Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2014.01.44 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.01.44

Dominique Kassab Tezgör​, Sinope: The Results of Fifteen Years of Research. Proceedings of the international symposium, 7-9 May 2009 / Sinope: un état de la question après quinze ans de travaux. Actes du symposium international, 7-9 May 2009​.   Leiden; Boston:  Brill, 2011.  Pp. 559.  ISBN 9789004206533.  $170.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Lâtife​ Summerer, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität​ (

The papers in this book were also published as Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia vol. 16 (2010).


This volume is the proceedings of an international symposium held to mark the end of a research project carried out by a Franco-Turkish team over the course of 15 years (1994-2009). Despite its title, the book does not contain the results of this research,1 but rather a collection of 19 papers mainly by authors outside the project who focus on Sinope from varying perspectives covering the period from the Bronze Age to the Seljuk period. The book is arranged in three sections: History of Sinope, Archeology and Material Studies, and Commercial Relations of Sinope.

The volume begins with a preface by Yvon Garlan, the initiator of the project, and an introduction by Dominique Kassab Tezgör, the project director, chief organizer of the conference and editor of the volume. Her introduction consists of a short history of research on Sinope, but unfortunately lacks a summary of the results of the 15 years of her research project.

The first contribution by David Braund deals with the myths about Sinope and suggests a relationship between the accounts of Diogenes living in a storage-jar and Sinope's role as a production center of transport pottery. He also argues that the mythic founder of the city, Sanape/Sinope, was an Amazon and not a nymph.

The second contribution by Claire Barat, “La ville de Sinope, réflexions historiques et archéologique”, is a summary of her unpublished 2006 Bordeaux doctoral thesis. Reviewing the short-term excavations of Ekrem Akurgal and Ludwig Budde (1951-1953) and the surveys of Antony Bryer and David Winfield (1960-1970), Barat tries to reconstruct the history of Sinope from its foundation in the 7th century BC to the Roman period. Her discussion of the so called Sarapeion should warrant particular attention, but is unfortunately based on very limited data. To date, only a preliminary report of the excavation of the site has been published and neither the architecture nor finds have been studied properly. At the time of its discovery, the temple was dated to the Hellenistic period and tentatively identified as the Temple of Sarapis known from written sources. Barat rightly doubts this identification, but wrongly identifies the structure as a hyposorion and the altar as a base for statues, concluding that the building was a heroon for Autolykos, the mythic founder of Sinope. However, the modest size, the location of the building outside the city walls and the use of Gorgon antefixes do not argue, as Barat suggests, for a heroon.3 Rather, the axial arrangement of the northern, largest, structure in relation to the 'podium/altar' is understandable only in the context of a temple. Although a secure identification of the temple is not yet possible, the iconography of most of the votive terracottas found in the temple relate to Dionysos and Herakles. The ground-plan published by Barat is drawn on the basis of photos of the site and should, therefore, be used with caution.

Next, Askold Ivantchik discusses in his article “Sinope et les Cimmériens” the tradition of a Cimmerian Sinope and concludes that, whilst this was invented, it was probably based on historical Cimmerian raids in this area. The author is a well-known specialist on Cimmerians and here updates some details found in his previous books and articles on the topic.4

Anca Dan's article “Les Leukosyriens: quelques notes d'ethnographie sinopéens” provides a discussion on Leukosyrians who supposedly inhabited the region around Sinope. Her explanation that the Greeks thought northern Anatolia was close to Syria and so wrongly named the people with the same ethnikon oversimplifies the issue.

Skipping the Roman and Byzantine periods, the section on the history of Sinope ends with two articles on the Seljuk period. While Andrew C. S. Peacock deals with the role of Seljuk Sinop as a frontier city, Scott Redford focuses on historical events in the summer of 1215 based on inscriptions from Sinop's citadel.

The section on the archeology of Sinope begins with "An Overview of the 2nd Millennium BC and Iron Age Cultures of the Province of Sinope in Light of New Research" by Șevket Dönmez. Presenting previously known and new archaeological data, the author argues that the settlement process around Sinope began in the Early Chalcolithic or even the Late Neolithic period. The region was included in a trade network of Assyrian colonies, while Sinope itself was settled during the Middle Iron Age with the arrival of Cimmerians and Greeks (169). This article is problematic for several reasons. First, the reader is often unable to distinguish between well-founded facts and the author's assumptions. For example, scattered finds (taken to prove the presence of Eurasian nomads in the central Black Sea region) are linked, without any justification, to fortified settlements like Pazarlı (169). Furthermore, the article includes several contradictions. The author states that “it is understood, that the province of Sinop probably did not host settlements in the late phases of the Middle Bronze Age” (153), but refers elsewhere to finds from this period excavated at the “Girls' Teacher Training School” in the city center of Sinop (164). 4 Finally, the author omits to discuss the important publication of Alexander Bauer on the prehistory of Sinope.5

Next, Owen Doonan's article “Sinop Landscapes: Towards an Archaeology of Community in the Hinterland of a Black Sea Port” summarizes the results of his Sinop Regional Survey (SRAP), concluding that settlement activities in the hinterland of Sinope were strongest during the Hellenistic and Late Antique periods.

Cheryl Ward deals with four shipwrecks from the Early Byzantine period discovered by the deep-water archaeology project of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography. Dominique Kassab Tezgör and Ahmet Özsalar write about the reconstruction of a kiln, excavated in Demirci, the industrial zone of Sinope, which was in use from the 2nd to the 7th century.

