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War of Roman Empire with Bosporan kingdom in 45 – 49 CE as attempt to shed dependence on Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Territorial development of the Bosporan Kingdom
Territorial development of the Bosporan Kingdom

The Bosporan Kingdom was a political power that was established at the beginning of the 5th century BCE. as a result of an alliance of several dozen cities and towns located along both shores of the Kerch Strait (Crimea Peninsula) for joint defence against nomadic peoples. From the end of the 1st century BCE, the Bosporan Kingdom fell under the influence of the Roman Empire, which was interested in controlling the situation in the northern part of the Black Sea region and the provinces nearby.

During the next two and a half centuries, the only attempt to change this situation and get out of Rome was associated with the reign of King Mithridates VIII (c. 40-47), when in the years 45-49 CE there was a war with the Romans in most of the subordinated lands.

Relations between states came to a halt after Kotis, Mithridates’ brother, sent as an envoy to Emperor Claudius, revealed that his brother was getting ready to war against the Romans. Therefore, an expedition to the Bosporus was organized in order to establish a pro-Roman-oriented Kotysa there. This expedition was commanded by Aulus Didius Gallus, who in 44 CE became Governor of the Province of Moesia. Didius Gallus’ army dealt a heavy defeat to Mithridates VIII in the European part of the Bosporus, seized the capital of the kingdom – the city of Pantikapajon (present-day Kerch) and placed Kotis on the throne. After the departure of the main Roman forces, the fighting moved to the western part of the kingdom, where the supporters of the deposed king still resisted. The fighting in this part of the country ended in CE 47 with the conquest of the fortress, the Artesian, by the Romans and the followers of Kotis.

The last stage of the fighting includes the battles fought on the eastern shores of the Azov Sea in the years 47-49. The turning point in this part of the campaign was the siege of the city of Uspa, which was captured in 49 CE. Mithridates was arrested and taken to Rome, where he lived under house arrest. Kotys remained on the throne until his death in 68 CE. This war was the only attempt to become independent of the Bosporus from Rome. Its subsequent kings ruled as clients of the Empire until the collapse of the state in the 4th century CE as a result of the arrival of the Huns to Europe.

Author: Piotr Baran (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Antyczne Zabytki Morza Czarnego
  • Michał Halamus, Mitrydates VI Eupator, jego potomkowie i Sarmaci. Wpływy świata irańskiego na Królestwo Bosporańskie,, Czasopismo poświęcone dziejom Polski i powszechnym, PL ISSN 1643-8191, t. 44 (1)/2018, s. 23–39
  • Władimir Goronczarowskij (przełożył Tadeusz Grabarczyk), Armia Królestwa Bosporańskiego w wojnie lat 45–49, ACTA UNIVERSITATIS LODZI ENSIS, FOLIA HISTORICA 104, 2019

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