(ἡ Ταυρικὴ Χερσόνησος
, Ptol. iii. Arg. 2, &c.), a peninsula stretching into the Pontus Euxinus from Sarmatia, or the country of the nomad Scythians, with which it is connected by a narrow isthmus, anciently called Taphrus, or Taphrae, now the isthmus of Perecop.
The peninsula also bore the name of Chersonesus Scythica, and was sometimes styled simply Taurica. (Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 26
; Scylax, i. p. 29, Huds.)
It is now called the Crimea,
from the once famous city of Eski.-Krim;
but since its incorporation with the Russian empire, the name of Taurica
has also been again applied to it.
The isthmus which connects the peninsula with Sarmatia is so slender, being in some parts scarcely 40 stadia or 5 miles across (Strab. vii. p.308
; Clarke, Trav.
ii. p. 314, 4th ed. 1816), as to. make it probable that in a very remote period Taurica was an island. (Plin. l.c.;
cf. Pallas, Voyages,
&c., ii. p. 2, Fr. Transl. 4to.)
The ancients compared it with the Peloponnesus, both as to size and. shape (Strab. vii. p.310
; cf. Hdt. 4.99
); and this comparison is sufficiently happy, except that Taurica throws out another smaller peninsula on its E. side, the Bosporan peninsula, or peninsula of Kertsch,
which helps to form the S. boundary or coast, of the Palus Maeotis. The Chersonese is about 200 miles across in a direct line from Cape Tarchan,
its extreme W. point, to the Straits of Kertsch,
and 125 miles from N. to S., from Perecop
to Cape Kikineis.
It contains an area of about 10,050 square miles. Nearly three-fourths of Taurica consist of flat plains little elevated above the sea; the remainder towards the S. is mounotainous. [p. 2.1110]
The NW. portion of the low coutry, or that which would lie to the W. of a line drawn from the isthmus to the mouth of the river Alma,
consists of a sandy soil interspersed with salt lakes, an evidence that it was at one time covered by the sea (Pallas, Ib.
p. 605, &c.); but the E. and S. part has a fertile mould.
The mountain chain (Taurici Montes) begins to rise towards the centre of the peninsula, gently at first on the N., but increasing in height as the chain approaches the sea, into which it sinks steeply and abruptly. Hence the coast at this part presents huge cliffs and precipices, and the sea is so deep that the lead often finds no bottom at the distance of a mile or two from the shore. From these mountains, which extend from Symbolon, or Balaclava,
on the W., to Theodosia, or Caffa,
on the E., many bold promontories are projected into the sea, enclosing between them deep and warm valleys open to the S., and sheltered from the N. wind, where the olive and vine flourish, the apricot and almond ripen, and the laurel creeps among the dark and frowning cliffs, The most remarkable mountains of this chain are that anciently called the Cimmerium at the N. extremity, and the Trapezus at the S. (Strab. vii. p.309
The former, which is said to have derived its name from the Cimmerians, once dominant in the Bosporus, is now called Aghirmisch-Daghi.
It lies nearly in the centre of the peninsula, to the NW. of the ancient Theodosia, and near the town of Eski-Krim,
or Old Crim.
Some writers, however, identify Cimmerium with Mount Opouk,
on the S. coast of the peninsula of Kertsch.
(Köhler, Mém. de l'Acad. de St. Petersb. 1824, p. 649, seq.; Dubois de Montperreux, Voyages, &c.
v. p. 253, seq.) But Trapezus is by far the highest mountain of Taurica. Kohl estimates its height at 5000 German feet (Reisen in Südrussland,
i. p. 204); other authorities make it rather less, or 4740 feet. (Neumann, Die Hellenen im Scythenlande,
According to Mr. Seymour, it is 5125 English feet high. (Russia on the Black Sea,
p. 146.) Its form justifies its ancient name, and is said to resemble that of the Table Mountain
at the Cape of Good Hope
A good idea of it may be obtained from the vignette in Pallas (ii. p. 196).
As it stands somewhat isolated from the rest of the chain, it presents a very striking and remarkable object, especially from the sea.
