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Roman Command Structure during First Mithridatic War

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Roman Command Structure during First Mithridatic War

The Roman Command Structure during First Mithridatic War

L. Licinius Murena pater (pr.88) went east in early 87 as Sulla's principal deputy, along with L. Cornelius Lentulus (pr.urb.88). Sulla's province was Asia as well as the bellum Mitridaticum supreme command, while the ex praetura viri pro consule Lentulus and Murena seem to have been assigned the Macedonian and Cilician commands respectively. But the dramatic events of the Pontic invasions of Asia, Thrace, Macedonia and Greece involved Sulla and his deputies in drawn out and difficult campaigning before they could resume control of the lost provinces and even begin to exercise their command powers in their properly allotted spheres.
The situation after they did so is reflected in the extant lower half of a Rhodian statue-base titulus from 83 or 82 BC. In this document a certain Dionysios son of Lysanias commends a name-lost Rhodian benefactor to the Gods after recounting various (lost) benefactions and public services which conclude with a legation to a series of Roman officials who constitute the top echelon of the Roman high command in the east subsequent to Sulla's successful expulsion of the Pontic king and armies from Asia province, and his destruction of the Marian commander C. Flavius Fimbria and assimilation of his élite army of Fimbriani (autumn 85 BC).

[- - - ΠΡΕΣΒΕΥΣΑΝΤΑ - - -]
ΚΑΙ [ΠΟΤΙ] ΛΕΥΚΙΟΝ ΚΟΡΝΗΛΙΟΝ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΥ [Υ]ΙΟ[Ν ΣΥΛΛΑΝ]
ΣΤΡΑΤΑΓΟΝ ΑΝΘΥΠΑΤΟΝ ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ
ΚΑΙ ΠΟΤΙ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΝ ΚΟΡΝΗΛΙΟΝ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΥ ΥΙΟΝ
ΛΕΝΤΕΛΟΝ ΑΝΘΥΠΑΤΟΝ
ΚΑΙ ΠΟΤΙ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΝ ΛΙΚΙΝΙΟΝ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΥ ΥΙΟΝ ΜΟΥΡΗΝ[ΑΝ]
ΙΜΠΕΡΑΤΟΡΑ ΠΡΟΞΕΝΟΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΑΝ ΤΟΥ ΔΑ[ΜΟΥ]
ΚΑΙ ΠΟΤΙ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΝ ΛΙΚΙΝΙΟΝ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΥ ΥΙΟΝ ΛΕΥΚΟ[ΛΛΟΝ]
ΑΝΤΙΤΑΜΙΑΝ
ΚΑΙ ΠΟΤΙ ΑΥΛΟΝ ΤΕΡΕΝΤΙΟΝ ΑΥΛΟΥ ΥΙΟΝ ΟΥΑΡΡΩΝ[Α]
ΠΡΕΣΒΕΥΤΑΝ ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ
ΠΡΟΞΕΝΟΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΑΝ ΤΟΥ ΔΑΜΟΥ
ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΟΣ ΛΥΣΑΝΙΑ
ΕΥΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΝΕΚΑ ΚΑΙ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΣΙΑΣ
ΤΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΑΥΤΟΝ
ΘΕΟΙΣ.
[ΠΛ]ΟΥΤΑΡΧΟ[Σ] ΗΛΙΟΔΩΡΟΥ ΡΟΔΙΟΣ ΕΠΟΙΗΣΕ[1]

Thus five senior Roman commanders:
L. Cornelius L. f. [Sulla] pro cos. and commander in chief
L. Cornelius L. f. Lentulus pro cos.
L. Licinius L. f. Murena imperator, official public guest and benefactor of the Rhodian people
L. Licinius L. f. Lucullus pro quaestore
A. Terentius A. f. Varro legatus of Romans, official public guest and benefactor of the Rhodian people

