Ancient cities of Crimea

Ancient cities of Crimea

Ruins of the Chersonese Theater. III century. BC. e. – IV century. n. e.

Ancient cities of Crimea. Since ancient times, the sea routes connected the Black Sea coast with the Mediterranean, where in the late II – early I millennium BC. e. arose the great civilization of Greece. From the shores of Hellas, brave navigators went to search for new lands.

Where now there are large seaports, industrial and resort centers of Crimea Evpatoria, Sevastopol, Feodosia and Kerch, in the VI – V centuries. BC. e. the Greeks founded the cities of Kerkinitidu, Chersonese, Theodosia, Panticapaeum, and near it Mirmek, Tiritaku, Nymphaeus, Kimmerik and others. Each of them was the center of the agricultural area, where wheat was grown, grapes were cultivated, and cattle were bred. In the cities there were temples, public and administrative buildings, markets, workshops of artisans.
A convenient geographical location facilitated the development of trade. Merchants exported to the Mediterranean slaves and agricultural products purchased from local tribes – Scythians, Meoths, Sinds. In exchange from the cities of the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor, olive oil, wine, art and craft were brought.
Chersonese was founded in 421 BC. e. on the shore of the bay, which is now called Quarantine. Later, the city significantly expanded its holdings. In the heyday of his subordination Kerkinitida, beautiful harbor (in place of the modern settlement of Chernomorsk) and other settlements of the north-western Crimea.

Ancient cities of Crimea

Chersonesus and Roman coins.

The Chersonesus state was a slave-owning democratic republic. The supreme organ of power was the people’s assembly and council, which resolved all issues of foreign and domestic policy. The leading role in the management belonged to the largest slave owners, whose names were reported by the Chersonesus inscriptions and coins.
Archaeological excavations, begun as early as 1827, showed that the city was well fortified. The remains of defensive structures – massive towers, fortresses, parts of stone walls – have been preserved also throughout the state. This indicates the constant military danger to which the inhabitants were subjected. About their patriotism tells the famous Chersonesos oath. Her text was carved in the late IV – early III centuries. BC. e. on a marble slab found during the excavation of the city:
… “I swear by Zeus, Gaia, Helios, Devoe, gods and goddesses Olympic … I will not betray Chersonesus …” The Chersonesos swore that they would not betray the enemies of the city or its possessions, protect the democratic system, secrets.
As confirmed by archaeological research, the city had a proper layout. Residential buildings were merged into blocks, the streets intersected at right angles. They paved with a small stone. Along the streets there were stone gutters. In the squares towered temples. Public buildings and houses of wealthy citizens were decorated with colonnades and mosaic floors. From the ancient buildings to the present day only the foundations of the walls and basements have reached. Especially interesting are the mint, baths, the ruins of the theater that existed since the III century. BC. e. for IV century. n. e. Only stairways and stone benches for spectators were partially preserved from it. Judging by their size, the theater accommodated up to 3 thousand spectators.

Ancient cities of Crimea

Terracotta figurines. Panticapaeum. V – III centuries. BC. e. The State Hermitage Museum

Near the city walls was located the area of ​​artisans. There archeologists discovered the remains of ceramic production: kilns for burning pottery, stamps for ornaments, molds for making terracotta reliefs. Other crafts also flourished in Chersonesos – metalworking, jewelry, weaving.
The largest ancient state of the Black Sea was the so-called Bosporian kingdom. It was formed as a result of the unification of originally independent Greek cities, such as Panticapaeum, Myrmekiy, Tiritaka, Phanagoria and others, located along the banks of the Bosporus Cimmerian – the modern Kerch Strait. The capital of the state was Panticapaeum. From 438 BC. e. more than three hundred years they were ruled by the dynasty of the Spartacides.
At the end of the V – the beginning of the IV centuries. BC. e. Nymphaeus and Theodosius were annexed to the possessions of the Bosporus, as well as lands inhabited by other tribes. In the I c. BC. e. The Bosporus captured most of the territory of the Crimea, Chersonesos subdued it.

Excavations on Mount Mithridates, held in Kerch from the end of the XIX century, allowed to restore the size and plan of Panticapaeum. At the top was the acropolis – the central fortification of the city with powerful defensive walls and towers. Inside it were located the most important temples and public buildings. Down the slopes of the terraces, blocks of one- or two-story stone buildings descended. The whole city and its surroundings were girded with numerous lines of fortifications. A deep and convenient harbor sheltered trade and military ships securely.

The found fragments of marble statues, pieces of painted plaster and architectural details allow us to talk about the rich decoration of the squares and buildings of the city, the skill of the ancient architects and builders.
In place of Myrmekia and Tiritaki, not far from Kerch, except for city walls, apartment houses and sanctuaries, archaeologists have opened several wineries and baths for salting fish. In Nymphea, near the modern settlement of Heroic, – the temples of Demeter, Aphrodite and Kabirov; in Ilurate, near the modern village of Ivanovka, – Bosporus military settlement of the first centuries AD. e., guarding the approaches to the capital.

Ancient cities of Crimea

Vessels. Glass. Panticapaeum. V in. BC. e. – I c. n. e. The State Hermitage Museum

Next to each ancient city was his necropolis – the city of the dead. Usually buried in simple earth graves, sometimes lined with tiles or stone slabs. The rich and noble were placed in wooden or stone sarcophagi. For their burial, crypts were built, built of stones or cut in the rocks. The walls of the crypts and sarcophagi were decorated with paintings, reliefs, inlays. They were decorated with ornaments, depicted mythological subjects, scenes of real life. Together with the deceased they put things belonging to him: ornaments, dishes, weapons, vessels with incense, terracotta figurines and other objects. In one of the Panticapaean burials of the 3rd c. n. e., perhaps the Bosporus king Riskuporid, was found a unique golden mask that reproduced the features of the deceased person.
Researchers have long been interested in large mounds located in the vicinity of Kerch. They found burials of the Bosporan kings and nobles with outstanding works of Greek art: gold and silver ornaments, bronze and glassware, painted and figured vases.
A masterpiece of world art is rightly considered the gold temporal pendants of the 4th century. BC. e. from the Kul-Oba mound. They are made in the form of disks, to which are attached numerous woven crossed chains, connected by plates and rosettes. On a disc 7 cm in diameter, the head relief of Athena in a helmet with well-defined figures of griffins, an owl and a snake. The finest filigree plates, rosettes, as well as the circumference of the disc are covered with grains and blue enamel.
The most valuable finds from the excavations of the ancient cities of Crimea are presented in the collections of the State Hermitage in Leningrad, the State Historical Museum and the State Museum of Fine Arts. A. Pushkin in Moscow, as well as others.
Now in the territory of Chersonesos in Sevastopol and on Mount Mithridates in Kerch there are nature reserves. Every year thousands of people come there to walk through the streets and squares of ancient cities, get acquainted with the greatest monuments of culture, better know the distant past of our homeland.

Ancient cities of Crimea