CHAPTER XII. SULLA IN GREECE AND ASIA.
[Aristion at Athens.] A citizen of Athens, named Aristion, whose mother was an Egyptian slave, and who was the son or adopted son of one Athenion, had been sent by the Athenians as ambassador to Mithridates. He had been a schoolmaster and teacher of rhetoric, and professed the philosophy of Epicurus. He gained the ear of Mithridates, and sent home flaming accounts of the king's power, and of his intention of restoring the democracy at Athens. The Athenians sent some ships of war to bring him home from Euboea, with a present of a silver-footed litter; and in this, clothed in purple, and with a fine ring on his finger, which he had got probably from his friend Mithridates, he came back to Athens with much parade. [Revolt of Athens from Rome.] In a set speech he dilated on the king's splendid successes, and advised the people to declare themselves independent and elect him their general. They did so, and he very soon massacred his opponents and made himself despot. Thus Athens and the Piraeus passed into the hands of Mithridates. The spirit of disaffection to Rome spread rapidly. [Revolt of the Achaeans, Laconians, and Boeotians.] When Archelaus appeared in Greece, the Achaeans, Laconians, and Boeotians, with the exception of Thespiae, joined him, while the Pontic fleet seized Euboea and Demetrias, a town at the head of the gulf of Pagasae.
Sura was sent by the Roman governor of Macedonia to make head against the invaders. He won a naval battle and captured Sciathus, where all the spoils of the enemy were stored. [Conflicts between the Romans and the forces of Mithridates in Boeotia.] Then he marched into Boeotia, and, after a three days' engagement with the combined forces of Archelaus and Aristion, pushed Archelaus back to the coast. The war, perhaps, might have been ended here; but at this moment Lucullus came to announce the approach of Sulla, and to warn Sura that the war had been entrusted to him. So Sura retired to Macedonia. [Sulla lands in Epirus, 87 B.C., and marches on Athens.] Sulla had left Brundusium in 87, and, landing on the coast of Epirus, gathered what supplies he could from Aetolia and Thessaly, and marched straight for Athens. It was soon seen that the foundations of the empire of Mithridates were based on sand. The Boeotians at once submitted, including Thebes, which had joined the king. [Sidenote: Siege of the Piraeus and Athens.] Sulla then began two sieges, that of the Piraeus where Archelaus was, and that of Athens defended by Aristion. Archelaus had before shown himself an intrepid soldier, and he baffled all Sulla's efforts with equal ingenuity and courage. After an unsuccessful attempt to storm the walls, Sulla retired to Eleusis and Megara, thus keeping up his communications with Thebes and the Peloponnese, and set to work constructing catapults and other engines, and preparing an earthwork from which he meant to attack the wall with them. For these purposes he cut down the trees of the Academia and the Lyceum. He was kept informed of intended sallies by two slaves inside the town, who threw out leaden balls with words cut on them. But as fast as the earthwork rose Archelaus built towers on the walls opposite to it, and thence harassed the besiegers. [Battle at the Piraeus. Archelaus nearly taken.] He was also reinforced by Mithridates, and then came out and fought a battle which was for some time doubtful; but he was forced to retire at length with the loss of 2,000 men. He himself remained till the last. The gates were shut and he had to be drawn up by a rope over the wall.
[Sulla's difficulties.] The affairs of Sulla, however, were in no flourishing condition. He had come to Greece with only 30,000 men, with no fleet, and little money. He was forced to plunder the shrines of Epidaurus, Olympia, and Delphi. His messenger to Delphi came back saying that he had heard the sound of a lute in the temple, and dared not commit the sacrilege. But Sulla sent him back, saying that he was sure the sound was a note of welcome, and that the god meant him to have the treasure. He promised to pay it back some day, and he kept his word, for he confiscated half the land of Thebes and applied the proceeds to reimbursing the sacred funds. In his worst straits he was always ready with some such mockery. [Sulla sends Lucullus to Egypt.] Winter was now at hand, and Sulla despatched Lucullus to Egypt to get ships. The refusal of the King of Egypt shows what was now thought of the Roman power. Sulla then formed a camp at Eleusis and continued the siege, and so shook the great tower of Archelaus by a simultaneous discharge of twelve leaden balls from his catapults that it had to be drawn back. [Blockade of Athens.] By means of the two slaves he was also able to frustrate the attempts of Archelaus to throw supplies into Athens, which was now suffering from hunger, for Sulla had surrounded it with forts and turned the siege into a blockade. Mithridates now sent his son into Macedonia with an army, before which the small Roman force there had to retire. After this success the prince marched towards Athens, but died on the way. [Desperate defence of the Piraeus.] At the Piraeus scenes occurred which were afterwards repeated at the siege of Jerusalem. Archelaus undermined the earthwork and Sulla made another determined attempt to take the wall by storm. He battered down part of it, fired the props of his mine and so brought down more, and sent troops by relays to escalade the breach. But Archelaus, like the Plataeans in the Peloponnesian war, built an inner crescent-shaped wall, from which he took the assailants in front and on both flanks when they tried to advance. [Sulla turns the siege into a blockade.] At last, wearied by this dogged resistance, Sulla turned the siege of the Piraeus also into a blockade, which meant simply that he hindered Archelaus from helping Athens, for he could not prevent the influx of supplies from the sea.