Medieval Pontos

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Sergei Karpov’s book Srednevekovyi Pont(The Medieval Pontos) is concerned with the history of the Black Sea area between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. This area formed a trading crossroads between East and West, and it was here and in this period that the flourishing Byzantine Empire confronted the rapid encroachment of Islamic culture and the Italian republics of Genoa and Venice, which both actively sought access to the Mediterranean markets. Karpov’s book embraces the years marked by the flourishing of the Trapezund Empire (1204-1461) and closes with a discussion of the crisis of the mid fourteenth century, which led to the collapse of Byzantium. The treatment draws on a large number of partly fragmentary sources, including Byzantine historical accounts, oriental literature and Russian chronicles. However, this is one of the first attempts to combine the disparate researches of earlier times with the most recent discoveries and additions to our knowledge. Of particular value is Karpov’s use of material from Italian archives that for a long period were inaccessible to scholars. He also provides an exhaustive list of sources ranging from classical works to research publications that appeared over the last few years, and including over 1500 titles in English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Georgian, Bulgarian, Rumanian and Russian; appendices also provide translations of several archival texts. Despite the richness of sources used, though, Karpov claims to have sacrificed totally exhaustive treatment for the sake or preserving the “conceptual integrity” of his book as a whole. Karpov has a colorful and engaging style that avoids excess of detail and sometimes approximates more to the manner of diary notation. The work is a major contribution to international world culture, and historians and archeologists, as well as English, German, Italian and Russian literary scholars, are likely to find this book of considerable value in their own independent researches.

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