Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.02.32 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.02.32

Adrian Robu, Iulian Bîrzescu (ed.), Mégarika: nouvelles recherches sur Mégare, les cités de la Propontide et du Pont-Euxin. Archéologie, épigraphie, histoire. Actes du colloque de Mangalia (8-12 juillet 2012). De l'archéologie à l'histoire, 66.   Paris:  Éditions de Boccard, 2016.  Pp. 494.  ISBN 9782701803647.  €59.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Margarit Damyanov, National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (

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

The present volume brings together the proceedings of a conference on Megara and Megarian colonization. The title is slightly misleading, as there are no contributions specifically dealing with any of the Propontic and Pontic colonies, except for Kallatis (located at Mangalia, the host city of the conference). The 19 texts vary greatly in length and scope, ranging from two to 113 pages, and are organized in three sections, dedicated respectively to general topics concerning Megarian colonization, the city of Megara, and Kallatis.

The opening contribution, by Alexander Herda, occupies roughly one quarter of the volume and could be expanded into a book by itself, considering the wealth of topics treated in its overly copious footnotes. Herda builds a compelling case for a "colonization alliance" between Miletos and Megara in the Archaic Period. The first part of his text discusses the parallel roles of Apollo Didymeos and Pythios, respectively, in Milesian and Megarian colonization. The second explores similarities in the social and political organization of Miletos and Megara, emphasizing the oligarchic institution of aisymnetai. The third is dedicated to Milesian-Megarian elite interactions, strengthened by mythical kinship, originating as early as the Lelantine War, when both cities were allies of Eretria. Herda considers the Propontic and Pontic colonization a joint venture of the two cities, since, given their locations, the colonies could not have functioned independently. On a mythical level, this cooperation was sanctioned by the Argonauts, who visited (future) colonies of both states.

The remaining texts of the first section deal with epigraphic evidence, mostly for the external relations of the Pontic colonies of Megara. Thibault Castelli explores the networks of Herakleia, Kallatis, Mesambria, and Chersonesos by tracing the activity of their citizens abroad and of foreigners at home. Mostly local and regional networks emerge, but also preferences and specifics—for example the presence of people from all the cities under consideration in the sanctuary of Amphiaraos at Oropos. The proposed explanation is the absence of healing cults in the Dorian cities of the Black Sea and the Boeotian role in the colonization of Herakleia. Victor Cojocaru discusses proxeny decrees issued by Propontic and Pontic colonies of Megara—and for their citizens by other poleis. He notes the numerous decrees for people from Herakleia, Byzantion, and Chalkedon, in contrast to the very few decrees issued by their home states (none are known from Herakleia). One explanation is that the cities on the Bosporus controlled Pontic trade and all parties (both exporters and consumers) sought to secure good relations with them by making their citizens proxenoi, while the opposite was not that necessary. On the other hand, in Cojocaru’s opinion, Herakleian trade, limited to mainly within the Black Sea, was channeled through Kallatis and Chersonesos, regulated by the ties of syngenneia. This conclusion is based on amphorae, but overlooks the ample Herakleian imports in Apollonia and its surroundings (commented upon by Castelli) that would suggest direct relations, at least in the 4th c. BC.1 Both Castelli and Cojocaru provide useful tables summarizing the evidence. Federica Cordano discusses personal names and family relations from the area of Selymbria. Combinations of Greek and Thracian names on tombstones are intriguing, although the chronology of the inscriptions is not specified (recently, Dan Dana has dated them to later Hellenistic and Imperial times).2 The contribution of Denis Knoepfler concerns a decree of a religious association in Athens, dated to 214/213 BC and honoring a wealthy Kallatian woman, "overseer" of the cult of Agathe Theos.

The papers in the second section of the volume provide a sketch of the archaeology of Megara, plus a preliminary publication of a rural sanctuary in Megaris. Yannis Chairetakis discusses funerary practices in the 7th and 6th c. BC. Unfortunately, there is no comparable evidence from the early colonies in the Propontis that might reveal continuity of the practices of the mother city; the data from Megara Hyblaea suggest that burial customs were not necessarily replicated in the colonies.3 On the other hand, Adrian Robu identifies a parallel practice at Megara, Kallatis, and Chersonesos, but for a later period (Classical to Late Hellenistic): the insertion of small "funerary plaques" in larger stelae.

