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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mithradates VI Eupator, in full Mithradates VI Eupator Dionysus, byname Mithradates the Great, Mithradates also spelled Mithridates, (died 63 BCE, Panticapaeum), king of Pontus in northern Anatolia (120–63 BCE). Under his energetic leadership, Pontus expanded to absorb several of its small neighbours and, briefly, contested Rome’s hegemony in Asia Minor.

Mithradates the Great was the sixth—and last—Pontic ruler by that name. Mithradates (meaning “gift of [the god] Mithra”) was a common name among Anatolian rulers of the age. When Mithradates VI succeeded his father, Mithradates Euergetes, in 120 BCE, he was then only a boy, and for a few years his mother ruled in his place. About 115 BCE, she was deposed and thrown into prison by her son, who thereafter ruled alone. Mithradates began his long career of conquest by dispatching successful expeditions to the Crimean Peninsula and to Colchis (on the eastern shore of the Black Sea). Both districts were added to the Pontic kingdom. To the Greeks of the Tauric Chersonese and the Cimmerian Bosporus (Crimea and Straits of Kerch), Mithradates was a deliverer from their Scythian enemies, and they gladly surrendered their independence in return for the protection given to them by his armies. In Anatolia, however, the royal dominions had been considerably diminished after the death of Mithradates V: Paphlagonia had freed itself, and Phrygia (c. 116 BCE) had been linked to the Roman province of Asia. Mithradates’ first move there was to partition Paphlagonia and Galatia between himself and Nicomedes III of Bithynia, but next he quarreled with Nicomedes over Cappadocia. On two occasions he was successful at first but then deprived of his advantage by Roman intervention (c. 95 and 92). While appearing to acquiesce, he resolved to expel the Romans from Asia. A first attempt to depose Nicomedes IV of Bithynia, who was completely subservient to the Romans, was frustrated (c. 90). Then Nicomedes, instigated by Rome, attacked Pontic territory, and Mithradates, after protesting in vain to the Romans, finally declared war (88).

Portrait of the king of Pontus Mithridates VI as Heracles. Marble, Roman imperial period (1st century).

Nicomedes and the Roman armies were defeated and flung back to the coasts of the Propontis and the Aegean. The Roman province of Asia was occupied, and most of the Greek cities in western Asia Minor allied themselves with Mithradates, though a few held out against him, such as Rhodes, which he besieged unsuccessfully. He also sent large armies into Greece, where Athens and other cities took his side. But the Roman generals, Sulla in Greece and Fimbria in Asia, defeated his forces in several battles during 86 and 85. In 88 he had arranged a general massacre of the Roman and Italian residents in Asia (80,000 are said to have perished), in order that the Greek cities, as his accessories in the crime, should feel irrevocably committed to the struggle against Rome. As the war turned against him, his former leniency toward the Greeks changed to severity; every kind of intimidation was resorted to—deportations, murders, freeing of slaves. But this reign of terror could not prevent the cities from deserting to the victorious side. In 85, when the war was clearly lost, he made peace with Sulla in the Treaty of Dardanus, abandoning his conquests, surrendering his fleet, and paying a large fine.

In what is called the Second Mithradatic War, the Roman general Lucius Licinius Murena invaded Pontus without provocation in 83 but was defeated in 82. Hostilities were suspended, but disputes constantly occurred, and in 74 a general war broke out. Mithradates defeated Marius Aurelius Cotta, the Roman consul, at Chalcedon, but Lucullus worsted him outside Cyzicus (73) and drove him, in 72, to take refuge in Armenia with his son-in-law Tigranes. After scoring two great victories at Tigranocerta (69) and Artaxata (68), Lucullus was disconcerted by the defeat of his lieutenants and by mutiny among his troops. In 66 Lucullus was superseded by Pompey, who completely defeated both Mithradates and Tigranes.

Mithradates then established himself in 64 at Panticapaeum (Kerch) on the Cimmerian Bosporus and was planning an invasion of Italy by way of the Danube when his own troops, led by his son Pharnaces II, revolted against him. After failing in an attempt to poison himself, Mithradates ordered a Gallic mercenary to kill him. His body was sent to Pompey, who buried it in the royal sepulchre at Sinope, the Pontic capital.

Racine "Mithridate"

Mithridate is a tragedy in five acts (with respectively 5, 6, 6, 7, and 5 scenes) in alexandrine verse by Jean Racine.


