As in earlier years he had compelled his distinguished general Archelaus to seek protection in the Roman camp; as during the campaigns of Lucullus his most trusted officers Diodes, Phoenix, and even the most notable of the Roman emigrants had passed over to the enemy; so now, when his star grew pale and the old, infirm, embittered sultan was accessible to no one else save his eunuchs, desertion followed still more rapidly on desertion. Castor, the commandant of the fortress Phanagoria (on the Asiatic coast opposite Kertch), first raised the standard of revolt; he proclaimed the freedom of the town and delivered the sons of Mithradates that were in the fortress into the hands of the Romans. While the insurrection spread among the Bosporan towns, and Chersonesus (not far from Sebastopol), Theudosia (Kaffa), and others joined the Phanagorites, the king allowed his suspicion and his cruelty to have free course. On the information of despicable eunuchs his most confidential adherents were nailed to the cross; the king's own sons were the least sure of their lives. The son who was his father's favourite and was probably destined by him as his successor, Pharnaces, took his resolution and headed the insurgents. The servants whom Mithradates sent to arrest him, and the troops despatched against him, passed over to his side; the corps of Italian deserters, perhaps the most efficient among the divisions of Mithradates' army, and for that very reason the least inclined to share in the romantic--and for the deserters peculiarly hazardous--expedition against Italy, declared itself en masse for the prince; the other divisions of the army and the fleet followed the example thus set.

Death Of Mithadates

After the country and the army had abandoned the king, the capital Panticapaeum at length opened its gates to the insurgents and delivered over to them the old king enclosed in his palace. From the high wall of his castle the latter besought his son at least to grant him life and not imbrue his hands in his father's blood; but the request came ill from the lips of a man whose own hands were stained with the blood of his mother and with the recently-shed blood of his innocent son Xiphares; and in heartless severity and inhumanity Pharnaces even outstripped his father. Seeing therefore he had now to die, the sultan resolved at least to die as he had lived; his wives, his concubines and his daughters, including the youthful brides of the kings of Egypt and Cyprus, had all to suffer the bitterness of death and drain the poisoned cup, before he too took it, and then, when the draught did not take effect quickly enough, presented his neck for the fatal stroke to a Celtic mercenary Betuitus. So died in 691 Mithradates Eupator, in the sixty-eighth year of his life and the fifty-seventh of his reign, twenty-six years after he had for the first time taken the field against the Romans. The dead body, which king Pharnaces sent as a voucher of his merits and of his loyalty to Pompeius, was by order of the latter laid in the royal sepulchre of Sinope.

The death of Mithradates was looked on by the Romans as equivalent to a victory: the messengers who reported to the general the catastrophe appeared crowned with laurel, as if they had a victory to announce, in the Roman camp before Jericho. In him a great enemy was borne to the tomb, a greater than had ever yet withstood the Romans in the indolent east. Instinctively the multitude felt this: as formerly Scipio had triumphed even more over Hannibal than over Carthage, so the conquest of the numerous tribes of the east and of the great-king himself was almost forgotten in the death of Mithradates; and at the solemn entry of Pompeius nothing attracted more the eyes of the multitude than the pictures, in which they saw king Mithradates as a fugitive leading his horse by the rein and thereafter sinking down in death between the dead bodies of his daughters. Whatever judgment may be formed as to the idiosyncrasy of the king, he is a figure of great significance--in the full sense of the expression--for the history of the world. He was not a personage of genius, probably not even of rich endowments; but he possessed the very respectable gift of hating, and out of this hatred he sustained an unequal conflict against superior foes throughout half a century, without success doubtless, but with honour. He became still more significant through the position in which history had placed him thanthrough his individual character. As the forerunner of the national reaction of the Orientals against the Occidentals, he opened the new conflict of the east against the west; and the feeling remained with the vanquished as with the victors, that his death was not so much the end as the beginning.

Pompeius Proceeds To Syria

Meanwhile Pompeius, after his warfare in 689 with the peoples of the Caucasus, had returned to the kingdom of Pontus, and there reduced the last castles still offering resistance; these were razed in order to check the evils of brigandage, and the castle wells were rendered unserviceable by rolling blocks of rock into them. Thence he set out in the summer of 690 for Syria, to regulate its affairs.

State Of Syria

It is difficult to present a clear view of the state of disorganization which then prevailed in the Syrian provinces. It is true that in consequence of the attacks of Lucullus the Armenian governor Magadates had evacuated these provinces in 685,(7) and that the Ptolemies, gladly as they would have renewed the attempts of their predecessors to attach the Syrian coast to their kingdom, were yet afraid to provoke the Roman government by the occupation of Syria; the more so, as that government had not yet regulated their more than doubtful legal title even in the case of Egypt, and had been several times solicited by the Syrian princes to recognize them as the legitimate heirs of the extinct house of the Lagids. But, though the greater powers all at the moment refrained from interference in the affairs of Syria, the land suffered far more than it would have suffered amidst a great war, through the endless and aimless feuds of the princes, knights, and cities.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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