This is among the latest documents from Asia province and the Aegaean region which still uses the Roman ethnic and it notably does so only with regard to A. Varro's legatio and in its attempt to express Sulla's overarching command.
Two statue tituli set up by the koinon of the Ainianes at the federal capital Hypata in autumn 88 BC honouring L. Lucullus as quaestor[2] are the earliest such records without the ethnic appended to an official Roman title, and they are soon followed by another from Thespiai in Boiotia honouring the legatus Q. Braetius Sura immediately after he was superseded there by Lucullus and sent back north to his commander C. Sentius in Macedonia province for the winter (88-87 BC).[3] None of the many tituli honoring Lucullus in the east as quaestor and vir pro quaestore append the ethnic to his title, so it is evident that it was he (an enthusiastic philhellene, fluent in Greek from youth) who first encouraged Greek civic authorities to drop the ethnic and treat Romans as fellow Hellenic-speakers. This is an important issue for dating honorific inscriptions, which can conveniently be divided into those with the ethnic (80s BC and previously) and those without (80s and subsequently).
In office in 88 and afterwards as pro quaestore in the east (87-80 BC) Lucullus is generally thought to have been Sulla's quaestor. This may be the case in 88 itself but not necessarily so, and was probably not the case subsequently. In spring 84 when Sulla took the bulk of his army and Lucullus' fleet back to Greece he left Murena in charge of Asia and Cilicia provinces, with instructions to raise another fleet and assist the Rhodians tackle piracy and the bandit dynasts infesting the hinterland who had both been significantly sponsored under the belligerent and predatory administration of the Pontic king.[4] Lucullus remained in Asia province as acting quaestor to Murena and de facto provincial commander while Murena and his legate A. Terentius Varro undertook operations in the south by land and sea, before Murena instigated the second war with Pontus in 83.[5] Meanwhile L. Manlius Torquatus (the later pr.79) appears as Sulla's acting quaestor striking coinage for him in Greece.[6] There is every reason to suppose that Torquatus (born 119 or earlier) was also quaestor in 88 and went out east pro quaestore to Sulla in 87, while Lucullus was officially quaestor to L. Murena during the latter's praetura in 88 and remained officially the senior deputy on his brother-in-law's command staff until 81 BC when Murena was ordered to return to Rome and replaced in charge of Asia and Cilicia by the special commander (praetor in office) M. Minucius Thermus.
The main additional evidence reinforcing this proposition is the rebellion of some of the Peloponnesians against Roman hegemony in 88 when they sided with Archelaos' invasion of Greece,[7] combined with Plutarch's notice,[8] that during the siege of Athens in 87 Sulla sent Lucullus into the Peloponnese to strike coinage, where he minted the silver currency called Luculleian by the Greeks after him. Furthermore with a titulus from Messene in the far SW Peloponnese honouring Murena, yet again as imperator translitterated as in the Rhodian inscription from several years later.

[Α Π]ΟΛΙΣ
ΛΕΥΚ[ΙΟ]Ν ΛΙΚΙΝΙΟΝ [Λ]ΕΥΚΙΟΥ
[Υ]Ι[Ο]Ν ΜΟΥΡΗΝΑΝ ΙΜΠΕΡΑΤΟΡΑ
ΤΟΝ ΑΥΤΑΣ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΑΝ[9]

Clearly then Plutarch's extreme summarizing and biographic slant has obscured the proper background that in 87 Sulla sent Murena and his brother-in-law acting quaestor south to suppress the pro-Pontic governments in the Peloponnese, which they rapidly accomplished with the assistance of those remaining pro-Roman, such as Messene with its ancient tradition of hostility towards Sparta. Murena was evidently first hailed imperator for these successful operations, and the fines exacted in punishment from the pro-Pontic polities were melted down and struck as Greek-style coinage by Lucullus, perhaps at Korinth and Argos. The pressures of events of the Pontic war when the two subordinate commanders, with their own command staffs and iura imperii, had to spend several years huddled together with Sulla and his army in the same encampments and military operations, seem to have resulted in a good deal of misunderstanding about the technical command structure of the time. Some Hellenistic specialists[10] have even thought Murena to have been a legate under Sulla, apparently ignorant of the Roman constitution which only permitted commanders with their own command rights to be hailed imperator or awarded the triumph.

In winter 82-81 while preparing and then beginning his dictatorship, Sulla organized the dispatch of four special commanders to take over all the more important and largest provinces. These huge agglomerated commands were apparently designed to last just the one year until the senior magistrates of 81 could complete their offices in Rome and begin a regular succession of provincial commanders ex consulatu and ex praetura in 80. These stop-gap, specially tasked commanders were carefully chosen and given large armies in order to mop up residual Marian opposition as quickly as possible. C. Annius was sent to Spain to get rid of Quintus Sertorius and given Gallia Transalpina in addition, whence C. Valerius Flaccus (cos. 93) was called home (after the longest continuous provincial command in the whole history of the Republic), to have a triumph for various successful operations against the Gauls, and previously in the highlands of Celtiberia (but above all for refusing to deploy his veteran army in the civil war on the side of the Marians). Young Pompeius was sent to Sicily and Africa to take on Papirius Carbo and Cn. Ahenobarbus, P. Gabinius (pr.89) to Macedonia and Achaia to permit L. Lentulus to return home. Murena too was summoned home to celebrate a triumph for his successes in the First Mithradatic War and as a reward for his belated obedience in finally putting a stop to the second one (83-82), begun on his own initiative and contrary to Sulla's express instructions and likely strategic planning, which presumably required the east to remain an unencumbered safe-haven in case the civil war in Italy went pear-shaped.
One of the new praetors in office, M. Minucius Thermus, former Marian legate to L. Valerius Flaccus (cos.suff.86) had apparently defected to Sulla in 85 following Fimbria's assassination of the consul, and was now sent out to replace Murena in Asia and Cilicia. He was also tasked to besiege Mytilene, whither recalcitrant Fimbrian officers had fled and lain low, later inciting the local authorities to declare for the Marians (about summer 83) once the civil war had got underway in Italy and Murena had committed himself to the second Pontic war. Just to be sure that Thermus remembered which side he was on (Marius' nephew, the creepy young Caesar whom Sulla had recently and reluctantly pardoned, joined his staff) Sulla instructed Lucullus to remain in Asia for a further year as Thermus' acting quaestor and to command the sea-borne operations against Mytilene.[11]
L. Murena pater probably died in Rome in 81 BC soon after his triumph, otherwise with Sulla's help and the éclat of the recent triumph he would surely have gained a consulate. Cicero is explicit that the consulate of the son was already due the family as owed to the father.[12] More than likely Sulla had planned to install him as consul in 80 with Metellus Pius, but with those plans upset at the eleventh hour by Murena's death late in the year he decided to improvise and take the other consulate himself - contrary to the old laws recently reinforced by his own leges Corneliae regulating the cursus honorum, which required a decade between repeated consulates. The likelihood that this was indeed an improvisation, and that he had just about had enough of imperia when he set the limit of 29 December 81(R) to his dictatorship, is shown by his refusal to take up the command of Gallia Cisalpina in 79 which was voted to him during his second consulate according to the normal procedure.[13]

