Rome’s Willing Acquisition Of Bithynia

Nicomedes IV Philopater (r. 94-74 BCE) was the last king of Bithynia. Due to his dangerous proximity to the powerful and aggressive King Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontus (r. 120-63 BCE), Nicomedes had to become increasingly reliant and dependent on his ally, Rome. Mithridates forced Nicomedes to personally flee to Rome at least twice, and the Bithynian king soon came to the conclusion that the survival of his kingdom rested in the hands of the Romans. Particularly, Nicomedes was indebted to the prowess of Rome’s military leader and dictator, Sulla, who clashed with Mithridates VI in the First Mithridatic War (c. 89-85 BCE) and the Second Mithridatic War (c. 83-82 BCE). Due to Rome’s involvement in the conflicts against Pontus, King Nicomedes was able to return to Bithynia and continue his reign. When Nicomedes died in 74 BCE, he allegedly left instructions in his will for the kingdom of Bithynia to be ruled by the Romans. This was described by the historian, Appian (c. 2nd century), who briefly wrote, “the Romans acquired two countries under the terms of wills, Bithynia on the death of Nicomedes and Cyrene on the death of Ptolemy [Apion]…” (Appian, Roman History, The Civil Wars, 1.111). When news of Nicomedes’ will and testament spread, Mithridates VI of Pontus declared that it was a forgery and quickly launched an invasion of Bithynia, which sparked the Third Mithridatic War (73-63 BCE), which pitted Mithridates VI against Rome’s Pompey the Great.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Roman court illustration by Henry Marriott Paget (c. 1857-1936) for a Universal History by John Clark Ridpath (c. 1840-1900), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the New York Public Library Digital Collections).



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