The City of Histria

The city of Histria was founded in the middle of the 7th century, i.e. (the year 657 i.e., according to the historian Eusebius or 630 BC, after Skymnos) by colonists from Miletus, as a port on the Black Sea. According to Strabo, the city of Histria was “at a distance of 500 stadiums from the sacred mouth of Istros”. The name of the fortress Histria (Istria in Greek), is given by the name of  Istros, which was the name of the Danube attributed by the greeks. The settlement was surrounded by a strong defensive wall (the western part of the fortress wall had 10 towers and two gates), it was supplied with water with the help of long pipes  over 20 kilometers which also supplied the thermal baths built in the Roman era. The streets were paved with stone, and the city had both physical education institutions (gymnasion) and cultural-artistic (museum).

The city enjoyed an uninterrupted development for 1300 years, from the Greek period to the Roman-Byzantine era. After a violent destruction of the city, towards the end of the century. VI i.e., in the middle of the classical period, a new enclosure wall was built and it halved the initial area of the city. During this period Histria had a democratic regime, the accession to the Athenian Maritime League, intense trade and even its own currency. The attempt of the first wave of Scythians to settle in the south of the Danube, as well as the rebellions of the Pontic cities against Lysimach, brought a new wave of destruction towards the end of the century. IV i.e.n. In the following centuries, the city recovers and experiences a new golden age, and even creates alliances with some leaders of the Gets (Zalmodegikos, Rhemaxos).

The 1st century B.C. brings new disturbances and external dangers: the King of Pontus, Mithridates VI Eupator, sends troops to Histria, and in the year 72 B.C. the first Romanian armies remove the West-Pontic colonies under the influence of Mithridate, and a few years later, Dacian king Burebista takes control over the fortress . After the death of Burebista, the fortress passed under Roman rule, thus ending the period of autonomy. Under the Roman rule, the fortress experienced a revitalization. The city, which is the oldest urban settlement in the country, was made up of two distinct parts. The acropolis and the civil settlement followed a pattern commonly found in ancient Greek cities .

In Histria, the first coins from the current territory of Romania were struck, namely the creation of their own currency around the year 480/475 BC. These are silver didrahms,and on the opposite side we can see the city symbol, represented by an eagle on a dolphin to the left, and the legend IΣTPI framed in an enclosed square. On the other side,we have two human heads joined and inverted. The fortress of Histria was identified, in 1868, by the French archaeologist Ernest Desjardins, and the first archaeological investigations were initiated in 1914 by Vasile Parvan. During the first archaeological research campaign in Histria, Vasile Parvan discovered an inscription entitled Horothesia, which highlighted the boundaries of the Histrian territory during Trajan’s time. The excavations were then continued under the leadership of Scarlat Lambrino, Emil Condurachi, Dionisie M. Pippidi and Petre Alexandrescu. The research continued until 2010, under the leadership of Alexandru Suceveanu. From 2010 to the present, the research continues under the direction of M. Angelescu and of the research program director of IAB, Al. Avram.

The necropolis, located outside the ancient city, contains numerous burial mounds and a small number of flat graves. Research conducted by archaeologist Petre Alexandrescu showed that the most commonly used funeral rite was incineration. The tombs in the necropolis of Histria have in a peripheral ditch, a funeral platform and a belt of stones of the type of green shale emitted at the eastern limit of the fortress. Some mounds are four to five meters high, others are smaller. In the center of the mound are tombs where, near the dead vessels and amphoras are deposited.

Among the most spectacular discoveries are the ones belonging to an important local character, who died at the end of the 6th century B.C.. or the beginning of the 5th century, B.C., who benefited from a typical Homeric burial ritual. 35 human individuals , several horses and donkeys were slaughtered ritualistically, most likely originating from the Persian Empire.

The ruins of the fortress, located on the shore of Lake Sinoe, can be visited today. Among the oldest discoveries were the Sacred Zone of the fortress, comprising temples dedicated to Aphrodite and Zeus, located on an old rocky island and the civil district on the plateau of the citadel, comprising numerous houses from the archaic period. In present,it is possible to visit the defensive wall and its towers and bastions, which encloses from the the smaller surface of the late Roman city of about 7 ha (comprising the former acropolis of the Greek city). Inside the city lay the the preserved ruins of Greek temples, paved streets ,neighborhoods of houses or workshops( usually Roman), thermal baths, civil and Christian basilicas and, in the center of the city, one of the largest Christian basilicas in the region, dating from 6th century AD. The episcopal basilica of Histria was over 60 meters long and 30 meters wide, and it occupied almost 2% of the total surface of the late city,which was brought to light in 1969, by archaeologist Alexandru Suceveanu. The episcopal basilica built in the center of the old city represents the most important discovery of the Roman era from Histria because this showed that in the 5th – 6th centuries AD, Histria reached the rank of episcopate. The Histria Archaeological Museum is opened for visitors where pieces of Greek, Roman and Byzantine archeology are exhibited. Amphoras, inscriptions, ceramic vessels, glass, opaque, ornaments, Hellenistic bas-reliefs, epigraphic documents are displayed.

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