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.