Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.52

V. Cojocaru, Ethnic Contacts and Cultural Exchanges North and West of the Black Sea from the Greek Colonization to the Ottoman Conquest.   Iasi:  TRINITAS, 2005.  Pp. 550.  ISBN 973-7834-37-2.  

Reviewed by Maya Vassileva, Institute of Thracology, Sofia (
Word count: 2469 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The cultural contacts and interactions around the Black Sea in Antiquity have produced copious literature in the last twenty years, urged by the progress in the archaeological investigations.1 The cultural exchange between Greek colonists and indigenous peoples has occupied a vast space in these studies to give way only recently to more balanced views on ethnic and cultural labeling. The term "colonization" seems to be in a crisis, while "Barbarians" has fallen from favor and appear regularly only in quotation marks.2 Besides 'colonial' issues, the contacts and influences between local tribes and peoples in the North and Northwestern Black Sea coast offer enough topics for consideration in view of the archaeological and epigraphic material produced in the last decades.

The present volume contains the proceedings of an International Symposium held in Iasi, Romania in June 2005. The chronological range of the symposium was from the Greek Colonization to the present day and the book ends with the time of the Ottoman conquest. The rest of the papers are to appear in a second volume. The thirty-one papers included cover a huge range of topics such as history, archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, art history, as well as scientific research employed at some sites. Antiquity subjects prevail over medieval topics. They represent mainly the Eastern European scholarship.

V. Cojocaru (pp. 155-166) presents the major research problems of the area and provides a critical review of the history of studies. The above-mentioned recent developments in the treatment of Greek-'Barbarian' relations seem only partially to have penetrated into Eastern European scholarship. Despite the long-standing discussion on 'pots and people' many scholars are still preoccupied with the ethnic belonging of different archaeological cultures and ceramic assemblages. Most of the attempts are far from successful as a more flexible and modern terminology is not applied.3 Thus, on the grounds of pottery, I. Niculit,a and A.Zanoci (pp. 29-41) consider, in addition to the Thracian Getae, who lived in the Northern and Northwestern Pontic steppes in the mid-first millennium BC. According to the same criteria, examining the Celic-Dere necropolis, G. Simon tries to evaluate the cultural relations between the Getae and the Scythians in the Danube delta area from the late seventh through the fifth century BC, and decides in favor of a cohabitation that finally resulted in the dominance of the Getic traditions in the fourth-third centuries BC (pp.43-58). A. Munteanu (pp. 351-367) claims the existence of a syncretic culture (again rather in its archaeological meaning) in the Prut-Dnestur region at the end of the first millennium BC that owed much to the Thracian (Getic) traditions.

The old-fashioned treatment of archaeological cultures and historically attested ethnonyms is still to be seen in the persistent usage of 'Thraco-Getic' and 'Geto-Dacian' in a number of papers. Getae and Dacians were different Thracian tribes that made their political appearance at different periods and the hyphenated ethnonyms that have been coined are unhistorical.

It is to be regretted that very few papers deal with the history of the area. H. Heinen (pp. 109-125) considers the historical context and the implications of the Athenian decree honoring Spartokos III, king of Bosporus (285/4 BC). It was rather the remembrance of the Athenians that made the Spartokids one of the greatest suppliers of their city with grain in the changed political situation of the early Hellenistic world, than the real facts.

R. Haensch (pp. 255-268) considers the recently published and much discussed ever since honoring decree of T. Aurelius Calpurnianus Apollonides and his wife, found in Crimea.4 Many of the formulas and the terms mentioned in the Greek text are still debatable, which keeps the discussion open on the exact political role of the Taurian Chersonesus in the Markomanian and Sarmatian wars of Marcus Aurelius, as well as on the peculiarities of its social structure.

Mapping the open and the fortified settlements along the western Crimean coast, S. B. Lantsov (pp. 127-146) argues for a planned and purposely directed expansion (a colonization) of the Taurian Chersonesus in this area. The short-lived peaceful development there should be considered in the context of the anti-Macedonian policy of most of the Pontic cities and the Kingdom of the Getae under Dromichaites. Lantsov assumes that the Scythian raids that destroyed most of the farming settlements in Chersonesus should be dated in the mid-third century BC, rather than earlier.

