Bosporan Civil War

Bosporan Civil War

Map of Cimmeria, Siracena and Scythia
Datec. 310 – 309 BCE (one year)
Sarmatia, Parts of Cimmerian Bosporus

Siracen victory

  • Eumelos becomes sole ruler of the Bosporan Kingdom
  • Both Satyros II and Prytanis are killed
  • Further expansion of Bosporan territories
The Siraceni Bosporans
Commanders and leaders
Satyros II 
42,000 34,000
Casualties and losses
High Medium

The Bosporan Civil War was a war of succession that happened in the Bosporan Kingdom somewhere between 311 and 308 BCE and lasted for about a year.[1][2][3][4] The casus belli was the death of archon Paerisades I, whose sons disputed the succession. These sons were Satyros II, who claimed the kingdom by virtue of being the eldest, Eumelos, who was another claimant to the throne, and Prytanis, who engaged in battle later on in support of Satyros.


Sources and dating

The most important source on the conflict is provided by the Bibliotheca historica, book 20 chapters 22 to 24, written more than 150 years after the fact by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (c. 90–30 BCE).[1]

It is not known exactly when the events narrated by Diodorus happened. The war has been variously dated as having occurred during 309–308 BCE (one year long),[1] within the year 309 BCE,[2] during 311–310 BCE or during 310–309 BCE.[3] In part, the difficulty in determining the period stems from the uncertainty about when king Paerisades I died: in 311 or 310 BCE.[4]


Paerisades, one of the sons of Leukon I, died in 311 or 310 BCE[4] after having ruled 38 years;[5] his eldest son, Satyros II, inherited the kingdom from his father.[6] Eumelos was not pleased with this, and fled Panticapaeum and was given refuge by the ruler of the Sarmatian tribe of Siraces, Aripharnes.[7] After gathering a large army and making an alliance with the neighboring barbarians, Eumelos became a claimant to the Bosporan throne.[8] Upon hearing this, Satyrus immediately left Panticapaeum under Prytanis and sallied out against his brother,[9] cornering him with his baggage wagons in the banks of the river Thatis with Aripharnes.[10]


Bosporan army

Units Numbers
Infantry 20,000 Scythians[11]
Cavalry 10,000 Scythians[12]
Light infantry 2,000 Thracian peltasts[13]
Hoplites 2,000 mercenaries[14]

The Scythians partook in this war because their rivals, the Siraceni, were trying to gain influence in the Bosporus and possibly take some of the land of the Scythians. It is very likely that the mercenaries employed by Satyrus were recruited from Bosporan cities. For some unknown reason, Satyros did not use the citizen Bosporan army, probably due to there being shifting allegiances, and instead left them to protect the cities.

Siracen army

Units Numbers
Infantry 22,000 Siracens[15]
Cavalry 20,000 lancers[16]

It is important to note that the Scythians and Sarmatians were most likely competing for influence and territory.


Battle of the River Thatis

Satyrus mobilized his army into battle formations, placing himself in the center in a phalanx formation.[17] He had stationed his Greek mercenaries and Thracian peltasts to his right, and his Scythian allies to his left. Satyrus rounded his best troops and charged at Aripharnes, who was opposite him, in the center of the enemy line. The two sides sustained many losses, but Satyrus was able to rout Aripharnes[18] and he gave chase to kill the fleeing enemy but stopped when he received news that his brother Eumelos was winning at the right wing, and that his mercenaries had begun to flee.[19] He turned around and aided his own troops and was able to route his brother's entire army.[20]

Siege of Siracena

After the routing of their army, Aripharnes and Eumelos fled to Siracena, the Siracen capital and fortified city. Satyrus gave chase to his brother, but made the observations that the city was situated on the river Thatis, it was surrounded by thick forests and long cliffs and only had two artificial entry ways: one through the main gate, and another through the palace of Aripharnes, both of which were heavily defended.[21] Knowing that it would be suicide to attack the main city, Satyrus decided to let his army plunder the nearby villages and attained from this many prisoners.[22] Satyrus then ordered some of his men to start cutting some trees to make a pathway from their camp, to the main gate. While this was carried out, Aripharnes believed that the only way of safety was victory and stationed archers on both sides of his city. Satyrus's men, while cutting the trees, started to take fire from Siracen wall defenders, who were throwing spears and arrows at them.[23] After four days of cutting, on the fourth day, his army made it to the Siracen walls, but had sustained many losses getting there.[24] Meniscus, the mercenary Greek captain, fought with bravery and boldness when he entered the city, but had to retreat when he was overcome by enemy forces. Upon seeing this, Satyrus rushed to his aid and fought bravely, but was struck in his right shoulder by a spear and was carried back to his tent.[25] Satyrus died that night. Meniscus, seeing no point in carrying out the siege, ended it and took Satyrus's body to Gargaza to be sent off to Panticapaeum.

