Pontus is the name which was applied, in ancient times, to extensive tracts of country in the northeast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) bordering on the Euxine (Black Sea), which was often called simply Pontos (the main), by the Greeks, after the colonisation of the Anatolian shores by the Ionian Greeks. It became a Roman province in 64 BC

The exact signification of this purely territorial name varied greatly at different times. The Greeks used it loosely to denote various parts of the shores of the Euxine, and the term did not get a definite connotation of being a separate state until after the establishment of the kingdom of Pontus, founded beyond the Halys during the troubled period following the death of Alexander the Great, shortly after 302 BC, by Mithradates I Ktistes, son of Mithridates II of Kios (Mysia) a Persian ruler in the service of Antigonus, one of Alexander's successors. The kingdom of Pontus was henceforth ruled by a succession of kings, mostly bearing the same name, till 64 BC.

As the greater part of this kingdom lay within the immense region of Cappadocia, which in early ages extended from the borders of Cilicia to the Euxine, the kingdom as a whole was at first called "Cappadocia towards the Pontus", but afterwards simply "Pontus," the name Cappadocia being henceforth restricted to the southern half of the region previously included under that title. Under the last king, Mithradates Eupator, commonly called the Great, the realm of Pontus included not only Pontic Cappadocia but also the seaboard from the Bithynian frontier to Colchis, part of inland Paphlagonia, and Lesser Armenia.

Under Roman ruleEdit

With the subjection of this kingdom by Pompey in 64 BC, in which little changed in the structuring of life, neither for the oligarchies that controlled the cities nor for the common people in city or hinterland, the meaning of the name Pontus underwent a change.

Part of the kingdom was now annexed to the Roman Empire, being united with Bithynia in a double province called Pontus and Bithynia: this part included only the seaboard between Heraclea (Eregli) and Amisus (Samsun), the ora Pontica. Hereafter the simple name Pontus without qualification was regularly employed to denote the half of this dual province, especially by Romans and people speaking from the Roman point of view; it is so used almost always in the New Testament.

With the reorganization of the provincial system under Diocletian (about AD 295), the Pontic districts were divided up between four provinces of the Dioecesis Pontica:

  • Paphlagonia, to which was attached the Pontic half of the old province Bithynia-Pontus
  • Diospontus, re-named Helenopontus by Constantine, containing the rest of the province Pontus and the adjoining district, eight cities in all (including Sinope, Amisus and Zela) with Amasia as capital
  • Pontus Polemoniacus, containing Comana, Polemonium, Cerasus and Trapezus with Neocaesarea as capital
  • Armenia Minor, five cities, with Sebasteia as capital.

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