At the very beginning of the XNUMXst century AD, there was a relative calm in relations between Rome and the Bosporus kingdom. The empire ceased to exert direct pressure on the region, and the ruling elites of the Northern Black Sea region, in turn, ceased to strive to get out of the influence of their powerful neighbor.
The rise to power of King Aspurg only strengthened the relationship between the powers. Not being a member of any of the earlier ruling dynasties, he was forced to look for a powerful ally who, at least formally, could confirm the legitimacy of his presence on the throne. The result of this alliance was the temporary stabilization of the life of the society of the states of the Northern Black Sea region and more or less reliable protection from external enemies.
However, the breath of the Great Steppe and its countless number of peoples continued to excite the imagination of the rulers of the Bosporus. The inexhaustible military power of the nomadic barbarian hordes was too much of a temptation to simply ignore, and by the middle of the XNUMXst century AD, the banner of war was once again raised over the steppes of Crimea and Taman.
The lust for power and ambition again dragged the Bosporus kingdom into the struggle with the mighty Rome. But first things first.
Barbarian and friend of the Romans on the Bosporus throne
The origin of Aspurg is not known for certain. There is a version that Dynamia, the granddaughter of Mithridates VI Eupator and the Bosporus ruler, who played an important role in the Northern Black Sea region at the turn of the epochs, brought him to power. Some historians believe that, wishing to enlist the support of a militarily strong nomadic group of Aspurgians, she adopted one of the barbarian princes, thereby opening the way for him to the throne.
Aspurg himself ascended the throne in A.D. 14. e., having previously visited Rome in order to conclude a treaty of friendship and obtain legal approval for being in power.
Aspurg is the king of the Bosporus. Copper coin.
In the role of the king of the Bosporus, he showed himself to be a skillful commander, an energetic politician and a subtle diplomat. With the support of Rome and the enormous military resources of the nomadic world, he took active steps to strengthen the borders and expand his sphere of influence.
On the western borders, Aspurg managed to conclude a defensive alliance with Chersonesos, as well as to conquer the Scythians and Taurus, significantly reducing their raids on Greek settlements. In the east, he restored the fortifications of key territories of the Bosporus kingdom and established peaceful relations with the motley nomadic tribes of the region.
The ambitious ruler did not forget about his own dynastic position. In the late 20s - early 30s of the XNUMXst century A.D. e. Aspurgus married Hypepiria, a representative of the Thracian ruling clan. This marriage gave him the right to formally become the legal heir to the ancient Bosporan dynasty of the Spartokids, which ruled in the region for about three hundred years. From this union, Aspurgus had two sons - Mithridates and Kotis, who later assumed power in the kingdom.
The stabilization of the situation in the Northern Black Sea region found its response in strengthening the relations of the Bosporus kingdom with Rome, for which Aspurg was the best fit. He fully met the criteria that were presented to the rulers of states friendly to the empire: he was a fairly popular figure for the population of the kingdom, had a subtle political instinct and at the same time obediently followed the will of the rulers of Rome.
The significant trust on the part of Rome in relation to Aspurgus was most likely manifested in the granting of the title of a Roman citizen to him and his descendants, expressed in the adoption by the Bosporan kings of the name Tiberius Julius, which became dynastic for local kings until the XNUMXth century AD.
Mithridates and Rome are incompatible concepts
Aspurg passed away in 37 AD, at a time when power in Rome passed from Tiberius to Caligula. With the arrival of a new emperor, uncertainty arose in the regions regarding their further status and level of autonomy, including the Northern Black Sea region, for which Caligula had his own plans.
As for the succession to the throne after the death of Aspurg, the opinions of scientists differ somewhat. Some believe that the power for some time was taken by Gipepiria, who ruled the state until the age of majority of the direct heir to the throne - Mithridates VIII. Others, not denying that Aspurg's wife was in power, are inclined to believe that the eldest son, who was supposed to become king, simply could not take the throne, since he was at that time as an honorary hostage in Rome, where he received the appropriate education and passed the process of introduction into the imperial culture. The practice of keeping the children of controlled states in the capital was widespread at that time.
