DID THE GREEKS GO TO COLCHIS FOR METALS?

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Summary

A too simple understanding of the process of Greek colonisation, especially the reasons for it, sometimes leads modern scholars to unrealistic conclusions. This paper examines the view commonly found in the literature that the main reason for the arrival of the lonians in Colchis in the middle of the 6th century BC was the area's richness in metals. Archaeological material discussed here shows that Eastern Pontus was far from being so well endowed, and that the local tribes were less advanced in metallurgy than is often believed. The Scythian ‘incursion’into Colchis at the end of the 7th century BC both introduced Colchians to iron metallurgy and gave rise to a lacuna in the material culture of the area. New tribes in the Eastern Black Sea in the middle of the 6th century BC revived the iron industry, but it never again reached the scale of production achieved in the 7th century BC. The involvement of the Greeks in iron metallurgy is a matter of which, so far, we know nothing. Nevertheless, the Greeks, trying to adapt their art to the tastes of the local rulers, established in Colchis in the 5th century BC schools of gold- and silver-smiths, as well as the production of metal seals and engraved gems.

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