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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  Chief city and port of the Kimmerian Bosporus, founded by Greek colonists from Miletos in the late 7th-early 6th c. on the site of an earlier settlement, Panti Kapa, on Mt. Mithridates (Strab. 7.4.4; Plin. HN 4.87). The city became the capital of the Spartocids in the 5th-4th c. Its economic decline in the 4th-3d c. was the result of the Sarmatian conquest of the steppes and the growing competition of Egyptian grain. In 63 B.C. the city was partly destroyed by an earthquake. Raids by the Goths and the Huns furthered its decline, and it was incorporated into the Byzantine state under Justin I in the early 6th c.
  On Mt. Mithridates the earliest traces of houses can be seen. Dating to the end of the 7th c. and beginning of the 6th c. B.C., they are almost square in plan and consist of just one room. In the 6th c. B.C. the houses were enlarged to two rooms and nearby were built larger houses. These had several fairly luxurious rooms and painted stucco walls. From the end of the 5th c. B.C. date the remains of the walls that surrounded the city and traces of a sacred building on top of Mt. Mithridates, probably an Ionian peripteral temple (ca. 20 x 40 m), as well as a few fragments of the architrave and some column bases. A marble altar fragment has also been found. In the 4th c. the city covered an area of 100 ha with larger houses. In the 3d-2d c. B.C. a new type of house appeared having a peristyle courtyard; the walls of the rooms were decorated with reliefs of painted stucco or terracotta friezes, also in relief. The city was greatly influenced by indigenous cultures in the early centuries A.D., in which period several complexes were put up containing cisterns for wine production, as well as a considerable number of potters' kilns. Traces of religious architecture include a fragment of the Doric architrave containing the votive inscription of the temple that was dedicated to the cult of the Bosporan king Aspurgos, A.D. 23.
  The funerary architecture is monumental: a succession of kurgans 4th c. B.C.-2d c. A.D.--the Golden Kurgan, Royal Kurgan, Kul Oba and Melek Cesme--show the complete evolution of this type of tumulus tomb (see below). The Demeter kurgan, which dates from the 1st c. A.D., is much smaller than these and has a well-preserved fresco. In the center of the cupola is a medallion containing the head of Demeter. A frieze on the walls represents Pluto, Demeter, the nymph Calypso, and Hermes. The frescos in still later tombs show mainly battle scenes, gradually giving way to more schematic, geometric designs. The rich grave gifts in the tombs indicate the wealth of the city and its inhabitants.
  During the first centuries of the city's existence, imported Greek articles predominated: pottery, terracottas, and metal objects, probably from workshops in Rhodes, Corinth, Samos, and Athens. Local production, imitated from the models, was carried on at the same time. Athens manufactured a special type of bowl for the city, known as Kerch ware. Local potters imitated the Hellenistic bowls known as the Gnathia style as well as relief wares--Megarian bowls. The city minted silver coins from the mid 6th c. B.C. and from the 1st c. B.C. gold and bronze coins. The Hermitage and Kerch Museums contain material from the site.

