1902 Encyclopedia > Pontus


PONTUS was the name given in ancient times to an extensive tract of country in the north-east of Asia Minor, bordering on Armenia and Colcbis (see vol. xv. Plate II.). It was not, like most of the divisions of Asia, a national appellation, but a purely territorial one, derived from its proximity to the Euxine, often called simply Pontus by the Greeks. Originally it formed part of the extensive region of Cappadocia, which in early ages extended from the borders of Cilicia to the Euxine; but afterwards it came to be divided into two satrapies or governments, of which the northernmost came to be distinguished as "Cappadocia on the Pontus," and thence simply as "Pontus." The term is not, however, found either in Herodotus or Xenophon, though the latter traversed a, considerable part of the region, and it is probable that it did not come into general use until after the time of Alexander the Great. Under the Persian empire the province continued to be governed by a satrap, nominally subject to the great king, but apparently- enjoying virtual independence, as no mention occurs in Xenophon of the Persian authorities in this part of Asia. The first of these local satraps who assumed the title of king was Ariobarzanes, about the beginning of the 4th century B.C., who was reckoned the founder of the dynasty ; but its history as an independent monarchy really begins with Mithradates II., who com-menced. his reign in 337 B.C. From this time Pontus con-tinued to be ruled by- a succession of kings of the sante dynasty, mostly bearing the name of Mithradates, whose independence was respected by the Macedonian sovereigns of Asia, and who were able gradually to extend their power along the shores of the Euxine. The capture of the important city of Sinope by Pharnaces I. (about 183 B.c.) led to the extension of their frontier to that of Bithynia ; while under Mithradates VI., commonly known as the Great, their dominion for a time comprised a large part of Asia Minor. The history of the reign of that monarch and his wars with the Romans will be found under the heading MITIIRADATES. After his final defeat by Pompey in 65 B.C., Pontus was again confined within its original limits, but was united with. Bithynia as a ROman province, and this union generally continued to subsist, though not without interruption, under the Roman empire. A portion of the original dominion of the kings of Pontus was, however, separated front the rest by Antony in 36 B.C., and placed under the government of a Greek rhetorician named Polemon, whose descendants continued to rule it till the reign of Nero, when it was finally annexed to the Roman empire (63 A.D.). Hence this part of the country came to be known as Pontus Polernoniacus, by which epithet it was still distinguished as a Roman province. The interior district in the south-west, ad-joining Galatia, hence came to be known as Pontus Galaticus.

Pontus, in the proper sense of the term, as defined by Strabo, who was himself a native of the country, was bounded by the river Halys on the west, a.nd by Colchis and the Lesser Armenia on the east. Its exact frontier in this direction is not specified, but it may be taken as extending as far as the mouth of the river Acampsis. The region thus limited may be considered as divided into two portions, differing much in their physical characters. The western half presents considerable plains and upland tracts in the interior, stretching away till they join the still more extensive uplands of Cappadocia and Galatia. Besides the great river Halys that forms its boundary on the west, this region is traversed by the river Iris, and its tributary the Ly-cus, both of which have their rise in the highlands on the frontiers of Armenia, and are very con-siderable streams, flowing through fertile valleys. The Thermodon, which enters the Euxine a little to the east of the Iris, is a much less important stream, though cele-brated from its connexion with the fable of the Amazons. On the other hand the eastern portion of Pontus, between Armenia and the Euxine, is throughout a very rugged and mountainous country, furrowed by deep valleys descending from the inland range of mountains, known to the ancients as Paryadres, which has a direction nearly parallel to the sea-coast, and is continued to the frontiers of Colchis under the name of Scy-dises and various other appellations. These mountains have in all ages been ahnost ina,ccessible, and even in the time of Strabo were inhabited by wild tribes who had never been really reduced to subjection by any government. But the coast from Trebizond westward is one of the most beautiful parts of Asia Minor, and is justly extolled by Strabo for its wonderful productiveness In fruits of every description.

The population of the greater part of Pontus was undoubtedly of the same race with that of Cappadocia, of which it originally formed a part,


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