Gertsen A.G.

Ukraine, Crimea, Simferopol, Tavricae National University

Doros-Theodoro (Mangup): from early Byzantine fortress to feudal town

This article intended to present in brief the results of archaeological excavations of medieval town Mangup at the south-western Crimea. This is one of the largest sites among the group of so-called "cave-towns", as well as the main fortress and later city in the country of Crimean Goths. Most information on its history is given by archaeological excavations, which supplement scarce written sources. The strategy of archaeological excavation during the last twenty years was based on examining various elements of the complex for obtaining comprehensive set of data on its topography, stratigraphy and chronology. The priority in tactics for us was completion of research of the objects, which were earlier partially excavated by our predecessors, as well as of monuments being under the threat of destruction and plunder (especially cemeteries). Based on this research we tried to define the major phases in evolution of the settlement, which reflects the whole process noticed in the title of this report.

The process of construction of towns at the periphery of Byzantine world was determined by several factors, but the major one was the extent and duration of the external military pressure. This reason was the most important for Byzantine possessions in Taurica. Gothic campaigns of the third century, Huns' invasion in seventies of fourth century, return of part of Huns to Bosporus in the second half of fifth century, proximity of Turcic kaganat from the second half of the sixth century, and of Khazar kaganat from the second half of the seventh century, the threat of invasion from hungarians - the second half of ninth century, from pechenegs - the end of ninth - middle of eleventh century, from comans - eleventh - beginning of thirteen centuries, shattering invasion of Mongols in 1223, arrival of Tatars in 1236, the bloody civil wars in Golden Horde. The most devastating for the settled agricultural population at the coastal and mountainous areas were the campaigns of emir Nogai in 1299 and Tamerlan (end of fourteenth centuries). The existence "of the last piece of Byzantium at the Black Sea", as Alexander Vasiliev called the Crimea, was put to an end by Turkish invasion in 1475.

This is not the full record of the disasters for the "extreme North" of the Byzantium. The military threat was permanent during thousand and a half years. It was the impetus for founding and renewal fortresses.

The special attention the Empire paid to Kherson, the main Byzantine base in Southwestern Taurica. But what was going on at the vicinities of this city? The military trends of third-fourth centuries assumed that the enemy must be forbidden to draw near the city walls. This experience was gained in Diophantes Wars in the last decade of second century BC. But we don't see any traces of outer defensive system till sixth century, however we can't deny its existence or at least appearance since allied relationships established between Kherson and barbarian population of the closest neighborhood. Until the mentioned date there were no fortresses in mountain Taurica. I remind that in second half of third century Goths destroyed the last later-Scythian settlements, which survived Sarmathian raid at the edge of first and second centuries.

The opinion that the peak of fortress construction on Taurica falls on the reign of Justinian I emerged in the beginning of nineteenth century (Duboise de Mon t pereux) and was developed later on by V. Vasiliev, A. Vasiliev, V. Jacobson. These authors took in account written sources together with architectural and archaeological data, the special attention was paid to so-called "cave towns". The key feature of these sites, exotic for the first glance, are artificial cave constructions of different purpose: household, defensive, civil engineering, habitable, cult. These impressive ensembles were interpreted as towns and fortresses, built by Byzantinians to protect the territory identified as "Dori country", mentioned by Procopius Ceasarensis. Critics of this hypothesis (E. Weimarn, O. Dombrovskiy, D. Talis) pointed out at typological di versity of these monuments. They distinguished towns, castles, monasteries, unfortified rural settlements and pointed to probable asynchronism of the subject matter. To determine the types of the "cave towns" the authors accomodated the model of feudal system genesis, created by Soviet historians for Kievan Russia. The largest settlements, such as Mangup, Eski-Kermen, Chufut Kale were compared with trade and craft centres, which appeared at the crossings of trade routes. The smaller settlements like Bakla, Tepe-Kermen, Sujren' fortress, Calamita were defined as feudal castles, and settlements without defensive walls - as villages and monasteries.

Our prolonged study of Mangup and Chifit-Kale proved that both approaches could not provide us with satisfactory model. We came to conclusion, that during its long history these settlements several times altered their function and status. An case of Mangup is very convincing.

