BMCR 2007.08.38

Greek Colonisation: An Account of Greek Colonies and Other Settlements Overseas. Volume 1

, Greek colonisation : an account of Greek colonies and other settlements overseas. Mnemosyne, bibliotheca classica Batava, 193. Leiden: Brill, 2006-. v. 1 : ill., maps ; 25 cm.. ISBN 9789004122048. €186.00.

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

For many years now, the leading handbook for Greek colonisation has been John Boardman’s The Greeks Overseas, the fourth edition of which was published in 1999. Since 1964, when the volume first appeared, it has provided an accessible overview of the spread of the Greeks and their culture throughout the Mediterranean during the Archaic period. The addition of copious illustrations in the 1980 edition consolidated its position as the market leader. Its latest incarnation is a reproduction of the 1980 version with the addition of an epilogue that takes into account more recent trends, such as discussions about the terminology we use to discuss the Greeks overseas, and the growth of study of colonisation in the Black Sea and its wider accessibility to non-Russian-reading audiences. However, there have been two major developments that have impacted upon our interpretations of Greek colonisation in very recent years for which a single epilogue is not a sufficiently substantial format for full reflection. The first is the sheer volume of published archaeological material that we now have available. The second is the influence of post-modern ideas, one result of which is the acknowledgement that discourses between the Greeks overseas and their mother-cities, between themselves, and with their non-Greek neighbours were as diverse as the regions they moved to beginning in the 8th century BCE.

A comprehensive study of Greek colonisation has thus been overdue, but that a single individual could do so now is probably impossible. The upshot has been a two-volume collaborative effort initiated by Irad Malkin over ten years ago and brought to fruition by Gocha Tsetskhladze in the form of twenty-two chapters by seventeen scholars to produce the first English-language work that brings together the breadth of material now available for the study of Greek colonisation across its entire geographical ken. Together, the two volumes expand the scope of most other discussions of Greek colonisation, which are either regionally or temporally bounded. The volumes begin with an account of evidence for Mycenaean activity in the Mediterranean, and conclude with a discussion of Greek colonisation in the Classical period. They draw in literature and history, as well, by incorporating separate chapters on ancient terminology and interpretations of foundation myths. For sheer breadth and depth of coverage alone, the set will be invaluable to students and scholars of Greek colonisation (the second volume is not yet available). The present volume contains thirteen chapters that offer an introduction to the study of Greek colonisation from the Mycenaean period through the Archaic period, incorporating discussion of the Greeks and/or Greek material in Anatolia, Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, France, Spain, and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as a chapter on the Phoenicians’ contemporary colonial activities, and a discussion about terminology.

It commences with an introductory chapter by Tsetskhladze, who provides a whistle-stop tour of many recent issues in the study of Greek colonisation. He begins with a criticism of approaches to ancient colonisation that are influenced by concerns with colonial parallels in the recent past and present, arguing that they are equally as biased as the imperial models they reject. He suggests that the problem is really one of terminology, rather than theoretical perspective, and that the term colonisation is what is in crisis. Terminology can never reflect the full reality, T. observes, and he suggests that Greek colonisation as a concept at least needs to be ring-fenced in connection with the Archaic period. T. then turns directly to the very important recent revisions to the absolute chronology for Greek ceramics for the 10th-7th centuries (Early Geometric to Corinthian) as espoused by Nijboer. T. explores the diversity of terminology surrounding Greek settlements themselves, especially types of poleis in contrast with apoikiai, emporia, and ports of trade. T. then turns to questions of urbanisation in mainland Greece and Ionia, noting that many colonies were not created with a fully-formed urban plan. A discussion of the role of the oikist follows. T. next contrasts Greek and Phoenician colonisation very briefly and generally, before examining the relationship between Greeks and locals, where T. wisely points out that there is no model for their relationship across the broad geographical scope of Greek colonisation. He highlights the diversity of interactions and interpretations of these relations as seen in the archaeological record through passing reference to ideas such as the Middle Ground and hybridity. This leads neatly into a discussion of Greek cultural identities, which T. titles ethnicity. The chapter ends with a summary of where and when the Greeks colonised.

