Friday, December 2, 2011

Close of the Dacian War

Throughout much of 697 AUC (57 BC), the war between Dacia and the Roman Republic proceeded as a series of sieges and skirmishes, rather than set battles.  Caesar's legions would, at various points, lay siege to one Dacian city or another, while Burebista's army would attempt to wear away at the supply lines of the Romans, while they were held down in sieges.  When Caesar would pursue Burebista's army, seeking battle, the Dacians would turn and lift the current siege.  Thus, neither force was able to accomplish anything of note, other than delay.

This stalemate fit into Burebista's strategy, as he hoped to simply outlast the Roman invasion, counting on victory being simply 'not losing.'  Understanding that Caesar was largely after glory and the political capital that went with it, he made every effort to harass and humiliate the Romans.  He may, however, underestimated Roman tenacity and vindictiveness.

Burebista's greatest victory was, as it turned out, something of the set battle which he sought to avoid.  While marching to the relief of the city of Buridava, in the late summer,  Burebista's army was overtaken by a Roman force of two legions, marching to reconnect with Caesar.  Though Burebista did not have any intention of engaging the enemy force, as they were comparable in number, the situation was forced upon him.

However, the Roman commander, Lucius Antonius Hybrida, overconfidently spread his lines dangerously thin, in an effort to envelop the Dacian force.  Burebista, seeing the opportunity present to him,  was able to punch through the Roman lines in two separate spots, enveloping the troops between.  Over half of the Roman soldiers were killed in this battle, and Antonius was soon recalled to Rome in disgrace, to be replaced by the more competent Gnaeus Domitius Regulus.

More heartening developments were to be found in the west, where the Roman allies, the Boii, a celtic tribe, were winning a series of victories over the Jazyges and the Dacian army in their vicinity.  At the start of the war, the Boii were a waning tribe, under intense pressure from the Dacian invasions of their territory, as were their neighbors, the Taurisci and the Scordisci.  However, under their king, Artebudes, they deftly negotiated alliances with the other tribes, and began to coordinate their defenses against the Dacians.

The Boii had the advantage of having the other two tribes in between them and the Dacian kingdom, thus allowing them some breathing room while the Taurisci and Scordisci took the brunt of the raids.  Artebudes also made all possible haste to assist in the defense of those that supported his war plans, while his army would arrive just too late to assist those that were opposed to him.  Thus, he was able to allow the natural course of war to eliminate many of his rivals.  On one noteworthy occasion, his army was not far from the site of a battle between the Dacians and a rival of his, Moges.  Artebudes made sure his army arrived just after Moges and his retinue had been killed in battle, saving the bulk of the leaderless army and defeating the Dacians.  Such perfect timing was the exception, rather than the rule, however.

Artebudes' strategy was quite effective, and the Boii were, by 697 AUC (57 BC) pre-eminent among the three tribes, and were the only capable of sending troops to assist Caesar's army directly.  His fame, already quite noteworthy among his people and neighboring tribes, was to skyrocket with the defeat of the Jazyges by his army.  It was not even half a decade before that the Jazyges were one of the most feared tribes in the entire region.  Now, they had been attrited by constant war, as well as the tendency of generals to use overwhelming force against them, for fear of their reputation.

Meanwhile, to the north, several barbarian tribes, including the Germanic Quadi, and the Venedae and Navari, began to raid the northern regions of Dacia.  Burebista's army could not defend against these raids, as well as those of the Boii and Bastarnae, and hold back Caesar's Legions.  As the war ravaged the land, many people suffered and some began to lose their faith in Burebista's leadership.

The coming winter was harsher than usual, and exacted a cruel toll on the populace.  Caesar spent the winter, forging ties with many of the Dacian tribes to the north; those that suffered the most from the constant raids.  He brought food and other gifts for the nobles, and soon won over the Costoboci and Carpi tribes.  He left with them garrisons to defend against the barbarians.

With the loss of the Carpi and Costoboci, Burebista knew that he could no longer avoid open battle with Caesar.  His strategy of bleeding the Romans white had worked just as well, if not better, against his own people.  He made every effort to pin down Caesar's army on favorable terrain, while Caesar made similar effort.  Eventually, the two armies met several miles northeast of the Burebista's capital of Argadeva, near Apulum.

As the two armies approached each other, Caesar began to make preparations and built up extensive fortifications around his army.  Burebista's army made a few attempts to assault the fortifications before building their own circumvallation, in imitation of Roman siege methods.  However, by doing so, the Dacian army was deprived of the mobility with which they had foiled the Roman attempts to defeat them.  Pinned down, Burebista's army was soon forced to defend against attacks from the allies of Rome, led by Octavius, Spartacus, and Artebudes.

The Dacian army did what they could to build defenses against the incoming armies, but their forces were soon stretched too thin by the double assault.  Caesar's troops assaulted the Dacian fortifications just as the outer lines were being completed.  As the battle raged, the outer army also renewed their attacks.  It was not long before the situation was hopeless for the Dacians, and Burebista, as his army disintegrated around him, took his own life, effectively ending the war.

The remainder of the Dacian military and government quickly surrendered to Caesar after one more minor skirmish.  Dacia was divided up, with some western territories being granted to the Boii and the northern areas, where the Costoboci and Carpi tribes resided, were established as allied client states of the Roman Republic.  The rest of Burebista's kingdom was divided into provinces.  Those territories to the south of the Danuvius river were organized into the province of Moesia.  The province of Dacia was organized out of the rest of the territories, stretching from the Danuvius in the south, to the Tisia in the west, up to the territories of the Costoboci and Carpi in the north, reaching around to the river Tyras, beyond which lay the Bastarnae, who were still allied to the Republic.

Once the civil affairs were in order, a process taking much of the remainder of the year, Caesar made preparations for further campaigns, against the barbarians beyond the territories of the states newly allied to Rome.  This campaign took up the better part of the year  698 AUC (56 BC), and the Roman forces were largely successful against the tribes, defeating armies of Quadi, Venedae, and Navari in efficient order.  Caesar, however, mainly sought to impress, by force of arms, the power of the Roman Republic and its faithfulness to its allies.  Therefore, he accepted peace with the tribes on generous terms and returned to Dacia before the close of summer.

Caesar, of course, could afford to be generous, given the wealth that which flowed into his coffers after the conquest of the Dacian gold mines.  Much of this went directly to his veterans, many of whom were also settled in Dacia on land confiscated from the conquered.  He also used the wealth to support the campaigns of his allies in Rome itself, including Lucius Octavius, who had returned to the city to run for Consul, and was elected.  By the end of  698 AUC (56 BC), Caesar himself was in Rome, celebrating a triumph for his victory.

While researching the Boii, I came across some information on Noric, one of the most eastern Celtic languages, spoken in Austria and Slovenia.  About as close to the Boii as I could get.  One of the few Noric inscriptions known references a man named "Artebudz," whose name is theorized to mean "bear penis."  Originally, the Boii king was to be named Moges, but, quite frankly, you have to go with the funnier name. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Continuation of the Dacian War

With Scythia minor firmly under Roman control, Caesar assembled his forces and marched onward, while leaving behind the Legio VIII to reinforce their rear in Scythia minor, including dredging out sections of the Danuvius and building an intricate system of dikes and levies to allow for the flooding of the marshlands, in case of Dacian attacks.

Caesar led the main body of his forces up, along the Hierasus (Siret) River, towards the Dacian city of Petrodava, while his lieutenant, Lucius Octavius, lead the Legio X up the coast, to take the port of Tyras, near the mouth of the river of the same name (Dniester).  Caesar planned to isolate the Dacians from their chief allies, the Bastarnae, with this phase of the campaign.

