Cultures > Kingdom of Pontus

Kingdom of Pontus


The Kingdom of Pontus was a Hellenistic state on the southern coast of the Black Sea, in what is now modern-day Turkey. It emerged in the 4th century BC and lasted until it was annexed by the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. Here is an overview of its history, culture, and significance:

Historical Overview

  1. Founding and Early History:

    • The Kingdom of Pontus was founded around 281 BC by Mithridates I Ktistes (the Founder) after the fall of the Persian Empire and the partition of Alexander the Great’s empire.
    • The kingdom’s origins are rooted in Persian and Hellenistic traditions, as Mithridates I was a Persian nobleman who established himself as a ruler in the region.
  2. Expansion under the Mithridatic Dynasty:

    • Mithridates II (c. 250-210 BC): He expanded the kingdom’s territory and strengthened its influence in the Black Sea region.
    • Mithridates III and IV: Continued the expansion and consolidation of power.
  3. Mithridates VI Eupator (120-63 BC):

    • Perhaps the most famous king of Pontus, Mithridates VI, also known as Mithridates the Great, significantly expanded the kingdom and clashed with Rome.
    • He launched several wars against the Roman Republic, known as the Mithridatic Wars (First: 88-84 BC, Second: 83-81 BC, Third: 75-63 BC).
    • Despite initial successes and forming alliances with other states hostile to Rome, Mithridates VI was ultimately defeated by Roman generals Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Lucullus, and Pompey the Great.
    • Mithridates VI’s resistance to Rome made him a legendary figure in later histories.
  4. Annexation by Rome:

    • After the defeat of Mithridates VI, the kingdom was gradually absorbed into the Roman Republic.
    • Pontus was reorganized as a Roman province, and its cities and resources were integrated into the Roman economy and administrative system.

Culture and Society

  1. Hellenistic Influence:

    • The Kingdom of Pontus, while Persian in origin, adopted many aspects of Hellenistic culture, including language, art, and urban planning.
    • Greek was the language of administration and culture, and the cities often featured Greek-style architecture and public spaces.
  2. Economic and Trade Activities:

    • Pontus was rich in natural resources, including fertile lands, timber, and minerals, which supported a robust economy.
    • The Black Sea coast facilitated trade with other Hellenistic states, as well as with Scythian and other Black Sea tribes.
  3. Religion:

    • The kingdom exhibited a blend of Persian and Greek religious traditions.
    • Mithridates VI promoted himself as a champion of Hellenistic culture and often associated himself with divinities from both Greek and Persian pantheons.

Military and Political Significance

  1. Strategic Location:

    • The kingdom’s control of the southern Black Sea coast made it a significant player in regional politics and trade.
    • Its position allowed it to interact with (and sometimes control) key trade routes between Europe and Asia.
  2. Military Conflicts:

    • Pontus was frequently involved in military conflicts with neighboring states, including the Seleucid Empire, the Galatians, and the Roman Republic.
    • Mithridates VI’s campaigns against Rome were particularly notable for their scale and the initial successes he achieved.
  3. Roman Conflicts:

    • The Mithridatic Wars had significant implications for the Roman Republic, stretching its military resources and influencing its policies in the Eastern Mediterranean.
    • The wars highlighted the challenges Rome faced in controlling distant territories and dealing with powerful local rulers.

Key Cities and Settlements

  1. Sinope (Sinop):

    • The capital of the Kingdom of Pontus under Mithridates VI.
    • A major port city on the Black Sea, it was an important center for trade and culture.
  2. Amaseia (Amasya):

    • Another important city, often used as a royal residence.
    • Known for its strategic location and defensive capabilities.
  3. Amisus (Samsun):

    • A key commercial hub with significant Greek influence.


  1. Historical Impact:

    • The Kingdom of Pontus played a crucial role in the geopolitics of the Hellenistic period, particularly in its resistance against Rome.
    • Mithridates VI’s campaigns against Rome left a lasting legacy in both Roman and local histories.
  2. Cultural Contributions:

    • The blending of Persian and Greek cultures in Pontus contributed to the diverse cultural landscape of the Hellenistic world.
    • The kingdom’s cities and artistic achievements reflected this cultural synthesis.
  3. Roman Integration:

    • The incorporation of Pontus into the Roman Empire contributed to the Romanization of the region.
    • Roman infrastructure, law, and culture further transformed the former kingdom, integrating it into the broader Roman world.


The Kingdom of Pontus was a significant Hellenistic state that played a crucial role in the politics, culture, and military history of the eastern Mediterranean. Its strategic location, economic resources, and cultural achievements made it an important player in the Hellenistic world, while its conflicts with Rome left an enduring legacy in the annals of ancient history.

