Anca Dan, "Pontische Mehrdeutigkeiten", in: eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Volume 3 (2014), 43–66


One of the Greek words for ‚sea”, ‚πόντος” (which means both ‚crossing” and ‚difficulty”) was used for the sea par excellence, the Euxine Pontus, since Archaic times. The name first described the south-eastern Black Sea region, then the kingdom of Mithridates Eupator and finally the Roman provinces of Pontus. Despite the clear chronology in the use of the name Pontus for the above mentioned regions, several inscriptions appear ambiguous. A ‚Pontian” referred to in an inscription from 4th century BC Athens could neither have belonged to a ‚Pontic” people nor to the realm of Mithridates. Also, a ‚Pontian” woman of the 2nd century BC could have come from northeastern Asia Minor, Herakleia or another Black Sea city. A young man, who died in Rome between the 2nd and 3rd century AD, came from the Pontic province, but his gravestone, which presents him as a countryman of the Homeric hero Achilles, casts doubts about his precise place of origin, in the Black Sea region. In all these cases, the adjective ‚Pontic” was used for stylistic reasons; it indicates an indistinct geographical identity, connected with the Black Sea, but also hints at certain religious allusions—both maritime and erotic.

Published In

Gerd Graßhoff and Michael Meyer (Eds.), eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Volume 3 (2014), Berlin: Exzellenzcluster 264 Topoi