Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.04.79

Dimitrios V. Grammenos, Elias K. Petropoulos (ed.), Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 (2 vols.). BAR International Series; 1675 (1-2).   Oxford:  Archaeopress, 2001.  Pp. viii, 1262.  ISBN 9781407301105.  140.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Valeriya Kozlovskaya, NYU (
Word count: 3724 words

This two-volume publication is the second--and final--part of Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea, edited by D.V. Grammenos and E.K. Petropoulos.1 Both parts are collections of articles mostly presenting archaeological sites from classical antiquity located on the shores of the Black Sea. This work is unique in terms of its scale: there are twenty six articles in part one, published in 2003, and thirty four in part two. Many of the articles that discuss individual sites are written by the archaeologists who are in charge of the excavations at these sites. However, while the chronological and geographical scope of both parts is the same, the part under review embraces a wider range of topics (authors and titles of the chapters are listed at the end of the review). This second installment truly completes the project in that it provides coverage of the sites that were missing in part one and introduces some themes that were absent from the discussion. Many of the articles are quite long, and all of them are accompanied by extensive bibliographies. Moreover, almost every chapter contains either a short note about the author(s) or an entire CV, including authors' e-mail addresses, which some of the readers might find useful.

The structure of both parts of the publication is the same: the presentation of the sites in Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 also starts with the territory of modern Bulgaria and then continues in a clockwise direction around the Black Sea. The first two articles feature the sites of ancient Dionysopolis (by M. Damyanov, pp. 1-36) and Bizone (by A.E. Salkin, pp. 37-50), both located in the modern region of Dobrudzha. Each article provides a general introduction to the region and describes various aspects of its development, and then features the respective sites. The chapter on Dionysopolis, in particular, is very detailed: after an overview of the local geography and a discussion of the relevant written sources, it focuses on archaeological evidence (including epigraphical and numismatic finds) from the site and on some controversial issues associated with it. It also offers a summary of the previous scholarship on ancient Dionysopolis. The publication of this article is well timed in view of a recent discovery at the site: in 2007, construction work in modern Balchik revealed remains of a Greek temple, which was interpreted as a temple of Cybele, or Pontic Mother. The site is currently being excavated by a team from the Varna Archaeological Museum, and some preliminary reports have been published.2

The cult of Cybele, in general, is a prominent topic in this section of Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2. First, H. Todorova (pp. 175-238) presents a detailed account of the archaeological work at the Durankulak Lake--the territory that in antiquity was particularly associated with the goddess Cybele. In addition, a part of the chapter by Z. Gotcheva on the mythology and religion of the West-Pontic Greek colonies (pp. 51-84, in French) is devoted to the Great Mother Goddess in her various manifestations--Cybele, Demeter, etc. (pp. 72-6). The author also discusses other major deities (Apollo, Dionysus, the Great God) and cults (including Roman imperial cults), as well as two mythological stories relevant to the history of the region: the first story is that of Phineus, the blind prophet rescued by the Argonauts from the Harpies; the second concerns the city of Dionysopolis and the origins of its name. The latter part of the article, inevitably, also deals with the controversial question of the foundation of Dionysopolis, already addressed in the chapter by Damyanov.

The remaining two articles in this section are thematic, and each of them focuses on a number of sites rather than on an individual site. The chapter by I. Karayotov discusses monetary systems of Mesambria, Apollonia Pontica, Odessos, and Dionysopolis (pp. 127-238). The numismatic evidence presented by the author is organized by the type of coin, the date, and the place where it was issued. K. Panayotova offers an overview of funerary rites and types of burials attested in the necropoleis of the Greek settlements in the Western Black Sea region (pp. 85-126). The article is very informative, but a slight inconvenience is caused by the fact that the necropoleis discussed in the text are sometimes associated with settlement sites not featured in the publication: reports on some of them can be found in part one (Apollonia Pontica, Mesambria, and Odessos), but others are absent altogether.

The next section of the book also contains a piece on necropoleis: it takes us farther north along the western Black Sea coast to sites located in the territory of modern Romania. In the first part of her article, V. Lungu discusses the necropoleis of Histria, Orgame, Tomis, and Callatis (pp. 337-82, in French). She briefly introduces each site and presents archaeological evidence from the necropoleis, followed by conclusions on the demography and social composition of the populations of the respective settlements. In the second part of the chapter, the author summarizes her conclusions and defines the types of burial practices characteristic of the region as a whole. Detailed accounts on two of these settlement sites--Callatis (by A. Avram, pp. 239-86) and Tomis (by L. Buzoianu and M. Barbulescu, pp. 287-336)--can be found in the same volume, whereas Histria and Orgame featured in the 2003 publication. In general, the reports on individual sites throughout Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 often follow similar patterns, with some variations. Thus, the chapter on Callatis starts with a presentation of the site (including the history of the scholarship), and then proceeds to a discussion of the foundation of the colony, its coinage, institutions, cults, epigraphical documents, and rural territory. The same topics are covered in the article on Tomis, although here the authors chose a chronological approach, discussing the development of the city stage by stage.

The prosopographical study by V. Cojocaru (pp. 383-434, in French) serves as a transitional piece between this section and the rest of the volume, since the author employs evidence not only from West Pontic colonies, but also from sites in the Northwestern and Northern Black Sea regions. He discusses the question of ethnicity, based on his analysis of Greek and non-Greek names, as well as toponyms and ethnonyms, attested in epigraphical and literary sources. It is particularly interesting to consider his conclusions in connection with the material from various necropoleis published in the same volume.

The last section of volume one is devoted to the northwestern Black Sea coast: it contains seven articles on various sites located in the territory of modern Ukraine, some of which are virtually unknown to a western readership. The latter include, first of all, the sites in the Odessa region, discussed by Y.F. Redina (pp. 507-36), and those in the Lower Dnieper area, presented by N.A. Gavrilyuk and V.V. Krapivina (pp. 563-90). Many of these sites were only sporadically excavated and the results of the excavations have not always been published, not even in Ukrainian or Russian. Now the situation is changing for the better, partly because of the renewed interest in these sites (as in the case of the Odessa region, where archaeological work has been resumed at some places), and partly because of a noticeable shift in the general direction of local archaeological research, since more and more scholars seem to embrace a synoptic approach to the study of the region. This implies, inevitably, incorporation of non-Greek sites and closer collaboration between scholars of Classical antiquity and Scythologists, a fine example of which is the article by Krapivina and Gavrilyuk. The interest in interrelations between Greek and non-Greek populations in the area is further evident in another chapter by Gavrilyuk in the same section of the volume, where the author considers Greek imports in Scythia (pp. 627-76). So, despite its title, Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 also includes discussions of non-Greek populations and sites, and is thus a step forward in comparison to the first part of the publication, since it provides a more complete picture of the various Pontic regions.

The remaining four articles in this section focus on the four main sites on the northwestern Black Sea coast: Tyras (by T.L. Samoylova, pp. 435-70), Nikonion (by N.M. Sekerskaya, pp. 471-506), Olbia (by V.V. Krapivina, pp. 591-626), and the Island of Leuke (by S.B. Okhotnikov and A.S. Ostroverkhov, pp. 537-62). The chapters on Tyras and Nikonion follow, to a great extent, the standard pattern known from the other articles on individual sites in this volume. The authors start with the relevant ancient sources and the history of the scholarship, and then proceed to questions associated with the foundation of the city, followed by a presentation of the archaeological finds by category, and a discussion of the development of the city, stage by stage. The structure of the chapter on the Island of Leuke, however, is somewhat different, and this has to do with the nature of the site: there was no ancient settlement on Leuke, but it was home to a sanctuary of Achilles. Therefore, a large portion of the article is devoted to a discussion of the cult of Achilles and the relevant material evidence from the site. The part of the article that deals with the geology of the island is also very useful, especially in view of a recent dispute between Romania and Ukraine about the extent of their respective territorial waters, taken to the International Court of Justice in the Hague: Romania based its demands on the claim that the Island of Leuke is, in fact, not an island at all.

The chapter on Olbia in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, although very detailed and informative, would have been be more in place in the first part of the publication, which also contains other accounts on Olbia and its chora.3 The same can be said about the first two pieces of the second volume of Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2: the first article is about the chora of Chersonesus in the Western Crimea and the settlement of Kalos Limen in the Northwestern Crimea (by S.B. Lantsov and V.B. Uzhentzev, pp. 677-728), while the second discusses Roman Chersonesus (by V.M. Zubar, pp. 729-88). They both rather belong to the 2003 publication, which featured the site of Chersonesus.

The rest of the first section of volume two clearly includes articles on sites and topics that were--for whatever reason--left out of the corresponding section in the 2003 publication. Geographically, it covers the Northern Black Sea region (modern Ukraine and Russia); thematically, it includes lesser-known sites, as is evident from the title of one of the chapters--Small and poorly studied towns of the ancient Kimmerian Bosporos (by A.A. Maslennikov, pp. 855-96 )--an overview of several individual sites, some of which (such as Akra, for example) are also the subject of separate articles in either the first or the second part of the publication. In particular, this section features the settlements of Tyritake (by V.N. Zinko, pp. 827-54), Iluraton (by V.A. Gorontcharovskiy, pp. 897-926), Akra (by A.V. Kulikov, pp. 1023-56), Kimmerikon (by V.K. Golenko, pp. 1057-82), and Torikos (by A.A. Malyshev, pp. 927-50), all of which lay in the territory of the ancient Bosporan Kingdom. In addition, this section contains articles on non-Greek settlement and burial sites, such as Scythian Neapolis (by Yu.P. Zaytsev, pp. 789-826) and the necropolis of Kul Oba (by N.F. Fedoseev, pp. 979-1022). The latter, in particular, focuses on the history of the discovery and the subsequent study of the famous barrow of Kul Oba and other tumuli in the area, and it also includes a detailed catalogue and illustrations of the most important finds from Kul Oba. Clearly, these are articles that expand the scope of the volume beyond the Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast. The chapter by A.A. Malyshev (pp. 951-78) also belongs to this category: it discusses, in a more general way, Greek presence in the North Caucasus and the interactions between the Greeks and non-Greeks in this region, from the Archaic period to Roman times.

This theme is also prominent in the next section of the volume, which contains two articles on sites located in the territory of modern Georgia. V. Licheli (pp. 1083-142) offers an extensive overview of Hellenistic and early Roman Colchis and Iberia, with a discussion of the major sites, archaeological finds, and relevant scholarship. He also includes a catalogue of all sites in the region that yielded any Greek (or Greek-looking) material (pp. 1118-28). A large portion of the chapter is devoted to the phenomenon of multilingualism in Colchis and Iberia during the Hellenistic period and, in particular, to the origins of Georgian writing (pp. 1104-17), which makes the article interesting not only to scholars of Classical antiquity, but also to linguists (although the author particularly emphasizes that his work "does not claim the linguistic analysis") (p. 1104).

A. Kakhidze presents (pp. 1143-78) the archaeological complex at Pichvnari that includes several individual sites dating to various periods and attributed to various cultures. The subject of the article is the Greek necropolis of the Classical period, which is, according to the author, the only Greek burial site in the Caucasus. The settlement associated with this necropolis remains unknown, but a contemporaneous Colchian settlement with a necropolis was also discovered at Pichvnari. The author provides a detailed description of the archaeological finds from the Greek burials and draws some general conclusions on the means, goals, and stages of Greek colonization, both in this region and outside of it. However, not everyone will agree with these conclusions and the way in which the author presents them. For example, the part where the author claims that "contrary to the so-called emporial stage, trade was the result of the colonization, rather than determining its content" (p. 1159) would be more convincing if it contained some further explanation or at least references to other bibliographical sources. The latter also applies to the entire discussion of Athenian colonial practices (p. 1160), which culminates in the conclusion that the Greek settlement at Pichvnari must have been an Athenian colony.

The final section of Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 consists of three relatively short articles. The first is a survey of ancient Greek settlements in Eastern Thrace (by S. Atasoy, pp. 1179-94) and has the format of a reference work. The author briefly describes the region and then introduces the settlements, site by site, starting with the Black Sea coast, followed by the Marmara Sea and the Aegean Sea coasts, and finishing with the inland settlements located along ancient routes and roads in Eastern Thrace (modern Turkey). Each entry is accompanied by a short bibliography, and there is a slightly longer general list of bibliographical references at the end of the article. The second chapter covers three sites also located in the territory of modern Turkey, but on the southern coast of the Black Sea--Cotyora, Cerasus, and Trapezus (D.B. Erciyas, pp. 1195-1206). All three were colonies of Sinope and, as is evident from the article, all three are better known from the small number of pertinent literary sources than from archaeological remains (which are also not abundant). This situation is caused by a combination of factors, such as the location and accessibility of the sites (both Cotyora and Cerasus have been identified with more than one site, and some of these sites are presently located in a military zone) or the long history of habitation (as in Trapezus, where ancient layers are covered by multiple later settlements). The article by S. Dönmez (pp. 1207-20) focuses on the same part of the coastal zone and the corresponding inland area, but discusses non-Greek population groups and their interactions with each other and the Greeks.

The final piece of this volume--and, in fact, of the publication--is J. Bouzek's survey of Greek fine pottery in the Black Sea region (pp. 1221-62). The author briefly goes over the sites and areas on the Black Sea coasts where Greek pottery was found, providing bibliographies for ceramic finds from each site, and then describes in detail the main types and classes of pottery attested at these sites, period by period. This chapter serves as an excellent conclusion to the publication, not in the least because the author's short introduction to the survey is so introspective: he has devoted a large part of his life to the study of the subject and is in a position to share his observations about the long-term development of the field.

As mentioned earlier in this review, Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 provides an extensive bibliography on the subject, and this makes it an invaluable reference work. Unfortunately, these bibliographical references are not organized in the most effective way. Each article is accompanied not only by a list of references, but also by a list of abbreviations (and sometimes the latter and the former are compiled together). Some articles have bibliographical references incorporated into the footnotes; others have more than one bibliography--a short list after each part of the text (with references to the same publications appearing in more than one of these lists) and a longer one at the end of the chapter. Different authors seem to have followed different standards while compiling their bibliographies: some of the titles in Cyrillic are given in the original script, transliteration, and translation; others, in the original script and transliteration; still others, only in translation or only in transliteration. Admittedly, the bibliographies are mostly accurate, even if somewhat unconventionally organized and not uniform. The lists of abbreviations, on the other hand, seem to live a life of their own. Each individual list contains both standard abbreviations that are universally accepted (for periodicals, corpora, works of ancient authors, etc.) and abbreviations for major (and sometimes minor) local publications, which are usually not known outside a particular region or country. The former repeat, list after list, without any alteration and could have been omitted altogether; the latter, however, vary, since individual authors have often used different abbreviations for the same publications, and this can be rather confusing. To give just a few examples: A stands both for the Ukrainian periodical Arkheologia (p. 1042) and for the Bulgarian periodical under the same title (pp. 26, 111), while the latter also is to be found in its unabbreviated form in some other lists of abbreviations (p. 82). AGSP is used interchangeably for two different books--Antichnye gosudarstva Severnogo Prichernomor'ia (pp. 555, 705) and --Antichnye goroda Severnogo Prichernomor'ia (p. 111);4 moreover, nothing indicates that these titles stand for books and not periodicals, and in one list of abbreviations the first title even appears paired up with the publication year of the second title (p. 763), which makes it virtually impossible to trace the item for a reader who has never heard of either volume. Such inconsistencies are too numerous to be mentioned here in full, and they make the task of finding the listed titles more difficult than it should be.

Despite these shortcomings, Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 is a valuable source of information on many sites that are either not well known or not well published (or both). Presently, there is no other publication in English (and probably not in any other language) that covers almost every single site around the Black Sea to such an extent. Together with part one that was published in 2003, it is more than enough to start one's research on this region. So, do not wait any longer--after all, you have 1262 pages and 34 articles to tackle!

