The hidden treasures of ancient Chersonesus

16 Sep 2014 | Comment 2 »
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One of our last days on Crimean peninsular we went to ancient city Chersonesus (Khersones) . It is about 2500 y.o. The colony was established in the 6th century BC by settlers from Heraclea Pontica. The name «Chersonesos» in Greek means «peninsula», and aptly describes the site on which the colony was established. The ancient city is located on the shore of the Black Sea at the outskirts of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. In the late 2nd century BC Chersonesus became a dependency of the Bosporan Kingdom. It was subject to Rome from the middle of the 1st century BC until the 370s AD, when it was captured by the Huns. We were told it has been nicknamed the «Russian Troy». The site is now part of the National Historical-Archeological Museum-Zapovednik of the Russian Khersones Tavriysky. In 2013, Chersonesus was listed as a World Heritage Site.

So we bought two tickets for about £2 each and went to see the legend.

Chersonesus

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Many ancient legends suggest that the Christianity in Chersonesos in a hard struggle was overcome paganism. Seven bishops — Ephrem, Basil, Eugene, Elpidy, Agafor, Ether, and Capito — one after the other went to a far away land of Tauris, to preach the teachings of Jesus Christ Chersoneses’s people . But they still were not ready to accept the Word of God.

In 310 AD in Chersonesos two bishops Basil and Ephraim have arrived from Constantinople. The people of Chersones didn’t like their preach . They beat bishops with sticks and kicked out of the city. Bishop Basil settled in a cave not far from Chersonesos.

After some time the Chersonesus ruler’s only son has died. Burying his grieving parents day and night cried at the grave. Once dead son appeared to them in a dream and said, «Why do you sit and cry here? Your soulless idols can not resurrect me. If you want to see me alive again, beg the Bishop Basil to pray for me to their God. For God, whom he preaches to is the One True God, which had power over the living and the dead, and only He can restore me from the dead. Bishop Basil can be found in the cave temple of the Parthenon mountain. «

Parents found Basil and begged him to resurrect their son. Bishop Basil said: «How can I, a sinner, can create such a miracle? But if you believe in God preached by me, ask Him, because He alony is able to erect the dead from their graves. «What parents said: «As soon we see our son alive, then we all will do.»

Then St. Basil went to the tomb, made ​​the sign of the cross over the dead son of the ruler, prayed, and then poured holy water. The young man immediately came to life. Then all present fell at the feet of the saint, a preacher calling them the true God and the Almighty. Bishop Basil entered in Hersonissos with great honor. Parents risen boys and a lot of people were baptized.

But most of the townspeople were still pagans. They revolted against the Christians in arms attacked the bishop of God, tied his hands and feet, and so dragged through the streets, stoning and caning. Angry people dragged him to the place, in which Christians have established cross. Bishop Basil died painfully. It happened the 7th of Mach 310 year. Bishop Basil Chersonesus became the first saint. In the western part of Chersonesos, archaeologists discovered a small church built over the crypt with a brick vault. Perhaps this is where the martyr is buried Basil, one of the first bishops of Chersonesos.

ancient ruins of Chersonesus

The city became a Byzantine possession during the Early Middle Ages and withstood a siege by the Göktürks in 581 AD. According to Theophanes the Confessor and others, Chersonesus was the residence of a Khazar governor (tudun) in the late 7th century.

In 833 Emperor Theophilus sent the nobleman Petronas Kamateros, who had recently overseen the construction of the Khazar fortress of Sarkel, to take direct control over the city and its environs, establishing the theme of Klimata/Cherson. It remained in Byzantine hands until the 980s, when it reportedly fell to Kievan Rus.

Vladimir the Great, the ruler of the Kievan Rus agreed to evacuate the fortress only if Basil II’s sister Anna Porphyrogeneta would be given him in marriage.  As a pre-condition for the marriage settlement, Vladimir was baptized here in 988, thus paving the way to the Baptism of Kievan Rus’.

