The genuineness of this document was no doubt disputed; but the senate acknowledged it by assuming in virtue of it the sums deposited in Tyre on account of the deceased king. Nevertheless it allowed two notoriously illegitimate sons of king Lathyrus, Ptolemaeus XI, who was styled the new Dionysos or the Flute-blower (Auletes), and Ptolemaeus the Cyprian, to take practical possession of Egypt and Cyprus respectively. They were not indeed expressly recognized by the senate, but no distinct summons to surrender their kingdoms was addressed to them. The reason why the senate allowed this state of uncertainty to continue, and did not commit itself to a definite renunciation of Egypt and Cyprus, was undoubtedly the considerable rent which these kings, ruling as it were on sufferance, regularly paid for the continuance of the uncertainty to the heads of the Roman coteries. But the motive for waiving that attractive acquisition altogether was different. Egypt, by its peculiar position and its financial organization, placed in the hands of any governor commanding it a pecuniary and naval power and generally an independent authority, which were absolutely incompatible with the suspicious and feeble government of the oligarchy: in this point of view it was judicious to forgo the direct possession of the country of the Nile.

Non-Intervention In Asia Minor And Syria

Less justifiable was the failure of the senate to interfere directly in the affairs of Asia Minor and Syria. The Roman government did not indeed recognize the Armenian conqueror as king of Cappadocia and Syria; but it did nothing to drive him back, although the war, which under pressure of necessity it began in 676 against the pirates in Cilicia, naturally suggested its interference more especially in Syria. In fact, by tolerating the loss of Cappadocia and Syria without declaring war, the government abandoned not merely those committed to its protection, but the most important foundations of its own powerful position. It adopted a hazardous course, when it sacrificed the outworks of its dominion in the Greek settlements and kingdoms on the Euphrates and Tigris; but, when it allowed the Asiatics to establish themselves on the Mediterranean which was the political basis of its empire, this was not a proof of love of peace, but a confession that the oligarchy had been rendered by the Sullan restoration more oligarchical doubtless, but neither wiser nor more energetic, and it was for Rome's place as a power in the world the beginning of the end.

On the other side, too, there was no desire for war. Tigranes had no reason to wish it, when Rome even without war abandoned to him all its allies. Mithradates, who was no mere sultan and had enjoyed opportunity enough, amidst good and bad fortune, of gaining experience regarding friends and foes, knew very well that in a second Roman war he would very probably stand quite as much alone as in the first, and that he could follow no more prudent course than to keep quiet and to strengthen his kingdom in the interior. That he was in earnest with his peaceful declarations, he had sufficiently proved in the conference with Murena.(9) He continued to avoid everything which would compel the Roman government to abandon its passive attitude.

Apprehensions Of Rome

But as the first Mithradatic war had arisen without any of the partie properly desiring it, so now there grew out of the opposition of interests mutual suspicion, and out of this suspicion mutual preparations for defence; and these, by their very gravity, ultimately led to an open breach. That distrust of her own readiness to fight and preparation for fighting, which had for long governed the policy of Rome--a distrust, which the want of standing armies and the far from exemplary character of the collegiate rule render sufficiently intelligible--made it, as it were, an axiom of her policy to pursue every war not merely to the vanquishing, but to the annihilation of her opponent; in this point of view the Romans were from the outset as little content with the peace of Sulla, as they had formerly been with the terms which Scipio Africanus had granted to the Carthaginians. The apprehension often expressed that a second attack by the Pontic king was imminent, was in some measure justified by the singular resemblance between the present circumstances and those which existed twelve years before. Once more a dangerous civil war coincided with serious armaments of Mithradates; once more the Thracians overran Macedonia, and piratical fleets covered the Mediterranean; emissaries were coming and going--as formerly between Mithradates and the Italians-- so now between the Roman emigrants in Spain and those at the court of Sinope. As early as the beginning of 677 it was declared in the senate that the king was only waiting for the opportunity of falling upon Roman Asia during the Italian civil war; the Roman armies in Asia and Cilicia were reinforced to meet possible emergencies.

Apprehensions Of Mithradates Bithynia Roman Cyrene A Roman Province Outbreak Of The Mithradatic War

Mithradates on his part followed with growing apprehension the development of the Roman policy. He could not but feel that a war between the Romans and Tigranes, however much the feeble senate might dread it, was in the long run almost inevitable, and that he would not be able to avoid taking part in it. His attempt to obtain from the Roman senate the documentary record of the terms of peace, which was still wanting, had fallen amidst the disturbances attending the revolution of Lepidus and remained without result; Mithradates found in this an indication of the impending renewal of the conflict. The expedition against the pirates, which indirectly concerned also the kings of the east whose allies they were, seemed the preliminary to such a war. Still more suspicious were the claims which Rome held in suspense over Egypt and Cyprus: it is significant that the king of Pontus betrothed his two daughters Mithradatis and Nyssa to the two Ptolemies, to whom the senate continued to refuse recognition.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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