Histria Museum, Constanta County

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The museum of Histria Fortress

Before entering de archaeological park, the visitor stopping at the site of Histria fortress we’ll see the museum where the most important findings of the fortress and its surroundings are kept.
The collection is made up of ceramic and stone vases, household and personal use items, sculptures, architecture pieces, inscriptions. The exhibits are arranged according to epochs (Greek, Roman and Late Roman), in order for the visitor to be able to see the site’s progression in time. Thus, the ground level halls belong to archaic, classical and Hellenistic Histria and the upper floor belongs to roman and late roman Histria.
At the entrance the visitor can look upon a beautiful marble frieze, belonging to a monument of Histria built around the end of II-nd century – beginning of the I-st century B.C. It was found in the immediate vicinity of the civil basilica, which was placed on the south side of the street that starts at the main gate of the fortress, located to the east. Made in neo-attic style, the frieze depicts Apollo, Hephaestus, Poseidon, Eros, Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus, Hermes and Hera (?), and sideways there is Apollo depicted as Helios.
In the first hall (an L shaped hall), behind a glass case containing the main publications about Histria, follows a series of five other glass cases containing ceramic fragments belonging to the Hamangia culture (early Eneolithic, aprox. 5000-4500 B.C.) and to the Babadag culture (XI-th – VII-th centuries B.C.) Between the glass cases lies a menhir statue, discovered in Hamangia (Baia) in a tumuli dating from the beginning of the Bronze Age (the start of the III-rd millennium B.C.).
The museum continues with a series of glass cases keeping archaic ceramics (the end of the VII-th – VI-th centuries B.C.): Greek-Oriental style (bowls, Klazomenian amphorae), Corinthian style, Attic style with black shapes, stone vases fragments, votive terracotta statuettes, a malachite weight.
From the same era, we’ll find the bathtub, reused as a sarcophagus in the necropolis identified within the village of Istria, as well as items belonging to the roofs of the sacred area.
We can’t leave for the next hall before noticing the kuros fragment (marble, 560-550 B.C., most probably Milesian style) and the beautiful anta capital, dating from the first half of the V-th century B.C.
Alongside the imposing capital, there are other marble architecture fragments, belonging to the decoration of the same building or of some other temples, which complete the vision of this fortresses’ exceptional development during the V-th and the IV-th centuries B.C.