Octavius had little difficulty in securing Tyras, surprising the Dacian force assigned to defend it.  He quickly set about reinforcing the defenses of the city, which soon proved necessary, as the Bastarnae army bore down on his position, besieging the city after an initial attempt to storm the walls proved unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Caesar was faced with the main body of Burebista's army, under the Dacian king's command.  Caesar had, in his army, three legions and their auxiliaries, totaling roughly 48,000 men, as well as 10,000 Thracians.  Meanwhile, Burebista had over 100,000 soldiers in his army, hoping to crush Caesar's main force in a climactic battle.  The two armies clashed south of Proboridava, where a tactically inconclusive battle took place, with moderate casualties on both sides.

However, Burebista's plan was to hold down Caesar's forces long enough for the Dacian force to circle around them, cutting off their access to the lower part of the river.  The inconclusive bloody battle served this end perfectly, especially since Burebista's larger force could weather casualties with less difficulty.  By the end of the battle, the Romans were faced with a Dacian army both to their north and south, preventing them from advancing either further along the river or back to their base of operations, at Barbosi.  Caesar, surmising the Dacian strategy, conducted a forced march eastward, to the next branch of the Hierasus river, continuing his march up that branch.

Burebista then sent a smaller contingent of his army after Caesar, to follow him up the river, while his main force continued back up the main branch of the Hierasus, assuming that Caesar intended to circle around the Dacian forces and resume their advance on Petrodava.  However, several days into the new march, after some distance had been placed between Caesar's army and his pursuers, and the main Dacian force, the Roman army spun around and engaged the pursuing force.

The resulting battle went quickly in the Romans' favor, as the Dacians were not prepared for the onslaught.  Caesar made special effort to annihilate the army, before turning eastward, and marching in relief of Octavius at Tyras, where more and more of the Bastarnae were gathering and constructing ships in order to starve the city into submission.

As Caesar's army arrived at Tyras, the Bastarnae began to abandon their efforts of the siege and focus on repelling the new army.  The main Bastarnae force, under the command of their king, Zanatis, attacked the Roman troops relentlessly and savagely, their cavalry more than a match for the Romans, thus enabling the barbarians to press the Roman force on two different flanks.  As he saw his lines buckling and breaking, Caesar rushed to the front and began shouting to individual centurions and encouraging them, heading into the heat of battle itself.

The legionaries, seeing their general rush off into battle as they were being beaten back, hardened their resolve and stood firm.  Still, however, the Bastarnae continue to hammer into them, bloodying their army.  Caesar's bravery (or recklessness) again proved to be decisive.  As he fought the enemy, he came into battle with Zanatis, their king, himself.  The two fought for some time, until Caesar slipped on the blood drenched ground.  Zanatis then thrust down his sword powerfully at the Roman general, who was able to roll out of the way just in time, the blade sliding along the side of his armor.  Zanatis himself was caught off balance by his thrust, and Caesar thrust his gladius into the king's stomach, killing him and earning Caesar the Spolia Opima, the highest award any Roman could ever receive, which had been verifiably awarded only once before (though two, including Romulus, had received it in legend).

The soldiers on each side around them had become somewhat transfixed on the battle, and the Bastarnae were disheartened, while the Romans were encouraged.  These feelings soon spilled throughout the lines, and the Romans redoubled their efforts, while many Bastarnae fled in distress.  What looked to be a possible defeat for the Romans soon turned into a clear victory, as the Bastarnae army was shattered and demoralized.

After the battle, a delegation of Bastarnae nobles came forth to seek peace with the Romans.  They honored Caesar with many gifts for his bravery, and pledged that they would not seek war with Rome any longer.  Caesar accepted their peace offer and negotiated an alliance with the nobles, thus shoring up the northern front of the war.  The assembled parties agreed upon the border between Rome and the Bastarnae to be the Tyras river

By this point, Burebista was facing reports of increasing attacks from the Roman allies, the Jazyges, in his western realms.  Confident in the impregnability of the fortified cities of Dacia, he gathered the bulk of his forces and led them west to battle the Jazyges.  Thus, as Caesar's forces began to march into the Dacian heartland, Burebista was battling the Jazyges.

The records of these battles are not as detailed as those directly involving significant Roman forces, but the outcome is clear.  After a series of major battles, the first being fought in the mountain passes near Tapae, the Dacians were able to defeat the Jazyges and subdue them.  The final battle of this campaign was during the winter of 696-7 AUC (58-7 BC), when the Dacians launched a surprise attack over the Tisia (Tisza) river, catching the Jazyges off guard.  Subsequently, the Jazyges swore their allegiance to Burebista, effectively reversing the major alliances of the conflict.

As the winter set in, with the Romans laying siege to the eastern cities of Dacia, Burebista had a new plan for the war.  He intended allow Caesar to invest himself in long, protected sieges, while he would continually harass the Roman forces apart from the main army, wearing them down until he could crush them.  Meanwhile, Caesar was busy shoring up his supply lines and expanding his forces, reinforcing his current legions and recruiting a sixth legion, the XIV Falxa (named after the Dacian curved sword, the Falx), which contained a significant proportion of natives.


And so Caesar's war in Dacia continues.  I've been torn about the writing of this segment.  On the one hand, Caesar clearly is going to win, given the theme of this history, and the fact that he's a really good general with a really good army.  On the other hand, I don't want to make it too easy on him.

I also decided that Caesar should get the award of Spolia Opima, given to a Roman general who defeats the opposing commander in single combat.  Before him, only three Romans ever achieved the honor, making it the highest award any could receive.  Those three were Romulus, Aulus Cornleius Cossus, and Marcus Claudius Marcellus (one of Rome's best generals, ever).  Of those, only Marcellus is verifiable.  In our history, no other Roman would ever receive Spolia Opima.  There was the case of Marcus Licinius Crassus (grandson of the triumvir of the same name), who defeated the king of the Bastarnae in combat (the inspiration of this segment).  However, Augustus denied him the award on a technicality, as Augustus was, in theory, the Roman commander, by merit of his political position.

Also, a note about the Jazyges.  They're known more commonly in our history as the Iazyges, but I decided to translate them with a 'j' instead of an 'i', as that is an accepted spelling, and, since I haven't been spelling Julius as Iulius, it seemed only fitting.

Lastly, Octavius is the brother of Gaius Octavius, the father of Augustus.  I originally intended for Gaius Octavius himself to the commander, but decided that he was too much Caesar's peer to be serving under him (they were roughly the same age and Octavius even advanced quicker up the political ladder, in our history).  Instead, I decided that a younger brother of Octavius would serve the same purpose quite nicely.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Beginning of the Dacian War

Gaius Julius Caesar was, in 692 AUC (62 BC), a rising star in the Roman Republic.  He had successfully leveraged his popularity with the Roman people to further the enfranchisement of the other cities of Italia, with the Lex Julia.  As his term as Praetor drew to a close, he was able to leverage his new popularity with the rest of the peninsula to advance his career further.

So it was that, in 694 AUC (60 BC), he served a term as Consul, during which time, he spent much of his energies planning and preparing for a military campaign to crown his career.  He was not stifled for lack of options.  To the north, in Gallia, the Helvetian tribes were pushing up against tribes allied to the Republic.  Meanwhile, in the east, the Dacians, under the king Burebista, were launching a series of campaigns against the various independent tribes in Illyricum.  Burebista also supported various Greek cities that were discontent with Roman rule, always flirting just on the edge of acceptable conduct.