A. Terentius Varro was probably legatus on L. Murena's staff for the entire period of his eastern command (87-81), and it was either during this time or in 81 after their return to Rome that he wed Murena's daughter. The marriage is not on record but may be safely assumed as providing the propinquitas which occasioned the eventual adoption of Varro's homonymous son by a Murena, who should be C. Murena the aedilis cur.ca.66 and second son of L. Murena pr.88 (and of the Lucullan Licinia). Oddly A. Varro legatus does not appear anywhere in the surviving literature on the Mithridatic Wars but is better represented in the contemporary epigraphy than any other senior officer of the time, with the exception of Sulla and possibly Lucullus.[14] Two of these tituli are remarkably unusual.

A round statue base from Selimiye,[15] thought to have been taken there from Euromos (Karia) registers his mother's name and her presence in the east (no doubt among the numerous noble men and women who fled Rome and Italy during and immediately subsequent to the bellum Octavianum), Paulla Terentia.

[Ο Δ]ΗΜΟΣ
ΠΩΙΛΛΑΝ(sic) ΤΕΡΕΝΤΙΑ[Ν ΑΡ]ΕΤΗΣ
ΚΑΙ ΕΥΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΝΕΚΕΝ ΤΗΣ ΕΙΣ <αυτον>
ΑΥΤΗΝ ΤΕ ΚΑΙ ΤΟΝ ΥΙΟΝ ΑΥΤΗΣ
ΑΥΛΟΝ ΤΕΡΕΝΤΙΟΝ ΑΥΛΟΥ ΥΙΟΝ
ΟΥΑΡΡΩΝΑ ΠΡΕΣΒΕΥΤΗΝ

The bilingual text from Delos appears to be the latest known which includes the Roman ethnic, which is missing from the statue titulus for his mother, as also from a stele thought to have been set up at Samothrace.[16] This document lists all the officers, specialist crew and marines who served aboard a quadrireme (tetreres) from Kos under the ship's captain (trierarchos) Kleonikos and the, evidently Rhodian, admiral (nauarchos) Eudamas. At the very top of the list A. Terentius A. f. Varro legatus appears as commander of the entire fleet (or perhaps "expedition"): ΤΟΥ ΣΤΟΛΟΥ ΠΑΝΤΟΣ.
In combination with the Rhodian titulus[17] in which he and Murena imperator are singled out from the other three senior officials as public proxenoi and benefactors of the Rhodian damos, this document demonstrates that A. Varro was Murena's principal fleet commander in the joint land and sea operations with the Rhodians in 84. Appian entirely omits these in his account of the Mithridatic Wars,[18]) but briefly alludes to Murena's anti-piracy campaign in the later context of the famous Pompeian bellum Piraticum.[19] In his extant geography Strabo (XIII 4.17 = 631 ed.Casaubon) briefly alludes to Murena overrunning the Milyas and deposing the last tyrant of Kibyra, Moagetes. He no doubt covered these events in detail in his (lost) Historiai.
Among the main beneficiaries from these expeditions were the Karians, who set up an unusual number of statues with honorific tituli in this period. As well as A. Varro and his mother Paulla Terentia the honorands include L. Murena the commander and his younger son Gaius.

