THE ORATOR ARISTION
 MITHRIDATES, the king against whom Sulla went to fight in 87 B.C.,
was a brave and skilful commander. His kingdom,
Cappadocia Pontica, was a district on the south shore
of the Black Sea.
The king who ruled before Mithridates came to the
throne had tried to enlarge his kingdom, but more than
once the Romans had thwarted his ambitious plans.
When Mithridates began to reign in 111 B.C., he knew
that no one save the Romans would be strong enough to
keep him from adding to his kingdom.
The king proved himself so strong and so good a general
that the Greek towns in Asia Minor resolved to throw
aside the friendship of Rome and ally themselves with
the King of Pontus. It was this revolt that Sulla,
with his five legions, went to Greece to subdue.
It was ungrateful of Athens to forsake Rome, for she
had been treated most honourably by her in the past,
and still was enjoying many privileges when she
But the Athenians wished their city to be more glorious
in the future than she had been even in the past, and
they believed that Mithridates would help them to
achieve this better than Rome. So an ambassador named
Aristion was sent to the King of Pontus to offer him
the friendship of Athens.
The king received Aristion with great respect, and gave
to him gifts of gold. Above all, when he took leave of
Mithridates, he was presented with a ring, on which was
engraved a portrait of the king himself.
 When the ambassador returned to Athens and showed the
gifts which he had received, the enthusiasm of the
people knew no bounds. He was escorted by crowds to
the Peiræus, the port of Athens. Here, in the
citadel, he was asked to tell what had taken place at
the court of the king.
Now Aristion was a great orator, and he knew that his
words would influence the people to do as he wished.
So first he reminded them of all the wrongs that Athens
had suffered from the Romans, and if these wrongs were
not all real, Aristion made them seem so by his
Then he spoke of Mithridates, and of the king he had
nothing but good to tell, while the magnificence of his
court, Aristion modestly declared, baffled even his
powers of description.
Before Aristion had finished his oration, the
magistrates of Athens had determined to proclaim their
republic restored, and to form an alliance with
Mithridates. Aristion was appointed chief minister of
war, and you shall hear how sadly he failed to do his
duty when trouble befell the city.
Sulla having landed with his army at Epirus, at once
marched to Athens, for by this time both the city and
the Peiræus were strongly fortified, and held by
Archelaus, the general of Mithridates.
The Roman commander determined to besiege the citadel,
and to surround Athens with soldiers, to prevent the
citizens from escaping, or provisions from being sent
to their relief.
As he had neither money nor material for the siege,
Sulla robbed the temples of Greece of their treasures.
Timber was brought from far and near in carts drawn by
mules, ten thousand, it is said, in number. When even
this was found not to be enough, Sulla ordered the
sacred groves to be cut down, as well as the trees
which surrounded the famous academy of Athens.
 But, in spite of the forts he built and the trenches he
dug, Sulla could not take the Peiræus.
As they worked, the Roman soldiers were often
interrupted by Archelaus, who with his troops would
sally out of the citadel to attack them.
At length Sulla was convinced that without a fleet he
need not hope to take the citadel, for the harbour was
commanded by the ships of Mithridates.