MITHRIDATIC (110-47 BC)
DBA II/48

By Stephen Montague

> Armies > Resources > Fanaticus

This army list is based around the life of one man who gained almost legendary status: Mithridates VI Eupator (or Mithridates the Great), king of Pontus. There is also a short coda covering the destruction of the imperial ambitions of his kingdom under his son Pharnaces.  Mithridates was an ambitious and aggressive ruler who was trying to expand his kingdom. Unfortunately he was doing it at the time the Roman republic was also expanding in the same area.

Mithridatesí tale is also closely linked to the civil wars that racked the dying republic. His dramatic expansion in Asia Minor and invasion of Greece would probably not have happened if the Romans werenít busy with a civil war. Even when they moved against the Mithriditic army in Greece the Romans continued to fight and plot against each other. Later, it also meant that every ambitious Roman General was looking for an excuse to attack Mithridates as a way of earning political brownie points. Pontus was finally destroyed when Mithridatesí son backed the wrong side in the civil wars of Julius Caesar's time. The timeline of events below will give you an idea of what happened.

Timeline
120 BC Mithridates becomes king of Pontus but is too young to reign and his mother acts as regent.
115 Mithridates seizes power and imprisons his mother.
115/114 Goes to the Crimea and defeats the Sarmatians who were threatening the Greek cities there. After which the Greek cities there become part of the kingdom of Pontus when Mithridates becomes their protector against the nomad horsemen.
104/103 Adds Colchis and parts of Armenia to Pontus. Paphlagonia and Gallicia were divided between Mithridates and Nicomedes III Euergetes of Bithynia. At this point Mithridates came up against the Romans for the first time who forced the kings to give up Paphlagonia.
101 Mithridates becomes involved in Cappadocia but again the Romans objected and the praetor Sulla placed Ariobarzanes on its throne.
94 Nicomedes III dies and is replaced by Nicomedes IV but Mithridates put Nicomedes brother Socates Chretus on the throne instead and also tried to replace Ariobarzanes in Cappadocia with his own candidate. The Romans intervened again and removed Mithridates candidates and replaced him with their own.
89-85 First Mithridatic War with Rome.
88 Bithynian campaign.  The Bithynians, stirred up by the Romans, start war with Pontus and are easily beaten.  The Romans had been busy at home with the Social War and were in the middle of the power struggle between Sulla and Marius and had few troops in Asia Minor which may be why Mithridates then attacked the rest of Asia Minor. He incited the population of Asia Minor to kill the Italians in their cities, who had gained a reputation for rapacious tax collection.  In the follow up Pontus conquered most of Asia Minor and were invited to help liberate the Greeks. Mithridates was held up by a failed attempt to besiege Rhodes. His armies crossed into Greece and removed most of the Romans from there also.
87 Sulla lands in Epirus and moves into Greece, besieges and takes Athens then moves into Boeotia
86 A new Roman army arrives in Greece.  Sulla fights a battle against the Pontic army at Chaeronea and wins.  The new Roman army mutinies and kills its commander. The replacement commander Fimbria has some success against the Pontic forces. Sulla moves his army close to Fimbria's army who desert to Sulla. Fimbria being a good Roman falls on his sword.  Sulla negotiates a peace settlement with Mithridates which leaves Mithridates with Pontus but takes all his conquests off him.
85 Sulla fights the Pontic army at Orchomemos and wins again.
83-82 Second Mithridatic war.
82 The Roman commander in Asia Minor Murena tries to attack Pontus but is defeated by Mithridates.  A military mission arrives from Sertorious, the Roman governor in Spain, who belonged to the party opposing Sulla in the civil war.
75 Rome is bequeathed Bithynia when its king dies which triggers a new war with Pontus. Mithridates moves into western Asia Minor but is beaten back.
73-63 Third Mithridatic war.
72 Pontus is invaded and Mithridates goes to Armenia for help from his son in law the king.
71 The Romans demand Mithridates be handed over to them.
69 Armenia goes to war with Rome.
68 Mithridates recovers some of his lost territory.
66 Pompey takes on Mithridates and defeats him.  Mithridates goes to Armenia for help but is refused.
65 He then went to the territory that Pontus controlled on the Northern Black Sea coast and started raising a new army.
63 Mithridates plans to march his army overland to Italy but it revolts. Seeing all is lost, he commits suicide.
48 Mithridatesí son Pharnaces supports Pompey in the civil wars and tries to regain Pontus.
47 Caesar defeats Pharnaces at Zela (Veni, Vidi, Vici).

