Introduction. History of research

 The northern Black Sea littoral, called Po/ntoj Eu)/ceinojor Hospitable Sea by the Ionians, occupied a special place in the history and culture of the Greeks. Orestes went there with Pylades to rescue Iphigeneia, priestess of the Tauric Artemis, from the hands of a cruel barbarian king named Thoas. Centuries later, Pausanias still could admire the statue of Artemis carried away together with Iphigeneia. The earliest Miletian sailors established many colonies, some of which were in existence a thousand years later and more. In their wake came Herodotus, who must have also appreciated the warm waters, low summer waves and mild coastal climate, considering the heart-warming parallel that he drew with the Sicilian coast he knew so well. Herodotus mentions the expedition of Darius, the planning of which betrays excellent ground knowledge of Scythia by the Persian staff officers. In attacking Scythia Darius evidently aimed to free Iranian lands at the core of his empire from the incessant threat of nomads attacking from the north, from deep inside the steppes of Central Asia. Another bold plan, one which Mithridates VI authored, was an attack on the Roman Empire from Scythia in the direction of the Lower Danube. Mithridates VI was one of the most talented and determined defenders of the Greek Orient against Roman expansion. His idea, which he had not managed to implement, was taken up in surprising fashion by Fritigern and his Germanic warriors, who swept down from the steppes of Scythia and the northern Black Sea littoral to strike down the imperial armies in the fields of modern Edirne. The western empire never rose from its knees after that. So the history of Western civilization was changed.

There can be no doubt, however, that the Bosporan kingdom was on the margins of the Graeco-Roman world. The consequence of this is a relative scarcity of relevant written sources, raising in effect the importance of inscriptions and archaeological excavations for any historical studies of the region. They are indeed of primary nature and the fullest source of data available, but because of their specificity they fail to produce a synthetic view of the kingdom’s history. Instead they give grounds for numerous theories and even speculation, concerning issues as basic as the political system of the Bosporan Kingdom, its ethnic character and territorial extent, not to mention a detailed course of political events. Any evaluation of in-depth studies demands a working understanding of current research, taking into account especially epigraphic studies on the Greek inscriptions from the region.