), a large country in the northeast of Asia Minor, which derived its name from its being on the coast of the Pontus Euxinus, extending from the frontiers of Colchis in the east, to the river Halys in the west.
In the earlier times the country does not appear to have borne any general appellation, but the various parts were designated by names derived from the different tribes by which they were inhabited. Xenophon (Xen. Anab. 5.6.15
) is the first ancient author who uses Pontus as the name of the country. Pontus formed a long and narrow tract of coast country from the river Phasis to the Halys, but in the western part it extended somewhat further south or inland. When its limits were finally fixed, it bordered in the west on Paphlagonia, where the Halys formed the boundary ; in the South on Galatia, Cappadocia, and Armenia Minor, the Antitaurus and Mount Paryadres being the boundaries ; and in the east on Colchis and Armenia, from which it was separated by the river Phasis. Pontus thus embraced the modern pashaliks of Trebizond
Although the country was surrounded by lofty mountains, which also sent their ramifications into Pontus itself, the plains on the coast, and especially the western parts, were extremely fertile (Strab. xii. p.548
), and produced excellent fruit, such as cherries, apples, pears, various kinds of grain, olives, timber, aconite, &c. (Strab. xii. p.545
, &c.; Theophrast. Hist. Plant.
4.5, 8.4, &c., 9.16, 19.17; Plin. Nat. 14.19
The country abounded in game (Strab. xii. p.548
), and among the animals bees are especially mentioned, and honey and wax formed important articles of commerce. (Xenoph. Anab.
4.8. § § 16, 20; Dioscor. 2.103; Plin. Nat. 21.45
; Strab. iii. p.163
The mineral wealth of the country consisted chiefly in iron (Xenoph. Anab.
5.4.1; Strab. xii. p.549
; Steph. B. sub voce Χάλυβες;
) and salt.
The chief mountains of Pontus are the PARYADRES
and on the east of it the SCOEDISES, two ranges of Antitaurus, which they connect with Mount Caucasus. The Paryadres sends two branches, LITHRUS
to the north, which form the eastern boundary of the plain of Phanaroea. Another mountain which terminates in a promontory 100 stadia to the west of Trapezus was called the Oros Hieron (Anonym. Peripl.
p. 13 Apollon. 2.1015
, with Schol.), and Teches is a mountain mentioned in the south-east of Trapezus.
The promontories formed by these mountains, if we proceed from west to east, are: the Heracleium, Iasonium, and Zephyrium.
These projecting headlands form the bays of Amisus and Cotyora.
The mountains in the south contain the sources of numerous streams and rivers, such as the Halys, Lycastus, Chadisius, Iris, Scylax, Lycus, Thermodon, Beris, Thoaris, Oenius, Phigamus, Sidenus, Genethes, Melanthius, Pharmathenus, Hyssus, Ophis, Ascurus, Adienus, Zagatis,--Prytanis, Pyxites, Archabis, Apsarus, Acampis, Bathys, Acinasis, Isis, Mogrus, and the Phasis.
The only lake in Pontus noticed by the ancients is the Stiphane Palus, in the west, north of the river Scylax.
Pontus was inhabited by a considerable number of different tribes, whose ethnological relations are either entirely unknown or extremely obscure.
The most important among them, if we proceed from west to east, are: the LEUCOSYRI, TIBARENI, CHALYBES, MOSYNOECI, HEPTACOMETAE, DRILAE, BECHIRES, BYZERES, COLCHI, MACRONES, MARES, TAOCHI, and PHASIANI
Some of these tribes were wild and savage to the last degree, especially those of the interior; but on the coast Greek colonies continued to be established ever since the middle of the 7th century B.C., and rose to great power and prosperity, spreading Greek culture and civilisation around them.
As to the history of the country, tradition stated that it had been conquered by Ninus, the founder of the Assyrian empire (Diod. 2.2
); after the time of Cyrus the Great it certainly was, at least nominally, [p. 2.659]
under the dominion of Persia (Hdt. 3.94
, &c.), and was governed by hereditary satraps belonging to the royal family of Persia.
