A Multicultural Hub: Unveiling Ancient Abkhazia

Abkhazia’s documented history begins to take shape around the 6th-5th centuries BC, marked by the arrival of enterprising Greek colonists on the eastern Black Sea coast. These Milesian Greeks established flourishing maritime colonies, with Dioscurias (possibly the predecessor of modern Sukhumi) emerging as a crucial center for trade with the diverse local tribes.  However, some sources suggest this trade wasn’t always above board, hinting at the existence of a slave trade.


The region boasted remarkable ethnic and linguistic variety. Renowned classical authors like Herodotus, Strabo, and Pliny the Elder all documented the abundance of languages spoken in Dioscurias and other coastal towns. The rugged mountainous terrain played a significant role by isolating various communities, fostering the development of a multitude of distinct languages and dialects. This makes pinpointing the exact ethnicities and locations of these people a complex task for historians. Even the most knowledgeable modern scholars struggle to decipher the confusing names and limited information provided by classical sources about the region’s interior and its population. Additionally, some of these ancient ethnic designations might have been collective terms encompassing various groups. Furthermore, the region likely witnessed significant population movements throughout history.


Scholars continue to debate the identities of these ancient peoples. Some believe Pliny the Elder’s reference to the “Apsilae” in the 1st century AD and Arrian’s mention of the “Abasgoi” in the 2nd century AD could be early references to the ancestors of the Abkhaz and Abazas, respectively, based on potential linguistic connections. However, others propose these terms might refer to proto-Kartvelian (Georgian) tribal groups. The identities and origins of other intriguing groups mentioned in classical texts, such as the Heniochi and Sanigae, remain even more open to debate. Unfortunately, archaeological finds haven’t always provided clear links between the material culture unearthed and the enigmatic names from these ancient writings. This lack of definitive evidence fuels ongoing scholarly discussions and leaves many questions unanswered.


A Look Through a Different Lens:


The Georgian Chronicles offer a contrasting perspective, steeped in legend. They claim that the Egrosians, descendants of Noah’s grandson Egros who originated from Arian-Kartli, were the first inhabitants of not just Abkhazia but the entirety of western Georgia. This legendary account provides a unique cultural viewpoint but lacks the historical rigor of archaeological and textual evidence.


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