Had not Deiotarus, the brave tetrarch of the Tolistobogii--a Celtic tribe settled around Pessinus--embraced the side of the Romans and fought with success against the Pontic generals, Lucullus would have had to begin with recapturing the interior of the Roman province from the enemy. But even as it was, he lost in pacifying the province and driving back the enemy precious time, for which the slight successes achieved by his cavalry were far from affording compensation. Still more unfavourable than in Phrygia was the aspect of things for the Romans on the north coast of Asia Minor. Here the great Pontic army and the fleet had completely mastered Bithynia, and compelled the Roman consul Cotta to take shelter with his far from numerous force and his ships within the walls and port of Chalcedon, where Mithradates kept them blockaded.

The Romans Defeated At Chalcedon

This blockade, however, was so far a favourable event for the Romans, as, if Cotta detained the Pontic army before Chalcedon and Lucullus proceeded also thither, the whole Roman forces might unite at Chalcedon and compel the decision of arms there rather than in the distant and impassable region of Pontus. Lucullus did take the route for Chalcedon; but Cotta, with the view of executing a great feat at his own hand before the arrival of his colleague, ordered his admiral Publius Rutilius Nudus to make a sally, which not only ended in a bloody defeat of the Romans, but also enabled the Pontic force to attack the harbour, to break the chain which closed it, and to burn all the Roman vessels of war which were there, nearly seventy in number. On the news of these misfortunes reaching Lucullus at the river Sangarius, he accelerated his march to the great discontent of his soldiers, in whose opinion Cotta was of no moment, and who would far rather have plundered an undefended country than have taught their comrades to conquer. His arrival made up in part for the misfortunes sustained: the king raised the siege of Chalcedon, but did not retreat to Pontus; he went southward into the old Roman province, where he spread his army along the Propontis and the Hellespont, occupied Lampsacus, and began to besiege the large and wealthy town of Cyzicus. He thus entangled himself more and more deeply in the blind alley which he had chosen to enter, instead of--which alone promised success for him--bringing the wide distances into play against the Romans.

Mithradates Besieges Cyzicus

In few places had the old Hellenic adroitness and aptitude preserved themselves so pure as in Cyzicus; its citizens, although they had suffered great loss of ships and men in the unfortunate double battle of Chalcedon, made the most resolute resistance. Cyzicus lay on an island directly opposite the mainland and connected with it by a bridge. The besiegers possessed themselves not only of the line of heights on the mainland terminating at the bridge and of the suburb situated there, but also of the celebrated Dindymene heights on the island itself; and alike on the mainland and on the island the Greek engineers put forth all their art to pave the way for an assault. But the breach which they at length made was closed again during the night by the besieged, and the exertions of the royal army remained as fruitless as did the barbarous threat of the king to put to death the captured Cyzicenes before the walls, if the citizens still refused to surrender. The Cyzicenes continued the defence with courage and success; they fell little short of capturing the king himself in the course of the siege.

Destruction Of The Pontic Army

Meanwhile Lucullus had possessed himself of a very strong position in rear of the Pontic army, which, although not permitting him directly to relieve the hard-pressed city, gave him the means of cutting off all supplies by land from the enemy. Thus the enormous army of Mithradates, estimated with the camp-followers at 300,000 persons, was not in a position either to fight or to march, firmly wedged in between the impregnable city and the immoveable Roman army, and dependent for all its supplies solely on the sea, which fortunately for the Pontic troops was exclusively commanded by their fleet. But the bad season set in; a storm destroyed a great part of the siege-works; the scarcity of provisions and above all of fodder for the horses began to become intolerable. The beasts of burden and the baggage were sent off under convoy of the greater portion of the Pontic cavalry, with orders to steal away or break through at any cost; but at the river Rhyndacus, to the east of Cyzicus, Lucullus overtook them and cut to pieces the whole body. Another division of cavalry under Metrophanes and Lucius Fannius was obliged, after wandering long in the west of Asia Minor, to return to the camp before Cyzicus. Famine and disease made fearful ravages in the Pontic ranks. When spring came on (681), the besieged redoubled their exertions and took the trenches constructed on Dindymon: nothing remained for the king but to raise the siege and with the aid of his fleet to save what he could. He went in person with the fleet to the Hellespont, but suffered considerable loss partly at its departure, partly through storms on the voyage. The land army under Hermaeus and Marius likewise set out thither, with the view of embarking at Lampsacus under the protection of its walls. They left behind their baggage as well as the sick and wounded, who were all put to death by the exasperated Cyzicenes. Lucullus inflicted on them very considerable loss by the way at the passage of the rivers Aesepus and Granicus; but they attained their object. The Pontic ships carried off the remains of the great army and the citizens of Lampsacus themselves beyond the reach of the Romans.

Maritime War Mithradates Driven Back To Pontus

The consistent and discreet conduct of the war by Lucullus had not only repaired the errors of his colleague, but had also destroyed without a pitched battle the flower of the enemy's army-- it was said 200,000 soldiers.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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