First Mithridatic War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=First Mithridatic War
partof=the Mithridatic Wars

caption= A coin depicting MIthridates VI of Pontus.
date=90 – 85 BC
place=Asia Minor, Achaea and the Aegean Sea.
territory=Mithridates left in control of only Pontus
result=Roman victory
combatant1=Roman Republic,
Kingdom of Bithynia
combatant2=Kingdom of Pontus,
Greek rebels
commander1=Nicomedes IV of Bithynia,
Manius Aquilius,
Lucius Cornelius Sulla,
Lucius Lucullus,
Valerius Flaccus,
Gaius Flavius Fimbria
commander2=Mithridates VI of Pontus,

The First Mithridatic War (90–85 BC) was a conflict fought between the Kingdom of Pontus and revolting Greek cities -Athens being the most prominent- led by Mithridates VI of Pontus against the Roman Republic and the Kingdom of Bithynia. The war lasted five years and ended in a Roman victory which forced Mithridates to abandon all his conquests and return to Pontus.


Following his ascendion to the throne of Kingdom of Pontus, Mithridates VI focussed on expanding his kingdom. After successfully incoroprating most of the coast around the Black Sea into his kingdom, he turned his attention towards Asia Minor, in particular the Kingdom of Cappadocia, where his sister, Laodice was Queen. Mithridates had his brother-in-law, Ariarathes VI assassinated by Gordius (a Cappadocian nobleman who was allied with Mithridates) leaving the Kingdom in the hands of Laodice, who ruled as regent for her son Ariarathes VII of Cappadocia.

Laodice married Nicomedes III of Bithynia, whose country was Pontus' traditional enemy. Nicomedes incorporated Cappadocia into Bithynia and Mithridates retaliated by invading Cappadocia and remvoing Nicomedes. He placed his nephew on the throne but when Ariarathes refused to welcome Gordius back, Mithridates invaded Cappadocia again and killed Ariarathes. He proceeded to place his son also called Ariarathes on the throne of Cappadocia under the guardianship of Gordius. However, the Cappadocians overthrew his son and placed another nephew of Mithridates' to the throne. This nephew was oerthrown by Mithridates who placed another one of his sons to the throne.

Nicomedes appealed to the Roman Senate, who decreed that Mithridates be removed from Cappadocia and Nicomedes be removed from Paphalongia and the Senate appointed Ariobarzanes I as King of Cappadocia. Mithridates prompted his son-in-law Tigranes the Great of Armenia to invade Cappadocia and remove Ariobarzanes.

Mithridates vs Rome

At this point, Mithridates ordered a massacre of all Romans in Asia. According to the sources, as many as 80,000 were murdered in an incident known as the Asiatic Vespers. This had the effect of tying the Greek cities irrevocably to Mithridates' cause, for they would now have cause to fear Roman vengeance.

Archelaus was sent to Greece, where he established Aristion as a tyrant in Athens.

In 87 BC, Consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla, landed in Epirus (western Greece), and marched on Athens. Marching into Attica through Boeotia, Sulla found the immediate allegiance of most of its cities, foremost among them Thebes. Most of the Peloponnese would soon follow after a victory mentioned by Pausanias (1.20.5) and Memnon (22.11). Athens, nevertheless, remained loyal to Mithridates, despite a bitter siege throughout the winter of 87/6. Sulla captured Athens on March 1 86 BC, but Archelaus evacuated Piraeus, and landed in Boeotia, where he was defeated at the Battle of Chaeronea - notably the same site where Philip II of Macedon and a young Alexander the Great defeated combined Athenian and Theban resistance 250 years earlier, securing Macedonian supremacy.

Meanwhile, Sulla's legate, Licinius Lucullus, defeated a Mithridatic fleet off the island of Tenedos. The next year, in 85 BC, Archelaus had received sufficient reinforcements to again offer battle to Sulla, but was again defeated at Orchomenus.

By now, Rome had also sent a force under Valerius Flaccus, which landed in Asia, where many of the Greek cities were in rebellion against Mithridates. Flaccus was killed in a mutiny led by Flavius Fimbria. Fimbria was able to defeat Mithridates' army on the river Rhyndacus. Mithridates then met Sulla at Dardanus in 85 BC, and got terms, which left him his kingdom.

Realizing that he could not face Sulla, Fimbria fell on his sword, which left Sulla to settle Asia, which he did, by imposing a huge indemnity, along with five years of back taxes, which left Asian cities heavily in debt for a long time to come.

The start of the Mithridatic Wars resulted in a dark age for Anatolia. With the rise of the aggressive Armenian Empire war broke out all around Anatolia. The Romans and Armenians, the new superpowers in the region began rivalry.


* Beesley, A.H., [ "The Gracchi Marius and Sulla"] , 1921.

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