On first contact with the Black Sea I was disappointed to discover that the water is not really black! That said, when I returned on a gloomier day the name naturally seemed more appropriate. The reality is that the precise etymology is subject to debate and may not reflect the Sea’s colour at all. Theories range from a description of the Sea’s depth to its northern location in the ancient world (at a time when colours were used to represent cardinal points) and even a black sludge, the product of a chemical reaction between oxidised metal flotsam and jetsam and hydrogen sulphide present in the water. The Ancient Greeks, who established settlements on its shores, named it “the Inhospitable Sea” due to the storms, fogs and savage tribes that they encountered. It seems plausible that a similarly negative view persisted into medieval times, reinforced by frequent shipwrecks, and that the Sea therefore became known as “black” in the sense of “dark” or “sinister”.