Greek cities on the western coast of the Black Sea: Orgame, Histria, Tomis, and Kallatis (7th to 1st century BCE)
Greek colonization is one of the most important phenomena in understanding Greek history, especially once the Greeks set up settlements away from their home land, in new environments, stretching from North Africa in the south, the Iberian peninsula in the west and the Black Sea shores in the north east. By establishing these settlements the Greeks not only brought their own culture and traditions to their new homes but were strongly influenced by the native civilizations they encountered there. From this encounter in a colonial world, the Greek and local cultures enriched each other and shaped each other in new and specific ways resulting in the foundation of modern European civilization.
In spite of continuous archaeological excavations since the beginning of the 20th century, mostly on the northern and western shores of the Black Sea, scholars still have little data with respect to Greek colonization in the region. A glimpse in any book or article dealing with Greek expansion in the Black Sea will quickly reveal that this area is seldom represented in the bibliography. Even well known names in the field of Greek colonization, scholars with years of research on this matter, refer to old, incomplete or second hand information.
This study has two goals. First, to bring together all the information we have from the Romanian shore of the Black Sea connected with the Greek settlements in the area. The colonies established here, Histria, Orgame, Kallatis and Tomis, are almost non-existent in the English language literature. Even less well-known is the information we have, mainly archaeological, from the territories, the "chora", of these settlements. The existence of the territories, their economic importance for the colonies, and their inland extent are the main issues discussed in this study.
Secondly, The Black Sea region is almost always presented as a whole in the scholarly literature. Often there is no distinction made between the western and northern shores of the sea. In a very simplistic and limited explanation, the Greeks are thought to have settled around the Black Sea for two economic reasons. One was the need to find outlets for olive oil, wine and luxury goods. The idea was that the local tribal leaders were eager to own Greek products and happily accomymodated the newcomers in order to obtain the desired items. Hand in hand with this came the second reason the Greeks were interested in this region; its richness in raw materials (agricultural and human), which the Greeks were keen to acquire.
Whatever the initial reasons the Greeks might have had for moving to Dobrogea, they had to constantly negotiate a "middle ground" in a place where the political situation was extremely fluid and the local cultures were in continuous change and transformation. The Greek communities in Dobrogea were surprisingly resilient in a landscape where they had to regularly adjust to the comings and goings of local tribes. They represented the only constant, urban and seemingly unchanged feature of the land and endured well beyond the ancient world. However, more often than not, the colonies struggled to feed themselves and to survive. Even in their economic and political prime, the Greeks never quite dominated the region.
This study will show that the Greeks who settled in Dobrogea developed their own colonial identities as a result of their interactions with the natives and the particularities of this region. The territory between the Danube and the Black Sea had seen regular and continuous population movement during most of its history. The Greeks and the natives created a hybrid culture which was by no means static. It continuously shifted and changed in response to local and more distant events.