Polemon I of Pontus

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Polemon Pythodoros, also known as Polemon I or Polemon I of Pontus (Greek : Πολέμων Πυθόδωρος; fl. 1st century BC – died 8 BC) was the Roman Client King of Cilicia, Pontus, Colchis and the Bosporan Kingdom. Polemon was the son and heir of Zenon and possibly Tryphaena. Zenon and Polemon adorned Laodicea with many dedicated offerings. [1]


Life and career

Polemon was Anatolian Greek. Polemon's father, Zenon, was an orator and a prominent aristocrat from Laodicea on the Lycus in Anatolia. Zenon supported Hybreas, an orator and prominent politician in Mylasa (the chief city of Caria). Hybreas got into trouble with the Roman general Quintus Labienus for making a sarcastic comment. Labienus marched on Mylasa. Many of its citizens were inclined to surrender. However, Zenon and Hybreas refused to yield and led their cities into a revolt. Zenon encouraged the locals to resist the Labienus and King Pacorus I of Parthia, when their armies invaded Syria and Anatolia in 40 BC. Labienus sacked Mylasa. He 'shamefully maltreated' the home of Hybreas. [2] Zenon was a friend and ally of Roman Triumvir Mark Antony and played a leading role during the Parthian invasion.

According to Appian, Mark Antony established client kings in the eastern areas of the Roman empire, which were under his control, on condition that they paid a tribute. In Anatolia Polemon was appointed to part of Cilicia, Darius, the son of Pharnaces II and grandson of Mithridates VI, to Pontus, and Amyntas to Pisidia. This was in 37 BC, before his war with Parthia, when he was making preparations for it and before he wintered in Athens in the winter of 37/36 BC. [3]

According to Cassius Dio, in 36 BC Polemon took part in Mark Antony's campaign against Parthia. He was in a detachment led by Oppius Statianus which was attacked and slaughtered by the Parthians and the Medians. Polemon was the only one who was not killed. He was captured and then released for a ransom. [4] In that year, after his defeat in his war against Parthia, Mark Antony 'assigned principalities.' He gave Amyntas Galatia and added Lycaonia and parts of Pamphylia to his domain. He gave Cappadocia to Archelaus after driving out Ariarathes. In 35 BC he wanted to conduct a campaign against Artavasdes II, the king of Armenia. He sent Polemon to Artavasdes, the king of Media Atropatene to try to obtain an alliance with him. This was successful, and in 31 BC, when the agreement was finalised, Antony gave Polemon Lesser Armenia as a reward. [5]

In 26 BC, Polemon, whom Cassius Dio described as the king of Pontus, “was enrolled among the friends and allies of the Roman people; and the privilege was granted the senators of occupying the front seats in all the theatres of his realm.” [6]

Strabo gave an indication of how Polemon might have become a king of Pontus. He wrote Polemon and Lycomedes of Comana attacked Arsaces, one the sons of Pharnaces II of Pontus, in Sagylium because he “was playing the dynast and attempting a revolution without permission from any of the prefects …” This stronghold was seized, but Arsaces fled to the mountains where he starved because he was without provisions and without water. Pompey had ordered the wells to be obstructed by rocks to prevent robbers from hiding on the mountains. Arsaces was captured and killed. [7] Arsaces probably claimed the throne because he was the grandson of Mithridates VI of Pontus, the last king of an independent Kingdom of Pontus. Sagylium was in the interior of Pontus, not far from Cappadocia and from Comana in Cappadocia, which was ruled by Lycomedes. Polemon must have assumed a royal title in Pontus due to the part he played in suppressing Arsaces. In a later passage, Cassius Dio, specified that Polemon was “the king of that part of Pontus bordering on Cappadocia …” (see below). Therefore, Pontus must have been assigned to several client kings who administered the various regions of Pontus.

