Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) online

. (page 131 of 216)
Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) → online text (page 131 of 216)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Abdera and Philippi became the principal bases for the operations of
the Pontic arms in Europe. The Pontic fleet, commanded by
Mithradates' best general Archelaus, appeared in the Aegean Sea,
where scarce a Roman sail was to be found. Delos, the emporium of
the Roman commerce in those waters, was occupied and nearly 20,000
men, mostly Italians, were massacred there; Euboea suffered a similar
fate; all the islands to the east of the Malean promontory were soon
in the hands of the enemy; they might proceed to attack the mainland
itself. The assault, no doubt, which the Pontic fleet made from
Euboea on the important Demetrias, was repelled by Bruttius Sura, the
brave lieutenant of the governor of Macedonia, with his handful of
troops and a few vessels hurriedly collected, and he even occupied
the island of Sciathus; but he could not prevent the enemy from
establishing himself in Greece proper.

The Pontic Proceedings in Greece

There Mithradates carried on his operations not only by arms, but
at the same time by national propagandism. His chief instrument
for Athens was one Aristion, by birth an Attic slave, by profession
formerly a teacher of the Epicurean philosophy, now a minion of
Mithradates; an excellent master of persuasion, who by the brilliant
career which he pursued at court knew how to dazzle the mob, and
with due gravity to assure them that help was already on the way
to Mithradates from Carthage, which had been for about sixty years
lying in ruins. These addresses of the new Pericles were so far
effectual that, while the few persons possessed of judgment escaped
from Athens, the mob and one or two literati whose heads were turned
formally renounced the Roman rule. So the ex-philosopher became a
despot who, supported by his bands of Pontic mercenaries, commenced
an infamous and bloody rule; and the Piraeeus was converted into
a Pontic harbour. As soon as the troops of Mithradates gained a
footing on the Greek continent, most of the small free states - the
Achaeans, Laconians, Boeotians - as far as Thessaly joined them.
Sura, after having drawn some reinforcements from Macedonia, advanced
into Boeotia to bring help to the besieged Thespiae and engaged in
conflicts with Archelaus and Aristion during three days at Chaeronea;
but they led to no decision and Sura was obliged to retire when
the Pontic reinforcements from the Peloponnesus approached (end of
666, beg. of 667). So commanding was the position of Mithradates,
particularly by sea, that an embassy of Italian insurgents could invite
him to make an attempt to land in Italy; but their cause was already
by that time lost, and the king rejected the suggestion.

Position of the Romans

The position of the Roman government began to be critical. Asia
Minor and Hellas were wholly, Macedonia to a considerable extent,
in the enemy's hands; by sea the Pontic flag ruled without a rival.
Then there was the Italian insurrection, which, though baffled on
the whole, still held the undisputed command of wide districts of
Italy; the barely hushed revolution, which threatened every moment
to break out afresh and more formidably; and, lastly, the alarming
commercial and monetary crisis(13) occasioned by the internal
troubles of Italy and the enormous losses of the Asiatic
capitalists, and the want of trustworthy troops. The government
would have required three armies, to keep down the revolution in
Rome, to crush completely the insurrection in Italy, and to wage
war in Asia; it had but one, that of Sulla; for the northern army
was, under the untrustworthy Gnaeus Strabo, simply an additional
embarrassment. Sulla had to choose which of these three tasks he
would undertake; he decided, as we have seen, for the Asiatic war.
It was no trifling matter - we should perhaps say, it was a great
act of patriotism - that in this conflict between the general interest
of his country and the special interest of his party the former
retained the ascendency; and that Sulla, in spite of the dangers
which his removal from Italy involved for his constitution and his
party, landed in the spring of 667 on the coast of Epirus.