At present it is called Tchlatyr-Dagh,
or the Tent Mountain.
The other mountains seldom exceed 1200 feet. Their geological structure presents many striking deviations from the usual arrangement, especially in the absence of granite.
These anomalies are fully described by Pallas in his second volume of travels.
That part of Taurica which lay to the E. of them was called the Rugged, or Rocky, Chersonesus (τρηκέη,
) It is in these mountains that the rivers which water the peninsula have their sources, none of which, however, are considerable. They flow principally from the northern side, from which they descend in picturesque cascades. Only two are mentioned by the ancients, the Thapsis and the Istrianus.
At present the most fertile districts of Taurica are the calcareous valleys among the mountains, which, though often covered with only a thin layer of mould, produce excellent wheat.
The nature of the country, however, does not now correspond with the descriptions of the ancients. Strabo (l.c.
) praises its fertility in producing corn, especially in that part which lies between Panticapaeum (Kertsch
) and Theodosia (Caffa
), which at present is a desolate and monotonous steppe.
But this may probably be accounted for by the physical and political revolutions which the country has undergone. Taurica yielded a large tribute of wheat to Mithridates Eupator, King of Bosporus.
That sovereign took much interest in promoting the cultivation of the country, especially by the planting of trees; but all his care to rear the lanrel and the myrtle in the neighbourhood of Panticapaeum is said to have been vain, though other trees grew there which required a mild temperature. (plin. xvi. s. 59.) Wine was produced in abundance, as at the present day, and the custom mentioned by Strabo (p. 307), of covering the vines with earth during the winter, is still observed, though Pallas considers it unnecessary (Voyages, &c.
ii. p. 444.)
The interest connected with the ancient history of the Tauric Chersonese is chiefly derived from the maritime settlements of the Greeks, and our attention is thus principally directed to the coasts.
An account of the barbarous people who inhabited the peninsula at the time when these settlements were made is given in a separate article [TAURI
]. Its coasts, like those of the Euxine in general, were early visited by the Milesians, who planted some flourishing colonies upon it. Besides these we find a Dorian colony established near the site of the present Sebastopol;
and, if we may believe Aeschines (contra Ctesiph.
p. 141, sq.), the Athenians once possessed the town of Nymphaeon on the Cimmerian Bosporus, which, according to him, was betrayed to the Bosporan kings by Gylon, the maternal grandfather of Demosthenes (Cf. Crateros in Harpocration, s. v. Νύμφαιον.
) The interior of the peninsula was but little known to the ancients, and we shall therefore best explain their connection with it by taking a survey of the coasts.
We shall begin on the NW. side, after the bay of Carcina or Tamyraca, which has been already described [CARCINA; TAMYRACA]. Fram this bay the peninsula stretches to its most westerly point, Cape Tarchan,
which presents some high land; but to the S. of Tarchan
the coast sinks to a dead level as far as the river Alma
, to the S. of which it again begins to rise in high cliffs. All the W. coast, however, presents no place of note in ancient history till we come to its extreme southern point, where a bald plateau of hills runs in a westerly direction into the sea. On the E. this tract is divided from the rest of the peninsula by a deep and broad valley, into which it falls by steep declivities.
The harbour of Sebastopol
(or Roads of Aktiar
) on the N., which bites into the land for about 4 miles in SE. direction, and that of Balaclava
on the S. coast of the peninsula, which runs up towards the N., form an isthmus having a breadth, according to Strabo (p. 308), of 40 stadia, or 5 miles.
This measurement is confirmed by Clarke (Trav.
ii. p. 219), who, however, seems only to have been guided by his eye; for in reality it is rather more, or about 6 miles. The S. coast of the little peninsula formed by this isthmus presents several promontories and small bays, with cliffs of from 500 to 700 feet in height.
So barren a spot presented no attractions to the Milesians, the chief colonisers of the Euxine; but a more hardy race of emigrants, from the Dorian city of Heracleia in Pontus, found a new home upon it, and founded there the town of Chersonesus (Strab. l.c.
