An Ionian colony founded in the mid 6th c. on the S coast of the Black Sea (Pontos Euxeinos), at the terminus of the only easy route to this coast from Cappadocia. In the mid 5th c. it received cleruchs from Athens and adopted the name Peiraeus. Its democratic constitution, suppressed under Persian rule, was restored by Alexander the Great, and the name Amisos was resumed. After being incorporated in the Pontic kingdom, perhaps by Mithridates II, it was adorned and enlarged, especially by Mithridates VI Eupator, who built a walled satellite town called Eupatoria at a certain distance from the main city (to be distinguished from the inland Eupatoria refounded by Pompey as Magnopolis). Eupatoria was destroyed by Lucullus in 71 B.C. and Amisos was largely burnt and pillaged though subsequently restored by Lucullus, who freed the city and extended its territory. In the winter of 48-47 B.C. Amisos fell to Pharnakes II but only after long resistance, in recognition of which Caesar confirmed the city's freedom. A tyrant imposed by Antony ca. 36 B.C. was removed by Octavian in 31 B.C. and the grant of freedom was renewed.
The site of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine city (Eski Samsun) was on a massive headland NW of the modern city, bounded on two sides by the sea and cut off on the W by the ravine of the Kurtuun Irmagi. It was thus virtually a peninsula, with a fine view over the great bay between the deltas of the Kizil Irmak (Halys fl.) and Yesil Irmak (Iris fl.), and with an easily defended approach from the S. In the 19th c. the remains of walls and semicircular towers on the acropolis were reported and 2 km inland a temple with columns and relief sculpture, from which fragments were taken to adorn the residence of the governor of Samsun. Abundant surface traces of the city (architectural debris, pottery, etc.) were said to extend more than 1 km inland. Although no standing buildings survive, there are several underground cisterns, and the steep sides of the headland contain rock-cut tomb chambers. Today the ancient site is occupied by military installations, and access to the site is restricted. A large signed mosaic of Achilles and Thetis, recently discovered, is now on display in Samsun. There was no natural harbor; the city's commercial prosperity rested solely on good communications with the hinterland. The ancient anchorage lay N of the modern one, close under the headland, and was protected by two moles. (D. R. WILSON)
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)