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;
, 4.86; Anon. Perpl. Ponti Euxini
, 76 ).
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
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
, 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
(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
(1965) 134-37; I. B. Brašinskij, “Recherches
soviétiques sur les monuments antiques des régions de la
Mer Noire,” Eirene
7 (1968) 100-101.
T. S. NOONAN