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438 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

had ever yet occurred in the annals of the Arsacid kings. At the beginning of his reign

his ambitions incited him to hostility with Rome. He made preparation for a war, but a

remonstrance and rebuke from Antoninus Pius prevented the outbreak. Nevertheless the

Parthian cherished his purpose, and in A. D. 161 he began a war by invading Armenia. The

Parthians had never been satisfied with the protectorate of Rome over that country. They

had always sought, when the opportunity was present, to restore their influence by

establishing on the Armenian throne a prince of the Arsacidae, to the end that the two

countries should be and remain in political and military sympathy.

An opportunity to reassert: the ancient claim was afforded by the death of the first

Antoninus and the accession of his son, the justly celebrated Marcus Aurelius. The

Parthian king was successful in his Armenian campaigns, and a certain Tigranes, his

kinsman, was made king. Hereupon Severianus, prefect of Cappadocia, accepted the

challenge, and marched against the Parthians. Crossing the Euphrates, he was met, near

Elegeia, by the army of the king, was driven into the city, besieged, and in a short time

destroyed with all his forces. The Parthians now assumed the offensive, and made a great

campaign into Syria and Palestine. Such high-handed proceedings roused great animosity at

Rome, and an army under command of Lucius Verus, brother of the Emperor, was sent at once

to the East. On his arrival in Asia, terms of accommodation were offered to the Parthians,

but were rejected with scorn. The lieutenants of Verus then threw forward the army from

Antioch, and in A. D. 163 Volagases was routed in the battle of Europus.

Meanwhile, a revulsion took place in Armenia. Statius Priscus and other generals of the

Roman army marched into that country, and Tigranes was driven from the throne. It could

not be expected that after thus hurling back the Parthians into their own country the

Romans would forbear to follow up their successes with invasion. Cassius received from the

Emperor the appointment of Captain-general, with instructions, or at least permission, to

carry the war into Parthia. The advance was begun under favorable auspices, and a battle

was fought at Sura, in Mesopotamia, in which the Romans were victorious. Cassius then

advanced on the great city of Seleucia, which he besieged, took, and destroyed. Ctesiphon

met the same fate. The king, his government and his army were obliged to fall back into

the interior. Media was overrun by the conquerors, and for the time it seemed that a

greater than Antonius or Trajan had come.

At the crisis of the war, however, when it seemed that the Parthian Empire was about to be

overthrown, a strange and terrible pestilence broke out in the Roman army, and the

soldiers began to die by hundreds and thousands. Superstition contrived for the malady a

supernatural origin. It was said that a cell in one of the temples at Seleucia had been

broken open by the soldiers, and that a spirit of death had issued forth to punish the

sacrilege. Terror and disease combined to ruin the expedition. The army receded from Asia

into Europe, spreading the pestilence in its wake. Only a few of the soldiers survived,

and Italy was so greatly infected as to lose a large percentage of her population.

Thus in disaster ended the most successful campaign-so far as its military progress was

concerned-which the Romans had ever made into Parthia. It would appear that the Parthians

were not foolish enough to underrate the injury which they had suffered. They were

intelligent enough to perceive that the pestilence rather than their own valor had saved

the Empire from conquest and perhaps disruption. Volagases, therefore, was satisfied to

have peace by the cession to Rome of the province of Osrhoene, which remained a part of

the Roman dominion. Parthia was obliged to accept the humiliation. Her two great cities

had been leveled to the ground. Her army was no longer able to contend with the legions of

Rome, even when the latter were commanded by lieutenants. Civil contention had tended

powerfully to weaken the monarchy. The method of mutual assassination among the Arsacid

princes had prevailed so long