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

Section II.

Second And Third Wars With Mithridates. Tragical End Of His Sister And Wives.

Sylla, on setting out for Rome, had left the government of Asia to
Murena, with the two legions that had served under Fimbria, to keep the
province in obedience. This Murena is the father of him for whom Cicero made
the fine oration which bears his name. His son at this time made his first
campaign under him. ^761

[Footnote 761: A. M. 3921. Ant. J. C. 83. Appian. pp. 213-216.]

After Sylla's departure, Mithridates having returned into Pontus, marched
his army against the people of Colchis and the Bosphorus, who had revolted
against him. They first demanded his son Mithridates for their king, and
having obtained him, immediately returned to their duty. The king imagining
their conduct to proceed from his son's intrigues, took umbrage at it; and
having caused him to come to him, he ordered him to be bound with chains of
gold, and soon after put him to death. That son had done him great service in
the war against Fimbria. We see hero a new instance of the jealousy which an
excessive love of power is apt to excite, and to what a height the prince who
abandons himself to it, is capable of carrying his suspicions against his own
blood; always ready to proceed to the most fatal extremities, and to sacrifice
whatever is dearest to him to the slighest distrust. As for the inhabitants
of the Bosphorus, he prepared a great fleet and a numerous army, which gave
reason to believe his designs were against the Romans. He had not indeed
restored all Cappadocia to Ariobarzanes, but reserved part of it in his own
hands; and he began to suspect Archelaus of having engaged him in a peace
equally shameful and disadvantageous.

When Archelaus perceived it, well knowing the master he had to deal with,
he took refuge with Murena, and solicited him warmly to turn his arms against
Mithridates. Murena, who passionately desired to obtain the honor of a
triumph, suffered himself to be easily persuaded. He made an irruption into
Cappadocia, and made himself master of Comana, the most powerful city of that
kingdom. Mithridates sent ambassadors to him, to complain of his violating
the treaty the Romans had made with him. Murena replied, that he knew of no
treaty made with their master. There was in reality nothing reduced to
writing on Sylla's part, the whole having passed by verbal agreement. He
therefore continued to ravage the country, and took up his winter quarters in
it. Mithridates sent ambassadors to Rome, to make his complaints to Sylla and
the senate.

There came a commissioner from Rome, but without a decree of the senate,
who publicly ordered Murena not to molest the king of Pontus. But as they
conferred together in private, this was looked upon as a mere collusion; and
indeed Murena persisted in ravaging his country. Mithridates therefore took
the field; and having passed the river Halys, gave Murena battle, defeated
him, and obliged him to retire into Phrygia with very great loss. ^762

[Footnote 762: A. M. 3922. Ant. J. C. 82.]

Sylla, who had been appointed dictator, not being able to suffer any
longer that Mithridates, contrary to the treaty he had granted him, should be
disquieted, sent Gabinius to Murena, to order him in reality to desist from
making war with that prince, and to reconcile him with Ariobarzanes. He
obeyed. Mithridates, having put one of his sons of only four years old into
the hands of Ariobarzanes as a hostage, under that pretext retained the cities
in which he had garrisons, promising, no doubt, to restore them in time. He
then gave a feast, in which he proposed prizes for such as should excel in
drinking, eating, singing, and rallying; fit objects of emulation! Gabinius
was the only one who did not think proper to enter these lists. Thus ended
the second war with Mithridates, which lasted only three years. Murena, at
his return to Rome, received the honor of a triumph, to which his pretensions
were but indifferent. ^763

[Footnote 763: A. M. 3923. Ant. J. C. 81.]

Mithridates at length restored Cappadocia to Ariobarzanes, being
compelled to do so by Sylla, who died the same year. ^764 But he contrived a
stratagem to deprive him entirely of it. Tigranes had lately built a great
city in Armenia, which, from his own name, he called Tigranocerta. Mithridates
persuaded his son-in-law to conquer Cappadocia, and to transport the
inhabitants into the new city, and the other parts of his dominions that were
not well peopled. He did so; and took away three hundred thousand souls.
From thenceforth, wherever he carried his victorious arms, he acted in the
same manner, for the better peopling of his dominions.

