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The Empire of the Black Sea

Duane W. Roller

Publication Date - 06 January 2023

ISBN: 9780197673171

296 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


What is commonly called the kingdom of Pontos flourished for over two hundred years in the coastal regions of the Black Sea. At its peak in the early first century BC, it included much of the southern, eastern, and northern littoral, becoming one of the most important Hellenistic dynasties not founded by a successor of Alexander the Great. It also posed one of the greatest challenges to Roman imperial expansion in the east. Not until 63 BC, after many violent clashes, was Rome able to subjugate the kingdom and its last charismatic ruler Mithridates VI.

This book provides the first general history, in English, of this important kingdom from its mythic origins in Greek literature (e.g., Jason and the Golden Fleece) to its entanglements with the late Roman Republic. Duane Roller presents its rulers and their complex relationships with the powers of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East, most notably Rome. In addition, he includes detailed discussions of Pontos' cultural achievements--a rich blend of Greek and Persian influences — as well as its political and military successes, especially under Mithridates VI, who proved to be as formidable a foe to Rome as Hannibal. Previous histories of Pontos have focused almost exclusively on the career of its last ruler. Setting that famous reign in its wide historical context, Empire of the Black Sea is an engaging and definitive account of a powerful yet little-known ancient dynasty.


  • First study of the Mithridatic kingdom in English.
  • Explores the kingdom of Pontos through a wide geographical and historical range.
  • Examines the geneaology of the royal dynasties.
  • Analyzes the kingdom's relationship with the Roman Republic, in peace and in war.

About the Author(s)

Duane W. Roller is Professor Emeritus of Classics at The Ohio State University and the author of numerous books, including Cleopatra: A Biography, Cleopatra's Daughter: And Other Royal Women of the Augustan Era, and Ancient Geography


"Roller's clear prose, as well as his choice for a relatively strict chronological presentation, makes the region's complex history intelligible to non-specialists, despite the fact that it is only patchily recorded in ancient sources and replete with generations of identically-named sovereigns and often unfamiliar "minor" Hellenistic kingdoms. The fact that Roller offers a rare discussion of the long-term development of the kingdom, meanwhile, offers avenues of consideration even for those with deeper interests in the region." -- Lara Fabian, Classical Outlook

"With a lucid and captivating style, Duane Roller narrates the long career of Mithridates the Great, one of Rome's most stubborn antagonists, and recounts the larger dynastic and historical context of his reign." -- Jeffrey Benecker, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Duane Roller has deployed his enormous experience in ancient history and geography to illuminate the fascinating life and extraordinary ambitions of Mithridates the Great. This book reveals the causes, events, and significance of a king who built a Black Sea empire to rival late Republican Rome. His bloody adventures ended in torment and suicide, but his memory lived on among Romans and their heirs, in art, history, and tragic drama. Throughout, amongst so much that is extraordinary, Roller offers a Mithridates who remains convincingly human." -- David Braund, University of Exeter

"The kingdom of Pontos creatively integrated Persian and Greek political traditions and was Rome's last rival for domination of the eastern Mediterranean, but the last history of this remarkable state was published in 1879. Duane Roller's thoroughly researched and lucidly written book ably provides readers with a long-overdue, updated narrative." -- Stanley M. Burstein, California State University, Los Angeles

"Roller...has a knack for combing through hard-to-find subjects. He puts that method to use here in assembling an accessible narrative of the early kingdom and of its demise under Mithridates, whose life and death fully occupies half the book." --History Today

"With his vivid personality and long reign, Mithridates is the stand-out character of 'Empire of the Black Sea,' a historical survey of the Pontic kingdom by the classicists Duane W. Roller" --Wall Street Journal

"Roller resurrects much more than a single king in his pioneering history, the first ever English-language analysis of the entire Mithridates dynasty." --Nature

Table of Contents

    Genealogical Chart

    Part 1: Pontos to 120 BC
    1: Pontos
    2: The Founder
    3: The Kingdom Becomes an Independent State
    4: The Arrival of the Romans
    5: The Collapse of Pergamon

    Part 2: The Last Generation of the Kingdom
    6: The Rise of Mithridates VI
    7: The Early Expansion of the Kingdom of Mithridates VI
    8: The Gathering Storm
    9: The Eruption of Hostilities
    10: The Aftermath of the First War
    11. Lucullus and Mithridates VI
    12. The Royal Court
    13: The End of the Mithridatic Kingdom

    List of Passages Cited

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