Sulla's Landing
Greece Occupied

But he came not, as Roman commanders-in-chief had been wont to
make their appearance in the East. That his army of five legions
or of at most 30,000 men,(14) was little stronger than an ordinary
consular army, was the least element of difference. Formerly in
the eastern wars a Roman fleet had never been wanting, and had in
fact without exception commanded the sea; Sulla, sent to reconquer
two continents and the islands of the Aegean sea, arrived without a
single vessel of war. Formerly the general had brought with him a
full chest and drawn the greatest portion of his supplies by sea
from home; Sulla came with empty hands - for the sums raised with
difficulty for the campaign of 666 were expended in Italy - and
found himself exclusively left dependent on requisitions. Formerly
the general had found his only opponent in the enemy's camp, and
since the close of the struggle between the orders political
factions had without exception been united in opposing the public
foe; but Romans of note fought under the standards of Mithradates,
large districts of Italy desired to enter into alliance with him,
and it was at least doubtful whether the democratic party would follow
the glorious example that Sulla had set before it, and keep truce with
him so long as he was fighting against the Asiatic king. But the
vigorous general, who had to contend with all these embarrassments,
was not accustomed to trouble himself about more remote dangers
before finishing the task immediately in hand. When his proposals
of peace addressed to the king, which substantially amounted to a
restoration of the state of matters before the war, met with no
acceptance, he advanced just as he had landed, from the harbours of
Epirus to Boeotia, defeated the generals of the enemy Archelaus and
Aristion there at Mount Tilphossium, and after that victory
possessed himself almost without resistance of the whole Grecian
mainland with the exception of the fortresses of Athens and the
Piraeeus, into which Aristion and Archelaus had thrown themselves,
and which he failed to carry by a coup de main. A Roman division
under Lucius Hortensius occupied Thessaly and made incursions into
Macedonia; another under Munatius stationed itself before Chalcis,
to keep off the enemy's corps under Neoptolemus in Euboea; Sulla
himself formed a camp at Eleusis and Megara, from which he
commanded Greece and the Peloponnesus, and prosecuted the siege of
the city and harbour of Athens. The Hellenic cities, governed as
they always were by their immediate fears, submitted unconditionally
to the Romans, and were glad when they were allowed to ransom
themselves from more severe punishment by supplying provisions
and men and paying fines.

Protracted Siege of Athens and the Piraeus
Athens Falls

The sieges in Attica advanced less rapidly. Sulla found himself
compelled to prepare all sorts of heavy besieging implements for
which the trees of the Academy and the Lyceum had to supply the
timber. Archelaus conducted the defence with equal vigour and
judgment; he armed the crews of his vessels, and thus reinforced
repelled the attacks of the Romans with superior strength and made
frequent and not seldom successful sorties. The Pontic army of
Dromichaetes advancing to the relief of the city was defeated under
the walls of Athens by the Romans after a severe struggle, in which
Sulla's brave legate Lucius Licinius Murena particularly distinguished
himself; but the siege did not on that account advance more rapidly.
From Macedonia, where the Cappadocians had meanwhile definitively
established themselves, plentiful and regular supplies arrived by
sea, which Sulla was not in a condition to cut off from the harbour-
fortress; in Athens no doubt provisions were beginning to fail, but
from the proximity of the two fortresses Archelaus was enabled to
make various attempts to throw quantities of grain into Athens, which
were not wholly unsuccessful. So the winter of 667-8 passed away
tediously without result. As soon as the season allowed, Sulla threw
himself with vehemence on the Piraeus; he in fact succeeded by
missiles and mines in making a breach in part of the strong walls of
Pericles, and immediately the Romans advanced to the assault; but it
was repulsed, and on its being renewed crescent-shaped entrenchments
were found constructed behind the fallen walls, from which the
invaders found themselves assailed on three sides with missiles
and compelled to retire. Sulla then raised the siege, and contented
himself with a blockade. In the meanwhile the provisions in Athens
were wholly exhausted; the garrison attempted to procure a capitulation,
but Sulla sent back their fluent envoys with the hint that he stood
before them not as a student but as a general, and would accept only
unconditional surrender. When Aristion, well knowing what fate was
in store for him, delayed compliance, the ladders were applied and
the city, hardly any longer defended, was taken by storm (1 March
668). Aristion threw himself into the Acropolis, where he soon
afterwards surrendered. The Roman general left the soldiery to
murder and plunder in the captured city and the more considerable
ringleaders of the revolt to be executed; but the city itself
obtained back from him its liberty and its possessions -
even the important Delos, - and was thus once more saved
by its illustrious dead.