The earliest artefacts found at the plateau are dated back to Eneolithic - Early Bronze Age, however, the substantial inflow of people takes place from second half of third century, that coincides with migration at the peninsula of Germanic and Alanic tribes. Probably since that time opened (unfortified) settlement was springing up (no traces of fortifications of that period were detected). The artefacts of that period represented by Late Roman ceramics (amphorae, red-lacquered vessels) bronze coins. These fnds are usually occured in the later strata. At the time of the colonisation of the plateau the major area of its cliff surface was not covered by soil. Only after the settlement arised the ground began to deposit at the inhabited areas. I would like to stress, that even in the period of prosperity the inhabited territory didn't exceed one third of its total area. The free area was reserved for the neighbouring population with property and cattle in case of military threat.

After allied relationships were established between newcomers and Byzantium, the territory known as "Dori country" was formed. Fifteen years ago expedition of V. Sidorenko revealed the remnants of strong defensive wall, which blocked the bottle-neck of valley, which walks to Mangup from the steppe . Probably it was section of the system, known as "the long walls" by Procopius Caesarensis. It secured the main mountain passes leading to Kherson, the distance to which is 20 kilometres from there.

It became clear during the last ten years of Justinian I reign, that "long walls" - are weak guaranty against invasions from steppes, where the power of Turcic Kaganat strengthened.

From the end of fourth century cemeteries begin to appear at the plateau, mostly consisted of burial vaults of northern Caucasic type, also usual graves are present here. Unfortunately cemeteries several times since ninth century were robed and the last and largest raid which lasts up to date started in last decade of 20 century. Nevertheless even the remained scarce materials allow to track the gradual but profound effect of Christianity to Gotho-Alanian culture. At the time when rite remains pagan, Christian symbols such as wall drawings of typical early Byzantine crosses appear. The earliest artefacts of Christianity expansion were found in one of the vaults of fifth century - Bronze body cross and gemma on Cornelia, embedding from fingering with a figure of cherub with wings behind the back and fire-sword in his hand. Similar monument originated from Syria-Palestine is in collection of Bible museum in Paris.

The most studied vaults of the three excavated cemeteries at the southern periphery contained artefacts of sixth - first half of eight century. Most common finds are jewelry: in particular belt furniture, Chernjakhov fibulae, finger-rings, earrings etc. Pair of round cast fibula, covered by thin layer of sheet gold with Cornelian embedding draws a special attention. Stone mould for similar paired fibula was found at Northern Daube in Romania and dated back to fifth-seventh century. In our case these items found together with glasses decorated with blue drops dated back to the end of fourth - first half of fifth century. I'd like to admit also stamped golden plaques with human face. Plates of bone for the complex bow, massive three-edged arrowheads, long two-bladed swords composed an armoury. Some inhumations accompanied with horses. Only one indication of human cremation met in Almalyk cemetry. Extensive collection of artificially deformed skulls are found in cemetries. They are not met in graves before sixth century.

Part of artefacts from robbed vaults was found in treasure at the surface of the plateau in the ruins of tenth-eleventh century.

Architecture of the vaults is very elaborated with comlex typology . In three cases imitation of temple was found. The most significant is the vault, where the wall opposing the entrance looks like an apse with three deep arched niches. There are lines cut in clay imitating arched structure at the surface of the conch and at the ceiling.

Last years several new early alano-gothic cemeteries were found at the territory between Mangup, Balaklava and Inkerman. Probably they mark the core area of Dori country, populated with federates of Byzantium. No doubt there was the most intensive acculturation and religious transformation of Barbarian neighbourhood of Byzantine Kherson. Its final result was the ethnic and cultural integrity of population in medieval Taurica.

All the mentioned cemeteries ceased to function no later than at the end of eighth century. They are synchronous to the second phase of the settlement life, which may be called early-Byzantine.

The construction of fortifications at Mangup plateau started, probably, in the last decade of Justinian I reign (fiftieth-sixtieth of sixth century). At that time immense fortress ensemble was built utilizing all available topographical benefits. There was no larger and stronger fortress in medieval Crimea.

The defensive system of Mangup-Doros is not typical for the medieval town. This is the huge fortress-perimeter which had permanent garrison and the wide space for reinforcement troops and irregulars. It could shelter the population from neighbouring valleys with cattle and property. The total area of the fortress is ninety hectares. It included the flat surface of the mountain and the uppermost parts of the gullies that cut the plateau to the capes from the north.