T’s overall point is that there is no single, uniform process to what we call Greek colonisation. This is a major conclusion that deserves more full contextualisation than is offered here, because it represents the most fundamental change to our interpretation of Greek colonisation in recent years, and its impact spreads far beyond the study of Greek settlements overseas, for it influences what we now think of as Greek culture itself during the Archaic and Classical periods.1 Furthermore, there is scope for a much more extensive discussion of the crisis in which colonisation as a term finds itself, for it is a crisis that stems from the deconstruction in recent years of the culture-historical models that previously dominated our interpretation of Greek colonisation and has resulted in its reconsideration in comparison and contrast with other forms of colonisation from diverse periods and places, and a rejection of colonialist interpretations. One major result is that scholarship has started to acknowledge the active roles played by local populations in their political, social, material and cultural engagements with Greek colonists, which many of the contributions in the present volume emphasise. T. himself is also influenced by modern concerns, despite his rejection of them in his critical opening, as demonstrated in his discussion of both settlement terminology and frameworks for the interpretation of cross-cultural interactions. Thus, further justification and consideration of appropriate extents for contemporary ideas as applied to the past are called for.

In the second chapter, Hansen offers a revised and updated version of an article first published in 1997 on the Greek use of the term emporion,2 which finds its earliest uses only in Classical sources. The contribution focuses primarily on the relationship between an emporion and the polis and offers a nuanced discussion of the various uses and meanings of each term, concluding that most emporia were, in fact, poleis that had an emporion, while true emporia existed only in the wider Greek world and not in Greece itself. Naukratis and Pistiros serve as case studies, the former as a known site with the latter as a settlement not yet securely located. This is a particularly interesting contribution to the volume, as it reminds us so clearly that both literary references and material remains need careful consideration, independently and in conjunction with one another, and it is a shame that this discussion is not balanced by similarly detailed accounts of the use of other related terms, especially apoikia. One of the downsides of the long gestation of this entire project is visible here, as well, for H. notes that the chapter was submitted before he could see a relevant work that was published in the spring of 2000 (p. 20, note 97); only one reference post-dates 2000, in fact, and this is to the final publication of the Copenhagen Polis Centre, of which H. was the co-editor.3

Mycenaean expansion is examined next, by Vanschoonwinkel, and it is a welcome addition to the chronological scope that one usually finds in works to do with Greek colonisation. The first part is a prose catalogue of find spots of predominantly Mycenaean pottery and local imitations outside of Greece during the prepalatial, palatial and postpalatial periods, with passing reference to Mycenaean settlement in Asia Minor at Iasos and Miletus and the alleged architectural and burial influences in Sicily. The second part recalls mythological tales of the Trojan heroes who passed through Cyprus and Italy, leaving behind foundation myths for various settlements. The limitations of both mythological tales and a pottery-only material perspective are then acknowledged by V., who concludes his overview by noting that the distribution of Mycenaean material in the Mediterranean is an expression of neither colonisation nor a commercial empire, but rather was the result of Mycenaean expansion in the international trading network of the Late Bronze Age. Tellingly, this does not prefigure Archaic colonisation.

A chapter on Greek migrations to Anatolia forms the second contribution by V. This time, he begins by recalling the literary evidence for Greek settlement in Asia Minor and follows with brief analyses of these tales in comparison with archaeological evidence for Mycenaean and Protogeometric material here. He concludes that the literary record generally accords with the chronological timespan of the Greek pottery found along the coast of western Turkey, although the migratory process was neither momentary nor of short duration. The same concerns raised in the previous chapter about the reliability of the literary sources and the pottery-biased nature of the archaeological record are justifiably repeated here. What he does not address is why he chooses to refer to this process as a migration, rather than a colonisation, although the implication is that colonisation is an organised and historical movement (see below).

Niemeyer’s contribution on Phoenician colonisation offers an alternative model for overseas settlement and interaction during the Iron Age, and is largely a condensed version of his 2000 article on the same subject.4 His argument is that, following a kind of Phoenician merchant venturers period in the early Iron Age, a phase that is attested only by Phoenician objects in various contexts and designed to take into account Greek items in the Near East, the Phoenicians established permanent collectives or settlements across the Mediterranean. He provides a list of features central to the choice of site locations for Phoenicians (which are not dissimilar from those sought by the Greeks). Niemeyer draws two main conclusions: that Phoenician expansion commenced before the oppression of the Phoenician homeland by the Neo-Assyrians; and that it was not before the 8th century that the Phoenicians felt it necessary to protect their trade routes by establishing a greater number of permanent settlements overseas. The significance and individuality of Carthage is touched upon at the end. While this chapter is important for its Phoenician perspective on Mediterranean colonisation and the relationship between contemporary Greek and Phoenician activity in this regard, the version offered here suffers somewhat from its foreshortening. For example, historical and material contextualisation of the Phoenician settlements overseas is lost, yet the continuity from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age developed in the 2000 article allows N. to distinguish there Phoenician expansion from Greek much more convincingly in terms of process, for he develops more fully his ideas about the merchant venturers phase. When one realises that during the 9th century Phoenician city-states were able to procure Assyrian tribute goods without difficulty, as noted in the 2000 article, his argument that the rapid establishment of overseas settlements in the 8th century as a means of protecting trade routes from Greek competition becomes much clearer and stronger. The version here also does not take into account the recent chronological revisions resulting from the new radiocarbon dates from Carthage and Spain, the importance of which are raised in the Introduction to the volume. Thus, N.’s conclusions about the nature of Phoenician expansion in the west may yet be revisited.

