Pontus became important as a bastion of
Byzantine Greek and
Greek Orthodox civilization and attracted Greeks from all backgrounds (scholars, traders, mercenaries, refugees) from all over
Anatolia and the southern
Balkans, from the
Hellenistic periods into the
Ottoman. These Greeks of Pontus are generally referred to as
Pontus remained outside the reach of the
Bronze Age empires, of which the closest was Great Hatti. The region went further uncontrolled by Hatti's eastern neighbours,
Hurrian states like
Azzi and (or, or) Hayasa. In those days, the best any outsider could hope from this region was temporary alliance with a local strongman. The
Hittites called the unorganised groups on their northeastern frontier the
Kaška. As of 2004 little had been found of them archaeologically.
In the wake of the Hittite empire's collapse, the
Assyrian court noted that the "Kašku" had overrun its territory in conjunction with a hitherto unknown group whom they labeled the
Iron Age visitors to the region, mostly Greek, noted that the hinterlands remained disunited, and they recorded the names of tribes: Moskhians (often associated with those Muški),
 and Chaldians.
Armenian language went unnoted by the Hittites, the Assyrians, and all the post-Hittite nations; an ancient theory is that its speakers migrated from
Phrygia, past literary notice, across Pontus during the early Iron Age.
Greeks, who spoke a related Indo-European tongue, followed them along the coast. The Greeks are the earliest long-term inhabitants of the region from whom written records survive. During the late 8th century BCE, Pontus further became a base for the
Cimmerians; however, these were defeated by the
Lydians, and became a distant memory after the campaigns of
Since there was so little literacy in northeastern Anatolia until the
Persian and Hellenistic era, one can only speculate as to the other languages spoken here. Given that
Kartvelian languages remain spoken to the east of Pontus, some are suspected to have been spoken in eastern Pontus during the Iron Age: the Tzans are usually associated with today's Laz.
Ancient Greek colonization
The first travels of Greek merchants and adventurers to the Pontus region occurred probably from around 1000 BC, whereas their settlements would become steady and solidified cities only by the 8th and 7th centuries BC as archaeological findings document. This fits in well with a foundation date of 731 BC as reported by
Eusebius of Caesarea for
Sinope, perhaps the most ancient of the Greek Colonies in what was later to be called Pontus.
 The epical narratives related to the travels of
Jason and the
Colchis, the tales of
Heracles' navigating the Black Sea and
Odysseus' wanderings into the land of the
Cimmerians, as well as the myth of
Prometheus to the
Caucasus mountains as a punishment for his outwitting the Gods, can all be seen as reflections of early contacts between early Greek colonists and the local, probably Caucasian, peoples. The earliest known written description of Pontus, however, is that of
Scylax of Korianda, who in the 7th century BC described Greek settlements in the area.
Persian Empire expansion
By the 6th century BC, Pontus had become officially a part of the
Achaemenid Empire, which probably meant that the local Greek colonies were paying tribute to the Persians.
 When the Athenian commander
Xenophon passed through Pontus around a century later in 401-400 BC, in fact, he found no Persians in Pontus.
The peoples of this part of northern
Asia Minor were incorporated into the third and nineteenth
satrapies of the Persian empire.
Iranian influence ran deep, illustrated most famously by the temple of the Persian deities Anaitis, Omanes, and Anadatos at
Zela, founded by victorious Persian generals in the 6th century BCE.
Kingdom of Pontus
Map showing the Middle East in 89 BC, with the Kingdom of Pontus, under Mithridates VI the Great, in green.
Kingdom of Pontus extended generally to the east of the Halys River. The
Persian dynasty which was to found this kingdom had during the 4th century BC ruled the Greek city of
Cius (or Kios) in
Mysia, with its first known member being
Ariobarzanes I of Cius and the last ruler based in the city being
Mithridates II of Cius. Mithridates II's son, also called
Mithridates, would proclaim himself later Mithridates I Ktistes of Pontus.
Encyclopaedia Iranica states, the most famous member of the family,
Mithradates VI Eupator, although undoubtedly presenting himself to the Greek world as a civilized philhellene and new Alexander, also paraded his
Iranian background: he maintained a harem and
eunuchs in true Oriental fashion; he gave all his sons Persian names; he sacrificed spectacularly in the manner of the Persian kings at
Pasargadae (Appian, Mith. 66, 70); and he appointed “
satraps” (a Persian title) as his provincial governors.
 Iranica further states, and although there is only one inscription attesting it, he seems to have adopted the title “king of kings.” The very small number of Hellenistic Greek inscriptions that have been found anywhere in Pontus suggest that
Greek culture did not substantially penetrate beyond the coastal cities and the court.
During the troubled period following the death of
Alexander the Great, Mithridates Ktistes was for a time in the service of
Antigonus, one of Alexander's
successors, and successfully maneuvering in this unsettled time managed, shortly after 302 BC, to create the Kingdom of Pontus which would be ruled by his descendants mostly bearing the same name, until 64 BC. Thus, this Persian dynasty managed to survive and prosper in the
Hellenistic world while the main
Persian Empire had fallen.
This kingdom reached its greatest height under
Mithridates VI or Mithridates Eupator, commonly called the Great, who for many years carried on war with the Romans. Under him, the realm of Pontus included not only Pontic Cappadocia but also the seaboard from the
Bithynian frontier to
Colchis, part of inland
Lesser Armenia. Despite ruling Lesser Armenia, King Mithridates VI was an ally of Armenian King
Tigranes the Great, to whom he married his daughter Cleopatra.