Western, southern and south-eastern edge of the plateau are steep cliffs with the height up to 70 m. Fortifications covered the breaches in the solid wall of rocks. They fomed the Major defensive line, which provided defence for the maximum possible area of plateau. There were almost no walls elevated hihgher than the edge of the plateau. System contained a chain of separate sectors wich completes a high natural impenetrable walls of the plateau to create continuos defensive contour with total length about 7 kilometers.

This line survived without any considerable changes up to the beginning of sixteenth century. Only some repairs of few sections were made, - those, destroyed in sieges or by the forces of nature. The only considerable reconstruction was made twenty five years after Mangup was captured by Turks-Osmans.

One of the biggest in Tauirica Basilica constructed at the centre of the plateau, its size corresponded to the size of the fortress. Floors of Basilica were covered with colourful mosaic, walls were covered with frescoes. During its excavation in 1912, there was inscription fragment on limestone slab found with the name of Justinian I. That means, that the fortress had not only military purpose, but also became an important ideological centre - the starting point of christianisation of local population. However, as it was mentioned earlier, this process was not fast and mainly was finished by the edge of first and second millennium AD.

By the end of Justinian's reign, Byzantium had no possibility to maintain fortresses at the remote frontiers, such responsibility was transferred to local authorities. The situation became worth in the second half of seventh century. However according to archaeological and scarce written sources, relationship of south-western Taurica with Byzantium was not terminated becouse of nomads' threat for Kherson. The lately found lead seal is evidence of this fact. The inscription says that it was owned by Emperor's Logophetes, Patrician Dorotheus. The type and the features of the font suggest the date of the second half of sixth-seventh century. Unfortunately the short title of the owner's position makes difficult to learn much about the person. The first fair question arises: which one from numerous Logophets holded the seal: Logophetes of Genikon, of Drom or some other?

Noteworthily, that the person of patrician Dorotheos is known in Byzantium history. The person with the same name is mentioned in written sources during the reign of Constant II (641-668). He was a witness at the Pope Martin's trial in 654 being in position of Strategos of Sicilian Thema. R. Guilland considers the seal with name of Dorotheus, published by V. Laurent , have been owned by that person. (Laurent, 1930, P. 587; Guilland, 1960, P. 18). Our may be belonged to the earlier period of his career. It ascertains the fact of relationship between local authorities and Byzantine administration in the first half of seventh century.

Since the second half of seventh century when Khazars appeared at the Crimean peninsula, they gradually advanced from Bospor to the west. Crisis broke out by the end of eighth century, when Khazars had captured Doros-Mangup. As a result Christian population of Gothia revolted under leadership of bishop St. John the Gothic. The leaders of rebels were the local iconolatrian party, which was in an opposition to official iconoclastic doctrine dominating in Kherson and at the most territory of Byzantine influence. In such conditions anti-Khazar reconquest was condemned to fail, because there were no hope to get Byzantine support to the rebellion with anti-government motto.

Archaeological situation discovered at Mangup allows to connect its specific features to events of anti-khazar rebellion under leadership of bishop St. John the Gothic, the cause of which was the capture of the main fortress of Crimean Gothia by Khazars. Its second fall probably was accompanied by partial destruction of Major defensive line. Soon after these events these constructions were repaired, because Khazars required this fortress as an outpost at the frontier with Byzantium. The evidences of the repair are several sections of fortification system, reconstructed using techics, typical for Khazars (saltovians) fortification (masonry is laid directly on the ground, blocks are marked with signs (Tamga)). It should be remarked, that presence of Khasars in the fortress did not last long and terminated, probably, after establishing of Thema of Klimates. Excavations revealed poorness of Saltov-Mayak culture on the plateau.


In stratigraphy during the «khazarian» time typical early-Byzantium material complex is replaced with typical for Black Sea basin region of ninth-tenth centuries: (jugs with high neck and flat handle, egg-bodied amphorae, white-clay glazed tableware ornamented with stamp). It is unlikely to be the fast replacement of population. It is mainly the indication of changes in household, when export started to play important role, first of all - wine. Before ninth century wine was imported to the fortresses of south-western Taurica by the traditional since antiquity Black sea trade routes. But later on, the wine was produced locally, the evidence is appearance of several large winepresses and pottery facilities for mass production of amphorae (by now nine winepresses are discovered at Mangup). Possibly, normalisation of political relationship between Byzantium and Khazaria in the second half of ninth beginning of tenth century and also openness and safety for Trade of steppe areas of Northern Caucasus and Don areas, stimulated burst of vineyard growing and winery at the interior areas of Taurica, where such activity was not spread in antiquity.

