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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ancient city in eastern Crimea (the present-day city of Kerch’), founded in the first half of the sixth century B.C. by Milesians. There may have been an Ionian trading post (emporium) on this site earlier. The city’s name probably goes back to an Iranian word meaning “fish route,” which might refer to the Strait of Kerch’, which abounds in fish and on whose shore the city was founded.

Panticapaeum rapidly became a major city, surpassing other Greek settlements in the area. As early as the second half of the sixth century B.C., it was minting its own silver coins, adding gold and copper coins in the fourth century B.C. In the first half of the fifth century B.C., the Greek cities located on both shores of the Strait of Kerch’ (the Cimmerian Bosporus) united around Panticapaeum, forming the Bosporan State. Panticapaeum became the state’s capital and center of trade, crafts, and culture. At its apogee, it occupied about 100 hectares, and as early as the sixth century B.C., it was surrounded by a defensive wall. The city was situated on the slopes and at the foot of a craggy mountain now known as Mitridat Hill. Its acropolis, with temples and public buildings, was on the summit. The mountain’s slopes were girdled by artificial terraces of earth, on which homes were built and streets were laid with interconnecting stairways. The terraces were supported with stone retaining walls. The city had a good harbor.

The stormy political events of the late second and first century B.C., including the revolt of Saumacus, the taking of the city by Diophantos, and the wars of Mithridates VI Eupator, in addition to the severe earthquake that occurred in the 60’s B.C., were the probable causes of major destruction in Panticapaeum and necessitated extensive restoration. In the first and second centuries A.D., Panticapaeum was still an important production and trading center. Archaeological excavations have uncovered numerous fish-salting cisterns, wineries, potters’ kilns, complexes of grain-storage pits, and so forth.

The third and fourth centuries saw a decline of the craft industry and an increase in agricultural activity caused by the overall naturalization of the economy and the disintegration of slavery. The city gradually declined. In the mid-third century, Panticapaeum and the entire Bosporus became the base for piratical raids by German, Dacian, and other tribes upon the coastal regions of the Black and Mediterranean seas.

Late in the fourth century, the city was destroyed by Huns. Only a small town remained. In the early Middle Ages it was known as Bosporus.

A vast necropolis, consisting of barrow and flat-grave burials, surrounded Panticapaeum. Best known are the stone tombs within the burial mounds dating from the fourth and third centuries B.C. and the burial vaults with frescoes, from the first centuries A.D. Excavations of Panticapaeum and its necropolis were begun in the first half of the 19th century and were primarily of the burial mounds. The flat-grave burial grounds were widely studied in the early 20th century by the archaeologist V. V. Shkorpil. Study of the fortified settlement was begun in the late 19th century by I. E. Dumberg and was carried on systematically from 1945 to 1958 by V. D. Blavatskii and I. D. Mar-chenko.


Blavatskii, V. D. Pantikapei: Ocherk istorii stolitsy Bospora. Moscow, 1964.
Pantikapei Moscow, 1957–62. (Materialy i issledovaniia po arkheologii SSSR, nos. 56 and 103.)
Marchenko, I. Gorod Pantikapei. Simferopol’, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(52) The dedication of the Bosporan nauarch Pateleon at Panticapaeum during Asander's reign (47-17 BC) could reflect an earlier wave of the piratical tide.
(107) Bithynian auxilia under the procurator Iulius Aquila participated in the bellum Bosporanum of 44-49 and occasional auxilia (apparently Bithynian) at the Bosporan capital of Panticapaeum are on record, although their purpose is unclear.
'A new inscription from Panticapaeum.' ZPE 156:117-128.
To the same period belongs a fragmentary text discovered in 1985 at Panticapaeum recording an oration honoring a high Bosporan dignitary and mentioning success against the Psechani (east of Lake Maeotis), Scythians and Tauri besides negotiations with the Alans.