Anti-Roman Insurgency and the Significance of Popular Support during the Mithridatic Wars, 88-63 BCE
By Aidan Sheerin
Journal of Research Across Disciplines, Vol.3 (2011)
Introduction: By 120 BCE, the Roman Republic was quickly becoming the most dominant state of the Western world since Alexander the Great’s empire. Since the Punic wars, Rome had added Mediterranean islands, most of Spain and territory in Northern Africa. Rome also had conquered provinces and protectorates in Gaul, Greece, and Macedonia. The Republic held some territory and had minor interests in Asia Minor and the Middle East as well, but Roman attention and commitment to these regions would only take true form through the Mithridatic Wars. Mithridates VI Eupator Dionysus (134-63 BCE), whom the wars are named for, was an ambitious king of Pontus in Asia Minor. Mithridates was one of Rome‟s greatest adversaries and ardently opposed the Republic for nearly his entire life. Mithridates was able to put up a formidable opposition to Rome, but ultimately lost because he failed to keep the allegiance and support of both those he ruled directly and the populations allied to him. Brian McGing, who has researched Mithridates extensively and written multiple works on the subject, acknowledges the shortcomings of Mithridates in dealing with his people, but would ultimately attribute his loss to the superiority of Roman military. In studying the foreign policies and actions of Mithridates as ruler, liberator, protector and general, it is clear his fate was determined by the gain and lose his greatest asset: the support of the population.
Roman domination of the Near East has had a profound effect on Western culture and history. As the catalyst for the Mithridatic Wars, Mithridates holds substantial historical significance. Mithridates was the last fully autonomous Hellenic king of the East. This was mainly because of his staunch resistance that Rome truly came to dominate and administer Asia Minor and the Middle East. For the most part, Mithridates feigned philhellenism to resist Rome. He claimed that he cared more about his kingdom and sovereignty than promoting Greek culture and protecting the various Greek populations. The actions and might of Mithridates made Rome decide it needed to dominate the Near East to prevent another ruler like Mithridates from emerging. Thus, Rome would dominate and annex Judea and surrounding lands just before the birth of Jesus Christ.