Collectively, these three chapters offer a very interesting counterbalance to our ideas of what constitutes colonisation and issues surrounding terminology. For here we have ‘expansion’ and ‘migration’ rather than colonisation, and Niemeyer takes great pains to emphasise the differences between the Greek movement and the Phoenician one, especially with regard to the general lack of integration of a hinterland and the commercial focus of the latter. Vanschoonwinkel implies that colonisation is an organised and historical movement. Therefore, both authors shy away from using the term in their discussions of the non-Archaic overseas settlements. The interesting point here is that the remaining chapters illustrate that Archaic Greek colonisation was also not an organised and historical movement. It was driven by independent city-states, each of which had its own reasons for embarking upon such expeditions and selecting destinations, and they did not take place at a single historical moment but over a period of several centuries, albeit with varying degrees of intensity. Why colonisation as a term is rejected by Niemeyer and Vanschoonwinkel is not explicit in their contributions. Given the diverse circumstances that we collectively term Archaic Greek colonisation, it would have been valuable to have a discussion dedicated to this particular aspect of terminology. The necessity for such a discourse become clear later on in the volume, when Dominguez, in his Iberian chapter, suggests that colonies are strictly apoikiai, and that to be designated a colony, a settlement’s primary focus must not be commercial (he favours the term ‘presence’ to distinguish and characterise overseas communities or enclaves engaged in trading). Yet many settlements in the Mediterranean were actively and even primarily engaged in trade while also maintaining agricultural hinterlands and other characteristics of the Greek polis. In other words, ancient terminology was not necessarily mutually exclusive nor static in meaning over time; further analysis of this point would have been welcome in this volume, perhaps in the Introduction itself.

Following these chapters, one finds the more usual areas of focus for study of Greek colonisation. Greco offers an update on interpretations surrounding Greek settlement in southern Italy. This contribution emphasises the interlinked role of the urban area, chora and satellite communities of the Greek city-states, and emphasises the integration of the indigenous populations into the Greek colonial territories, and their mutual interactions. References to site reports are peppered throughout.

Within such a reinterpretative framework is situated D’Agostino’s contextualisation of Pithekoussai, the first Greek settlement in the West. He first recounts the chronology of the arrival of Greek material in Italy and the growing complexity of Tyrrhenian societies, especially those of Campania and Etruria, as reflected in their receipt of such material. This is exemplified in his discussion of the reinterpretation of the Greek symposium in Tyrrhenian contexts. While the foundation of Pithekoussai, its economic function and sociocultural make-up are discussed, Pithekoussai’s trading role with the mainland is emphasised alongside Greek influence on local Tyrrhenian pottery production. Finally, Pithekoussai’s relationship with Cumae is reassessed, especially in light of recently discovered pottery types contemporary with the earliest material known from Pithekoussai itself, and the very different social and political structures of the two communities. Overall, this chapter presents a refreshing discussion of Pithekoussai, emphasising its regional role rather than solely in regard to the Greek or Near Eastern worlds.

Ridgway offers a summary of Mycenaean and Geometric imports to Sardinia. He notes that prestige Mycenaean objects circulated in the interior of the island, suggesting a mechanism of gifts for access to lead and iron resources. In an assessment of the distribution of Geometric pottery, R. asserts that Levantine influence was stronger here than Greek, an argument he has promoted previously.5 By inserting a chapter on a region in which there were no Archaic Greek colonies, the reader’s attention is brought to greater awareness of the activities of individuals vs. communities on a more pan-Mediterranean scale, which may include a degree of settlement, alongside the nature of our interpretations of material evidence for such activity.