M. L. Bernhard & Z. Sztetyllo, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

Perseus Project index

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Panticapaeum (Pantikapaion, Pantikapaion, Scylax, Strab. et alii; Pantikapaia, Ptol. iii. 6. § 4: Eth. Pantikapaieus, Pantikapiates, Steph. B. s. v. for the latter we should probably read Pantikapaites, as Pantikapaitai occurs on coins Eckhel, vol. ii. p. 3;, also Pantikapeus, as if from a form Pantikape,, Steph. B.; Panticapenses, Plin. vi. 7: Kertch), an important Greek city, situated in the Tauric Chersonesus on the western side of the Cimmerian Bosporus, and not far from the entrance to the Lacus Maeotis. (Strab. vii. p. 309; Appian, Mithr. 107.) Scylax says (p. 30, Huds.) that Panticapaeum was 30 stadia from the Maeotis, which is too short a distance;. but Arrian (Peripl. § 29, p. 20, Huds.) more correctly makes the distance 60 stadia from Panticapaeum to the mouth of the Tanais, the Maeotis being regarded by this writer as a continuation of the Tanais, and the Bosporus as the mouth of the latter. According to Steph. B. (s. v.) Panticapaeum derived its name from a. river Panticapes; but this is a mistake of the learned Byzantine, who appears to have recollected the river of. this name mentioned by Herodotus, and therefore connected it with the city Panticapaeum, which, however, does not stand upon any river. Amimianus also erroneously places it on the Hypanis (xxii. 8. § 26). According to a tradition preserved by Stephanus (s. v.) it was founded by a son. of Aeetes, who received the district as a present from the Scythian king Agaetes; but we know from history that it was a Milesian colony, and apparently one of the earliest on this coast. (Strab. vii. p. 309; Plin. iv. 12. s. 26.) Ammianus (l. c.) calls it the mother of all the Milesian towns on the Bosporus; but. the date of its foundation cannot be determined. Bockh (Inscr. vol. ii. p. 91) places it about Ol. 59. 4 (B.C. 541), and it must certainly have been. earlier than O1. 75.1 (B.C. 480), which is the date assigned to it by Niebuhr. (Kleine Schrift. vol. i. p. 373.) The Greeks connected the name Panticapaeum with the god Pan, whose figure, or that of a Satyr, frequently appears on the coins of the city; but this name, as well as that of the river Panticapes, probably belonged to the Scythian language, and was, as in similar cases, adopted by the Greeks with an Hellenic termination.
  Panticapaeum was the capital of the kings of Bosporus (Strab. xi. p. 495; Diod. xx. 24), of whom a brief account is given elsewhere. [Vol. I. p. 422.] Accordingly Panticapaeum was frequently called Bosporus, though the latter name was also given to the whole kingdom. Hence, when Demosthenes says that Theudosia was reckoned by many as good a harbour as Bosporus, he evidently means by the latter the capital and not the kingdom (in Lept. p. 467); and accordingly Pliny expressly says (iv. 12. s. 24) that Panticapaeum was called Bosporus by some. Eutropius (vii. 9) erroneously makes Panticapaeuni and Bosporus two different cities. Under the Byzantines Bosporus became the ordinary name of the city (Procop. de Aedif. iii. 7, B. Pers. i. 12. B. Goth. iv. 5); and among the inhabitants of the Crimea Kertch is still called Bospor. The old name, however, continued in use for a long time; for in the Italian charts of the middle ages we find the town called Pandico or Pondico, as well as Bospro or Vospro.
  The walls of the city were repaired by Justinian. (Procop. de Aedif. iii. 7.)
  The site of Panticapaeum is well described by Strabo. Panticapaeum, he says, is a hill, 20 stadia in circumference, covered with buildings on every side: towards the east it has a harbour and docks for 30 ships ; it has also a citadel (vii. p. 390). The hill is now called the Arm-chair of Mithridates. The modern town of Kertch stands at the foot of the hill, a great part of it upon alluvial soil, the site of which was probably covered by the sea in ancient times Hence the bay on the northern side of the city appears to have advanced originally much further into the land; and there was probably at one time a second port on the southern side, of which there now remains only a small lake, separated from the sea by a bar of sand. Foundations of ancient buildings and heaps of brick and pottery are still scattered over the hill of Mithridates; but the most remarkable ancient remains are the numerous tumuli round Kertch, in which many valuable works of art have been discovered, and of which a full account is given in the works mentioned below. The most extraordinary of these tumuli are those of the kings situated at the mountain called Altun-Obo, or the golden mountain, by the Tartars. One of the tumuli is in the form of a cone, 100 feet high and 450 feet in diameter, and cased on its exterior with large blocks of stone, cubes of 3 or 4 feet, placed without cement or mortar. This remarkable monument has been at all times the subject of mysterious legends, but the entrance to it was not discovered till 1832. This entrance led to a gallery, constructed of layers of worked stone without cement, 60 feet long and 10 feet high, at the end of which was a vaulted chamber, 35 feet high and 20 feet in diameter, the floor of which was 10 feet below the floor of the entrance. This chamber, however, was empty, though on the ground was a large square stone, on which a sarcophagus might have rested. This tumulus stands at a spot where two branches of a long rampart meet, which extends N. to the Sea. of Azof, and SE. to the Bosporus just above Nymphaeum. It was probably the ancient boundary of the territory of Panticapaeum and of the kingdom of the Bosporus, before the conquest of Nymphaeum and Theudosia. Within the rampart, 150 paces to the E., there is another monument of the same kind, but unfinished. It consists of a circular esplanade, 500 paces round and 166 in diameter, with an exterior covering of Cyclopean masonry, built of worked stones, 3 feet long and high, of which there are only five layers. But the greatest discovery has been at the hill, called by the Tartars Kul-Obo, or the hill of cinders, which is situated outside of the ancient rampart, and 4 miles from Kertch. Here is a tumulus 165 feet in diameter; and as some soldiers were carrying away from it in 1830 the stones with which it was covered, they accidentally opened a passage into the interior. A vestibule, 6 feet square, led into a tomb 15 feet long and 14 broad, which contained bones of a king and queen, golden and silver vases, and other ornaments. Below this tomb was another, still richer; and from the two no less than 120 pounds' weight of gold ornaments are said to have been extracted. From the forms of the letters found here, as well as from other circumstances, it is supposed that the tomb was erected not later than the fourth century B.C. (Dubois, Voyage autour du Caucase, vol. v. p. 113, seq.; Seymour, Russia on the Black Sea, &c. p. 255, seq.; Neumann, Die Hellenes in Skythenlande, vol. i. p. 478, seq.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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