Ancient Warfare Vol X, Issue 3: Rome versus Poisonous Pontus - The Mithridatic Wars, 88-63 BC

Ancient Warfare Vol X, Issue 3: Rome versus Poisonous Pontus - The Mithridatic Wars, 88-63 BC

Ancient Warfare Vol X, Issue 3: Rome versus Poisonous Pontus - The Mithridatic Wars, 88-63 BC

The three Mithridatic Wars were amongst the last foreign wars of the Roman Republic, and Mithridates VI one of their most persistent and dangerous foes. He is probably most famous now for his apparent immunity to poisons, but at the time he was infamous for ordering a massacre of all Romans in Asia Minor and for his ability to repeatedly raise large armies and fleets despite suffering repeated defeats.

Nine articles are related to the central theme, looking at the war from the Greek and Roman sides (we don’t really have the Pontic voice). Greek opinion was split – some favoured the Romans and saw Mithridates as a barbarian threat to the civilised world, others saw him as a liberator against oppressive Roman rule. The look at Roman policy in Anatolia tends to assume that there was indeed an overall Roman plan, although in this period the Republic was still functioning, so the Roman leadership changed every year. Three articles look at Mithridates’s troops – one looking at his imitation legions, one at his heavy cavalry and one at his pirate allies. His ally and relative by marriage Tigranes II of Armenia is the subject of an interesting biography.

On the Roman side we have a look at Sulla’s successful siege of Athens, and the career of Lucullus, one of the most successful, but also least familiar, Roman generals of this period.

The last two articles move away from the theme. The first looks at the nature of ancient Egyptian sea power, which played a major role in the late expansion of Egyptian power out of the Nile valley and into the wider world, allowing them to bypass the deserts that separated them from ancient Syria. The final article looks at Greek siege warfare to see if they were as poor as it as often said. I don’t entirely agree with the author’s conclusion that the Greeks were actually amongst the best at siege warfare in their period – his argument is based around the range of ingenious methods used by the Greeks, but rather ignores their tendency to fail, and for sieges to drag on for years. Nevertheless this is an interesting article, and does show that the Greeks put a great deal of effort into their sieges.

Go to Ancient Warfare Magazine Website

The Mithridatic Wars - Historical Introduction
Ancient Voices - Greeks on the Mithridatic Wars
Divide and rule - the Romans in Anatolia
Lost Pontic Legions - Pontic imitation legions
Cataphracts - Heavy cavalry of the Mithridatic Wars
Tigranes II - Armenia's empire builder
Double siege - Sulla and the Siege of Athens
Pontic sea-dogs - The pirates of Mithridates
Lucullus - A forgotten commander
The gift of the Nile - Sea-power and the Egyptian State
Tear it down - The ineptitude of Greek siege warfare?
Hollywood Romans - I, Claudius

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