Greek gold

Greeks in Russia

In the middle of the 7th century BC the Greeks travelled east in search of new lands to settle. They sailed to the Black Sea, which they named the Pontos Axeinos or 'inhospitable sea' because of the rough weather. Once they had landed on its northern shore, the name soon changed to Pontos Euxine, the 'hospitable sea'. Colonies were founded in the present Crimea and particularly around the passage between the northern peninsulas. The first inhabitants grew grain and caught fish, which they exported.

The first large colony, Pantikapeion, was founded in the 6th century and was quickly followed by more. These 'Pontic' cities became so powerful that in the 5th century they founded their own kingdom, which experienced a golden age in the 4th century BC.

After the decline of Greek civilisation the Pontic area was occupied by several rulers and peoples. Its annexation to the Russian empire meant that at the beginning of the 19th century it became possible to investigate the various burial mounds. These expeditions, initially organised by the tsars and later by archaeologists from the Hermitage, yielded a wealth of information and artefacts. The results of the excavations became part of the Hermitage collection and to this day the classical department organises archaeological expeditions every year. The objects found now remain in the collections of the provincial museums of the Crimea.

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