Critical Position of Sulla
Want of a Fleet

The Epicurean schoolmaster had thus been vanquished; but the position
of Sulla remained in the highest degree difficult, and even
desperate. He had now been more than a year in the field without
having advanced a step worth mentioning; a single port mocked all
his exertions, while Asia was utterly left to itself, and the conquest
of Macedonia by Mithradates' lieutenants had recently been completed
by the capture of Amphipolis. Without a fleet - it was becoming daily
more apparent - it was not only impossible to secure his communications
and supplies in presence of the ships of the enemy and the numerous
pirates, but impossible to recover even the Piraeeus, to say
nothing of Asia and the islands; and yet it was difficult to see
how ships of war were to be got. As early as the winter of 667-8
Sulla had despatched one of his ablest and most dexterous officers,
Lucius Licinius Lucullus, into the eastern waters, to raise ships
there if possible. Lucullus put to sea with six open boats, which he
had borrowed from the Rhodians and other small communities; he himself
merely by an accident escaped from a piratic squadron, which captured
most of his boats; deceiving the enemy by changing his vessels he
arrived by way of Crete and Cyrene at Alexandria; but the Egyptian
court rejected his request for the support of ships of war with equal
courtesy and decision. Hardly anything illustrates so clearly as
does this fact the sad decay of the Roman state, which had once
been able gratefully to decline the offer of the kings of Egypt to
assist the Romans with all their naval force, and now itself seemed
to the Alexandrian statesmen bankrupt. To all this fell to be added
the financial embarrassment; Sulla had already been obliged to empty
the treasuries of the Olympian Zeus, of the Delphic Apollo, and of
the Epidaurian Asklepios, for which the gods were compensated by
the moiety, confiscated by way of penalty, of the Theban territory.
But far worse than all this military and financial perplexity was
the reaction of the political revolution in Rome; the rapid, sweeping,
violent accomplishment of which had far surpassed the worst
apprehensions. The revolution conducted the government in the
capital; Sulla had been deposed, his Asiatic command had been
entrusted to the democratic consul Lucius Valerius Flaccus, who
might be daily looked for in Greece. The soldiers had no doubt
adhered to Sulla, who made every effort to keep them in good humour;
but what could be expected, when money and supplies were wanting,
when the general was deposed and proscribed, when his successor
was on the way, and, in addition to all this, the war against
the tough antagonist who commanded the sea was protracted without
prospect of a close?

Pontic Armies Enter Greece
Evacuation of the Piraeus

King Mithradates undertook to deliver his antagonist from his
perilous position. He it was, to all appearance, who disapproved
the defensive system of his generals and sent orders to them to
vanquish the enemy with the utmost speed. As early as 667 his son
Ariarathes had started from Macedonia to combat Sulla in Greece
proper; only the sudden death, which overtook the prince on the march
at the Tisaean promontory in Thessaly, had at that time led to the
abandonment of the expedition. His successor Taxiles now appeared
(668), driving before him the Roman corps stationed in Thessaly,
with an army of, it is said, 100,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry at
Thermopylae. Dromichaetes joined him. Archelaus also - compelled,
apparently, not so much by Sulla's arms as by his master's orders -
evacuated the Piraeeus first partially and then entirely, and joined
the Pontic main army in Boeotia. Sulla, after the Piraeeus with
all its greatly-admired fortifications had been by his orders
destroyed, followed the Pontic army, in the hope of being able
to fight a pitched battle before the arrival of Flaccus. In vain
Archelaus advised that they should avoid such a battle, but should
keep the sea and the coast occupied and the enemy in suspense.
Now just as formerly under Darius and Antiochus, the masses of
the Orientals, like animals terrified in the midst of a fire, flung
themselves hastily and blindly into battle; and did so on this
occasion more foolishly than ever, since the Asiatics might perhaps
have needed to wait but a few months in order to be the spectators
of a battle between Sulla and Flaccus.