About the edge of tenth and eleventh century, life in the fortress declined, the reasons are not clear up to now, but chronologically it is connected with the decline of Khazars khaganat. The long pause starts, which continues at least to the beginning of the fifteenth century, when Mangup became a capital of Theodoro principality. At the sites of some desolated wineries Christian churches appear. Maybe the reason of decline was catastrophic earthquake.

In the middle of eleventh century in the steppes between Crimea and Russia Polovtsian came. Almost entire Crimean peninsula, including south coast, was taken under rule of Polovtsian Khans. Before the restoration of Byzantium Empire in 1261, Crimean territories of Byzantium were joined to the Trebizond Empire, which collected taxes from Gothia. The situation became worth when in 1223 Tatar-mongols invaded. By the middle of thirteenth century Crimean Ulus of Golden Hord already existed, its representative headquarters were situated in new city Krym or Solkhat (now Stariy Krym). In sixties Genoesians penetrated at the coastal areas. Some time later Venetians fastened in Sudak. By that time, population inhabiting peripheries of Kherson, descendants of invaders, of Goths and Alans, who dissolved other ethnic groups in their environment, due to cultural and political influence of Byzantium, became the integral part of medieval Greek Christian world. So, it was not occasion, that namely at the south-western part of peninsula conditions for establishing special ethnic and political organism were created. It was Theodoro principality, which was a bright spot in history of Crimea. It appeared at the border between great Mediterranean Greek and Roman civilisation, represented by Byzantium and original, also great, world of Nomads of Eurasian steppes, who started several times but never finishing the process of settling, which was called way from «nomads to cities». However, culture and ethnic composition of principality population was determined by late-Byzantium factor. It was indicated not only by dominating Greek language and Orthodoxy, but also by the location of the capital, which inherited the Justinian's fortress, within the borders of which a large city was situated, having considerable areas of extra space. Although defensive walls at that time were already seven centuries old there were no better option for their location and structure, only repairs and construction of second defensive line was required, which mainly had organisational purpose to limit the city development. Also citadel was constructed at the utmost north-eastern cape, nature prepared it to be the best place for stronghold.

There is almost no data about the situation and date of principality appearance. This is the issue of both scientific hypothesises and free fantasies with historical background. Approach to this problem takes into account scarce and indefinite information from written sources as well as general background. Political consolidation of Orthodox population was caused by several reasons. During reign of khan Uzbek in Golden Hord the official religion becomes Islam (1313/14) and intensive muslimisation of this population starts. In the middle of XIV century Genoese captured from Greek South Coast from Alushta to Cembalo (now Balaclava). In fact, Orthodox population preserved only territories between Kherson and upper flow of river Alma, where so called «cave towns» are situated. Archaeological data indicate that there was the highest concentration of settled agricultural population during the entire medieval epoch. Unstable political situations was also a consolidating factor. By seventieth of the thirteenth century there are signs of instability in Golden Ord and by the beginning of the next century trends to separation, first of all in the west, became clear.

In Crimea, due to separated geographical situation and its role as transit point of « inter-civilisation » trade, all these trends were visible very clear. In the end of thirteenth century the peninsula experienced separatist conflicts among local nomads, when raid of hord of Emir Noghai devastated the most illustrious cities. Probably this event stimulated consolidation of christian greek-speaking population under the authority of some Byzantium-provincial aristocratic family, maybe having Trebizond roots. The evidence, that definitely Mangup became centre of attraction for medieval Greek population, is the inscription on the stone, found during the excavation of Great Basilica in the beginning of 20 century. It directly indicates restoration in 1362 of Theodoro and about construction of some "Poyka", probably, meaning citadel of the city. This is the first time the future name of principality and its capital Theodoro was mentioned. Name "Mangup" became widely spread only after the fortress was captured by Turks in 1475.