 Eventually, however, the Romans defeated both King Mithridates VI and his son-in-law, Armenian King Tigranes the Great, during the
Mithridatic Wars, bringing Pontus under Roman rule.
The Roman client kingdom of Pontus (in union with Colchis), c. 50 AD
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
Samsun), the ora Pontica. The larger part of Pontus, however, was included in the province of Galatia.
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. The eastern half of the old kingdom was administered as a
client kingdom together with
Colchis. Its last king was
In AD 62, the country was constituted by
Roman province. It was divided into the three districts: Pontus Galaticus in the west, bordering on
Galatia; Pontus Polemoniacus in the centre, so called from its capital
Polemonium; and Pontus Cappadocicus in the east, bordering on Cappadocia (Armenia Minor). Subsequently, the Roman Emperor
Trajan moved Pontus into the province of Cappadocia itself in the early 2nd century AD.
 In response to a
Gothic raid on Trebizond in 457 AD, the Roman Emperor
Diocletian decided to break up the area into smaller provinces under more localized administration.
With the reorganization of the provincial system under Diocletian (about AD 295), the Pontic districts were divided up between three smaller, independent provinces within the
- Galatian Pontus, also called Diospontus, later renamed Helenopontus by
Constantine the Great after his
mother. It had its capital at
Amisus, and included the cities of
Zela as well.
- Pontus Polemoniacus, with its capital at Polemonium (also called
Side), and including the cities of
Argyroupolis, Comana, and Cerasus as well.
- Cappadocian Pontus, with its capital at Trebizond, and including the small ports of
Rhizaeon. This province extended all the way to Colchis.
Byzantine province and theme
The Byzantine Emperor
Justinian further reorganized the area in 536:
- Pontus Polemoniacus was dissolved, with the western part (Polemonium and Neocaesarea) going to Helenopontus, Comana going to the new province of
Armenia II, and the rest (Trebizond and Cerasus) joining the new province of
Armenia I Magna with its capital at Justinianopolis.
- Helenopontus gained Polemonium and Neocaesarea, and lost Zela to Armenia II. The provincial governor was relegated to the rank of moderator.
- Paphlagonia absorbed Honorias and was put under a
By the time of the early Byzantine Empire, Trebizond became a center of culture and scientific learning.
 In the 7th century, an individual named Tychicus returned from Constantinople to establish a school of learning.
 One of his students was the early Armenian scholar
Anania of Shirak.
Under the Byzantine Empire, the Pontus came under the
Armeniac Theme, with the westernmost parts (Paphlagonia) belonging to the
Bucellarian Theme. Progressively, these large early themes were divided into smaller ones, so that by the late 10th century, the Pontus was divided into the themes of
Chaldia, which was governed by the Gabrades family,
 and Koloneia. After the 8th century, the area experienced a period of prosperity, which was brought to an end only by the
Seljuk conquest of Asia Minor in the 1070s and 1080s. Restored to the Byzantine Empire by
Alexios I Komnenos, the area was governed by effectively semi-autonomous rulers, like the Gabras family of Trebizond.
The region was secured militarily from the 11th through the 15th centuries with a vast network of sophisticated coastal fortresses.
Empire of Trebizond
Constantinople's loss of sovereignty to the
Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Pontus retained independence as the
Empire of Trebizond under the
Komnenos dynasty. Through a combination of geographic remoteness and adroit diplomacy, this remnant managed to survive, until it was conquered by the
Ottomans in 1461 after the
Fall of Constantinople itself.
 This political adroitness included becoming a vassal state at various times to both Georgia and to various inland Turkic rulers.
 In addition, the Empire of Trebizond became a renowned center of culture under its ruling Komnenos dynasty.
|Official Ottoman Statistics, 1910
|Ecumenical Patriarchate Statistics, 1912
Christian population in 1896
Under the subsequent Ottoman rule which began with the fall of
Trebizond, particularly starting from the 17th century, some of the region's
Pontic Greeks became Muslim through the
Devşirme system. But at the same time some valleys inhabited by Greeks converted voluntarily, most notably those in the Of valley. Large communities (around 25% of the population) of Christian Pontic Greeks remained throughout the area (including Trabezon and Kars in northeastern Turkey/the Russian Caucasus) until the 1920s, and in parts of Georgia and Armenia until the 1990s, preserving their own customs and
dialect of Greek. One group of Islamicized Greeks were called the Kromli, but were suspected of
secretly having remained Christians. They numbered between 12,000 and 15,000 and lived in villages including Krom, Imera, Livadia, Prdi, Alitinos, Mokhora, and Ligosti.
 Many of the Islamized Greeks continued speaking
their language, known for its
unique preservation of characteristics of Ancient Greek and still today there are some in the Of valley that still speak the local
Republic of Pontus
Republic of Pontus (Greek: Δημοκρατία του Πόντου, Dimokratía tou Póntou) was a proposed Pontic Greek state on the southern coast of the Black Sea. Its territory would have encompassed much of historical Pontus and today forms part of Turkey's Black Sea Region. The proposed state was discussed at the
Paris Peace Conference of 1919, but the Greek government of
Eleftherios Venizelos feared the precarious position of such a state and so it was included instead in the larger proposed state of Wilsonian Armenia. Neither state came into existence and the Pontic Greek population was expelled from Turkey after 1922 and resettled in the Soviet Union or in Greek Macedonia. This state of affairs was later formally recognized as part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923.
The Black Sea Region (
Turkish: Karadeniz Bölgesi) is one of
census-defined geographical regions.