(Eupator Dionysius)

160–104 BC

Mithridates was the most formidable enemy Rome faced since the Punic Wars. He was a king of Pontus, a kingdom in Asia Minor on the southeastern shore of the Black Sea. He was a romantic character who possessed great personal strength and skill in the military arts. He was said to have spoken 22 languages and was highly educated, but retained a certain barbaric character. After establishing himself on the throne in 111 B.C. (by putting his mother in prison and killing his brother), he set out on a campaign of conquest within Asia Minor. His occupation of Colchis, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia brought him into conflict with the Romans. He at first agreed to their demands, but in 88 B.C. declared war, and overran much of Asia Minor. He defeated several Roman armies, ordered a general massacre of Romans in Asia, and even sent his armies into mainland Greece. Just as Rome was preparing to send an army under Sulla against him, the conflict between Marius and Sulla broke out, and Sulla returned to Rome to drive Marius into exile, giving Mithridates more time to establish alliances in Greece.

The First Mithridatic War was fought between 88 and 84 B.C. Mithridates had convinced many cities in Greece, including Athens, that an alliance with him would help them to throw off the Roman yoke. He negotiated with Ariston, a wily Athenian orator, to surrender the city and Athens went over to Mithridates. Sulla immediately besieged Athens upon his arrival in Greece, found a weak spot in the defenses, and conquered the city. He then prevailed over Mithridates at Chaeronea, and then again the following year at Orchomenus. The Greek cities repented of their involvement with Mithridates, and a general peace was negotiated in 84 B.C., wherein Mithridates gave up all his conquered territory, his fleet, and returned to Pontus. The Second Mithridatic War was a relatively minor skirmish which commenced when Murena, one of Sulla's lieutenants, invaded Pontus in 83 B.C., primarily for personal glory. Mithridates repelled him the following year, and hostilities were officially suspended, but the peace, which lasted for ten years, was an uneasy one.

Finally, in 74 B.C. the Third Mithridatic War broke out. Mithridates defeated the Roman army at Chalcedon, but soon Lucullus was put in command, and he proved a formidable rival. By 72 B.C. Mithridates had taken refuge with his son-in-law Tigranes of Armenia, who refused to surrender him, thereby extending the war far into the far reaches of Asia Minor. Lucullus won two great victories at Tigranocerta and Artaxata, but was eventually replaced in his command by Pompey. Pompey conquered all of Tigranes territory, but failed to capture Mithridates, who had now fled to the Crimea. Finally, in 64 B.C. Mithridates' own troops revolted, and he realized that all was lost. Before killing himself, he had his wife, daughters, and concubines poisoned. He himself had ingested so much poison over the years, that he could not kill himself with poison, so he had his slave kill him.

Key events during the life of Mithridates:

111 BC
Assumes throne of Pontus.
  Invades other eastern kingdoms of Colchis, Galatia, Cappadocia and Bithynia—comes into conflict with Rome.
88 BC
Declares war on Rome, overruns Asia Minor and sends armies to Greece.
88 BC
Sulla is sent against Mithridates, but returns to Rome to send Marius into exile.
87 BC
Sulla conquers Athens, and prevails over Mithridates at Chaeronea.
86 BC
Sulla again prevails over Mithridates at Orchomenus.
84 BC
Mithridates surrenders all of his conquered territory, his fleet and pays an indemnity.
83 BC
Sulla returns with his army to Rome, but his lieutenant Murena invades Pontus.
82 BC
Murena's army is beaten back by Mithridates.
74 BC
Third Mithridatic War commences. Mithridates defeats Roman consul Cotta at Chalcedon.
72 BC
Lucullus drives Mithridates to take refuge with son-in-law Tigranes in Armenia.
66 BC
In spite of several important victories, Lucullus's command is passed to Pompey.
64 BC
Mithridates is driven far to the East. His own troops revolt. He kills himself, wives, and daughters.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Across the Euphrates  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Death of Mithradates in  Lucius. Adventures of a Roman Boy  by  Alfred J. Church
Battle-Fields and Gardens  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Pompey's Conquests  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Lucullus  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Orator Aristion  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor

Image Links

The death of Mithradates and his daughters
 in Lucius. Adventures of a Roman Boy

Short Biography
Sulla Defeated Mithradates in Greece. Marched on Rome, defeated the party of his enemy Marius.
Lucullus Led Rome against Mithradates in third Mithradatic War. Known for extravagant lifestyle.
Pompey Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Aristion Athenian orator, who convinced the city to side with Mithridates against Rome.
Tigranes King of Armenia, protected Mithridates from Rome after he was driven from Pontus.
Archelaus General of Mithridates, who occupied Athens.