Pontus, 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. BC, Pontus was taken over by a Persian family, profiting by the breakup of the empire of Alexander the Great, and by 281 BC the ruler (Mithradates II) called himself king. A century later Pharnaces I was able to annex Sinope, and Mithradates V (d. 120 BC) gained Phrygia by a profitable alliance with Rome. The greatest Pontic ruler was Mithradates VI, 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 BC), and when Pharnaces II tried to take advantage of the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar easily removed (47 BC) 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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