Situated on the W
coast of the Black Sea, about halfway between the mouth
of the Danube and the present-day city of Constanţa.
The city was founded in the 7th c. B.C. by the Milesians
within a gulf that was later made into a lagoon. Lasting
until the beginning of the 7th c. A.D., it apparently was
abandoned by its inhabitants, probably as a result of the
invasion of the Avari in 587. The site has never been
In the course of its long history Istros experienced periods of prosperity interrupted by crises that more than
once imperiled its existence. Laid waste for the first time
at the end of the 6th c. B.C. (probably by the Scythians),
it was again sacked at the end of the 4th c. (perhaps by
Lysimachos), then about the middle of the 1st c. by the
Getae of Byrebistas and once more about the middle of
the 3d c. A.D. by the Goths. Made part of the Roman
Empire toward the end of the 1st c. B.C., it later was
included in the imperial province of Moesia and, from
Docletian's reign, in the new province of Scythia.
Excavations have revealed the latest circuit walls,
erected after the Goths had laid waste the city. Since
then other walls have been found and more or less completely uncovered: the first one dating from the archaic
period, the second from the Hellenistic period, and the
third from Early Roman times.
To this last period of its existence (4th-6th c.) belong
most of the monuments excavated inside the late circuit
wall. The rampart itself, which is fairly well preserved
on its W and S sides, recalls the dramatic conditions in
which it was built: all along the walls can be seen architrave blocks, columns, architectural fragments, even inscriptions used as building materials.
A seemingly official quarter of the city has been excavated inside the rampart, to the right of the main gate.
It contains several large civic basilicas, a commercial
pavilion, a small porticoed square and a bath building,
fairly well preserved. Farther off, to the S and SE, can
be seen a section containing poor dwellings and workshops, probably a later addition to the city. This section
of Istros is linked by a street paved with broad slabs to
a residential quarter set at the highest point of the city.
Here can be seen several large houses with inner courtyard and more than one story; one of them (which has
a private apsed chapel) seems to have been a bishop's
residence. All these remains (including those of several
Christian basilicas, with or without crypt) belong to the
last phase of the city (4th-6th c.). Far more ancient are
those monuments found in what is now known as Istros'
Sacred Zone, situated on the water in the NE part of the
city. Excavations have revealed the foundations of a temple dedicated to Zeus Polieus (built in the 6th c. B.C. and
rebuilt in the first half of the 5th); a few anonymous
altars dating from the same period; important fragments
of a small Doric temple of Thasos marble, dedicated
to Theos Megas (3d c. B.C.); and sizable fragments of a
Temple of Aphrodite (Hellenistic period), still being excavated.
Other scattered ruins have been uncovered on different
occasions outside the city to the W in the area between
the early rampart and the first Roman rampart. Among
these ruins is a second bath building, dating from the
2d-3d c., a Christian basilica with a cemetery around it
(5th-6th c.), and remains of scattered houses and fragments of streets from the Hellenistic period.
Farther off, in the same direction, on the other side
of the neck of water separating the ancient site and the
cultivated areas, is a large cemetery. In addition to Greek
tombs (6th c. B.C-3d c. A.D.), it was found to contain
several tombs belonging to chiefs of the Getae who were
buried according to barbarian ritual, surrounded by
human victims and skeletons of horses.
V. Pârvan, An. Acad. Rom., Mem. Sect.
. 38 (1916) 533-732; III, t. II, mém. 2 (1923); S.
3-4 (1927-32) 378-410; Histria. Monografie arheologică
, (1954), II (1964); E. Condurachi,
, NS 1 (1957) 245-63; P. Alexandrescu & V. Eftimie
ibid. 3 (1959) 143-64; D. M. Pippidi, ibid. 6 (1962) 139-56; id., Epigraphische Beiträge zur Geschichte Histrias
(1962); id., Contributii la istoria veche a României
ed., 1967); id., I Greci nel Basso Danubio
D. M. PIPPIDI