Heraclea Pontica

Heraclea Pontica (/ˌhɛrəˈkliːə ˈpɒntɪkə/; Greek: Ἡράκλεια Ποντική, romanizedHērakleia Pontikē), in Byzantine and later times known as Pontoheraclea (Greek: Ποντοηράκλεια, romanizedPontohērakleia), was an ancient city on the coast of Bithynia in Asia Minor, at the mouth of the river Lycus. It was founded by the Greek city-state of Megara[1] in approximately 560–558 and was named after Heracles whom the Greeks believed entered the underworld at a cave on the adjoining Archerusian promontory (Cape Baba). The site is now the location of the modern city Karadeniz Ereğli, in the Zonguldak Province of Turkey.

The colonists soon subjugated the native Mariandynians but agreed to terms that none of the latter, now helot-like serfs, be sold into slavery outside their homeland. Prospering from the rich, fertile adjacent lands and the sea-fisheries of its natural harbor, Heraclea soon extended its control along the coast as far east as Cytorus (Gideros, near Cide), eventually establishing Black Sea colonies of its own (Cytorus, Callatis and Chersonesus).

The prosperity of the city, rudely shaken by the Galatians and the Bithynians, was utterly destroyed in the Mithridatic Wars. It was the birthplace of the philosopher Heraclides Ponticus.

The Greek historical author Memnon of Heraclea (fl. 1st century AD) wrote a local history of Heraclea Pontica in at least sixteen books. The work has perished, but Photius's Bibliotheca preserves a compressed account of books 9–16, seemingly the only ones extant in his day. These books run from the rule of the tyrant Clearchus (c. 364–353 BC) to the later years of Julius Caesar (c. 40 BC) and contain many colorful accounts including the Bithynian introduction of the barbarian Gauls into Asia where they first allied themselves with the Heracleans and later turned violently against them.

Heraclea Pontica
Ἡράκλεια Ποντική
Map indicating Heraclea Pontica (underlined in red) during the Roman expansion in 264 BC
Heraclea Pontica is located in Turkey
Heraclea Pontica
Shown within Turkey
LocationKaradeniz Ereğli, Zonguldak Province, Turkey
Coordinates41°17′5″N 31°24′53″E / 41.28472°N 31.41472°ECoordinates: 41°17′5″N 31°24′53″E / 41.28472°N 31.41472°E
BuilderColonists from Megara
FoundedBetween 560–558 BC
PeriodsArchaic Greece

Notable people


  1. ^ For report of Boeotian involvement see Pausanias 5.26.7
  2. ^ Moore, Christopher (May 2017). "Heracles the Philosopher (Herodorus, Fr. 14)". The Classical Quarterly. Cambridge University Press. 67 (1): 27–48. doi:10.1017/S0009838817000404. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^  Smith, William, ed. (1854–1857). "Heraclea". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. London: John Murray.


External links


Amastris (Greek: Ἄμαστρις; killed c. 284 BC) also called Amastrine, was a Persian princess. She was the daughter of Oxyathres, the brother of the Persian King Darius III.

Battle of Corupedium

The Battle of Corupedium, also called Corupedion or Curupedion (Ancient Greek: Κύρου πεδίον or Κόρου πεδίον, "the plain of Kyros or Koros") was the last battle between the Diadochi, the rival successors to Alexander the Great. It was fought in 281 BC between the armies of Lysimachus and Seleucus I Nicator. Lysimachus had ruled Thrace for decades and parts of modern western Turkey ever since the Battle of Ipsus. Recently he had finally gained control over Macedon. Seleucus ruled the Seleucid Empire, including lands currently covered by modern eastern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Iran. Almost nothing is known about the battle itself save that Seleucus won the battle. Lysimachus died during the fighting. According to Memnon of Heraclea's History of Heraclea Pontica, Lysimachus was killed by a javelin thrown by Malacon, a Heracleian soldier serving under Seleucus.Although the victory gave Seleucus nominal control over nearly every part of Alexander's empire, save the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, his victory was short-lived. After crossing the Hellespont to take possession of Lysimachus' European holdings not long after the battle, Seleucus was assassinated by Ptolemy Keraunos and Macedon swiftly became independent once again.

Bosporan–Heracleote War

The Bosporan–Heracleote War was a long and enduring conflict between the Hellenistic states of Heraclea Pontica and the Bosporan Kingdom. It lasted decades, but ended after the Bosporans finally conquered the city-state of Theodosia in around 360 BCE.