[Footnote 764: A. M. 3926. Ant. J. C. 78.]

The extraordinary reputation of Sertorious, who had given the Romans
terrible employment in Spain, made Mithridates conceive the thought of sending
an embassy to him, in order to engage him to join forces against the common
enemy. The flatterers, who compared him to Pyrrhus, and Sertorious to
Hannibal, insinuated, that the Romans, attacked at the same time on different
sides, could never be able to oppose two such formidable powers, when the most
able and experienced generals should act in concert with the greatest of
kings. He therefore sent ambassadors to Spain, with letters and instructions
for treating with Sertorious, to whom they offered, in his name, a fleet and
money to carry on the war, upon condition that he would suffer that prince to
recover the provinces of Asia, which the necessity of his affairs had induced
him to abandon by the treaty he had made with Sylla. ^765

[Footnote 765: A. M. 3928. Ant. J. C. 76. Appian. pp. 216, 217. Plut. in
Sertor. pp. 580, 581.]

As soon as those ambassadors arrived in Spain, and had opened their
commission to Sertorious, he assembled his council, which he called the
senate. They were unanimously agreed to accept that prince's offers with joy;
especially as so immediate and effective an aid, as the offered fleet and
money, would cost only a vain consent to an enterprise, which did not in any
manner depend upon him to prevent. But Sertorious, with a truly Roman
greatness of soul, protested, that he would never consent to any treaty
injurious to the glory or interest of his country; and that he could desire no
victory from his own enemies, that was not acquired by just and honorable
means. Having directed the ambassadors of Mithridates to come into the
assembly, he declared to them, that he would suffer their master to keep
Bithynia and Cappadocia, which were accustomed to be governed by kings, and of
which the Romans could pretend to no just right to dispose; but he would never
consent that he should have any footing in Asia Minor, which appertained to
the republic, and which he had renounced by a solemn treaty.

When this answer was related to Mithridates, it struck him with
amazement; and he is affirmed to have said to his friends, "what orders may we
not expect from Sertorious, when he shall sit in the senate in the midst of
Rome, who, even now, confined upon the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, dictates
bounds to our dominions, and declares war against us if we undertake any thing
against Asia?" A treaty was however concluded and sworn between them to this
effect: That Mithridates should have Bithynia and Cappadocia; that Sertorious
should send him troops for that purpose, and one of his captains to command
them; and that Mithridates, on his side, should pay Sertorious three thousand
talents down, and give him forty galleys.

The captain sent by Sertorious into Asia, was a banished senator of Rome,
who had taken refuge with him, named Marcus Marius, to whom Mithridates paid
great honors; for when Marius entered the cities, preceded by the fasces and
axes, Mithridates followed him, well satisfied with the second place, and with
only making the figure of a powerful, but inferior ally, in this proconsul's
company. Such was at that time the Roman greatness, that the name alone of
that potent republic obscured the splendor and power of the greatest kings.
Mithridates, however, found his interest in this conduct. Marius, as
authorized by the Roman people and senate, discharged most of the cities from
paying the exorbitant taxes which Sylla had imposed upon them; expressly
declaring, that it was from Sertorious that they received, and to whom they
were indebted for that favor. So moderate and polite a conduct opened the
gates of the cities to him without the help of arms, and the name of
Sertorious alone made more conquests than all the forces of Mithridates.

Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, died this year, and made the Roman people
his heirs. His country became thereby, as I have observed elsewhere, a
province of the Roman empire. Mithridates immediately formed a resolution to
renew the war against them upon this occasion, and employed the greatest part
of the year in making the necessary preparations for carrying it on with
vigor. He believed, that after the death of Sylla, and during the troubles by
which the republic was agitated, the conjuncture was favorable for re-entering
upon the conquests he had given up. ^766

[Footnote 766: A. M. 3929. Ant. J. C. 75. Appian. de Bello Mithrid. p. 175.]

