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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Olbia

  Greek city situated on the right bank of the Bug liman, S of the present-day village of Parutino. One of the most important cities on the N coast of the Black Sea, it was founded in the 1st half of the 6th c. B.C. by Miletian colonists and by inhabitants of the other Greek cities (Hdt. 4.78.79; Dio. Chrys. Or. 36).
  The city rapidly became self-governing, reaching full prosperity in the 4th c. B.C. From the beginning of the 3d c. B.C. the danger of barbarian invasions grew. The Sarmatians and Scythians invaded the city in the 2d c. B.C., and from that period it started to decline. The Getae seized it in the 1st c. B.C., and the city gradually became barbarized and lost its Greek traditions. In the Roman Empire it was a small town, becoming part of the province of Lower Mysia toward the end of the 2d c. A.D. when it was surrounded by fortifications. In the 4th c. the Getae again invaded Olbia and gradually destroyed it.
  Olbia covered a triangular area originally of ca. 50 ha, but because of erosion only ca. 33 ha remain. The city was spread out on two terraces, the lower city along the river and the upper city with its business district and public buildings near the agora and the temenos. Covering an area of over 2000 sq. m, the agora was bordered by a stoa (45 x 17.5 m) of the 4th c. B.C. with 9 Ionic columns, a large public building of the 4th-2d c., two large commercial buildings divided into shops with basements for storage, and among other buildings a gymnasium (?) with baths. The temenos covered an area of over 3000 sq. m and was bordered by stone walls and porticos. Among its buildings are a temple of Zeus (13.9 x 7.7 m) of the 3d c. B.C., a temple of Apollo Delphinios (30-35 x 16 m) of the 4th-2d c. completely surrounded by porticos of Ionian columns; and from the 5th c. B.C. a temple in antis dedicated to Apollo with an Ionic portico, an altar for libations, and an altar for burnt offerings. By the 1st c. A.D. both the temenos and the agora had been abandoned and this area, now beyond the new city walls, became a commercial center with several pottery workshops, winemaking establishments, and granaries.
  It is possible to trace the evolution of the residential section from the 6th c. B.C. In the beginning it consisted of small two-roomed houses with an area of 12 sq. m. The houses of the 5th c. B.C. are more spacious. The largest and most luxurious ones are those built in the 4th-3d c. B.C., especially in the residential quarter of the lower city, where they are aligned on a broad stone-paved street. These houses, covering an area of as much as 50 x 38 m, had a rectangular vestibule leading to a square inner courtyard with rooms arranged around it. Some contained as many as 25 rooms. Fragments of mosaics and wall paintings have been found in a few houses.
  In the late 2d c. A.D. a kurgan of Zeus was erected in what had been a residential area of the 6th-2d c.: a burial mound 14.5 m high and 37 m in diameter surrounded by a small wall. A dromos 1.75 m wide led down steps into a stone burial chamber comprising two identical rooms.
  The necropolis N and W of the city walls encompasses an area of almost 500 ha. About 2000 burials have been excavated. The most prevalent graves in all periods were simple rectangular holes dug into the ground, but from the 5th c. B.C. there are passage graves formed from a niche or passage cut into the side of a tomb, and from the 4th c. B.C. vaulted graves with steps lead down a dromos into a burial chamber. The burial of Heuresibius and Arete (2d c. A.D.) consisted of a large kurgan covering a vault composed of two rooms.
  In the early centuries A.D. the S part of the upper city became a citadel with massive walls and towers. Among the buildings of this era are the barracks (?) of the Roman garrison and a metal-working shop of the 3d-4th c.
  From the 6th c. B.C. Olbia minted its own coins, and in the 4th c. B.C. gold staters of Alexander and Lysimachos. Among the rich archaeological finds are wares of the 6th c. B.C. from Rhodes, Miletos, Samos, Corinth, Chios, Klazomenai, Chalkis, and black-figured Attic bowls, as well as the local production of bowls and terracottas imitating imported forms. The Hermitage Museum contains 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.


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