Cappadocia in Ancient Times -- The First Mithridates Mithridates Eupator -- His First Difficulty with the Romans -- Sends an Ambassador to Them -- His Dispute with Nicomedes -- Duplicity of the Roman Legates
Who were the rulers of Cappadocia before the Macedonians I am not able to say exactly -- whether it had a government of its own or was subject to Darius. I judge that Alexander left behind him governors of the conquered nations to collect the tribute while he hastened after Darius. But it appears that he restored to Amisus, a city of Pontus, of Attic origin, its original democratic form of government. Yet Hieronymus593 says that he did not touch those nations at all, but that he went after Darius by another road, along the sea-coast of Pamphylia and Cilicia. But Perdiccas, who ruled the Macedonians after Alexander, captured and hanged Ariarthes, the governor of Cappadocia, either 594 because he had revolted or in order to bring that country under Macedonian rule, and placed Eumenes of Cardia over these peoples. Eumenes was afterward adjudged an enemy of Macedonia and put to death, and Antipater, who succeeded Perdiccas as overseer of the territory of Alexander, appointed Nicanor satrap of Cappadocia.
Not long afterward dissensions broke out among the Macedonians. Antigonus expelled Laomedon from Syria and assumed the government himself. He had with him one Mithridates, a scion of the royal house of Persia. Antigonus had a dream that he had sowed a field with gold, and that Mithridates reaped it and carried it off to Pontus. He accordingly arrested him, intending to put him to death, but Mithridates escaped with six horsemen, fortified himself in a stronghold of Cappadocia, where many joined him in consequence of the decay of the Macedonian power, and possessed himself of the whole of Cappadocia and of the neighboring countries along the Euxine. This great power, which he had built up, he left to his children. They reigned one after another until the sixth Mithridates in succession from the founder of the house, and he went to war with the Romans. Since there were kings of this house of both Cappadocia and Pontus, I judge that they divided the government, some ruling one country and some the other.
At any rate a king of Pontus, the Mithridates surnamed Euergetes (the Benefactor), who was the first of them inscribed as a friend of the Roman people, and who even sent some ships and a small force of auxiliaries to aid them against the Carthaginians, invaded Cappadocia as though it were a foreign country. He was succeeded by his son, Mithridates, surnamed Dionysus, and also Eupator. The 595 Romans ordered him to restore Cappadocia to Ariobarzanes, 596 who had fled to them and who seemed to have a better title to the government of that country than Mithridates; or perhaps they distrusted the growing power of that great monarchy and thought it would be better to have it divided into several parts. Mithridates obeyed the order, but he put an army at the service of Socrates, surnamed Chrestus, the brother of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, who overthrew the latter and usurped the government. This Nicomedes 597 was the son of Nicomedes the son of Prusias, who had received 598 the kingdom of Bithynia as his patrimony at the hands of the Romans. Simultaneously Mithraas and Bagoas drove out Ariobarzanes, whom the Romans had confirmed as king of Cappadocia, and installed Ariarthes in his place.
The Romans decided to restore Nicomedes and Ariobarzanes at the same time, each to his own kingdom, and sent thither for this purpose an embassy, of which Manius Aquilius was the chief, and ordered Lucius Cassius, who was in charge of the Asiatic country around Pergamus and had a small army under his command, to coperate in their mission. Similar orders were sent to Mithridates Eupator himself. But the latter, being angry with the Romans on account of their interference in Cappadocia, and having been recently despoiled of Phrygia by them (as narrated in my Hellenic history), did not coperate. Nevertheless Cassius and Manius, with the army of the former, and a large force collected from the Galatians and Phrygians, restored Nicomedes to Bithynia and Ariobarzanes to Cappadocia. They urged them at the same time, as they were neighbors of Mithridates, to make incursions into his territory and stir up a war, promising them the assistance of the Romans. Both of them hesitated to begin so important a war on their own border, because they feared the power of Mithridates. When the ambassadors insisted, Nicomedes, who had agreed to pay a large sum of money to the generals and ambassadors for restoring him to power, which he still owed, together with other large sums which he had borrowed on interest from the Romans in his country and for which they were dunning him, made an attack reluctantly on the 599 territory of Mithridates and plundered it as far as the city 600 of Amastris, meeting no resistance. Although Mithridates had his forces in readiness he retreated, because he wanted to have good and sufficient cause for war.