Instructed by his misfortunes and experience, he banished from his army
all armor adorned with gold and jewels, which he began to consider as the
allurement of the victor, and not as the strength of those who wore them. He
caused swords to be forged after the Roman fashion, with solid and weighty
bucklers; he collected horses, rather well made and broke than magnificently
adorned; assembled one hundred and twenty thousand foot, armed and disciplined
like the Roman infantry, and sixteen thousand horse well equipped for service,
besides one hundred chariots armed with long scythes, and drawn by four
horses. He also fitted out a considerable number of galleys, which glittered
no longer as before, with gilt pavilions, but were filled with all sorts of
arms, offensive and defensive, and well provided with sums of money for the
pay and subsistence of the troops. ^767

[Footnote 767: Plut. in Lucul. p. 496.]

Mithridates had begun by seizing Paphlagonia and Bithynia. The province
of Asia, which found itself exhausted by the exaction of the Roman tax-farmers
and usurers, to deliver themselves from their oppression, declared a second
time for him. Such was the cause of the third Mithridatic war, which
subsisted almost twelve years.

The two consuls, Lucullus and Cotta, were sent with two armies against
him. Lucullus had Asia, Cilicia, and Cappadocia, for his province; the other,
Bithynia and Propontis. ^768

[Footnote 768: A. M. 3930. Ant. J. C. 74.]

While Lucullus was employed in reforming the rapaciousness and violence
of the farmers and usurers, and in reconciling the people of the countries
through which he passed, by giving them good hopes for the time to come,
Cotta, who had already arrived, thought he had a favorable opportunity, in the
absence of his colleague, to signalize himself by some great exploit. He
therefore prepared to give Mithridates battle. The more he was told that
Lucullus approached, that he was already in Phrygia, and would soon arrive,
the greater haste he made to fight; believing himself already assured of a
triumph, and desirous of preventing his colleague from having any share in it;
but he was beaten by sea and land. In the naval battle he lost sixty of his
ships, with their entire complements; and in that by land he lost four
thousand of his best troops, and was obliged to shut himself up in the city of
Chalcedon, with no hope of any other relief but what his colleague should
think fit to give him. All the officers of his army, enraged at Cotta's rash
and presumptuous conduct, endeavored to persuade Lucullus to enter Pontus,
which Mithridates had left without troops, and where he might assure himself
of finding the people inclined to revolt. He answered generously, that he
should always esteem it more glorious to preserve a Roman citizen, than to
possess himself of the whole dominions of an enemy; and, without resentment
against his colleague, he marched to assist him, and met with all the success
he could have hoped. This was the first action by which he distinguished
himself, and which ought to do him more honor than the most splendid

Mithridates, encouraged by the double advantage he had gained, undertook
the siege of Cyzicum, a city of Propontis, which strenuously supported the
Roman party in this war. In making himself master of this place, he would
have opened himself a passage from Bithynia into Asia Minor, which would have
been very advantageous, in giving him an opportunity of carrying the war
thither with all possible ease and security. It was for this reason he
desired to take it. In order to succeed, he invested it by land with three
hundred thousand men, divided into ten camps; and by sea with four hundred
ships. Lucullus soon followed him thither, and began by seizing a post upon
an eminence of the greatest importance to him, because it facilitated his
receiving convoys, and gave him the means of cutting off the enemy's
provisions. He had only thirty thousand foot, and two thousand five hundred
horse. The superiority of the enemy in number, far from dismaying, encouraged
him; for he was convinced, that so innumerable a multitude would soon be in
want of provisions. Hence, in haranguing his troops, he promised them in a few
days a victory that would not cost them a single drop of blood. It was in
that he placed his glory; for the lives of his soldiers were dear to him. ^769

[Footnote 769: A. M. 3931. Ant. J. C. 73. Plut. in Lucul. pp. 497-499.
Appian. pp. 219, 222.]

The siege was long, and carried on with extreme vigor, Mithridates
battered the place on all sides with innumerable machines. The defence was no
less vigorous. The besieged performed prodigies of valor, and employed all
means that the most industrious capacity could invent, to repulse the enemy's
attacks, either by burning their machines, or rendering them useless by a
thousand obstacles opposed to them. What inspired them with so much courage,
was their exceeding confidence in Lucullus, who had let them know, that if
they continued to defend themselves with the same valor, the place would not
be taken.