Mithridatic Dynasty

Here's a comprehensive table of the rulers from the Mithridatic dynasty of Pontus, including their years of reign, consorts, successors, predecessors, and contributions:

MonarchYears of ReignConsortsSuccessorPredecessorContribution
Mithridates I Ktistes281–266 BCUnknownAriobarzanesNone (Founder)Founded the Kingdom of Pontus, established independence from the Seleucid Empire
Ariobarzanes266–250 BCUnknownMithridates IIMithridates I KtistesConsolidated and expanded the kingdom, maintained stability
Mithridates IIc. 250–220 BCLaodiceMithridates IIIAriobarzanesContinued the expansion and fortification of the kingdom
Mithridates IIIc. 220–185 BCLaodicePharnaces IMithridates IIStrengthened the kingdom through military campaigns and alliances
Pharnaces Ic. 185–170 BCNysaMithridates IVMithridates IIIExpanded the kingdom's territory, engaged in conflicts with neighboring states
Mithridates IV Philopator Philadelphosc. 170–150 BCLaodiceMithridates VPharnaces IStrengthened the kingdom through diplomatic and military means
Mithridates V Euergetesc. 150–120 BCLaodice VIMithridates VIMithridates IVExpanded the kingdom's influence, formed alliances with Rome
Mithridates VI Eupator120–63 BCLaodice, Monime, Stratonice, HypsicrateaPharnaces IIMithridates VKnown as Mithridates the Great, resisted Roman expansion, created a powerful and extensive kingdom
Pharnaces II63–47 BCUnknownDarius of PontusMithridates VIAttempted to reclaim Pontus from Roman control, defeated by Julius Caesar
Darius of Pontus39–37 BCUnknownArsaces of PontusPharnaces IIBriefly ruled, maintained Roman alliance
Arsaces of Pontus37 BCUnknownPolemon IDarius of PontusBrief and nominal rule, controlled by Rome
Polemon I37–8 BCDynamisPythodoridaArsaces of PontusAppointed by Rome, ruled efficiently, expanded the kingdom
Pythodorida8 BC – 38 ADPolemon IPolemon IIPolemon IMaintained stability and Roman alliances, ruled as queen
Polemon II38–64 ADJulia MamaeaEnd of the KingdomPythodoridaLast king of Pontus, ruled under Roman influence, kingdom eventually annexed by Rome

List of Settlements

Here's a comprehensive table of known ancient settlements in the Kingdom of Pontus, including their latitude, longitude, year founded, estimated population, and modern location. Please note that the population estimates are approximations based on historical records and archaeological findings. The year founded is based on ancient sources and modern archaeological research.

SettlementLatitudeLongitudeYear FoundedEst. PopulationModern Location
Amaseia (Amasya)40.653335.8330c. 4th century BC20,000 - 30,000Amasya, Turkey
Sinope42.026835.1511c. 7th century BC10,000 - 20,000Sinop, Turkey
Amisos (Samsun)41.286736.33c. 6th century BC15,000 - 25,000Samsun, Turkey
Trapezus (Trebizond)41.000839.7267c. 7th century BC10,000 - 20,000Trabzon, Turkey
Pharnacia41.246937.2850c. 5th century BC5,000 - 10,000Giresun, Turkey
Cerasus40.916738.3925c. 5th century BC5,000 - 10,000Giresun, Turkey
Cotyora40.776037.8431c. 5th century BC5,000 - 10,000Ordu, Turkey
Heraclea Pontica41.175531.4027c. 6th century BC10,000 - 20,000Karadeniz Ereğli, Turkey
Zela40.191735.8858c. 1st century BC5,000 - 10,000Zile, Turkey
Cabira40.833336.0833c. 3rd century BC5,000 - 10,000Niksar, Turkey
Amastris41.750032.3833c. 4th century BC5,000 - 10,000Amasra, Turkey

Hellenistic Cultures


Polybius, the histories.

Appian, the foreign wars.

Memnon of Heraclea, history of Heraclea.

Strabo, Geographica.

Plutarch, Parallel lives. 'Demetrius'.

Hazel, John; Who's Who in the Greek World, Routledge (2002).

Crook, Lintott & Rawson. THE CAMBRIDGE ANCIENT HISTORY VOLUME IX. The Last Age of the Roman Republic, 146–43 B.C. second edition. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

B. C. McGing. The foreign policy of Mithridates VI Eupator, King of Pontus. 1986.

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