Lucullus (Lucius Licinius Lucullus Ponticus), c.110 B.C.-56 B.C., Roman general. He served in the Social War under Sulla, who made him his favorite. He fought in the East (87 B.C.-85 B.C.), always loyal to Sulla, who made him curule aedile (79 B.C.) and praetor (78 B.C.). Lucullus was made consul (74 B.C.) and obtained for his proconsulship the province of Cilicia. With his colleague, Caius Aurelius Cotta, he went to the East to attack Mithradates VI, who was advancing steadily through Asia Minor. Mithradates defeated Cotta, but Lucullus camped behind the Pontic king, drew him out, and annihilated his army. Mithradates withdrew into Pontus but the following year (72 B.C.) was forced by Lucullus into Armenia, where he took refuge with King Tigranes. Lucullus then applied himself to the establishment of order in Asia, provoking great unpopularity in Rome by reforming the provincial finances. Pompey had always been Lucullus' enemy, and now his party joined with the capitalists in urging the recall of Lucullus. They also sent out emissaries to stir up discontent in Lucullus' army, which had never been devoted to him. In 69 B.C., Lucullus invaded Armenia and took the capital, Tigranocerta. This was the climax of his career, for mutiny then became an almost daily occurrence in his army. In 66 B.C. he was recalled, and Pompey replaced him. Lucullus retired to Rome. He kept out of state affairs and spent huge sums sponsoring public shows and improving his estates. The term Lucullan derives from his extravagant standard of living.
For his grandfather and namesake, see Lucius Licinius Lucullus.

Lucius Licinius Lucullus (ca. 118-56 BC) was a military commander and a politician of the Roman Republic, most recognized for supporting Lucius Cornelius Sulla in his march on Rome as well as for winning the battle of Tigranocerta during the Third Mithridatic War. The famous gardens of Lucullus are named after him.


Born in Rome, he was a member of the prominent gens Licinia, the grandson of the consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus, and the son of Lucius Licinius Lucullus and wife Caecilia Metella Calva, sister of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus and of Lucius Caecilius Metellus Dalmaticus (who was the father of Caecilia Metella Dalmatica, Sulla's third wife), children of Lucius Caecilius Metellus Calvus.

Serving under Sulla

Lucullus first began service as a military tribune, serving in the Social War under Sulla, and as a quaestor in 88 BC he was the only officer to support Sulla's march on Rome. He also served under Sulla in the First Mithridatic War, raising a fleet which helped Sulla open up the seas during the siege of Athens and then, after Lucullus had defeated the Mithridatic admiral Neoptolemus in the Battle of Tenedos, he helped Sulla cross the Aegean to Asia. After a peace had been agreed, Lucullus stayed in Asia and collected the financial penalty Sulla imposed upon the province for its revolt. Lucullus, however, tried to lessen the burden that these impositions created.

Lucullus returned in 80 BC and was elected curule aedile in 79, along with his brother Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, and gave splendid games.


Sulla dedicated his memoirs to Lucullus, and upon his death made him guardian of his son Faustus, preferring Lucullus over Pompey.. Shortly after this, in 74, he became consul (along with Marcus Aurelius Cotta, Julius Caesar's uncle), and defended Sulla's constitution from the efforts of Lucius Quinctius.

Initially, he drew Cisalpine Gaul in the lots at the start of his consulship as his proconsular command after his year as consul was done, but he got himself appointed governor of Cilicia after its governor died, so as to also receive the command against Mithridates VI in the Third Mithridatic War.

Campaigns in the east

On arrival, Lucullus set out from his province to relieve the besieged Cotta in Bithynia. He harried the army of Mithridates and killed many of his soldiers. He then turned to the sea and raised a fleet amongst the Greek cities of Asia. With this fleet he defeated the enemy's fleet off Ilium and then off Lemnos. Turning back to the land, he drove Mithridates back into Pontus. He was wary of drawing into a direct engagement with Mithridates, due to the latter's superior cavalry. But after several small battles, Lucullus finally defeated him at the Battle of Cabira. He did not pursue Mithridates immediately, but instead he finished conquering the kingdom of Pontus and setting the affairs of Asia into order. His attempts to reform the rapacious Roman administration in Asia made him increasingly unpopular among the powerful publicani back in Rome.

