Fall of the Roman Republic 78-31 BC

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Significance of the Mithridatic and Parthian wars

For specific reference to these wars see the following:

From booklet 1:
pp. 9-10 "Mithridates and the lex Manilia"
pp. 12-13 "Pompey's campaign against Mithridates"; "Pompey's eastern settlement"

From booklet 2:
pp.8-9 “The second joint consulship of Pompey and Crassus”; “The breakdown of the triumvirate”
p.31 “Caesar’s plans for the immediate future”; “The assassination of Caesar”

From booklet 3:
p.10 “Antony in the east”; “A conference at Tarentum”
p.11 “Antony in the east”

Practice question: Assess the significance of the Mithridatic and Parthian Wars in this period.

Introduction: By the late republic, Rome was the dominant force in the Mediterranean. There were, however, challenges to Rome in the east, especially from Mithridates King of Pontus and from the Parthians. The significance of these wars, though, does not lie in the military successes and failures of these campaigns, rather in the impact these wars had on the internal politics of Rome and the destabilisation of republican institutions. Pompey’s already spectacular career reached its peak as a consequence of his defeat of Mithridates; Crassus’ death in the debacle against the Parthians at Carrhae brought the first triumvirate to an end; Caesar’s plans for a long campaign against the Parthians were a significant reason for his assassination; and Antony’s Parthian campaign set the scene for his final break with Octavian.

  • The power given to Pompey through the lex Manilia.
  • Pompey’s success against Mithridates and the benefits of his eastern settlement.
  • The rejection of Pompey by the optimates on his return to Rome – largely as a result of the treatment of Lucullus – pushing Pompey into his strategic alliance with Caesar and Crassus.
  • The impact of the death of Crassus at Carrhae, i.e., the end of the triumvirate.
  • The fears of Caesar ruling Rome as a dictator from the east as he campaigned against the Parthians, resulting in his assassination.
  • Mark Antony’s rejection of Octavia in favour of Cleopatra as he set off against Parthia. He was unsuccessful against the Parthians, though had a victory over the Armenians and in 34 BC celebrated a triumph in Alexandria.