White marble base with cuttings for an equestrian statue:[20]
Ο ΔΗΜΟΣ Ο ΚΑΥΝΙΩΝ ΕΠΑΙΝΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΣΤΕ-
ΦΑΝΟΙ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΝ ΛΙΚΙΝΙΟΝ ΛΕΥΚΙΟΥ
ΥΙΟΝ ΜΟΥΡΗΝΑΝ ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΑ
ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΑ ΓΕΓΕΝΗ-
ΜΕΝΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΔΗΜΟΥ ΧΡΥΣΩΙ ΣΤΕΦΑ-
ΝΩΙ ΤΙΜΑΙ ΔΕ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΚΟΝΙ ΧΑΛΚΗΙ ΕΦΙΠΠΩΙ
ΑΡΕΤΗΣ ΕΝΕΚΕΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΥΝΟΙΑΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΙΣ ΕΑΥΤΟΝ

A Circular white marble base with cuttings for a standing statue:[21]
Ο ΔΗΜΟΣ Ο ΚΑΥΝΙΩΝ ΕΠΑΙΝΕΙ
ΚΑΙ ΣΤΕΦΑΝΟΙ ΓΑΙΟΝ ΛΙΚΙΝΙΟΝ
ΛΕΥΚΙΟΥ ΥΙΟΝ ΜΟΥΡΗΝΑΝ ΕΥΕΡ-
ΓΕΤΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΑ ΓΕΓΕΝΗΜΕ-
ΝΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΔΗΜΟΥ ΧΡΥΣΩΙ ΣΤΕΦΑΝΩΙ
ΤΙΜΑΙ ΔΕ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΚΟΝΙ ΧΑΛΚΗΙ ΑΡΕΤΗΣ
ΕΝΕΚΕΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΥΝΟΙΑΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΙΣ ΕΑΥΤΟΝ

Probably both sons departed Rome with their father early in 87 and remained with him throughout. Cicero ignores Gaius and only mentions young Lucius' service to his father at this time, as well as his participation in the father's eventual triumph.[22] But Gaius' foot-statue erected along with the mounted ikon of their father, indicates that he was already 15 turning 16 in 87(R) and thus (just) old enough for a position on his father's staff. Gaius Murena's participation in this long period of eastern service in company with his own family and his adfinis Aulus Varro is significant to the history of Varrones Murenae, since it was most likely Gaius who made the son of his father's long-serving legatus his heir by testamentary adoption, thus creating the name Terentius Varro Murena for the first time (in 47 or 46 BC).

References

  1. ^ SIG³ 745 = IG XII, 1 48 (Rhodes, in Doric Grk.)
  2. ^ SIG³ 743; AE 1974, 603
  3. ^ IG IX, 2 613, Plutarch Sulla 11.4-5
  4. ^ Appian Mith.92
  5. ^ The less glamorous campaigning in 84 tends to be neglected, see further below and Cicero Lucullus 2: qui adulescentiam in forensi opera, quaesturae diuturnum tempus Murena bellum in Ponto gerente in Asia pace consumpserat.
  6. ^ M. Crawford RRC no.367
  7. ^ Appian Mith.29, and the Photian epitome of Memnon, ed.Jacoby FGrH 434 F1.22.10: both mention Lakedaimonians.
  8. ^ Lucullus 2.2
  9. ^ IG V, 1 1454
  10. ^ E. g. Chr. Habicht JRS 65 (1975), 74
  11. ^ Plutarch Lucullus 4.2-3 and Suetonius DIulius 2 deal with the same, or very closely related, operations but neither biographic source tradition manages to mention the other commander in the joint effort to reduce Mytilene.
  12. ^ pro L. Murena 15: et pater cum amplissime atque honestissime ex praetura triumphasset, hoc faciliorem huic gradum consulatus adipiscendi reliquit quod is iam patri debitus a filio petebatur.
  13. ^ Cf. Granius Licinianus 32 (ed.Flemisch): Data erat Sullae prova Gallia Cisal.
  14. ^ E. g. IGR I 843 = IG XII, 8 260; SIG³ 745 = ILS 8772 = IGR IV 1118; and the bilingual dedication Ins.Délos 1698 = ILS 866 = ILLRP 369 = CIL I² 738) which all give his filiation A. f. in addition to his title as legatus.
  15. ^ ILS 8773
  16. ^ IG XII, 8 260 = IGR I 843
  17. ^ SIG³ 745, above
  18. ^ Mith.64ff.
  19. ^ Mith.93. See also Cicero Verr.II i.89-90 on the new fleet Murena was obliged to order built in 84 to combat piracy: Decem enim navis iussu L. Murenae populus Milesius ex pecunia vectigali populo Romano fecerat, sicut pro sua quaeque parte Asiae ceterae civitates. [. . .] in ea classe quae contra piratas aedificata sit.
  20. ^ AE 1974, 630 (Kaunos)
  21. ^ AE 1974, 631 (Kaunos)
  22. ^ pro L. Murena 11-12

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