Burebista had worked hard during his time as king of the Getae tribe, pre-eminent among the Dacian peoples.  He was responsible for the expansion of their territory up to the Hypanis (Bug) River  in the north, down to Dionysopolis (Balchik, Bulgaria) in the south, and west to Hercynia (Moravia).  He reformed the Dacian military and refined the fortification of many locations, in the Murus Dacicus style, a combination of Dacian and Greco-Roman engineering.

Caesar was ultimately destined to campaign against Dacia, and soon, treaties were made with various tribes along their borders, including the Scordisci, Boii, and Taurisci confederations, all of which were feeling the weight of Burebista's armies.  Caesar then was assigned, at the end of his term, to the province of Illyricum, and made the final preparations for his campaign.

He issued several proclamations demanding that the Dacians leave the allies of the people of Rome alone, while mustering his forces, gathering up many auxiliary troops and an additional legion, recruited from volunteers across the Italian municipalities.  He was also able to procure the support of the Thracian king, Spartacus, a long-standing Roman ally.

As Burebista continued to defy Caesar's demands, Caesar began to march off to war, determined to conquer Dacia.  Against him stood Burebista's armies, numbering nearly 200,000, as well as their allies, the Bastarnae tribes to the north.  Caesar had, under his command, three legions, the Legio V Illyrica, Legio VIII Victrix, and Legio X Felix, numbering roughly 24,000, as well as an equal number of auxiliary troops.  His allies included Spartacus, with an army of roughly 20,000 men in total, as well the force of the Scordisci, Boii, and Taurisci tribes.  As the war began, Caesar was also able to secure the allegiance of the Jazyges, a Sarmatian tribe living in the vicinity of Dacia that had dealing with the Republic.

Caesar's army quickly reached the Danuvius (Danube) River and linked up with Spartacus' Thracians.  He spent the first year of the war securing fortifications up and down the river, and building ships to patrol it.  It was near the end of the campaign season in 695 AUC (59 BC) that the first major battle took place, near the Greek city of Tomis, in the region known as Scythia Minor (Dobruja).  The Dacian army was able to cross the river with little difficulty, and march down one of the smaller rivers toward Tomis, where they intended to then foliow the coastline and draw as much of Caesar's army away from the Danuvius as possible.

Caesar, leading the Legio VIII, though well behind the Dacians, was able to make up the difference relatively quickly, through both forced march and by transporting most of their supplies by boat, enabling their baggage train to be carried along with great speed.  Though the Dacian general, Dapyx, expected to be well into Thracia before the Roman army could reach him, they were able to catch up to his forces before he even reached the Euxine Sea.

With the rivers and lagoons to their back, the Dacians hurried to build makeshift defenses, which quickly became inundated by unexpectedly heavy rains.  Though the rains slowed down the Roman advance somewhat, they devastated the Dacian fortifications.  Dapyx then marched his troops, numbering roughly 40,000, against Caesar's army of roughly 20,000 (8,000 Legionaries, 8,000 Auxiliaries, and 4,000 Thracians).  

Caesar ordered the Thracians, on the left flank, to give way to the advancing Dacians, while holding much of his cavalry in reserve.  As the Dacians poured through the gap in the line, the Roman cavalry stormed down on them, driving them against the river, where the ground was still too soggy for effective cavalry charges.  However, by this point, the Thracians had reorganized their lines and had once again made contact with the Dacians, while the bulk of the Roman force was occupied with holding down the remaining Dacian army, while the forward units were destroyed.

Now, with the numbers of the opposing forces much more equal, Caesar's army began to roll back Dapyx's, shattering the Dacian force.  Roughly 12,000 Dacian soldiers were able to escape the battle, a loss of almost 28,000.  Meanwhile, Caesar's forces had lost almost 8,000 troops.  Through this hard-fought battle, Caesar's forces were able to secure Scythia Minor relatively quickly afterward, shoring up fortifications in the area.  By the spring of 696 AUC (58 BC), the region was firmly under Roman control, depriving Burebista of many of his Euxine Sea ports.  Meanwhile, Caesar also enrolled two new legions, the XI Scythica and the XII Tempesta.

So, clearly, Caesar will not be conquering Gaul in this history, but Dacia in its place.  I figured that, since this is Julius Caesar we're talking about here, he deserves more detail and embellishment, so I've gone into more detail about the forces involved and the battles.

A note about the legions named: they're total fabrications.  At this point, most legions were still temporary units, apparently, and so the units Caesar had in our history and this were recruited during his terms.  This means that the numbering and naming of the units will differ from those used in the Gallic campaigns of our history.

Burebista, also, was an interesting character.  He expanded Dacia far beyond the realm he inherited, reformed the government, improved its fortresses, and dabbled in involving himself in the various Roman civil wars of our history.  Caesar was planning on invading Dacia for his trouble, right before he was assassinated.  Burebista faired little better, however, and died soon after.  His kingdom collapsed into different successor states, which combined weren't able to field a quarter of the army that he had.  Its really amazing how many grand empire builders there were around this time.  A shame, almost.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Early Period of the Menander League

The reign of Maues and his successors saw a renewed prosperity for the Greek kingdoms of India.  Maues, Azes, and Abdagases after Azes, were all admirers of Greek culture and favored the Greeks among their many allies.  Under Xanthian patronage, the kingdoms were were united in a loose confederation, in 683 AUC (71 BC), known as the Menander League, named after Menander I, who, half a century before, united the Indo-Greek states.

The league could hardly be considered to be a unified polity, but prevented armed conflict between the Greeks, who were also protected from barbarian incursion from the north by Xanthian territory, as well as by the Xanthian support of sedentary states beyond, such as Dahae, Kwarezm, and Sogdiana.  In this stable climate, the Indo-Greek states prospered and expanded.  At that time, the Indian political climate was chaotic and unstable, as the Sunga Empire which had ruled began to collapse upon itself.  The opportunistic Greeks, with tacit support from their Xanthian patrons, were able to capitalize on the situation, expanding their influence south to the mouth of the Indus, and east, into the upper Gangetic plain.  True to form, the conquerers were an independent and stubborn lot, and, thus, instead of the new territories being added to existing states, new Greek states were formed, expanding the League in that fashion. 

Though the Indo-Greeks continued to squabble amongst themselves, their economy and cities expanded, with great engineering and architectural works being completed during this time, among them many Buddhist monuments.  As Buddhism had grown in popularity with the Greeks living in India, as well as the Xanthian royal family (though the Xanthian Empire made few efforts at proselytization)

As the Greeks expanded their holdings, native states began to assert themselves against the possibility of invasion by the Indo-Greeks, congealing into larger empires.  Just to the south of the Menander League, the kingdom of Surastrene, or Surashtra, (the Kathiawar peninsula), expanded up to the Thar desert, and along the coastline, until it abutted the Satavahana dynasty.  The Satavahanas, for their part, were consolidating their empire across southern India.

Even the failing Sunga dynasty experienced something of a resurgence, with states as far west as Mathura seeking the protection of Devabhuti, the Sunga king.  However, Devabhuti, in his eagerness to restore the glory of his dynasty, overextended his resources and presented an appealing target for the kingdom of Kalinga to the south, invading in 696 AUC (58 BC).  The war was quick, with the Sunga capital of Pataliputra falling before the end of the year, with the city gates being opened by treachery, and Devabhuti being killed by a slave girl. Kalinga thus took the place of Sunga, without much further resistance, and expanded its influence up the Ganges.


