Citations:

Text #9501

"Battle of Orchomenus", in Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_O...

The Battle of Orchomenus was fought in 85 BC between Rome and the forces of Mithridates VI of Pontus. The Roman army was led by Lucius Cornelius Sulla, while Mithridates’ army was led by Archelaus. The Roman force was victorious, and Archelaus later defected to Rome. Information on the battle is included in Plutarch’s Life of Sulla, chapters 20-21.

After his victory over Archelaus at Chaeronea, Sulla set out for Thessaly to meet the consul Flaccus1 coming from Italy (although Sulla was unaware he had been sent to attack him, not to join with him). On the way, he heard reports that Dorylaeus2 had landed at Chalcis with a sizeable fleet transporting eighty thousand of Mithridates’ best troops to reinforce Archelaus. Dorylaeus wanted to tempt Sulla to fight as soon as possible, and Sulla cooperated by abruptly turning around to meet this new threat. After a skirmish with Sulla’s troops, Dorylaeus began to rethink the idea of giving battle and instead promoted a strategy to wear the enemy down. On the other hand, Archelaus’ confidence was raised by the flat terrain around their camp at Orchomenus, which favored their superior cavalry.

While Archelaus let his men relax after taking their positions, Sulla set his men to work building trenches and ditches which he hoped would cut Archelaus’ cavalry off from the plains and move the fighting to more boggy areas. Archelaus recognized Sulla’s strategy, and launched several attacks on the legionnaires digging the trenches and ditches . In one of these, Archelaus’ stepson Diogenes distinguished himself in a valiant attack where he died gloriously. In Archelaus’ final attack, Sulla routed his troops and carried his camp. Plutarch says that so many men died that the marshes ran with blood, and almost two hundred years later barbarian helmets and weapons were still found sticking out of the marshes. After the battle, he destroyed three Boeotian towns: Anthedon, Darymna, and Halae. Later, upon meeting fishermen from Halae who gave him fish, Sulla told them he was surprised there were any of them left, but let them go and told them not to worry. As a result of this incident, the people of Halae were inspired to repopulate their town.

While Sulla was away fighting Mithridates, Rome was suffering from civil disorder at the hands of the two consuls of 85 BC, Cinna and Carbo, prompting eminent members of society to flee to Sulla’s camp, including his wife Metella and their children.[3] Sulla tried to use his victory at the Battle of Orchomenus to bring about peace with Mithridates so that he could return home, and though Sulla’s peace terms were not immediately accepted, Archelaus eventually managed to broker a peace between Sulla and Mithridates. After Fimbria’s troops defected to Sulla (originally the troops of Flaccus, who Fimbria had led a revolt against), Fimbria committed suicide and Sulla was able to wrap up his affairs in Greece and Asia Minor, and return to Italy.

  1. L. Valerius Flaccus was aedile in 98 BC, but prosecuted (unsuccessfully) afterwards by Decianus. Flaccus was then praetor, then governor of Asia. He was a suffect consul in 86, taking command against Mithridates, passing a law cancelling three-quarters of all debts, and leaving for Asia. He was murdered in a mutiny by Gaius Flavius Fimbria. He was the brother of the Gaius Valerius Flaccus who was consul in 93 BC.

  2. Dorylaeus (early 1st century BC), was a commander in the Kingdom of Pontus who served under Mithridates the Great. Dorylaeus reinforced Archelaus with eighty thousand fresh troops after the latter’s loss at Battle of Chaeronea. Dorylaeus wanted to bring about a battle with Sulla right away, but changed his mind after a skirmish with Roman troops.

Text #9502

"Sulla", in Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulla#Sulla...

In 86 BC, after Sulla’s victory in Orchomenos, he initially spent some time re-establishing Roman authority. His legate soon arrived with the fleet he was sent to gather, and Sulla was ready to recapture lost Greek islands before crossing into Asia Minor. The second Roman army under the command of Flaccus meanwhile moved through Macedonia and into Asia Minor. After the capture of Philippi, remaining Mithridatic forces crossed the Hellespont to get away from the Romans. The Romans under Fimbria were encouraged to loot and create general havoc as it went, creating problems between Flaccus and Fimbria. Flaccus was a fairly strict disciplinarian and the behaviour of his lieutenant led to discord between the two.

