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Laodice (sister-wife of Mithridates VI of Pontus)

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Subject: Laodice, Pharnaces II of Pontus, Bosporan Kingdom, Mithridates V of Pontus, Cleopatra of Pontus, Erato of Armenia, Glaphyra, Mithridates VI of Pontus, Tiberius Julius Rhescuporis I, Dynamis (Bosporan queen)
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Laodice (sister-wife of Mithridates VI of Pontus)

Laodice (130/129 BC – about 90 BC) was a beautiful Pontian Princess and Queen who was first wife and sister-wife to King Mithridates VI of Pontus.[1]

She was a monarch of Persian and Greek Macedonian ancestry. Laodice was the second daughter and among the children born to the Pontian Monarchs Laodice VI and Mithridates V of Pontus (reigned 150–120 BC), thus she was born and raised in the Kingdom of Pontus.

Her father was assassinated in about 120 BC in Sinope poisoned by unknown persons at a lavish banquet which he held.[2] In the will of her father, Mithridates V left the Kingdom to the joint rule of her mother and her brothers: Mithridates VI and Mithridates Chrestus. The brothers of Laodice were both under aged to rule and their mother retained all power as regent.[3] Laodice VI’s regency over Pontus was from 120–116 BC (even perhaps up to 113 BC). Laodice VI favored Mithridates Chrestus over Mithridates VI. During her mother’s regency, Mithridates VI had escaped from the plotting of their mother and had gone into hiding.

Mithridates VI between 116–113 BC returned to Pontus from hiding and was hailed King. He was able to remove their mother and brother from the Pontian throne, thus Mithridates VI became the sole ruler of Pontus. Mithridates VI showed clemency towards their mother and brother, by imprisoning them both.[4] Laodice VI died in prison of natural causes, however Mithridates Chrestus could have died in prison from natural causes or was tried for treason and was executed on his orders.[5] When they died, Mithridates VI gave his mother and brother a royal funeral.[6]

When Mithridates VI became the sole ruler of Pontus, Laodice and her brother were practicable strangers. The last time Mithridates VI saw Laodice, she was a little girl in the nursery who was spoiled. Sometime after Mithridates VI became sole King of Pontus, Mithridates VI had married his sister Laodice. Mithridates VI married Laodice to preserve the purity of their blood-line; as a wife to rule with him as a sovereign over Pontus; to be the mother of his legitimate children to ensure their succession and to claim his right as a ruling monarch. Through marriage, Laodice became a Queen of Pontus and Mithridates VI gave her the title of Queen.

Laodice bore her brother four sons: Mithridates, Arcathius, Machares, Pharnaces II of Pontus and two daughters: Cleopatra of Pontus and Drypetina (a diminutive form of "Drypetis"). Drypetina was Mithridates VI’s most devoted daughter. Her baby teeth never fell out, so she had a double set of teeth.[7]

At some point Laodice and Mithridates VI, set about to establish good relations with the citizens of Athens and the Greek island of Delos. Laodice and her brother-husband made benefactions to the Athenians and the Delians. The exact nature of their benefactions and their voluntary donations are unknown. On Delos, honorific statues have survived that have been identified to be of Mithridates VI and Laodice.[8]

During one time of the absence of Mithridates VI, Laodice began to have affairs with the friends of her brother-husband. Through one of his friends, Laodice became pregnant and gave birth to her son. To conceal her unfaithfulness to Mithridates VI, Laodice deceived a report of his death and on his return, plotted to have Mithridates VI’s life taken by poison.[9]

At this time Mithridates VI, returned to Pontus without warning and suddenly; and caught Laodice with her lovers. Her brother-husband and his companions were shocked and distressed to see this at Sinope. The child that Laodice gave birth too was not his and he had been gone for too long for the child to be his. He hid his rage and embraced Laodice and visited his harem nursery to count his children. Festive banquets were prepared to welcome him back.[10]

Prior to the feast, Mithridates VI’s servants warned him of Laodice’s plots, at the feast and they also named Laodice’s co-conspirators. Feeling betrayed, he cursed his late mother for raising such a treacherous daughter, so he had Laodice and her collaborators executed immediately. Laodice’s new born son was spared by Mithridates VI and allowed him to live. After the execution of Laodice, Mithridates VI never wanted to marry a Queen by that name which spelt trouble.[11] Laodice’s fate was common knowledge and due to her treachery, Mithridates VI found it very difficult to make any future wife his official queen.[12]

Arts & literature

There is a painting on display at the Bibliothèque nationale de France of Laodice and Mithridates. The painting is titled Mithridates poisons Laodice, his wife/sister; Mithridates wins a duel.

In The Grass Crown, the second in the Masters of Rome series, Colleen McCullough, the Australian writer, describes in detail the various aspects of Mithridates VI’s life - the murder of his sister-wife Laodice, his experiments with poison, and his fear and hatred of Rome. The aging Gaius Marius meets Mithridates in the palace of Ariarathes in Eusebeia Mazaca, a city in Cappadocia, and the former Roman Consul, quite alone and surrounded by the Pontic army, orders Mithridates to leave Cappadocia immediately and go back to Pontus - which he does.

References

Sources

  • A. Mayor, The Poison King: the life and legend of Mithradates, Rome’s deadliest enemy, Princeton University Press, 2009
  • M. Getzel, Hellenistic settlements in Europe, the islands and Asia Minor, Cohen University of California Press, 1995
  • http://ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/1827.html
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