Khersones Tavriyskiy – History of the Ruined City

ancient ruins on seashore, gull flying above

Khersones Tavriyskiy is a unique historical and archaeological reserve in Crimea that annually attracts thousands of ancientries admirers. The ruins of this Greek city, located in Sevastopol`, are famous not just in Ukraine but all over the world. Let`s get to know some interesting facts about Khersones Tavriyskiy – the ancient city founded more than 2500 years ago.

History of Khersones Tavriyskiy

ancient ruins on rock by the sea
Khersones Tavriyskiy, one of the must-visit national reserves of Ukraine, was founded in the V century BC by Greeks from Heraclea Pontica. Khersones could boast perfect location on the crossing of marine passages and in the same time close to the Crimean steppes. This Greek colony on the North coast of the Black Sea quickly became an important center of trade, craftsmanship and politics. The word “Khersones” is translated from Greek language as “peninsula” which can be explained by the fact that the city has been located on a middle-sized peninsula between two bays. As for the word “Tavriyskiy”, it comes from the name of the bellicose tribe of Tauri that has been living in the neighbor mountain areas. This word means “located in the lands of Tauri”.
In the course of 100 years, Khersones Tavriyskiy has turned from a small settlement into a huge antique polis. The city development reached its peak in the IV-III centuries BC. Khersones was a democratic state with strong economy based on crafts, fishery, viticulture and, of course, trade with other Greek cities, Scythians and Tauri. The life of Khersones dwellers was also strongly dependent on so-called Chora – a rural area surrounding the city. The city had its own currency.
gull flying near ancient bell on the seacoast
Throughout its history, Khersones Tavriyskiy always had to wage wars with Scythians and other enemies. In 110 year BC, the polis was seriously weakened by fights with Scythians and had to join Pontic Empire in order to be saved. Since then, Khersones Tavriyskiy had never restored its independence. The polis was constantly under the influence of Rome, Byzantine Empire, Greece, Bosporan Kingdom and other mighty states.
In 988, Kyiv Rus prince Volodymyr captured the polis after a long-lasting siege. This allowed him to dictate his terms to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II and to marry Byzantine princess Anna. The capture of Khersones Tavriyskiy (which is called “Korsun`” in Rus chronicles) is tightly bound with the Christianization of Kyiv Rus in the same year. Historians say that Christianity became the official religion of Khersones in the V century

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From the beginning of the XIII century, Khersones Tavriyskiy became dependent on Trapezuntine Empire.
In the middle of the XIV century, trade on the Black Sea was monopolized by the Genoese colonies such as Kefe and Cembalo. Khersones could hardly compete with them. This fact, together with attacks of the Golden Horde army, quickly led Khersones Tavriyskiy to decay. In 1299, the city was devastated by Nogai Khan, and then in 1399 it was burnt down by the troops of Edigu. After this, Khersones Tavriyskiy had never revived again.

Khersones Tavriyskiy Today

ancient basilica
Archeological excavations at Khersones Tavriyskiy ruins started only in 1827, almost half century after the foundation of Sevastopol city. In the process of excavations, archaeologist found houses and streets, squares and churches of the ancient city. The modern look of Khersones Tavriyskiy is truly impressive. Tourists can see restored theatre for audience of 3000 people, Acropolis, mint, numerous residential houses, pools, household utilities, workshops, remains of basilicas with mosaic, parts of defensive walls from Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods, more than 50 Christian churches and so on. By the way, the oldest archaeological findings in Khersones – fragments of the black-figure pottery – are dated back to the VI century BC.
Nowadays, Khersones Tavriyskiy is a historical and archeological museum and reserve full of interesting attractions. For example, “Bell of wishes” – in the ancient times, it used to warn ships floating along the coast in bad weather, but today tourists ring it to make wishes. They believe that in such a way wishes are guaranteed to come true. Guests of the ancient city always pay much attention to the Tower of Zenon – a huge structure that played an important role in the defense of Khersones.
St Volodymyr cathedral
Those who visit Khersones Tavriyskiy can see St. Volodymyr`s Cathedral on its territory. The cathedral was built in the XIX century. The legends of Khersones Tavriyskiy say that the Cathedral stands on the place where Kyiv Rus prince Volodymyr has been baptized in 988.
In 2013, Khersones Tavriyskiy was assigned the status of UNESCO world`s heritage.
Note: Currently the Crimean peninsula is a disputed area annexed by the Russian Federation. However, officially it remains a part of Ukraine. We truly hope that everyone will be able to visit one of the most interesting Ukrainian ruined cities freely once justice is served.
Visiting Ukrainian archaeological reserve Khersones Tavriyskiy is a great opportunity to dive into the world of ancient history.
Photo source: All photos belong to their rightful owners.

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