As mentioned earlier, Caligula had separate views of the Black Sea kingdoms. Initially, he did not plan to transfer the Bosporan throne to the heirs of Aspurg. His idea was to unite the Bosporus and Pontic kingdoms under one leadership for a closer and more convenient control over the territories. Polemon II, the grandson of Polemon I, who was already trying to carry out the idea of Rome, but was killed by the very Aspurgians, whose name was taken by the deceased king of the Bosporus, was prophesied to be the ruler of the united lands.
Fortunately, the empire quickly realized that the unification of states could cause new unrest in the Northern Black Sea region, which could well have resulted not just in an uprising, but, given the close ties of the ruling house with the barbaric world, in a full-scale conflict. Therefore, the stake in the reign was nevertheless made on Mithridates VIII, and Polemon II was given control over Cilicia, a region previously belonging to his grandfather.
Returning to his homeland and accepting the throne, Mithridates VIII at first zealously demonstrated loyalty and friendship to his patron, supporting all the initiatives that were so rich in the reign of Caligula. In this, the young king was hardly different from other rulers of states friendly to Rome. However, it is likely that even then he was thinking about conducting a more independent and independent political activity from the empire.
Like his great ancestor, Mithridates VI Eupator, the new ruler of the Bosporus kingdom relied on the huge military resources of the nomadic world in the neighborhood. While in power, he actively flirted with the Scythians, regularly sending them gifts and assurances of strong and mutually beneficial friendship, while not forgetting about his eastern neighbors - the numerous Sarmatian tribes with whom the ruling circles had fairly close relations.
Images of warriors. Stasovsky crypt. On the right is a photograph. On the left is a drawing from a photo. At the end of the XNUMXst century BC. e. - I in n. e. the theme of battle scenes and armies was quite common
Nevertheless, Mithridates VIII was in no hurry to enter into confrontation with Rome. Apparently, perfectly aware of the power of the legions of the empire, he was waiting for the right moment to embody his ambitions. After the assassination of Caligula and the establishment of Claudius on the throne, he even sent his brother Cotis as a goodwill ambassador to assure the new emperor of loyalty to Rome. However, Cotis had his own views on the situation and, having arrived in the capital of the empire, tried to convey to Claudius the real state of affairs and the situation on the northern shores of the Black Sea.
The historian Cassius Dio has this to say about this:
Mithridates decided to turn things around and began to prepare for a war against the Romans. When his mother opposed this and, unable to convince him, wanted to flee, Mithridates, wanting to hide his plan, but continuing his preparations, sends brother Kotis as an ambassador to Claudius with friendly expressions. Kotis, disdaining ambassadorial duties, opened everything to Claudius and became king
The betrayal of Kotis led to a round of aggravation of relations between the Bosporus and Rome. Realizing that it was pointless to conceal intentions, Mithridates VIII openly announced a new political course and, judging by the notes of Cornelius Tacitus in relation to Claudius, carried out a number of anti-Roman actions on the territory of the state.
... he (note of Claudius) was driven by the bitterness of the insults inflicted on him and the thirst for revenge.
It is likely that the Bosporus ruler, in order to confirm his intentions against Rome, deliberately destroyed statues and objects of art associated with the imperial rule.
Bosporan War 45-49 AD e.
To suppress the uprising in the rebellious state and to establish Cotis on the throne of the Bosporan kingdom, Claudius instructed the governor of the province of Moesia - Aulus Didius Gallus. A military group of at least a legion was formed against Mithridates, to which were added several cohorts of arrivals from Bithynia, an auxiliary cavalry detachment and several detachments of soldiers recruited from the local population.
The gathering point of the military group was, most likely, Chersonesos. Further, the army of Rome, without any difficulty, ousted Mithridates VIII from the European part of the Bosporus (the Crimean peninsula), forcing him, together with the army, to leave the Kuban steppe. To maintain the power of the new ruler, several cohorts were left to help him under the control of Gaius Julius Aquilla, while the main army left the territory of the kingdom.