Background and history
First performed on January 13, 1673 at the Hotel de Bourgogne, Mithridates follows Bajazet and precedes Iphigenia in Racine's work. The subject is drawn from ancient history. Mithridates VI Eupator reigned over the kingdom of Pontus, around the Black Sea. Famous for having gradually accustomed to poisons through mithridatization, he long resisted the Romans. He finally killed himself after being betrayed by his own son.

Racine shows several episodes of the life of Mithridates in one day and, as usual, gives great importance to the amorous intrigues. However, the epic is still more prevalent than in other tragedies. In terms of style, the piece is distinguished by a large number of long speeches and monologues.

Mithridates was the favorite tragedy of another great king, Louis XIV. Over the centuries, the play has become increasingly rare on stage. Today, it is one of the least performed works of Racine. The play formed the basis for Mozart's opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770).

Act 1 - Xiphares, a son of Mithridates, has just learned of the death of his father and the risk of a future Roman victory. He fears a betrayal of his brother Pharnaces, who has always supported the Romans. Xiphares sees Monime, fiance of Mithridates, to whom he declares his love. Pharnaces then inherits the kingdom of his father and his fiance. We then learn that while Mithridates is not dead, he is very close. Xiphares and Pharnaces then enter into a pact to stand by each other.
Act 2 - Monime cannot find the strength to accommodate Mithridates as it should. The king receives a second confirmation of the treachery of his son Pharnaces. He announces his intention to run. Furthermore, Monima is forced to marry Mithridates, but is suspected to love Pharnaces. Monime finally tells Xiphares she loves him, but she is determined to follow the wishes of Mithridates.
Act 3 - Mithridates will attempt to invade Italy to strike the enemy's heart. Xiphares approves the project and wants to participate. Mithridates orders Pharnaces to marry the daughter of a Parthian king. Pharnaces refuses. Mithridates has him arrested and fears a betrayal of Xiphares. Xiphares's love is revealed. To set a trap, Mithridates tells Monime he wants her to marry Xiphares and her reaction is that she loves Xiphares.
Act 4 - Xiphares, who knows he has been discovered, wants to escape, but Monime reveals that there is another who showed their love to Mithridates. The latter decides to marry Monime before leaving for Italy in exchange for his forgiveness, but does not know whether to punish Xiphares or Monime, or neither. Meanwhile, Pharnaces reveals the plan of attack from Italy to the Romans, who have landed.
Act 5 - The Romans attack the palace. A servant brings Mithridates and Monime poison so that they can commit suicide and there is a rumor that Xiphares has died. Mithridates, who is defeated, is pierced by a sword in pardoning Monime. Xiphares, meanwhile, managed to repel the attack of the Romans. Before dying, Mithridates, proud of the final victory of his son, unites Monime Xiphares and advised them to flee.


Mitridate, re di Ponto

Mitridate, re di Ponto (Mithridates, King of Pontus), K. 87 (74a), is an early opera seria in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto is by Vittorio Amedeo Cigna-Santi (it) after Giuseppe Parini's Italian translation of Jean Racine's play "Mithridate".

Mozart wrote Mitridate while touring Italy in 1770. The opera was first performed at the Teatro Regio Ducal, Milan, on 26 December 1770 (at the Milan Carnival).

KV 87 (74a) - Mitridate, re di Ponto (with alternative arias)

- Sinfonia in D major (Allegro - Andante grazioso - Presto) (0:00)
- Aria I,2 (Aspasia) Al destin, che la minaccia (5:56)
- Aria I,3 (Sifare) Soffre il mio cor con pace (12:40)
- Aria I,6 (Arbate) L'odio nel cor frenate (20:05)
- Aria I,7 (Aspasia) Nel sen mi palpita dolente (23:57)
- Aria I,8 (Sifare) Parto, nel gran cimento (26:15)
- Aria I,9 (Allegro) Venga pur, minacci e frema (30:26)
- Marcia I,10 (Maestoso) (37:44)
- Cavata I,10 (Mitridate) Se di lauri il crine adorno (40:46)
- Aria I,11 (Ismene) In faccia all'oggetto (45:39)
- Aria I,13 (Mitridate) Quel ribelle e quell'ingrato (51:38) 
- Aria II,1 (Farnace) Va, l'error mio palesa (54:35)
- Aria II,4 (Mitridate) Tu, che fedel mi sei (57:28)
- Aria II,7 (Sifare) Lungi da te, mio bene (1:01:41)
- Aria II,8 (Aspasia) Nel grave tormento (1:09:47)
- Aria II,12 (Ismene) So quanto a te dispiace (1:14:42)
- Aria II,13 (Farnace) Son reo; l'error confesso (1:20:46)
- Aria II,14 (Mitridate) Già di pietà mi spoglio (1:23:32)
- Duetto II,15 (Sifare, Aspasia) Se viver non degg'io (1:25:53)
- Aria III,1 (Ismene) Tu sai per chi m'accese (1:32:32)
- Aria III,3 (Mitridate) Vado incontro al fato estremo (1:38:22)
- Accompagnato ed aria III,4 (Aspasia) Ah ben ne fui presaga!...Pallid'ombre (1:40:47)
- Aria III,6 (Sifare) Se il rigor d'ingrata sorte (1:47:57)
- Aria III,8 (Marzio) Se di regnar sei vago (1:50:25)
- Aria III,9 (Farnace) Già dagli occhi il velo è tolto (1:54:48)
- Quintetto III,12 (Sifare, Aspasia, Farnace, Ismene, Arbate) Non si ceda (2:04:37)