The set of epigraphic and linguistic papers is the most numerous and, I would say, the most successful.5 The articles effectively re-establish the value of onomastic studies in the ancient history research of the region. A taste for sociolinguistics is also well displayed. The larger epigraphic record of Roman date justifies the greater number of articles focused on that period.

M. Alexianu (pp. 305-312) makes important observations on the bilingualism of a few second- and third-century AD private inscriptions from Tomi and Histria, suggesting the social reasons for this phenomenon. Sometimes the Greek would be used in order to prevent the violation of a Roman grave in a Greek-speaking milieu. An interesting example is that of a Thracian (possibly a trilingual person of a mixed origin) who dedicated a bilingual inscription to a Thracian deity.

R. Curca and N. Zugravu (pp. 313-329) discussing the Orientals in Roman Dobrudzha on the basis of epigraphic data provide detailed tables of statistics to conclude that most of the Orientals originated from Asia Minor: Pontus and Bithynia. They also offer an analysis of the social and professional status of the attested persons. The same approach is followed by L. Mihailescu-Bîrliba and V. Piftor (pp. 331-337) who devoted their paper to the families from Ancyra in Troesmis, Moesia Inferior, who formed the new elite of the city.

The two papers on fragmentarily documented ancient languages, the Scythian and the Celtic, are of a great value. S. R. Tokhtas'ev (pp. 59-108) critically evaluates the studies on the Scythian language and appeals for breaking up with the traditional view on the linguistic continuity between the Scythian, Sarmatian and Ossetic languages. It has been a beloved topic for many a linguists to find survivals of ancient languages in modern tongues. Tokhtas'ev's minute analysis shows that there is no ground for such an assumption. His consideration of the documented Scythian names (both epigraphically and by ancient authors) according to the standards of modern linguistics allows him to correct some readings and to discard a lot of etymologies.

A. Falileyev (pp. 291-303) considers the value of onomastic evidence for a Celtic presence in Dobrudzha. Like Tokhtas'ev, he is very critical of previous research and demonstrates that the linguistic analysis casts serious doubts on the Celtic origin of some place names (Arrubio, p. 295) and simply discards it for others (Gabranus, a river name, p. 302). Thus, the Celtic onomastic data in the northeastern parts of the Balkans become even scantier. In contrast with the above said about the ancient survivals, A. Poruciuc's paper (pp. 369-381) offers a fresh view on lexical elements in some modern languages in southeastern Europe that betray Old Germanic affinities. The linguistic analysis is skillfully situated in a historical context in an attempt to specify the possible sources of the Old Germanic influence, namely of an earlier Suebic-Bastarnic type, and a later one of Gothic-Gepidic type. As a whole, the linguistic articles attempt at breaking up with the very persistent nineteenth-century tradition in the field.

Several authors are concerned with issues of ancient mythology, religion and iconography: M.-L. Dumitru (pp. 211-220), V. Banaru (pp. 195-201) and C. von Behren (pp. 167-194). V. A. Papanova (pp. 221-235) offers an interesting analysis of the multipurpose use of amphorae in the necropolis of Olbia. The author connects some of the rites where amphorae were employed with the Orphic tradition, well attested in Olbia.

A number of papers in this volume represent publications of new finds (A. Minchev, pp. 11-27; L. Munteanu, pp. 237-254; D. Paraschiv and G. Nutu, pp. 339-349) or sites (T. Y. Yashayeva, pp. 481-493), or are focused on a certain type of objects from the area (B. S. Szmoniewski, pp. 425-442). Scientific contributions to the archaeological research are also presented (physical anthropology: T.A. Nazarova, pp. 147-153, and archeozoology: L. Bejenaru and S. Stanc, pp. 471-479).

In Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the north and northwestern Pontic zone saw a lot of population movements and cross-cultural interactions out of which eventually the medieval national states in Southeastern Europe developed. Thus, the period where the origin of these states has to be looked for has always stirred the scholarly interest. In the last fifty years or so the research was significantly influenced by the political regimes and produced a lot of 'politically correct' ethnic terminology. Some scholars and research institutions still cannot dispose of some nationalistic ideas in the archaeological exploration. For example, Pan-Slavonic tendencies still have roots in Moldavian research institutions, while some Romanian historians cherish the term 'Old Romanian Civilization' for the entire Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic area (!).6

D. G. Teodor (pp. 417-423) seeks the origins of the Romanian culture in the sixth-seventh centuries AD Ipotesti-Cândes,ti archaeological complex. S. Musteat,a (pp. 443-461) admits the heterogeneous nature of the eighth-ninth centuries AD population between the rivers of Nistru and Prut, being inclined to finally serve 'the Romanian' cause.

