Significance of the mithridatic and parthian wars to the political developments of republican rome

How significant were the wars against Mithridates and the Parthians in the political developments of the Roman Republic between 78BC and 31BC? _____________________________________________________________________________________________ The wars against Mithridates and the Parthians in the period 78-31BC are acutely significant on the political developments of the Roman Republic. The expansion of the Roman Empire into Eastern settlements took place under the leadership of an oligarchy, thus, politicians had to distinguish themselves through military achievements to be elected to gain influence in the Republic. Throughout the Mithridatic War, Pompey used his military victory over Mithridates in 63BC in order to gain political recognition in Rome. However, due to the constant fear of the emergence of autocratic behaviour, the senate refused to ratify Pompey’s Eastern Settlement. The intransigence of the oligarchy ultimately stimulated the formation of the first triumvirate, a strategic alliance which intimidated senatorial powers. Correspondingly, this increased intimidation between the three triumvirs, leading to Crassus’s unsuccessful Parthian campaign in which his death marked the breakdown of the triumvirate. Political instability within Rome spurred the outbreak of the civil war providing Caesar with immense autocratic power, undermining that of the senate. Due to Caesar’s assassination in 44BC, the collapse of the Republican political system in Rome was provoked through Antony’s unsuccessful assumption of Caesar’s Parthian campaign and the failure of the second triumvirate. The results of the Mithridatic and Parthian Wars were significant in their stimulation of the downfall of the Roman Republic and provided an insight into Imperial Rome. The outbreak of the Third Mithridatic War marked the challenging of senatorial power within Roman politics through the increased dominance of influential politicians. Rome came into “ renewed conflict with Mithridates of Pontus through the protracted struggle” against the piracy in the Eastern Mediterranean and the acquisition of Bithynia by the Roman Empire. This subsequently posed a threat to Mithridates’ kingdom, as Rome would have complete control over the entrance to the Black Sea. Optimate leader, Lucius Lucullus, gained political recognition in Rome through his command to “ meet the menace of Mithridates” in 74BC as a response to Mithridates’ invasion of the new Roman province Bithynia. Lucullus’s offensive against Mithridates led to his invasion of the eastern state of Armenia in attempt to capture the Pontic King, however he preceded this attack without senatorial permission. His campaign was brought to a close as “ he had failed to produce a decisive defeat” and “ there was growing campaign in Rome to recall him”. His recall was further spurred due to the undying resentment of the Roman equestrian class as his attempt to assist the economic crisis in his province of Asia “ curtailed their profiteering activities in Asia”. Criticism escalated amongst the financiers arguing that he “ prolonged the war for his own glory and profit”. Through the restoration of power for the tribunes, Pompey used the voice of his tribune Gabinius in order to gain command over the pirates through the legislation of Lex Gabinia in 67BC, alongside with a large amount of resources “ which to one man was unprecedented in Rome”. Pompey was conscious that he needed to defeat Mithridates decisively therefore he “ stamped Roman authority firmly upon the entire area surrounding Pontus”. Following this, he surrounded the Mediterranean with Roman Provinces and established a network of client kingdoms to ensure internal stability and to provide a valuable buffer against any Parthian expansion from the East. Pompey became renown for his settlement of the East as he “ formed the basis of a defensive frontier system that was to last for over 500 years”. His unmitigated success over his settlement displayed Pompey’s abilities as an “ organiser, administrator and diplomat”. The Optimates and the Populares feared his enhanced reputation amongst Roman politics as he posed a threat to the Republic through his autocratic behaviour. The senate rebuffed Pompey on his return from the East as it “ had a profound impact on the political constellations in Rome, ” as the Optimates believed “ he stood for nothing but the accumulation of personal power… who followed in Sulla’s lead in using military command to gain political power in Rome”. The threat of Mithridates enabled Pompey to embark on a campaign which triggered wide attention from the East and from the political sphere in Rome. The senate feared his growing influence as politicians viewed his power as threatening to the Republican constitution and their