Mithridates VI Eupator

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Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI
Mithridates I of the Bosporus
  • (illeg.) Adobogiona the Younger
  • (illeg.) Ariarathes IX of Cappadocia
  • (illeg.) Orsabaris
  • Names
    Mithradates Eupator Dionysus
    FatherMithridates V Euergetes
    MotherLaodice VI

    Mithridates or Mithradates VI Eupator (

    Asia Minor and the Black Sea region, waging several hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful wars (the Mithridatic Wars) to break Roman dominion over Asia and the Hellenic world.[3] He has been called the greatest ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus.[4] He cultivated an immunity to poisons by regularly ingesting sub-lethal doses; this practice, now called mithridatism
    , is named after him. After his death he became known as Mithridates the Great.


    Mithridates is the

    Old Iranian Miθra-dāta-.[6]

    Ancestry, family and early life

    Mithridates Eupator Dionysus (

    Persian and Greek ancestry. He claimed descent from Cyrus the Great, the family of Darius the Great, the Regent Antipater, the generals of Alexander the Great as well as the later kings Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Seleucus I Nicator.[7]

    Mithridates was born in the Pontic city of Sinope,[8] on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia, and was raised in the Kingdom of Pontus. He was the first son among the children born to Laodice VI and Mithridates V Euergetes (reigned 150–120 BC). His father, Mithridates V, was a prince and the son of the former Pontic monarchs Pharnaces I of Pontus and his cousin-wife Nysa. His mother, Laodice VI, was a Seleucid princess and the daughter of the Seleucid monarchs Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his sister-wife Laodice IV.[citation needed]

    Mithridates V was assassinated in about 120 BC in Sinope, poisoned by unknown persons at a lavish banquet which he held.[9] He left the kingdom to the joint rule of his widow Laodice VI, and their elder son Mithridates VI, and younger son Mithridates Chrestus. Neither Mithridates VI nor his younger brother were of age, and their mother retained all power as regent for the time being.[10] Laodice VI's regency over Pontus was from 120 BC to 116 BC (even perhaps up to 113 BC) and favored Mithridates Chrestus over Mithridates. During his mother's regency, Mithridates escaped from his mother's plots against him and went into hiding.[citation needed]

    Mithridates emerged from hiding and returned to Pontus between 116 and 113 BC and was hailed as king. By this time he had grown to become a man of considerable stature and physical strength.[11] He could combine extraordinary energy and determination with a considerable talent for politics, organization and strategy.[11] Mithridates removed his mother and brother from the throne, imprisoning both, becoming the sole ruler of Pontus.[12] Laodice VI died in prison, ostensibly of natural causes. Mithridates Chrestus may have died in prison also, or may have been tried for treason and executed.[12] Mithridates gave both royal funerals.[13] Mithridates first[clarification needed] married his younger sister Laodice, aged 16.[14] His goals in doing so were to preserve the purity of their bloodline, to solidify his claim to the throne, to co-rule over Pontus, and to ensure the succession to his legitimate children.[citation needed]

    Early reign

    Mithridates entertained ambitions of making his state the dominant power on the

    Rhoxolanoi suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Pontic general Diophantus and accepted Mithridates as their overlord.[citation needed

    The young king then turned his attention to Anatolia, where

    Zipoites I in 297 BC. It was certainly in use in Pontus by 96 BC at the latest.[15]

    Yet it soon became clear to Mithridates that Nicomedes was steering his country into an anti-Pontic alliance with the expanding Roman Republic. When Mithridates fell out with Nicomedes over control of Cappadocia, and defeated him in a series of battles, the latter was constrained to openly enlist the assistance of Rome. The Romans twice interfered in the conflict on behalf of Nicomedes (95–92 BC), leaving Mithridates, should he wish to continue the expansion of his kingdom, with little choice other than to engage in a future Roman-Pontic war. By this time Mithridates had resolved to expel the Romans from Asia.[11]