 

Chersonesus Cathedral — The Vladimir Cathedral was built in 19th centery to commemorate the presumed place of St. Vladimir’s and later whole Russia baptism. This is the saint place for all Russians. Cathedral was built as one of the biggest Cathedral of Russia at the time and could accommodate up to thousand church people. The Cathedral is working now.

ancient ruins of Chersonesus

Bellow is the statue of the Vladimir the Great baptising Kievan Rus standing next to the Cathedral.

Chersonesus

We took a picture of monk near the entrance to the Cathedral who was collecting the money for the refuges from South-East of Ukraine who escaped the Civil war there and filled Crimea and other parts of Russia. This monk is wearing St. George ribbon which is the symbol of the rebellions at this Civil war now.

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We thought it is just about to rain so decided better to hurry……

crimean war

Went to the beach near the Cathedral and ancient ruins of Chersonesus.

beaches of Chersonesus

Alexei begun to explore the bottom of the harbour.

diving in Chersonesus

He’s been sitting in the water for an hour and a half at least! As it is well known that the site is still full of unfound treasures. Alexei was hoping to find one:)

diving in Chersonesus

Unfortunately he has been looking in the wrong place! When we came back to our hotel in Sevastopol we heard  on the NEWS the same time we’ve been there another hidden treasure was found in the ancient ruins of Chersonesus. From the XIX centery archaeologists never stop woking here and find something quit often. This time it was 100 coins which were hidden in the old well which was abundant and filled with ground and broken pottery in the IV century BC. So the coins could be even older!

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There is an indoor Museum of founds next to the ancient ruins.

Vessel for wine

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And outdoor exposition. Here we can see 2000 years old clay wine jars found in the ancient ruins of Chersonesus.

Museums in crimea

We were told by the tourist guide that Diogenes of Sinope, Greek philosopher who was born in the Greek colony of Sinope (the most northern edge of the Turkish side of the Black Sea coast), believed in 404 BC was living in a clay wine jar very similar to this big one on my photo bellow.

Museums in crimea

Museums in crimea

Alexei wanted to test his luck on other side of the ancient city and we moved to explore the other harbour.

V-VI century religious center in crimea

Scientific research has shown that there used to be a very large church complex together with a baptismal font dated to the V-VI century this was the religious center of the great city Chersonesus. The complex connsisted of large galleries withe marble pillars and fountains. In the middle of the gallery was the baptismal font in which believed Vladimir the Great, the ruler of the Kievan Rus baptised.

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Just as exiting we saw this engraving of a fish, it must be very old.

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We spent another 3 hours here

crimean beaches

The water of the Black Sea is very warm and very pure. Alexei did’t come out for hours and he still was not cold. He was very happy to learn a lot about the marine life.

black sea beaches

Saw a lot of different little fishes and crabs, but no gold unfortunately:)

black sea beaches

As Alexei didn’t find any treasure he decided to take back home a few stones from the site. So his bearded dragon is one of the luckiest in the UK now living beside her very own ancient ruins of Chersonesus:)

gifts from crimea

On the way back to the bus home we saw more interesting things.

This 18th century bell used as signal fog bell, warning sailors of the danger. During the Crimean War, the French took it as a trophy, setting on the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame, praised by Victor Hugo. In 1913 France, an ally of Russia in military alliance against Germany, with the help of the French consul returned the bell to Sevastopol. Now it here in the National Historical-Archeological Museum-Zapovednik of the Russian Khersones Tavriysky.

 Cathedral of Notre Dame bell

 Cathedral of Notre Dame bell

Here is the ruins of an ancient city with information signs.

ancient Greek city in crimea

There are a lot of structures which look like wells which were used to preserve fish by leaving the fish in the salt until they were ready to trade it or prepare it for consumption.

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Also there is very nice park next to the Cathedral where you can rest hiding from the summer heat.

Cathedral in crimea

Not far from this park we saw a real ancient Greek theater where many different performances take place even our days.

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The ancient city Chersonesus is located in the outskirts of Sevastopol and it is very easy to get there by public transport or taxi. Alexei and I with no doubt will recommend to anybody to visit this unique place!

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