Dissatisfaction With Lucullus In The Capital And In the Army

The year 686 found Lucullus in a position of difficulty, which daily assumed a more dangerous aspect. In spite of his brilliant victories, people in Rome were not at all satisfied with him. The senate felt the arbitrary nature of his conduct: the capitalist party, sorely offended by him, set all means of intrigue and corruption at work to effect his recall. Daily the Forum echoed with just and unjust complaints regarding the foolhardy, the covetous, the un-Roman, the traitorous general. The senate so far yielded to the complaints regarding the union of such unlimited power--two ordinary governorships and an important extraordinary command--in the hands of such a man, as to assign the province of Asia to one of the praetors, and the province of Cilicia along with three newly-raised legions to the consul Quintus Marcius Rex, and to restrict the general to the command against Mithradates and Tigranes.

These accusations springing up against the general in Rome found a dangerous echo in the soldiers' quarters on the Iris andon the Tigris; and the more so that several officers including the general's own brother-in-law, Publius Clodius, worked upon the soldiers with this view. The report beyond doubt designedly circulated by these, that Lucullus now thought of combining with the Pontic-Armenian war an expedition against the Parthians, fed the exasperation of the troops.

Lucullus Advances Into Armenia

But while the troublesome temper of the government and of the soldier thus threatened the victorious general with recall and mutiny, he himself continued like a desperate gambler to increase his stake and his risk. He did not indeed march against the Parthians but when Tigranes showed himself neither ready to make peace nor disposed, as Lucullus wished, to risk a second pitched battle, Lucullus resolved to advance from Tigranocerta, through the difficult mountain-country along the eastern shore of the lake of Van, into the valley of the eastern Euphrates (or the Arsanias, now Myrad-Chai), and thence into that of the Araxes, where, on the northern slope of Ararat, lay Artaxata the capital of Armenia proper, with the hereditary castle and the harem of the king. He hoped, by threatening the king's hereditary residence, to compel him to fight either on the way or at any rate before Artaxata. It was inevitably necessary to leave behind a division at Tigranocerta; and, as the marching army could not possibly be further reduced, no course was left but to weaken the position in Pontus and to summon troops thence to Tigranocerta. The main difficulty, however, was the shortness of the Armenian summer, so inconvenient for military enterprises. On the tableland of Armenia, which lies 5000 feet and more above the level of the sea, the corn at Erzeroum only germinates in the beginning of June, and the winter sets in with the harvest in September; Artaxata had to be reached and the campaign had to be ended in four months at the utmost.

At midsummer, 686, Lucullus set out from Tigranocerta, and, marching doubtless through the pass of Bitlis and farther to the westward along the lake of Van--arrived on the plateau of Musch and at the Euphrates. The march went on--amidst constant and very troublesome skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry, and especially with the mounted archers--slowly, but without material hindrance; and the passage of the Euphrates, which was seriously defended by the Armenian cavalry, was secured by a successful engagement; the Armenian infantry showed itself, but the attempt to involve it in the conflict did not succeed. Thus the army reached the tableland, properly so called, of Armenia, and continued its march into the unknown country. They had suffered no actual misfortune; but the mere inevitable delaying of the march by the difficulties of the ground and the horsemen of the enemy was itself a very serious disadvantage. Long before they had reached Artaxata, winter set in; and when the Italian soldiers saw snow and ice around them, the bow of military discipline that had been far too tightly stretched gave way.

Lucullus Retreats To Mesopotamia Capture Of Nisibus

A formal mutiny compelled the general to order a retreat, which he effected with his usual skill. When he had safely reached Mesopotamia where the season still permitted farther operations, Lucullus crossed the Tigris, and threw himself with the mass of his army on Nisibis, the last city that here remained to the Armenians. The great-king, rendered wiser by the experience acquired before Tigranocerta, left the city to itself: notwithstanding its brave defence it was stormed in a dark, rainy night by the besiegers, and the army of Lucullus found there booty not less rich and winter- quarters not less comfortable than the year before in Tigranocerta.

Conflicts In Pontus And At Tigranocerta

But, meanwhile, the whole weight of the enemy's offensive fell on the weak Roman divisions left behind in Pontus and in Armenia. Tigranes compelled the Roman commander of the latter corps, Lucius Fannius--the same who had formerly been the medium of communication between Sertorius and Mithradates (18)--to throw himself into a fortress, and kept him beleaguered there. Mithradates advanced into Pontus with 4000 Armenian horsemen and 4000 of his own, and as liberator and avenger summoned the nation to rise against the common foe. All joined him; the scattered Roman soldiers were everywhere seized and put to death: when Hadrianus, the Roman commandant in Pontus,(19) led his troops against him, the former mercenaries of the king and the numerous natives of Pontus following the army as slaves made common cause with the enemy. For two successive days the unequal conflict lasted; it was only the circumstance that the king after receiving two wounds had to be carried off from the field of battle, which gave the Roman commander the opportunity of breaking off the virtually lost battle, and throwing himself with the small remnant of his troops into Cabira.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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