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,
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.