Battle of Chaerones

In the plain of the Cephissus not far from Chaeronea, in March 668,
the armies met. Even including the division driven back from
Thessaly, which had succeeded in accomplishing its junction with
the Roman main army, and including the Greek contingents, the Roman
army found itself opposed to a foe three times as strong and
particularly to a cavalry fur superior and from the nature of
the field of battle very dangerous, against which Sulla found it
necessary to protect his flanks by digging trenches, while in front
he caused a chain of palisades to be introduced between his first and
second lines for protection against the enemy's war-chariots. When
the war chariots rolled on to open the battle, the first line of the
Romans withdrew behind this row of stakes: the chariots, rebounding
from it and scared by the Roman slingers and archers, threw themselves
on their own line and carried confusion both into the Macedonian
phalanx and into the corps of the Italian refugees. Archelaus
brought up in haste his cavalry from both flanks and sent it to
engage the enemy, with a view to gain time for rearranging his infantry;
it charged with great fury and broke through the Roman ranks; but
the Roman infantry rapidly formed in close masses and courageously
withstood the horsemen assailing them on every side. Meanwhile Sulla
himself on the right wing led his cavalry against the exposed flank
of the enemy; the Asiatic infantry gave way before it was even properly
engaged, and its giving way carried confusion also into the masses
of the cavalry. A general attack of the Roman infantry, which
through the wavering demeanour of the hostile cavalry gained time
to breathe, decided the victory. The closing of the gates of the
camp which Archelaus ordered to check the flight, only increased
the slaughter, and when the gates at length were opened, the Romans
entered at the same time with the Asiatics. It is said that
Archelaus brought not a twelfth part of his force in safety to
Chalcis; Sulla followed him to the Euripus; he was not in a position
to cross that narrow arm of the sea.

Slight Effect of the Victory
Sulla and Flaccus

It was a great victory, but the results were trifling, partly
because of the want of a fleet, partly because the Roman conqueror,
instead of pursuing the vanquished, was under the necessity in the
first instance of protecting himself against his own countrymen.
The sea was still exclusively covered by Pontic squadrons, which
now showed themselves even to the westward of the Malean promontory;
even after the battle of Chaeronea Archelaus landed troops on
Zacynthus and made an attempt to establish himself on that island.
Moreover Lucius Flaccus had in the meanwhile actually landed with two
legions in Epirus, not without having sustained severe loss on the
way from storms and from the war-vessels of the enemy cruising in
the Adriatic; his troops were already in Thessaly; thither Sulla had
in the first instance to turn. The two Roman armies encamped over
against each other at Melitaea on the northern slope of Mount
Othrys; a collision seemed inevitable. But Flaccus, after he had
opportunity of convincing himself that Sulla's soldiers were by no
means inclined to betray their victorious leader to the totally
unknown democratic commander-in chief, but that on the contrary his
own advanced guard began to desert to Sulla's camp, evaded a conflict
to which he was in no respect equal, and set out towards the north,
with the view of getting through Macedonia and Thrace to Asia and
there paving the way for further results by subduing Mithradates.
That Sulla should have allowed his weaker opponent to depart without
hindrance, and instead of following him should have returned to
Athens, where he seems to have passed the winter of 668-9, is in
a military point of view surprising. We may suppose perhaps that
in this also he was guided by political motives, and that he was
sufficiently moderate and patriotic in his views willingly to forgo
a victory over his countrymen, at least so long as they had
still the Asiatics to deal with, and to find the most tolerable
solution of the unhappy dilemma in allowing the armies of the
revolution in Asia and of the oligarchy in Europe to fight
against the common foe.

Second Pontic Army Sent to Greece
Battle of Orchomenus

In the spring of 669 there was again fresh work in Europe.
Mithradates, who continued his preparations indefatigably in Asia
Minor, had sent an army not much less than that which had been
extirpated at Chaeronea, under Dorylaus to Euboea; thence it had,
after a junction with the remains of the army of Archelaus, passed
over the Euripus to Boeotia. The Pontic king, who judged of what his
army could do by the standard of victories over the Bithynian and
Cappadocian militia, did not understand the unfavourable turn which
things had taken in Europe; the circles of the courtiers were
already whispering as to the treason of Archelaus; peremptory orders
were issued to fight a second battle at once with the new army, and
not to fail on this occasion to annihilate the Romans. The master's
will was carried out, if not in conquering, at least in fighting.
The Romans and Asiatics met once more in the plain of the Cephissus,
near Orchomenus. The numerous and excellent cavalry of the latter
flung itself impetuously on the Roman infantry, which began to waver
and give way: the danger was so urgent, that Sulla seized a standard
and advancing with his adjutants and orderlies against the enemy
called out with a loud voice to the soldiers that, if they should
be asked at home where they had abandoned their general, they
might reply - at Orchomenus. This had its effect; the legions
rallied and vanquished the enemy's horse, after which the infantry
were overthrown with little difficulty. On the following day the camp
of the Asiatics was surrounded and stormed; far the greatest portion
of them fell or perished in the Copaic marshes; a few only,
Archelaus among the rest, reached Euboea. The Boeotian communities
had severely to pay for their renewed revolt from Rome, some of
them even to annihilation. Nothing opposed the advance into
Macedonia and Thrace; Philippi was occupied, Abdera was voluntarily
evacuated by the Pontic garrison, the European continent in general
was cleared of the enemy. At the end of the third year of the war
(669) Sulla was able to take up winter-quarters in Thessaly, with a
view to begin the Asiatic campaign in the spring of 670,(15) for
which purpose he gave orders to build ships in the Thessalian ports.

