History Files

Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


Sinope (Greeks)

The Greek colony of Sinope was founded (actually refounded) on Paphlagonia's Black Sea coast by Ionian settlers of the city of Miletus in Caria, perhaps in the early seventh or late eighth centuries BC (about 630 BC is often given as a date). Various settlements in the region had previously existed since about the middle of the third millennium BC. These include people from Colchis and possibly Hittites too, while the Assyrians may have been behind the initial founding of Sinope as a trading port (although this is contentious). Their presence in Anatolia has been poorly understood in general, with greater light being shed on it through archaeology. Some ancient authors support this idea without being particularly specific.

However, although there are some Hittite objects in the area, the Black Sea coast here was firmly under the control of the Kaskans in the second millennium BC. They often gave the Hittites a very hard time, which on occasion was returned in the form of Hittite raids which may have reached the coast. It may have been one of these raids which resulted in the formation of short-term garrisons, a port, and some attached settlement, and Sinope does seem previously to have been a Hittite port named Sinuwa until the dark age collapse of that state. Between that collapse and the arrival of a fresh wave of Greek settlers in the late seventh century BC, Sinope/Sinuwa may also have served as a headquarters of a division of the Cimmerians, however briefly.

Once established (and again when re-established), Sinope began issuing its own coins and founding its own colonies. In Greek minds it became one of the most important colonies on the entire Black Sea coast. It remained relatively isolated from inland communities until the fourth century BC, sheltered from the 'barbarians' by a dominant mountain range which sits not far to the south of the coast. That range had particularly fertile lower slopes which were richly productive.

How much of the coastline was dominated by the small city is unclear. It certainly did not go as far west as the Bithynian border, but did extend a couple of hundred kilometres to the east and its colony of Trapezous (Latin Trapezus, English Trebizon, modern Trabzon). When Alexander the Great's Greek conquest of formerly Persian-controlled Anatolia had been successfully completed it led to a large influx of Hellenisation across the entire region. The period of domination by the Persian satrap Datames around the 360s BC seemingly lasted only as long as his rebellion against the Persian king.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith (Ed, 1867), from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from the Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Warfare, J Woronoff & I Spence, from The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by I E S Edwards, from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from The History, Cornelius Tacitus (Alfred John Church, Sara Bryant, & William Jackson Brodribb, Eds, 1873), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and The Geography of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and Ancient Sinope: First Part, David M Robinson (The American Journal of Philology, Vol 27 No 2, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1906, and available from JSTOR).)

c.1183 - 1173 BC

In Greek legend, Omphale is the Atyad ruler of Lydia, whom Herakles is required to serve for a period of time (his various adventures also include restoring his brother as ruler of Laconia). One of his companions, Autolycus of Thessaly, is reputed to refound the port settlement of Sinope after losing contact with Herakles, taking it from the Assyrians.

'Sinope 3 November 1855' by William Simpson (1823-1899)
Sinope remains inhabited today, centred around the military fort shown here on 3 November 1855 by William Simpson, although the fort's presence makes archaeological digs very difficult (click or tap on image to view full sized)

The name 'Sinope' does indeed predate Greek settlement, and mythology and tradition do indicate that the town is taken from existing inhabitants. Strabo says that Autolycus 'took possession of Sinope', using a Greek word which generally indicates seizure or capture. Plutarch states this outright.

fl c.1200 - ? BC


Companion of Herakles (of the Heraclids of Maeonia).

Autolycus subsequently joins the Argonauts of Jason of Iolkos, which places his approximate dating around 1200 BC and makes his probable origins Mycenaean. The town remains small and relatively powerless until Milesian colonists arrive in the seventh century BC.

fl c.780s? BC

Habrondas / Habron

Of Miletus. Killed by Cimmerians.

c.782 - 756 BC

Herodotus is of the opinion that the town briefly provides a base (unwillingly, no doubt) for the Cimmerians from about 782 BC. This would seem to predate their general marauding across the Caucasus but not by much more than two generations. Raids along the coastline could certainly be taking place at this time. Sinope recovers gradually so that, by about 756 BC it is able to found its own colony further east on the Black Sea coast, at Trapezous (Latin Trapezus, English Trebizon, modern Trabzon).