Lucullus was indeed so well posted, that without coming to a general
action, which he always carefully avoided, he caused the army of Mithridates
to suffer severely by intercepting his convoys, charging his foraging parties
with advantage, and beating the detachments which he sent out from time to
time. In a word, he knew so well how to improve all occasions that offered,
he weakened the army of the besiegers so much, and used such address in
cutting off their provisions, having shut up all avenues by which they might
be supplied, that he reduced them to extreme famine. The soldiers could find
no other food but the herbage; and some were compelled to subsist upon human
flesh. Mithridates, who was esteemed the most artful captain of his times, in
despair that a general who could not have had so much experience, should so
often deceive him by false marches and feigned movements, and had defeated him
without drawing his sword, was at length obliged to raise the siege shamefully
after having spent almost two years before the place. ^770 He fled by sea, and
his lieutenants retired with his army by land, to Nicomedia. Lucullus pursued
them; and having come up with them near the Granicus, he killed twenty
thousand of them upon the spot, and took a great number of prisoners. It was
said, that in this war there perished almost three hundred thousand men,
soldiers and servants, with other followers of the army. ^771

[Footnote 770: Cum totius impetus belli ad Cyzicenorum moenia constitisset,
eamque urbem sibi: Mithridates Asiae januam fore putavisset, qua effracta et
revulsa, tota pateret provincia; perfecta ab Lucullo haec sunt omnia, ut urbs
fidelissimorum sociorum defenderetur, ut omnes copiae regis diuternitate
obsidionis consumerenter. - Cic. in Orat. pro Mur. n. 33.]

[Footnote 771: A. M. 3933. Ant. J. C. 71.]

After this new success, Lucullus returned to Cyzicum, entered the city,
and after having enjoyed for some days the pleasure of having preserved it,
and the honors consequential of that success, he made a rapid tour upon the
coasts of the Hellespont, to collect ships and form a fleet.

Mithridates, after having raised the siege of Cyzicum, returned to
Nicomedia, from whence he passed by sea into Pontus. He left part of his
fleet, and ten thousand of his best troops, in the Hellespont, under three of
his most able generals. Lucullus, with the Roman fleet, beat them twice;
first at Tenedos, and then at Lemnos, when the enemy thought of nothing less
than making sail for Italy, and of alarming and plundering the coasts of Rome
itself. ^772 He killed almost all their men in those two engagements; and in
the last took M. Marius, the Roman senator whom Sertorius had sent from Spain
to the aid of Mithridates. Lucullus ordered him to be put to death, because
it was not consistent with the Roman dignity that a senator of Rome should be
led in triumph. One of the two others poisoned himself; and the third was
reserved for the triumph. After having cleared the coasts by these two
victories, Lucullus turned his arms towards the continent; first reduced
Bithynia, then Paphlagonia, marched afterwards into Pontus, and carried the
war into the heart of the dominions of Mithridates.

[Footnote 772: Ab eodem imp ratore classem magnam et ornatam, quae ducibus
Sertorianis ad Italiam studio inflammato raperetur, superatam esse atque
depressam. - Cic. pro Lege Manil. n. 21.

Quid? Illam pugnam navalem ad Tenedum, cum tanto concursu, acerrimis
ducibus, hostium classis Italiam spe atque animis inflata peteret, mediocri
certamine et parva dimicatione commissam arbitraris? - Cic. pro Murena. n.

He suffered at first so great a want of provisions in this expedition,
that he was obliged to make thirty thousand Galatians follow the army, each
with a quantity of wheat upon his shoulders. But upon his advancing into the
country, and subjecting the cities and provinces, he found such abundance of
all things, than an ox sold for one drachm, and a slave for no more than four.

Mithridates had suffered almost as much by the tempest in his passage on
the Euxine sea, as in the campaign wherein he had been treated so roughly. He
lost in it almost all the remainder of his fleet, and the troops he had
brought thither for the defence of his ancient dominions. When Lucullus
arrived, he was making new levies with the utmost expedition, to defend
himself against that invasion which he had foreseen.

