Saturday, March 7, 2009


Gocha R. Tsetskhladze (ed.), Greek Colonisation: An Account of Greek Colonies and Other Settlements Overseas, Volume Two. Mnemosyne, Supplementa 193. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008. Pp. xviii, 566; 56 figs. ISBN 9789004155763. $232.00.
Reviewed by Elias K. Petropoulos, Democritus University of Thrace (

[The individual essays are listed at the end of the review.]

In the present work edited by G. Tsetskhladze the relevant specialists have assumed the task of presenting the colonial activity of the ancient Greeks in Northern Aegean, the Adriatic, Libya and Cyprus. In addition, three thematic chapters examine the situation in Central Greece on the eve of the colonisation movement, stories about the foundation of settlements, and Greek expansion during the Classical period.

The first chapter, by Michalis Tiverios, is dedicated to Greek colonial activity in the northern Aegean. The text includes a full list of ancient Greek colonies in northern Greece, from the Chalcidice to the Dardanelles with a chronological range from the Trojan War to the concluding phase of Greek colonisation. We may distinguish two basic periods within this time-span, which divide in the 8th century BC when the so-called Second Greek Colonisation Movement began. Ionians from Euboea, Eretrians and Chalcideans seem to have played a leading part during the first period as well as at the beginning of the second (until the outbreak of the so-called Lelantine War, which put an end to the Euboeans' power).

According to Tiverios, the discovery of early Euboean pottery in northern Greece functions as proof of the Euboean presence in the area. In addition he believes that there is no real reason why we should not regard as Euboean all the ceramic products made by the Euboean colonists and their descendants in northern Greece, even if they are characterised by clays of different composition. All the available archaeological evidence leads to the conclusion that southern Greeks, especially Ionians from Euboea, settled in the Chalcidice after the Trojan War (15). These Greeks must have come to know northern Greece as early as the Mycenaean period, when people were moving about in those parts in tribes or clans.

Another wave of Euboean colonists followed in the 8th century BC, i.e. during the second Greek colonisation, when a large number of Euboean colonies and emporia were founded. They occupied almost all the available living space here, avoiding significant gaps, which risked being filled by other Greek cities. It seems that the most significant exception was the foundation of Poteidaea by the Corinthians, at a time when the Euboeans were no longer a great power. This is why the city of Chalcis chose (for a short time it is true) to co-operate with the Andrians, that is people who were demonstrably hostile towards their rivals (the Eretrians), in order to found new colonies in Chalcidean areas which were being threatened and needed support. The Andrian colonies (such as Acanthus, Stagirus, Sane and Argilus) in north-eastern Chalcidice and at the head of the Strymonic Gulf were founded around the middle of the 7th century BC.

In the second colonisation movement of northern Greece the arrival of Parians on the island of Thasos starts a period that has left an indelible mark on the subsequent history of the region. A great advantage --inter alia-- of the site was its proximity to the Thracian coast, about which the first colonists probably already had information. Thus, the Parians opted to settle at the most northerly end of the island in order to begin their plans to expand onto the coast opposite. Tiverios claims that the initial contact of the island with the fertile lands on the opposite shore of Thrace might had been made before the colony was officially established in around 680-670 BC (73-74). It seems that neighbours of the Parians in the new land were the Thracians and probably the Phoenicians, though, as the archaeological evidence shows, it is impossible to trace the latter. Despite the resistance of the Thracians and also of other Greeks, literary and archaeological finds confirm that the colonists managed to settle on the Thracian coast (the so-called Thasian Peraia) comparatively quickly, by the second half of the 7th century BC, where they established, among other colonies and emporia, important apoikiai such as Neapolis, Oesyme, Galepsus, and Stryme.

In trying to consolidate themselves mainly in the areas close to their island, the Thasian-Parians left room east of the Nestos River for other Greeks to found colonies. Several important colonies were then founded such as Abdera, Maroneia, Dicaea, and Orthagoria, all of them of Ionian origin.

The colonisation of the island of Samothrace is problematic because of the lack of evidence in the ancient written sources. Archaeological data from the site show that Ionian elements co-existed with Aeolian elements and the latter appear to have been stronger. So, it seems likely to the author to conclude that the first settlers who arrived on the island, must have come from Aeolis, from the nearby Troad or from Lesbos. They would have been accompanied by Ionians from Samos (110). Samothrace occupied a very important location on the maritime routes which linked Asia with Europe and Aegean islands with Thrace. The first colonists of the island were very soon obliged to look for fertile land on the mainland opposite, because Samothrace had only one small plain in the west and a narrow strip of fertile land along its north coast. As the Parians of the Thasos colonised the opposite Thasian Peraia, in the same way the Greek colonists of Samothrace started to conquer the rich Thracian Peraia, thus becoming the Samothracian Peraia, which consisted of a coastal area from Mt. Ismaros to the River Hebrus and was bounded to the north by the foothills of Mt. Zone. In this area the Greeks established several colonies: Drys, Mesembria, Zone, Sale, Tempyra and Charakoma.