Marie-Françoise Billot's study extends over some 150 pages and provides a detailed study of the architectural terracottas found in Sinope. Sinope first produced terracottas in the Milesian style but developed its own style in the second quarter of the 4th century BC, apparently responding to demand from the Bosporan Kingdom; production slowly died away after 300 BC. Despite its impressive length, Billot's article lacks any discussion on architectural context; though most of the material was found within the Hellenistic temple, the question whether these architectural terracottas derive from this temple or its predecessors is unfortunately not raised.

The amphora production of Sinope is discussed in two articles. While Sergey Vnukov presents general tendencies in the typological evolution of Sinopean amphoras, Andrei Opait focuses on the so-called carrot amphora type from Sinope and its imitations from Heraclea Pontica, Chersonesos, Athens, and Palestine.

In the last section of the volume the focus moves to other regions of the Black Sea coast. Six papers focus on the trade relations of Thrace, Olbia and Colchis with Sinope. Totko Stoyanov's contribution offers a discussion of Sinope's intermediary role in distributing metalwork between inner Anatolia and Thrace in the 4th century BC, but overlooks some earlier discussions of this topic.6 Anelia Bozkova gathers all the known evidence for Sinopean amphoras in the territories of Thrace and concludes that they were imported mainly via Greek colonies like Histria and Kallatis.

Daniela Stoyanova considers the roof tiles of Thrace that were imported in bulk from Sinope and Heraclea Pontica during the 4th century BC. The importation of Sinopean roof tiles later declined, probably due to an increase in local production. Billot draws a similar conclusion, and it is unfortunate that to two the authors do not refer to each other's papers.

With Valentyna V. Krapivina’s article we reach Olbia, where there is evidence for the importation of Sinopean pottery beginning in the 5th century BC. These imports peaked during the last quarter of the 4th and first quarter of the 3rd century, but continued until the 4th century AD, with a break in the 1st century BC due to the destruction of Olbia by the Getae.

Boris Magomedov and Sergey Didenko write about Sinopean amphora finds at Chernyakhov Culture sites in Eastern Europe that were settled mainly by the Goths during the 3rd-5th century. The fact that amphoras of C Snp I-1 type were evidently produced in Sinope but are primarily known from the Chernyakhov territory leads the authors to conclude that, in accordance with the agreement between Constantine I and the Goths in 332 AD, Sinope supplied the Chernyakhov territory with wine.

Finally, Nino Inaishvili and Merab Khalvashi provide an overview of imports from Sinope found in southwest Georgia (coins, amphoras, mortars and roof tiles) that show trade relations throughout several centuries till Late Antiquity.

The volume concludes with a list of authors, extensive indices and several color plates.

Kassab Tezgör's tenacity and her success in her 15 years of research in Sinope must be highly praised, along with her efforts to bring together scholars from the East and West for the conference and in publishing such a well-produced volume. This publication, as a collection of papers focusing on Sinope, is surely a valuable reference for anyone with an interest in Black Sea studies, although its high price will make it inaccessible to many small libraries and scholars in the Black Sea countries. ​


1.   These were published in several articles and monographs: Y. Garlan, Les timbres ceramiques sinopeens sur amphores et sur tuiles trouves a Sinope; presentation et catalogue. Varia Anatolica 16 (2004); D. Kassab Tezgör (ed.), Les fouilles et le matériel de l'atelier amphorique de Demirci près de Sinope. Varia Anatolica 22 (2010).
2.   Am Vorabend der Kolonisation. Das nördliche Schwarzmeergebiet und die Steppennomaden des 8. - 7. Jhs. v. Chr. in der klassischen Literaturtradition. Mündliche Überlieferung, Literatur und Geschichte. Pontus Septentrionalis 3 (Moskow 2005); Kimmerier und Skythen. Kulturhistorische und chronologische Probleme der Archäologie der osteuropäischen Steppen und Kaukasiens in vor- und frühskythischer Zeit. Steppenvölker Eurasiens, 2. (Moskow 2001); “Die Gründung von Sinope und die Probleme der Anfangsetappe der griechischen Kolonisation des Schwarzmeergebietes”, in: G.R. Tsetskhladze (ed.): The Greek Colonisation of the Black Sea Area. Historical Interpretation of Archaeology (=Historia Einzelschriften. vol. 121 (Stuttgart 1998), 297–330.
3.   For a more detailed discussion see L. Summerer, “Topographies of Worship in northern Anatolia, in: T. Bekker-Nielsen (ed.), Space, Place and Identity in Northern Anatolia, (= Geographica Historica (Stuttgart 2014) 193-196 (forthcoming).
4.   The article also contains some puzzling and unscholarly remarks such as references to Sinope as the so-called “Queen of Pontus”, to pre-6th century Attic black-figure pottery in Sinop and the “Oriental” style of pottery found at Akalan (p. 170).
5.   A. A. Bauer , "Between the Steppe and the Sown: Prehistoric Sinop and Inter-regional Interaction along the Black Sea Coast," in: D. L. Peterson, L. M. Popova and A.T. Smith (eds.), Beyond the Steppe and the Sown, (Leiden 2006) 225-246.
6.   For example, L. Summerer, "Bemerkungen zum silbernen Kalbskopfrhyton in der Ermitage" in: F. Bertemes; A. Furtwängler (eds.) Pontos Euxeinos. Beiträge zur Archäologie und Geschichte des antiken Schwarzmeer-und Balkanraumes. Festschrift für Manfred Oppermann (Langenweißbach 2006) 135-144. ​

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