Lucullus, upon arriving in Pontus, without loss of time besieged Amisus
and Eupatoria, two of the principal cities of the country, very near each
other. The latter, which had been very lately built, was called Eupatoria,
from the surname of Eupator, given to Mithridates: this place was his usual
residence, and he designed to make it the capital of his dominions. Not
contented with these two sieges at once, he sent a detachment of his army to
form that of Themiscyra, upon the river Thermodoon, which place was not less
considerable than the two others.

The officers of the army of Lucullus complained, that their general
amused himself too long in sieges which were not worth his trouble; and that
in the mean time he gave Mithridates opportunity to augment his army, and
gather strength. To which he answered in his justification, "That is exactly
what I want. I act in this manner for no other purpose than that our enemy
may take new courage, and assemble so numerous an army as may embolden him to
expect us in the field, and fly no longer before us. Do you not observe, that
he has behind him immense solitudes, and infinite deserts, in which it will be
impossible for us either to come up with or pursue him? Armenia is but a few
days' march from these deserts. There Tigranes keeps his court, that king of
kings, whose power is so great that he subdues the Parthians, transports whole
cities of Greeks into the heart of Media, has made himself master of Syria and
Palestine, exterminated the kings descended from Seleucus, and carried their
wives and daughters into captivity. This powerful prince is the ally and
son-in-law of Mithridates. Do you think, when he has him in his palace as a
supplicant, that he will abandon him, and not make war against us? Hence, in
hastening to drive away Mithridates, we shall be in great danger of drawing
Tigranes upon our hands, who has long sought pretexts for declaring against
us, and who can never find one more specious, legitimate, and honorable, than
that of assisting his father-in-law, and a king reduced to the last extremity.
Why therefore should we serve Mithridates against ourselves, or show him to
whom he should have recourse for the means of supporting the war with us, by
pushing him against his will, and at a time perhaps when he looks upon such a
step as unworthy of his valor and greatness, into the arms and protection of
Tigranes? Is it not infinitely better, by giving him time to take courage,
and strengthen himself with his own forces, to have only upon our hands the
troops of Colchis, the Tibarenians and Cappadocians, whom we have so often
defeated, than to expose ourselves to have the additional force of the
Armenians and Medes to contend with?"

While the Romans attacked the three places we have mentioned,
Mithridates, who had already formed a new army, took the field very early in
the spring. Lucullus left the command of the sieges of Amisus and Eupatoria
to Murena, the son of him we have spoken of before, whom Cicero represents in
a very favorable light. "He went into Asia, a province abounding with riches
and pleasures, where he left behind him no traces either of avarice or luxury.
He behaved in such a manner in this important war, that he did many great
actions without the general, the general none without him." ^773 Lucullus
marched against Mithridates, who lay encamped in the plains of Cabirae. The
latter had the advantage in two actions, but was entirely defeated in the
third, and obliged to fly without either servant or equerry to attend him, or
a single horse of his stable. It was not till very late, that one of his
eunuchs, seeing him on foot in the midst of the flying crowd, dismounted and
gave him his horse. The Romans were so near him, that they almost had him in
their hands; and it was owing entirely to themselves that they did not take
him. The avarice only of the soldiers lost them a prey, which they had
pursued so long, through so many toils, dangers, and battles, and deprived
Lucullus of the sole reward of all his victories. Mithridates, says Cicero,
artfully intimated the manner in which Medea escaped the pursuit of her father
in the same kingdom of Pontus. That princess is said to have cut the body of
her brother Absyrtus in pieces, and to have scattered his limbs in the places
through which her father pursued her; in order that his care in taking up
those dispersed members, and the grief so sad a spectacle would give him,
might stop the rapidity of his pursuit. Mithridates in like manner, as he
fled, left upon the way a great quantity of gold, silver, and precious
effects, which had either descended to him from his ancestors, or had been
amassed by himself in the preceding wars; and while the soldiers employed
themselves in gathering those treasures too attentively, the king escaped from
their hands. So that the father of Medea was stopped in his pursuit by
sorrow, but the Romans by joy. ^774

[Footnote 773: Asiam istam resertam et eandem delicatam, sic obiit, ut in ea
neque avaritae, neque luxuriae vestigium reliquerit. Maximo in bello sic est
versatus, ut hic multas res et magnas sine imperatore gesserit nullam sine
hoc. imperator. - Cic. pro Murena, n. 20.]