Reaction in Asia Minor against Mithradates

Meanwhile the circumstances of Asia Minor also had undergone a
material change. If king Mithradates had once come forward as the
liberator of the Hellenes, if he had introduced his rule with the
recognition of civic independence and with remission of taxes, they
had after this brief ecstasy been but too rapidly and too bitterly
undeceived. He had very soon emerged in his true character, and
had begun to exercise a despotism far surpassing the tyranny of
the Roman governors - a despotism which drove even the patient
inhabitants of Asia Minor to open revolt. The sultan again resorted
to the most violent expedients. His decrees granted independence
to the townships which turned to him, citizenship to the -metoeci-,
full remission of debts to the debtors, lands to those that had none,
freedom to the slaves; nearly 15,000 such manumitted slaves fought
in the army of Archelaus. The most fearful scenes were the result
of this high-handed subversion of all existing order. The most
considerable mercantile cities, Smyrna, Colophon, Ephesus, Tralles,
Sardes, closed their gates against the king's governors or put
them to death, and declared for Rome.(16) On the other hand the
king's lieutenant Diodorus, a philosopher of note like Aristion, of
another school, but equally available for the worst subservience,
under the instructions of his master caused the whole town-council
of Adramyttium to be put to death. The Chians, who were suspected
of an inclination to Rome, were fined in the first instance in 2000
talents (480,000 pounds) and, when the payment was found not correct,
they were en masse put on board ship and deported in chains under
the charge of their own slaves to the coast of Colchis, while their
island was occupied with Pontic colonists. The king gave orders that
the chiefs of the Celts in Asia Minor should all be put to death along
with their wives and children in one day, and that Galatia should be
converted into a Pontic satrapy. Most of these bloody edicts were
carried into effect either at Mithradates' own headquarters or in
Galatia, but the few who escaped placed themselves at the head of
their powerful tribes and expelled Eumachus, the governor of the king,
out of their bounds. It may readily be conceived that such a king
would be pursued by the daggers of assassins; sixteen hundred men
were condemned to death by the royal courts of inquisition as having
been implicated in such conspiracies.

Lucullus and the Fleet on the Asiatic Coast

While the king was thus by his suicidal fury provoking his
temporary subjects to rise in arms against him, he was at the same
time hard pressed by the Romans in Asia, both by sea and by land.
Lucullus, after the failure of his attempt to lead forth the Egyptian
fleet against Mithradates, had with better success repeated his
efforts to procure vessels of war in the Syrian maritime towns, and
reinforced his nascent fleet in the ports of Cyprus, Pamphylia, and
Rhodes till he found himself strong enough to proceed to the attack.
He dexterously avoided measuring himself against superior forces and
yet obtained no inconsiderable advantages. The Cnidian island and
peninsula were occupied by him, Samos was assailed, Colophon and
Chios were wrested from the enemy.

Flaccus Arrives in Asia
Fimbria's Victory at Miletopolis
Perilous Position of Mithradates

Meanwhile Flaccus had proceeded with his army through Macedonia and
Thrace to Byzantium, and thence, passing the straits, had reached
Chalcedon (end of 668). There a military insurrection broke out
against the general, ostensibly because he embezzled the spoil
from the soldiers. The soul of it was one of the chief officers
of the army, a man whose name had become a proverb in Rome for a
true mob-orator, Gaius Flavius Fimbria, who, after having differed
with his commander-in-chief, transferred the demagogic practices
which he had begun in the Forum to the camp. Flaccus was deposed

Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) → online text (page 131 of 216)