Dominguez tackles the substantial subject of the Greeks in Sicily in a clearly written, well-referenced narrative. For each primary and the major secondary Greek colonies, he presents the historical foundation account, largely following Thucydides, and then summarises their major material evidence and social interpretations (especially for evidence of status), emphasising each community’s territorial influence and agricultural extent. In this manner, attention is drawn clearly to the individual nature of each site. D.’s discussion of the Cnidian colony on Lipara and the Spartan foundation of Heracleia exemplify the fact that Greek activity in Sicily was not a purely local affair but can be linked to broader Mediterranean tensions and concerns. Politics, economics and cultural developments are also not neglected in this chapter. Additionally, D. offers a good discussion of the relationship between the Greek colonies and their Sicilian neighbours, especially with regard to trade and territorial exploitation, and he pays particular attention to the influence of Greek culture upon the Sicilian populations with specific regard to urbanism and the adaptation of the alphabet.

Morel addresses Phocaean colonisation, which is most usually associated with the far west Mediterranean but which also took place in the Hellespont and Black Sea. Here, however, the focus is Massalia, Emporion, Neapolis, Alalia, and Hyele, with a brief discussion of the battle of Alalia. M. ponders the question of whether these were established to serve as a deliberate network of emporia to access Tartessian and Gallic resources; regardless, they nevertheless maintained a form of emporion trade. The urban, political, religious and economic development of Massalia during the Archaic and Classical periods receives considerable attention before its regional and more localised expansion during the 6th-4th centuries BCE is addressed. Within this is embedded discussion of local reception of Greek goods and ideas. Emporion, Alalia and Hyele receive similar treatment. M. concludes his chapter by recounting the fate of these Phocaean settlements during the Hellenistic period, a welcome chronological extension.

An account of Greek activity in Iberia is offered by Dominguez, and with the same meticulous detail as provided for Sicily. D. begins with an outline of the history of Greek activity in the Iberian peninsula (although the Mycenaean pottery in an 8th-century context, illustrated and cross-referenced on p. 432, deserves explanation), and those Iberian settlements that received Greek goods, notably drinking vessels, emphasising the Phocaeans’ relationship with the Iberians through the numerous trading enclaves they established between and amongst Iberian settlements. The penetration of Greek goods into the interior is ascribed exclusively to Iberian networks, however. The impact of the capture of Phocaea by the Persians in 544 BCE was to intensify Phocaean commerce in Iberia. This transformation manifested in influence first and primarily, and only later — by the mid-5th century — materially. Thus, Hellenic influence can be found after the mid-6th century in Iberian stone sculpture and the adoption of the Greek alphabet to express Iberian language. D. argues that these influences were utilised as a means of Iberian elite self-expression, culminating during the second half of the 5th century in the reinterpretation of Iberian funerary customs, which by this time regularly incorporated Greek pottery, including substantial drinking sets in some instances. The relationship between Emporion’s urban development during the 6th and 5th centuries and its mercantile activities receives special focus, while evidence for other contemporary Greek sites attested in literature is also discussed. This chapter is comprehensively referenced and includes guidance throughout to more extensive discussions about particular points, as well as to relevant works in English. The only discussion missing concerns the relationship between the Phocaeans in this area and the neighbouring Phoenician settlements, which must have impacted upon Phocaean activity, at least in the 6th century.

Greek activity in the eastern Mediterranean is discussed by Boardman, who begins by recounting the sociopolitical circumstances of the Levant during the 8th century, addressing Neo-Assyrian conquest and evidence for Phoenician presence in North Syria and Cilicia. This sets the stage for the introduction of Al Mina and B.’s continued emphasis upon the greater proportion of Greek pottery here than elsewhere in the region, upon which rests his argument for Al Mina being a Greek settlement. A recent critical dialogue of B.’s ceramic analysis, first presented in 1990 and revisited in 1999,6 has been played out in the pages of the new journal Ancient West and East between B. and Niemeyer,7 although no reference is made here to this continued debate. Instead, B.’s narrative briefly revisits Greek material elsewhere along the North Syrian littoral during this time and examines evidence for mercenaries in the Levant. After 700 BCE, there is a greater abundance of Greek and Greek-style pottery throughout the eastern Mediterranean, which in some cases, when regarded with other archaeological evidence, may suggest resident Greeks, as at Tell Sukas. Evidence from Egypt provides a counterpoint to the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean, especially the site of Naukratis, a settlement of mixed Greek origins founded for commercial reasons at the end of the 7th century BCE with consent from the Pharaoh. Naukratis is perhaps the best-known example of an emporion and was one which eventually came to be regarded by the Greeks as a polis.

The final contribution to this volume is a brief offering by Pamir that summarises the main evidence from the Orontes Delta Survey season of 1999, the results of which were first published elsewhere in 2002.8 Two main points are salient: that Al Mina extends further than its excavator thought, and that Sabuniye, the other Orontes port and certainly its Bronze Age gateway, has been rediscovered.