In the middle of nineties of XIV century Crimea was involved into conflict between Tohtamysh and Tamerlan. South-western part of peninsula was again plundered like century ago by Nogai. Now the primary strike hits the capital of Theodoro principality, which was ruined.

In the beginning of XV century it was revived, the principality enters the last period of its prosperity and glory. Its east frontier stretched to Alushta, only coast was possessed by hostile Genoese. River Belbeck in the north was boundary with dominions of Golden Hord, and since forties with the descended from Golden Hord Crimean Khanat. Theodoro has allied relationships with the latter. Total population of the principality reached 150 thousand. During reign in 20 th -30 th of prince Alexey, the capital was refined with splendid Byzantine provincial style architecture. In fact Basilica and Palace were built from the bare base. Besides the old, repaired early-Byzantine defensive line, two new important complices improved fortification ensemble. Fisrt of all - retrenchment, the Second defensive line, created similar to fortifications of neighbours-Genoese. The line is represented by continuous fortified line, consisting walls and towers with opened back side. Its total length is about 700 m. One of its wings joints inaccessible south-western section of plateau slope, the other wing is ended by a tower at the western slope of Gamam-dere valey. And the second - full rehabilitation of citadel, or possibly construction from almost the very beginning. Probably it was fortified residence of prince. Walls join the building from two sides, the opposite wings of the walls join the inaccessible cliffs.

Territory of this cape is filled with architectural monuments. The most impressive monument is three-storied dungeon-palace flanked with two curtines. Dungeon with walls isolated cape from plateau and formed the Armenian-Byzantine style is used in decoration of its facade.

Last years there were household and residential buildings excavated at the citadel, including large four-room building, probably barracks for garrison. Of special interest is unique for the Northern Black Sea region eight-sided temple (octagon) . It was firstly excavated in the end of XIX century - beginning if XX century, but unfortunately we have few materials from that time. Such situation due to different dating of the construction: from VIII to XIII centuries. In opinion the latest date is preferable: second half of XIV - middle of XV century. There are examples of octagonal temples built in the beginning of the XV century in Constantinopole . Probably, construction of Mangup octagon should be dated back to the reign of prince Alexis, it est the beginning of XV century, when present architectural plan of citadel was formed.

It is interesting, that in IX-X centuries there was winery at the location of the future temple. Remains of winepress cut in limestone rock (tarapan) such as outlet of pressing pad and hemispheric collector for liduid preserved there. When the construction of the church started the rock surface had been levelled so the strata from previous epoch wiped out. Some other churches of XIV-XV centuries were also build in place of the former winepresses. Seems like the production of wine in this period was heavily decreased in comparison to «khazarian period». Possibly it was decentralised and moved to rural settlements.

In addition to usual buildings, citadel has more than 20 artificial caves. Some of them are for sure casemates, wich shoot-range covered primary city acess road, other are cells, halls and storage facilities belonged to the monastery located at the very end of the cape. In case of siege they could also be used for military purpose. Citadel has also its oun source of water - a well cut in limestone 24 meters deep, fed from the spring hidden in the body of the rock.

The Turkish conquest became the tragic episode in history of Gothia. Osman troops invaded the Crimea in 1475. In a week Genoese Kafa surrendered. But siege of Mangup lasted for half year and followed the scenario used twenty two years ago under the walls of Constantinopol, which resisted only for two months. At that time Greek historian Kritovul , witness of the events, expresed the main, by his opinion, reason of Turks triumph: «Cannons resolved everything». Such words entirely fit the situation at Mangup.

First of all, Turks tried to capture the city from the south, where besieged and researches didn't expect them to do. Last year during excavation of Gothic necropolis near the southern slope of the plateau, the entire cannonball was found and later military positions were found under the foot of the cliff. After fail at the south Turks had to start the next phase of siege at the central northern valley Hamam-Dere. That activity left a lot of archaeological evidences. At the middle of the slope of cape Elli-Burun Turks established breach-battery. Two heavy siege cannons fired from the distance of 200 meters granite cannonballs with diameter of 42 and 35 cm, its weight was 100 and 65 kg correspondingly. From one position they attacked two fortifications. Terrible roar of the cannons had a huge psychological effect. Most Theodorites knew about such weapon only by the rumors. However, the city repulsed five assaults.