The Army

1x 3Cv/Gen Mithridates with his Pontic Nobles/Companions. He could have worn Persian style clothing though the evidence for this is slight. Horse armour may have been used as some was looted by the Romans. Most coins and medallions depict a typical Hellenic look, but this may have been due to artistic convention.
1x 3Kn or 3Cv
or 2LH
Knights are Sarmatian. There is some doubt as to whether Sarmatians had adopted the lance by the time of the Mithridatic Wars, so using them as Kn is up to the player.  Cavalry are Pontic or Sarmatian.  Pontic cavalry could have been Persian style with Kappadokian influences or late Hellenistic style. Light Horse are Pontic, Lesser Armenia or Scythian. Again Pontic LH could be either eastern style LH or Hellenic.
1x 2Lh Light Horse are Pontic, Lesser Armenia or Scythian. Again Pontic LH could be either eastern style LH or Hellenic.
(1Sch + 4x 4Pk) or (5x 4Bd) The Scythed Chariot is Pontic, based on the Persian model, so Persian scythed chariots will do for this.  The Pike are Brazen shields or freed slaves.  You would think this would be clearly Greek looking but there is an argument about whether they wore trousers like the Seleucids or were kilted Hellenic types.  You also have to decide how the slaves will look well equipped or not.
The Brazen shields will be very well and gaudily equipped as the name suggests. Personally I would have well equipped Brazen shields and badly equipped (armoured) freed slaves as they would look better.  Blade are imitation legionaries possibly trained by a military mission from Sertorious. These seem to have looked very like their Roman counterparts as in one case Mithridates ordered his troops back to their tents to find out which troops were his and which were Roman.
1x 4 Ax Black Sea Greek Thureophoroi.  Forget classical style Greeks, these guys had gone native and would have looked like Scythian foot with a thureos.
2 x 3Ax or 2Ps Auxiliara are natives of various Black Sea regions including Pontus itself, Thrace, Iberia (modern Georgia). Pontic natives were the most common source of auxillia. These would probably have looked like Cappadocians. The Thracians would have been the later Hellenistic looking ones, not the earlier ones with fox skin caps. The list does not allow 3Bd for Basternae so these could be included as 3Ax instead if desired.  Psiloi are javelin men, slingers or archers.  Again you can make the usual eastern or western choices. You should also have at least one element as archers.
1x 2Ps Javelin men, slingers or archers.  Again you can make the usual eastern or western choices. You should also have at least one element as archers.

What the various troops looked like is open to interpretation as there is little evidence.
There are roughly speaking two schools of thought on this, eastern and western.
Eastern sees Pontus as part of the eastern tradition from the Persians and its immediate neighbours who were more eastern and less Hellenistic. The Western sees Pontus as one of the Successor kingdoms, which was heavily influenced by the Hellenic traditions.
Personally I expect it was a bit of both. Make your choice than find some possible evidence to back it up.

Note there is no list for Pontic army at the battle of the River Amnias, so here is my suggestion based very roughly upon the DBM Mithdratic subllist for that battle:  1 x 3Cv(Gen), 2 x 2Lh, 1x Sch, 2 x 4Ax, 4 x 3Ax, 2 x 2Ps.

Allies and Enemies

Mithridates acquired a long list of enemies including I/43b Skythian, II/6 Bithynian, II/14 Ariarathid Kappadokian, II/24 Early Roxolani Sarmatian, II/25 Bosphoran, II/26 Siracae, Iazyges, Later Roxolani Sarmatian, II/30b Galatian, II/37 Parthian and II/49 Marian Roman.

The Kingdoms only ally was II/28ab Armenia. Mithridates' son-in-law was the king of Armenia. It may also represent Lesser Armenia, which was under the control of one of Mithridatesí sons.

Tactics

The high aggression factor means your opponents will be able to pick the terrain a lot of the time. However, as this is a combined arms army, that shouldn't be to much of a problem.

The heavy infantry form the base around which the rest of the army can work with the auxilia dominating the bad terrain and the cavalry the good. The scythed chariot, if you have it, can be useful for breaking up vulnerable infantry and can be used as a psychological weapon against your opponent.

Campaigns

The First and Third Mithridatic Wars lend themselves nicely to campaigns. The First War would focus on a largely three way contest between Mithridates, and the Roman factions often termed the Optimates and the Populares. Bithynia, Kappadokia and Galatia could be added if desired, as could the Italians who were fighting the Romans in the Social War as the First War began.

The Third War had a far larger spread. It would be best represented by at least three Roman players who would sometimes compete and sometime co-operate, perhaps taking turns to use the Roman forces. To these would be added Mithridates, Tigranesí Armenians, Parthia, Spain (including Sertoriusí troops) and Spartacus. There is scope for further armies to be included as Pompey roamed much of the Near East. These can include Commagene, Hasmonean Jewish, Kappadokian, Galatian, Arabo-Aramaean and even Seleucid, although the remnants of this great kingdom disappeared with more of a whimper than a bang. Pompey also fought the inhabitants of the Caucasus including the confusingly named Albanians and Iberians. Unfortunately there arenít DBA lists to cover these.

Bibliography

Warfare in the Classical World by John Warray has a good section on the Roman civil wars, including the Mithridatic wars, which places them in context.

He Died Old by Alfred Duggan is a good source of inspiration if a bit historically dubious at times.

The Foreign Policy of Mithridates VI Eupator by B C McGing, for a more academic treatment.

Mithridate Eupator by Theodore Reinach, if you can read French

For ancient sources, see Plutarch's Lives, Appian, Cassius Dio, and Memnon of Heraclea.  Project Gutenberg has down loadable copies of some of these works.

For a fictional treatment, see Michael Ford's "The Last King: Rome's Greatest Enemy."

I also found useful information in the CD/DVD Rom edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and at the following websites:

For dress and equipment a couple of discussions on this topic appear in forums at:

Figures

As the army section indicates you have a wide choice of possible troop types, however you can narrow things down to the following types: Late Hellenic, Kappadocian (for native Pontic troops), Sarmatian (including Bosphoran Greeks), Thracian and Marian Roman.  Lots of manufacturers make Hellenic but Xyston seem to be the current favoured manufacturer by many for this period.  Kappadocian Xyston, Essex and Corvus Belli make suitable Kappadocian figures.  Xyston and Essex again for Thracians.  Old Glory has Sarmatians for those who by in bulk, and for those that don't, try Donnington, Isarus and Irregular.
Xyston and Essex again for Thracians.  Marian Romans are offered by many manufacturers but the Corvus Belli figures look nice.


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My thanks to Stephen Montague for submitting this essay.

Comments, questions or suggested additions are welcome.
Send to
Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.

Last Updated: 18 August 2015