The Indo-Greeks are one of the more interesting anomalies of history, and deserve a little love.  Their downfall seems inevitable, given how far they are from their homeland, but they hung on for quite some time; several centuries, in fact.  With Maues invading Parthia, instead of the Indo-Greek kingdoms, they get a slight reprieve, which is assisted by the support of Maues himself, as well as his successors.  For a comparison, think of the League of Corinth, during Alexander's time, slightly watered down; not direct control, but stability, enforced from the outside.

The rest of India is being shaken around a bit, as it was, anyway.  There aren't nearly as many records of Indian kings at this point, so, unfortunately, India, for the most part, won't get the same personal touch as the west does, for some time.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The First Armenian War

In the wake of the various conflicts that were taking place to the east of Roman territory, such as the Mithridatic War, Tigranes' wars of conquest, Maues' conquest of Parthia, Roman attention was very much drawn to the area, both from concern about danger to the possibility to exploit the instability brought by those wars.

To this end, the Roman Republic entered into an alliance with the Xanthian Kingdom in 678 AUC (76 BC), against possible threats from their mutual neighbor, the Kingdom of Armenia, still ruled by Tigranes the Great.  Both the Romans and Xanthians eyed territory ruled by Tigranes; the Romans sought Syria, while the Xanthians sought northern Mesopotamia.  Tigranes, however, played the game of diplomacy well and did not provide either state with a cause for war, even though he himself had a valid cause in the subjugation of Characene, Elymais, and Persia by Maues.

Maues would end up dying in 682 AUC (72 BC), of an old wound sustained in battle, which had grown aggravated in recent years.  He was succeeded by his young son, Azes, who had developed a reputation as an intellectual and recluse.  In the early months of his reign, he quickly showed great aptitude for administration, but no inclination towards military matters.  Tigranes found the opportunity to be too great, and had grown restless in the years, yearning to resume the expansion of his empire.  Further, the Roman Republic had committed most its forces to fighting various barbarian tribes along the frontiers.  Invoking his duties to protect his allies to the south, Trigranes invaded Xanthian Mesopotamia, quickly marching on Seleucia and Ctesiphon.

Azes dispatched an army under the command of Zeonises, a prestigious aristocrat and general in the Xanthian court.  However, Zeonises owed much of his position to political intrigues and heredity, and was not half as skilled a general as he was purported to be.  His army, though it should have been more than a match for Tigranes', suffered repeated defeats, bloodied severely with each battle.

Compounding matters was Zeonises' style of command.  Though not nearly competent enough for the task ahead of him, Zeonises was, at the very least, courageous, and led his troops into battle himself, throwing himself into the thick of each battle.  Here, his skill as a single combatant shone.  However, that skill was overshadowed by his mediocre tactical and strategic senses, and provided him with enough arrogance to ignore the advice of those who knew better.  Zeonises would be killed in action in a battle near the ruins of old Babylon in early 683 AUC (71 BC), in which his army was utterly routed.

Azes then dispatched another general, Spalahores, to lead a new army against Tigranes.  Spalahores was much more cautious than Zeonises, and avoided open battle with Tigranes, preferring instead to attempt to wear down the invading force, which now held Mesopotamia in its entirety.  The year 684 AUC (70 BC) proved bittersweeet.  In that year, the Roman Republic sent an army under Gneaus Pompeius to Syria, to assist their allies against Tigranes.  However, at the same time, a rival rose up against Azes, his cousin, Vonones, who doubted Azes' ability to rule, given his lack of military experience.

Azes was thus forced to lead an army himself against Vonones, while resources were directed from Spalahores to that end.  Meanwhile, Tigranes led a portion of his army against Pompeius.  Pompeius was nothing if not methodical, and was regarded as something of a logistical genius, having established a very thorough and effective supply train for his legions.  He had served with distinction under Sertorius in various campaigns, and now had used his political backing to secure a command of his own.

The Syrian coastal cities fell quickly to a series of assaults and sieges, while Pompeius maintained complete naval dominance, ensuring that he could move his forces quickly and effectively.  Combined with extensive scouting, he was well aware of Tigranes' advances, and was able to transfer his troops accordingly, scoring an early victory against Tigranes' outside of Antioch in the first year.

However, around the same time, Azes was having difficulty putting down the revolt by Vonones, having lost consecutive battles to the pretender.  Azes decided to conclude the war against Tigranes, ceding Mesopotamia to the Armenian king and confirming the independence of Characene, which quickly fell under Armenian influence.  Azes then commanded Spalahores to march his army east, to assist Azes.  As it happened, Vonones, knowing that he had to defeat his cousin before the relief army could reach him, launched a surprise attack on the king's forces.  However, the battle quickly turned against the pretender army, and Vonones was shot by an arrow and died, leading to the surrender of his forces.  Azes was left in complete control of the Xanthian Kingdom, and spent the rest of the year touring the country to solidify his control.

Meanwhile, Tigranes was able to divert more troops against Pompeius, and the two forces met again, several miles west of Palmyra.  There, the Roman forces were victorious and Tigranes' army suffered significant casualties and was forced to retreat from Syria, to meet up with reinforcements.  Pompeius did not pursue Tigranes', however, preferring to secure the cities of Syria.  Thus, Tigranes was able to return with a new army in 685 AUC (69 BC), fighting several inconclusive battles against Pompeius, exhausting both armies, as the battle sites moved inexorably closer to the Armenian homeland.

Eventually, Tigranes concluded that he had little chance of holding onto Syria, and come to terms with the Romans, accepting their conquest of the territory.  Syria became a Roman province, and Pompeius earned the cognomen, 'Syricus.'  Meanwhile, Tigranes effectively exchanged Syria and access to the Mediterranean for Mesopotamia, and access to the Persian Gulf.


Not much to explain on this one.  I would like to mention, however, that Pompeius behaves much as he does in our history.  Methodical and cautious, he missed many opportunities to follow up with victories.  Reading of his exploits occasionally reminds me of General McClellan.

I decided to follow up Maues, a conqueror in the mold of Alexander (though conquering in the opposite direction), with Azes, an intellectual more concerned with administration and diplomacy; just the kind of king the Xanthians need, but also, the kind that hasn't earned respect from the rowdy warlords that had done all the hard work of conquering the empire in the first place.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reforms of the Roman Republic

In the wake of Sulla's revolt and the Lepidian Conspiracy, the city of Rome was very much an armed camp in many respects.  Distrust and suspicion ruled the day, and civil order was held together tenuously.  Unpopular politicians were at substantial risk of being attacked by dissident citizens, of all classes.  Many politicians unscrupulously sought power for themselves (not that such opportunism has ever been a stranger to politics).  Populares harnessed the power of the mob, while Optimates harnessed the fear of the mob, but both to the same end, personal power.  However, the same paranoia that gripped the Republic at this time also tended to be the downfall of overly ambitious politicians.

Eventually, many of the more patriotic Romans were able to make progress in stabilizing the state by addressing the many different issues that plagued the Republic at this point in history.  Before elaborating on the specific reforms, it should be mentioned that the key difference between the supposed patriotic reformers and the ambitious selfish reformers was that the former succeeded and the latter did not.  In other words, in an example of history being written by the victors, those politicians who proved to be unable to implement their reforms were cast as would-be autocrats, partially to further highlight the necessity of the successful reforms, and to exaggerate the tranquility they brought.

The first reform of note was the Lex Pompeia, enacted in 683 AUC (71 BC) by the Plebeian Council, under Gneaus Pompeius Syricus (though not yet called Syricus), who was Praetor at the time, and collaborated with both Tribunes to ease its passage.  The Lex Pompeia had two provisions.  The first provision of this law was to effectively abolish the ability of magistrates to disband assemblies by claiming that unfavorable omens had been observed.  In the instability that the Republic faced at this time, this method of blocking legislation had been greatly abused.  Cicero records such examples of politicians disbanding assemblies on trumped up omens: the Tribal Assembly being disbanded after thunder was heard, on a sunny day; on another occasion, it was disbanded on account of a magistrate having an uneasy stomach; the Centuriate Assembly was disbanded one day due to smoke from a fire, suspected to have been started by opponents to the business on the Assembly's agenda.