There were half thousand years old breaches found in the walls with stuck Turkish cannonballs and arrows. When cannons almost destroyed one of the walls, defenders managed to built the new one of its stones. Turkish sources are scarce enough and narrate that only using sham attack Turks took the fortress. Citadel also resisted for some time and Turks again used artillery. After that there was massacre, evidences of which are the mass burials at the Great Basilica, in fact us was turned at that time into memorial. Cannon master of that time George from Nuremberg, who was forced to serve to Mehmed II, informs that Turks captured 15 thousand persons and three «kings». Although this number is overestimated, it could be understood as a total number of noblemen captured during the conquest of the entire principality, which included feudal posessions, heads of which they call «kings».

For the three following centuries former capital of orthodox Taurica became the Turkish stronghold. New owners maintained the fortifications. To adapt the fortress to usage of firearms some sections of walls were moved higher above the slope, some walls were rounded, old towers were reconstructed, the new were added. Architectural details of destroyed building were used for the repairment. For example, pieces of Great Basilica were used in reconstruction of one of the towers.

However, life at Mangup decayed.

We have excavated one of the last churches, which functioned up to the beginning of XVII century. There was found burials of priests and hidden coins and church treasure - 111 silver coins (akche) of Crimean Khan Saghib-Gerai, dated back to the end of XVI century. It is possible, that this priest was the one, Martin Bronevsky talked to in 1578. Martin Bronevsky is Polish diplomat, who made description of Crimea and Mangup in particular. Soon after his visit Christian community here disappeared. Only small Turkish garrison remains here and some Tatars and Karaites blocks with synagogue at the western part of the plateau near the ruins of Great Basilica. At the bottom of valley Tabana-Dere, at the location, where the city had irrigated gardens, large Karaites' necropolis placed. At present 1008 tombs are registered there, about thirty percent of them with epitaphs in hebrew. There are some inscriptions dated IX-XIII centuries, but unfortunately they are obviously forged, there real dates ( XVI - XVII centuries) were altered into more ancient, but it is another, special episode of history of Jewish communities, related to the name of famous Karaite collector and orientalist Abraham Firkovich. At least archaeological researches allow to resolve some of the puzzles left after him.

After Kuchuk-Kajnardzhijskiy treaty was signed in 1774, which resumed Russian victories over Ottoman army at Danube and liberated Crimean khanat from vassalage from Istanbul, Turks left the fortress, and in 1792 the last inhabitants - Karaites forsook it.


So we determined the following phases of evolution of the settlement at Mangup plateau:


1. Pre-fortress period: (middle of third - middle of fourth century. Only the upper parts of the valleys were inhabited near the plateau. The population mostly consists of Goths and Alans. Christianity was gradually spread among them.

2. Early Byzantium fortress period (sixth-eighth century). Construction of powerful defensive system, Great Basilica was built in the centre of the plateau.

3. Khazars period (end of eighth - first half of ninth century). Khazars captured the fortress for the short period. The local economy improved.

4. Thema period (middle of ninth - tenth centuries). The fortress is returned under the Byzantine power.

5. Period of decay (ninth-thirteenth centuries)

6. Early-Theodoro period (fifteenth century). The town blocks appeared at the plateau, citadel was resurrected at Teshkli-Burun Cape; at the end of the century the town is devastated by Tamerlan's forces.

7. Late Theodoro period (first-third quarter of fifteenth century). Revival of Theodoro principality, reconstruction of citadel, palace and Basilica, the secondary defensive line was built.

8. Turkish period (end of fifteenth century - seventieth of eithteenth century). After the town was captured by Turks (1475) it gradually falls into neglect and totally forsook by the residents (karaites) at the very end of eighteenth century.

The last time Doros-Theodoro-Mangup «took part» in war in June 1942. At that time among the ruins of Gothic fortress there was an observation point of commander of eleventh army - Erich fon Mandshtein. In his memoirs he clearly reflected the view from this place: «There was an unforgettable view in front of us. It was the only case in the present war, when commander of the army could see the entire battlefield in front of him». The remainings of dugouts are preserved at the south-western part of the plateau. Let's hope, that they will be the monuments to the last in history usage of Mangup fortress in military purpose.


Schneider A.M. Byzanz. Vorabeeten zur Topographie und Archaologe der Stadt.-Amsterdam,1967.-Z.70-71.-Abb.31.

Сайт создан в системе uCoz