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RA 7A: The Bosporan Kingdom and Rome

Writing a history of the Bosporan Kingdom that incorporates all types of sources and the current knowledge is today too vast a task to be accomplished by a single author and encompassed in a single volume. Over the past years much work has been devoted to the early colonial period and a monograph on the kingdom at the turn of our era has appeared. The period that has received the least attention is the period of Roman influence. Unlike the western and southern part of the Black Sea, the Bosporan Kingdom was not incorporated into the provincial system, but continued to exist as a client kingdom outside the borders of the Roman Empire. Because of the richness and diversity of the sources in the form of epigraphical, archaeological, numismatic, and literary evidence, the area offers a unique possibility for studying how the Roman Empire extended its political and cultural influence across its borders. While the border region along the Rhine and Danube has been studied intensely, very little attention has so far been paid outside Russian and Ukrainian scholarship to the Bosporan Kingdom as a neighbour to the Roman Empire. A better understanding of this relationship can offer a deeper insight into how people outside the Roman Empire reacted to its presence economically, culturally, and religiously – not just in the Black Sea area but at large.

The Roman presence in the Black Sea shifted the power balance and disrupted established trade networks. RA 2B has shown that the fish industry underwent profound changes in the Roman period, and it is likely that other sectors of the economy responded similarly to presence of the new Roman market. There are indications that trade with the western Black Sea gained prominence, perhaps in the slipstream of the Roman navy patrolling the area from the Danube region, but it remains to be answered whether this concerned very specific types of goods or whether it was part of a general trend, that also affected the traditional connection across the sea to northeastern Asia Minor.

During the Roman period, a new ethnic group, the Sarmatians, became the dominant non-Greek ethnic group in the Bosporan Kingdom. This Nomadic tribe came into the area from the northeast in the first century BC and slowly penetrated the Bosporan society. By the 1st century AD the royal family was of Sarmatian origin. The rich source material from graves and grave stelae have the potential for a detailed study of the process of assimilation of the Sarmatians within the Bosporan Kingdom as well as the response of the Greek population to the new political situation.


Responsible: Jakob Munk Højte

Main activity: International conference in 2009.

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