The second provision of the Lex Pompeia was to declare clubs of a 'semi-political nature' illegal, referring to the various armed gangs that were common in the city at the time.  This provision was unpopular with the plebeians, but was part of a compromise in order to ensure that the higher magistrates did not attempt to block the first provision.  The Lex Pompeia was very successful, and the legislative assemblies were able to conduct business normally once more, while violence greatly subsided in the city.

Though not a law, in 684 AUC (70 BC), the Senate issued a decree that called for the exile of anyone who executed a Romen citizen without trial.  In the political violence of the time, a few high profile instances of individuals being executed on Senatorial authority, particularly during Sulla's revolt, without due process, had occurred, much to the distaste of many Romans.  Unfortunately, one of the individuals so exiled was the famed Lucius Julius Caesar, who had, however, already retired to an estate in Campania, and accepted his punishment stoically, particularly as it had little real bearing on him.

The next reform law worth noting is the Lex Lutatia, enacted in 685 AUC (69 BC), by the Plebeian Council, under Quintus Lutatius Catalus Audax, who was the Plebeian Tribune.  The Lex Lutatia was framed to resolve the fact that the Centuriate Assembly no longer represented the military well at all.  Since Marius, Romans without land comprised the overwhelming majority of the legions.  However, in the Centuriate Assembly, which was supposed to represent the Roman soldiers, they only held one fifth of the vote, as the Proletarian Centuries.  Further, the Centuriate Assembly voted in class order and, like all Roman assemblies, stopped voting once a majority was reached.  This meant that the Proletarian Centuries almost never voted, as a majority was almost certainly reached well before the vote would proceed their ranks.  Thus, the Roman military was almost completely disenfranchised, a fact which they soldiers were well aware of, and proved to be a serious point of friction regarding their loyalty to the state over personal loyalties.

To address this, the Lex Lutatia first set the voting order of the Centuriate Assembly to be random, much as the Tribal Assembly was.  When voting was to commence, a century would be picked at random and their vote would be cast.  Then another century would be picked, at random, and so forth, until a majority had been reached.  By itself, this would have immediately lent more legitimacy to the Proletarian Centuries, but it would not have increased their voice, as they still only held one fifth of the total votes, even though they dominated the military.

Thus, the Lex Lutatia also reformed the organization of voting centuries, from five property classes to six, with two of them being reserved for the Proletarian Centuries.  Though still woefully under-represented, those soldiers now had twice the voice in the Centuriate Assembly, and began to use it to their advantage, at least when not on campaign, since all votes required citizens to be physically present in Rome, a point that would raise later issues.

Another Senatorial decree, issued in 687 AUC (67 BC),  effectively abolished the office of Dictator.  While there had not be an actual Dictator in over a century, the Senate occasionally granted dictatorial authority by means of the Final Decree, or Senatus Consultum Ultimum.  Led by the orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, who was Consul in that year, the Senate determined that such extraordinary powers were unneeded to protect the state.  Not so much in that there were no threats to the Roman Republic, but that it had become clear that the Final Decree itself was a threat, as the power granted proved too problematic.  Sulla had marched on Rome under such authority, as had Fimbria before him.  Caesar had executed Roman citizens, an act for which he accepted punishment, admittedly, under the same authority.  With such examples, the Senate was rightly afraid of what could happen in the future, if a Roman commander were successful in marching on Rome.

In 692 AUC (62 BC), the Tribal Assembly, under Gaius Julius Caesar, Praetor at that time, passed the Lex Julia.  Prior to this, the Tribal Assembly rarely passed legislation, but given the political climate and Caesar's audacious manner, unconventional, but constitutional, methods were the order of the day.  Caesar's rationale was the that Lex Julia directly impacted the Tribal Assembly.  The provision of the law was that the various territories of the Italian and Latin cities be organized into more tribes.

After the Lex Cornelia was passed 26 years earlier, the newly enfranchised cities were divided amongst 8 of the 35 existing tribes, to ensure that their votes would not dominate the assembly.  Caesar sought to make their representation somewhat more equitable, and, thus, the Lex Julia increased their allotment from 8 tribes to 12.  This involved a fair amount of gerrymandering on Caesar's part, but made him very popular with the rest of Italia, a fact which would prove useful for him when he needed recruits for his campaigns.

With the Lex Julia, the rush of reforming legislation waned.  The Republic was generally fairly conservative, by nature, and it would take some time for Rome to adjust to the changes to their system.  The reforms were largely successful in restoring peaceful civil government to the city, as well as the entire Italian peninsula.   Something of a minor golden age occurred, as genuine debate and discourse returned to the halls of Roman government, without the fear of violent reprisals for being part of the wrong faction of the moment.


First, remember that this section is written from the point of view of someone of this timeline.  Thus, though the era may be described as being plagued by political violence, it is nothing compared to the murderous mobs and legalized proscriptions of our history.  Also, the hypothetical writer of this piece is also not an unbiased source, and may attribute more tranquility to these reforms than they deserve.  Popular unrest may also have been abated by military adventures.

Some of these reforms did happen in our history, though at different times and by different sections of the government, such as the provisions of the Lex Pompeia and the Senate decree outlawing executions without trial.  Others were things that struck me as issues that needed to be fixed (particularly the Centuriate Assembly) and I devised the ways that I thought would be most palatable to Romans of the time.

Also, Pompeius Syricus is our Pompey the Great, and Caesar (not Lucius Julius Caesar, the one who gets exiled) and Cicero are the same as in our history.  As a matter of fact, Quintus Lutatius Catalus Audax, the Plebeian Tribune mentioned in this section, is the first invented character so far.  Expect more non-historical figures in upcoming entries.  Lastly, given how convoluted the Roman legislative process was, I do not claim with 100% certainty that I wrote all this correctly.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fall of the Parthian Empire

In the wake of the dynastic squabbling and Tigranes' invasion, the Parthian state was in poor shape, even though Phraates III stood uncontested as King by 667 AUC (87 BC).  It had taken him two long years to secure the throne, during which two of the Parthian capitals had been occupied by enemy forces.  The continued raids by Scythian nomads did not improve the situation.  The Arsacid dynasty stood on its last legs.

Phraates attempted, to the best of his ability, to stabilize his kingdom.  However, the state was incredibly decentralized, with many minor lords ruling with virtual independence.  Attempting to assert royal authority only invited revolt, and Phraates spent much of his time campaigning, always on the move, making sure that all the nobility knew that he was in charge.

In an effort to improve the standing of the Arsacids, Phraates led a campaign against the newly independent Persians in 672 AUC (82 BC).  However, the Persian king ruled over a much more stable state than did Phraates, and he was also able to secure the allegiance of Elymais, the state to the west of Persia.  The campaign quickly devolved into a quagmire instead of the quick prestigious victory Phraates had hoped for.

Before he could extricate himself from Persia, Phraates was faced with yet another challenge.  The constant raiding by the Scythians was overshadowed by a new threat.  Maues, an Indo-Scythian king, invaded their realm.  It is unknown precisely which tribe he hailed from, but he had already been engaged in subjugating various Indo-Greek cities in Arachosia (Arghandab, Afganistan) to his rule.  However, the destabilized Parthian kingdom was a much more tempting target at this time, particularly as the remaining Indo-Greek kingdoms were willing to support his campaign if he left them alone, effectively bribing him to invade westward instead of eastward.