resentment towards Pompey led to the formation of the First Triumvirate which paved the path of the disempowerment of the traditional political developments in Rome. The influence of the First Triumvirate over the traditional political developments in Republican Rome was severed due to disastrous outcome of Crassus’s Parthian campaign. Through his joint consulship with Pompey in 55BC, Crassus used his granted province of Syria as a launchpad to initiate a war against the vast Parthian Empire which extended from the Syrian frontier to central Asia. Crassus’s motivation for this crusade was driven by his determination to claim “ military glory to rival that of his fellow Triumvirs” and to “ gain the status of the Greatest Man in Rome” as he was cast in the shadow under Caesar and Pompey’s military achievements and acclamation. War against these influential men would be “ glorious and profitable” and with the support of the Optimates, Crassus left for Syria in November. The Romans grew intimidated by Crassus as he took with him seven legions going against the legislation Lex Trebonia, which fuelled widespread suspicion of his motives in relation to Parthia. In 53BC, Crassus crossed the Euphrates and declared war against the Parthians, however his army was attacked as he undermined the strength of the Parthian’s “ formidable cavalry” and Crassus was killed in battle at Carrhae. The death of Crassus heavily impacted the alliance between the now two Triumvirs as growing jealousy between Pompey and Caesar in collaboration with Caesar’s increased desire for imperium, led to the deterioration of the First Triumvirate. The political developments in Rome were not only disturbed by the breakdown of the First Triumvirate but furthermore, “ Roman prestige suffered a severe blow… and thereafter the frontiers of the Roman Empire were no longer safe from incursions by the Parthians”. As a result of his death, Crassus’s Parthian campaign in Carrhae “ virtually spelt the end of the First Triumvirate” as the power between the Triumvirs became unequal as jealousy prompted further escalated the rivalry between Pompey and Caesar. Moreover, his campaign created tensions between Parthia and Rome and prefigured other Roman General’s expeditions to attack Parthia. The impact of Crassus’s death at Carrhae was ultimately a main factor that led to the outbreak of the Civil War in 49BC. Crassus’s abrupt invasion on the Parthian Empire impacted Roman politics and led to Marc Antony’s assumption of Caesar’s incomplete campaign in order to position himself as Caesar’s heir and military successor. Caesar was forced to devise plans to continue the attack on the Parthians as Crassus had “ laid the seeds of a long-lived feud between two powers which by nature were complementary rather than antagonistic”. Caesar had enforced his dictatorship in 49BC and intended to “ hold and wield power in the future” leading towards his implementation of absolute power. The general aimed to leave Rome on the 18th of March in 44BC with 16 freshly raised Roman legions with determination to definitively conquer the expansive empire in revenge of the murder of his fellow triumvir. However, his expedition was not executed as he was assassinated two days before his expected departure in the Senate house on the Ides of March by a crowd of “ aristocratic conspirators” including Brutus and Cassius. Caesar’s death marked the degradation of Republican Rome and amplified the struggle between the Republicans and the Caesarians. The immediate result of the dictator’s death was the formation of the second triumvirate established between Lepidus, Octavian and Marc Antony in 43BC, which aimed to equally govern the expansive Roman Empire through a collegial alliance. Antony was disturbed by Caesar’s appointment of Octavian as his heir in his will, as he was “ perturbed by Octavian’s growing influence within Roman politics”. Despite both their efforts to eliminate the authority of Brutus and Cassius in Roman provinces, jealous tensions continued to grow between Antony and Octavian in the fight for absolute power. In realisation that there needed to be political bonds between these statesmen, at the end of 43BC, “ the three leaders of the Caesarians, Antony, Lepidus and Octavian, met under strict conditions… near Bononia… and agreed to form a private alliance and jointly control the state”. Thus, in less than two years after Caesar’s death, “ Rome found herself saddled with three dictators instead of one”. Octavian and Antony cooperatively defeated the threat of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippi in 42BC. This led to the exclusion of their “ absent colleague Lepidus from the inner circle of power” on the grounds that “ he had not proved himself value in Italy” and was suspected of having “ treacherously made contact with Sextus Pompeius”. “ A renewed civil war broke