He then led an attack against Tigranes II of Armenia, Mithridates's son-in-law and ally, and to whom Mithridates fled after Cabeira. He proceeded first against Tigranocerta and laid siege to it. This drew forth the army of Tigranes, which Lucullus defeated despite being heavily out-numbered. He then defeated Tigranes and Mithridates in the Battle of Artaxata (October 6 68 BC) but didn't proceed onto Artaxata because of dissension among his troops. His authority over his legions was undermined by the efforts of his brother-in-law Publius Clodius. This allowed Mithridates and Tigranes to retake much of their respective kingdoms.

At the machination of the equites and Pompeian supporters back in Rome, Lucullus was replaced by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus in 66 BC and returned to Rome.

As a decadent

The opposition to him continued on his return and caused the delay of his triumph until 63 BC. Instead of returning fully to political life (although, as a friend of Cicero, he did act in some issues), however, he mostly retired to extravagant leisure, or, in Plutarch's words,:
quitted and abandoned public affairs, either because he saw that they were already beyond proper control and diseased, or, as some say, because he had his fill of glory, and felt that the unfortunate issue of his many struggles and toils entitled him to fall back upon a life of ease and luxury...[for] in the life of Lucullus, as in an ancient comedy, one reads in the first part of political measures and military commands, and in the latter part of drinking bouts, and banquets, and what might pass for revel-routs, and torch-races, and all manner of frivolity

He used the vast treasure he amassed during his wars in the East to live a life of luxury. He had splendid gardens outside the city of Rome, as well as villas around Tusculum and Neapolis. The one near Neapolis included fish ponds and man-made extensions into the sea, and was only one of many elite senators' villas around the Bay of Naples. Pompey is said by Pliny to have referred often to Lucullus as "Xerxes in Roman dress".


So famous did Lucullus become for his banqueting that the word lucullan now means lavish, luxurious and gourmet.

Once, Cicero and Pompey succeeded in inviting themselves to dinner with Lucullus, but, curious to see what sort of meal Lucullus ate when alone, forbade him to send word ahead to his servants to prepare a meal for guests. However, Lucullus outsmarted them. He ordered that his servants serve him in the Apollo Room, and as his servants had been schooled ahead of time as to precisely what to make for each of the different dining rooms, Cicero and Pompey ate the most luxurious of all meals.

Another tale runs that one of his servants, upon hearing that he would have no guests for dinner, served only one course. Lucullus reprimanded his servant saying, "What, did not you know, then, that today Lucullus dines with Lucullus?". He was also responsible for bringing the sweet cherry and the apricot to Rome.


He was a student of the philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon and one of only a few late Republican senators (Caesar also included) who expressed interest in the idea of building a public library.


Lucullus is reported by Plutarch to have lost his mind at the end and went intermittently crazy towards his elderly life. Lucullus' brother Marcus oversaw his funeral.


  • Clodia, or Claudia Pulchra Tertia; whom he married as her first husband, but divorced c.66 on his return to Rome after friction in Asia with her brother. Claudia became notorious for her love affairs, and also became a plebeian for unknown reasons, thus taking the name of Clodia.
  • Servilia Caepionis Minor, the younger sister of Servilia Caepionis, also notorious for her loose morals, but mother of Lucullus's only son.

Plutarch writes:

After his divorce from Clodia, who was a licentious and base woman, he married Servilia, a sister of Cato, but this, too, was an unfortunate marriage. For it lacked none of the evils which Clodia had brought in her train except one, namely, the scandal about her brothers. In all other respects Servilia was equally vile and abandoned, and yet Lucullus forced himself to tolerate her, out of regard for Cato. At last, however, he put her away



Primary sources

  • Plutarch, Lucullus
  • Plutarch Kimon, Sulla, Pompeius, Cicero
  • Liber de viris illustribus, no.74
  • Cassius Dio Roman History, book 36
  • Appian Roman History, book 12: Mithridateios
  • Photian summary of Memnon's local history of Herakleia Pontike
  • Cicero Lucullus; also known as Academica Prior, book 1
  • Cicero pro Archia poeta
  • Cicero de imperio Cn.Pompeii
  • Cicero pro L.Murena
  • Cicero ad Atticum, book 1
  • Julius Frontinus Stratagems
  • The elogium of Lucullus from Arretium, ILS 60 (ed.H.Dessau)

Secondary sources

  • Keaveney, Arthur. Lucullus. A Life. London/New York: Routledge, 1992. ISBN 0-415-03219-9.
  • Ooteghem, J. van. Lucius Licinius Lucullus, 1959
  • Badian, Ernst. s.v.Lucullus(2), p.624 in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1970.
  • Dix, T.Keith. "The Library of Lucullus", Athenaeum 88 (2000), 441-464

External links

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