    Mithridatic Wars

    The next ruler of

    Tralles, essentially wiping out the Roman presence in the region. As many as 80,000 people are said to have perished in the massacre.[11] The episode is known as the Asiatic Vespers.[16]

    The Kingdom of Pontus comprised a mixed population in its

    Hellenism, but this was mainly to further his political ambitions; it is no proof that he felt a mission to promote its extension within his domains.[11] Whatever his true intentions, the Greek cities (including Athens) defected to the side of Mithridates and welcomed his armies in mainland Greece, while his fleet besieged the Romans at Rhodes. His neighbor to the southeast, the King of Armenia Tigranes the Great, established an alliance with Mithridates and married one of Mithridates’ daughters, Cleopatra of Pontus. The two rulers would continue to support each other in the coming conflict with Rome.[18]

    The Romans responded to the massacre of 88 BC by organising a large invasion force to defeat Mithridates and remove him from power. The

    Lucius Licinius Murena was left in charge of Roman forces in Anatolia. The lenient peace treaty, which was never ratified by the Senate, allowed Mithridates VI to restore his forces. Murena attacked Mithridates in 83 BC, provoking the Second Mithridatic War from 83 to 81 BC. Mithridates defeated Murena's two green legions at the Battle of Halys in 82 BC before peace was again declared by treaty.[citation needed

    When Rome attempted to annex Bithynia (bequested to Rome by its last king) nearly a decade later, Mithridates attacked with an even larger army, leading to the Third Mithridatic War from 73 BC to 63 BC. Lucullus was sent against Mithridates and the Romans routed the Pontic forces at the Battle of Cabira in 72 BC, driving Mithridates into exile in Tigranes' Armenia. While Lucullus was preoccupied fighting the Armenians, Mithridates surged back to retake Pontus by crushing four Roman legions under Valerius Triarius and killing 7,000 Roman soldiers at the Battle of Zela in 67 BC. He was routed by Pompey's legions at the Battle of the Lycus in 66 BC.

    After this defeat, Mithridates fled with a small army to Colchis and then over the Caucasus Mountains to Crimea and made plans to raise yet another army to take on the Romans. His eldest living son, Machares, viceroy of Cimmerian Bosporus, was unwilling to aid his father. Mithridates had Machares killed, and Mithridates took the throne of the Bosporan Kingdom. He then ordered conscription and preparations for war. In 63 BC, another of his sons, Pharnaces II of Pontus, led a rebellion against his father, joined by Roman exiles in the core of Mithridates' Pontic army. Mithridates withdrew to the citadel in Panticapaeum, where he committed suicide. Pompey buried Mithridates in the rock-cut tombs of his ancestors in Amasia, the old capital of Pontus.[citation needed]

    Assassination conspiracy

    During the time of the First Mithridatic War, a group of Mithridates' friends plotted to kill him. These were Mynnio and Philotimus of Smyrna, and Cleisthenes and Asclepiodotus of Lesbos. Asclepiodotus changed his mind and became an informant. He arranged to have Mithridates hide under a couch to hear the plot against him. The other conspirators were tortured and executed. Mithridates also killed all of the plotters' families and friends.[19]

    Representation of power

    Where his ancestors pursued

    Sarapis, was made in 94/93 BC on behalf of the Athenians, Romans, and "King Mithridates Eupator Dionysus".[22] Greek styles mixed with Persian elements also abound on official Pontic coinsPerseus was favored as an intermediary between both worlds, East and West.[23]

    Certainly influenced by Alexander the Great, Mithridates VI extended his propaganda from "defender" of Greece to the "great liberator" of the Greek world as war with the Roman Republic became inevitable. The Romans were easily translated into "barbarians", in the same sense as the Persian Empire during the war with Persia in the first half of the 5th century BC and during Alexander's campaign. How many Greeks genuinely agreed with this claim will never be known. It served its purpose; at least partially because of it, Mithridates VI was able to fight the First War with Rome on Greek soil, and maintain the allegiance of Greece.[24] His campaign for the allegiance of the Greeks was aided in no small part by his enemy Sulla, who allowed his troops to sack the city of Delphi and plunder many of the city's most famous treasures to help finance his military expenses.[citation needed]