Cimmerian warriors
This image shows Cimmerians battling early Greeks - prior to the advent of accepted 'Classical' Greece - with the mounted Cimmerians warriors apparently being accompanied by their dogs (republican Romans did much the same thing)

fl late 700s? BC


Exile from Miletus. Rebuilt the city.

fl late 700s? BC


Exile from Miletus. Rebuilt the city.

641 - 635 BC

After more than a decade of controlling a vast domain which reaches through northern Mesopotamia, the Cimmerian ruler Tugdamme is now defeated. This would appear to be the point at which the Cimmerians largely break up as a cohesive force. Elements settle in Tabal (Classical Cappadocia) and Thrace, destroy Sinope around 635 BC, and may well also contribute greatly to a thrust of hose-borne warrior groups migrating westwards along the Danube to influence the Celts.

c.630 BC

Thanks to its important maritime location and its proximity to the famous sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma, the city of Miletus has been prospering as a trading centre. During the eighth and seventh centuries BC, it has established as many as ninety colonies throughout the eastern Aegean, including Abydos, Cyzicus, Olbia, and Panticapaeum, and also Naukratis (Naucratis) in Egypt. Around 630 BC settlers from Miletus refound the town of Sinope on the Black Sea coast of otherwise barbaric Paphlagonia.

fl c.630 BC


Colony refounder.

Following Ambron's refounding of the town, it clearly remains a minor settlement, with no records covering its existence during the next two centuries. Even the conquest of much of Anatolia by Cyrus the Great and his Persian empire seems to pass it by. It is highly unlikely that the Persians penetrate this far northwards, though the rugged country of a Paphlagonia which itself never seems to be entirely tamed by them. Persian overlordship is likely by the start of the fifth century BC, however, as part of Xerxes navy is produced by the cities of the Black Sea coast.

Southern coast of the Black Sea
Like the Kaskans before them, the Paphlagonians struggled to survive in the somewhat tough conditions of the Black Sea's southern coast

c.444 BC

Greeks have been sending increasing numbers of relief expeditions to the Greek cities of the Black Sea which are under tribute to Persia. Pericles of Athens arrives at Sinope, probably soon after 444 BC, making a display of Athenian power, attempting to relieve the city from oppression, and hoping to stimulate trade with Attica.

before 433 BC

Timesilaus / Timesileon

Greek tyrant of Sinope. Expelled by Athens.

It is at Sinope that Pericles leaves the efficient Lamachus with thirteen ships, assigning him the task of expelling the tyrant Timesilaus. He does so with great efficiency, and not long afterwards Athens votes to send six hundred volunteer colonists to Sinope to occupy the houses and lands of the defeated tyrant and his followers.

c.444 - 399 BC

Again the city falls off the historical record, but the quality of its coin production does markedly improve. By the start of the fourth century BC Sinopean coins bear the names of magistrates, or at least the first letters of their names. This is a clear indication of independence, and initialled coin production here is perhaps only fifty years behind that of Phoenician cities such as Sidon and Tyre.

Without any surviving inscriptions or other written sources to help in deciphering those initial letters it is impossible to construct a meaningful king list here, but initials and best guesses are shown below, in no particular order.

Coin issued by Satrap Datames of Cilicia
Shown here are two side of a silver stater which was issued by Satrap Datames of Khilakku (Cilicia) around 380 BC, some thirteen-or-so years prior to his rebellion against the Persian king (neither face is of Datames himself)

fl c.399 - 364 BC

E K / Hecatonymus?

Greek magistrate of Sinope. Known from coins alone.

fl c.399 - 364 BC


Greek magistrate of Sinope. Known from coins alone.

fl c.399 - 364 BC


Greek magistrate of Sinope. Known from coins alone.