In many respects, this volume is both innovative and traditional. Its innovation rests in the expanded interpretations offered in nearly all of the chapters. Many of the Greek sites are discussed with regard to wider regional integration, and their engagement with local populations is sufficiently explored to provide a sense of the complexity of cultural interactions during the Archaic period. At the same time, it maintains a traditional culture-historical presentation without any explanation of theoretical frameworks or perspectives. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and the narrative format of many of the contributions allows for a smooth reading. It does leave scope for further consideration, however, whether with regard to terminology or other avenues of study from the now vast array of accessible material evidence, such as gender, age, or other identity-related aspects.

That this book is of great value is clear, and it is certainly a vital resource with an excellent scope of information that exceeds most volumes dedicated to Greek colonisation. Each chapter is well referenced, some exceptionally so, and all provide useful maps and drawings, although none is extensively illustrated. Thus, additional information is easily accessible should one wish to follow up a site or an argument in greater detail. Yet the volume it is not exactly the handbook it advertises itself as being in the Preface or that a novice might need initially to understand the basic facts of Greek colonisation; the contributions are far more sophisticated than that. The price of this also precludes it from becoming a true handbook that every student will clutch. It thus cannot replace studies like The Greeks Overseas. It is, however, an extremely valuable resource for current scholarly interpretations of Greek colonisation that every library and advanced student of Greek colonisation will want to possess.

Table of Contents

G. R. Tsetskhladze. Introduction: Revisiting Ancient Greek Colonisation

M. H. Hansen. Emporion. A Study of the Use and Meaning of the Term in the Archaic and Classical Periods

J. Vanschoonwinkel. Mycenaean Expansion

J. Vanschoonwinkel. Greek Migrations to Aegean Anatolia in the Early Dark Age

H. G. Niemeyer. The Phoenicians in the Mediterranean. Between Expansion and Colonisation: A Non-Greek Model of Overseas Settlement and Presence

E. Greco. Greek Colonisation in Southern Italy: A Methodological Essay

B. D’Agostino. The First Greeks in Italy

D. Ridgway. Early Greek Imports in Sardinia

A. J. Dominguez. Greeks in Sicily

J.-P. Morel. Phocaean Colonisation

A. J. Dominguez. Greeks in the Iberian Peninsula

J. Boardman. Greeks in the East Mediterranean (South Anatolia, Syria, Egypt)

H. Pamir. Al Mina and Sabuniye in the Orontes Delta: The Sites.


1. E.g. C. Dougherty and L. Kurke, eds., The Cultures within Greek Culture (Cambridge 2003).

2. “Emporion. A study of the use and meaning of the term in the Archaic and Classical Periods,” in T. H. Nielsen, ed., Yet More Studies in the Ancient Greek Polis (Papers from the Copenhagen Polis Centre 4) ( Historia Einzelschriften 177) (Stuttgart 1997) 83-105.

3. More recent publications from the Copenhagen Polis Centre and Hansen himself include A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures (Copenhagen 2000); An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (Oxford 2004); The Imaginary Polis: Symposium, January 7-10, 2004 (Copenhagen 2005); Polis: an Introduction to the Ancient Greek City-State (Oxford 2006: revised and updated version of his 2004 Polis: den Oldgraeske Bystatskultur).

4. “The Early Phoenician City-States on the Mediterranean: archaeological elements for their description,” in M. H. Hansen, ed., A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures (Copenhagen 2000) 89-115.

5. “The First Western Greeks Revisited,” in D. Ridgway, F. R. Serra Ridgway, M. Pearce, E. Herring, R. D. Whitehouse and J. B. Wilkins, eds., Ancient Italy in its Mediterranean Setting. Studies in Honour of Ellen Macnamara (London 2000) 179-91.

6. “Al Mina and History,” OJA 9 (1990) 169-90; “The Excavated History of Al Mina,” in G. Tsetskhladze, ed., Ancient Greeks West and East (Leiden 1999) 135-163.

7. J. Boardman, “Al Mina: the study of a site,” Ancient West and East 1 (2002) 315-331; “Al Mina: notes and queries,” Ancient West and East 4 (2005) 278-291. H. G. Niemeyer, “Phoenician or Greek: is there a reasonable way out of the Al Mina debate?,” Ancient West and East 3 (2004) 38-50; “There is no way out of the Al Mina debate,” Ancient West and East 4 (2005) 292-295.

8. H. Pamir and S. Nishiyama, “The Orontes Delta Survey,” Ancient West and East 1 (2002) 294-314.