[Footnote 774: Ex suo regno sic Mithridates profugit, ut ex eodem Ponto Medea
illa quondam profugisse dicitur: quam praedicant, in fuga, fratris sui membra
in iis locis, qua su parens persequeretur, dissipavisse, ut eorum collectio
dispersa, moerorque patris celeritatem persequendi retardaret. Sic
Mithridates fugiens maximam vim auri atque argenti, pulcherrimarumque rerum
omnium, quas eta majoribus acceperat, et ipse bello superiore ex tota Asia
direptas in suum regnum congesserat in Ponto, omnem reliquit. Haec dum nostri
colligunt omnia diligentius, rex ipse e manibus effugit. Ita illum in
persequendi studio maerorhos laetitia retardavit. - Cic. de Leg. Manil. n.

After this defeat of the enemy, Lucullus took the city of Cabirae, with
several other places and castles, in which he found great riches. He found
also the prisons full of Greeks, and princes nearly related to the king, who
were confined in them. As those unhappy persons had long given themselves
over for dead, the liberty they received from Lucullus seemed less a
deliverance than new life to them. In one of these castles, a sister of the
king, named Nyssa, was also taken, which was a great instance of her good
fortune. For the other sisters of that prince, with his wives, who had been
sent farther from the danger and who believed themselves in safety and repose,
all died miserably. Mithridates, on his flight, having sent them orders to
die, by Bacchidas the eunuch.

Among the other sisters of the king were Roxana and Statira, both
unmarried, and about forty years of age, with two of his wives, Berenice and
Monima, both of Ionia. All Greece spoke much of the latter, whom they admired
more for her wisdom than her exquisite beauty. The king having fallen
desperately in love with her, had forgot nothing that might incline her to
favor his passion. He sent her at once fifteen thousand pieces of gold. She
was always adverse to him, and refused his presents, till he gave her the
quality of wife and queen, and sent her the royal tiara or diadem, an
essential ceremony in the marriage of the kings of those nations. Nor did she
then comply without extreme regret, and in compliance with her family, dazzled
with the splendor of a crown, and the power of Mithridates, who was at that
time victorious, and at the height of his glory. From her marriage to the
instant of which we are now speaking, that unfortunate princess had passed her
life in continual sadness and affliction, lamenting her fatal beauty, that
instead of a husband had given her a master, and instead of procuring her an
honorable abode, and the endearments of conjugal society, had confined her in
a close prison, under a guard of barbarians, where, far removed from the
delightful regions of Greece, she had only enjoyed a dream of the happiness
with which she had been flattered, and had really lost that solid and
essential good she possessed in her own beloved country.

When Bacchidas arrived, and informed the princess of the orders of
Mithridates, which favored them no farther than to leave them at liberty to
choose the kind of death they should think most gentle and immediate, Monima,
taking the diadem from her head, tied it round her neck, and hung herself up
by it. But that wreath not being strong enough, and breaking, she cried out,
"Ah, fatal trifle, you might at least do me this mournful office." Then,
throwing it away with indignation, she presented her neck to Bacchidas.

Berenice took a cup of poison, and as she was going to drink, her mother,
who was present, desired to share it with her. They accordingly both drank.
The half of it sufficed to carry off the mother, worn out and feeble with age;
but was not enough to surmount the strength and youth of Berenice. That
princess struggled long with death in the most violent agonies, till
Bacchidas, tired with waiting the effects of the poison, ordered her to be

Roxana is said to have swallowed poison, venting a thousand reproaches
and imprecations against Mithridates. Statira, on the contrary, was pleased
with her brother, and thanked him, that being in so great danger for his own
person he had not forgot them, and had taken care to supply them with the
means of dying free, and of withdrawing from the indignities which their
enemies might otherwise have made them suffer.

