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Olbia (ŏlˈbēə), Ionic Greek colony of Miletus, founded at the beginning of the 6th cent. B.C. It is on the right bank of the Buh River between Mykolayiv and Ochakiv, S central Ukraine. The leading Milesian colony and later a republic, its economy centered around handicrafts and trade. Its prosperity resulted especially from the exportation of wheat. The period of its flowering was from the 6th cent. B.C. to the 3d cent. B.C. In the 2d cent. B.C., Olbia was incorporated into the Scythian state of the Crimea. About the middle of the 1st cent. B.C., Olbia was invaded by the Getae and others. By the end of the 6th cent. life in Olbia came to a standstill. Excavations have unearthed towers and city gates from the Hellenic period and parts of a fortified wall and a temple of Apollo from the Roman period.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ancient slaveholding city-state on the right bank of the Bug estuary. It was also called Borysthenes, the Greek name for the Dnieper River. The remains of the city lie near the present-day village of Parutino in Ochakov Raion, Nikolaev Oblast.

Founded in the early sixth century B.C. by settlers from the Greek city of Miletus, Olbia encompassed land on both banks of the Bug estuary and many rural settlements. The city proper was situated on two river terraces, forming the Upper and Lower city, and at its zenith between the fifth and third centuries B.C. it occupied about 50 hectares. The city was surrounded by a stone wall with towers, and its southern end was also protected by a citadel. It was laid out in rectangular blocks. In the center of the Upper City were an agora, which also served as a public gathering place, and a temenos, a sacred area with temples and altars. In the Lower City were artisan quarters and a port. Such crafts as metalworking, ceramics, and jewelry-making were highly developed. The handicrafts were produced for the city market and for sale to neighboring Scythian tribes, from whom Olbia received livestock, grain, and hides, which were exported to Greece, and also slaves. The city imported from the Greek states wine, olive oil, ceramic and metal wares, art objects, and luxury goods. Silver, copper, and sometimes gold coins were minted.

Supreme authority in the city-state belonged to a popular assembly and an elected council, and executive power was vested in a council of annually elected officials—archons and strategi. Olbia pursued an independent foreign policy and concluded a friendship treaty with Miletus. In 331 B.C., Olbia and the neighboring Scythian tribes repelled an attack by Zopyrion, a military commander of Alexander the Great. In the second half of the third century and in the second century B.C., Olbia declined owing to a crisis in the city-state system and the growing hostility of neighboring tribes. In the second century B.C., it became a dependency of Scylurus, king of the Crimean Scythians. After the defeat of the Scythians by Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, Olbia became part of Mithridates’ kingdom in the late second century B.C. In the middle of the first century B.C. the city was sacked by the Getae, led by Burebistas. The rebuilt city of the first centuries A.D. was much smaller and did not achieve its former prosperity. In the second century A.D., a Roman garrison was established in Olbia, and in the early third century it was incorporated into the Roman province of Lower Moesia. The city seems to have been abandoned in the fourth century A.D.

Archaeological investigations in Olbia and its burial grounds, begun in the 19th century, have been conducted systematically since 1901. The most important excavations were those of B. V. Farmakovskii from 1901 to 1915 and from 1924 to 1926. The site of the ancient city has been set aside as a preserve.


Latyshev, V. V. Issledovaniia ob istorii i gosudarstvennom stroe goroda Ol’vii. St. Petersburg, 1887.
Farmakovskii, B. V. Ol’viia. Moscow, 1915.
Slavin, L. M. Drevnii gorod Ol’viia. Kiev, 1951.
Slavin, L. M. Zdes’ byl gorod Ol’viia. Kiev, 1967.
Ol’viia, vols. 1–2. Kiev, 1940–58.
Ol’viia, Temenos i agora. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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