Eugenia Tsalkou offers an overview of the current state of the urban archaeology of Megara, discussing fortifications, roads, sanctuaries, etc., and several other contributions supplement and expand on various topics. Of particular interest is Panagiota Avgerinou's discussion of the elaborate water system, which included impressive tunnels and public fountains, drawing comparisons with other Archaic and Classical examples, including Eupalinos’ tunnel on Samos. Megara was the motherland of the famous engineer, and the existence of such structures here is not surprising. However, the attribution to Eupalinos of Megara's subterranean aqueduct, dated only on the grounds of its masonry, is perhaps rash.

A specific group of structures deserves attention — the so-called megara, subterranean chambers beneath Megarian houses of the later 6th–4th c. BC, more than a hundred of which have been excavated. On the basis of a local tradition, recorded by Pausanias, that the city was named for the sacred megara of the mysteries of Demeter, Tsalkou suggests a cult function (though conceding they could also have served as storerooms); Eleni Banou supports this interpretation as well. It is unfortunate that neither author gives the chambers’ dimensions; associated materials are mentioned only summarily by Tsalkou and are not discussed at all by Banou, who attempts to trace the megara to Minoan structures. While this seems unlikely, another direction of study is worth exploring—the transfer of this typical feature of Megara’s domestic architecture to its colonies. A number of Classical and Hellenistic "cellars" have been excavated in Mesambria, the earliest dating in the first half of the 5th c. BC, soon after the city’s foundation.4

In the section dedicated to Kallatis, Iulian Bîrzescu and Mihai Ionescu address the main unsolved issue of the Herakleian colony — the date of its foundation. The only written source offers as a dating event the ascension of Amyntas (I or III?) of Macedon. Thus, the alternative dates fall in the second half of the 6th c. (as accepted by A. Herda and T. Castelli in the present volume) or the late 5th–early 4th c. BC (e.g., in the contribution of N. Alexandru). Archaeology has not uncovered anything earlier than the 4th c. BC. Bîrzescu and Ionescu therefore embark on a search for an earlier Greek settlement nearby, encouraged by Pliny's testimony to an earlier name of Kallatis—Cerbatis/Carbatis (an independently attested toponym in the region). They consider this an Archaic Ionian foundation of minor (if any) importance for the future development of Kallatis, which was spurred by the arrival of Herakleians in the early 4th c. BC. Such an analysis seems actually to support the late date of Kallatis’ foundation, raising questions about some aspects of the process, e.g. the number of the colonists and their relations with the native population, as within two or three generations Kallatis created a substantial chora and emerged as one of the most powerful West Pontic cities.

Nicolae Alexandru discusses the fortified settlements in the Kallatian territory, adding new evidence about the extensively published site of Albeşti and other sites. Livia Buzoianu and Maria Barbulescu present the terracotta figurines from Albeşti, which indicate that mainly chthonic deities (Kybele, Demeter, Dionysos, etc.) were worshiped there. Numerous parallels from other Pontic colonies are adduced, to which one could add the evidence of a cult of Kybele from Durankulak, a rural sanctuary in Kallatis’ territory,5 and the numerous female protomes from the necropolis of Mesambria.6 Florina Panait Bîrzescu and Tatiana Odobescu publish two fragmentary marble sculptures from the presumed temenos of Kallatis, which they date to the 2nd c. AD and tentatively identify as depictions of Athena (her cult is known from inscriptions). Gabriel Talmaţchi offers a short essay on the Hellenistic coinage of Kallatis, discussing various types and their chronology. An interesting conclusion is that the city was at its most prosperous in the 3rd and the first half of the 2nd c. BC—contrary to Memnon’s claim that it never recovered after its mid- 3rd c. BC war with Byzantion. Finally, Alexandru Avram and Mihai Ionescu add four inscriptions to the corpus of Kallatis, one of which documents the dedication of a stoa(?) and a gymnasium to the Emperor Augustus.

To summarize, the reviewed volume covers a variety of topics and is particularly useful for bridging the ever-narrowing gap between studies of the Mediterranean Greek world and of its Pontic extension.

