Skip to main content

Black Sea History

The project was created by Professor David Braund, who has worked in the Black Sea region since 1984, while continuing with his research in the Mediterranean. Its aim is to advance contact, collaboration and mutual understanding between scholars working on the ancient Black Sea region in UK, Europe and the countries of the region, especially through joint projects, conferences and publications. Accordingly, the project has received numerous academic visitors from the region over the years, for periods ranging from a week to two years. Those who have spent long periods with us include Professor Sergey Saprykin (Head of Ancient History, Moscow State University), Dr Darejan Kacharava (Director of excavations, Vani (Georgia) and Director of Museum Collections, National Museum, Tbilisi) and Dr Marina Vakhtina (Senior Researcher and Deputy Head of Classical Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg). These many visitors have been key to a broader programme of collaboration with scholars in the region, which is most obvious in the series of conferences held in the UK and the region under the aegis of the project. The various activities of the project have secured invaluable funding from the AHRCBritish AcademyLeverhulme Trust, Wardrop Fund, Ford Foundation and BP

In 1990 the project held a two week conference, with papers in London (Institute of Archaeology) and Oxford, with ten invited academics from Moscow and Tbilisi. In 2000 a similar event was held in Exeter with a further ten, mostly from Russia and the Ukraine (published as Scythians and Greeks, Exeter University Press, 2005). There followed a broadly biennial programme of conferences held in St. Petersburg, Kyiv and Georgia, including a tour by UK and continental scholars led by Braund to Kyiv and the remarkable site at Bel'sk (including a former colleague, David Harvey and a current colleague, Elena Isayev, with others from Oxford, Bradford and elsewhere). A series of publications has resulted in Russia, Georgia and Ukraine, while the British Academy published papers arising from the Kyiv event in 2007 (Classical Olbia and the Scythian world, Oxford University Press, edited by Braund and S.D.Kryzhitskiy, then Head of excavations at Olbia and Head of Classical Archaeology in the Ukrainian Academy). In 2012 there also appeared a volume of essays edited by Braund with Michael Vickers (Oxford) and Eudokia Papuci (Warsaw), arising from an international conference held in Cracow (Pontika 2008, BAR, Oxford).

The project continues to facilitate UK contacts with the region. Recent collaboration with Prof. Edith Hall (KCL), the poet Tony Harrison and others, in Ukraine and the UK, has led inter alia to two substantial articles (both co-authored by Braund and Hall) on the contribution of pottery from the Black Sea to our knowledge of the tragic chorus (forthcoming, JHS 2014) and theatrical structures and practice in the cities of the Black Sea (forthcoming, DAI, Berlin). The Project is also a hub for the subject across Europe, so that, for example, Braund has several articles in the fundamental volumes published by the Danish Black Sea Centre. With Professor J Gehrke and Dr A Dan, Braund is also leading a Franco-German-UK project on the role of charisma in the history of Mithridates VI Eupator, returning Braund to his Weberian dissertation, published as Rome and the Friendly King (London, 1984, currently being reissued). In Greece, the project and the British School at Athens have independently formed agreements of cooperation with the Demetra Foundation, the principal research institute in the Crimea, at Kerch (Panticapaeum), where Braund is a regular visitor.

In Turkey, Braund was an architect and committee-member of the BABSI initiative of the British Academy, whereby the British Institute in Ankara was tasked with developing Black Sea activities. The project contributes substantially to an EU-Turkey-Georgia collaboration based around amphora-studies, led from Bilkent University, Ankara (Professor Dominique Tezgor), including sessions in Sinope, Trabzon and Batumi, with consequent publications by Braund and others. Professor Stephen Mitchell, who left the department in 2011, made an important contribution to the project in Turkey, including a BIAA-led meeting in Istanbul and a similar event with Braund in Manchester. He was also Chair of the BABSI committee.

The project is now expanding its activities on the west coast of the Black Sea. The first fruit of that work will soon appear in Blackwell's Companion to Thrace, edited by a Bulgarian-US team with a chapter by Braund. Among other new projects is Roman Hoards from Batumi: Braund, N. Inaishvili (Georgian Academy) and Vickers will publish four important Roman-period hoards from the semi-autonomous region of Adchara in Georgia, held in Batumi and St. Petersburg. This follows from the publication of Treasures from Zghuderi by the Georgian National Museum in 2010 (co-authored by Braund, K Javakhishvili and G Nemsadze), concerning three rich burials of the Roman period in eastern Georgia. Meanwhile, collaboration with the Russian Academy and Hermitage Museum (where Braund is a frequent visitor) continues. The theatrical strand of the project will be marked in November by the publication there of Braund's paper on the so-called stilt-dancers of early comic theatre. In 2014 the project will cooperate with Hall and Russian and Ukrainian colleagues in a workshop on Black Sea theatre at KCL.

Braund currently has a large manuscript on Greek-Scythian interaction under consideration, while completing books on Black Sea themes for Princeton, Cambridge University Press and IB Tauris as well as a new volume of essays on goddesses in the region. A Georgian translation of his Georgia in antiquity (Oxford University Press 1994) will shortly be published by Batumi University.

In teaching matters, Braund was for many years the Special Adviser to a Council of Europe Project to improve school materials on the history of the Caucasus in the countries of the region (ADACS). At Exeter, he has taught a final year module on the Black Sea for many years. Current postgraduate research students include Jack O'Neill on the Balkans and Ioanna Koumi on Greeks in the ancient Crimea.

Braund has received a range of honours and distinctions for his work in the project, including the Honorary Diploma of the Russian Classical Association (2000), D.Litt. (Batumi University (2010). In 2014 he will hold an Onassis Research grant (Category A), partly in association with the Department of Black Sea Studies at the International Hellenic University, Thessaloniki.