The characterisation of Mithridates VI in Appian’s Mithridateios

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2022-05

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Abstract

Appian’s Mithridateios a monographic history contained within the wider Roman History dated to c. 147-165 CE, serves as a primary source for our knowledge of Mithridates VI, the Kingdom of Pontus, and the three Mithridatic Wars that were waged against Rome between 89-63 BCE. Despite the centrality of the Mithridateios to our understanding both of one of Rome’s greatest conflicts and opponents, the text is largely viewed as possessing no real literary artistry and Appian is often considered to be presenting an ‘objective’ account of the Mithridatic Wars. It is these notions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘lack of artistry’ with which this thesis engages and ultimately disproves. Instead, through a close reading of the Mithridateios, I argue that the Mithridateios’ presentation of Mithridates VI is not ‘objective’, but rather it is a subjective literary creation of Appian’s that is affected by the emplotment of the Mithridateios’ narrative within the archetype of tragedy. I also examine how Appian characterises Mithridates VI as being implicitly connected with Achaemenid Persian antecedents, and how Appian’s doing so should affect modern scholar’s understanding of the Pontic king and his campaigns against Rome. Scenes such as the “Asiatic Vespers” for instance, which scholars had treated as pure fact, should also be assessed in conjunction with their historical parallels in Jewish and early Christian literature concerning Achaemenid monarchs and Near Eastern kings in general.

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Keywords

Mithridates, Characterisation, Narratology, Appian

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