Chamaeleon (philosopher)

Chamaeleon (or Chameleon; Greek: Χαμαιλέων; c. 350 – c. 275 BC), was a Peripatetic philosopher of Heraclea Pontica. He was one of the immediate disciples of Aristotle. He wrote works on several of the ancient Greek poets, namely:

περὶ Ἀνακρέοντος - On Anacreon

περὶ Σαπφοῦς - On Sappho

περὶ Σιμωνίδου - On Simonides

περὶ Θεσπίδος - On Thespis

περὶ Αἰσχύλου - On Aeschylus

περὶ Λάσου - On Lasus

περὶ Πινδάρου - On Pindar

περὶ Στησιχόρου - On StesichorusHe also wrote on the Iliad, and on Comedy (περὶ κωμῳδίας). In this last work he treated, among other subjects, of the dances of comedy. This work is quoted by Athenaeus by the title περὶ τῆς ἀρχαίας κωμῳδίας, which is also the title of a work by the Peripatetic philosopher Eumelus. It would seem also that he wrote on Hesiod, for Diogenes Laërtius says, that Chamaeleon accused Heraclides Ponticus of having stolen from him his work concerning Homer and Hesiod. The above works were probably both biographical and critical. He also wrote works entitled περὶ θεῶν, and περὶ σατύρων, and some moral treatises, περι ἡδονῆς (which was also ascribed to Theophrastus), προτρεπικόν, and περι μέθης. Of all his works only a few fragments are preserved by Athenaeus and other ancient writers.

Clearchus of Heraclea

Clearchus (Greek: Kλέαρχoς, Klearkhos; c. 401 BC – 353 BC; also spelled Cleärchus or Cleärch) was a citizen of Heraclea on the Euxine (Black Sea) who was recalled from exile by the oligarchy of that city to aid them in quelling the growing discontent and demands of the people. According to Justin, Clearchus reached an agreement with Mithridates of Cius to betray the city to him on the condition that Clearchus would hold the city for Mithridates as governor. But, Clearchus then came to the conclusion that he could make himself master of the city without the aid of Mithridates. So he not only broke his agreement with the Mithridates, but also captured him and compelled him to pay a large sum for his release.

Having deserted the side of the oligarchs, Clearchus put himself forward as the man of the people, and in around 365 BC obtained from the city's population the command of a body of mercenaries, and, having got rid of the oligarchs by murder and banishment, raised himself to the tyranny. He was said to have used his power as badly and with as much cruelty as he had gained it and, as a sign of his arrogance, assumed publicly the attributes of Zeus, and gave the name of Keraunos (i.e. "thunderer") to one of his sons.

Thanks to his behaviour towards those he ruled over, Clearchus lived in constant fear of assassination, against which he guarded in the strictest way. But, in spite of his precautions, he was murdered by Chion and Leon in 353 BC, after a reign of twelve years. He was said to have been a pupil of both Plato and Isocrates, the latter of whom asserted that, while he was with him, he was one of the gentlest and most benevolent of men.

David Komnenos

David Komnenos (Greek: Δαβίδ Κομνηνός) (c. 1184 – 1212) was one of the founders of the Empire of Trebizond and its joint ruler together with his brother Alexios until his death. At least two lead seals and an inscription found on a tower in Heraclea Pontica attest that he was the first of his family to use the style Megas Komnenos. Ηe was the son of Manuel Komnenos and grandson of the Emperor Andronikos I.

Dionysius of Heraclea

Dionysius (Greek: Διονύσιος, Dionysios) was a tyrant of Heraclea on the Euxine (known today as the Black Sea). He was a son of Clearchus, who had assumed the tyranny in his place of birth.

When Clearchus died (353/352 BC), he was first succeeded by his brother Satyrus, who reigned as guardian for Clearchus' sons, Timotheus and Dionysius. Satyrus was succeeded by Timotheus, who soon shared power with his younger brother Dionysius. After the death of the Timotheus, Dionysius became the sole ruler of Heraclea (in 337/336 BC).