364 - 358 BC

This seems to be the point, in 364 BC, at which the native princes of Paphlagonia are finally removed from holding any kind of office within the Persian administrative structure. They are replaced by various individuals from more powerful regions.

By now the city of Sinope has also fallen under Persian domination, ending the minting of coins by its magistrates and replacing them with inferior coinage bearing the inscription of Datames. As the now-rebel satrap of Khilakku (Cilicia), he is the first non-Greek to take control there in almost a millennium. Given the fact that he is in revolt against Persia, it would seem that Paphlagonia has been seized as part of this effort.

Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes of Sinope was the rather eccentric father of the Greek cynicism school of philosophy, living between either 412 or 404 BC and 323 BC

Soon all of Asia Minor (Anatolia) revolts against Artaxerxes II and, in 362 BC, even Autophradates, satrap of Sparda, is driven to join the rebels. Sparta, and also Takhôs, pharaoh of Egypt, send substantial help to the rebels. Two years later, in 360 BC, Ariobarzanes is betrayed by his son, Mithridates, and is executed. The satrapal revolt is finally suppressed in 359-358 BC, by which time Datames has officially been removed as satrap of Khilakku.

The coinage of Datames in Sinope is followed by a still poorer coinage bearing Aramaic inscriptions, some specimens of which bear the names of Ariarathes and Abdsasan (and not Abdemon as is sometimes stated). But short-lived as the coinage of the Greek magistrates has been, it has borne mute testimony to Sinope's brief autonomy.

fl late 300s? BC


Otherwise unidentified ruler. Known from coins alone.

fl late 300s? BC


Otherwise unidentified ruler. Known from coins alone.

301 BC

At the end of the Wars of the Diadochi (the 'successors', Alexander the Great's generals), Ptolemy I of Egypt is constantly seeking to capture areas of Anatolia, or at least ally them to him as he continues to fight his Greek opponents. He sends emissaries to Scydrothemis bearing gifts and desiring a reading from the city's oracle.

Battle of Ipsus
The Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC ended the drawn-out and destructive Wars of the Diadochi which decided how Alexander's empire would be divided

c.301 - 280 BC


Greek ruler of Sinope. A king according to Tacitus.

235 BC

Antiochus Heirax, co-regent of the Seleucid empire and governor of regions in Anatolia - together with Mithradates of Pontus, continues his campaign to wrest the empire from his brother by defeating him at the battle of Ancyra in 235 BC, leaving Anatolia outside of Seleucid power. This victory is clearly also good for Pontus itself, giving it more freedom to expand its own power and territory. However, Mithradates is unable to conquer the city of Sinope.

c.200 BC

By now Galatia has been settled for almost a century around the River Halys and the Phrygian plain - the poorest parts of Anatolia. According to Pliny the Elder, it lies 'above' Phrygia and includes the greater part of the territory taken from that province, along with its former capital at Gordion (Gordium).

The Gauls of Maeonia (Lydia) and Paphlagonia are called the Trocmi (Trocmes), a number of leaders of whom are known to history. Cappadocia stretches along to the north-west of Galatia, with its most fertile regions being in the possession of the Galatian Tectosages and Teutobodiaci. Again, though, much of the events leading up to this situation have passed Sinope by.

Hittite tablet mentioning Arzawa
The Gauls moved into an Anatolian landscape which was littered with remnants of previous kingdoms, notably that of Arzawa, which formerly dominated the Phrygian lands

183 BC

Following Roman victories over Macedonia and the Seleucids in Syria (190 BC), Pharnaces I of Pontus allies his kingdom to Rome. In 183 BC he completes the conquest of neighbouring Paphlagonia by taking Sinope. The region's history now largely follows that of Pontus and its successor, Rome.

The city suffers a decline in trade once Rome has laid down roads across the previously-impenetrable Anatolian interior. No further mention is made of independent princes and today Paphlagonia forms part of Turkey.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.