Situated on the W coast of the Black Sea, about halfway between the
mouth of the Danube and the present-day city of ConstanTa. 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 reoccupied. 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.
D. M. Pippidi, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Sep 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
(Istropolis), Istros, or Istria (Istrie). A town in Lower Moesia, not far from the mouth of the Danube; a colony from Miletus. Its modern name is Istere.
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