As far as the Aeolian and Ionian colonisation in the north-eastern part of Aegean Thrace is concerned (i.e. the coastal cities east of the Hebrus River as far as Elaious at the southernmost tip of the Chersonese), our information is based mainly on the ancient written tradition because of the very limited excavations in the area (118). We also know that the Athenians too took a particular interest in the north-east Aegean, though a somewhat tardy one, i.e. after the end of the 7th century BC.

The next chapter, written by Pierre Cabanes, introduces us to Greek colonial movement in the Adriatic Sea. The first part of the chapter is dedicated to the ancient written (almost exclusively Greek and, subsequently, Latin) tradition and the myths about the contacts between the Greek world and the two shores of the Adriatic. The different stages of Greek colonisation are then examined, starting with Euboean colonial activity in the area during the second third of the 8th century BC. In spite of the information we have from ancient sources (mainly Plutarch) on early Euboean (Eretrian) colonial activity in Corcyra, many modern scholars reject this Eretrian colonisation because of the lack of any relevant archaeological evidence thus far. The next colonial stage begins with the Corinthian settlement in Corcyra, founded by Chersicrates, in 733 BC. The new colonists clashed with the Eretrians and the locals (Liburni), who were either driven out or subjected. Though the mother-city (Corinth) and the colony (Corcyra) soon became --after two generations--hostile, it seems that those hostilities were not without respite, as shown by their collaboration in founding the colonies of Epidamnus-Dyrrhachium and Illyrian Apollonia in order to control all the routes linking the Adriatic coast to the interior (169). But the Greeks did not stop at Epidamnus. They continued their colonial activities to the north: Phocaeans, Rhodians, Thessalians, Aeginetans, Athenians, and even the Syracusans founded many apoikiai and emporia on the Adriatic shores.

Greek colonisation continued on the Dalmatian and Albanian coast, where many colonies were established: Nymphaeum, Issa, Pharos1 and Black Corcyra. In the late 4th century BC the Athenians too were obliged to create a naval base in a region of good grain cultivation in order to find new sources of wheat to feed the population of Athens.

The colonies in the Adriatic continued their history during the Hellenistic period with many vicissitudes, especially the colonies of Epidamnus-Dyrrhachium and Apollonia. The Roman invasion in 229-228 BC in the first Illyrian War affected the situation in the whole area. It was the time when the maritime piracy increased in the Adriatic Sea and the royal dynasties changed in Epirus and Illyria. In the very next century, i.e. after the massive Roman intervention along Adriatic shores, there are indications which attest the progression of the Greek presence, at the moment that Rome became the sole power in the region.

The ancient Greek presence in the territory of Cyrenaica is the topic of the next paper by Michel Austin. The largest and most prosperous Greek city in Libya, according to ancient written sources and the archaeological evidence so far, is Cyrene, about which there are unusually abundant Greek literary sources, mainly Herodotus's narrative. Indeed, no other Greek foundation is related in such detail in extant sources, and no other individual founder receives as much attention in literary sources as does the founder of Cyrene, Battos. However, the author believes that the abundant written sources seem to have some disadvantages. For example, they are not contemporary to the foundation (starting only in the 5th century BC) and they are one-sided in giving primarily a Greek perspective, focusing solely on Cyrene. The other Greek cities of Libya (Tauchira, Barca, Euesperides) are almost completely excluded. That is why archaeological investigations are very significant, providing some general control over at least the most basic elements in Herodotus's narratives.

The first Greek settlement in Libya was relatively late in the expansion of the Greek world. The author suggests the last third of the 7th century BC as the date of the foundation of Cyrene. A more precise chronology seems to him rather illusory (192). The role of the island of Thera (Santorini) in the original foundation of Cyrene is repeatedly attested by many writers over a long period of time and it may be taken as historically true. The author, however, believes that Thera was only a starting point, and a number of parts of the Greek world either participated in the initial foundation or in its subsequent expansion (193). Archaeological investigations have proven Aegean connexions (mainly Cretan) from the very start of the establishment in Libya (204). These connexions are reflected in the finds of Aegean pottery at the major Greek Libyan sites, including an unusual amount of Cretan material as well as the more common East Greek and Rhodian wares (194). Thus, the author offers the opinion that the settlement had been increasingly viewed in the Greek world as an attractive prospect.