After the destruction of the Persian empire by Alexander the Great, Dionysius attempted to extend his dominions in Anatolia. In the meantime, some of the citizens of Heraclea, who had been driven into exile by their tyrants, asked Alexander to restore republican government in Heraclea, but Dionysius, with the assistance of Alexander's sister, Cleopatra of Macedon, acted to prevent any steps being taken to that effect. But, despite these efforts, Dionysius still did not appear to have felt very safe in his position, as evidenced by the delight with which he received the news of Alexander's death. He was so pleased with this development that he erected a statue of euthymia, that is, of joy or peace of mind.

Following Alexander's death, the exiled Heracleans then asked Perdiccas for his assistance. In response, Dionysius endeavoured to secure his position by joining Perdiccas' enemies. Dionysius also married Amastris, the former wife of Craterus. This marriage led to considerable political advantages for Dionysius. He then formed a friendship with Antigonus by assisting him in his war against Asander. Ptolemy, the nephew of Antigonus, married Dionysius' daughter by his first wife.

Thanks to these actions and alliances, Dionysius was able to remain in undisturbed possession of the tyranny of Heraclea for many years. In 306 BC, when the surviving generals of Alexander assumed the titles of king (basileus), Dionysius followed their example, but he died soon after.

It was said that he was an unusually fat man, with his obesity increasing to such a degree that he could no longer take any food, which then had to be introduced into his stomach by artificial means. in the end, however, he was choked by his own fat. He was said to have been the mildest and most just of all the tyrants that had ever lived.

Dionysius was succeeded by his wife, Amastris, who reigned during the minority of her sons, Clearchus II and Oxyathres. The death of Dionysius must have taken place in 306 or 305 BC, as, according to Diodorus, he died at the age of 55, and after a reign of 32 or 33 years.

Coins of Dionysius have been found, some of which were issued during his joint reign with his older brother Timotheus and others during his sole rule.

Heraclides Ponticus

Heraclides Ponticus (Greek: Ἡρακλείδης ὁ Ποντικός Herakleides; c. 390 BC – c. 310 BC) was a Greek philosopher and astronomer who was born in Heraclea Pontica, now Karadeniz Ereğli, Turkey, and migrated to Athens. He is best remembered for proposing that the Earth rotates on its axis, from west to east, once every 24 hours. He is also hailed as the originator of the heliocentric theory, although this is doubted by some.


Herodorus (also called Herodorus of Heraclea) was a native of Heraclea Pontica and wrote a history on Heracles around 400 BC. Plutarch references Herodorus several times in his account of Theseus in Parallel Lives. He should not be confused with Herodotus.

List of ancient Greek tyrants

This is a list of tyrants from Ancient Greece.


The Mariandyni (Μαριανδυνοί or Μαρυανδυνοί) were an ancient tribe in the north-east of Bithynia. Their country was called Mariandynia (Μαριανδυνία, Stephanus of Byzantium s. v.) and Pliny speaks of a Sinus Mariandynus ("Mariandynian Gulf") on their coast. Greek myths have Mariandynus as their presumed eponymous hero.

The Mariandyni inhabited the region between the rivers Sangarius and Billaeus, on the east of the territory occupied by another tribe called Thyni or Bithyni. According to Scylax of Caryanda, they did not extend as far west as the Sangarius, for according to him the river Hypius formed the boundary between the Bithyni and Mariandyni.

Ancient sources are vague as to the ethnic affiliation of the Mariandyni. Strabo expresses a belief that the Mariandyni were a branch of the Bithynians, a belief which cannot be well reconciled with the statement of Herodotus, who clearly distinguishes the Mariandyni from the Thracians or Thyni in Asia Minor. Elsewhere, Strabo states that Mariandyni are Paphlagonians. The descriptions provided by Herodotus suggest that in the Persian army they appeared quite distinct from the Bithyni, and their armor resembled that of the Paphlagonians, which was quite different from that of the Bithyni.

The chief city in their territory was Heraclea Pontica, the inhabitants of which reduced the Mariandyni, for a time, to a state of servitude resembling that of the Cretan Mnoae, or the Thessalian Penestae. According to modern researcher John Hind, "...the Mariandyni may have initially ceded some coastal territory [to the Heracleot colonists] fairly peacefully, being in need of protection from... the Bebrykes and the Paphlagones. In time the Herakleots acquired the Lycus Valley as the basis of their prosperity, and the Mariandyni entered a form of collective serfdom in which the saving grace was that they could not be dispersed or sold abroad. How this state of affairs was arrived at is not clear, bur the people may have been sold into it at a time of weakness by their chieftains, or may have slowly descended into it as a result of "being protected out of all they owned" by the Herakleots... The vigorous expansion of the Herakleot territory resulted in the locking of the Mariandyni into their agricultural villages as a dependent people, subject also to impressment as rowers in the fleet." In the early 5th century they seem to still have been an independent people, paying tribute directly to the Persian king, and to have been at war with Heraclea. In the division of the Persian empire they formed part of the third Persian satrapy.