). We learn from Pliny (4.12. s. 26
) that it [p. 2.1111]
was at first called Megarice, apparently from the circumstance that Megara was the mother city of the Pontic Heracleots. From these settlers the little peninsula we have just described obtained the name of the CHERSONESUS HERACLEOTICA
or Heracleotic Chersonese, sometimes also called “the small Chersonesus” (ἡ μικρά,
), by way of distinction from the great, or Tauric, peninsula.
The original city of Chersonesus seems to have been founded at the westernmost point of the peninsula, close to the present Cape Fanary.
The date and occasion of its foundation are not ascertained; but Neumann conjectures that it may have been built about the middle of the fifth century B.C. (Die Hellenen, &c.
p. 383). Considerable remains of the ancient city were visible so late as the end of the last century (Clarke, Trav.
ii. pp. 292, seq.; Pallas, ii. pp. 70, seq); but every trace of them had vanished when Murawiew Apostol visited the spot (Reise durch Taurien,
p. 62). They were destroyed by a certain Lieut. Kruse, who used the stones for building and converted the ground into a vineyard (Dubois de Montperreux, Voyages, &c.
vi. p. 133).
The ancient Chersonesus, however, had fallen into decay: before the time of Strabo; but the new town was flourishing and appears from the ruins to have been seated on the W. side of what is now the Quarantine Harbour of Sebastopol
(Neumann, p. 392).
The place was much damaged towards the end of the fourteenth century by Olgierd, sovereign of Lithuania, since which time it has been gradually falling into ruins (Karamsin, Russ. Gesch.
5.13. Germ. tr.). The Turks carried away many of its sculptures and columns to adorn Constantinople. Nevertheless, the town, although almost entirely deserted, remained for three centuries in so perfect a state that a plan might have been drawn of it at the time when it came into the possession of the Russians; but its ruin was soon completed by its new masters, who blew up the walls and destroyed the graves and temples. (Clarke, ii. p. 207.) Pliny (4.12. s. 26
) gives the circumference of its walls at 5 miles; but their outline could still be traced in 1820, and according to Dubois de Montperreux (6.138), was only about a quarter of that size.
It is probable that Pliny may have confounded the town walls with the wall or rampart which extended across the isthmus, which, as we have already seen, Strabo describes as being 40 stadia, or 5 miles, broad.
The same writer speaks of it in another place (p. 312) as being fortified with a wall.
This wall ran from Ctenus, at the E. extremity of the harbour of Sebastopol to Symbolon (Balaclava) on the S. coast, and appears to have been made by the Bosporan kings as a defence against the Scythians.
An account of its remaining vestiges is given by Clarke (ii. p. 285, seq.; cf. Seymour, p. 149.).
The whole enclosure was anciently covered with gardens and villas, and the foundations of houses and of the boundary walls of fields and gardens may still be traced, as well as many remains of the town on the promontory between Quarantine Bay and Streletska Bay.
Vestiges of the principal street show it to have been 20 feet broad.
The town wall on the land side was near 2 miles long, built of limestone, and 5 or 6 feet thick, with 3 towers (Seymour, p. 150). Many antiquities and coins have been found in the ruins of Chersonesus.
In the neighbourhood are graves of the most simple kind, hewn in the rock. They are easy of access, and present in this respect a remarkable contrast to those at Panticapaeum; but, from this cause, nothing but bones have been found in them, whilst those at Panticapaeum have yielded valuable antiquities.
According to Clarke (2.201, 210), the town of Eupatorium stood close to Chersonesus, though others have identified it with Inkerman.
About the latter place, the ancient Ctenus, the rock is pierced all over with the subterranean dwellings of the ancient Tauri. On the top are the ruins of the castle built by Diophantes, general of Mithridates, to defend the Chersonese against the Tauro-Scythians.
These caverns or crypts are now rapidly falling in. (Seymour, p. 140.) Similar caves are found in other parts of the peninsula.
The Heracleotic Chersonese was noted as the seat of the savage worship of Diana Tauropolis.