    After Pompey defeated him in Pontus, Mithridates VI fled to the lands north of the Black Sea in the winter of 66 BC in the hope that he could raise a new army and carry on the war through invading Italy by way of the Danube.[11] His preparations proved to be too harsh on the local nobles and populace, and they rebelled against his rule. He reportedly attempted suicide by poison, which failed because of his immunity to the substance.[25] According to Appian's Roman History, he then requested his Gallic bodyguard and friend, Bituitus, to kill him by the sword:

    Mithridates then took out some poison that he always carried next to his sword, and mixed it. There two of his daughters, who were still girls growing up together, named Mithridates and Nysa, who had been betrothed to the kings of [Ptolemaic] Egypt and of Cyprus, asked him to let them have some of the poison first, and insisted strenuously and prevented him from drinking it until they had taken some and swallowed it. The drug took effect on them at once; but upon Mithridates, although he walked around rapidly to hasten its action, it had no effect, because he had accustomed himself to other drugs by continually trying them as a means of protection against poisoners. These are still called the Mithridatic drugs. Seeing a certain Bituitus there, an officer of the Gauls, he said to him, "I have profited much from your right arm against my enemies. I shall profit from it most of all if you will kill me, and save from the danger of being led in a Roman triumph one who has been an autocrat so many years, and the ruler of so great a kingdom, but who is now unable to die by poison because, like a fool, he has fortified himself against the poison of others. Although I have kept watch and ward against all the poisons that one takes with his food, I have not provided against that domestic poison, always the most dangerous to kings, the treachery of army, children, and friends." Bituitus, thus appealed to, rendered the king the service that he desired.[26]

    Cassius Dio's Roman History records a different account:

    Mithridates had tried to make away with himself, and after first removing his wives and remaining children by poison, he had swallowed all that was left; yet neither by that means nor by the sword was he able to perish by his own hands. For the poison, although deadly, did not prevail over him, since he had inured his constitution to it, taking precautionary antidotes in large doses every day; and the force of the sword blow was lessened on account of the weakness of his hand, caused by his age and present misfortunes, and as a result of taking the poison, whatever it was. When, therefore, he failed to take his life through his own efforts and seemed to linger beyond the proper time, those whom he had sent against his son fell upon him and hastened his end with their swords and spears. Thus Mithridates, who had experienced the most varied and remarkable fortune, had not even an ordinary end to his life. For he desired to die, albeit unwillingly, and though eager to kill himself was unable to do so; but partly by poison and partly by the sword he was at once self-slain and murdered by his foes.[27]

    At the behest of Pompey, Mithridates' body was later buried alongside his ancestors (in either Sinope or Amaseia).[28] Mount Mithridat in the central Kerch and the town of Yevpatoria in Crimea commemorate his name.[citation needed]

    Mithridates' antidote

    In his youth, after the assassination of his father Mithridates V in 120 BC, Mithridates is said to have lived in the wilderness for seven years, inuring himself to hardship. While there and after his accession, he cultivated an immunity to poisons by regularly ingesting sub-lethal doses of poisons, particularly the

    rue leaves, which were supposed to be crushed together and taken with a pinch of salt by a person who had fasted for at least one day.[41]


    antibacterial[51] and anti-inflammatory abilities;[34] it is also noteworthy that bioactive alkaloids[34] and poisons are not widely represented.[40]

    Mithridate and theriac continued to be staples of

    dyspepsia or described as of historical interest only.[34]

    Mithridates as polyglot


    speak the languages of all the twenty-two nations he governed.[57] This reputation led to the use of Mithridates' name as title in some later works on comparative linguistics, such as Conrad Gessner's Mithridates de differentiis linguarum (1555), and Adelung and Vater's Mithridates oder allgemeine Sprachenkunde (1806–1817).[58]

