Leukon I

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Leukon I
Archon of the Bosporus, Theodosia, all Sindike
Statue of Bosporan Ruler, 4th century BC.png
Statue of a Bosporan ruler in 4th century BC, possibly Leukon.
Reign 389-349 BC
Predecessor Satyros I
Successor Spartokos II and Paerisades I
Born circa. 410 BC
Died 349 BC(aged 60+)
Bosporan Kingdom
Consort Theodosia
Greek Λευκών
House Spartocid
Father Satyros I
Mother Unknown
Religion Greek Polytheism

Leukon I of Bosporus (Greek: Λευκών του Βοσπόρου, Leucon of Bosporus) (lived c. 410-349 BC) also known as Leucon, and Leuco, was a Spartocid ruler of the Hellenistic Bosporan Kingdom who ruled from 389 to 349 BC. He is arguably the greatest ruler of the Bosporan Kingdom.

He was the son of Satyros I (432 - 389 BC), and was the grandson of Spartokos I, the first Spartocid ruler of the Bosporan. Leukon co-jointly ruled his kingdom with his brother Gorgippos, who situated himself on the Asiatic side and ruled from Gorgippia, which he may have named after himself.[1] Leukon was succeeded by his sons Spartokos II (349 - 342 BC) and Paerisades I (349-309).[2]

He was noted in antiquity as a strategist and a disciplinarian. In the writings of Aeneas Tacticus, How to Survive under Siege (Greek: Περὶ τοῦ πῶς χρὴ πολιορκουμένους ἀντέχειν), he dismissed his guards who owed gambling debts, because their loyalty could be doubted during a city siege.[3]

He continued the war of his father against Theodosia and Chersonesus with the goal of annexing all the Greek colonies in the Bosporus.[4][5] He also made Sindike his vassal upon defeating Oktamasades, and in an inscription (see Epigraphy) from Nymphaion he is described as "archon of the Bosporus, Theodosia, all Sindike".[6]

Leukon had a pivotal role in the Bosporan wars of expansion, a series of conflicts and sieges started by his grandfather, Spartokos and then continued by his father, Satyros. Throughout Leukon's reign, he conquered many cities and tribes, making his reign one which expanded the Bosporan Kingdom, and created a foreign and trade policy outside the Black Sea, significantly with Athens, a commercial friend of the Spartocids.

Early Life and Reign

Leukon was born to Satyros I, a ruler of the Bosporan Kingdom who had become king after the death of his father, Spartokos I, a man of Thracian descent with possible ties to the Odrysian royal dynasty,[7] who usurped the former Greek Archaeanactid dynasty. Leukon may have been taught by Isocrates.To his Greek subjects, Leukon was merely an "Archon", but to the tribes in his dominions, he was "king". Nonetheless, the Athenians viewed him as a tyrant but nonetheless a friend of Athens. He was present during his father's unsuccessful war against the barbarian queen Tirgatao of the Ixomatae, where his brother Metrodoros died as a hostage. He became king with his brother Gorgippos after their father died during the unsuccessful first siege of Theodosia. Upon becoming king, he attacked the city of Theodosia at first without success, but continued to attack it until the city was defeated, both times being aided by Heraclea Pontica, probably to finish what his father began prior to his own death.

At some point during his reign, he married a woman named Theodosia, who may have been the daughter of a powerful Bosporan diplomat named Sopaios.[8] She bore him 3 sons named Spartokos II, Apollonios, and Paerisades I.

Leukon also initiated a semi-fraudulent coinage reform in which he recalled all coins from the region to be minted into new coins with double the face value.[9]

Leukon also faced early problems with his subjects; he had to enlist the aid of merchants to successfully put down a rebellion fomented by some members of his court and even trusted friends.[10]

Military Campaigns

Leukon had inherited several wars from his father, including one against the Ixomatae, led by queen Tirgatao, ending with the unsuccessful siege to Theodosia that claimed his father's life. Leukon was a leading figure of the wars of expansion, winning many battles and successfully laying siege to Theodosia. He and his brother Gorgippos made peace with the Ixomatae and focused their attentions to the west.[11]

Siege of Theodosia (c.365 BC)

The cities of Theodosia and Chersonesus.

After his father's death and his ascendance to the throne, Leukon laid siege the city of Theodosia twice. The first siege ended in a Bosporan defeat due to Tynnichus, a general sent by Heraclea Pontica, to relieve the city, which he accomplished, despite inferior numbers, due to trickery.[12]

Siege of Theodosia (c.360 BC)

Leukon besieged Theodosia again 5 years later in a surprise attack, before the city could receive relief aid from the Heracleotes. It is possible that the Heracleotes withdrew before Leukon attacked due to a change of government from oligarchy to tyranny under Clearchus.

He was then attacked by the Heracleotes in his own territory. Leukon, noticing that his own troops could be routed easily,[13] positioned his Scythian soldiers in the rear and gave clear instructions that his men were to be struck down if they fled.[14] This precaution helped his army defeat the Heracleotes.[15] Shortly after his victory, Leukon made a peace treaty with the Heracleotes, ending the war.

Annexation of the Sindike Kingdom

Leukon then turned his eye to the Sindike Kingdom, where there had been a dynastic dispute between Hekataios, the king of Sindoi, and his son, Oktamasades who had taken power from his father. Before the Battle of Labrytai, Leukon said he “made a vow to erect a victory monument, but not to the local Apollo of Labrys, but to the supreme deity and patron of all the Bosporans, Apollo the Healer”.[16] After defeating Oktamasades, it is possible Leukon persuaded Hekataios to give the kingship over to him, as Leukon was proclaimed "king of all the Sindike" shortly thereafter.