The natives, or Tauri, themselves had a worship of a similar kind [TAURI
]; but whether it was indigenous among them, or whether they borrowed it from the Dorian Heracleots who settled here, cannot be ascertained.
The account of the Tauri themselves, that their virgin goddess was Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon, would seem to lead to the latter conclusion; though it is well known that the nations of pagan antiquity readily adopted one another's deities when any similarity was observable in their rights and attributes; and from the account of Herodotus (4.103
) it might perhaps be inferred that this horrible worship existed among the Tauri before the arrival of the Greeks. Artemis was a peculiarly Dorian deity, and was worshipped in several parts of Greece with human sacrifices.
There was a tradition that the town of Chersonesus was founded by Artemis herself. The Heracleot Chersonites erected a famous temple on a headland which took the name of Parthenium from it. Strabo however merely calls the Parthenium “the temple of the virgin, a certain daemon” (p. 308), and does not mention Artemis. Opinions vary as to which is the real promontory of Parthenium. Many seek it at cape Fanary
which seems too near the town of Chersonesus, as Strabo places the temple at the distance of 100 stadia from the town, though Fanary
answers to his description in other respects. Clarke and Pallas identify it with the Aia Barun
or “Sacred Promontory” (Clarke, ii. p. 286, and note), between Cape Fiolente
which, besides its name, has also a ruin to recommend it; though the latter claim to notice is shared by C. Fiolente.
Dubois de Montperreux (vi. p. 194, sq.) thinks that the temple may have stood on the spot now occupied by the monastery of St. George; whilst Neumann, again places it on the headland a little to the NW. Of C. Fiolente.
It will be seen that these opinions rest on little more than conjecture. On the coins of the Heracleotic Chersonese the image of Artemis occurs by far the most frequently.
She sometimes appears with Apollo, sometimes with Hercules, the patron hero of the mother city, but more generally alone, and always as the goddess of the chase, never as Selene (Von Köhne, in the Memoirs of the Archaeolog. and Numism. Society of St. Petersburg,
vol. ii. ap. Neumann, p. 420). On other coins a fish is frequently seen; and one has a plough on the obverse, and an ear of corn between two fishes on the reverse (Ib.
The bays of the Heracleotic peninsula abound with fish, which formed a great part of the riches of the country.
Of the history of the Heracleotic Chersonesus we know but little, but it may perhaps be inferred from the Inscription of Agasicles that its constitution was republican.
It was important [p. 2.1112]
enough to take a part in political affairs as an independent city, at least as late as about the middle of the 2nd century B.C., when, like its mother city, Heracleia, it was a party to the alliance against Pharnaces I., king of Pontus, and Mithridates, satrap of Armenia. (Polyb. Frg. lib. 26. c. 6, vol. iv. p. 345, sqq., ed. Sweigh.) Soon afterwards, however, we find it struggling with the Taurians and their allies the Sarmatians for existence (Polyaen. Strat.
8.100.56), and it was ultimately compelled to place itself under the protection of Mithridates the Great. Subsequently, however, it regained its independence, through the Romans, and under the name of Cherson or Chorson flourished till a late period of the middle ages, and even overturned the Bosporan kingdom. (Const. Porphyr. de Adm. Imp.
Leaving the Heracleotic Chersonese, we will now proceed to describe the remainder of the coast of the Tauric peninsula, which may be soon despatched, as an account of its different cities is given in separate articles. From the haven of Symbolon (Balaclava
) to Theodosia (Caffa
) the coast is correctly described by Strabo as craggy, mountainous, and stormy, and marked with many headlands (p. 309).
The distance, however, which he assigns to this tract of 1000 stadia, or 125 miles, is rather too small.
In both the Periplus of the Euxine the distance given is 1320 stadia, but this must include all the indentures of the coast.
The most remarkable promontory in. this part was the Criu-metopon, or Ram's Head, which has been variously identified. Some writers have taken it for the promontory of Laspi,
which is in reality the most southern point of the peninsula. Some again have identified it with Ai Petri,
and a still greater number with the Aju-dagh.
