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On Quora, I encountered a variety of unsourced claims on this subject which I will list below

There are accounts of Black Colchians:

In 522-443, a Greek poet named Pindar described the Colchians as being "dark skinned with woolly hair".

Apollonius of Rhodes states that the Egyptians of Colchis preserved as heirlooms a number of wooden tablets, which show, with considerable accuracy, seas and highways.

According to Pliny the Elder : The Colchians were governed by their own kings in the earliest ages, that Sesostris king of Egypt was overcome in Scythia , and put to fight, by the king of Colchis, which if true, that the Colchians not only had kings in those times, but were a very powerful people.

Then around

350 to 400 AD, Church father St. Jerome and Sophronius referred to Colchis as the "second Ethiopia" because of its black population.  [From: Patrick T. English, Cushites, Colchians, and Khazars, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol 18, Jaunuary - October 1959, p. 53. ] 

And, a black Colchian writer, historian, and ethnographer, Dmitri Gulia (1874-1960) asserted that his heritage originated from Sesostris. He published a book called, History of Abkhazia, which shows that the black Colchian people of Southern Russia were really an Abyssinaian people of Egypt. He shows putting together a vast array of Abkhazian words that matched that of ancient Egypts is more proof for it. (Poe, 58)

Pindar, Apollonius, Pliny, Jerome etc. Did these men really write these things as quoted above?

Is Herodotus disproved or validated on his claims about a dark skinned and woolly haired people living in Colchis?

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    You will find these topics discussed in "White Athena: A Critique of Afrocentrist Claims, Volume 2", books.google.com/books?id=IJwVCgAAQBAJ – Peter Diehr Dec 23 '18 at 17:23
  • @PeterDiehr Its funny that the book is named "White Athena". Martin Bernal a Cambridge educated scholar authored "Black Athena". I find it hard to believe that Mr Bernal was an afrocentrist. Or Diodorus Siculus who claimed that the Egyptians were actually Ethiopian colonists. I will check it out. Thanks! – user20490 Dec 23 '18 at 19:08
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    What does the dna of the current population say about such links? What do human remains from ancient times tell us about the origin of the people in the region? Consider this sourced article on the matter. Consider too that Medea and the Amazons are given origins in Colchis and both are portrayed as Greek women with no distinguishing ethnic markers. – Daniel Dec 23 '18 at 21:56
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    @user20490 Dismiss completely? No. But, from my answer below: "The first point to note when dealing with any ancient author is that the reliability of their claims generally diminishes as the distance between the author and the events they are describing increases, in terms of both time and geography". Those authors didn't have access to modern dating techniques, DNA evidence, linguistics or, in most cases, even the range of written sources available to modern scholars. So, where those ancient authors disagree with evidence from those other sources, just assume the ancient authors are wrong. – sempaiscuba Dec 25 '18 at 15:44
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    @user20490 Your questions are covered in the link in my previous comment. The summary being that Greeks described any group with darker skin than themselves as being dark and the woolly hair reference is a poor translation of a word that simply meant curly. Therein lies a lot of problems with discussions on ancient authors where the people arguing have no knowledge of the original language. We are left sometimes debating "facts" based on sometimes poor translations as well as potentially being ignorant about how the words in question were used at the time of writing. – Daniel Dec 26 '18 at 22:41
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tl; dr

The answer to the question in your title is that it depends on what you (and Herodotus) mean by 'dark-skinned'. There is certainly no evidence of any large black African population in Colchis (contrary to the claims of many afro-centrists).

The quotes from the Quora answer will be dealt with individually below.


Firstly, your question:

Pindar, Apollonius, Pliny, Jerome etc. Did these men really write these things as quoted above?

Well, let's deal with each pf the quotes in turn.

In 522-443, a Greek poet named Pindar described the Colchians as being "dark skinned with woolly hair".

Pindar was one of the first Greek authors to refer to Colchis by name in his Fourth Pythian Ode. The description of the Colchians as being "dark skinned with woolly hair" does not appear anywhere in the poem.

It seems that Chadwick Tyroné, the author of that answer on Quora, is actually ascribing a quote from Herodotus to Pindar.


Apollonius of Rhodes states that the Egyptians of Colchis preserved as heirlooms a number of wooden tablets, which show, with considerable accuracy, seas and highways.