The migration from Greece to Cyprus and the process of Hellenisation of the island is the subject of the following chapter by Maria Iacovou. From the very beginning the author points out that the purpose of her chapter is to explore as many different avenues that can provide insights into how the protohistoric Greek population movement came about and what changes it brought to the human environment of Cyprus, how it manifested itself in the linguistic and material record and how it affected the issues of ethnicity and state formation (223). Her essay is divided into two parts: the first deals with the island of Cyprus before the arrival of the Greeks (i.e. it shows what the island was like), while the second begins with the situation in the Early Iron Age and the process of Hellenisation of the island's population. During the first period it seems that Cyprus remained well beyond the periphery of Mycenaean political authority with no Mycenaean palace characteristics. This is contrary to what we can detect in the island of Crete. The conclusion is, thus, that prior to the 12th century BC the idea of a colonial penetration of Cyprus by Mycenaean Greeks cannot be supported and the politico-economic system of the Mycenaean palaces is not responsible for the Greek colonisation of Cyprus (230).

The second part of the chapter is more extensive and covers a wide chronological period from the Early Iron Age to Late Antiquity, though there are some modern Greek parallels to the colonisation episode of the 19th and 20th centuries AD. Iacovou points out three ways in which the illiterate newcomers from the Aegean, after they had settled in the Late Cypriote urban centres, managed to commence the process of Hellenisation: they adopted and adapted the local Cypro-Minoan script in order to write their own language, giving, thus, substance to their ethnicity; they changed the taste of figurative representations of the island into an Aegean-type painted pottery of eleventh-century Cyprus, with the aid of which the Greek immigrants began to nurture an historical memory of their ancestry; they provoked transformations in mortuary practices. The material landscape of the Cypro-Geometric (11th-8th centuries BC) settlements is characterised by absence of ethnic boundaries. That means that the people of those settlements did not feel necessary to safeguard their identity from a separate invasive material culture (the Aegean for instance).

The establishment of a Greek-speaking population in Cyprus had another effect on Early Iron Age cultural integration: the optimisation of Cyprus's metal industry, redefining the island as a major international metals' trader in the Mediterranean during this period (250). This integration (or cultural homogeneity of the Cypriot society) was, nevertheless, divided into three different linguistic groups: Greek, Phoenician and an old unknown Eteocypriot. After having analysed the process by which Arcado-Cypriot Greek and its carriers were established in the island shortly before the end of the 2nd millennium BC, the author's efforts are focused in tracing the appearance and the subsequent history of the Phoenicians and their language in Cyprus. Finally, she tries to highlight the history of Cypriot monarchies and kingdoms in the 1st millennium BC.

Jean-Paul Descoeudres offers a significant contribution regarding the situation in Central Greece just before the beginning of the ancient Greek Colonisation of the 8th and 7th centuries BC, trying to demonstrate the process itself, its characteristics and its causes. After a very detailed analysis of the available ancient written sources, as well as the archaeological evidence from the area under examination (290-360), the author presents the reasons why the ancient Greek immigrants left their motherland and opened their geographical horizons to the entire Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The author believes that ancient Greece during this time was completely self-sufficient in rural and raw materials (except for tin). The country produced surpluses of agricultural products that could even be exported in exchange for various luxury commodities, thus ruling out the opinion that the prosperity of the motherland was due to the provisions of their colonies in Sicily and southern Italy.

According to the evidence, it seems very unlikely that climatic disasters could have been a catalyst to the colonisation movement, if we consider that Euboea and Athens serve as good examples in this view (361-362). Following the same logic, the author concludes that there is no evidence that overpopulation in the modern sense of the term could have been the main reason of the colonisation movement in the 8th century BC.2 Finally, the analysis of the evidence leads to the statement that there was a connexion between the start of the colonisation movement and the beginning of the process of the Greek polis formation. This connexion is not at all coincidental.

In the next chapter Jonathan M. Hall provides a theoretical analysis of how scholars approach the colonial foundation stories. In the first section of the chapter, Hall distinguishes three approaches to foundation stories, which, however, are not situated equidistantly from one another: first, the historical-positivist approach (deriving from the Rankean scientific model); second, the poeticist approach; and, third, the historical-constructivist approach. The author believes that the latter two approaches define themselves against the historical-positivist interpretations. In the next section the author's intention is to subject generalising observations on the nature of colonial foundations stories of 27 Italian colonies to more systematic scrutiny. The credibility of the foundation stories and the role of archaeological evidence in confirming the literary foundation dates are discussed in the third section. As a case-study the author presents the evidence regarding the foundation of Taras in the last section of his chapter.