Their deaths extremely afflicted Lucullus, who was of a gentle and humane
disposition. He continued his march in pursuit of Mithridates; but having
received advice that he was four days' journey before him, and had taken the
route to Armenia, to retire to his son-in-law, he returned directly; and after
having subjected some countries, and taken some cities in the neighborhood, he
sent Appius Clodius to Tigranes, to demand Mithridates of him; and in the mean
time returned against Amisus, which place was not yet taken. Callimachus, who
commanded in it, and was the most able engineer of his times, had alone
prolonged the siege. When he saw that he could hold out no longer, he set
fire to the city, and escaped in a ship that waited for him. Lucullus did his
utmost to extinguish the flames, but in vain; and, to increase his concern,
saw himself obliged to abandon the city to be plundered by the soldiers, from
whom the place had as much to fear as from the flames themselves. His troops
were insatiable for booty, and he not capable of restraining them. A rain
that happened to fall preserved a great number of buildings, and Lucullus,
before his departure, caused those which had been burned to be rebuilt. ^775
This city was an ancient colony of the Athenians. Such of the Athenians,
during Aristion's being master of Athens, as desired to fly from his tyranny,
had retired thither, and enjoyed there the same rights and privileges as the

[Footnote 775: A. M. 3934. Ant. J. C. 70.]

Lucullus, when he left Amisus, directed his march towards the cities of
Asia, which the avarice and cruelty of the usurers and tax-farmers held under
the most dreadful oppression; insomuch that those poor people were obliged to
sell their children of both sexes, and even set up to auction the paintings
and statues consecrated to the gods. And when these would not suffice to pay
the duties, taxes, and interest unpaid, they were given up without mercy to
their creditors, and often exposed to such barbarous tortures, that slavery,
in comparison with their miseries, seemed a kind of redress and tranquillity
to them.

These immense debts of the province arose from the fine of twenty
thousand talents which Sylla had imposed on it. They had already paid the sum
twice over: but those insatiable usurers, by heaping interest upon interest,
had augmented it to one hundred and twenty thousand talents; so that they
still owed three times as much as they had already paid.

Tacitus had reason to say, that usury was one of the most ancient evils
of the Roman commonwealth, and the most frequent cause of sedition; ^776 but
at the time we now speak of, it was carried to an excess not easy to

[Footnote 776: Sane vetus urbi foenebre malum, et seditionum discordiarumque
creberrima causa. - Tacit. annal. l. vi. c. 16.]

The interest of money among the Romans was paid every month, and was one
per cent: hence it was called usuria centesima, unciarum foenus; because in
reckoning the twelve months, twelve per cent was paid; uncia is the twelfth
part of a whole.

The law of the twelve tables prohibited the raising interest to above
twelve per cent. ^777 This law was revived by the two tribunes of the people,
in the 369th year of Rome. ^778

[Footnote 777: Nequis unciario foenore amplius exerceto.]

[Footnote 778: Tacit. Annal. vi. c. 16. Liv. l. vii. n. 16.]

Ten years after, interest was reduced to half that sum, semunciarum
foenus. ^779

[Footnote 779: Liv. l. vii. n. 27.]

At length, in the 411th year of Rome, all interest was prohibited by
decree: ne foenerari liceret. ^780

[Footnote 780: Ibid. n. 24.]

All these decrees were ineffectual. Avarice was always too strong for
the laws; and whatever regulations were made to suppress it, either in the
time of the republic or under the emperors, it always found means to elude
them. ^781 It is remarkable, that usury has always occasioned the ruin of the
states where it has been tolerated; and it was this disorder which contributed
very much to subvert the constitution of the Roman commonwealth, and gave
birth to the greatest calamities in all the provinces of that empire.

[Footnote 781: Multis plebiscitis obviam itam fraudibus; quae toties
repressae, miras per artes rursum oriebantur. - Tacit. Ibid.]

Lucullus, at this time, applied himself in giving the province of Asia
some relaxation, which he could only effect by putting a stop to the injustice
and cruelty of the usurers and tax-farmers. The latter, finding themselves
deprived by Lucullus of the immense gain they made, raised a great outcry, as
if they had been excessively injured, and by the force of money animated many
orators against him; particularly confiding in having most of those who
governed the republic in their debt, which gave them a very extensive and
almost unbounded influence. But Lucullus despised their clamors with a
constancy the more admirable from its being very uncommon.


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