Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom

Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom

Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom

Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom

Excerpt

Interest in Mithridates VI Eupator, both scholarly and popular, has a long history. Renowned for toxicology, multilingualism and not least for his endurance in the long struggle with Rome, which eventually led to his downfall, Mithridates VI is one of the few personalities of antiquity that has been the main character in both poetry, historical fiction, plays and operas as well as in an abundance of scholarly literature.

11–13 January 2007, the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Black Sea Studies hosted an international conference on Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom at the University of Aarhus with the aim of presenting the current state of research in the field and ongoing projects in the region.

The perception of Mithridates VI has changed dramatically over the past centuries. In the initial chapter, L. Summerer takes a historiographical tour from Late Antiquity to the present, which shows that every age has shaped the image of Mithridates to fit contemporary ideological currents. To Th. Mommsen (1854–1856) and Th. Reinach (1895) writing in the later half of the 19th century, Mithridates was in accordance with prevailing “orientalist” views the epitome of a cruel oriental despot, an Ottoman sultan as they styled him, and an opponent of Western civilization. In more recent scholarship the pendulum has swung more in favour of Mithridates, who can now be pictured as a philhellene king defending the Greeks against Roman aggression. This reflects the more critical view of Roman imperialism in the post-colonial world. Interestingly the body of evidence on which these assumptions were made has remained largely unchanged. One of the basic problems in the discussion is the lack of local sources to balance our view. The victor writes the history and any study of the Pontic Kingdom must to a large extent rely on later Roman authors writing for a Roman audience, who have predominantly proRoman views although not without some admiration for Mithridates. Once defeated there was no need for diminishing the opponent. This bias as well as the flavouring of current ideological concepts must be taken into careful consideration in order to give a more accurate account of Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom.

Next Chr. Marek offers an overview of the question of Hellenisation and Romanisation in northern Anatolia. Different scholars have presented surprisingly conflicting views on this matter. Some maintain, like the late Ju. Vinogradov (1997, 66), that Pontos was thoroughly Hellenised into the deepest valley through a conscious royal policy, while others rather see a conglomerate of . . .

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