That line (with that exact wording) appears on the Wikipedia page for Colchis, but without citation. If you enter the phrase into Google you will find hundreds of sites using exactly the same wording (that's the power and reach of Wikipedia).

However, if I remember correctly, the only surviving work by Apollonius of Rhodes that mentions Colchis is his epic poem Argonautica, which tells the story of Jason and the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. The text is available from a number of online sources, including this copy on archive.org. Notwithstanding the oft-repeated claim on Wikipedia, the people of Colchis aren't described as 'Egyptian' anywhere in the text of Argonautica.


"According to Pliny the Elder : The Colchians were governed by their own kings in the earliest ages, that Sesostris king of Egypt was overcome in Scythia , and put to fight, by the king of Colchis, which if true, that the Colchians not only had kings in those times, but were a very powerful people."

It is certainly true that Pliny the Elder made this claim in Book XXXIII of his Natural History. The king of Colchis who is supposed to have defeated Sesostris (although not in Scythia, as claimed on Quora) is named as Saulaces. However, as noted in the Wikipedia article:

"Pliny's account of Saulaces and his victory over the Egyptians is uncorroborated by other written sources".

It is worth noting that there is also no archaeological evidence to support the claim.


350 to 400 AD, Church father St. Jerome and Sophronius referred to Colchis as the "second Ethiopia" because of its black population. [From: Patrick T. English, Cushites, Colchians, and Khazars, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol 18, Jaunuary - October 1959, p. 53.]

Now, Patrick English's paper is available on JSTOR. He does indeed make that statement, and the footnotes claim that the source is ultimately Samuel Bochart's Geographia Sacra (Book iv, xxxi). But that isn't actually what Bochart says:

"Ptolemaeo Sebastopolis eadam quae Dioscurias, Colchidis emporium olim adeo clarum, ut trecentae in illud nationes que dissimilibus linguis uterentur, mercaturae gratia confluxerint. Ita ex Timosthene Plinius, qui addit a Romanis CXXX interpretibus negotia ibi gesta. Itaque hoc manet Colchis Aethiopum nomen inditum ab Hieronymo, & Sophronio."

  • (my emphasis)

And, a black Colchian writer, historian, and ethnographer, Dmitri Gulia (1874-1960) asserted that his heritage originated from Sesostris. He published a book called, History of Abkhazia, which shows that the black Colchian people of Southern Russia were really an Abyssinaian people of Egypt. He shows putting together a vast array of Abkhazian words that matched that of ancient Egypts is more proof for it. (Poe, 58)

This is an interesting one (and another of those claims where the exact wording can be found on dozens of other sites).

Black Athena by Martin Bernal was required reading for one of the courses when I studied Egyptology (followed by weeks of detailed analysis and evisceration of the text!). The first part of this claim, about Guila's heritage, appeared in Black Athena. Despite the fact that Bernal quoted Dmitri Gulia in his text, Gulia's book did not appear in Bernal's bibliography (and, as our tutor was at great pains to point out, this is often a red flag that something may be amiss!).

I haven't read Dmitri Gulia's History of Abkhazia (it may never have been published in English, or even outside the Soviet Union, and so far I haven't been able to locate a copy online), so I can't comment on what he actually did or didn't claim in the book. He may indeed have asserted that his heritage originated from Sesostris, but that simply shows that he had read, and believed, what Herodotus wrote in his Histories.

However, even Martin Bernal never claimed that Gulia had proved that the black Colchian people of Southern Russia were really an Abyssinian people of Egypt.


Now, for your second question,

Is Herodotus disproved or validated on his claims about a dark skinned and woolly haired people living in Colchis?

The first point to note when dealing with any ancient author is that the reliability of their claims generally diminishes as the distance between the author and the events they are describing increases, in terms of both time and geography. Now, in this case Herodotus actually says:

"... when he came to the Phasis river, that King, Sesostris, may have detached some part of his army and left it there to live in the country (for I cannot speak with exact knowledge), or it may be that some of his soldiers grew weary of his wanderings, and stayed by the Phasis."

and

"For it is plain to see that the Colchians are Egyptians; and what I say, I myself noted before I heard it from others. When it occurred to me, I inquired of both peoples; and the Colchians remembered the Egyptians better than the Egyptians remembered the Colchians; the Egyptians said that they considered the Colchians part of Sesostris' army. I myself guessed it, partly because they are dark-skinned and woolly-haired; though that indeed counts for nothing, since other peoples are, too; but my better proof was that the Colchians and Egyptians and Ethiopians are the only nations that have from the first practised circumcision."