    Wives, mistresses and children

    Mithridates VI had wives and mistresses, by whom he had several children. The names he gave his children are a representation of his Persian and Greek heritage and ancestry.[citation needed]

    His first wife was

    . Their daughters were

    His second wife was a Greek Macedonian noblewoman, Monime. They were married from about 89/88 BC until 72/71 BC and had a daughter, Athenais, who married King Ariobarzanes II of Cappadocia. His next two wives were also Greek: he was married to his third wife Berenice of Chios, from 86 to 72/71 BC, and to his fourth wife Stratonice of Pontus, from sometime after 86 to 63 BC. Stratonice bore Mithridates a son Xiphares. His fifth wife is unknown. His sixth wife Hypsicratea, famed for her loyalty and prowess in battle, was Caucasian, and they were married from an unknown date to 63 BC.[citation needed]

    One of his mistresses was the Galatian Celtic princess

    Mithridates I of the Bosporus and a daughter called Adobogiona the Younger.[citation needed

    His sons born from his concubines were Cyrus, Xerxes, Darius, Ariarathes IX of Cappadocia, Artaphernes, Oxathres, Phoenix (Mithridates' son by a mistress of Syrian descent), and Exipodras, named after kings of the Persian Empire, which he claimed ancestry from. His daughters born from his concubines were Nysa, Eupatra, Cleopatra the Younger, Mithridatis and Orsabaris. Nysa and Mithridatis, were engaged to the Egyptian Greek Pharaohs Ptolemy XII Auletes and his brother Ptolemy of Cyprus.[citation needed]

    In 63 BC, when the Kingdom of Pontus was annexed by the Roman general Pompey, the remaining sisters, wives, mistresses and children of Mithridates VI in Pontus were put to death. Plutarch, writing in his Lives (Pompey, v. 45), states that Mithridates' sister and five of his children took part in Pompey's triumphal procession on his return to Rome in 61 BC.[citation needed]

    The Cappadocian Greek nobleman and high priest of the temple-state of Comana, Cappadocia, Archelaus was descended from Mithridates VI.[59] He claimed to be a son of Mithridates VI;[60] but the chronology suggests that Archelaus may actually have been a maternal grandson of the Pontic king, and the son of Mithridates VI's favourite general, who may have married one of the daughters of Mithridates VI.[61]

    Cultural depictions

    Sometimes, more sternly moved, I would relate
    How vanquished Mithridates northward passed,
    And, hidden in the cloud of years, became
    Odin, the Father of a race by whom

    Perished the Roman Empire.

    There was a king reigned in the East:
    There, when kings will sit to feast,
    They get their fill before they think
    With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
    He gathered all that springs to birth
    From the many-venomed earth;
    First a little, thence to more,
    He sampled all her killing store;
    And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
    Sate the king when healths went round.
    They put arsenic in his meat
    And stared aghast to watch him eat;
    They poured strychnine in his cup
    And shook to see him drink it up:
    They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
    Them it was their poison hurt.
    –I tell the tale that I heard told.

    Mithridates, he died old.

