Description of the archaeological site
and of the selective collection
Dr. Constantin Chera
Histria was the first Greek colony on the West shore of the Black Sea and the oldest city on Romanian territory. Colonists coming from Milet founded the settlement in the middle of the 7th century B.C. according to ancient historian Eusebius). The city had an uninterrupted development for 1,300 years, starting with the Green period up to the Roman-Byzantine period. At the and of the 6th and during the 7th century A.D. the fortress has been destroyed by the Aver-Slav invasions, determining its inhabitants to desert to city.
The ruins of the fortress remained unknown for a long period of time and have been explored for the first time in 1914 by archaeologist Vasile Parvan. Archaeological excavations have succeeded each other annually ever since and have brought to light a large number and eloquent proof of the inhabitants’ material and spiritual life. This archaeological material is also important evidence for the Green-Roman history in Dobruja.
During the Greek period (7th – 3rd cent. B.C. ) the city had two distinctive parts: the acropolis and the civil area, each of them surrounded by a defensive wall. Ruins of the late fortress nowadays cover the former acropolis. It hat been used as a sacred, very important area for the city religious life. As the Zeus and Aphrodite temples prove, the quarter was very well defined in the 6th century B.C. A stonewall surrounded since the archaic epoch the civilian settlement area on the West site of the acropolis. Excavations on this plateau have enabled scientists to identify house ruins from the archaic, classical and Hellenistic periods and also ruins of some ceramics workshops. During the classical period a democratic regime was established in Histria (according to Aristotle) and the city adhered to the Athens Maritime League. Highly developed trade relations enabled the city to mints its own coins in the middle of the 5th century B.C. The settlement has repeatedly been destroyed during the centuries 6-4 B.C and every time it has been rebuilt. Another defensive wall protected Histria during the Hellenistic period (3rd cent.B.C. -1st cent.A.D.). Epigraphic and archaeological evidence prove the existence of a large number of temples and other public edifices.
During the 1st century B.C. the city had to confront serious threats, intensified by external dancers. There is information about a strategus of Pontus king Mithridates VI Eupator and in 72 B.C. the city was conquered by Roman armies under M. Terentius Varro Lucullus. After a short rule by Getlan king Burebista the city was included permanently within the boundaries of the Roman Empire, Following the last campaign of M.Licinius Crassus in 29-28 B.C.
Under Roman rule, Histria went into a new stage of development. The most important economic activities were agriculture and fishing. Histrians expressed their loyalty to Rome to practicing the imperial cult ever since Augustus’ rule. In the 2nd century A.D. Histria adhered to the West Pontic Cities. Community (Pentapolis, later named Hexapolis). Histrian prosperity has been archaeologically proved by the vestiges of the defensive wall, built at the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. and also by some public buildings, such as the two thermal complexes. Towards the middle of the 3rd century, during the Carpo-Gothic attacks, the city suffered a violent destruction. But as the latest defensive wall demonstrates, a rebuilding period followed. It drastically restricted the city to an area of only 7 hectares.
The Roman-Bizantine epoch (4th – 6th century A.D.) did not reflect the old glamour any more, but the facts has very precisely been documented, that the inhabitants have continued to live inside, as well as outside the precincts wall area. Most of the monuments that can be seen today date from this last existence period. Five Christian basilicas have been discovered, including a large one in the centre of the fortress, having a well-determined Episcopal character and reflecting the intense religious life, in a time when the Christianity became a state religion.
Archaeological excavations have brought a large number of monuments to daylight. Most of them are now protected inside the museum, in a lapidarium and in depots on site. Part of the late Roman urban settlement, with the main gate and defensive towers can been seen next to Siutghiol Lake. Inside and outside the walls partly restored ruins of two thermal complexes can be seen. A series of public buildings from the same Roman-Bizantine period have been erected inside the latest precincts wall: three civilian basilicas and a paleo-Christian one, public market places, stores, residential districts (domus) and economic districts.
A large number of archaeological materials have been found during the excavations, part of them shown in the new museum: remarkable marble architectonic fragments, statues and relief carvings, representing differed Greek and Roman gods, inscriptions, building materials like stone or ceramics pipes for aqueducts, Greek and Roman ceramics, glassware and metal objects of many shapes and destinations.
We think there are large possibilities for a modern specialized laboratory to determine composition, origin and structure for objects in the museum and on site by using especially chemical and optic observation and analysis. Determining for instance structures of marble pieces would mean to find out where that marble came from. There are also wall painting fragments that could be analysed with special optic methods so as to determine colours composition. Another interesting feature would be to determine mortar composition for the thermal complexes and for the mosaics still preserved on site, so as to establish the most efficient restoration method. By implementing a modern on site laboratory we hope to get new insights regarding for instance locations of workshops where some of the imported ceramics or marble pieces were made. This also means enlarging our knowledge about trade relations between Histria and other colonies in the Black Sea basin with the Aegean space or with other Mediterranean centres of the ancient world.