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The Fortress of Histria, Constanta County


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The ancient city Histria, Istria commune, Constanța County
Code LMI
Location: ISTRIA village; ISTRIA commune, “La cetate” site, on the shore of Lake Sinoe
Datation: 7th c. B.C. – 7th c. A.D., Greek-Roman period
History, description

The city of Histria is the oldest Greek colony on the western Black Sea shore and one of the first to be founded in the Black Sea area; at the same time it is the first city to be attested on the territory of present day Romania. Histria is the first Greek city on the Black Sea shore to mint its own coins, which indicates with a high degree of probability that it was part of the Athenian-led League of Delos.
Given its good relationship with the Thracian Odrys Kingdom, as well as with the Skythians on the on the northern Black Sea shore, the city developed peacefully up until the late 4th c. B.C., when it was destroyed during the fighting between King Phillip II of Macedon and the Skythians lead by Ateas.
During the Hellenistic period, in spite of rather unfavourable conditions, Histria continued to develop its economic, political and cultural life. This also represents another stage of urban development, as a new defence wall was built, as well as new temples in the sacred area and a new precinct wall around the entire site. In the 1st c. B.C., for a short period of time, the city came under the control of the Dacian king Burebista. Roman domination represents a new period of development for Histria, interrupted on several occasions by repeated Gothic invasions. During Emperor Hadrian’s reign a new defence wall was built, and after its destruction by the Goths another was raised in the second half of the 3rd c. A.D. The last periods of prosperity are attested during the reigns of Emperors Constantine the Great and Iustinianus (a proof of the latter’s utilitarian policy being the construction of an Episcopal basilica of impressive dimensions: 60 m long and 30 m wide). After 14 centuries, in the middle of the 7th c. A.D., Histria ceased to exist as a city. The site was never used by other buildings, which created remarkable conditions for the archaeological research.
Histria, a Greek colony on the Dobrudjan shore of the Black Sea (today on the shore of Lake Sinoe), was founded towards the middle of the 7th c. B.C. by Milesian colonists (according to Eusebius a possible founding date would be 657/656 B.C., and according to Ps.-Skymnos it was founded in 630 B.C.) and continued to function as a city for 14 centuries, up to the 7th c. A.D. The city is the oldest Greek colony on the western Black Sea shore and one of the oldest in the Pontus Euxinus. In the 5th c. B.C. Histria became a true polis, functioning with democratic institutions, as confirmed by Aristotle, and its urban development is confirmed by a new defence wall and new temples dedicated to different gods.
The moment of construction of the Hellenistic defence wall can be placed at the end of the 4th c. B.C. and, after successive reparations, it seems to have remained in function until the beginning of the 2nd c. A.D., when the new Early Roman defence wall was built.
The defence wall was built using limestone blocks, apart from the filling, for which the local green schist was used. The limestone blocks were brought from the quarries in northern Dobrudja, probably on water.
As all the other defence walls of Histria, this one too is laid on a base made of stone blocks set directly on sand, which stretches on the wall’s entire length; this is a system used by the Histrians to increase the support surface, a device needed in order to cope with the soil’s low degree of solidity, as in some places the latter is even marshy. The construction technique is that of two faces made of limestone blocks and in between an emplecton made of green schist stones combined with earth. Wooden beams were laid across the wall in order to ensure the two faces’ connection with the emplecton.
Histria had in the Greek period (7th – 1st c. B.C.) no less than six defence walls, two for each period of existence (Archaic, Classic, Hellenistic): one for the acropolis and one for the entire city. This type of defensive system was frequently used all across the Greek world: at Megara Hyblaea, Cumae, Velia, Lipari (Magna Graecia), Nymphaion, Tiritake (northern Black Sea shore), Samarkand (Orient), Naxos etc.
Thus, in the Archaic period (6th c. B.C.) the entire city was surrounded by a wall that enclosed a surface of over 70 ha. This wall defended both the Acropolis (located on the higher ground on the shore of Lake Sinoe), as well as the Plateau (over 60 ha, located west of the Acropolis). The double defence walls system of Histria is well attested in the Greek world and reflects the colonists’ urban concern and effort, as well as the economic power that allowed the city to build such a defensive system and repair it, after each destruction determined by the historical events that marked its existence.





Situl Arheologic Histria
Consiliul județean Constanța
Direcţia Judeţeană pentru Cultură şi Patrimoniul Naţional Constanța
Muzeul de Istorie Națională și Arheologie Constanța
Institutul de Arheologie "Vasile Pârvan"








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