Axenos Pontos (inhospitable sea) was a name given to the body of water we now know as the Black Sea. It was later renamed Euxinos Pontos (friendly sea). 

The name Pontus eventually came to mean the north coast of Asia Minor stretching from Sinope in the west, as far as the Georgian border in the east; a land of high mountains, deep valleys and natural harbours. Greek merchants first established trading posts along this shore some 3,000 years ago; outposts that grew into villages, towns and cities.

Like their better-known mother-cities along Asia Minor's Aegean shores, the Pontic cities produced great philosophers like Diogenes, geographers like Strabo, and many other men of learning.

Base Map of Turkey. Source

Protected by the towering Pontic Alps, the region has a long tradition of independence. The Kingdom of Pontus ruled primarily by the six Mithridates kings (I-VI), was a Greek state which was to last from 291BC up until the Roman conquest in 63BC. The Roman period followed, and then the Byzantine period during which Pontus experienced periods of great prosperity. Following the fall of Constantinople to the fourth crusade (1204), the Empire of Trebizond was created as an independent successor state by the Komnene rulers. The Empire of Trebizond was the last Greek-ruled territory to fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1461.

As in Cyprus, Pontus's isolation assisted in the retention of many linguistic elements of Greek, long lost by the rest of Hellenism. The Pontic Greek dialect is arguably one of the most archaic forms of our language still spoken today. Many Pontic speakers today live in Turkey and are Muslims, whilst the majority live in Greece.

Pontic folklore is also archaic. The Pyrrihios (or war dance), was a part of Hellenic culture at least 2,500 years ago, as evidenced by friezes from the 5th century BC. Pontic Greeks will often refer to this dance as Serra, whilst Pontic Muslims refer to it as Horon.

Although the Pontic Greeks had a reputation of being fierce fighters, this did not help them during the genocide period (1914-1923) during which 353,000 Greeks of Pontus were reported to have been massacred at the hand of the Ottomans, the neo-Turks and finally the Kemalists. The event is collectively known as The Greek Genocide , and claimed more Greek lives in other parts of the Empire.

The fate of Pontus was made complete following negotiations at Lausanne and an Exchange of Populations between Greece and Turkey which resulted in the all Orthodox Pontic Greeks being uprooted to Greece. Pontic Muslims were allowed to remain. Today these Muslims continue to speak Romeika or Rum as they call it, a dialect which descends from the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire.


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