Later battles

Prytanis, who held a great funeral for his elder brother, hurried to Gargaza and took both the royal power and control of the army. Eumelos, perhaps testing his fortunes, sent envoys to Prytanis to discuss partition of the kingdom between themselves but to this, Prytanis declined. After that, Prytanis left a garrison in Gargaza and hurried back to Panticapaeum to seize the royalties that he was entitled to.[26]


While Prytanis was away, Eumelos and perhaps Aripharnes took the chance and attacked Gargaza, capturing it in the process. He also plundered various towns neighboring Gargaza and its land.[27]

Battle of Lake Maeotis Prytanis sallied out against his brother, but was defeated by Eumelos. He surrendered his throne to Eumelos, in exchange for his life. Upon re-entering Panticapaeum, the capital city of the rulers of the Bosporus, he attempted to regain his kingdom, but was overpowered and fled to a place called "The Gardens"[28] which may mean Kepoi, which was a place gifted to Gylon of Cerameis, the grandfather of Demosthenes by Satyrus I for giving them Nymphaeum over a century earlier in the Bosporan wars of expansion,[29] Prytanis and Eumelos's great-grandfather. Here he was killed by Eumelos.[30]


Eumelos became ruler of the Bosporan Kingdom after solidifying his reign by killing the families and friends of his brothers, and re-took various colonies that had been lost in the years before his rule such as Tanais. He successfully cleared the Black Sea of pirates and gained much fame throughout the Bosporus.[31] He expanded his realm so much, that it could rival that of Lysimachus.


  1. ^ a b c Minns, Ellis Hovell (2011). Scythians and Greeks: A Survey of Ancient History and Archaeology on the North Coast of the Euxine from the Danube to the Caucasus . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 578. ISBN 9781108024877. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b Aruz, Joan (2006). The Golden Deer of Eurasia: Perspectives on the Steppe Nomads of the Ancient World . New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 163. ISBN 9781588392053. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b Moreno, Alfonso (2007). "II. The Royal Economy" . Feeding the Democracy: The Athenian Grain Supply in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191607783. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Kalashnik, Yuri (2007). Greeks on the Black Sea: Ancient Art from the Hermitage . Los Angeles: Getty Publications. p. 12. ISBN 9780892368839. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  5. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . after the death of Parysades...who had been king for thirty-eight years
  6. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Satyrus, since he was the eldest, had received the government from his father
  7. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Eumelus, however, had as ally Aripharnes, the king of the Siraces
  8. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . but Eumelus, after concluding a treaty of friendship with some of the barbarians who lived near by and collecting a strong army, set up a rival claim to the throne
  9. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . On learning this, Satyrus set out against him with a strong army
  10. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . he surrounded his camp with the waggons in which he carried his abundant supplies, and drew up his army for battle
  11. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . all the rest were Scythian allies, more than twenty thousand foot-soldiers
  12. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . and not less than ten thousand horse
  13. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . and an equal number of Thracians
  14. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . not more than two thousand Greek mercenaries
  15. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . twenty-two thousand foot
  16. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . with twenty thousand horse
  17. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Satyrus with picked cavalry about him charged against Aripharnes, who had stationed himself in the middle of the line
  18. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Satyrus with picked cavalry about him charged against Aripharnes, who had stationed himself in the middle of the line; and after many had fallen on both sides, he finally forced back and routed the king of the barbarians.
  19. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . and that his own mercenaries had been turned to flight
  20. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Going to the aid of those who had been worsted and for the second time becoming the author of victory, he routed the entire army of the enemy.
  21. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 .
  22. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Satyrus at first plundered the country of the enemy and fired the villages, from which he collected prisoners and much booty
  23. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . He stationed archers on both sides of the passage, by whose aid he easily inflicted mortal wounds on the men who were cutting down the woods, for because of the density of the trees they could neither see the missiles in time nor strike back at the archers.
  24. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . on the fourth day they drew near to the wall but they were overcome by the great number of missiles and by the confined space, and sustained great losses.
  25. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Seeing him in danger, Satyrus quickly came to his aid; but, while withstanding the onrush of the enemy, he was wounded with a spear through the upper arm. Grievously disabled because of the wound, he returned to the camp.
  26. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . Prytanis, after celebrating a magnificent funeral and placing the body in the royal tombs, came quickly to Gargaza and took over both the army and the royal power. When Eumelus sent envoys to discuss a partition of the kingdom, he did not heed him but he left a garrison in Gargaza and returned to Panticapaeum in order to secure the royal prerogatives for himself
  27. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . During this time Eumelus with the co-operation of the barbarians captured Gargaza and several of the other cities and villages.
  28. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . However, when Prytanis entered Panticapaeum, which had always been the capital of those who had ruled in Bosporus, he tried to recover his kingdom; but he was overpowered and fled to the so‑called Gardens
  29. ^ Aeschines. Against Ctesiphon 22.23 . here was a certain Gylon of Cerameis. This man betrayed Nymphaeum in the Pontus to the enemy, for the place at that time belonged to our city.1 He was impeached and became an exile from the city, not awaiting trial. He came to Bosporus and there received as a present from the tyrants of the land a place called “the Gardens.”
  30. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.23 . However, when Prytanis entered Panticapaeum, which had always been the capital of those who had ruled in Bosporus, he tried to recover his kingdom; but he was overpowered and fled to the so‑called Gardens, where he was slain
  31. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Book 22.25 . since the merchants carried abroad the news of his nobility, he p209received that highest reward of well-doing — praise

Categories: Wars of the Bosporan Kingdom | 300s BC conflicts | Civil wars of antiquity | Wars involving the Scythians | Wars of succession involving the states and peoples of Europe

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