Born: 135 BC
Died At Age: 72
Also Known As: Mithradates VI Eupator Dionysus, Mithradates the Great
Born Country: Turkey
Born in: Sinop, Turkey
Famous as: King of Pontus
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Berenice of Chios, Hypsicratea, Laodice, Monime, Stratonice of Pontus, Unnamed fifth wife
father: Mithridates V of Pontus
mother: Laodice VI
siblings: Mithridates Chrestus
children: Adobogiona the Younger, Arcathias, Ariarathes IX of Cappadocia, Athenais Philostorgos II, Cleopatra of Pontus, Drypetina, Eupatra, Machares, Mithridates, Mithridates I of the Bosporus, Mithridates of Colchis, Mitridates el Jove, Nissa, Orsabaris, Pharnaces II of Pontus, Xiphares
Died on: 63 BC
place of death: Panticapaeum
Who was Mithridates VI of Pontus?
Mithridates VI of Pontus, or Mithradates VI Eupator Dionysus or Mithradates the Great, was the king of Pontus from 120 BC to 63 BC. He was also the king of Armenia minor during that period and is considered to be the greatest ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus. Mithridates created major problems for the Roman Republic during his tenure and initiated the Mithridatic Wars that were fought between 88 BC and 63 BC. Mithridates ordered the killing of almost 80,000 Romans and Italians residing in Asia in order to keep the Greeks loyal in his quest. However, as his reign progressed further, Mithridates didn’t care about allies or friends. He retaliated against every intimidation with extreme force. Despite the terrifying actions taken by him for a long period of time, Mithridates finally had to yield in front of Roman General Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix. The Treaty of Dardanus was signed between Sulla and Mithridates, which marked the fall of the latter who had to surrender his fleet and pay a hefty fine to the Roman Republic.
Childhood & Early Life
Mithridates VI was born in 135 BC, in Sinope, Kingdom of Pontus, to Mithridates V of Pontus and his wife, Laodice VI. His father was assassinated in 120 BC in his banquet by unidentified persons. This left the kingdom under his wife’s rule, and she held most of the power as their two sons Mithridates VI and Mithridates Chrestus were minors.
During her regency, Laodice VI preferred her younger son over Mithridates VI to eventually become the ruler of Pontus. It is alleged that the queen regent plotted against her elder son and the actions forced the young prince to run away into hiding.
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Return to Pontus & Claiming the Throne
In 113 BC, Mithridates VI returned from hiding as a grown man with remarkable physical stature. Immediately, he gained trust and the support in the kingdom as the new king. He possessed great leadership qualities along with an acute political brain. He dethroned his mother and imprisoned her along with his younger brother.
He immediately focused on strengthening his empire in the Black Sea and Anatolia as he brought Colchis under his control. He then turned his focus towards Crimea where the kingdoms of Tauric Chersonesus and the Bosporan had been under threat from the Scythian rulers for a long time. The kingdoms surrendered to him in a bid to seek protection.
Mithridates sent his trusted general Diophantus to end the Scythian tyranny which the latter successfully achieved. The Scythians were defeated along with their allies and were brought under the rule of Mithridates.
Mithridates had a conflict with King Nicomedes III when he realized the Bithynian king was leaning towards the Roman Republic and forming an anti-Pontic alliance. The two kingdoms engaged in numerous battles in which the Romans tried to interfere as an ally to Nicomedes. This triggered Mithridates and pushed him against the Roman Empire. The Bithynia conflict would eventually escalate and become the sole reason for the Mithridatic Wars.
Despite Nicomedes III surrendering to Mithridates VI after the loss, his son Nicomedes IV didn’t follow his father after he ascended the throne. The new king of Bithynia had a lot of influence from the Roman Republic which unsettled Mithridates. He tried to attack Bithynia but the Roman help proved to be a hurdle in his quest.
Despite facing a civil war in their homeland, the Roman Republic waged war on Pontus. Nicomedes IV received help from the Romans and the allied army attacked in 89 BC, eventually losing to the Pontus army.
The attack on Pontus triggered a violent retaliation from Mithridates VI who went on a killing spree in the Anatolian cities. The cities housed a huge number of Roman and Italian population which was wiped out by Mithridates. It is believed that Mithridates ordered the killing of almost 80,000 Romans and Italians living in the Anatolian cities.
The Roman Republic organized a larger military force in 88 BC and attacked Mithridates, starting the First Mithridatic War. Roman General Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix defeated the Pontus army. The loss forced Mithridates to move out of Greece. General Sulla had to return to Rome due to the looming threat posed by his enemy, the Roman Statesman Gaius Marius.
When Sulla left for Rome, the Roman army was taken over by Lucius Licinius Murena who couldn’t contain Mithridates VI. The king of Pontus led an attack on the Roman force which led to the beginning of the Second Mithridatic War in 83 BC.
Rome tried to get back Bithynia in 73 BC, and in reply Mithridates VI of Pontus assembled a big and powerful army, stronger than the ones in the previous wars. The Third Mithridatic War was fought between the two empires for almost a decade. It began with a defeat for Pontus at the Battle of Cabira.
The war went back and forth for both sides as Mithridates’ troops killed over 7,000 roman soldiers in the Battle of Zela only to be defeated a year later at the Battle of the Lycus.
The ongoing war started to break the Pontus king and he even had his son Machares killed when the latter didn’t come to his father’s aid. His other son Pharnaces II of Pontus rebelled against him. Mithridates was eventually defeated by the Roman military leader Pompey.
Family & Personal Life
Mithridates VI of Pontus married his younger sister Laodice as he wanted to keep the bloodline pure. Together, they had four sons: Mithridates, Arcathius, Machares and Pharnaces II of Pontus, and two daughters, Cleopatra of Pontus and Drypetina.
Mithridates also had several other wives and mistresses. He had at least six more legitimate as well as illegitimate children with his other wives and mistresses.
After the loss against Pompey, Mithridates fled to the north of Black Sea trying to build another army to retaliate. He failed to convince the people to follow him in his quest which didn’t seem to be beneficial to them. According to different historical accounts, Mithridates tried to commit suicide but failed. So, he requested his bodyguard to kill him.
Pompey ordered to bring Mithridates’ body back to Amaseia where his mortal body was buried alongside his ancestors.