Otherwise, the same 'archaeological culture' vocabulary is to a great extent valid for the medieval set of papers as well. V. Y. Yurochkin (pp. 383-415) argues for a peculiar culture of the Crimean Goths that had harbored some of the Graeco-Roman traditions of the Late Antiquity and at the same time developed in the interface of the Scythian/Sarmatian and the North Caucasian worlds. B. S. Szmoniewski (pp. 425-442) examines the early medieval metal appliqués in the shape of a predator, denying the possibility of their ethnic attribution. The inspirations for their manufacture can be sought in the Byzantine Empire, in Sassanid Persia and to the north of Caucasus.

Overall, this is a useful volume which presents to the western audience the current state of the Eastern European research on the north and northwestern Black Sea coast. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new states and the respective research institutions it is even more difficult to follow the archaeological news, the multiplied number of journals, series, etc. The scholarly exchange even between the countries in the region is not easier.

Although it is a good idea to examine contacts and cultural traditions throughout a larger period of time in the same area, I am not sure that the assortment of papers on ancient and medieval history and archaeology in one volume is very practical: it will not occur to medieval specialists to look for the topics in which they are interestedin book that is predominantly on 'Antiquity', while scholars dealing with ancient subjects may not be tempted by the last part of the collection.

The volume is beautifully published thanks to the financial support of several foundations and institutions. The editors are to be commended for its prompt publication. The papers are in English, French, German and Russian, the latter being supplied with good abstracts in one of the Western European languages. The quality of the foreign language editing is uneven but fairly good in most of the papers (almost no typographical errors). The volume is provided with well-reproduced black and white pictures, drawings and tables.


Victor Cojocaru, 'Preface' pp. 7-8.

Victor Spinei, 'Allocution' pp. 9-10.

Alexander Minchev, 'Thracians and Scythians in Northeastern Bulgaria: Some Bilateral Contacts in Metalworks' pp. 11-27.

Ion Niculita, Aurel Zanoci, 'Kulturell-chronologische Interferenzen Mitte des I. Jahrtausends v. Chr. im nordwestlichen Schwarzmeerraum' pp. 29-41.

Gavrila Simion, 'Presences interethniques dans la region des embouchures du Danube aux VI-V siècles av. J.-C.' pp. 43-58.

S. R. Tokhtas'ev, 'Das Problem der skythischen Sprache in der heutigen Forschung' (in Russian) pp. 59-108.

Heinz Heinen, 'Athenische Ehren für Spartokos III. (IG II2 653)' pp. 109-125.

S. Â. Lantsov, 'On the Scythian-Chersonesus Relations between the Last Third of the Fourth and the First Third of the Third Centuries B.C.' (in Russian) pp. 127-146.

Ò. A. Nazarova, 'The Greek Component of the Population of Scythian Neapolis' (in Russian) pp. 147-153.

Victor Cojocarii, 'Die Beziehungen zwischen Griechen und "Barbaren" im Norden und Nordwesten des Pontos Euxeinos zwischen dem 7. und dem 1. Jh. v. Chr. Zur Geschichte ihrer Erforschung' pp. 155-166.

Claudia von Behren, 'Sklaven und Freigelassene auf bosporanischen Grabreliefs' pp. 167-194.

Valeriu Banaru, 'Zur Sinnbedeutung der Bildszene auf der Vorderseite der rotfigurigen Pelike von Manta, Republik Moldova' pp. 195-210.

Maria-Luiza Dumitru, 'Thanatos, représentation masculine de la mort en Grece archaïque' (in Russian) pp. 211-220.

V. À. Papanova, 'Amphorae in the Funeral Rite of the Olbia Pontica Necropolis' (in Russian) pp. 221-235.

Lucian Munteanu, 'Quelques considérations concernant les découvertes des monnaies d'or de type Lysimaque dans la Dacie intra-carpatique' pp. 237-254.