V.1. Dionysopolis, its territory and neighbours in the pre-Roman times / Margarit Damyanov -- Bizone / Asen Emilov Salkin -- La Thrace Pontique et la mythologie grecque / Zlatozara Gotcheva -- Burial and post-burial rites in the necropoleis of the Greek colonies on the Bulgarian Black Sea Littoral / Krystina Panayotova -- Le monnayage de Messambria et les Monnayages d'Apollonia, Odessos et Dionysopolis / Ivan Karayotov -Durankulak - a Territorium Sacrum of the Goddess Cybele / Henrieta Todorova -- Kallatis / Alexandru Avram -- Tomis / Livia Buzoianu and Maria Barbulescu -- Necropoles grecques du Pont Gauche: Istros, Orgamé, Tomis, Callatis / Vasilica Lungu -- "L'histoire par les noms" dans les villes grecques de Scythie et Scythie Mineure aux VIe-Ier siècles av. J.-C. / Victor Cojocaru -- Tyras: the Greek City on the River Tyras / Tatyana Lvovna Samoylova -- The Ancient City of Nikonion / Natalya Mikhaylovna Sekerskaya -- Greek Settlements on the Shores of the Bay of Odessa and Adjacent Estuaries / Yevgeniya Fyodorovna Redina -- Achilles on the Island of Leuke / Sergey Borisovitch Okhotnikov and Anatoliy Stepanovitch Ostroverkhov -- Lower Dnieper Hillforts and the Influence of Greek Culture (2nd Century BC - 2nd Century AD) / Nadezhda Avksentyevna Gavrilyuk and Valentina Vladimirovna Krapivina -- Olbia Pontica in the 3rd-4th Centuries AD / Valentina Vladimirovna Krapivina -- Greek Imports in Scythia / Nadezhda Avksentyevna Gavrilyuk

V.2. Distant Chora of Taurian Chersonesus and the City of Kalos Limen / Sergey Borisovitch Lantsov and Vladimir Borisovitch Uzhentzev -- Tauric Chersonesus and the Roman Empire / Vitaliy Mikhalovich Zubar -- The Scythian Neapolis and Greek Culture of the Northern Black Sea Region in the 2nd century BC / Yuriy Pavlovitch Zaytsev -- Tyritake / Viktor Nikolaevitch Zinko -- Small and poorly studied towns of the ancient Kimmerian Bosporos / Alexander Alexandrovitch Maslennikov -- Iluraton: a Fortress of the 1st - 3rd centuries AD on the European Kimmerian Bosporos / Vladimir Anatolyevitch Gorontcharovskiy -- Torikos and the South-Eastern Periphery of the Bosporan Kingdom (7th C. BC - 3rd C. AD) / Alexey Alexandrovitch Malyshev -- Greeks in the North Caucasus / Alexey Alexandrovitch Malyshev -- The Necropolis of Kul Oba / Nikolay Fyodorovitch Fedoseev -- Akra and its chora / Alexey Vladislavovitch Kulikov -- Kimmerikon / Vladimir Konstantinovitch Golenko -- Hellenism and Ancient Georgia / Vakhtang Licheli -- Greek Necropolis of Classical Period at Pichvnari / Amiran Kakhidze -- Ancient Greek Settlements in Eastern Thrace / Sümer Atasoy -- Cotyora, Kerasus and Trapezus: The Three Colonies of Sinope / Deniz Burcu Erciyas -- The Central Black Sea region, Turkey, during the Iron Age: the Local Cultures and the Eurasian Horse-Riding Nomads / Sevket Dönmez -- Greek Fine Pottery in the Black Sea Region / Jan Bouzek


1.   Part one, also in two volumes, was published with a different press: D.V. Grammenos, E.K. Petropoulos, Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea (2 vols.). Publications of the Archaeological Institute of Northern Greece, no. 4. Thessaloniki: Greek Ministry of Culture, 2003. For a review of this publication, see B. Bäbler, BMCR 2004.09.01.
2.   I. Lazarenko, E. Mircheva, R. Encheva, and N. Sharankov, "Arkheologicheski razkopki v gr. Balchik, ul. 'Chaika' i ul. 'Gen. Zaimov' (obekt 'Khram na Pontiiskata Maika na bogovete')," in Arkheologicheski otkritiia i razkopki prez 2007 g. (Sofia 2008), 297-300; Minerva. The International Review of Ancient Art and Archaeology. July/August 2008 (vol. 19.4)
3.   For more information on Olbia in English (including the 3rd and 4th centuries AD), see David Braund and S.D. Kryzhitskiy, Classical Olbia and the Scythian World (Oxford 2007)--an important collection, which appeared too late to be included in Krapivina's bibliography in Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2. For a review of this publication, see V. Kozlovskaya, JRA 22 (2009) (forthcoming).
4.   G.A. Koshelenko, I.T. Kruglikova, and V.S. Dolgorukov (eds.), Antichnye gosudarstva Severnogo Prichernomor'ia (Moscow 1984); V.F. Gaidukevich and M.I. Maksimova (eds.), Antichnye goroda Severnogo Prichernomor'ia (Moscow-Leningrad 1955).

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