Maues' army, like many Scythian armies, was largely cavalry-based.  However, two key difference stood out.  First, Maues' relations with the Greek cities provided him with a corps of experts familiar with siegecraft and other battlefield engineering.  Second, his army was one of the first recorded in the west to have made use of stirrups, though they were of the Indian style, toe stirrups, which were of less use in cooler climates.   Though it is doubtful that he was of their tribe, Maues had significant support among the Xanthii tribe, who formed a large contingent of his army.  Due to this, sources in the west would regard the kingdom over which he ruled to be the Xanthian Kingdom.

Maues' army swept into Parthia, defeating the initial forces sent against it.  Phraates was forced to concede to a status quo peace with Persia to turn and face the invasion.  By the time he was able to meet Maues in battle, the Xanthians had already reached the Parthian capital at Hecatompylos and was in the process of besieging the city as Phraates' forces reached his.  Withdrawing from the siege, Maues was able to lure Phraates into battle on terrain that gave the Xanthians the advantage, defeating Phraates, who died in the battle.

However, Phraates son, Orodes, was able to quickly secure the Arsacid throne and muster up a new army to fight the Xanthians.  Equal to Maues in battle, Orodes was able to halt the onslaught of the Xanthian invasion for some time.  However, Maues was able to reach Hecatompylos again in 674 AUC (80 BC) and took the city by treachery.  Orodes attempted to siege the city while Maues' main army was away.  However, Maues had marched off as a ruse, and soon returned to trap Orodes' army between the city and his army, crushing the force.  The remainder of the Parthian army fled west.  Maues fought against Orodes once more, at an unknown site some distance from Rhagae and defeated him again, capturing the young king in the battle.

Maues allowed Orodes to retain his crown, though as a vassal of Maues, and ruling over a greatly diminished kingdom in the original Parthian heartland.  Maues married Orodes' sister and took the title of King of Kings of Iran, before marching against Persia, Elymais, and Characene in 675 AUC (79 BC), quickly subduing those states.  His conquering spirit satisfied, Maues set about consolidating his empire, which stretched from Mesopotamia in the west to Arachosia in the east.  Where the Arsacid Dynasty of Parthia once stood, the Mauid Dynasty of Xanthia had taken its place.

Maues was, much like the Arsacid kings he replaced, an admirer of Greek culture, having risen to power amongst the Greek cities of northern India, with whom he formed excellent ties after conquering Iran.  A Buddhist, he established a tolerant respect for other religions, issuing coins with varying religious iconography in different regions of his empire.  He worked to centralize the core regions of his empire, while allowing some autonomy to the outlying vassals.  He also accepted many envoys from distant peoples, such as Rome and Seres.


Maues was an interesting character I discovered while searching for some Scythian barbarian to conquer the Parthians, so I had to include him in the fun.  I had been researching the Xanthii, whose name met my criteria for invading Parthia: having a cool and easily latinized name.  Check.  Then, while looking for an actual king, I came across Maues.  Unfortunately, nobody knows his nationality, and the Xanthii aren't even likely candidates, so I've had to rely on the tendency of historians to not let the truth get in the way of a good story for the names to come together.

His empire is the largest departure from our history to date.  Whereas everything else that happened so far (apart from coffee) happened in some similar fashion in our history, Parthia originally lasted roughly three more centuries before finally falling to the Sassanid Persians.  Having moved their collapse up so far will lead to all sorts of interesting consequences, in the east and the west.  I'm also hand-waving his use of stirrups into the picture.  Don't expect to see full stirrups in any updates soon, but contact with the Xanthian Empire will introduce the concept and lead, eventually, to someone developing them earlier than our history.  Look forward to exciting happenings.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Internal Threats to the Roman Republic

Though the simmering conflict with the Italian allies had largely been avoided, tranquility was not completely restored to the Roman Republic.  The upper and lower classes were still locked in a pitched battle over their respective rights, and sporadic political violence occurred whenever tensions rose too high.  More dangerous to the Republic, several attempts at seizing absolute power in Rome, on both sides, were made.

The first serious attempt to overthrow the republic took place in the wake of the Third Servile War, also known as  Crixus' revolt, which began in the year 674 AUC (80 BC).  Crixus was a Gallic slave who was engaged as a gladiator near the town of Ancona.  He eventually, along with several other gladiators, slaughtered their masters, seizing whatever weapons they could find and fleeing the gladiatorial school.  Once free, Crixus was chosen to lead the small band.  They defeated the early attempts subdue them, growing stronger with each victory.

Soon, they numbered in the tens of thousands, and the Republic was induced to strong action.  The first army was sent under the command of Gneaus Domitius Ahenobarbus, who led his legions against Crixus, and was promptly defeated and killed in action.  The slave band was left virtually unchecked for the better part of a year as the Republic gathered its forces, with every minor attempt to fight the slaves ending in defeat.

Eventually, an army under the command of Gaius Flavius Fimbria was sent out against Crixus, who had begun marching south to plunder what they could.  The two armies met in battle, which was relatively inconclusive; neither side held much of an advantage at the end of the day.  However, Crixus was convinced of the threat that this army posed towards his, and began to lead his followers north, to escape Italia.  Fimbria's army was able to keep pace with Crixus, despite his best efforts.  He was forced into pitched battle with the Roman forces, not too far from Ancona, where the rebellion had begun.  The result of this battle was a resounding victory for Fimbria, utterly crushing Crixus' revolt.

Unfortunately, Fimbria became very emboldened by his success and ignored calls to disband his army, claiming to be hunting down stragglers from the battle as he marched towards Rome, while attempting to orchestrate his election as Consul.  Though he is not recorded as stating any ambition other than election to the magistracy, the Republic was understandably suspicious of his motives and called upon Sulla to force Fimbria, by force of arms, to submit.

Sulla raised an army and marched on Fimbria's camp.  Fimbria then marched to the north, where he hoped to link up with the legions under command of those with whom he had good ties, such as Gaius Valerius Flaccus and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, near the Pannonian and Gallic frontiers.  However, whatever their personal allegiences may have been, neither Flaccus nor Metellus Pius were swayed to Fimbria's cause.  Sulla was able to outmarch Fimbria and defeat him in battle, with a portion of the cohorts under Fimbria's banner defecting to the Republican army under Sulla.

Sulla then intended to march against Flaccus and Metellus Pius, under the impression that they intended to support Fimbria.  However, Flaccus and Metellus were both quite popular with the Senate and were generally considered to be of upstanding character, to put it mildly.  Sulla was ordered to cease and desist his campaign and return to Rome.  Further complicating the matter, the order was delivered by an exceptionally pompous and rude citizen, who's name has been lost to history.  Perceiving the order to be more of a threat, Sulla decided to march on Rome.  His exact intentions were, and still are, unknown, but the Senate once more was forced to raise an army in defense of the city.

The new consular army, under Quintus Sertorius and Lucius Julius Caesar, was able to hold off Sulla's forces just outside of Rome, in 676 AUC (78 BC).  Both armies were bloodied, but Sulla was forced to withdraw and regroup his forces, retreating to the coast and across the Adriatic in good order.  Before Sertorius and Caesar could pursue him, however, yet another slave uprising held their attention.

The latest slave revolt would be the most unique, led by a charismatic and beautiful slave-girl named Varinia.  Her nationality is unknown, but her intelligence and quick learning were such that after escaping with a few other slaves from their master, she was able to lead the band.  Though initially unskilled in combat, she quickly took to it and led the slaves in battle frequently, their band eventually growing powerful enough to concern the thoroughly paranoid Republic, though, at its largest, Varinia's army may have been a third of that of Crixus'.  It was determined that Caesar should engage Varinia, while Sertorius would contain Sulla and gather reinforcements.

