(Lucius Licinius Lucullus)

120–70 BC

Lucullus was a Roman general who is known for his campaigns in Asia Minor against Mithradates, but is even more renowned for the extreme luxury in which he lived, both in camp and at his estate outside Rome. The word "lucullan", in fact, means extreme opulence. Lucullus was a lieutenant of Sulla's during the First Mithradatic War, and was put in charge of raising a fleet to drive the ships of Mithradates from the sea. He won some impressive victories. Lucullus stayed in Asia Minor after Sulla returned to Rome in order to put the government of the eastern provinces in order and to reform the finances. While he was generally popular with the provincials, his reforms made him powerful enemies in Rome.

He returned to Rome in 80 B.C. and was appointed aedile, in charge of the public games. A few years later he was appointed praetor, and then governor of an African province. He was elected consul in 74 B.C., the year that hostilities were renewed with Mithradates. By the time Lucullus arrived in Asia Minor, his co-consul Cotta had already been defeated by Mithradates, and was besieged in a fortified town. Lucullus came up behind Mithradates, forcing him to raise the siege, and driving him back to Pontus. The next year Lucullus drove him into Armenia, where he took refuge with his son-in-law Tigranes. Rome now controlled all of Asia Minor west of Pontus.

After spending a few more years consolidating his victories and putting the administration of the new provinces in order, Lucullus demanded that Tigranes surrender Mithradates. When he refused, Lucullus invaded Armenia and took the capital. Unfortunately, the army of Lucullus was plagued with mutinies and rebellion, which forced Lucullus to give up the Armenian campaign and retreat from Pontus. By 66 B.C., most of the gains of the past eight years had been lost, and Lucullus was recalled. He was replaced with Pompey, who was a political enemy of Lucullus, and Lucullus was denied a triumph for three years. He declined to take much role in public life after his retirement, but spent the remainder of his years sponsoring lavish public shows, collecting a great library, and living in the lap of luxury.

Key events during the life of lucullus:

90 BC
Fought in the Social War.
87 BC
Fought under Sulla in the First Mithridatic War. Raised a fleet and drove Mithradates out of Mediterranean.
  Remained in Asia Minor, and reformed finances of the provinces, making himself powerful enemies in Rome.
80 BC
Returned to Rome as aedile and was in charge of presenting magnificent public games.
78 BC
Elected praetor, appointed to province of Africa.
74 BC
Elected Consul, obtained proconsulship of Cilicia; war declared on Mithradates in Asia Minor.
74 BC
Co-consul Cotta was defeated by Mithradates, but Lucullus surrounded him and won the victory.
73 BC
Under pressure from Lucullus, Mithradates retires to Pontus.
72 BC
Mithradates forced to take refuge in Armenia. Lucullus conquers Pontus, and continues reforms of provinces.
69 BC
Tigranes refuses to surrender Mithradates; Lucullus invades Armenia and takes the capital.
68 BC
Army of Lucullus is plagued by mutinies and rebellion; serious reverses follow; Lucullus retreats from Pontus.
66 BC
Lucullus is recalled to Rome, and replaced by Pompey. Mithradates commits suicide two years later.
  Last years of Lucullus's life are spent sponsoring extravagant shows and living in the lap of luxury.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Early History of Spain  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Across the Euphrates  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Battle-Fields and Gardens  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Lucullus  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman

Short Biography
Sulla Defeated Mithradates in Greece. Marched on Rome, defeated the party of his enemy Marius.
Mithridates King of Pontus, enemy of Rome, raised rebellions in Greece and Asia Minor.
Pompey Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Tigranes King of Armenia, protected Mithradates from Rome after he was driven from Pontus.
M. Aurelius Cotta Co-consul with Lucullus; fought with Lucullus against Mithridates.