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Ancient Greek city 17 km S of Kerch along the shore of the Kerch Strait near the modern village of Geroevka. It was founded by Ionian colonists in the first half of the 6th c. B.C. on the site of an earlier native (Scythian?) settlement. Owing to its good port, Nymphaion emerged as an important commercial center, especially for the grain trade. It was probably incorporated into the Bosporan state in the early 5th c. but ca. 444 B.C. became the main Athenian base in the E Crimea. With the decline of Athens in the late 5th c. it was again included in the Bosporan state. The city issued its own coins for a short period around this time. Following an apparent decline in the Hellenistic era, it recovered in the early centuries A.D. It was destroyed in the mid 3d c. by the Goths. (Aesch. In Ctes. 171; Steph. Byz.; Ps. Skyl. 68; Strab. 7.4.4; Ptol. 3.6.2; Plin. HN, 4.86; Anon. Perpl. Ponti Euxini, 76 [50]).

The site, located on a small hill, covered an area of some 9 ha but part of the ancient port and adjoining city are now under water. The architectural remains date primarily from the late archaic, Classical and Early Roman eras and include numerous residential, commercial, and public buildings along with the accompanying paved courtyards and streets. Recent excavations, however, have revealed several Hellenistic structures including a unique large building of the 3d c. B.C. made of rose marl. Large sections of the city were replanned and rebuilt during the 1st c. A.D. Many buildings were destroyed in the 2d c., after which time only a relatively few new buildings were erected.

The most interesting architectural monuments from the city are probably the sanctuaries of Demeter, Aphrodite, and the Kabeiri, the latter two located in the upper city (acropolis). The remains of the Sanctuary of Demeter are found in the lower terrace along the seashore and consist of parts of the perimeter and sanctuary walls as well as the foundations of the main altar. The original sanctuary, built in the mid 6th c. B.C., was a small quadrangular room of adobe brick walls on a stone foundation. It was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions during the city's history. The Sanctuary of Aphrodite had several rooms. First constructed in the late 6th c. B.C., it was destroyed in the 4th c. The walls of the Sanctuary of the Kabeiri, built in the 6th c. B.C., still remain. Many terracotta statuettes, apparently used in votive offerings, were found in and around the sanctuaries.

Other notable architectural monuments include two winemaking establishments of the 4th c. B.C., the earliest thus far discovered in the N Black Sea, and the city's defensive walls, which date from the Classical era. Remains of potters' kilns date to the 6th c. B.C.

The kurgan necropolis contained rich burials of the 5th c. and first half of the 4th c. B.C. Among the graves were stone tombs with horse burials.


E. H. Minns, Scythians and Greeks (1913) 560-61; M. M. Khudiak, “Predvaritel'nye itogi raskopok poslednikh let v Nimfee,” Arkheologiia i istoriia Bospora, I (1952) 75-87; id., “Raskopki sviatilishcha Nimfeia,” SovArkh 16 (1952) 232-81; id., Iz istorii Nimfeia VI-III vekov do n.e. (1962); V. M. Skudnova, “Skifskie pamiatniki iz Nimfeia,” SovArkh 21 (1954) 306-18; L. F. Silant'eva, “Nekropol' Nimfeia,” Nekropoli bosporskikh gorodov [Materialy i issledovaniia po arkheologii SSSR, No. 69] (1959) 5-107; A. L. Mongait, Archaeology in the USSR, tr. M. W. Thompson (1961) 196-97; C. M. Danoff, Pontos Euxeinos (1962) 1127-28 = RE Suppl. IX; E. Belin de Ballu, L'Histoire des Colonies grecques du Littoral nord de la Mer Noire (1965) 134-37; I. B. Brašinskij, “Recherches soviétiques sur les monuments antiques des régions de la Mer Noire,” Eirene 7 (1968) 100-101.


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