After the loss of the capital, the rebellious king was not at all going to add weapon... Most likely, he did not hope for strong support in the Crimean part of the country, relying mainly on the troops of friendly barbarians. Mithridates VIII for some time moved through the territories of the Kuban region, so that, according to Tacitus:
... to anger the tribes and lure deserters to them.
Accumulating an impressive army, he put Cotis and Aquilla in a difficult position. It was pointless to wait for the moment when the rebellious king would gather a horde and return to the territory of Crimea, but he did not want to climb into the cauldron of aggressive barbarian tribes without support. Therefore, according to the records of the same Tacitus, the Roman-Bosporan coalition began to look for allies among the nomadic tribes.
... not counting on their own strength ... they began to seek outside support and sent ambassadors to Eunon, who ruled the Aorse tribe.
Such a move, obviously, was due to the lack of strong cavalry among the Romans and supporters of Cotis, which was fundamentally necessary in the upcoming battles.
Potential allies in the future campaign, most likely, were not chosen by chance. According to a number of historians, the Sirak tribes, which acted as the main military force of Mithridates, and the Aorse tribes were in a long-standing confrontation, and the fact that the nomads nevertheless joined the alliance played a role not so much the benefits of relations with Rome and the Bosporus, but rather long ago. rivalry between two nomadic groups.
After reaching agreements, the united army moved deep into the territories of the nomads. On the way to the country of the Danarians, where the donkey Mithridates, the Roman-Bosporan army fought several successful battles and without any difficulty approached the city of Uspa, the capital of the rebellious king's main allies.
Situated on a hill, the main city of Shirak appears to be quite populated. It was surrounded by ditches and walls, but not of stone, but of woven rods with earth poured in the middle. The height of these structures is not known for certain, but, based on similar structures, it is unlikely to exceed four meters. Despite the simplicity and primitiveness of these structures, the Roman-Bosporan army did not manage to take the city outright. Having failed, immediately for a day, the advancing troops blocked the approaches to Uspe, filled the ditches and erected mobile assault towers, on which, without any obstacles, they threw the defenders with burning torches and spears.
The next day, rejecting the peace proposals, the Romans took the city by storm and massacred it. The mass extermination of the Sirak capital made their leader doubt the advisability of a further war, and he, according to Tacitus:
... gave hostages and prostrated himself before the image of Caesar, which brought great glory to the Roman army.
This outcome of the case was quite satisfactory for the winners, since, despite the successes, everyone understood perfectly well that it was extremely difficult to completely subjugate the nomads.
The rebellious king's exodus
Having lost the support of his main allies, Mithridates VIII was eventually forced to surrender. The former king resorted to the mercy of the leader of the Aorses, Eunon, who made the emperor agree not to lead the captive in a triumphal procession and save his life. Claudius agreed to the proposed conditions and was brought to Rome as a prisoner, lived there for almost twenty years, until he was executed for participating in a conspiracy against the emperor Galba. Apparently, Roman education once brought Mithridates not only the light of civilization, but also the shadow sides of the life of the empire.
War 45-49 AD e. was the last attempt of the Bosporus kingdom to secede from Rome and pursue an absolutely independent autonomous policy. And although none of the wars ultimately succeeded, all of them, in one way or another, contributed to the fact that the empire in relation to the Northern Black Sea region subsequently formed a more balanced policy that took into account the interests of the vassal state.
1. Cornelius Tacitus “Annals. Book XII "Translation - A.S. Bobovich Ladomir Publishing House 1993
2. Yu.A. Vinogradov, V.A. Goroncharovsky "Military история Bosporus Kingdom "Publishing house" Lomonosov "2017
3. V.M. Zubar, A.S. Ruslyaeva "On the shores of the Cimmerian Bosporus" Publishing house "Stilos" 2004
4. S.Yu. Saprykin "Bosporus kingdom at the turn of two eras." Publishing house "SCIENCE" 2002
5. Cassius Dion Kokkeian. “Roman history. Book XL "Publishing house" Nestor-Istoriya "2014