At some point as this army crossed the Hellespont while giving chase to Mithridates’ forces, Fimbria seems to have started a rebellion against Flaccus. While seemingly minor enough to not cause immediate repercussions in the field, Fimbria was relieved of his duty and ordered back to Rome. The return trip included a stop at the port city of Byzantium, however, and here Fimbria took command of the garrison, rather than continue home. Flaccus, hearing of this, marched his army to Byzantium to put a stop to the rebellion, but walked right into his own undoing. The army preferred Fimbria (not surprising considering his leniency in regard to plunder) and a general revolt ensued. Flaccus attempted to flee, but was captured shortly after and the Consular commander was executed. With Flaccus out of the way, Fimbria took complete command.

The following year (85 BC) Fimbria took the fight to Mithridates while Sulla continued to operate in the Greek Islands of the Aegean. Fimbria quickly won a decisive victory over remaining Mithridatic forces and moved on the capital of Pergamum. With all vestige of hope crumbling for Mithridates, he fled Pergamum to the coastal city of Pitane. Fimbria, in pursuit, laid siege to the town, but had no fleet to prevent Mithridates’ escape by sea. Fimbria called upon Sulla’s legate, Lucullus to bring his fleet around to block Mithridates in, but it seems that Sulla had other plans.

Sulla apparently had been in private negotiation with Mithridates to end the war. He wanted to develop easy terms and get the ordeal over as quickly as possible. The quicker it was dealt with, the faster he would be able to settle political matters in Rome. With this in mind, Lucullus and his navy refused to help Fimbria, and Mithridates ‘escaped’ to Lesbos. Later at Dardanus, Sulla and Mithridates met personally to negotiate terms. With Fimbria re-establishing Roman hegemony over the cities of Asia Minor, Mithridates position was completely untenable. Yet Sulla, with his eyes on Rome, offered uncharacteristically mild terms. Mithridates was forced to give up all his conquests (which Sulla and Fimbria had already managed to take back by force), surrender any Roman prisoners, provide a 70 ship fleet to Sulla along with supplies, and pay a tribute of 2,000 to 3,000 gold talents. In exchange, Mithridates was able to keep his original kingdom and territory and regain his title of “friend of the Roman people.”

But things in the east weren’t yet settled. Fimbria was enjoying free rein in the province of Asia and led a cruel oppression of both those who were involved against Romans, and those who were now in support of Sulla. Unable to leave a potentially dangerous army in his rear, Sulla crossed into Asia. He pursued Fimbria to his camp at Thyatira where Fimbria was confident in his ability to repulse an attack. Fimbria, however, soon found that his men wanted nothing to do with opposing Sulla and many deserted or refused to fight in the coming battle. Sensing all was lost, Fimbria took his own life, while his army went over to Sulla.

To ensure the loyalty of both Fimbria’s troops and his own veterans, who weren’t happy about the easy treatment of their enemy, Mithridates, Sulla now started to penalize the province of Asia. His veterans were scattered throughout the province and allowed to extort the wealth of local communities. Large fines were placed on the province for lost taxes during their rebellion and the cost of the war.

As the year 84 BC began, Cinna, still Consul in Rome, was faced with minor disturbances among Illyrian tribes. Perhaps in an attempt to gain experience for an army to act as a counter to Sulla’s forces, or to show Sulla that the Senate also had some strength of its own, Cinna raised an army to deal with this Illyrian problem. Conveniently the source of the disturbance was located directly between Sulla and another march on Rome. Cinna pushed his men hard to move to position in Illyria, and forced marches through snow-covered mountains did little to endear Cinna to his army. A short time after departing Rome, Cinna was stoned to death by his own men. Hearing of Cinna’s death, and the ensuing power gap in Rome, Sulla gathered his forces and prepared for a second march on the capital.

Please view our Legal Notice before you make use of this Database.

See also our Credits page for info on data we are building upon.