Memnon of Heraclea

Memnon of Heraclea (; Greek: Mέμνων, gen.: Μέμνονος; fl. c. 1st century) was a Greek historical writer, probably a native of Heraclea Pontica. He described the history of that city in a large work, known only through the Excerpta of Photius (I of Constantinople), and describing especially the various tyrants who had at times ruled Heraclea.

Memnon's history encompassed an unknown number of books, but Photius had read the ninth through the sixteenth, and made a tolerably copious abstract of that portion. The first eight books he had not read, and he speaks of other books after the sixteenth. The ninth book begins with an account of the tyrant Clearchus, the disciple of Plato and Isocrates. The thirteenth book contains a long account of the rise of Rome. The last event mentioned in the sixteenth book was the death of Brithagoras, who was sent by the Heracleians as ambassador to Julius Caesar, after the latter had obtained the supreme power (48 BC).

From this Gerardus Vossius supposes that the work was written about the time of Caesar Augustus at the beginning of the 1st century AD; in the judgment of Orelli, not later than the time of Hadrian or the Antonines, in the middle of the 2nd century; the Oxford Classical Dictionary thinks the 2nd century AD likely. It is, of course, impossible to fix the date with any precision, as we do not know at all down to what time the entire work was carried. The style of Memnon, according to Photius, was clear and simple, and the words well chosen. The Excerpta of Photius, however, contain numerous examples of rare and poetical expressions, as well as a few which indicate the decline of the Greek language. These Excerpta of Photius were first published separately, together with the remains of Ctesias and Agatharchides by Henry Estienne, Paris, 1557. The best edition is that by Johann Conrad Orelli, Leipzig, 1816, containing, together with the remains of Memnon, a few fragments of other writers on Heraclea.

Memnon's history is valuable as a continuous account of nearly all the Hellenistic period, albeit a compressed one from a local vantage point. It is also valuable as the only reasonably complete example of the Greek historical genre of local history.

Michael Maurex

Maurex or Maurikas (Greek: Μαύρηξ/Μαυρίκας) was a Byzantine naval commander active in the latter half of the 11th century, chiefly in the Byzantine–Norman Wars. His identity is not certain, as several different people are habitually identified as the same person: a "Maurex" who was a wealthy sailor and magnate from Heraclea Pontica, an admiral called in Latin sources Mambrita or Mambrica who was active against the Normans in the 1060s and 1080s, and Michael Maurex, a general and governor known through his seals.According to Nikephoros Bryennios, Maurex was of humble origin, a native of Heraclea Pontica, and extremely experienced in naval matters. This made him, in Bryennios's words, "indispensable" to the Byzantine Empire, and he was given many gifts by the emperors, amassing a huge fortune. The general Michael Maurex is first attested in circa 1050 as carrying the lowly dignity of ostiarios, and a number of seals trace his gradual advancement, to hypatos and patrikios, vestes and strategos of Chios, vestarches and katepano of Dyrrhachium, magistros, proedros and doux of the Bucellarian Theme, to kouropalates and doux of Antioch.In the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Alexander Kazhdan accepts the identity of the magnate Maurex and the admiral, but considers the equation with Michael Maurex doubtful as the former is not recorded as bearing any of the latter's titles. Similarly, Michael Hendy doubts the identification of the magnate Maurex, "a private person", with any of the military commanders identified as him, but considers the general Michael Maurex and the naval commander as the same person.In 1066, according to the Breve chronicon Northmannicum, Maurex (Mambrica/Mambrita) commanded a fleet that stopped an attempted invasion of the Balkans by Count Geoffrey of Taranto, and in the next year, at the head of a Byzantine army he landed in Apulia and took Bari, Taranto and Castellaneta from the Normans. He could not prevent the Normans from besieging Bari again in 1068, however, and in 1070, he is recorded as fighting against Geoffrey and Robert Guiscard.Around 1076, according to Bryennios, Maurex hosted the future emperor Alexios I Komnenos at his estate in Heraclea. Alexios was then still a general campaigning against the Seljuk Turks, and Maurex provided him with many troops drawn from his large personal armed retinue and his servants.Maurex is next recorded by Anna Komnene, without further comment, as leading a joint Byzantine-Venetian fleet to victory over the Normans in spring 1082. He appears for the last time in 1084, when he is briefly mentioned (dux Mabrica) by William of Apulia as commander of the Byzantine fleet stationed at Corfu.