    See also


    1. ^ McGing, Brian. "Pontus, Encyclopædia Iranica". Encyclopædia Iranica.
    2. ^ The spelling "Mithridates" was the Roman Latin version, but "Mithradates", the spelling used in Greek inscriptions and Mithridates' own coins, is regaining precedence, see e.g. Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d ed.
    3. ^ "Mithradates VI Eupator", Encyclopædia Britannica
    4. .
    5. ^ Mayor 2009, p. 1.
    6. ^ Schmitt 2005.
    7. ^ "MITHRADATES VI – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Archived from the original on 2013-05-17.
    8. ^ Jakob Munk Højte. "The Death and Burial of Moithdrades VI". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
    9. ^ Mayor, p. 68
    10. ^ Mayor, p. 69
    11. ^
      Encyclopædia Britannica Online
      . Retrieved June 26, 2018.
    12. ^ a b Mayor, p. 394
    13. ^ Mayor, p. 100
    14. ^ Getzel, Hellenistic settlements in Europe, the islands, and Asia Minor p.387
    15. ^ Jakob Munk Højte, "From Kingdom to Province: Reshaping Pontos after the Fall of Mithridates VI", in Tønnes Bekker-Nielsen (ed.), Rome and the Black Sea Region: Domination, Romanisation, Resistance (Aarhus University Press, 2006), 15–30.
    16. ^ a b Mayor
    17. ^ McGing, p. 11
    18. ^ Kurdoghlian, Mihran (1994). Badmoutioun Hayots, Volume I (in Armenian). Athens, Greece: Hradaragoutioun Azkayin Oussoumnagan Khorhourti. pp. 67–76.
    19. ^ "Appian, The Mithridatic Wars 10 – Livius".
    20. ^ McGing, p. 64
    21. ^ McGing, p. 90
    22. ^ McGing, pp. 91–92
    23. ^ McGing, pp. 93–102
    24. ^ McGing, pp. 125–126
    25. ^ A History of Rome, LeGlay, et al. 100
    26. ^ "Appianus, XVI, §111".
    27. ^ "Cassius Dio — Book 37".
    28. ^ Hojte, Jakob Munk. "The Death and Burial of Mithridates VI". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
    29. ^ a b Mayor (2014), p. 28.
    30. ^ McGing, p. 43
    31. ^ Totelin (2004), p. 3.
    32. ^ Mayor, Adrienne (2003), Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World, New York: Overlook Duckworth, p. 148.
    33. ^ Totelin (2004), p. 4.
    34. ^
      PMID 16565467
    35. ^ a b Totelin (2004), p. 5.
    36. ^ a b c Pliny, Natural History, Ch. XXV, §§5–7.
    37. ^
      JSTOR 4130095
    38. ^ a b c Mayor (2014), p. 24.
    39. ^ Mayor (2014), p. 29.
    40. ^ a b Mayor (2014), p. 32.
    41. ^ Pliny, Natural History, Ch. XXIII, §77.
    42. ^ Mayor (2014), p. 33.
    43. ^ Scribonius, Compositiones, §170.
    44. ^ Celsus, De Medicina, Vol. V, §23.3.
    45. ^ Galen, De Antidotis, Vol. II, Ch. 1
    46. ^ Totelin (2004), pp. 7–8.
    47. ^ Totelin (2004), p. 9.
    48. ^ .
    49. ^ a b c d e f g Mayor (2014), p. 31.
    50. ^ a b Totelin (2004), p. 10.
    51. ^ Mayor (2014), p. 27.
    52. ^ Totelin (2004), p. 14.
    53. ^ Bald's Leechbook.
    54. ^
      PMID 15327592
    55. ^ Pliny, Natural History, Ch. XXIX, §8.
    56. ^ Totelin (2004), p. 16.
    57. ^ "Mithridates, who was king of twenty-two nations, administered their laws in as many languages, and could harangue each of them, without employing an interpreter:" Pliny the Elder, Natural History, VII, 24.
    58. ^ Johann Christoph Adelung & Johann Severin Vater, Mithridates, oder allgemeine Sprachenkunde mit dem Vater Unser als Sprachprobe in bey nahe fünf hundert Sprachen und Mundarten, Mithridites was also fluent in the ancient language of the Persians and would practice it on any Persian prisoners he had not yet killed or tortured.1806–1817, Berlin, Vossische Buchlandlung, 4 volumes. Facsimile edition, Hildesheim-Nueva York, Georg Olms Verlag, 1970.
    59. ^ "Berenice IV".
    60. ^ Strabo 17.1.11
    61. ^ Mayor, p. 114


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    Preceded by King of Pontus
    120–63 BC
    Succeeded by