out in Italy” as Sextus Pompeius in assistance with Antony’s wife Fulvia, stirred a rebellion whilst Antony was absent from Rome. His absence was dangerous to his political position as Octavian received immense prestige in his defeat of Pompeius in 36BC and “ the Roman people began to look to him as the only man who could free them from the scourge of civil war”. Whilst Antony was confronted by the collapse of his position in the West, he was under immense pressure in his attack on the Parthians in the East. He attempted to restore Roman prestige through the intention to “ reorganise the relationship between the direct and indirect Roman rule” in the Eastern province of Parthia. Antony’s launched attack on Parthia in 36BC “ reflected Julius Caesar’s plans for his unrealised Parthian invasion that had been aborted due to his assassination”. However, his army was defeated in the battles and could not obtain a Parthian stronghold, as historian Jonathon Roth describes Antony as “ not a very astute or creative strategist”. As a result of these defeats, Antony depended on his relationship with Cleopatra and the support of her influence in Alexandria in order to receive money to fund his continuous battle against the Parthians. The period of 33-32BC marked the breakdown of relations between Antony and Octavian, due to the wide criticism expelled by one another undermining each other’s positions. Octavian accused Antony of “ wanting to destroy the freedom of the Roman people and bring them under the yoke of the Egyptian queen”, and in response, Antony replied accusing Octavian of “ having broken his word several times and of illegitimately deposing Lepidus”. Anthony’s failed campaign in Parthia and his affiliations with Cleopatra “ both made a bad impression in Italy, ” and both performed a significant role in the breakdown of the Second Triumvirate, leading to Octavian’s success over Antony in the civil war battle of Actium in 31BC. The outcome of the Mithridatic and Parthian Wars imposed direct implications on the political developments in Republic Rome, as they led towards a monarchial governing system. The impact of the Mithridatic War upon the political sphere in Rome encouraged the construction of the First Triumvirate, limiting the authority of the Senate and enabling the triumvirs to receive autocratic power. The failure of the Parthian campaign by Crassus and Marc Antony in correlation with the death of Caesar signified the dissolution of Republican Rome. The war marked the collapse of the political developments in Rome due to internal jealousies and ambitions of politicians who outbalanced the power of other political groups such as the senate body and the triumvirates. In a period of political instability and social unrest, the significance of these wars culminated the demise of the Roman Republican Empire. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Bringmann, K. A History of the Roman Republic, Munich, Polity Press, 2007 [ 2 ]. Gruen, E. The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, California, University of California Press, 1974 [ 3 ]. Swain, H. Davies, M. E. Aspects of Roman History, USA, Routledge, 2010 [ 4 ]. Ibid [ 5 ]. Ibid [ 6 ]. Ibid [ 7 ]. Plutarch, Pompey [ 8 ]. Swain, H. Davies, M. E. Aspects of Roman History, Routledge, USA, 2010 [ 9 ]. Ibid [ 10 ]. Bringmann, K. A History of the Roman Republic, Munich, Polity Press, 2007 [ 11 ]. Plutarch, Pompey [ 12 ]. Mackay, C. Ancient Rome: a Military and Political History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004 [ 13 ]. Rodgers, N. Ancient Rome, London, Hermes House, 2008 [ 14 ]. Swain, H. Davies, M. E. Aspects of Roman History, Routledge, USA, 2010 [ 15 ]. Ibid [ 16 ]. Gruen, E. The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, California, University of California Press, 1974 [ 17 ]. Shotter, D. The Fall of the Roman Republic, London, Routledge, 1994 [ 18 ]. Cary, M. Scullard, H. H. A History of Rome: Down to the Reign of Constantine, Bedford Publishers, UK, 1975 [ 19 ]. Ibid [ 20 ]. Swain, H. Davies, M. E. Aspects of Roman History, USA, Routledge, 2010 [ 21 ]. Bringmann, K. A History of the Roman Republic, Munich, Polity Press, 2007 [ 22 ]. Ibid [ 23 ]. Ibid [ 24 ]. Holland, T. Rubicon: The Triumph and the Tragedy of the Roman Republic, Little Brown, Great Britain, 2003 [ 25 ]. Bringmann, K. A History of the Roman Republic, Munich, Polity Press, 2007 [ 26 ]. Ibid [ 27 ]. Ibid [ 28 ]. Ibid [ 29 ]. Mackay, C. Ancient Rome: a Military and Political History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004 [ 30 ]. Bringmann, K. A History of the Roman Republic, Munich, Polity Press, 2007 [ 31 ]. Roth, J. Roman Warfare, UK, Cambridge University Press, 2009 [ 32 ]. Ibid [ 33 ]. Ibid [ 34 ]. Ibid [ 35 ]. Mackay, C. Ancient Rome: a Military and Political History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004