Mithridates orders a Massacre of Romans in Asia -- Frightful Scenes in Ephesus and Other Cities -- Mithridates attacks Rhodes -- Is defeated on the Sea -- Makes an Assault by Land -- Is beaten off
Such was the state of affairs with Mithridates. As soon as his outbreak and invasion of Asia were known at Rome they declared war against him, although they were occupied with grievous dissensions in the city and a formidable Social war, almost all parts of Italy having revolted one after another. When the consuls cast lots, the government of Asia and the Mithridatic war fell to Cornelius Sulla. As they had no money to defray his expenses they voted to sell the treasures that King Numa Pompilius had set apart for sacrifices to the gods; so great was their want of means at that time and so great their ambition for the commonwealth. A part of these treasures, sold hastily, brought 90000 pounds' weight of gold and this was all they had to spend on so great a war. Moreover Sulla was detained a long time by the civil wars, as I have stated in my history of the same. In the meantime Mithridates built a large number of ships for an attack on Rhodes, and he wrote secretly to all his satraps and magistrates that on the thirtieth day thereafter they should set upon all Romans and Italians in their towns, and upon their wives and children and their domestics of Italian birth, kill them and throw their bodies out unburied, and share their goods with himself. He threatened to punish any who should bury the dead or conceal the living, and offered rewards to informers and to those who should kill persons in hiding, and freedom to slaves for betraying their masters. To debtors for killing money-lenders he offered release from one-half of their obligations. These secret orders Mithridates sent to all the cities at the same time. When the appointed day came calamities of various kinds befell the province of Asia, among which were the following:
The Ephesians tore fugitives, who had taken refuge in the temple of Artemis, from the very images of the goddess and slew them. The Pergameans shot with arrows those who had fled to the temple of sculapius, while they were still clinging to his statues. The Adramytteans followed those who sought to escape by swimming, into the sea, and killed them and drowned their children. The Caunii, who had been made subject to Rhodes after the war against Antiochus and had been lately liberated by the Romans, pursued the Italians who had taken refuge about the Vesta statue of the senate-house, tore them from the shrine, killed children before their mothers' eyes, and then killed the mothers themselves and their husbands after them. The citizens of Tralles, in order to avoid the appearance of blood-guiltiness, hired a savage monster named Theophilus, of Paphlagonia, to do the work. He conducted the victims to the temple of Concord, and there murdered them, chopping off the hands of some who were embracing the sacred images. Such was the awful fate that befell the Romans and Italians throughout the province of Asia, men, women, and children, their freedmen and slaves, all who were of Italian blood; by which it was made very plain that it was quite as much hatred of the Romans as fear of Mithridates that impelled the Asiatics to commit these atrocities. But they paid a double penalty for their crime -- one at the hands of Mithridates himself, who ill-treated them perfidiously not long afterward, and the other at the hands of Cornelius Sulla. In the meantime Mithridates crossed over to the island of Cos, where he was welcomed by the inhabitants and where he received, and afterward brought up in a royal way, a son of Alexander, the reigning sovereign of Egypt, who had been left there by his grand-mother, Cleopatra, together with a large sum of money. From the treasures of Cleopatra he sent vast wealth, works of art, precious stones, women's ornaments, and a great deal of money to Pontus.
While these things were going on the Rhodians strengthened their walls and their harbor and erected engines of war everywhere, receiving some assistance from Telmessus and Lycia. All the Italians who escaped from Asia collected at Rhodes, among them Lucius Cassius, the proconsul of the province. When Mithridates approached with his fleet, the inhabitants destroyed the suburbs in order that they might not be of service to the enemy. Then they put to sea for a naval engagement with some of their ships ranged for an attack in front and some on the flank. Mithridates, who was sailing around in a quinquereme, ordered his ships to extend their wing out to sea and to quicken the rowing in order to surround the enemy, for they were fewer in number. The Rhodians were apprehensive of this manuvre and retired slowly. Finally they turned about and took refuge in the harbor, closed the gates, and fought Mithridates from the walls. He encamped near the city and continually tried to gain entrance to the harbor, but failing to do so he waited for the arrival of his infantry from Asia. In the meantime there was continual skirmishing going on among the soldiers in ambush around the walls. As the Rhodians had the best of it in these affairs, they gradually plucked up courage and kept their ships well in hand in order to dart upon the enemy whenever they should discover an opportunity.
As one of the king's merchantmen was moving near them under sail a Rhodian two-bank ship advanced against it. Many on both sides hastened to the rescue and a severe naval engagement took place. Mithridates outweighed his antagonists both in fury and in the multitude of his fleet, but the Rhodians circled around and rammed his ships with such skill that they took one of his triremes in tow with its crew and tackle and much spoil, and brought it into the harbor. Another time, when one of their quinqueremes had been taken by the enemy, the Rhodians, not knowing this fact, sent out six of their swiftest ships to look for it, under command of their admiral, Demagoras. Mithridates despatched twenty-five of his against them. Demagoras retired before them until sunset. When it began to grow dark and the king's ships turned around to sail back, Demagoras fell upon them, sunk two, drove two others into Lycia, and returned home on the open sea by night. This was the result of the naval engagement, as unexpected to the Rhodians on account of the smallness of their force as to Mithridates on account of the largeness of his. In this engagement while the king was sailing about in his ship and urging on his men, an allied ship from Chios ran against his in the confusion with a severe shock. The king pretended not to mind it at the time, but later he punished the pilot and the lookout man, and conceived a hatred for all Chians.
About the same time the land forces of Mithridates set sail in merchant vessels and triremes, and a storm, blowing from Caunus, drove them toward Rhodes. The Rhodians promptly sailed out to meet them, fell upon them while they were still scattered and suffering from the effects of the tempest, captured some, rammed others, and burned others, and took about 400 prisoners. Thereupon Mithridates prepared for another naval engagement and siege at the same time. He built a sambuca, an immense machine for scaling walls, and mounted it on two ships. Some deserters showed him a hill that was easy to climb, where the temple of Zeus Atabyrius was situated, surrounded by a low wall. He placed a part of his army in ships by night, distributed scaling ladders to others, and commanded both parties to move silently until they should see a fire signal given from Mount Atabyrius; and then to make the greatest possible uproar, and some to attack the harbor and others the wall. Accordingly they approached in profound silence. The Rhodian sentries knew what was going on and lighted a fire. The army of Mithridates, thinking that this was the fire signal from Atabyrius, broke the silence with a loud shout, the scaling party and the naval contingent shouting all together. The Rhodians, not at all dismayed, answered the shout and rushed to the walls in crowds. The king's forces accomplished nothing that night, and the next day they were beaten off.
The Rhodians were most dismayed by the sambuca, which was moved against the wall where the temple of Isis stands. It was operating with weapons of various kinds, both rams and projectiles. Soldiers in numerous small boats circled around it with ladders, ready to mount the wall by means of it. Nevertheless the Rhodians awaited its attack with firmness. Finally the sambuca collapsed of its own weight, and an apparition of Isis was seen hurling a great mass of fire down upon it. Mithridates despaired of his undertaking and retired from Rhodes. He then laid siege to Patara and began to cut down a grove dedicated to Latona, to get material for his machines, until he was warned in a dream to spare the sacred trees. Leaving Pelopidas to continue the war against the Lycians he sent 88 Archelaus to Greece to gain allies by persuasion or force according as he could. After this Mithridates committed most of his tasks to his generals, and applied himself to raising troops, making arms, and enjoying himself with his Stratonicean wife. He also held court to try those who were accused of conspiring against him, or of inciting revolution, or of favoring the Romans in any way.