thousand talents for the expenses of the war, and furnish him
seventy armed galleys, with their whole equipage: and that Sylla, on his side,
should secure to Mithridates the rest of his dominions, and cause him to be
declared the friend and ally of the Roman people." Archelaus seemed to approve
those conditions; and despatched a courier immediately to communicate them to
Mithridates. Sylla set out for the Hellespont, carrying Archelaus with him,
whom he treated with great honors.

He received the ambassadors of Mithridates at Larissa, who came to
declare to him, that their master accepted and ratified all the other
articles, but that he desired he would not deprive him of Paphlagonia; and
that as to the seventy galleys, he could by no means comply with that article.
Sylla, offended at this refusal, answered them in an angry tone: "What say
you? Would Mithridates keep possession of Paphlagonia; and does he refuse me
the galleys I demanded? I expected to have seen him return me thanks upon his
knees, for having only left him the hand with which he butchered a hundred
thousand Romans. He will change his note when I go over to Asia; though at
present, in the midst of his court at Pergamus, he meditates plans for a war
he never saw." Such was the lofty style of Sylla, who gave Mithridates to
understand at the same time, that he would not use such language, had he been
present at the past battles.

The ambassadors, terrified with this answer, made no reply. Archelaus
endeavored to soften Sylla, and promise him that Mithridates should consent to
all the articles. He set out for that purpose; and Sylla, after having laid
waste the country, returned into Macedonia.

Archelaus, upon his return, joined him at the city of Philippi, and
informed him that Mithridates would accept the proposed conditions; but that
he exceedingly desired to have a conference with him. What made him earnest
for this interview was his fear of Fimbria, who having killed Flaccus, of whom
mention has been made before, and put himself at the head of that consul's
army, advanced by great marches against Mithridates; which determined that
prince to make peace with Sylla. They had an interview at Dardania, a city of
Troas. Mithridates had with him two hundred galleys, twenty thousand foot,
six thousand horse, and a great number of chariots armed with scythes; and
Sylla had only four cohorts, and two hundred horse in his company. When
Mithridates advanced to meet him, and offered him his hand, Sylla asked him,
whether he accepted the proposed conditions? As the king kept silence, Sylla
continued, "Do you not know, Mithridates, that it is for supplicants to speak
and for the victorious to hear and be silent?" Upon this Mithridates began a
long apology, endeavoring to ascribe the cause of the war partly to the gods,
and partly to the Romans. Sylla interrupted him; and after having made a long
detail of the violences and inhumanities he had committed, he demanded of him
a second time, whether he would ratify the conditions Archelaus had laid
before him. Mithridates, surprised at the haughtiness and steady air of the
Roman general, having answered in the affirmative, Sylla then received his
embraces, and afterwards presenting the kings Ariobarzanes and Nicomedes to
him, he reconciled them to each other. Mithridates, after the delivery of the
seventy galleys entirely equipped, and five hundred archers, re-embarked. ^758

[Footnote 758: A. M. 3920. Ant. J. C. 84.]

Sylla saw plainly, that this treaty of peace was highly disagreeable to
his troops. They could not bear that a prince, who of all kings was the most
mortal enemy to Rome, and who in one day had caused one hundred thousand Roman
citizens, dispersed in Asia, to be put to the sword, should be treated with so
much favor, and even honor, and declared the friend and ally of the Romans,
still reeking with their blood. Sylla, to justify his conduct, gave them to
understand, that if he had rejected his proposals of peace, Mithridates, on
his refusal, would not have failed to treat with Fimbria: and that if those
two enemies had joined their forces, they would have obliged him either to
abandon his conquests, or hazard a battle against troops superior in number,
under the command of two great captains, who in one day might have deprived
him of the fruits of all his victories.