Alternative arias:
- Aria I,2 (Aspasia) Al destin, che la minaccia (2:05:26)
- Aria I,11 (Ismene) In faccia all'oggetto (2:14:13)
- Aria II,7 (Sifare) Lungi da te, mio bene (2:19:23)
- Duetto II,15 (Sifare, Aspasia) Se viver non degg'io (2:27:05)
- Aria III,3 (Mitridate) Vado incontro al fato estremo (2:35:38)


Arbate, Governor of Nymphæa
Sifare or Xiphares, Mitridate's son   
Aspasia, the Queen, pledged in marriage to Mitridate
Farnace or Pharnaces, Mitridate's eldest son 
Marzio or Marcius, Roman legionary officer
Mitridate, King of Pontus 
Ismene, Parthian Princess


Place: around the Crimean port of Nymphæum
Time: 63BC during the conflict between Rome and Pontus


Mitridate, having suffered a heavy defeat in battle, is presumed dead. This false news is passed by Arbate, the Governor, to Aspasia (Mitridate's fiancée) and to Farnace and Sifare (Mitridate's sons).



Scene 1

Arbate, the governor of Nymphæum, welcomes Sifare. We learn that Sifare resents his brother, Farnace, because of his brother’s strong ties with their enemies, the Romans. Arbate pledges his loyalty to Sifare. Aspasia pleads for Sifare to help her against advances by Farnace. He accepts her plea and reveals his love for her.

Scene 2

Farnace makes his advances to Aspasia. She refuses, supported by Sifare, who protects her from his forceful brother. News arrives that Mitridate is alive and is approaching the city. Arbate urges the brothers to conceal their differences and greet their father. The brothers agree to hide their feelings for Aspasia. Farnace conspires with Marzio, Roman legionary officer, against Mitridate.

Scene 3

Mitridate arrives on the shores of Nymphæaum with Princess Ismene, daughter of his ally the King of Parthia. Mitridate wants Farnace to marry Ismene, his promised bride. Ismene is in love with Farnace but senses problems and is worried about her future. Arbate tells Mitridate that Farnace is pursuing Aspasia, not mentioning Sifare. The jealous Mitridate swears revenge on Farnace.


Scene 1

Farnace scorns and threatens Ismene. She tells Mitridate, who suggests that she should marry Sifare. Mitridate asks Aspasia for immediate marriage but she hesitates, proving to him that she is unfaithful. Aspasia confesses love to Sifare but they both agree to part to save their honour. Sifare plans to leave and Aspasia is troubled by the conflict between love and duty.

Scene 2

Mitridate is aware of Farnace's plot against him with the Romans; he plans his revenge, despite Marzio’s offer of peace, and arrests Farnace to execute him. Ismene rescues the prince, who admits his treachery but implicates Sifare. Mitridate tricks Aspasia into admitting her love for Sifare and swears revenge. Aspasia and Sifare wish to die together, in fear of Mitridate’s threats.


Scene 1

Ismene, still in love with Farnace, tries to convince Mitridate to forgive Aspasia. The Romans attack and Mitridate leaves for battle. Aspasia contemplates suicide by poison. Sifare also wants to die, and joins his father in the battle.

Scene 2

Marzio liberates Farnace and promises him the rule of Nymphæum. Farnace changes his mind, deciding to side with Mitridate.

Scene 3

Defeated, Mitridate commits suicide, avoiding captivity. Before he dies he gives his blessing to Sifare and Aspasia and forgives Farnace, who now agrees to marry Ismene. All four pledge to free the world from Rome.

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