Montesquieu

Isle of Delos. Mithridates

After Corinth had been des­troyed by the Romans, the mer­chants with­drew to Delos1 : reli­gion and vene­ra­tion of peo­ples cau­sed this isle to be thought a secure place ; it was, moreo­ver, very well situa­ted for trade with Italy and Asia, which, since the demo­li­tion of Africa and the wea­ke­ning of Greece, had become more impor­tant.

From the ear­liest times, the Greeks sent colo­nies, as we have said, to the Propontis and the Euxine Sea ; under the Persians they pre­ser­ved their laws and their liberty. Alexander, who had set out only against the bar­ba­rians, did not attack them.2 It does not even appear that the kings of the Pontus, who occu­pied seve­ral of them, had taken their poli­ti­cal govern­ment from them.3

The might of these kings4 increa­sed as soon as he had sub­ju­ga­ted them. Mithridates found him­self in a posi­tion to buy troops eve­ryw­here ; conti­nually to repair his los­ses5 ; to have wor­kers, ves­sels, war machi­nes ; to pro­cure him­self allies ; to cor­rupt those of the Romans, and the Romans them­sel­ves ; to pay the bar­ba­rians6 of Asia and Europe ; to wage war for a long time, and conse­quently to dis­ci­pline his troops : he was able to arm them and to ins­truct them in the mili­tary art of the Romans7, and form consi­de­ra­ble corps with their rene­ga­des ; finally, he could absorb great los­ses, and suf­fer great fai­lu­res, without peri­shing ; and he would not have peri­shed if, in periods of pros­pe­rity, the sen­suous and bar­ba­ric king had not des­troyed what, in ill for­tune, had made the great prince.

So it is that, while the Romans were at the height of their gran­deur, and see­med to have no one but them­sel­ves to fear, Mithridates put back into ques­tion what the cap­ture of Carthage and the defeats of Philip, Antiochus and Perseus had deci­ded. Never was a war more des­truc­tive ; and the two par­ties having great might and mutual advan­ta­ges, the peo­ples of Greece and Asia were des­troyed, either as friends of Mithridates or as his ene­mies. Delos was caught up in the com­mon mis­for­tune. Commerce disap­pea­red eve­ryw­here ; indeed it was neces­sa­rily des­troyed when the peo­ples them­sel­ves were des­troyed.

The Romans, fol­lo­wing a sys­tem I have dis­cus­sed elsew­here,8 des­troyers so they would not appear as conque­rors, laid waste to Carthage and Corinth ; and by such a prac­tice they would per­haps have doo­med them­sel­ves if they had not conque­red the whole earth. When the kings of Pontus made them­sel­ves mas­ters of the Greek colo­nies of the Euxine Sea, they refrai­ned from des­troying what was to be the cause of their great­ness.

See Strabo, book X.

He confirmed the liberty of the city of Amise, an Athenian colony, which had enjoyed the popular state, even under the kings of Persia. Lucullus, who took Sinope and Amise, restored their freedom, and recalled the inhabitants, who had fled on their vessels.

See what Appian writes on the Phanagorians, the Amisians, the Synopians, in his book on the war against Mithridates.

See Appian on the immense treasures which Mithridates put into his wars, those he had hidden, those which he lost so often by betrayal of his own, and those that were found after his death.

He once lost 170,000 men, and new armies at once reappeared.

See Appian, on the war against Mithridates.

Ibid.

In Considerations on the causes of the greatness of the Romans.