Thus ended the first war with Mithridates, which had lasted four years,
and in which Sylla had destroyed more than one hundred and sixty thousand of
the enemy; recovered Greece, Macedonia, Ionia, Asia, and many other provinces,
of which Mithridates had possessed himself; and having deprived him of a great
part of his fleet, obliged him to confine himself within the bounds of his
hereditary dominions. But what is most to be admired in Sylla, is, that
during three years, while the factions of Marius and Cinna had enslaved Italy,
he did not dissemble his intentions, of turning his arms against them, and yet
continued the war he had begun, convinced that it was necessary to conquer the
foreign enemy, before he reduced and punished those at home. ^759! He was
also highly laudable for his constancy, in not hearkening to any proposals
from Mithridates, who offered him considerable aid against his enemies, till
that prince had accepted the conditions of peace prescribed to him.

[Footnote 759: Vix quidquam in Syllae operibus clarius duxerim, quam quod, cum
per triennium Cinnanae Marianaeque partes Italiam obsiderent, neque illaturum
se bellum iis dissimulavit, nec quod erat in manibus omisit existimavitque
ante frangendum hostem, quam ulciscendum civem; repulsoque externo metu, ubi
quod alienum esset vicisset, superaret quod erat domesticum. - Vell. Paterc.
l. ii. c. 24.]

Some days after, Sylla began his march against Fimbria, who was encamped
under the walls of Thyatira in Lydia, and having marked out a camp near his,
he began his intrenchments. Fimbria's soldiers, who came unarmed, ran out to
salute and embrace those of Sylla, and assisted them with great pleasure in
forming their lines. Fimbria seeing this change in his troops, and fearing
Sylla as an irreconcilable enemy, from whom he could expect no mercy, after
having in vain attempted to get him assassinated, killed himself.

Sylla condemned Asia in general to pay twenty thousand talents, and
besides that, injured individuals exceedingly, by abandoning their houses to
the insolence and rapaciousness of his troops, whom he quartered upon them,
and who lived at discretion as in conquered cities. For he gave orders that
every host should pay each soldier quartered upon him four drachmas a day, and
entertain at table, himself, and as many of his friends as he should think fit
to invite; that each captain should have fifty drachmas, and besides that, a
robe for the house, and another when he went abroad.

After having punished Asia, he set out from Ephesus with all his ships,
and arrived the third day at Piraeus. Having been initiated in the great
mysteries, he took for his own use the library of Apellicon, in which were the
works of Aristotle. That philosopher at his death had left his writings to
Theophrates, one of his most illustrious disciples. The latter had
transferred them to Neleus of Scepsis, a city in the neighborhood of Pergamus
in Asia; after whose death, those works fell into the hands of his heirs,
ignorant persons, who kept them shut up in a chest. When the kings of
Pergamus began to collect industriously all sorts of books for their library,
as the city of Scepsis was in their dependence, those heirs, apprehending that
these works would be taken from them, thought proper to hide them in a vault
under ground, where they remained almost one hundred and thirty years; till
the heirs of Neleus's family, which after several generations, were fallen
into extreme poverty, brought them out to sell them to Apellicon, a rich
Athenian, sought everywhere for the most curious books for his library. As
they were very much damaged by the length of time, and the damp place where
they had lain, Apellicon had copies immediately taken of them, in which there
were many chasms; because the originals were either rotten in many places or
worm-eaten and obliterated. Those blanks, words, and letters, were filled up
as well as they could be by conjecture, and in some places with great want of
judgment. From hence arose the many difficulties in these works, which have
ever since divided the learned world. Apellicon having died a short time
before Sylla's arrival at Athens, he seized upon his library, and with these
works of Aristotle, which he found in it, enriched his own at Rome. A famous
grammarian of those times named Tyrannion, who lived then at Rome, having a
great desire for these works of Aristotle, obtained permission from Sylla's
librarian to take a copy of them. That copy was communicated to Andronicus
the Rhodian, who afterwards imparted it to the public, and to whom the world
is indebted for the works of that great philosopher. ^760

[Footnote 760: Plut. in Sylla, p. 468. Strab. l. xiii. p. 609. Athen. l.
vii. p. 214. Laert. in Theoph.]


Home Page

World History Center