Rudolf Haensch, 'Rom und Chersonesus Taurica. Die Beziehungen beider Staaten im Lichte der Ehrung des T. Aurelius Calpurnianus Apollonides' pp. 255-268.

Ligia Ruscu, Carmen Ciongradi, 'Die Beziehungen zwischen den Städten in Moesia Inferior und der Provinz Dakien' pp. 269-290.

Alexander Falileyev, 'Celtic Presence in Dobrudja: Onomastic Evidence' pp. 291-303.

Marius Alexianu, 'Les inscriptions bilingues privées de Torni et de Histria' pp. 305-312.

Roxana Curca, Nelu Zugravu, '"Orientaux" dans la Dobroudja romaine. Une approche onomastique' pp. 313-329.

Lucretiu Mihailescu-Bîrliba, Valentin Ðiftîã, 'Les familles d'Ancyre à Troesmis' pp. 331-337.

Dorel Paraschiv, George Nutu, 'The Discovery of a Clay Thuribulum in the North of Dobrudja' pp. 339-349.

Octavian Munteanu, 'Les transformations ethniques et culturelles dans l'espace pontique de nord-ouest, à la fin du Ier millénaire av. J.-C. (concernant surtout l'espace pruto-dniestrien)' pp. 351-367.

Adrian Poruciuc, 'Lexical Elements that Reflect Close Contacts between Old Germaniae and Autochthonous Populations in Southeast Europe' pp. 369-381.

V. Y. Yurochkin, 'Crimea in the Epoch of the Great Migrations: Problems of Ethnos and Culture' (in Russian) pp. 383-415.

Dan G. Teodor, 'Réalités ethno-culturelles du nord du Bas Danube aux VI-VII siècles ap. J.-C.' pp. 417-423.

Bartlomiej Szymon Szmoniewski, 'Cultural Contacts in Central and Eastern Europe: What do Metal Beast Images Speak About?' pp. 425-442.

Sergiu Musteatâ, 'Some Views on the Population of the Territory between the Rivers Nistru and Prut during the Eighth and Ninth Centuries' pp. 443-461.

Valeri Yotov, 'Découvertes des "sabres hongrois" en Bulgarie' pp. 463-470.

Luminit,a Bejenaro, Simina Stanc, 'Archaeozoological Characteristics of the Byzantine Period with Reference to the Area between the Danube and the Black Sea' pp. 471-479.

Ò. Y. Yashayeva, 'The Khazarian-Bulgar Church in the Suburbs of Byzantine Chersonese' (in Russian) pp. 481-493.

N. V. Ginkut, 'Byzantine and Oriental Traditions in the Culture of the Genoese Fortress of Chembalo (Crimean Peninsula) according to Glazed-Ware Finds' (in Russian) pp. 495-512.

V. L. Myts, 'A private Italian Signoria of the fifteenth Century on the Northern Black Sea Littoral (on the Basis of Finds from the Castle Tasili 1459/60-1475)' (in Russian) pp. 513-542.


1.   V. Cojocaru's article in this volume provides a two-page long footnote with the recent bibliography: p. 156, note 5; three Pontic Congresses have been held since 1997 whose proceedings unfortunately have not yet appeared in addition to many local conferences and symposia.
2.  Most recently G. R. Tsetskhladze, 'Introduction: Revisiting Ancient Greek Colonization' in G. R. Tsetskhladze (ed.) Greek Colonisation: An Account of Greek Colonies and other Settlements Overseas. Leiden, 2006, XXIII-LXXXIII.
3.   In a number of papers mainly Eastern European authors are quoted in the footnotes, and not of a very recent date of publication at that.
4.   SEG 45, 985. The reader can follow the debate between Y. G. Vinogradov and V. P. Yailenko on the restoration of the many missing parts of the inscription and their meanings on the pages of Journal of Ancient History (Moscow, in Russian): 1995, 4, 58-86; 1996, 1, 48-60; 2001,1, 118-135.
5.   However, no straight line between epigraphic and historical papers can be drawn, as epigraphic issues usually serve historical interpretation and context.
6.   Cf. the detailed history of research concerning the eight-ninth centuries AD by S. Musteat,aa in this volume, pp. 443-448.

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