In Antiquity

Gurzufskoye Sedlo
"Ancient Chersonesos"of Strabo
"Another Harbor of the Chersonesites"
Kalos Limen
Roman strongholds
The Sanctuary on the Isthmus of the Saki Lake
Symbolon Limen

In the Middle Ages


According to the 2nd century AD geographer Claudios Ptolemaios, Charax was located in the south coast of the Crimea (Ptol. Geogr. 3. 6. 2). Plinius the Elder (I century AD) knew this point as Characeni (Plin. NH 4. 85). In the majority of scholars' point of view, Charax was the name of a fortress located atop Ay-Todor cape, that is 7 km to the south-west from Yalta. When in AD 63-66 the Roman garrisons were installed in Taurica, Charax became one of their strongholds. The Romans built there a fortress and station a sub-unit (vexillatio) of Ravenna squadron. Charax was a very important strategically point, because it allowed the Romans to establish control over the navigation along the Crimean coast. This is the place where the Black Sea curves like a bow, and precisely in this narrow point it was crossed by ships sailing from north to the south, from Chersonesos and Bosporos to Sinope and Trebizond, and back.

The fortress of Charax was inaccessible from the sea side; from the field side it was protected by a cyclopean stone wall. As it was considered for a long time, this wall had been erected by the Taurians, who had dwelt at this place before the Romans came. However, not so long ago the archaeologists discovered lime mortar, which had been used to bond the masonry of the wall of Charax. Such a technology was unknown for the barbarians, so this wall was built by the Romans. But, anyway, the fact that a certain Taurian settlement existed at this place prior to the Roman fortress is beyond any doubt.

In Charax, the Romans built fortifications in the form of a double wall, and also took care of home comforts of their camp. Near the wall they built a pool (nymphaeum) 9 m long, 7.7 m wide, and down to 2.5 m deep. The pool was carefully faced with waterproof lime mortar. Water was running from clay pipes.Not far from this place, there were baths (thermae). The cloakroom was sided by a cold water pool from one side and hot bath from another. The floors of these rooms were covered with bricks. Under the floor were clay pipes for hot air to heat the bath-house. The line of rest rooms (palestron) annexed the baths.

The soldiers of Italic legion substituted the seamen of the Ravenna squadron in the II century AD, and. In their own turn, were substituted by a regiment (vexillatio) of XI Claudian legion in the end of that century. At this time, a small sanctuary of beneficiarii, who were military road builders, was constructed outside the fortress' walls. This site contained altars with dedications to Jupiter and artifacts related to cults of other gods: Dyonisos and Mithra, Artemis and Hekate. These beneficiarii probably built a road to connect Charax with Chersonesos.

After the Goths fell on the Roman empire in the middle of the III century AD, it was ordered to call off the armies from the northern Black Sea coast and send them to reinforce the troops protecting the frontier along the Danube. The Roman soldiers were evacuated from Charax after 244 AD. But the life continued in this place: after the Goths migrated to the Crimea, they liked this area and new, Goths' burials appeared in the necropolis of the Roman fortress soon afterwards...

© N. Khrapunov.

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