Table of Contents

Denis Knoepfler, “Avant-propos”
Adrian Robu, Iulian Bîrzescu, “Introduction”

I. Colonisation et contacts des cités mégariennes avec le monde égéen
Alexander Herda, "Megara and Miletos: Colonising with Apollo. A Structural Comparison of Religious and Political Institutions in Two Archaic Greek Polis States"
Thibaut Castelli, "À propos du réseau mégarien du Pont-Euxin: la mobilité spatiale des personnes entre mer Égée et mer Noire aux époques classique et hellénistique"
Victor Cojocaru, "Un espace dorien pontique d’après les décrets de proxénie"
Federica Cordano, "Les familles de Sélymbria et quelques noms personnels"
Denis Knoepfler, "Une femme de Callatis à Athènes dans un nouveau décret d’association religieuse au IIIe siècle av. J.-C."

II. Archéologie et épigraphie des cités de la Mégaride
Yannis Chairetakis, "Burial Customs of Megara during the 7th and 6th Centuries B.C.: The Case of the North-East Cemetery"
Polytimi Valta, "A Rural Sanctuary in the West of Pagai. Preliminary Report"
Eugenia Tsalkou, "A 'Peridiavasis' in the City of Megara in the 5th and 4th Centuries B.C."
Eleni S. Banou, "Megarian Urbanism: A Note on the So-Called 'Megaron'"
Panagiota Avgerinou, "Water Supply Facilities in Megara during the Archaic and Classical Period"
Irini Svana, "A Refuse Deposit of Classical Period from Megara. Reexamination of the Topography and History of the Ancient Town"
Adrian Robu, "Contribution à l’épigraphie mégarienne: les tablettes funéraires inscrites"
Yannis Kalliontzis, "Rapport préliminaire sur le nouveau fragment de l’inscription d’Aigosthènes IG VII 219-222"

III. Callatis et son territoire: nouveaux développements de la recherche
Iulian Bîrzescu, Mihai Ionescu, "Recherches sur la fondation de Callatis: l’apport de la documentation archéologique"
Nicolae Alexandru, "Fortified Settlements in the Territory of Callatis (4th-3rd Centuries B.C.)"
Livia Buzoianu, Maria Bărbulescu, "Les terres cuites d’époque hellénistique d’Albeşti. Représentations de divinités"
Florina Panait Bîrzescu, Tatiana Odobescu, "Découvertes sculpturales de la 'zone sacrée' de Callatis"
Gabriel Talmaţchi, "The Coinage of Callatis in the Hellenistic Period Revisited"
Alexandru Avram, Mihai Ionescu, "Nouvelles inscriptions de Callatis"
Alexandru Avram, "Conclusion"


1.   Chavdar Tzochev, "Between the Black Sea and the Aegean: The Diffusion of Greek Trade Amphorae in Southern Thrace," in D. Kassab Tezgör and N. Inaishvili (eds.), PATABS I. Production and Trade of Amphorae in the Black Sea. Actes de la Table Ronde Internationale de Batoumi et Trabzon, 27–29 Avril 2006. Paris, 2010, 99, pl. 56.2.
2.   Dan Dana, Onomasticon Thracicum. Répertoire des noms indigènes de Thrace, Macédoine Orientale, Mésies, Dacie et Bithynie, Athènes, 2014, 93, 109, 221, 265.
3.   Gillian Shepherd, "The Pride of Most Colonials: Burial and Religion in the Sicilian Colonies," in Fisher-Hansen, T. (ed.), Ancient Sicily (Acta Hyperborea VI), 1995, 56-58, 66-68.
4.   Anelia Bozkova and Petya Kiyashkina, "L’urbanisme et l’architecture domestiques des colonies grecques ouest-pontiques: Mésambria," in Martinez, J.-L. et al. (eds), L'épopée des rois thraces. Des guerres médiques au invasions celtes 479-278 avant J.-C. Découvertes archéologiques en Bulgarie. Catalogue de l'exposition présentée au musée du Louvre, à Paris, du 16 avril au 20 juillet 2015, Paris, 2015, 303; Luba Ognenova-Marinova, "L’architecture domestique à Messambria, IVe-IIe s. av. J.-C." Nessebre III, Burgas, 2005, 11-28.
5.   Henrieta Todorova, "Durankulak—a Territorium Sacrum of the Goddess Cybele," in D. Grammenos and E. Petropoulos, Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 (BAR International Series 1675), Oxford, 2007, 182, Fig. 22.
6.   Petya Kiyashkina et al., A Guide to the Collections of the Archaeological Museum of Nessebar, Nessebar, 2012, 30, Nos. 46-47.

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