Dynamis (Bosporan queen)

This article is about Dynamis, Queen of the Bosporan Kingdom. For the philosophical concept, see Potentiality and actuality.

Dynamis, named Philoromaios (Greek: Δύναμις Φιλορωμαίος, Dynamis, lover of Rome, c. 67 BC – AD 8), was a Roman client queen of the Bosporan Kingdom during the Roman Republic and the reign of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus.


Dynamis is an ancient Greek name meaning the “powerful one”.[1] She was a monarch of Iranian and Greek Macedonian ancestry. Dynamis was the daughter of King Pharnaces II of Pontus and his Sarmatian wife.[2] She had an older brother called Darius and a younger brother called Arsaces.[3] Her paternal grandparents were the Pontic monarchs Mithridates VI of Pontus and his first wife Laodice, who was also his sister. Dynamis was born and raised in the Kingdom of Pontus and the Bosporan Kingdom. By 47 BC, Pharnaces II arranged for Dynamis to marry a local nobleman called Asander. This was Asander’s second marriage but Dynamis’ first.

In 47 BC, Asander revolted against Pharnaces II, who had appointed him as regent of the Bosporan Kingdom during the war against the Roman general Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus. Asander hoped that by deserting and betraying Pharnaces II, he would win favour with the Romans and they could help him become King of the Bosporus. Pharnaces II was defeated by the Romans and fled with some supporters. Asander found Pharnaces II and his supporters and put them to death. Asander and Dynamis thus became the monarchs of the Bosporan Kingdom.

Matters remained as such until the Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar commanded a paternal uncle of Dynamis, Mithridates II, to declare war on the Bosporan Kingdom and claim the kingship for himself. Asander and Dynamis were defeated and exiled by Mithridates II. During their time in exile, Dynamis and Asander were sheltered by her mother’s Sarmatian tribe.[1] After the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, the Bosporan Kingdom was restored to Asander and Dynamis by Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and heir, Caesar Octavian (future Roman Emperor Augustus). Dynamis bore Asander a son called Aspurgus. Asander and Dynamis may have had other children as well. From 44 BC until his death in 17 BC, Asander and Dynamis reigned over the Kingdom of the Bosporus. In 17 BC, an obscure Roman usurper called Scribonius headed a rebellion in the Bosporus, claiming to be a relative of the legitimate ruler Dynamis. When Asander saw his troops desert him for Scribonius, he starved himself to death in despair.

Scribonius pretended to be Dynamis’ relative so that he could seize Asander’s throne. Scribonius won Dynamis over, whether by force or by persuasion, and married her. When Augustus learned of the rebellion in the Bosporus, Augustus sent the Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa to intervene. Agrippa arrived at Sinope, in Pontus, and sent Polemon, king of that kingdom, against Scribonius. However, the people of Bosporous had already put Scribonius to death. Polemon then proceeded to subjugate the Bosporus, but he met fierce resistance, and only Agrippa's intervention ended the conflict.[4]

Dynamis, in order to preserve and protect the Bosporan Kingdom, married the Roman Client King Polemon I of Pontus. This was Polemon I’s first marriage and Dynamis' second marriage. The couple bore no children. The marriage was short-lived, and Polemon I married Pythodorida of Pontusain 12 or 13 BC,and had two sons and a daughter with her. Polemon I extended the kingdom to the river Tanais. Polemon I was killed in 8 BC, and Dynamis resumed control of the Bosporan kingdom and seems to have ruled until AD 7-8.[5] Her son Aspurgus succeeded her as king. Pythodorida of Pontus became the sole ruler of Cilicia, Pontus and Colchis.

Character, honors and allegiances

Dynamis is noted as a queen of independent spirit and who reigned long and effectively over the Kingdom of the Bosporus while under Roman suzerainty. Although she was a politically astute ruler, at times Dynamis was not an easy character. On surviving coins from her reign, Dynamis’ royal title is in Greek ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΗΣ ΔΥΝΑΜΕΩΣ ‘of Queen Dynamis’.[6] Dynamis dedicated a gravestone to a Sarmatian man called Matian, the son of Zaidar. The gravestone depicts a horseman with a bow and quiver.[7]

During earthworks in Kerch in February 1957, a surviving Greek inscription was found that belonged to Dynamis. In this inscription Dynamis, honors her royal Pontic ancestry:[8]

Ύπὲρ βασιλίσσης Δυνάμεως φιλορωμαίου, τῇς ὲκ βασιλέως μεγάλου Φαρνάκου, τοῦ ὲκ βασιλέως Μιθραδάτου Ευπάτρος…
For [ruling] Queen Dynamis Philoromaios, [the daughter] of King Pharnaces the Great, [son] of King Mithridates Eupator...

Dynamis obtained recognition as a "friend and ally" of Rome. During her reign, she had erected three statues dedicated to herself and had another statue erected in honor of Augustus’ wife, the first Roman Empress Livia Drusilla. In Phanagoria, Dynamis dedicated an inscription honoring Augustus as

The emperor, Caesar, son of god, the god Augustus, the overseer of every land and sea

In another inscription, Dynamis calls herself an empress and friend of Rome. This inscription reveals the political ambitions that helped her to maintain her throne. Dynamis dedicated a statue of Livia in the temple of the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite. An inscription under Livia’s statue calls Livia the empress and Dynamis’ benefactress. Such inscriptions reveal that Dynamis may have befriended Livia and Augustus and gotten support from them.

See also


  1. 1 2 Mayor (2009), p. 345.
  2. Mayor (2009), p. 362.
  3. Oleg L. Gabelko (2009). "The dynastic history of the Hellenistic monarchies of Asia Minor according to the Chronography of George Synkellos". In Jakob Munk Højte. Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom. Black Sea Studies. Vol. 9. Aarhus University Press. p. 2. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  4. Dio Cass. 54.4-10, trans. E.Cary, Loeb edition, [1917] 1980.
  5. Rose, Charles Brian, "Princes" and Barbarians on the Ara Pacis, American Journal of Archaeology, Vo.94, No.3 (Jul.1990),pp453-467, Published by: Archaeological Institute of America
  6. Barclay Head. "Ancient coins of Pontus". Digital Historia Numorum: A manual of Greek numismatics. Retrieved 2015-03-19.
  7. Mikhail Treister (2009). "On the weapons of Sarmatian type in the Bosporan Kingdom in the 1st–2nd centuries AD". Paper delivered at the international conference: The Bosporan Kingdom. Sandbjerg, Denmark, 23–26 March 2009. p. 12. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  8. Corpus Regni Inscriptionum Bospor, 31.

External links


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