Nicomedes returned with large booty and Mithridates sent Pelopidas to the Roman generals and ambassadors. He was not ignorant that they wanted to bring on a war, and that they had incited this attack upon him, but he dissembled in order to procure more and clearer causes for the coming war, for which reason he reminded them of his own and his father's friendship and alliance, in return for which Pelopidas said that Phrygia and Cappadocia had been wrested from him, of which Cappadocia had always belonged to his ancestors and had been left to him by his own father. "Phrygia," he continued, "was given to him by your own general as a reward for his victory over Aristonicus; nevertheless he paid a large sum of money to that same general for it. But now you allow Nicomedes even to close the mouth of the Euxine, and to overrun the country as far as Amastris, and you see him carrying off vast plunder with impunity. My king was not weak, he was not unprepared to defend himself, but he waited in order that you might be eye-witnesses of these transactions. Since you have seen all this, Mithridates, who is your friend and ally, calls upon you as friends and allies (for so the treaty reads) to defend us against the wrong-doing of Nicomedes, or to restrain the wrong-doer."
When Pelopidas had finished speaking the ambassadors of Nicomedes, who were there to answer him, said: "Mithridates plotted against Nicomedes long ago and put Socrates on the throne by force and arms, though Socrates was of a quiet disposition and thought it right that his elder brother should reign. This was the act of Mithridates to Nicomedes whom you, Romans, had established on the throne of Bithynia -- a blow which was evidently aimed as much at you as at us. In like manner after you had commanded the Asiatic kings not to molest Europe, he seized the greater part of Chersonesus. Let these acts stand as examples of his arrogance, his hostility, his disobedience towards yourselves. Look at his great preparations. He stands in complete readiness, as for a great and predetermined war, not merely with his own army, but with great force of allies, Thracians, Scythians, and many other neighboring peoples. He has formed a marriage alliance with Armenia, and has sent to Egypt and Syria to make friends with the kings of those countries. He has 300 ships of war and is still adding to the number. He has sent to Phoenicia and Egypt for naval officers and steersmen. These things, that Mithridates is collecting in such vast quantities, are not designed for Nicomedes, nay, O Romans, but for you. He is angry with you because, when he had bought Phrygia by a corrupt bargain from one of your generals, you ordered him to give up his ill-gotten gains. He is angry on account of Cappadocia, which was given by you to Ariobarzanes. He fears your increasing power. He is making preparations under pretence that they are intended for us, but he means to attack you if he can. It will be the part of wisdom not to wait till he declares war against you, but to look at his deeds rather than his words, and not give up true and tried friends for a hypocrite who offers you the fictitious name of friendship, nor allow your decision concerning our kingdom to be annulled by one who is equally the foe of both of us."
After the ambassadors of Nicomedes had thus spoken Pelopidas again addressed the Roman assembly, saying that if Nicomedes was complaining of bygones, he accepted the decision of the Romans, but as to present matters which were transpiring under their eyes, the ravaging of Mithridates' territory, the closing of the sea, and the carrying away of such vast plunder, there was no need of discussion or adjudication. "We call upon you, Romans, again," he said, "either to prevent such outrages, or to assist Mithridates, who is their victim, or at all events to stand aside, allow him to defend himself, and not help either party." While Pelopidas was repeating his demand, though it had been determined by the Roman generals long before to help Nicomedes, they made a pretence of listening to the argument on the other side. Yet the words of Pelopidas and the alliance of Mithridates, which was still in force, put them to shame, and they were at a loss for some time what answer to make. Finally, after long thought, they made this artful reply, "We would not wish that Mithridates suffer harm at the hands of Nicomedes, nor can we allow war to be made against Nicomedes, because we do not think that it would be for the interest of Rome that he should be weakened." Having delivered this response they dismissed Pelopidas from the assembly, although he wanted to show the insufficiency of their answer.