Pharnaces II of Pontus

Pharnaces II: king of Pontus (r.63-47 BCE).


Pharnaces was the son of Mithridates VI Eupator, the king of Pontus who fought three wars against the Romans. After the death of his father in 63 BCE, Pharnaces remained in charge of the Kingdom of Bosporus, i.e., the Crimea, and was recognized by Pompey as friend and ally of the Roman people.note Pharnaces fought against the nomadic tribes in the north, sometimes with unorthodox means:

Pharnaces is said at one time actually to have conducted the Hypanis River over the country of the Dandarii through an old canal which he cleared out, and to have inundated the country.note

Inevitably, he got involved in the civil war between on the one hand the Roman general Julius Caesar and on the other hand the Senate and general Pompey the Great. When the latter, who had allowed him to rule in the Crimea, requested soldiers for this war, he refused.note Instead, he returned to Pontus as soon as he learned of Pompey's defeat during the battle of Pharsalus, and seized Colchis,note Cappadocia, Lesser Armenia, and parts of Pontus.note

He may have gambled that Caesar would allow this, because as defector from Pompey's faction, he had been helping Caesar. However, the victorious general was not willing to accept loss of Roman territory and proceeded from Alexandria, where he had spent the winter of 48/47, to the north. Here, he blocked Pharnaces' advance. Worse, Pharnaces' deputy Asander switched sides,note and Caesar defeated the returned king of Pontus at Zela.note The Roman dictator famously summarized the campaign with the words "I came, I saw, I conquered."note

Pharnaces fled back to the Crimea but was killed by Asander.note Caesar gave Pontus to a man named Mithridates of Pergamon but the western part of Pontus became a Roman provincenote and after some time, Darius, a son of Pharnaces and a Sarmatian lady, was recognized as ruler in Pontus.

This page was created in 2019; last modified on 21 April 2020.