The Northern Black Sea region in the ancient era

The Northern Black Sea region in the ancient era.

In the Northern Black Sea region during the period of Greek colonization, the climate was colder and wetter than the modern one. Winter lasted here for eight months of the year, so the Greeks could see the picture that amazed them - the frozen sea. By the 7th century BC, the territories from the Lower Danube to the Don (later the South Russian steppes) were inhabited by Scythian tribes, which represented extensive tribal formations described by Herodotus, the famous Greek historian of the 5th century BC. He divided the Scythians by type of economic activity into Scythian ploughmen who sowed grain for sale in the valley of the Southern Bug, Scythian nomads who lived between the Dnieper and the Don, and royal Scythians who lived near the mouth of the Dnieper and considered other tribes subject to themselves. In addition, according to ancient tradition, at one time there lived in the Northern Black Sea region a warlike tribe of Amazons - women who shot arrows, threw darts and rode horseback. The Scythians called them manslayers.

The Scythians raised their family to Hercules and worshipped the god of war Ares in the form of an iron sword mounted on special platforms made of brushwood. Prisoners were sacrificed to Ares. Each Scythian drank the blood of the first enemy he killed, from whose head he then scalped, and used the skull instead of a bowl for undiluted wine. Herodotus was struck by the barbaric custom of steaming in a dry bath, when the Scythians heated stones in felt yurts and threw hemp seeds on them. The rising steam gave them such pleasure that they shouted loudly.

If the Scythian king died, then the bodies of previously murdered close servants were put in his grave, and a high mound was poured over it. Later, fifty strangled horsemen mounted on dead horses were placed around the mound on special wooden racks. The mummies of riders and horses were filled with bran.

The Scythians were known for their greed, as evidenced by the gold items made by the Greeks according to Scythian orders and found in the royal burial mounds. Scythian art is characterized by an "animal style", which is characterized by stylized images of far from peaceful panthers, kites and similar animals in a conventional, ornamentalized manner - compact reliefs with a clear expressive contour and a closed figure structure. For the Scythians, beauty consisted in speed, strength and impetuosity, so the animals were depicted in full bloom, muscular and aggressive.1

In 514 BC, the Persian king Darius made a campaign to Scythia. For a long time he chased the Scythians across the steppe, going deeper and deeper into their country and experiencing great difficulties, since the enemies could not be overtaken, since the Scythians, avoiding a decisive battle, inflicted damage on the Persians by attacks of small detachments of cavalry. Finally, the Scythian kings sent a bird, a mouse, a frog and five arrows as a gift to the king. Darius was delighted, deciding that the Scythians were surrendering, handing him the land as a sign of submission, since the mouse lives in the ground, the water in which the frog lives, horses, whose speed is embodied by the bird, and weapons. However, one of the wise advisers of Darius objected, explaining the meaning of the gifts differently: "If you Persians, like birds, do not fly into the sky, or like mice do not burrow into the ground, or like frogs do not jump into the swamp, you will not come back, struck by these arrows"2. Darius understood the validity of the adviser's words and returned back.

It is in these regions that the Greek colonies are being brought out. The role of the metropolis here was mainly played by the Asia Minor city of Miletus. At the end of the VII century BC. e. on the island of Berezan, near the Dnieper-Bug estuary, a trading post appeared, and next to it, already on the coast of the mainland, at the beginning of the VI century BC. e. - the first Greek city founded by the Greeks in the Black Sea region - Olvia. Later, from the VI-V centuries BC, the development of the Crimean peninsula is underway, where the cities of Kerkinitida ("Crab City") arise3, Chersonesos (modern Sevastopol)1, Feodosia (modern Feodosia). In the area of Chersonesos, wild Tauri lived, sacrificing shipwrecked sailors to their goddess Virgo. This Virgin, according to Herodotus, could be the daughter of the leader of the Greek troops in the Trojan War, Agamemnon Iphigenia, miraculously saved by Artemis from being sacrificed by her father to get a fair wind by Greek ships. At the altar, Iphigenia was replaced by a fallow deer and moved to the land of the Tauri.

On the Kerch Peninsula, the city of Pantikapei (Iransk. "Fish Way"), which later united many Greek cities in the Northern Black Sea region. On the Taman Peninsula - Hermonassa and Phanagoria, and a little to the south - Gorgippia (modern Anapa). The easternmost polis, bordering with Scythia, on the shore of the Sea of Azov at the mouth of the Don was Tanais.

All the listed cities maintained ties with the metropolises, but were independent, as evidenced by the coins they issued. The oath of the citizens of Chersonesos has been preserved, in which the Chersonesites pledged allegiance to the city. Agriculture, viticulture and fisheries played an important role in the economic life of the policies. The Greeks maintained peaceful relations with the Scythians, entered into mixed marriages, and performed complex handicraft and jewelry works to order. The Scythians, under certain conditions, took the Greek colonies under their protection - a "barbaric protectorate".

In the V century BC, many Greek cities of the Northern Black Sea region were united into the Bosporan Kingdom with the center in Panticapaeum. At this time, the Greco-Persian wars had already begun (494 BC - the defeat of Miletus, the metropolis of Panticapea), and the Scythians became more aggressive towards their foreign neighbors. The cities of the Bosporan Kingdom were independent in their internal affairs, but could not conduct an independent foreign policy by fielding a common army. The first dynasty of the Bosporan Kingdom was founded in 480 BC by Archeanact, apparently the head of the first settlers in Panticapea. In 438-437 BC . The dynasty of the Archaeanactids was replaced by the Spartokids (ruled until 110 BC). The new generation of kings originates from the Thracian Spartok, who already pursued an anti-Athenian policy.

From the end of the II century BC (107), the Greek colonies in the Northern Black Sea region briefly became dependent on the Pontic power of King Mithridates Eupator, and from the middle of the I century BC (about 63) they were already under Roman influence. By the IV century A.D., these cities cease to exist under the blows of the Goths.