Battle of Cabira

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Battle of Cabira
Part of Third Mithridatic War
Date72 BC
Result Roman victory
Roman Republic Kingdom of Pontus
Commanders and leaders
Lucius Licinius Lucullus Mithridates VI of Pontus

Five legions and a lot of auxiliaries

30,000 infantry
1,600-2,500 cavalry

40,000 men[1]

36,000 infantry
4,000 cavalry[1]
Casualties and losses
unknown but a lot lighter than the Pontic losses c. 3,000[2]

The Battle of Cabira was fought in 72 or 71 BC between forces of the Roman Republic under proconsul Lucius Licinius Lucullus and those of the Kingdom of Pontus under Mithridates the Great. It was a decisive Roman victory.


The Kingdom of Bithynia had been bequeathed to the Roman Republic on the death of King Nicomedes IV of Bithynia in 74 BC. Mithridates, who anticipated a war with Rome, invaded the country in 73 BC, and defeated the first Roman governor of Bithynia the proconsul Marcus Aurelius Cotta at the battle of Chalchedon. Lucullus, the new proconsul of Cilicia, had just arrived in Asia. He took command of all Roman forces in Asia Minor and marched his army north to relieve Cotta who was besieged at Chalchedon. Mithridates meanwhile had moved on to besiege Cyzicus. Lucullus established a counter-siege during Mithridates investment of Cyzicus and successfully mounted a naval expedition against Mithridates's navy in the Black Sea and crushed a contingent of Pontic troops at the Rhyndacus. Having failed to take the city before the onset of winter, Mithridates was forced to withdraw. He fled via ship while his army was to make its way over land to the port of Lampsacus. These men continued to be harried by Lucullus, who met them at the confluence of the Aesupus and the Granicus. Cotta then invested Heraclea Perinthus while Lucullus marched on Pontus itself.


Without confirmation from the Senate, Lucullus had moved east into Pontus. In the summer of 72 or 71 BC, he reached the Lycus valley. Losing an initial skirmish against Mithridates's cavalry, he took up a defended position on the hills opposite Cabira. There were several skirmishes and even an assassination attempt on Lucullus.[1]

Lucullus's supply lines now came north from Cappadocia, a Roman ally south of Pontus. A Pontic combined arms (infantry and cavalry) attack on a grain caravan turned into a decisive battle, when Lucullus realized the narrow valley at the scene limited the effectiveness of his opponent's cavalry. The Romans won tellingly, and the disorder caused by Mithridates's preparations to depart the area led to the complete disintegration of his army and looting of his camp.


The battle was a key point in the war against Mithridates and forced him to retreat nearly penniless to his ally, his father-in-law Tigranes of Armenia. Lucullus continued the ongoing sieges throughout Pontus and organized it as a new Roman province, while Appius Claudius was sent to find Armenian allies and demand Mithridates from Tigranes. Tigranes refused, stating he would prepare for war against the Republic. In 69 Lucullus marched his legions into Armenia in pursuit of Mithridates.


  • Mackay, Christopher S. Ancient Rome.
  • Rickard, J. Military History Encyclopedia on the Web. "Third Mithridatic War, 74-63 B.C." Accessed 3 September 2011.
  • Sherwin-White, Adrian N. "Lucullus, Pompey, and the East." In Crook, J.A. & al. (eds.) The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 9: The Last Age of the Roman Republic, 146-43 BC. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge), 1994.
  • Plutarch Life of Lucullus. "[1]" Accessed 19 September 2018.
  1. ^ a b c Plutarch, Vita Luculli, XV
  2. ^ Philip Matyszak, Mithridates the Great, Rome's Indomitable Enemy, p.121