Lucullus Crosses The Euphrates

The mission of Appius Claudius was designed not only to furnish a diplomatic pretext for the war, but also to induce the princes and cities of Syria especially to take arms against the great-king: in the spring of 685 the formal attack began. During the winter the king of Cappadocia had silently provided vessels for transport; with these the Euphrates was crossed at Melitene, and the further march was directed by way of the Taurus-passes to the Tigris. This too Lucullus crossed in the region of Amida (Diarbekr), and advanced towards the road which connected the second capital Tigranocerta,(16) recently founded on the south frontier of Armenia, with the old metropolis Artaxata. At the former was stationed the great-king, who had shortly before returned from Syria, after having temporarily deferred the prosecution of his plans of conquest on the Mediterranean on account of the embroilment with the Romans. He was just projecting an inroad into Roman Asia from Cilicia and Lycaonia, and was considering whether the Romans would at once evacuate Asia or would previously give him battle, possibly at Ephesus, when the news was brought to him of the advance of Lucullus, which threatened to cut off his communications with Artaxata. He ordered the messenger to be hanged, but the disagreeable reality remained unaltered; so he left the new capital and resorted to the interior of Armenia, in order there to raise a force--which had not yet been done--against the Romans. Meanwhile Mithrobarzanes with the troops actually at his disposal and in concert with the neighbouring Bedouin tribes, who were called out in all haste, was to give employment to the Romans. But the corps of Mithrobarzanes was dispersed by the Roman vanguard, and the Arabs by a detachment under Sextilius; Lucullus gained the road leading from Tigranocerta to Artaxata, and, while on the right bank of the Tigrisa Roman detachment pursued the great-king retreating northwards, Lucullus himself crossed to the left and marched forward to Tigranocerta.

Siege And Battle Of Tigranocerta

The exhaustless showers of arrows which the garrison poured upon the Roman army, and the setting fire to the besieging machines by means of naphtha, initiated the Romans into the new dangers of Iranian warfare; and the brave commandant Mancaeus maintained the city, till at length the great royal army of relief had assembled from all parts of the vast empire and the adjoining countries that were open to Armenian recruiting officers, and had advanced through the north-eastern passes to the relief of the capital. The leader Taxiles, experienced in the wars of Mithradates, advised Tigranes to avoid a battle, and to surround and starve out the small Roman army by means of his cavalry. But when the king saw the Roman general, who had determined to give battle without raising the siege, move out with not much more than 10,000 men against a force twenty times superior, and boldly cross the river which separated the two armies; when he surveyed on the one side this little band, "too many for an embassy, too few for an army," and on the other side his own immense host, in which the peoples from the Black Sea and the Caspian met with those of the Mediterranean and of the Persian Gulf, in which the dreaded iron-clad lancers alone were more numerous than the whole army of Lucullus, and in which even infantry armed after the Roman fashion were not wanting; he resolved promptly to accept the battle desired by the enemy. But while the Armenians were still forming their array, the quick eye of Lucullus perceived that they had neglected to occupy a height which commanded the whole position of their cavalry. He hastened to occupy it with two cohorts, while at the same time his weak cavalry by a flank attack diverted the attention of the enemy from this movement; and as soon as he had reached the height, he led his little band against the rear of the enemy's cavalry. They were totally broken and threw themselves on the not yet fully formed infantry, which fled without even striking a blow. The bulletin of the victor--that 100,000 Armenians and five Romans had fallen and that the king, throwing away his turban and diadem, had galloped off unrecognized with a few horsemen--is composed in the style of his master Sulla. Nevertheless the victory achieved on the 6th October 685 before Tigranocerta remains one of the most brilliant stars in the glorious history of Roman warfare; and it was not less momentous than brilliant.

All The Armenian Conquests Pass Into The Hands Of The Romans

All the provinces wrested from the Parthians or Syrians to the south of the Tigris were by this means strategically lost to the Armenians, and passed, for the most part, without delay into the possession of the victor. The newly-built second capital itselfset the example. The Greeks, who had been forced in large numbers to settle there, rose against the garrison and opened to the Roman army the gates of the city, which was abandoned to the pillage of the soldiers. It had been created for the new great-kingdom, and, like this, was effaced by the victor. From Cilicia and Syria all the troops had already been withdrawn by the Armenian satrap Magadates to reinforce the relieving army before Tigranocerta. Lucullus advanced into Commagene, the most northern province of Syria, and stormed Samosata, the capital; he did not reach Syria proper, but envoys arrived from the dynasts and communities as far as the Red Sea--from Hellenes, Syrians, Jews, Arabs--to do homage to the Romans as their sovereigns. Even the prince of Corduene, the province situated to the east of Tigranocerta, submitted; while, on the other hand, Guras the brother of the great-king maintained himself in Nisibis, and thereby in Mesopotamia. Lucullus came forward throughout as the protector of the Hellenic princes and municipalities: in Commagene he placed Antiochus, a prince of the Seleucid house, on the throne; he recognized Antiochus Asiaticus, who after the withdrawal of the Armenians had returned to Antioch, as king of Syria; he sent the forced settlers of Tigranocerta once more away to their homes.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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