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==Mithridates IV of Pontus ==
Rome after the defeat of the Kingdom of Macedonia became the dominant power in the Eastern Mediterranean. It did not directly control Greece and Asia Minor but was the dominant player in the region. This was resented by many and particularly resented by the King of Pontus, Mithridates IV (135-63 BC). He ruled a powerful kingdom on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey and was of Iranian descent. He was a larger than life figure and he was famed for his cunning, Herculean strength, his brutality and was a legend in his own lifetime <ref> Mayor, Adrienne, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Princeton, PUP, 2009), p 14 </ref>. The King of Pontus seized the Greek state in the Crimea and also subjugated large parts of the Caucuses. Mithridates wanted to end Roman influence in what he saw as his region and to seize Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He decided to act and ordered the massacre of
any Latin in Asia Minor and several thousand were murdered (88 BC) and simultaneously he invaded Bithynia which was allied to Rome. This led the Senate to declare war on the king, in response the Pontic monarch he gathered a huge army and invaded Greece. However, Sulla moved quickly and defeated Mithridates and his allies in two great battles and swept the Pontic king’s forces from Europe. Lucullus played a critical role in what became known as the First Mithridatic War, named after Mithridates VI <ref> Mayor, 119 </ref>. He assembled a navy and defeated the Pontic naval forces and ferried Sulla’s army from Greece into Asia. This amphibious operation persuaded Mithridates to seek an end to the war and he was granted generous terms by Sulla who wanted to quickly return to Rome, which was in a state of civil war. Lucullus reputation was much enhanced by his role in the war<ref>Plutarch, 3. 5</ref>.
==Third Mithridatic War (73-63 BC)==
Lucullus held several posts in Rome and he gained a reputation as a competent and fair administrator. Meanwhile, Mithridates was able to regroup and fought a brief conflict with a Roman general, which is known as the Second Mithridatic war. The balance of power changed in the Roman East when Lucullus became an ally of Tigranes the Great, an Armenian monarch who established a large Empire that ranged from the Caucuses into modern Syria and east into Iraq. Mithridates once more attacked Roman allies and quickly overran most of them in 73 AD. Lucullus as consul with sent with his co-consul in 70 BC to deal with the threat. His colleague blundered into a trap in Cynicus and was soon besieged by Mithridates. Lucullus responded quickly and soon surrounded the Pontic monarch’s army and inflicted a massive defeat on his forces. The Pontic monarch retreated into Armenia and went to the court of his ally Tigranes who was also his son-in-law. Lucullus took over the Pontic Kingdom and after Tigranes refused to hand over the Pontic king, the Romans invaded the Armenian Empire. The Roman general besieged the Armenian capital Tigrancerta. The Armenian king who had been quelling a revolt returned to relieve the siege of his capital. Lucullus was outnumbered, and his enemy had assumed a defensive position. The Armenians cataphracts or heavy cavalry were the elite of Tigranes army <ref> Sherwin-White, Adrian N. (1994). "Lucullus, Pompey, and the East". In J. A. Crook; Andrew Lintott; Elizabeth Rawson. The Cambridge Ancient History IX: The Last Age of the Roman Republic, 146-43 BC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 241 </ref>. Lucullus decided on a daring plan of attack. He ordered his infantry to advance over a hill and attacked the Armenian heavy cavalry in the rear. Lucullus army nearly annihilated the cataphracts and the Armenian infantry fled, but they were ridden down by the Roman cavalry. Lucullus has secured a remarkable victory and one that was studied throughout the centuries<ref>Keaveney, Arthur: Lucullus. A Life (London/New York: Routledge, 1992), p 119</ref>. He went on to inflict another crushing defeat on the Armenian king in what is now modern Iraq. However, Mithridates resourceful as ever returned to Pontus and defeated the Roman garrison at the battle of Zela. Some in Rome blamed Lucullus for this defeat and for his apparent inability to end the conflict. Plutarch in his biography stated that Pompey wanted the command of the army in the war against Mithridates and he conspired with others against Lucullus <ref>Plutarch, 7, 2</ref>. An ally of Pompey incited a mutiny in the army and this led to the recall of Lucullus. Pompey took over command of his army and he secured the final submission of Tigranes. He advanced into the Caucuses and Mithridates committed suicide when his own son betrayed him. Lucullus returned to Rome an extremely wealthy man and was excluded from public life by the Pompeian allies. He became a great builder and a patron of the arts and was renowned for his lavish lifestyle <ref> Sherwin, p 242 </ref>.