Another of Lucullus' lieutenants who accidentally came into this region, the resolute Triarius, again gathered round him a body of troops and fought a successful engagement with the king; but he was much too weak to expel him afresh from Pontic soil, and had to acquiesce while the king took up winter-quarters in Comana.

Farther Retreat To Pontus

So the spring of 687 came on. The reunion of the army in Nisibis, the idleness of winter-quarters, the frequent absence of the general, had meanwhile increased the insubordination of the troops; not only did they vehemently demand to be led back, but it was already tolerably evident that, if the general refused to lead them home, they would break up of themselves. The supplies were scanty; Fannius and Triarius, in their distress, sent the most urgent entreaties to the general to furnish aid. With a heavy heart Lucullus resolved to yield to necessity, to give up Nisibis and Tigranocerta, and, renouncing all the brilliant hopes of his Armenian expedition, to return to the right bank of the Euphrates. Fannius was relieved; but in Pontus the help was too late. Triarius, not strong enough to fight with Mithradates, had taken up a strong position at Gaziura (Turksal on the Iris, to the west of Tokat), while the baggage was left behind at Dadasa. But when Mithradates laid siege to the latter place, the Roman soldiers, apprehensive for their property, compelled their leader to leave his secure position, and to give battle to the king between Gaziura and Ziela (Zilleh) on the Scotian heights.

Defeat Of The Romand In Pontus At Ziela

What Triarius had foreseen, occurred. In spite of the stoutest resistance the wing which the king commanded in person broke the Roman line and huddled the infantry together into a clayey ravine, where it could make neither a forward nor a lateral movement and was cut to pieces without pity. The king indeed was dangerously wounded by a Roman centurion, who sacrificed his life for it; but the defeat was not the less complete. The Roman camp was taken; the flower of the infantry, and almost all the staff and subaltern officers, strewed the ground; the dead were left lying unburied on the field of battle, and, when Lucullus arrived on the right bank of the Euphrates, he learned the defeat not from his own soldiers, but through the reports of the natives.

Mutiny Of The Soldiers

Along with this defeat came the outbreak of the military conspiracy. At this very time news arrived from Rome that the people had resolved to grant a discharge to the soldiers whose legal term of service had expired, to wit, to the Fimbrians, and to entrust the chief command in Pontus and Bithynia to one of the consuls of the current year: the successor of Lucullus, the consul Manius Acilius Glabrio, had already landed in Asia Minor. The disbanding of the bravest and most turbulent legions and the recall of the commander-in-chief, in connection with the impression produced by the defeat of Ziela, dissolved all the bonds of authority in the army just when the general had most urgent need of their aid. Near Talaura in Lesser Armenia he confronted the Pontic troops, at whose head Tigranes' son-in-law, Mithradates of Media, had already engaged the Romans successfully in a cavalry conflict; the main force of the great-king was advancing to the same point from Armenia. Lucullus sent to Quintus Marcius the new governor of Cilicia, who had just arrived on the way to his province with three legions in Lycaonia, to obtain help from him; Marcius declared that his soldiers refused to march to Armenia. He sent to Glabrio with the request that he would take up the supreme command committed to him by the people; Glabrio showed still less inclination to undertake this task, which had now become so difficult and hazardous. Lucullus, compelled to retain the command, with the view of not being obliged to fight at Talaura against the Armenian and the Pontic armies conjoined, ordered a movement against the advancing Armenians.

Farther Retreat To Asia Minor

The soldiers obeyed the order to march; but, when they reached the point where the routes to Armenia and Cappadocia diverged, the bulk of the army took the latter, and proceeded to the province of Asia. There the Fimbrians demanded their immediate discharge; and although they desisted from this at the urgent entreaty of the commander-in-chief and the other corps, they yet persevered in their purpose of disbanding if the winter should come on without an enemy confronting them; which accordingly was the case. Mithradates not only occupied once more almost his whole kingdom, but his cavalry ranged over all Cappadocia and as far as Bithynia; king Ariobarzanes sought help equally in vain from Quintus Marcius, from Lucullus, and from Glabrio. It was a strange, almost incredible issue for a war conducted in a manner so glorious. If we look merely to military achievements, hardly any other Roman general accomplished so much with so trifling means as Lucullus; the talent and the fortune of Sulla seemed to have devolved on this his disciple. That under the circumstances the Roman army should have returned from Armenia to Asia Minor uninjured, is a military miracle which, so far as we can judge, far excels the retreat of Xenophon; and, although mainly doubtless to be explained by the solidity of the Roman, and the inefficiency of the Oriental, system of war, it at all events secures to the leader of this expedition an honourable name in the foremost rank of men of military capacity. If the name of Lucullus is not usually included among these, it is to all appearance simply owing to the fact that no narrative of his campaigns which is in a military point of view even tolerable has come down to us, and to the circumstance that in everything and particularly in war, nothing is taken into account but the final result; and this, in reality, was equivalent to a complete defeat. Through the last unfortunate turn of things, and principally through the mutiny of the soldiers, all the results of an eight years' war had been lost; in the winter of 687-688 the Romans again stood exactly at the same spot as in the winter of 679-680.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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