By Aris Tsilfidis
Boz Tepe is a hill situated in close proximity to the city of Trapezunta in Pontus. The hill was known historically as Mount Minthrion (Grk: Μινθρίον or Μίνθρον). The word Boz Tepe is a Turkish word which means ‘Grey Hill'. Its summit is 243 metres above sea level and is believed to be the site of the few remains of the temple of Mithra. In his work ‘The History of the Empire of Trebizond', German historian Falmerayer states that the trapezoidal shape of the hill and the similar shape of the surrounding hills, led to the naming of Trapezunta itself.
The hill is often mentioned by Michael Panaretos as Minthrion.
To reach Boz Tepe you follow the main road out of town, pass the Theoskepastos Monastery before arriving at Boz Tepe and the hilly country to the south which stretches 15 klm until you descend eastward into the valley of the Pyxites, Degirmen Dere at Esiroglu3.
Boz Tepe is associated with the well known cult of Mithras. According to this cult the great statue of Mithras was overthrown by martyr St Eugenius. It's believed the remains of Mithraic tombs are found on the hill. The cult was locally remembered as late as 1438. The worship of the Persian God Mithras (Mithraism) was a mystery religion which was practiced popularly by the military of the Roman Empire during the 3rd and 4th century AD. According to the myth, Mithra (the God of light) was born bearing a torch and armed with a knife and later killed a cosmic bull. Mithra's slaying of the bull later became popular in Hellenic art1.
Bryer states that in 1336 Mount Minthrion was raided by Turkmen who were turned back by a providence of rain. David Winfield states that on the summit of Boz Tepe is a cave above which a 19th century church is located. The church has since been turned into a mosque and it is probably the church (or monastery) of St John the Sanctifier (Άγιος Ιωάννης Αγιαστής). That the Turks raided it in 1336 probably shows that it was worth raiding3.
The following is a popular Pontic lyric about Boz Tepe:
Εξέβ' απάν σο Μποζ Τεπέ
κι είδα την Τραπεζούνταν.
Τα δάκρ(ε)α σ'ομματόπα μου
άλλο 'κι θα στεγνούνταν.
Ανέβηκα πάνω στο Μποζ Τεπέ
Και είδα την Τραπεζούντα.
Τα δάκρυα στα ματάκια μου
άλλο δε θα στεγνώσουν.
I climbed atop Boz Tepe
and I saw Trapezunta.
The tears that fell from my eyes,
will never dry up.
1. Encyclopaedia Brittanica online. See Mithra.
2. Encyclopaedia of Pontian Hellenism. Malliaris Paedia.
3. The Byzantine Monuments and Topography of the Pontos. Dumbarton Oaks. Pages. 48,198,228. .