By the end of WWI, the Greeks whom we still hear claiming they want “no more lost homelands” reclaimed the recognition of their patris on the south-eastern Black Sea shore. Like for their Ancient and Byzantine ancestors, the strongest foundation of their identity was their difference from their environment and their claimed kinship with the Mediterranean Hellenism. However, above their attachment to Hellenicity, their community has been always defined by their Aegean cognates through their remoteness and acculturation.
A critical, global history of Hellenism in Pontus still needs to be written. Several points suggest the complexity of this study. “Pontus” designates the surroundings of the Euxine Sea and the North-Eastern Asia Minor – two territories whose real and imaginary frontiers have been shifting during four millennia of history. The sources, partial and fragmentary, involve multidisciplinary methodologies. The theoretical concept of “identity” must be refined: as Pontikos and Pontios cover different cultural realities, represented by various concepts over the time, the research must be focused on singulary aspects mentioned alltogether in the claims of the Pontians.
Concentrating on the Ancient Pontians, one undertands the need to distinguish between “Pontiacness”, as a geographic identity which corresponds to topic groups, and “Pontianness”, as an ethnic identity which involves community of language, religion, customs, and memory of single origin. The first Pontian ethnos was proclaimed in the context of Mithridates Eupator’s kingdom and of Pompey’s Bithynian province. A political willpower, extending upon a territory and acting for the cultural uniformisation of a plural society are the three factors to be studied in order to explain what made this people a people. Achaemenid, Anatolian and Hellenic elements, revealed by litterary, epigraphic, numismatic sources and archaeological finds, fournished the material of this historical process.