Plutarch listed Polemon among the eleven subject kings who sent troops to support Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium in his battle with Octavian in 31 BC. Polemon was among the five kings who did not participate in the battle personally. [8]

In a further episode involving Polemon, Cassius Dio, referred to Polemon as "the king of that part of Pontus bordering on Cappadocia.” Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa sent Polemon against a certain Scribonius who claimed to be a grandson of Mithridates VI and that he had received the Bosporan Kingdom from Augustus after the death of its king, Asander. He married Asander's wife, Dynamis, the daughter of Pharnaces II, who had been entrusted with the regency of the kingdom by her husband. Thus, Scribonius controlled this kingdom. When Polemon reached the Cimmerian Bosporus, Scribonius had been killed by the people, who had heard of his advance. They resisted Polemon because they were afraid that he may be appointed as their king. Polemon defeated them but was unable to quell the rebellion until Agrippa went to Sinope to prepare a campaign against them. They surrendered. Polemon was appointed as their king. He married Dynamis with the support of Augustus. [9]

The date Polemon's death is unknown. An inscription indicates that he must have been still on the throne as late 2 BC. [10]

Strabo wrote that Tanais, a Greek city in the Maeotian Swamp, was sacked by Polemon because “it would not obey him.” Polemon conquered Colchis. He attacked the Aspurgiani, a Maeotian people, under a pretence of friendship, but they defeated him, took him alive and killed him. Strabo also wrote that after Polemon's death “his [second] wife Pythodorida of Pontus [was] in power, being queen, not only of the Colchians, but also of Trapezus and Pharnacia and of the barbarians who live above these places …” [11]

Marriages and succession

Through his first wife, Dynamis, Polemon became stepfather to Tiberius Julius Aspurgus, her son from her first marriage. Dynamis probably died in 14 BC.

Polemon remarried. His second wife, Pythodorida of Pontus, was a half Anatolian Greek and Roman noblewoman. She was the first grandchild of Antony. Strabo wrote that she was the daughter of Pythodorus of Tralles and gave some information about the two sons and the daughter of Polemon and Pythodorida. [12] They were:

Pythodorida succeeded Polemon and ruled Tibareni and Chaldia, extending as far as Colchis. She also ruled Pharnacia and Trapezus (modern Trabzon). Strabo described her as "a woman who is wise and qualified to preside over affairs of state." She married Archelaus of Cappadocia until his death. She was still ruling at the time of Strabo and "in possession of not only of the places above mentioned, but also of others still more charming." She possessed the cities of Sidene and Themiscyra Phanaroea, close to Pharnacia, the area between the rivers Lycus (Kelkit) and Iris (Yeşilırmak), which included the cities of Magnopolis, Amaseia, and Cabeira (which Pompey had renamed Diospolis), Kainon Chorion, plus Zelitis and Megalopolitis. Pythodoris changed the name of Diospolis to Sebaste, embellished it and used it as a royal residence. [14]

Family tree of Polemon I

Mark Antony
∞ 2.Antonia Hybrida
Pharnaces II
king of C. Bosporus
63-47 BC
∞ Tryphaena (?)
Pythodoros of Tralles
wealthy Greek
king of C. Bosporus
47-17 BC
queen of C. Bosporus
16-8 BC
∞ 1.Asander
3.Polemon I
Polemon I
king of Pontus, Cappadocia
37-8 BC
∞ 1.Dynamis
queen of Pontus
8 BC-28 AD
∞ 1.Polemon I of Pontus
2.Archelaus of Cappadocia
king of Cappadocia
T. J. Aspurgus
king of C. Bosporus
8 BC-38 AD
Zenon/Artaxias III
king of Armenia
J. Berenice
daughter of
Herod Agrippa I
king of Judea
Polemon II
king of Pontus, Cappadocia
J. Mamaea
daughter of
Sampsigeramus II
priest-king of Emessa
Antonia Tryphaena
Cotys III
king of Thrace
T. J. Mithridates
king of C. Bosporus
T. J. Cotys I
Polemon Eupator
Rhoemetalces Philocaesar

See also


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Primary sources

Appian, The Civil Wars, Penguin Classics, 1996; ISBN   978-0140445091

Secondary sources

Ptolemaic Dynasty: Cleopatra VII

Preceded by
Arsaces of Pontus
King of Pontus
37–8 BC
Succeeded by
Preceded by
King of the Bosporus
16-8 BC (with Dynamis 16-14 BC)
Succeeded by