Mithridates the Great (ePub)
Rome's Indomitable Enemy
A military biography of Mithridates VI 'the Great' of Pontus, Rome's most persistent enemy. The Mithridiatic wars stretched over half a century and two continents, and have a fascinating cast of pirates, rebels, turncoats and poisoners (though an unfortunate lack of heroes with untarnished motives). There are pitched battles, epic sieges, double-crosses and world-class political conniving, assassinations and general treachery. Through it all, the story is built around the dominant character of Mithridates, connoisseur of poisons, arch-schemer and strategist; resilient in defeat, savage and vindictive in victory. Almost by definition, this book will break new ground, in that nothing has been written on Mithridates for the general public for almost half a century, though scholarly journals have been adding a steady trickle of new evidence, which is drawn upon here.
Few enough leaders went to war with Rome and lived long to tell the tale, but in the first half of the first century BC, Mithridates did so three times. At the high point of his career his armies swept the Romans out of Asia Minor and Greece, reversing a century of Roman expansion in the region. Even once fortune had turned against him he would not submit. Upto the day he died, a fugitive drive to suicide by the treachery of his own son, he was still planning an overland invasion of Roman itself.
This book is a terrific read. Even though it is only 180 pages long, (plus references, maps, picture section etc), I found it richly rewarding. It is not quick reading. It kept me going for almost 2 weeks, where I normally devour a book in 2-3 days. I often needed to re-read sections, to adequately grasp the details. The language is mostly precise and articulate, peppered with humorous but appropriate modern jargon (e.g. p155 “Mithridates had left several juicy castles stuffed with treasure”).John Viggers, Freelance
Incidents which are based on less reliable sources are identified, and the author offers personal interpretations which seem quite believable. The summing up of the epilogue was particularly useful.
The book is intended for the general reader rather than the academic but I suspect that it might be confusing if the reader does not have some familiarity with the history of late republican Rome. Eg. It would be an advantage if the reader knows something of characters such as Sulla, Pompey and Sertorius. The 13 page introduction is an excellent summary of the situation of the Mediterranean world in the first century BC and should not be skipped over.