Later Reign

Conflict with Memnon of Rhodes

During the probable last years of Leukon's reign, it is possible that Heraclea Pontica had hired Memnon of Rhodes, the famous guerrilla fighter who had fought Alexander. Heraclea Pontica sent envoys to Leukon to learn the size of his army.[17] Upon hearing that there were not many soldiers, Memnon went to battle Leukon, and used trickery to gain an easy victory against the Bosporan army. Memnon had his army march over to a hill, leaving only half of his men visible, as if to show that there was desertion amongst his troops.[18] He then dispatched a "deserter"[19] to inform the Bosporan army that there had been a mutiny in the Heracleote army.[20] The Bosporan forces marched out to Memnon's forces, believing that they had been split in half, but were defeated as in reality the army was completely intact.[21]

Relations with Athens

Leukon was well regarded by the Athenians, as the Bosporan Kingdom exported a large portion of their grain primarily to Athens. On one occasion, when Athens could not make do on their payment because of restrictions Sparta had placed on them during the Peloponnesian War, he gave them 400,000 medinmoi of grain which is around 16,380 t,[22] free of charge in 356 BC. For this, Leukon was praised in Athens and was both given citizenship and statues of him and his sons erected in Athens. His descendants such as Spartokos III, who gave Athens 15,000 medimnoi of grain (ca 590 t) as a gift.[23] They would continue to follow this diplomatic friendship with the Athenians. Leukon also gave Athenian ships privileges at his ports and did not have them taxed when they docked.

Death and Legacy

Leukon died in 349 BC, after a reign of around 40 years, he was at least 60 years old during the time of his death, placing his birth prior to or around 410 BC. His body is thought to have been placed in the Royal Kurgan,[24] a burial mound where the previous Bosporan rulers had been placed in, in the outskirts of Panticapaeum. Leukon's actions mirrored those of his grandfather, Spartokos I, who usurped the former Greek dynasty of the Bosporan state, as well as those of his father Satyros, whom he often credited with transforming Panticapaeum from a mere hegemony into an expansive kingdom on the Black Sea which would go on to be the longest-lasting Roman client-state for another 800 years. Leukon's descendants would rule the Bosporus for another two centuries—the last of whom, Paerisades V, would die during a Scythian uprising.

See also


  1. ^ Brill Reference. and was officially named after the Spartocid Gorgippus after its integration into the Bosporus Kingdom.
  2. ^ Burstein, Stanley M. (1974). "The War between Heraclea Pontica and Leucon I of Bosporus". Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschicte. 4th Quarter: 401.
  3. ^ Aeneas Tacticus. Περὶ τοῦ πῶς χρὴ πολιορκουμένους ἀντέχειν. pp. V.2.
  4. ^ Burstein, Stanley M. (1974). "The War between Heraclea Pontica and Leucon I of Bosporus". Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschicte. 4th Quarter: 401–402.
  5. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica (2011). Kingdom of the Bosporus.
  6. ^ Tokhtas'ev, Sergei R. (2006). "The Bosporus and Sindike in the Era of Leukon I. New Epigraphic Publications". Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. 1-2. 12: 1. doi:10.1163/157005706777968915. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  7. ^ D. E. W. WORMELL. STUDIES IN GREEK TYRANNY—II. Leucon of Bosporus. JSTOR 23037564. It seems likely to connect that Spartokos was connected by birth to the Odrysian dynasty.
  8. ^ D. E. W. WORMELL. STUDIES IN GREEK TYRANNY—II. Leucon of Bosporus. JSTOR 23037564. and Satyrus's son, perhaps Leucon, married his daughter
  9. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1.
  10. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1.
  11. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 55.1. He renounced his father's proceedings, and sued for peace, which she granted on payment of a tribute, and put and end to the war.
  12. ^ D. E. W. WORMELL. STUDIES IN GREEK TYRANNY—II. Leucon of Bosporus. JSTOR 23037564. Tynnichus, who raised the siege of the city, through his armament compromised only of 1 Trireme and 1 transport ship
  13. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1. Leucon observed that his troops did not show courage against the enemy; they were reluctant to fight, and easily routed
  14. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1. but altered the arrangement of it; he posted his hoplites in the first line, and in their rear the Scythians, who had express orders, that if the hoplites gave way, they should strike them down with their javelins.
  15. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1. the severity of these orders made his army more resolute, and put an end to the ravages of the enemy.
  16. ^ Tokhtasev, S.R. Bosporus and the Sindike In the era of Leukon I.
  17. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1. When the inhabitants of course crowded to the theatres to hear him, the ambassador was able, from the number of men he saw there, to form some estimate of the population of the respective places.
  18. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1. retreated to a greater distance from them; and drew up only a part of his army, to make the enemy believe that some disaster had occurred in his camp.
  19. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1. And to support such a suspicion, he at the same time dispatched a deserter over to them
  20. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1.
  21. ^ Polyaenus. Strategems 6.9.1. hey therefore decided to leave their position, and offered him battle
  22. ^ Dynasty of the Spartocids. 400,000 medimnoi (= 16,380 t) of grain in 356 B.C.
  23. ^ Dynasty of the Spartocids. the Bosporan king Spartocus III had presented 15,000 medimnoi (ca 590 t) of grain to the Athenians.
  24. ^ Excerpt from Aarchaeological Walks in Ancient Kerch (Russian)


  • Aeneas Tacticus, Περὶ τοῦ πῶς χρὴ πολιορκουμένους ἀντέχειν (online edition here).
  • Stanley M. Burstein (1974), "The War between Heraclea Pontica and Leucon I of Bosporus" Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschicte. 4th Quarter. pp 401–416.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica Academic Edition (2011) (online page here).
  • Sergei R. Tokhtas'ev (2006), "The Bosporus and Sindike in the Era of Leukon I. New Epigraphic Publications" Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. Volume 12 series 1-2, pp. 1–62
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