PONTIC HISTORY

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THE MONASTERY OF PANAGIA SOUMELA - MATSOUKA





In approximately 1000 BC Greek speaking Ionians inhabiting southern Greece were pushed out by invading waves of Dorians. The fleeing Ionians invaded and settled the Aegean coast of Asia Minor - present day Turkey - and founded or occupied the cities of Priene, Pergamon and most importantly, Miletos. In about 700 BC Milesian colonists settled the Black Sea coast and migration from the Aegean coast began. They named the Black Sea "Evxinos Pontos" (hospitable or friendly sea) possibly from the old Iranian "axsaina" meaning dark. Strabo states in his "Geography" that the city of Sinope was founded by Autolycos , one of Jason's Argonauts and that the city was conquered by the Milesians. From here colonization spread eastwards to the border of Colchis, modern day Georgia.

Occupying the same area were the indigenous people, ancestors of the present day Laz, of Georgian/Mingrelian extraction who today play almost the same music, have the same costumes and many similar customs as the Pontic Greeks, although they are not related peoples.

From the sixth century BC all of Asia Minor fell to the Persians. Later, in the fourth century BC, Xenophon, on his way back to Greece after his ill fated Persian expedition describes the Pontic area and culture. Because the area was never conquered by Alexander the Great, Pontos remained under the rule of independent Persian satraps. The greatest of these rulers was the Parthian Mithradates VI who was finally defeated by Pompeii. Thereafter, Pontos was absorbed into the Roman Empire and joined to the province of Galatia-Cappadocia.

After the split of the Roman Empire in the fourth century AD, Pontos became the border of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. The warriors of Pontos became the guardians of the Eastern borderlands and the "akrites" (border warriors) became legendary. The most famous of the Akritans was the legendary Digenis Akritas, the subject of an epic poem in both written form and oral folk poetry that is still sung today by Pontic singers. From Pontos, the Akritans defended the border against or allied themselves with Georgians, Arabs, Oguz, Khazars, Armenians, Alans, Persians, Kurds, Avars and many of the various tribes of the Caucasus.

In 1204, Constantinople was conquered by Crusaders and the city was in Latin hands until 1261. In 1204, the Empire of Trebizond was formed with the single eagle as its emblem in deference to the Byzantine double headed eagle of the emperor. After many years of shrinking borders, losing battles and no support from the West, Constantinople finally fell to the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453. In 1461 the Emperor David Comnenos surrendered the Empire of Trebizond to the Sultan and the Ottoman conquest of Asia Minor was complete.

Pontos remained a major centre of Hellenism until the 19th century when it fell into decline due to conversion to Islam and immigration from the Caucasus.

In the aftermath of World War I, with massacres and military actions on both sides, Orthodox Christians in Turkey and Muslims in Greece were exchanged according to the Treaty of Lausanne, thus ending the Greek history in Pontos but the culture is still carried on today and kept very much alive by the descendents.



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