Nymphis (Ancient Greek: Νύμφις), son of Xenagoras, a native of Heraclea Pontica, lived in the middle of the third century BC, and was a person of distinction in his native land, as well as a historical writer of some note.

He was sent as ambassador to the Galatians to propitiate that people, when the inhabitants of Heraclea Pontica had offended them by assisting Mithridates II of Pontus, the son of Ariobarzanes of Pontus, with whom the Galatians were at war. As Ariobarzanes was succeeded by this Mithridates about 240 BCE, we may refer the embassy to this year. Memnon likewise mentions (c. 11) a Nymphis as one of the exiles in 281 BCE, when Seleucus I Nicator, after the death of Lysimachus, threatened Heracleia; but notwithstanding the remark of Clinton (sub anno 281) the interval of forty-one years between the two events just mentioned, leads to the conclusion that the latter Nymphis was a different person from the historian, more especially as Memnon, in the former case, expressly distinguishes Nymphis by the epithet "historian" (ὁ ἱστορικός). Nymphis was the author of three works, which are referred to by the ancient writers:

Concerning Alexander, his successors, and their descendants (Περὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου καὶ τῶν Διαδόχων), in twenty-four books. This work ended at the accession of Ptolemy III Euergetes in 246 BCE.

Concerning Heraclea Pontica (Περὶ Ἡερακλείας), in thirteen books, gave the history of his native city to the overthrow of the tyrants in 281 BCE.

Circumnavigating Asia (Περίπλους Ἀσίας)

Oxyathres of Heraclea

Oxyathres (Ancient Greek: Οξυάθρης; died 284 BC) was a son of Dionysius, tyrant of Heraclea and of Amastris, the daughter of the brother of Darius III Codomannus, also called Oxyathres. He succeeded, together with his brother Clearchus, to the sovereignty of Heraclea on the death of Dionysius, 306 BC: but the government was administered by Amastris during the minority of her two sons. Soon after the young men had attained to manhood and taken the direction of affairs into their own hands, they caused their mother to be put to death (284 BC): but this act of matricide brought upon them the immediate vengeance of Lysimachus, who made himself master of Heraclea, and put both Clearchus and Oxyathres to death. According to Diodorus, they had reigned seventeen years; but their death should be assigned to the year 284 BC.

Prusias I of Bithynia

Prusias I Cholus (Greek: Προυσίας ὁ Χωλός "the Lame") (lived c. 243 – 182 BC, reigned c. 228 – 182 BC) was a king of Bithynia, the son of Ziaelas of Bithynia.

Siege of Theodosia (389 BC)

The Siege of Theodosia in 389 BC was the first of three sieges carried out against the city of Theodosia (modern day Feodosia) by the rulers of the Bosporan Kingdom, who attempted time and time again to annex the city to their dominions during the long Bosporan-Heracleote War. The first of these sieges was carried out by Satyros I, the father of Leukon I.

Siege of Theodosia (c. 360 BC)

The Siege of Theodosia in c. 360 BC was the third and final siege by the Bosporan Kingdom under Leukon I against the city of Theodosia, a probable colony of Heraclea Pontica, who had aided the city in two previous sieges.

Timotheus of Heraclea

Timotheus (in Greek Tιμoθεoς, Timotheos; died 338 BC) was son of Clearchus, the tyrant of Heraclea on the Euxine (Black Sea). After the death of his father in 353 BC, he succeeded to the sovereignty, under the guardianship, at first, of his uncle Satyrus, and held the rule for fifteen years. There is extant a letter addressed to him by Isocrates, in which the rhetorician commends him for his good qualities, gives him some very common-place advice, and recommends to his notice a friend of his, named Autocrator, the bearer of the epistle.

Black Sea
Central Anatolia
Eastern Anatolia

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