The minor arts are also a testimony to the artistic genius of the Greek civilization, amongst them, in Histria, the ceramics being the best represented. The museum visitor has the opportunity to come into contact with the most refined products of the attic ceramics, beginning with two cups belonging to the school of the so called “small masters” and continuing with vases and ceramic fragments with black shapes on a red background or red shapes on a black background (VI-IV centuries B.C.).
In the next centuries (III-I centuries B.C.) the painted vases are no longer sighted, and the quality of the firnis (varnish) – which was exceptional in the older periods (studies to identify the techniques of its production are ongoing) – is declining visibly. This phenomenon could be explained by the broad expansion of the Greek civilization in whole of the Mediterranean basin and, after the campaign of Alexander the Great, stretching to Asia as far as the borders of India. It’s not unlikely that part of the ceramics in the Hellenistic period was produced right in Histria. The same local masters of ceramics will be called to fulfill the artistic and religious needs of Histrian society, as the terracotta statuettes casts, used to render, at a smaller scale, the great statue models of the Greek world, proves. To this broad local production activity, we find intense commercial activity that can be explained by the port of the fortress – still unidentified in the field, but mentioned in an inscription from the II-nd century A.D. and also proved by two coins from the III-rd century A.D. – a sign of many imports. From this particular point of view, the visitor can see an impressive array of amphorae containing refined products of the sunny Aegean-Mediterranean area (wines, oils) coming from Thasos, Sinope, Rhodos and from other cities and arriving in Histria. A special place is claimed by the tin-glazed earthenware (faience), undoubtedly of Egyptian origins from the III-rd century B.C.
After the troubled times during the I-st century B.C. – I-st century A.D. – when Histria will be incorporated into the great anti-roman alliance of king Mithridates the VI-th, ruler of the Pont, after that incorporated in the union of Burebista and finally being part of the Roman Republic and Empire – the old Milesian colony will see a major event taking place at the beginning of the II-nd centrury A.D. – “the reestablishment of the city”. This formula will be seen in the list of benefactors (euergetai) of the Boreis tribe, “after the second establishment of the city” and finds a good analogy in the list of honorable men (filoteimoi) associated with the elders (gerusia), from the year 138 A.D. “after the second establishment” (ISM, I, 193), is an inscription placed in the central hall of the museum. At a point in time which is to be found in the first decades of the II-nd century A.D. – most probably in the time of the “Greek loving emperor” (philelen), Hadrian – the people of Histria will have believed that their city, now “reestablished”, entered a new era of great prosperity. The last exhibits of this floor are showing, to the visitor, the main traits of the new era, on the one hand through the founding of many Dionysus worshipper’s associations, together with the rituals of this cult (sacred competions, choirs, priestly hierarchies etc.) or the so called “Thracian Knight”, and on the other through the arrival of roman soldiers, as the funerary stella of a legion soldier (ISM, I, 288), soldiers from the old Milesian colony were veterans or later, even in active duty, when the attacks from the sea will claim the placing of a roman army garrison.
Leaving the ground floor halls, the visitor can admire a series of altars, stellae and other sculptures, votive or funerary in nature. We will recall just the altar of Asklepios, where the origin of this cult is mentioned: the city of Pergamon. On the right side some architecture pieces are exposed: Ionian capitals, Paleo-christian capitals, as well as a Corinthian capital from the late roman age.
A special section is dedicated to archaeological discoveries made in the two thermal buildings investigated at Histria. In addition to common household objects (pottery, lamps) or clothes and adornment, samples of the marble plywood walls, fragments of plaster and mosaic of ceramic tubes of the supply system and heating water can be seen.
A dedicated space showcases a lot of terracotta statuettes produced in a local workshop discovered in a warehouse on the outskirts of town.
Below, may be seen a series of glass cases that contain various objects dating from the early Roman period (second and third centuries AD.): Pottery of various shapes, ornaments, balance weights, weights for fishing nets, clay lamps, glass vessels. Plus numerous sculptural fragments belonging to this age, dedicated to deities like Dionysus, Cybele, Minerva, Thanatos, Mithras, Thracian Knight.
Another glass case shows the Fântânele rural settlement located in agricultural territory of Histria, hence an interesting relief sculptures representing the Sabazios god. Indicative of the mingling of Roman colonists and indigenous people is the presence of Roman pottery with local hand-made pottery.
Large vessels, architectural fragments (columns, pedestal) and tubes of stone, used in some parts of the aqueducts that supplied the city, completes the picture of early Roman period Histria.
The last part of the visiting route of the museum is reserved for the Histria of late Roman period (Byzantine) and the medieval time. Thus, after the visitor has the opportunity to learn useful information and become familiar with the early Roman period (see above) he will follow on the chronological line of exhibits to last periods of Histria housing. We can admire some pottery with stamped decoration dating from the fifth and sixth centuries AD. (Terra sigillata), featuring Christian motifs (crosses, dolphins, birds) and later ceramics commonly used (plates, cups, and amforeta amphorae, jugs, grinders).
This section of the museum's permanent exhibition illustrates Histria equally, as a Christian city also. Architectural fragments representative from religious buildings of the city, find their place among the exhibits: a capital marble cross and acanthus leaves, pilasters and Cancelli plates, columns, two capitals of columns, fragmented sacred mensae.
Further, the visitor can see the ribbed amphorae Roman-Byzantine period (fifth and sixth centuries AD.) and medieval (ninth and tenth centuries AD.). Spiritual life is illustrated by the exposure of reliefs representing the Hercules and Dionysus, and the material, everyday life by ceramics in common use (pots and amforeta), mortars, lamps, bone objects (needles, hairpins and combs) and bronze (buckles and decorative elements).
The medieval pottery is represented by the hand pottery and wheel pottery from the biritual necropolis from Istria-Capul Viilor ( IX-th and X-th centuries AD.). It also can be seen various Romanian pottery discovered at Năvodari (fXIV-th and XIV-th centuries AD.), and a Greek inscription to honor Mircea and his victory over the Turks in the years 1407 – 1409. Special attention should enjoy in the eyes of visitors reconstruction of three cremation burials from Istria-Capul Viilor.
Once down in the central hall of the museum, visitors will be able to admire the most beautiful and at the same time, expressive pieces- old history of the oldest city in Romania today. Thus, in the chronological order of the exhibits the statue (now lost), the main deity of the city Apollo Healer (Ietros), which is engraved in one of the oldest inscriptions from Histria (beginning of the IV-th century B.C.) can be seen.
In the left of Apollo’s base component parts of one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in Histria, namely fragments facade of Doric style temple in the first half of the III-rd century BC are exposed.
In the right of the base of Apollo the most impressive inscription ever found at Histria is exposed. It was found, as it was stated in the chapter of the late Roman site at its gate, which was used as the threshold (face unseen inscription can be recognized ditches dug for circulation). The inscription dates from 138 AD and contains the list of "honorable men of gerusia after the second setting".
Finally, the fragment wall of the temple dedicated to the Great God, the visitor can enter into contact with the last great discovery of Histria, meaning the Episcopal basilica from the VI-th century AD.

 

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http://egispat.inp.org.ro
Situl Arheologic Histria
Consiliul județean Constanța
Direcţia Judeţeană pentru Cultură şi Patrimoniul Naţional Constanța
Muzeul de Istorie Națională și Arheologie Constanța

 

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