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Related to Pontus: Galatia, Pontius Pilate, Parthia


(pŏn`təs), in Greek religion and mythology, sea god. He was the son of Gaea and by her the father of Ceto, Nereus, Thaumus, Phorcus, and Eurybia.


ancient country, NE Asia Minor (now Turkey), on the Black Sea coast. On its inland side were Cappadocia and W Armenia. It was not significantly penetrated by Persian or Hellenic civilization. In the 4th cent. B.C., Pontus was taken over by a Persian family, profiting by the breakup of the empire of Alexander the Great, and by 281 B.C. the ruler (Mithradates II) called himself king. A century later Pharnaces I was able to annex Sinope, and Mithradates V (d. 120 B.C.) gained Phrygia by a profitable alliance with Rome. The greatest Pontic ruler was Mithradates VIMithradates VI
(Mithradates Eupator) , c.131 B.C.–63 B.C., king of Pontus, sometimes called Mithradates the Great. He extended his empire until, in addition to Pontus, he held Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, and the Black Sea coast beyond the Caucasus.
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, who conquered Asia Minor, gained control of the Crimea, and threatened Rome in Greece. But the Pontic "empire" had neither economic nor political stability, and Mithradates prospered only because Rome was preoccupied elsewhere. Pompey defeated him (65 B.C.), and when Pharnaces IIPharnaces II
, d. 47 B.C., king of Pontus, son of Mithradates VI. In the Roman civil war he overran Colchis and central Asia Minor. Julius Caesar came from Egypt and defeated (47 B.C.
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 tried to take advantage of the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar easily removed (47 B.C.) the threat at Zela. The Romans joined Pontus to the province of Galatia-Cappadocia. The principal Pontic cities were Amasia, Neocaesarea, and Zela.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ancient region in Asia Minor along the Black Sea. Pontus was part of Cappadocia. In 302 (or 301) B.C., the Kingdom of Pontus was established on the territory of Pontus.



a Hellenistic kingdom in Asia Minor that existed from 302 or 301 B.C. to 64 B.C.

Pontus was founded by Mithridates II (sometimes called Mithridates I), a former Achaemenid dynast of the city of Chios. Amasia became its capital city. The population was made up primarily of Cappadocians, who belonged to Hittite-speaking tribes. Gradually, Greek cities on the Pontus Euxinus as far east as the city of Trapezus became part of Pontus. Lands along the eastern boundary, which were inhabited by such tribes as the Tibareni, Mossynoeci, and Macrones, were also incorporated into the kingdom.

The highly developed Greek cities of Pontus were trade and artisan centers that practiced some internal autonomy. The kingdom of Pontus also included territories that preserved tribal-clan relations. In the river valleys the population engaged in agriculture, and in the mountain and steppe regions in stock raising. The land had rich iron and silver deposits. Slaveholding predominated in the cities; in rural areas, the commune was apparently retained and the labor of free producers was exploited. The ruling class of slaveholders, initially influenced by the Persians, with time adopted the Greek culture, language, and system of writing.

In the second century B.C., Pontus adopted an aggressive foreign policy. Pharnaces I (ruled c. 185–169 B.C.) captured Sinope in 183 and made it his residence. (Sinope became the capital of the kingdom of Pontus under Mithridates V.) Pontus gained control of the ore regions of the Pontic Mountains and the cities along the Pontus Euxinus, including Giresun, Cytorus, and Harmene. In the second century B.C., Trapezus became part of the kingdom. During the reign of Pharnaces I and his successors, political and economic relations were established with Chersonesus Taurica (Crimea) and cultural and economic ties were strengthened with Athens and the island of Delos. Under Mithridates V Euergetes (ruled c. 150-C. 120 B.C.), a mercenary army, based on the Greek model and having Greek commanders, was formed, and steps were taken to create a navy.

The kingdom of Pontus reached its zenith under Mithridates VI Eupator. The Bosporan State fell under Pontus’ rule. The lands conquered by Mithridates were the sources of enormous wealth and provided recruits for the Pontic armies. Mithridates formed alliances with some Thracian and Pontic tribes. By the first century B.C., Pontus was the strongest kingdom in the Hellenistic world. Allied with Tigranes II, king of Greater Armenia, Mithridates embarked on a war against Rome. During the First Mithridatic War (89–85/84 B.C.), extensive territories were captured. To conquer the Roman provinces of Asia, Mithridates depended on the anti-Roman democratic movement in the Greek cities of the provinces. Mithridates massacred 80,000 Romans and Italici and confiscated their lands and freed their slaves. However, in 86 B.C., the Roman army under Sulla destroyed the Pontic forces in Greece and crossed over into Asia Minor.

The slaveholding nobility’s dissatisfaction with the social policies of Mithridates, the recruitment of soldiers, and military requisitions led to a rebellion in the Greek cities of Asia Minor. Mithridates was forced to conclude a peace treaty in Dardanus with Sulla in 85 or 84 B.C. The treaty stipulated that he return all the lands won in Asia Minor, turn over the Pontic navy to Rome, and pay reparations. The Second Mithridatic War was fought from 83 to 81 B.C. The Third Mithridatic War lasted from 74 to 64 B.C. and ended with Pontus’ defeat. In 71 B.C., the Roman Army occupied Pontus. In 64 B.C. part of the kingdom was united with the Roman province of Bithynia and formed the new province of Bithynia and Pontus. The eastern part of the kingdom was given to Rome’s allies but was later made part of the Roman Empire.


Appian. “Mitridatovy voiny.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1946, no. 4.
Plutarch. Sravnitel’nye zhizneopisaniia, vol. 2. Moscow, 1963. Pages 119–149, 171–209, 334–91.
Kolobova, K. M. “Farnak I Pontiiskii.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1949, no. 3.
Maksimova, M. I. Antichnye goroda iugo-vostochnogo Prichernomor’ia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Meyer, E. Geschichte des Königreichs Pontos. Leipzig, 1879.
Reinach, T. Mithridate Eupator. Paris, 1890.
Magie, D. Roman Rule in Asia Minor, vols. 1–2. Princeton, N.J., 1950.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


an ancient region of NE Asia Minor, on the Black Sea: became a kingdom in the 4th century bc; at its height under Mithridates VI (about 115--63 bc), when it controlled all Asia Minor; defeated by the Romans in the mid-1st century bc
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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