Historical Monument presentation:
Code LMI CT-I- S- A- 02676
Archaeological site “Cetatea Carsium”
Hârşova, Constanţa County
Datation: 2nd c. A.D. – first half of the 9th c. A.D.
The fort at Hârşova, whose ancient name was Carsium, was built on the Danube’s bank, near the most important ford across the river towards the Ialomiţa Plain. Through this ford the merchandize passed quickly from the western Black Sea shore towards the settlements in the area SE of the Carpathians.
The Roman fort was built at the latest at the beginning of the 2nd c. A.D. and was later repaired by Emperors Constantine the Great and Iustinianus.
The fort ensured the security of the most important ford of the Danube that connected the settlements in the Romanian Plain with those on the western Black Sea shore and later on with those in the southern Balkan Peninsula. For the first Christian centuries we know that there existed a flourishing economic life, given the architectural elements in marble and the large number of discoveries – pottery, coins, glass objects –, comparable to that of important metropolises. Unfortunately, the interventions during the Middle Ages and modern period destroyed most of these vestiges. Near the fort rural settlements were discovered, some of which flourishing. Such ancient villages were identified near the fort, as well as near Ciobanul, Saraiu or Ghindăreşti.
During the Roman period the fort at Hârşova followed the evolution of the Danubian limes. It was affected by the invasions in the 3rd – 4th c. An inscription at Durostorum mentions the battles between Emperor Aurelianus and the Carpi that the former defeated between Carsium and Sucidava. Those that were not killed or taken left of the Danube were colonized in a village – vicus carporum – near Carsium. During the reign of Emperor Constantinethe Great the fort was repaired even though, for now, we do not know exactly what did this reparation consist of. Only during the most recent archaeological campaigns, in the sector of the western defence walls, the ruins of a Roman-Byzantine tower were discovered, which could represent precisely the Constantinian phase.
There are also other discoveries concerning life during the 4th c. at Carsium. In the fortification were discovered the walls of a Christian basilica, probably dated to the second half of the 4th c.
During the next century the Huns’ invasions were particularly violent. The entire province was devastated. The peace signed in 434 mentions that the Huns controlled fort Karsos in Thrace, most probably to be read Carsium in Scythia Minor. We do not know the effects of this control. They were probably devastating. This would explain the fact that it was mentioned in the list drawn up by Procopius, among the forts repaired by Iustinianus. It is then that the settlement became a bishopric dependant on the metropolitan church of Tomis. The Kutrigur, Avar and Slavic invasions of the 6th c., attested in other centres in the province, also affected Carsium. Roman-Byzantine life in the settlement became more and more reduced. The settlement of the Bulgarians south of the Danube finally interrupted the political and economic ties with the Byzantine world. From then on, local history becomes uncertain. In the second half of the 10th c., when the Byzantines returned to the Danube, the fort at Hârşova was rebuilt.
We have certain indications concerning the presence of the Genovese during the 13th c. At the end of the 14th c. the fort, along with all Dobrudja, came under the rule of Mircea cel Bâtrân.
This moment is followed by four centuries of Ottoman rule, when the fort was involved in different historical events. This is where the armies of lui Iancu of Hunedoara, Vlad the Impaler and Michael the Brave crossed the Danube. The fortification was repaired and it is mentioned in contemporary documents. In 1651, Evlia Celebi wrote that Hârşova had 1600 houses, mosques, vegetable gardens and was defended by a 3000 paces-long fortification that rose on the bank of the Danube. Starting with the 19th c., information concerning the site multiplies. The Count of Langeron, von Moltke and von Saar draw the fortification and even its plan.
This interest for the fortification can be explained by the fact that during the wars between Russia, Austria and the Ottoman Empire the fort continued to be used as a bridgehead between Dobrudja and Wallachia. Following the 1826-1829 war, through the Treaty of Hadrianopolis, Russia forced the Ottomans to destroy their fortifications on the Danube’s right bank. The fort at Hârşova, one of the most important of the period, was blown up. Near it remained the medieval town that slowly declined and was replaced, only decades later, by the modern settlement.
At the middle of the 19th c. Transylvanian shepherds settled there in great numbers and the new town was constructed. As usual, the ruins of the old fort became stone “quarries”. This is how Vasile Pârvan found the fort of Hârşova during his first visits there. Later on, in 1946, Grigore Florescu, who had conducted in 1943 a first archaeological campaign at Carsium, insistently demanded the authorities to intervene and end the destruction of the fort at Hârşova.
Through its aspect and chronology, the fort at Hârşova is unique in this segment of the Danube. Its uniqueness is doubled by the aspect of the area it developed in, a rocky cliff that was declared a landscape reserve ever since 1943.