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Timeless myth

The tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece has been told for thousands of years. In this tale the hero embarks on a sea voyage into an unknown land, in search of a ram's fleece, which he has to find in order to reclaim his father's kingdom of Iolkos. No one knows for sure where the earliest poets set the adventure. By 700 BC the poet Eumelos set the tale of the Golden Fleece in the kingdom of Aia, a land that at the time was thought to be at the eastern edge of the world. At this point the Jason story becomes fixed as an expedition to the Black Sea. Jason's ancestor Phrixus had flown east from Greece to the land of Colchis - modern day Georgia - on the back of this ram.




Black Sea colonization

Jason's ship, ‘Argo’, began its journey with a crew known as the Argonauts. Historically, once the Greeks learned to sail into the Black Sea they embarked on a period of colonization lasting some 3000 years - but the time they first arrived in the region is still controversial. The Jason tale is a founding myth for many towns along this shore. It is along this coast that the Argonauts rescue a blind prophet, Phineus. In return Phineus prophesies that Jason will be the first mariner to sail through the ‘clashing rocks’ that guard the entrance to the Black Sea. The myth arose when Greek sailors were first able to negotiate their way up the straits of the Bosporus to enter the Black Sea. In time the sea was transformed in Greek eyes from Axeinos Pontus (hostile sea) to Euxeinos Pontus (welcoming sea).


Exploring cultural similarities

The narratives of Herodotus, Ovid's place of exile – nowadays is the coast of Romania - the decline and fall of Byzantium and the centuries of war between Ottoman and Russian Empires around the Black Sea; evoked the culture, history and politics of these complex shores. Nektarios Markogiannis began visiting the Black Sea region in a photographic quest, in order to record with his camera, images of the life of Pontic Greeks, who have remained in the region, keeping their customs and language alive. Since then, his vision is to explore the disputed meaning of community, history, and culture in a region famous for its historic conflicts.  What makes the Black Sea cultures distinctive and at the same time common, Nektarios argues, is the way their component parts came together over the years to shape communities, languages, religions, and of course trade. These components found in the Caucasus, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Turkey have linked the people of Europe and Asia together for centuries. Although, this project is geographically centered, his vision is not about geography; rather, it concerns the people from a photographic point of view, people who migrated and have been living in this inland sea. His desire is to offer captured, thought provoking images, keeping a balance between sensitivity and objectivity.
 Written by Sofia Nikaki