The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2023, 259-271

Πάντα ῥεῖ and Πόντος ῥεῖ – Strabo on the Black Sea

D. Dueck

Building on Strabo’s references to the Black Sea in his Geography, this article examines the perceived changeability of this region as it is summed up in his work and mainly until Strabo's own age. These changes are considered through three spheres of reference: (1) Geographical – this section offers a discussion of the shape of the sea and its connection to the Mediterranean. The Black Sea was at times conceived as a gulf linked to the surrounding Ocean, at times – as a closed sea, and at times – as a gulf linked to the Mediterranean. All three ideas reflected changes in geographical knowledge and their reflection in Greek sources. (2) Cultural – this section deals with the ethnic character of habitation in the regions surrounding the Black Sea. The change in this sphere of discussion pertains to various ethnicities said to inhabit the region while reflecting in the Greek sources a gradual change from barbarism to Hellenic and then Roman cultures. (3) Conceptual – this section surveys the image of the Black Sea in Greek and Roman myth and literature. It shows how the concept of the region went from marginal to central to marginal again. This image originated in historical reality, but resulted in the unique interpretation of the geopolitical developments within myth and literature. On the whole, this article demonstrates how the Greeks and the Romans perceived the region as at once known and unknown, close and distant, and abandoned and settled. All these perceptions contributed to the dynamic image of this unique environment.

Strabo, Black Sea, Argonauts, Greek colonization, Roman Empire


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