But the account given by Arrian and the Anonymous agrees better with Cape Aithodor.
These writers say that the Criu-metopon lay 220 stadia to the W. of Lampas. (Arrian, Peripl.
p. 20; Anon. Peripl.
p. 6.) Now Lampas is undoubtedly the present Bijuk Lampat,
the distance between which and Cape Aithodor
agrees very accurately with the preceding measurement. Scymnus indeed (2.320, Gail) states the distance at only 120 stadia; but this is evidently an error, as it is too short by half even for Aju-dagh. Cape Aithodor
is not much N. of Lapsi,
and from its position might easily have been taken by the Greeks for the southernmost point of the peninsula. (See Neumann, 451, sq.)
From the traces of Greek names, ruins, remains of marble columns, &c., it may be inferred that the whole of this tract was once in the hands of the Greeks.
But these relics probably belong to the Byzantine times, since the older geographers mention only four places on this part of the coast, namely, Charax, Lagyra, Lampas, and Athenaeon.
To the E. of Theodosia the coast of the Euxine trends into a large bay, which, approaching the Palus Maeotis on the N., forms an isthmus about 12 miles broad, to the E. of which, as far as the Cimmerian Bosporus, extends the Bosporan peninsula, or that of Kertsch,
which swells out to double the breadth of the isthmus.
The western half of this peninsula is flat; but the eastern portion rises into hills, which surround the bay in which Panticapaeum was situated.
It possessed several flourishing maritime towns, as Cazeka and Cimmericum on the S. coast; Nymphaeon Panticapaeum, the Bosporan capital, on the Cimmerian Bosporus; with some others of less note, as Myrmecium, Porthmion, and Hermisium.
There were also probably towns in the interior; but we know the name of only one, namely, Iluratum. (Ptol. 3.6.6
.) Beyond the Bosporan straits we have little to guide us but the accounts of Ptolemy. From those straits, the N. coast of the peninsula, which is high and chalky, proceeded in a westerly direction to the modern Arabat.
Somewhere on this tract lay the Greek colony of Heracleion.
On the E. side of the Tauric peninsula, the Tongue of Arabat,
a narrow slip of land scarcely raised above the level of the sea, 52 miles long and about half a mile broad, runs along the whole coast, dividing the Maeotis from the Σαπρὰ λίμνη,
or Putrid Sea.
But though Strabo knew that the latter formed the western portion of the Maeotis (p. 208), he nowhere mentions the Tongue of Arabat.
The Putrid Sea
seems to be the Lacus Buges of Pliny (4.12. s. 26
); but his description is not very intelligible.
According to the accounts of recent travellers the Putrid Sea,
now called the Shiváshe,
does not appear to deserve its name, as it has neither an unpleasant smell nor are its shores unhealthy (Seymour, p. 33); yet in the times of Clarke and Pallas it seems to have possessed both these offensive qualities. (Clarke, Tray.
vol. ii. p. 314, note.)
The chief feature in the history of the Chersonesus Taurica, is that of the kingdom of the Bosporus, a sketch of which has been already given. [BOSPORUS CIMMERIUS
Vol. 1. p. 421, seq.] After the extinction of that dynasty, towards the end of the 4th century of our era, the peninsula fell into the hands of the Huns, of which race remnants still existed between Panticapaeum and Cherson in the 6th century. (Procop. Goth.
It was subsequently overrun by the Goths and other nations who followed the great stream of emigration. Justinian reunited the kingdom of the Bosporus to the Greek Empire; and the Byzantine emperors, till the fall of Constantinople, always regarded the Tauric peninsula as part of their dominions.
But the Tatars had made themselves the actual masters of it before the middle of the 13th century. Under these possessors, the Genoese, who settled on the coasts towards the end of the same century, played the same part as the Greeks did when the country was possessed by the Tauri, and planted several flourishing colonies. (Neumann, Die Hellenen im Skythenlande;
Georgii, Alte Geographie,
vol. ii; Clarke's Travels,
vol. ii.; Danby Seymour, Russia on the Black Sea;
Forbiger, Handb. der alt. Geogr.