This course of action went more or less according to plan. Caesar met Varinia in battle a few miles north of Brundisium and defeated the large bulk of her army at that battle.  However, Varinia and a portion of the army were able to flee and escape Italia, as had been their original objective.  Where she ultimately went is a matter of conjecture; the most popular theories being that their ships were wrecked at sea, that they joined the Cilician pirates, or that they went to live along the Euxine Sea.  Whatever the matter was, that threat was neutralized, and Caesar embarked to Greece.

Meanwhile, Sertorius was busy at rallying various allied kingdoms to his cause, a task at which he excelled.  Various tribes and states in Illyria sent troops, most notably, Thracia, sending a large contingent of infantry under the command of the general Spartacus.  The combined armies eventually were able to corner Sulla's forces at Thessalonica, laying siege to the city.  Before the Republican forces could complete a circumvallation of the city, however, Sulla's forces sallied out and sought to break through the Thracian forces, which he calculated to be the weakest link in the opposition's army.

Spartacus' troops were able, however, to repulse the attack, while Sertorius took the initiative to assault the Thessalonica itself, cutting Sulla's forces off from retreat back into the city.  Pinned down by Caesar's army on one side, the city and ocean on another, and the Thracians on the last side, Sulla again attempted to break through the Thracian lines.  Again, the Thracians under Spartacus were able to repulse the attack, and the majority of Sulla's remaining forces surrendered.  The remainder, however, fought on, and were annihilated, Spartacus taking Sulla himself captive before handing him over to the Consular forces.

The crisis thus averted, Caesar and Sertorius disbanded their armies and returned to Rome.  Sulla was able to commit suicide en route, with some accounts stating that Caesar himself provided him the opportunity to avoid the humiliation of being put on trial.  Caesar and Sertorius moved on to govern Roman provinces, Sertorius in Illyria and Caesar in Hispania.  Spartacus, for his assistance, was greatly rewarded, and soon was able to use his prestige to great effect, being recognized as the ruler of the Odrysian Kingdom of Thracia afterward, in 680 AUC (74 BC).

The insurrections of Fimbria and Sulla, as well as the revolts of Crixus and Varinia, served to motivate the fears of the Republic greatly.  Further compounding their fears was an aborted conspiracy on behalf of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus to overthrow the Republic and declare himself Dictator, around the time of the war against Sulla.  The conspiracy proved to be little more than a footnote to history, and was suppressed before any damage could be done.


A fun entry to write, with all sorts of dramatics.  The obvious inspiration for the events is the Third Servile War of our history, which occurs a decade earlier in this history, and is followed shortly after by the smaller, Fourth Servile War.  A key difference being that Spartacus does not lead the slaves, instead, they are lead by a Gallic man named Crixus.  Whether or not this is the same Crixus that served under Spartacus in our history, I will leave to the reader.

After Spartacus was defeated in our history by Crassus, with some help from Pompey, the two men marched their armies to Rome while they stood for election for consul, which they won, likely through the implied threat of their armies.  I have Fimbria attempting a similar maneuver which, unfortunately for him, backfires and results in Sulla being sent against him.

I've never been too fond of Sulla, though he certainly possessed many admirable characteristics, so, I have him give into a sense of megalomania and march against the Republic, and eventually defeated.  The sideshow slave uprising that occurs at the same time was inspired by reading a synopsis of Kubrick's Spartacus, so I threw in the slave girl from the movie, and allowed her to escape, much as Spartacus attempted.  Speaking of Spartacus, I leave it again to the reader to decide if he's the same as the Thracian commander.

Lastly, pretty much all the actors in this entry that aren't on the side of Fimbria or Sulla were renowned in our history for their good judgement and virtue.  Metellus Pius, for example, didn't get his name, Pius, for nothing.  Sertorius, on the other hand, was renowned in our history for his ability to co-opt local tribes, generally hostile to Rome, to his cause, even setting up a mixed Roman-Hispanic Republic during the civil wars against Sulla.  So, overall, events are largely inspired by our history still, and other than the actors, dates, and locations, the gist of events is still the same.

Tigranes the Great

While Mithridates was occupied fighting the Roman Republic, his ally and son-in-law, Tigranes II of Armenia, focused his efforts in other directions.  The terms of the alliance between the two kings were basically that Tigranes would expand to the east and Mithridates to the west.  Thus, the two states of Pontus and Armenia would defend against Rome and Parthia, respectively.  Where Mithridates met defeat, however, Tigranes would enjoy much success.

Coin depicting Tigranes the Great

Tigranes ascended to the throne of Armenia in 658 AUC (96 BC), having been a hostage of the Parthian court until that time.  He ceded much of Atropatene (Azerbaijan) to Mithridates II of Parthia, in return for being allowed to return to his homeland to rule.  He quickly set about centralizing his rule and bringing the the feudal lords of Armenia under his control.  Tigranes also began construction of a new capital for Armenia, named Tigranocerta.

As he solidified his rule over Armenia, Tigranes began to expand his influence.  To the north, he secured Armenia's borders, placing a candidate of his own choosing on the Albanian throne after a brief succession crises in the small Caucasian state.  He also induced the king of Iberia, Artaxias, who happened to be Armenian, into submission.  By 664 AUC (90 BC), the northern border was secure and the state was firmly under his control.

It was in 665 AUC (89 BC) that an excellent opportunity presented itself to Tigranes.  The Parthian king, Mithridates II, who has placed Tigranes on his throne, had just died.  The Parthians immediately took to squabbling over the throne, the main contenders being Gotarzes, Orodes, Sinatruces, and Phraates.  Further, Parthia was facing increasing pressure from Scythian nomads, further weakening the empire.

With a mixed infantry and cavalry army, Tigranes descended upon the Parthians, quickly reclaiming the territory he had ceded them in Atropatene.  He met a relatively large force along the Tigris river, near Arbela, and defeated it utterly.  He continued to march down through Mesopotamia, reaching the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon and capturing it.  He also, while occupying the city, was heralded as a liberator by the Greeks in nearby Seleucia.

It was while he was campaigning in that area that the Romans were finally victorious over Mithridates.  Concerned at being exposed to invasion by the Rome, he sent envoys to the Republic, proclaiming his friendship.  He also claimed that his wife, Cleopatra, Mithridates daughter, had recently been discovered to being involved in an affair while he was on campaign.  He ended his marriage with her and handed her over to the Romans as part of Mithridates' family.  Whether or not the accusation was true, or was invented by Tigranes to justify handing over his wife, it cannot be certain.  However, she had yet to bear him any son that had lived beyond a young age, and only one daughter, so it is not inconceivable that he was looking for a new wife.  Whatever the case may be, the Republic, not entirely eager for a new war with such an illustrious general, seemed placated by his envoys, and accepted his friendship.

With relations with the Romans stable for the time being, Tigranes redoubled his efforts against the Parthians, and eventually reached Ecbatana.  The Parthian vassals, most notably that of Persia, began to rise up against their overlords, heartened by Tigranes' victories.  The Parthian kingdom seemed to be on its last legs.  However, as Tigranes campaigned, particularly while away from the easy transport available in Mesopotamia, his supply lines became more and more vulnerable.  Further, Roman sentiment was not amicable to his total domination of Parthia, further jeopardizing Tigranes' conquest.

Mindful of the risks he faced, Tigranes slowed his campaign and treated with the Parthians in 667 AUC (87 BC).  He would ally himself to whichever claimant was willing to recognize his conquest of  northern Mesopotamia and all of Atropatene and the independence of Persia, Characene, and Elymais.  It would be Phraates, styling himself Phraates III, who first accepted Tigranes offer.  With Armenian support, Phraates quickly solidified his position and defeated his rival claimants, marrying his sister off to the now single Tigranes.

Thus, Tigranes had expanded Armenia greatly at the expense of Parthia, which still retained it Iranian core and the central region of Mesopotamia.  Tigranes then topped off his defeat of Parthia by being invited to take the crown of Syria, where the locals had grown tired of the waning Seleucids.  This campaign was short, taking less than a year.  By 669 AUC (85 BC), Tigranes' empire stretched from the Mediterranean in the west,  the Caspian in the east, the Caucasus in the north, and down into Mesopotamia in the south.

Having conquered so much, he spent much of the rest of his reign consolidating his holdings, having the most success in the mountainous regions to the north, where the locals were most closely related to the Armenians.  Tigranes, now deservedly called 'The Great', styled himself 'King of Kings' and was attended by various kings under him at all times.  Not even the Parthian kings could claim such prestige at that time, particularly having lost most of their vassal states.  Tigranes' most daunting task lay in holding at bay Roman expansionist designs, a task to which he had mixed success.


Once more, the basic outline of this piece of history is not radically different from the events of our history.  Largely, dates have been altered by a year or two in many cases.  The most radical changes come from the early defeat and capture of Mithridates.  In our history, Tigranes provided refuge to the Pontic king after he was finally defeated, decades later.    This invited invasion from Rome, and Tigranes' conquests were largely undone, his eponymous capital razed, and Armenia reduced to a client state.

However, with Mithridates a captive in Rome, Tigranes is free to weasel his way out of conflict with Rome.  I also changed the progeny of his marriage to Cleopatra, to make it easier for him to betray her to Rome.  With conflict with Rome delayed for the time being, Tigranes is able to expand upon his conquests in Parthia, nearly crippling the Arsacid dynasty.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Mithridatic War

Part of the agreement between Cinna and Sulla in their joint effort to grant citizenship to the Italians was that Sulla would be given command of several eastern legions, to prosecute war against Mithridates VI of Pontus.  Mithridates, who took to the throne of his kingdom around 635 AUC (119 BC), had been working to expand the influence of his empire, meddling in the affairs of several other Anatolian states, such as Bythinia, Galatia, and Cappadocia.  This was quite troubling for the Roman Republic, as those states were client states of Rome.

Sulla, eager for victory and glory, thus set out to combat Mithridates in 663 AUC (91 BC).  Having previously been governor of Cilicia, he had some familiarity with both Pontus and Parthia, being the first Roman magistrate to have met with a Parthian ambassador.  Mithridates, on the other hand, had been preparing for the inevitable conflict, forming an alliance with Tigranes the Great of Armenia, as well as securing assistance from other peoples along the Euxine (Black) Sea, such as the Dacians and Scythians.

Coin depicting Mithridates VI of Pontus

The war began with its first battle, in that same year.  Sulla met Mithridates' forces near Nicomedia in Bithynia.  The Pontic army was very elaborately equipped, with bright gold and silver armaments that shone brightly in the sun.  Complimenting the traditional Macedonian phalanx was a contingent of scythe chariots.  The entire army seems to have intimidated Sulla's legions, who hesitated to engage the enemy.  Sulla thus set to work fortifying the Roman position.  Eventually, their defenses were quite substantial and, more importantly, the legionaries were tired of digging.  The battle began, and quickly turned in the Romans' favor.  Sulla boasted in his own letters that over a 100,000 enemy soldiers were killed, to only 14 Romans missing in action (2 of which made their way back the next day).  While his account is almost certainly unreliable, the battle was a resounding victory for Sulla's forces, and the Pontic army retreated back to their homeland.

Sulla then campaigned to the south, where another Pontic army had defeated the Cappadocians and threatened Roman coastal holdings.  Again, the Romans were victorious by a significant margin.  Cappadocia was secured and Sulla made preparations for a campaign into Pontus itself, to begin the next year.  However, over the intervening winter, Mithridates made good on the bloody lessons his army had learned and put much effort into reforming the Pontic military, abandoning much of the Hellenistic elements and arms for Roman methods.  He then launched a surprise attack, by sea, into Greece, hoping to distract Sulla from invading Pontus itself.

Mithridates' ploy worked, and Sulla was forced to meet the threat in Greece, in order to keep his supply lines from being threatened.  However, the force in Greece was not the main component of the Pontic military, which had actually begun renewed assaults throughout the remaining Roman forces in Anatolia, honing their new army against the skeleton forces left behind.  Lucius Julius Caesar (second cousin once removed to Gaius Julius Caesar), one of Sulla's commanders, was able to rally several contingents of Roman troops together, rather than be annihilated piecemeal.  The Roman force, while still smaller, was able to hold its own against the Pontic army in a game of cat and mouse, stalling for time until Sulla could return.

Sulla's army eventually did return, early in the spring of 665 AUC (89 BC), and was able to combine his forces with the those under Caesar.  The Romans then engaged Mithridates outside of Mazaka, in Cappadocia.  The outcome of the battle was much more even than the initial engagement of the war, though, at the end, the Roman army held the field.  Sulla then sent Caesar with a small contingent of troops to round the Anatolian Peninsula and invade Pontus by that route, while the main army would march straight through.

Sulla's strategy ended up succeeding, far better than he had intended.  Caesar, marching his troops to port quickly and then, aided by favorable winds, reaching the Pontic coast much sooner than Sulla had expected him to, reached Mithridates' capital at Sinope several weeks ahead of Sulla's force.  Entering the city by treachery, Caesar's army was able to capture Mithridates and his family.  Sulla was thus deprived of the ultimate glory of victory.

Mithridates' son, Pharnaces II, was placed on the throne of a much reduced Kingdom of Pontus, subordinate to the Republic, and Sulla and Caesar returned to Rome for their triumph, which, much to Sulla's chagrin, was joint between the two generals.  Sulla was officially awarded more honor for the victory, though, among the soldiers and populace, Caesar's daring campaign near the end earned him much prestige.  Mithridates eventually died in Roman captivity, under unknown circumstances, either murder or suicide.


First and foremost, the Mithridatic War of this history has one key difference with the First Mithridatic War of our history:  Marius is not alive to conspire against Sulla.  Though I'm no fan of Sulla, he was put in a really tough situation by Marius and his supporters.  Right after being sent out to defeat Mithridates, his command is stripped from him by a dubiously constitutional order.  Thus set the stage for the first Roman general to march on Rome and take power by force.  Hardly a good precedent, nor the precedent that Sulla himself wanted to set.  Further, the ongoing struggle between Marius and Sulla, with bloody purges occurring each time one faction or the other happened to take back the city, served to both weaken the constitutional rule of law and distract Sulla from prosecuting his war with Mithridates.

In fact, a series of wars that ended up taking, eventually, decades to complete could have been accomplished in just one.  Roman forces were very close to capturing Mithridates when Sulla was forced to make peace with him in order to restore order in Italia.  With this nagging issue out of the way, the initial campaign is more focused and driven, allowing for a complete victory in only one war.  While Mithridates was a relatively skilled leader and general, he was as often served well by sheer luck, and had a habit of biting off more than he could chew.

As for the battles, particularly the opening battle, I tried to stick as much as possible to the actual war of our history, while changing the actual locations around.  Sulla really did make the outrageous casualty report about the first battle.