A Milesian colony on the Romanian coast of the Black Sea, between
Istros (to the N) and Kallatis (to the S). It was probably
founded in the 6th c., although its name does not appear
in the texts until the 3d c. In the Hellenistic period, the
only known phase of its history, it was involved in the war
between Byzantium and Kallatis (allied to Istros), which
in fact was fought for control of the Tomis emporium
(Memnon, fr. 21 = FHG 3, p. 537). Tomis was a member of the Pontic koinon created toward the end of the
1st c. B.C. and immediately annexed by Rome (the period
when Ovid, sent into exile by Augustus, came to Tomis
to die), and quickly became the chief city of the Dobruja region as well as the metropolis of the whole W part of Pontus.
This prosperity was gravely threatened in the 3d c.
A.D. by the invasions of the Goths, and was not reaffirmed until the time of the Tetrarchy, when Tomis was
made chief city of the new province of Scythia. Under
the protection of Constantine and his successors, Tomis,
now Christianized and the seat of a bishop, was to
flourish for the last time. Toward the end of the 7th c.
it was abandoned by its inhabitants as were all the Scythian cities.
The ancient Milesian colony has not been excavated
systematically because it lies under the modern city.
However, there have been chance finds of epigraphic and
The most important of these monuments is the circuit
wall that protected Tomis on the N-NW and S-SW sides
by closing off the promontory on which the city was
built. This wall seems to have been built in the 2d c. A.D., but it was rebuilt several times up to the end of antiquity.
Roughly 3 m thick, it has an external facing of large
squared blocks; semicircular towers flank the gates. One
of these towers apparently dates from Justinian's reign,
but constructions of the same type are attested in the
reigns of Diocletian and Anastasius.
Another significant monument, unearthed in 1959, is
the so-called mosaic building. This is a huge complex of
commercial buildings designed on three levels, which also
served to cover and support the cliff, which is 20 m high
at this point. The upper terrace, which overlooked the sea,
had a mosaic floor surrounded on three sides by walls
faced with polychrome marble. The mosaic covers an area
of roughly 2000 sq. m and is fairly well preserved. It
gives the impression of a brightly colored carpet decorated with geometric and plant motifs. The story below consists of 11 vaulted rooms designed to be used as warehouses. Some of them were found to contain dozens of
amphorae along with several anchors and some iron
clamps. On the first floor up from ground level, which
gives directly onto the nearby quays, a certain number
of warehouses were found, also filled with amphorae;
others are in the process of excavation. Close by this fine
complex several warehouses designed for storing grain
are being excavated, along with the ruins of a bath building (one large room that has been uncovered measures not less than 300 sq. m).
The port installations date from the 4th c. A.D. By this
time Tomis had been Christianized and its four basilicas
date to the 4th and 5th c. One, on the W cliff, is small
and somewhat poorly preserved. A second is in the courtyard of No. 2 secondary school. It has not been possible
to excavate this building completely, but it is larger than
the first basilica and more carefully built. Near the altar
is a rectangular crypt, its walls covered with paintings.
The third, in the W section of the city, is ca. 35 m long
and 18.8 m wide; it has an apse 8 m in diameter and a
vaulted crypt, poorly preserved. The fourth is the largest
in the whole of Dobruja. It had three naves, separated
by marble columns and a huge crypt divided into seven
interconnecting rooms arranged in the shape of a cross.
Close by this great basilica a cache of 23 statues and
reliefs was found, no doubt a remnant of the religious
war that raged throughout the Empire in the 4th c.
V. Pârvan, An. Acad. Rom., Mem. Sect.
. 37 (1915) 415-50; R. Vulpe, Hist. anc. de la Dobroudja
(1938); I. Stoian, Tomitana
(1962); A. Rădulescu, Monumente romano-bizantine din sectorul de vest al cetăţii Tomis
(1966); D. M. Pippidi, I Greci nel Basso Danubio
(1971); V. Barbu, Tomis
D. M. PIPPIDI