Significance of the Mithridatic and Parthian Wars to the Political Developments of Republican Rome

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How significant were the wars against Mithridates and the Parthians in the political developments of the Roman Republic between 78BC and 31BC? _____________________________________________________________________________________________

The wars against Mithridates and the Parthians in the period 78-31BC are acutely significant on the political developments of the Roman Republic. The expansion of the Roman Empire into Eastern settlements took place under the leadership of an oligarchy, thus, politicians had to distinguish themselves through military achievements to be elected to gain influence in the Republic. Throughout the Mithridatic War, Pompey used his military victory over Mithridates in 63BC in order to gain political recognition in Rome. However, due to the constant fear of the emergence of autocratic behaviour, the senate refused to ratify Pompey’s Eastern Settlement. The intransigence of the oligarchy ultimately stimulated the formation of the first triumvirate, a strategic alliance which intimidated senatorial powers. Correspondingly, this increased intimidation between the three triumvirs, leading to Crassus’s unsuccessful Parthian campaign in which his death marked the breakdown of the triumvirate. Political instability within Rome spurred the outbreak of the civil war providing Caesar with immense autocratic power, undermining that of the senate. Due to Caesar’s assassination in 44BC, the collapse of the Republican political system in Rome was provoked through Antony’s unsuccessful assumption of Caesar’s Parthian campaign and the failure of the second triumvirate. The results of the Mithridatic and Parthian Wars were significant in their stimulation of the downfall of the Roman Republic and provided an insight into Imperial Rome.

The outbreak of the Third Mithridatic War marked the challenging of senatorial power within Roman politics through the increased dominance of influential politicians. Rome came into “renewed conflict with Mithridates of Pontus through the protracted struggle” against the piracy in the Eastern Mediterranean and the acquisition of Bithynia by the Roman Empire. This subsequently posed a threat to Mithridates’ kingdom, as Rome would have complete control over the entrance to the Black Sea. Optimate leader, Lucius Lucullus, gained political recognition in Rome through his command to “meet the menace of Mithridates” in 74BC as a response to Mithridates’ invasion of the new Roman province Bithynia. Lucullus’s offensive against Mithridates led to his invasion of the eastern state of Armenia in attempt to capture the Pontic King, however he preceded this attack without senatorial permission. His campaign was brought to a close as “he had failed to produce a decisive defeat” and “there was growing campaign in Rome to recall him”. His recall was further spurred due to the undying resentment of the Roman equestrian class as his attempt to assist the economic crisis in his province of Asia “curtailed their profiteering activities in Asia”. Criticism escalated amongst the financiers arguing that he “prolonged the war for his own glory and profit”. Through the restoration of power for the tribunes, Pompey used the voice of his tribune Gabinius in order to gain command over the pirates through the legislation of Lex Gabinia in 67BC, alongside with a large amount of resources “which to one man was unprecedented in Rome”. Pompey was conscious that he needed to defeat Mithridates decisively therefore he “stamped Roman authority firmly upon the entire area surrounding Pontus”. Following this, he surrounded the Mediterranean with Roman Provinces and established a network of client kingdoms to ensure internal stability and to provide a valuable buffer against any Parthian expansion from the East. Pompey became renown for his settlement of the East as he “formed the basis of a defensive frontier system that was to last for over 500 years”. His unmitigated success over his settlement displayed...
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