The great-king cherished in secret the suspicion that Mithradates might have had a hand in the insurrection of his grandson--Cleopatra the mother of the younger Tigranes was the daughter of Mithradates-- and, though no open rupture took place, the good understanding between the two monarchs was disturbed at the very moment when it was most urgently needed.

At the same time Pompeius prosecuted his warlike preparations with energy. The Asiatic allied and client communities were warned to furnish the stipulated contingents. Public notices summoned the discharged veterans of the legions of Fimbria to return to the standards as volunteers, and by great promises and the name of Pompeius a considerable portion of them were induced in reality to obey the call. The whole force united under the orders of Pompeius may have amounted, exclusive of the auxiliaries, to between 40,000 and 50,000 men.(5)

Pompeius And Lucullus

In the spring of 688 Pompeius proceeded to Galatia, to take the chief command of the troops of Lucullus and to advance with them into the Pontic territory, whither the Cilician legions were directed to follow. At Danala, a place belonging to the Trocmi, the two generals met; but the reconciliation, which mutual friends had hoped to effect, was not accomplished. The preliminary courtesies soon passed into bitter discussions, and these into violent altercation: they parted in worse mood than they had met. As Lucullus continued to make honorary gifts and to distribute lands just as if he were still in office, Pompeius declared all the acts performed by his predecessor subsequent to his own arrival null and void. Formally he was in the right; customary tactin the treatment of a meritorious and more than sufficientlymortified opponent was not to be looked for from him.

Invasion Of Pontus Retreat Of Mithradates

So soon as the season allowed, the Roman troops crossed the frontier of Pontus. There they were opposed by king Mithradates with 30,000 infantry and 3000 cavalry. Left in the lurch by his allies and attacked by Rome with reinforced power and energy, he made an attempt to procure peace; but he would hear nothing of the unconditional submission which Pompeius demanded--what worse could the most unsuccessful campaign bring to him? That he might not expose his army, mostly archers and horsemen, to the formidable shock of the Roman infantry of the line, he slowly retired before the enemy, and compelled the Romans to follow him in his various cross-marches; making a stand at the same time, wherever there was opportunity, with his superior cavalry against that of the enemy, and occasioning no small hardship to the Romans by impeding their supplies. At length Pompeius in his impatience desisted from following the Pontic army, and, letting the king alone, proceeded to subdue the land; he marched to the upper Euphrates, crossed it, and entered the eastern provinces of the Pontic empire. But Mithradates followed along the left bank of the Euphrates, and when he had arrived in the Anaitic or Acilisenian province, he intercepted the route of the Romans at the castle of Dasteira, which was strong and well provided with water, and from which with his light troops he commanded the plain. Pompeius, still wanting the Cilician legions and not strong enough to maintain himself in this position without them, had to retire over the Euphrates and to seek protection from the cavalry and archers of the king in the wooded ground of Pontic Armenia extensively intersected by rocky ravines and deep valleys. It was not till the troops from Cilicia arrived and rendered it possible to resume the offensive with a superiority of force, that Pompeius again advanced, invested the camp of the king with a chain of posts of almost eighteen miles in length, and kept him formally blockaded there, while the Roman detachments scoured the country far and wide. The distress in the Pontic camp was great; the draught animals even had to be killed; at length after remaining for forty-five days the king caused his sick and wounded, whom he could not save and was unwilling to leave in the hands of the enemy, to be put to death by his own troops, and departed during the night with the utmost secrecy towards the east. Cautiously Pompeius followed through the unknown land: the march was now approaching the boundary which separated the dominions of Mithradates and Tigranes. When the Roman general perceived that Mithradates intended not to bring the contest to a decision within his own territory, but to draw the enemy away after him into the far distant regions of the east, he determined not to permit this.

Battle At Nicopolis

The two armies lay close to each other. During the rest at noon the Roman army set out without the enemy observing the movement, made a circuit, and occupied the heights, which lay in front and commanded a defile to be passed by the enemy, on the southern bank of the river Lycus (Jeschil-Irmak) not far from the modern Enderes, at the point where Nicopolis was afterwards built. The following morning the Pontic troops broke up in their usual manner, and, supposing that the enemy was as hitherto behind them, after, accomplishing the day's march they pitched their camp in the very valley whose encircling heights the Romans had occupied. Suddenly in the silence of the night there sounded all around them the dreaded battle-cry of the legions, and missiles from all sides poured on the Asiatic host, in which soldiers and camp-followers, chariots, horses, and camels jostled each other; and amidst the dense throng, notwithstanding the darkness, not a missile failed to take effect. When the Romans had expended their darts, they charged down from the heights on the masses which had now become visible by the light of the newly-risen moon, and which were abandoned to them almost defenceless; those that did not fall by the steel of the enemy were trodden down in the fearful pressure under the hoofs and wheels. It was the last battle-field on which the gray-haired king fought with the Romans.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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