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A city on the W coast of the Crimea ca. 3 km W of modern Sebastopol. It is mentioned in the ancient sources (Strab. 7.4.2-7; Plin. HN 4.85; Polyb. 25.2.12; Pompon. 2.1.3; Ptol. Geog. 3.6.2 etc.). Founded in 421 B.C. by colonists from Herakleia Pontica, perhaps on the site of an earlier Greek settlement, it rapidly became the major city of SW Crimea and the chief center in this area for international trade. In the 3d c. B.C. Kerkinitis and Kalos Limen came under its control. In the 2d c. B.C. under attack from the Scythian king Palak, it was supported by Mithridates Eupator, king of Pontus. Although the Scythians were conquered, Chersonesos lost its independence and became one of the cities of the Bosporan kingdom.

The city covered an area of 38 ha and its defensive system is one of the major architectural monuments of the N Black Sea region. Stone walls (3.5 km long and up to 3.8 m thick), with crenellated towers and gates, were first constructed in the 4th-3d c. and rebuilt in the Hellenistic and Roman times and later. The city was laid out according to the Miletian plan with straight streets crossing at right angles. Traces of houses from the 3d-2d c. follow the same plan as those in other cities in the region. A corridor led to an inner courtyard onto which rooms opened; each house had a well or cistern and the basins were often paved with mosaics. Other architectural remains include a mint of the 4th c. B.C., several wine-making establishments, several large pottery workshops, numerous cisterns for the salting of fish; large baths of the Roman era, Christian basilicas of the 5th-7th c.; an odeum (?); a theater of the late 3d-early 2d c. B.C., which was still in use in the 4th c. Outside the walls in the Hercules peninsula excavations have uncovered the ruins of numerous fortified farinsteads, some for grape growing and others for grain.

Among the many Greek inscriptions found are the oath of the inhabitants of the city (3d c. B.C.) and the decree of Diophanes (end of the 2d c. B.C.). A fine head of an ephebus in the manner of Skopas has been discovered; also many locally made terracottas, including a torso of a statue of Herakles. The Roman period is represented by funerary monuments, with portraits, and sarcophagi ornamented with scenes of Eros, griffins, and other figures of local legend. The Cherson Museum contains material from this site.


E. H. Minns, Scythians and Greeks (1913) 498-553; K. E. Grinevich, Sto let khersonesskikh raskopok (1827-1927): Istoricheskii ocherk (1927); G. D. Belov, Raskopki Khersonesa v 1934 g. (1936); id., Otchet o raskopkakh v Khersonese za 1935-1936 gg. (1938); “Raskopki v severnoi chasti Khersonesa v 1931-1933 gg.,” Arkheologicheskie pamiatniki Bospora i Khersonesa [Materialy i issledovaniia PO arkheologii SSSR, No. 4] (1941) 212-67; id., Khersones Tavricheskii: Istoriko-arkheologicheskii ocherk (1948); Materialy po arkheologii iugo-zapadnogo Kryma (Khersones, Mangup [Materialy i issledovaniia po arkheologii SSSR, No. 34] (1953); S. F. Strzheletskii, “Osnovnye etapy ekonomicheskogo razvitiia i periodizatsiia istorii Khersonesa Tavricheskogo v antichnuiu epokhu,” Problemy istorii Severnogo Prichernomor'ia v antichnuiu epokhu (1959) 63-85; id., Klery Khersonesa Tavricheskogo [Khersonesskii sbornik, No. 6] (1961); A. L. Mongait, Archaeology in the USSR, tr. M. W. Thompson (1961) 185-89; C. M. Danoff, Pontos Euxeinos (1962) 1104-16 = RE Suppl. IX; E. Belin de Ballu, L'Histoire des Colonies grecques du Littoral nord de la Mer Noire (1965) 74-94; I. B. Brašinskij, “Recherches soviétiques sur les monuments antiques des régions de la Mer Noire,” Eirene 7 (1968) 96-97.


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