Although the ancient Greek colonisation movement is said end in the 6th century BC, Thomas Figueira in the final chapter pursues it into the 5th and the 4th centuries in order to present the Greek powers (mainly Athens) which continued to play an important colonial role in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. His first section is dedicated to archaic Athenian colonisation (i.e. before 480 BC), which the author characterises as patronal in order to stress the predominance of individual (familial) initiatives. Patronal colonisation was not the only means of occupying new lands. Athens absorbed territories along its margins through incorporation into its core polity (432, 434). According to the evidence, Attic settlements abroad in this period are grouped into two categories: apoikiai and klerouchiai. The author stresses two major impacts of colonisation on Athenian administration. First, it helped offset damage done to Attica by Peloponnesian incursions by providing subsistence to hoplites from external assets, especially those who suffered financial setbacks. Second, Athenian colonisation raised substantial revenues.

In the next section Figueira deals with Athenian overseas settlement in the fourth century, a period in which Athens hoped to regain holdings through recolonisation. Especially during the decades of the 360s and 350s Athens tried intensively to recover the colonial holdings lost at the end of the Peloponnesian War. The foundation of the second Confederacy, as well as the elimination of Spartan Aegean naval power at Naxos in 376 BC, served as favourable preconditions for Athens. In the last section the author presents the colonial activities conducted by authorities other than Athens during the classical period (480-323 BC) in homeland Greece, in Asia Minor, in Northern Aegean and Thrace, in the Black Sea, and finally in Sicily and Italy. After a detailed analysis the author concludes that colonisation was an important political tool during the Classical period, especially because it provided more resources, manpower and taxes to the metropolis. A comparison between Archaic and Classical colonisation shows that the latter did not have the total impact of the first one because the Classical colonisers were usually recolonisers. Archaic colonising aristocracies, on the contrary, could find many virgin sites to found their settlements and various populations to interact with.

Overall the book fulfils its purpose of providing an overview of Greek colonies and other Greek settlements overseas in one volume. All major scientific aspects of the colonial phenomenon are reviewed in the light of new evidence. Thus it, along with its companion volume (vol. 1 2006) can be used by students as a useful and up-to-date survey of Greek colonisation in antiquity.


Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, Preface (ix - x)

List of Abbreviations (xi - xiv)

List of Illustrations (xv - xviii)

Michalis Tiverios, Greek Colonisation of the Northern Aegean (1-154)

Pierre Cabanes, Greek Colonisation in the Adriatic (155-185)

Michel Austin, The Greeks in Libya (187-217)

Maria Iacovou, Cyprus: From Migration to Hellenisation (219-288)

Jean-Paul Descoeudres, Central Greece on the Eve of the Colonisation Movement (289-382)

Jonathan M. Hall, Foundation Stories (383-426)

Thomas Figueira, Colonisation in the Classical Period (427-523)

Index for Volume 2 (525-545)

Reprint of Index for Volume 1 (547-566)


1. I feel obliged to add to the bibliography a recently published study on ancient Pharos by Branko Kirigin, Pharos: The Parian Settlement in Dalmatia: A study of a Greek colony in the Adriatic. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1561. Oxford 2006. The absence of this important reference in the author's bibliography is probably due to the fact that the draft of this paper was submitted to the editor in early 2000 and the editor published it in 2008, being updated probably only selectively. The same could be said for almost all the chapters of the book under review and the authors themselves felt obliged to make a clear reference to this fact in the first pages of their chapters: see for example the chapters of Tiverios and Iacovou. In his Preface the editor makes special mention of the patience of the authors and their willingness to update and even to rewrite their initial manuscripts.

2. For similar conclusions on the insignificance of metal trade as a main motivation of ancient Greek colonisation, as well as the fact that there was no serious problem of overpopulation, nor land shortage per se in ancient Greece during the 8th century BC, see: Elias K. Petropoulos, Hellenic Colonization in Euxeinos Pontos: Penetration, Early Establishment and the Problem of the 'Emporion' Revisited. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1394. Oxford 2005: 7, 41; Cherry J. F. and Davis J. L., "Northern Keos in Context," in L. G. Mendoni and A. Mazarakis-Ainian (eds.), Kea-Kythnos: History and Archaeology. Proceedings of an International Symposium. Kea-Kythnos, 22-25 June 1994. MELETIMATA, vol. 27. Athens 1998: 220-1. See also the chapter of Thomas Figueira, p. 428.

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