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Mithradates Vi

MITHRADATES VI. Eupator, called the Great, a boy of eleven, now succeeded his father. Alarmed at the attempts made upon his life by his mother, he fled to the mountains and was for many years a hunter. In in he returned to Sinope, threw his mother into prison, and put his younger brother to death. Having thus established himself on the throne, he turned his attention to conquest. In return for his assistance against the Scythians, the Greeks of the Cimmerian Bosporus and the Tauric Chersonese recognized his suzerainty. He occupied Colchis, Paphlagonia and part of Galatia; set his son Ariarathes on the throne of Cappadocia and drove out Nicomedes III., the young king of Bithynia. The Romans restored the legitimate kings, and, while apparently acquiescing, Mithradates made preparations for war. He had long hated the Romans, who had taken Phrygia during his minority, and he aimed at driving them from Asia Minor. The cause of rupture was the attack on Pontic territory by Nicomedes at the instigation of the Romans. Mithradates, unable to obtain satisfaction, declared war (88 B.C.). He rapidly overran Galatia, Phrygia and Asia, defeated the Roman armies, and ordered a general massacre of the Romans in Asia. He sent large armies into European Greece, and his generals occupied Athens. But Sulla in Greece and Fimbria in Asia defeated his armies in several battles; the Greek cities were disgusted by his severity, and in 84 he concluded peace, abandoning all his conquests, surrendering his fleet and paying a fine of 2000 talents. During what is called the Second Mithradatic War, Murena invaded Pontus without any good reason in 83, but was defeated in 82. Hostilities were suspended, but disputes constantly occurred, and in 74 a general war broke out. Mithradates defeated Cotta, the Roman consul, at Chalcedon; but Lucullus worsted him, and drove him in 72 to take refuge in Armenia with his son-in-law Tigranes. After two great victories at Tigranocerta (69) and Artaxata (68), Lucullus was disconcerted by mutiny and the defeat of his lieutenant Fabius (see LUCULLUS). In 66 he was superseded by Pompey, who completely defeated both Mithradates and Tigranes. The former established himself in 64 at Panticapaeum, and was planning new campaigns against the Romans when his own troops revolted, and, after vainly trying to poison himself, he ordered a Gallic mercenary to kill him. So perished the greatest enemy that the Romans had to encounter in Asia Minor. His body was sent to Pompey, who buried it in the royal sepulchre at Sinope.

Ancient authorities have invested Mithradates with a halo of romance. His courage, his bodily strength and size, his skill in the use of weapons, in riding, and in the chase, his speed of foot, his capacity for eating and drinking, his penetrating intellect and his mastery of 22 languages are celebrated to a degree which is almost incredible. With a surface gloss of Greek education, he united the subtlety, the superstition, and the obstinate endurance of an Oriental. He ^collected curiosities and works of art; he assembled Greek men'of letters round him; he gave prizes to the greatest poets and the best eaters. He spent much of his time in practising magic, and it was believed that he had so saturated his body with poisons that none could injure him. He trusted no one; he murdered his mother, his sons, the sister whom he had married; to prevent his harem from falling to his enemies he murdered all his concubines, and his most faithful followers were never safe. For eighteen years he showed himself no unworthy adversary of Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey.

See T. Reinach, Milhridate Eupator (1890; Ger. trans, by A. Goetz, 1895, with the author's corrections and additions); also E. Meyer, Geschichte des Konigreichs Pantos (1879).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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