previous next

HERAKLEIA later AXIOPOLIS (Cernavodă) SE Romania.

On a hill, divided in two, that dominates the right side of the Danube, ca. 51 km N-NW of Constanţa, a fortified center probably founded at the time of the expedition of Alexander the Great on the Danube. Because the site dominates not only the route between the Wallachian plain and Scythia Minor but also the natural road that leads from the Danube to the port of Tomi on the Black Sea, the hill was of great strategic importance in the life of Scythia Minor (Dobrogen) from Hellenistic times until the 5th-6th c.

Excavations have brought to light evidence of habitation as early as Neolithic times. In the Bronze Age, on the hill called Sofia in Cernavodă arose the first habitation site. It was defended by one or more ditches. Its domestic implements and ceramics testify to diverse cultural currents, that have been identified as Cernavodian culture. During the late phase of the Iron Age (4th c. B.C.) a habitation center developed that had Hellenistic necropoleis. The funerary material contains as many local products of the Getaean type as imported objects from the Greek world on the coast of the Black Sea: Histria, Tomi, and Kallatis. The local ceramics assume forms that are directly linked with the Greek products. Thus the hill, always important because of its position as a crossroads, became involved with the Hellenistic Macedonian world through the commercial expansion of the Greek colonies on the coast of the Black Sea, and perhaps also through their territorial expansion.

During the Roman period Axiopolis was already a center of a certain importance because of the ease of reaching Tomi by the Roman road that followed the right bank of the Danube along a bypath rebuilt several times. Being part of the customs system and used for the quartering of the naval military forces that defended the line of the lower Danube, Axiopolis was the seat of a Collegium nautae universi Danubii. Nothing, however, is known of the arrangement of the Roman civitas of this period. The first indications of fortification are, very probably, from the 5th-6th c. To this period may be dated at least one of the great ramparts in earth and stone that join Axiopolis to Tomi. The hill where the inhabited zone of the 5th-6th c. arose is rectangular in form with an incline toward the N. On this side is found a line of first defense formed by a wail that has been rebuilt several times. On the S flank are two other citadels, incorporating remains of other earlier fortifications, which have also been rebuilt repeatedly until the 9th-lOth c. Axiopolis' greatest flowering was in the 6th c. and corresponds to a general well-being in all of Scythia Minor. To the same period belongs the basilica near the S gate.


G. Tocilescu, “Fouilles d'Axiopolis,” Festchrift zu Otto Hirschfeld (1903) 354-59; R. Netzhammer, Aus Rumänien, I (1909) 275-94; R. Vulpe, Histoire ancienne de la Dobroudei (1935) passim; id. & I. Barnea, Din istoria Dobrogei (1968) passim; D. Berciu, Contribuţii la problemele neoliticului României in lumina noilor cercetari (1961) 9ff, 511ff; D. M. Pippidi & D. Berciu, Din istoria Dobrogei (1965) 29-66.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: