Polemon I of Pontus

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Polemon I of Pontus
King of Pontus
Reign36 – 8 BC
SuccessorPythodorida of Pontus as Queen
King of the Bosporan Kingdom
Reign16 – 8 BC[1] or 12/13–8 BC[2]
Pythodorida of Pontus
IssueArtaxias III
Polemon II of Pontus
Antonia Tryphaena
(all with Pythodorida)
Military career
AllegianceRoman Republic
Years36 BC
  • Antony's Parthian War

Polemon I Pythodoros (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.[3]

Life and career

Polemon was

Pacorus I of Parthia, when their armies invaded Syria and Anatolia in 40 BC. Labienus sacked Mylasa. He 'shamefully maltreated' the home of Hybreas. [4] Zenon was a friend and ally of Roman Triumvir Mark Antony and played a leading role during the Parthian

According to

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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.” [8]

Strabo gave an indication of how Polemon might have become a king of Pontus. He wrote Polemon and

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.[10]

In a further episode involving Polemon, Cassius Dio, referred to Polemon as "the king of that part of Pontus bordering on Cappadocia.”

Cimmerian Bosporus, Scribonius had been killed by the people, who had heard of his advance. They resisted Polemon because they were afraid that he might 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.[11]

The date of Polemon's death is unknown. An inscription indicates that he must have been still on the throne as late 2 BC.[12] Or he died about 8 BC.[13]

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 …”[14]

Marriages and succession

Through his first wife, Dynamis, Polemon became stepfather to Tiberius Julius Aspurgus, her son from her first marriage. It seems that after the death of Polemon she regained the Bosporan kingdom and she appears to have ruled until 7-8 AD.[2] Or Dynamis died in 14 BC.[1]

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.[15] They were:

  • Zenon, also known as Zeno-Artaxias or Artaxias III, who became King of Greater Armenia in 18 AD and reigned until his death in 35 AD. He was appointed by Germanicus because the throne was vacant and he had popular support as he had imitated Armenian customs from an early age. He was saluted as Artaxias, after Artaxata, the capital of the kingdom.[16]
  • Marcus Antonius Polemon Pythodoros, also known as Polemon II of Pontus. Strabo wrote that "as a private citizen is assisting his mother in the administration of her empire."
  • Antonia Tryphaena who married Cotys VIII, King of Thrace. Cotys was murdered "and she lived in widowhood, because she had children by him; and the eldest of these [was] in power" at the time of Strabo.

Pythodorida succeeded Polemon and ruled

Zelitis and Megalopolitis. Pythodoris changed the name of Diospolis to Sebaste, embellished it and used it as a royal residence.[17]

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
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
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

See also



Primary sources

Appian, The Civil Wars, Penguin Classics, 1996;

Secondary sources

External links

Preceded by
King of Pontus

36–8 BC
Succeeded by
Preceded by
King of the Bosporus
16-8 BC (with Dynamis 16-14 BC)
Succeeded by