  • (my emphasis)

The first point to note is that Herodotus would fail the History:SE requirement for citations to support his assertions! These days, the claim that "a couple of blokes in Colchis and Egypt told me ..." would not be a sufficient citation! (Indeed, Herodotus' willingness to believe and repeat the stories he was told is one of the main reasons he was also given the epithet "The Father of Lies").

Secondly, if the people of Colchis were indeed descended from a part of an Egyptian army that remained following the conquest of Sesostris (a 'conquest' for which we have absolutely no record in Egypt), then they were a very remarkable group in that it would appear that they did not preserve any aspects of their highly distinctive Egyptian material culture, burial practices etc.

Thirdly, by Herodotus' day Colchis was part of the Persian empire. As the Wikipedia page notes, Colchis had been invaded and defeated by the Assyrian empire, and was subsequently incorporated into the Achaemenid Persian Empire toward the mid-sixth century BC. There are thus a number of possibilities for the origins of the 'dark-skinned' people that Herodotus claimed that he saw in Colchis.

Finally, if you look at the Greek, you will see that the word translated as 'dark-skinned' is μελάγχροες or melanchroes (which can mean anything from a healthy, bronzed tan to black), and the word translated as 'wooly-haired' is οὐλότριχες or ulotrichous (more often translated simply as 'curly-haired'). So exactly what he meant by that description is unclear.


Finally, to deal with the broader question in your title:

Is there any evidence in history to suggest that there was a Melanchro (dark-skinned) population in Colchis as claimed by Herodotus?

As discussed above, this really depends what you (and Herodotus) mean by 'dark-skinned'. What we can say is that there is no evidence of any large black African population in Colchis, or, indeed, anywhere in the Caucasus.

Although work in this area is ongoing, to date, studies of Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Variation in the Caucasus have shown no evidence for any significant black presence in the region.

Obviously, one might expect that any substantial black population in Colchis would be reflected in the DNA of the modern population in the region. Since the DNA shows no such evidence it seems that whatever Herodotus meant when he described the people of Colchis as μελάγχροες and οὐλότριχες, it could not have been black Africans!


Incidentally this DNA evidence also demonstrates that modern afro-centrist claims that this line in Herodotus proves that there was a black African community living in what is now modern Georgia are completely unfounded. Furthermore, the claim that, by extension, this line in Herodotus proves that the ancient Egyptians were black must also be wrong. If anything, it suggests that the Egyptians of Herodotus' day looked like the people of Georgia!

  • I second the request for an explanation regarding the claim that Colchis was a second Ethiopia. I would also like to add that the Roma who entered Europe during the middle ages and who are now known to originate in India, were thought at the time to be Egyptian, hence the familiar term Gypsy we use today. If Europeans in the middle ages could get that wrong, then it's equally possible that the ancients got things wrong about groups living at the periphery of their knowledge too. – Daniel Dec 26 '18 at 22:58
  • @user20490 Sorry about that. I did a vernacular translation, but must have forgotten to insert it when I was posting the answer. I'll look it up again when I get home and add it, but the passage talks about the number of languages in use, which differed from their neighbours and required Timosthenes to bring 130 interpreters. In the meantime, Google Translate may give you the sense of the passage (although Google does seem to struggle with Classical Latin!). – sempaiscuba Dec 26 '18 at 23:55
  • @Daniel As I said, "The first point to note when dealing with any ancient author is that the reliability of their claims generally diminishes as the distance between the author and the events they are describing increases, in terms of both time and geography". The DNA evidence for the region has so far shown no evidence for any significant black presence in the region. But - of course - it all depends on what people meant when they said 'dark skinned'. – sempaiscuba Dec 26 '18 at 23:59
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    I know I've given you a lot of guff for long answers, but in this case I had no trouble reading the whole thing, and it was definitely worth it. – T.E.D. Dec 27 '18 at 17:01
  • @user20490 These people are darker than the average southern European. – Daniel Dec 30 '18 at 3:43

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