In the time of Xenophon, the tribes of Pontus governed by native chiefs seem to have still enjoyed a high degree of independence.
But in B.C. 363, in the reign of Artaxerxes II., Ariobarzanes subdued several of the Pontian tribes, and thereby laid the foundation of an independent kingdom in those parts. (Diod. 15.90
He was succeeded in B.C. 337 by Mithridates II., who reigned till B.C. 302, and who, by skilfully, availing himself of the circumstances of the times during the struggles among the successors of Alexander, considerably enlarged his kingdom.
After him the throne was occupied by Mithridates III., from B.C. 302 to 266; Ariobarzanes III., B.C. 266 probably till 240.
The chronology of this and the following kings, Mithridates IV., Pharnaces I., and Mithridates V., is very uncertain. Under Mithridates VI., from B.C. 120 to 63, the kingdom of Pontus attained the height of its extent and power, but his wars with the Romans led to its subjugation and dismemberment. Pompey, the conqueror of Mithridates, in B.C. 65 annexed the western part of Pontus as far as Ischicopolis and the frontiers of Cappadocia to Bithynia (D. C. 42.45
; Strab. xii. pp. 541, 543 ; Vell. 2.38
; Liv. Epit. 102
), and gave away the remaining parts to some of the chiefs or princes in the adjoining countries.
A portion of the country between the Iris and Halys was given to the Galatian Deiotarus, which was henceforth called Pontus Galaticus (Strab. xii. p.547
; D. C. 41.63
; Ptol. 5.6
. § § 3, 9.) The Colchians tribes in the south-east of the Euxine received a king of their own in the person of Aristarchus. (Appian, App. Mith. 114
; Eutrop. 6.14
.) Pharnaces II., the treacherous son of Mithridates, received the Crimea and some adjoining districts as an independent kingdom under the name of Bosporus (Appian, App. Mith. 110
, &c.); and the central part, from the Iris to Pharnacia, was subsequently given by M. Antonius to Polemon, the son of Pharnaces, and was henceforth designated by the name of Pontus Polemoniacus (Ptol. 5.6
. § § 4, 10; Eutrop. 7.9
; Aurel. Vict. de Caes.
15), which it retained afterwards, even when it had become incorporated with the Roman empire.
The eastern part, which had likewise been ceded to Polemon, was transferred by his widow Pythodoris to king Archelaus of Cappadocia, who married her, and, was thenceforth called Pontus Cappadocius. In Pontus Polemoniacus, Pythodoris was succeeded by her son Polemon II., who resigned his kingdom into the hands of the emperor Nero (Suet. Nero 18
; Eutrop. 7.14
). Pontus was then made a Roman province, A.D. 63, under the name of Pontus Polemoniacus, the administration of which was sometimes combined with that of Galatia.
In the new arrangements under Constantine, the province was again divided into two parts; the south-western one, which had borne the name of Pontus Galaticus, was called Helenopontus, in honour of the emperor's mother Helena; and the eastern portion, to which Pontus Cappadocius was added, retained the name of Pontus Polemoniacus. (Novell.
28.1; Hierocl. p. 702.) Besides these provincial divisions, there also exist a number of names of smaller separate districts, such as GAZELONITIS, SARAMENE, THEMISCYRA, SIDENE; and in the interior PHAZEMONITIS, PIMOLISENE, DIACOPENE, CHILIOCOME, DAXIMONITIS, ZELETIS, XIMENE, and MEGALOPOLITIS. These, as well as the most important towns, AMISUS, POLEMONIUM, COTYORA, PHARNACIA, CERASUS, TRAPEZUS, APSARUS, CABIRA, GAZIURA, ZELA, COMANA PONTICA, NEOCAESAREIA, SEBASTIA, THEMISCYRA, PHAZEMON &c., are described in separate articles.