The most ancient state on the territory of the Crimean and Taman peninsulas is the Bosporus kingdom.
Founded by Greek settlers, it existed for almost a thousand years - from the end of the XNUMXth century BC. e. and disappeared only in the VI century AD. e.
Despite the fact that the northern borders of the Black Sea at that time were considered the outskirts of the world, the Bosporus kingdom throughout its entire stories remained in the very center of the events of the ancient era. Trade partner for the Athens Maritime Union. Support of the Pontic rulers in the war with Rome. The first line of defense for the Roman emperors. And a springboard for raids among many barbarian tribes. All this is the Bosporus kingdom.
But how did it all begin? Why did the Greeks move from the fertile Mediterranean to the not so comfortable climate of the Northern Black Sea region? How did you manage to survive under the constant threat of a nomadic invasion?
We will try to answer these and other questions in this article.
The first city-states in the Bosporus and what do the Persians have to do with it
There is very little information that has come down to us about the early period of life in the Northern Black Sea region. However, what has survived allows us to reconstruct the events of those years in general terms.
The first regular settlements of Greek colonists on the Crimean and Taman peninsulas date back to the XNUMXth century BC. e. At that time, almost at the same time, several city-states emerged, among which Nympheus, Theodosia, Panticapaeum, Phanagoria and Kepa stand out.
The largest and most significant city was Panticapaeum (the area of modern Kerch). Located on a significant natural elevation, it had access to the most convenient harbor of the Bosporus Cimmerian (modern Kerch Strait) and was an important strategic and defensive outpost of the region.
The inhabitants of Panticapaeum quickly realized their importance and supremacy in the area. There are suggestions that from an early time it began to be called the metropolis of all the cities of the Bosporus, which was later mentioned by the famous Greek geographer Strabo. As one of the first policies, Panticapaeum helped the arriving colonists settle in a new place and contributed to the preservation of a single cultural and religious community of the Greek settlements.
But what prompted the Greeks to abandon their homes and go to such distant lands in search of a new home? Today, many scientists agree that the most significant reason for such massive colonization was the ongoing war between the Hellenes and the Persians. The destruction of agriculture and the constant loss of life in the struggle for independence provoked a severe economic and food crisis in many city-states. Especially Persian pressure intensified after 546, when the Lydian kingdom fell. And the conquerors were able to establish a protectorate in the Greek lands. All this forced the population of the defeated cities to hit the road to the little-explored northern shores of the Black Sea.
A remarkable fact. The Greeks of that time considered the Kerch Strait to be the border between Europe and Asia, therefore, in fact, the Crimean Peninsula belonged to the European part of the world, and Taman to the Asian.
Of course, the lands of Crimea and Taman were not empty. The first colonists found themselves in the closest contact with various barbarian tribes - both agricultural and nomadic. The Crimean mountains were inhabited by the Taurians, who hunted by sea robbery and were extremely conservative towards foreigners (and in general, towards everything foreign). On the Asian side, there were more peaceful Sindi and Meots, with whom they managed to establish beneficial ties. But special attention should be paid to the relations of the Hellenes with the nomadic Scythians, since there is reason to believe that on the shores of the Kerch Strait the Greeks first of all met with them.
In general, the Scythian tribes at that time represented the most formidable force on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Information about this can be found in the "History" of Herodotus, who described in great detail the victory of the Scythian army over the Persians who invaded their lands. And also from the prominent ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who wrote that
"There is no people who by themselves could resist the Scythians, if they were united."
It is not hard to imagine that migrations of nomadic hordes could pose a serious threat to the Greek colonies. Perhaps for this reason, at the earliest stages of their formation, the Greeks did not dare to develop lands far removed from their original settlements. Modern archeology records the almost complete absence of villages in the interior regions of the Eastern Crimea. Moreover, in the excavations of the early Panticapaeum, fortifications were found erected over the traces of large fires and the remains of Scythian arrowheads.
Nevertheless, despite obvious periodic skirmishes with individual units, the Greeks still managed to maintain peaceful relations with neighboring tribes for some time. As evidenced by the very existence of a large number of surviving city-states.
The first crisis and the Archaeanactids
At the turn of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries BC. e. a serious military-political crisis erupted in the steppes of the northern Black Sea region, which should probably be associated with the invasion of a new large group of nomads from the east. There is an opinion that it was them that Herodotus called "royal" Scythians, paying attention to the fact that they were the most powerful warriors of those places and all the other tribes considered their slaves.
As a consequence of the invasion of new groups of nomads, the situation for all the colonies of the Cimmerian Bosporus by 480 BC. e. has become extremely dangerous. At this time, the cessation of life in all known rural settlements of the Eastern Crimea falls. Layers of large fires are found in Panticapaeum, Myrmekia and other policies, which indicates widespread raids and mass destruction.
In this situation, some Greek city-states probably decided to confront the external threat, jointly creating a defensive and religious alliance, headed by representatives of the Archaeanaktids, living at that time in Panticapaeum.
As for the Archeanaktids themselves, it is known about them only from one message from the ancient historian Diodorus of Siculus, who wrote that they reigned in the Bosporus for 42 years (from 480 BC). Despite the paucity of data, scientists agree that at a difficult hour for the Greeks, the noble family of Archeanaktids stood at the head of the unification of the Bosporus cities.
Archaeological studies of these settlements allow us to talk about some very important actions of the Archeanaktids aimed at protecting the borders. So, in the cities of the union, defensive walls were hastily erected, which included both new masonry and parts of previously destroyed stone buildings. Often these structures did not surround the city from all sides, but were located in the most vulnerable areas and directions for attack. This indicates a high rush of construction and a certain lack of time and resources in the face of incessant raids. Nevertheless, these barriers created significant complications for the equestrian attacks of nomadic detachments.
Another important structure for maintaining the defense capability of the union was the so-called Tiritak shaft. Although disputes about the dating of its construction still do not subside, a number of scientists agree that it began to be erected during the reign of the Archeanaktids.
This defensive structure has a length of 25 kilometers, begins at the shores of the Sea of Azov and ends at the settlement of Tiritaki (the area of the modern port of Kamysh-Burun, Kerch). It was intended to protect rural settlements from unexpected attacks by horsemen and to prepare in time to repel an attack.
Given the scale of construction work, as well as the relatively low population of local city-states, there is reason to assume that not only Greeks, but also sedentary Scythians, who were also interested in protection from outside invasions, took part in the construction of the rampart. They (along with the civilian militia of the city-states) took part in the defense of the borders of the nascent Bosporus kingdom. The development of close contacts of the Greeks with local tribes during the Archeanaktids is evidenced by the burial mounds of barbarian noble persons, which are found in the vicinity of Panticapaeum, Nymphea, Phanagoria and Kepa.
It is worth mentioning that not all city-states have joined the newly formed union. Many city-states, including Nympheus, Theodosia and Chersonesos, preferred to pursue an independent defensive policy.
Based on historical data and archaeological excavations, some scientists believe that the defense system of the Cimmerian Bosporus at Archeanaktids was very well thought out. In cold weather, the Tiritak rampart, of course, could not completely protect the lands of the Greeks, since the nomads had the opportunity to bypass it on the ice. But it is unlikely that the winter raids could do much damage to the Bosporians. The crops were already harvested, and the population could easily hide under the protection of the city's defenses. The shaft was an effective barrier in the summer. And, most importantly, it made it possible to preserve key agricultural lands for the Greeks, which could really suffer from the invasion of nomads.
In the VI century BC, the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov (called the Meotsky swamp) in winter froze so much that, according to the descriptions of Herodotus,
"The Scythians ... in droves cross the ice and move to the land of the Sindi."
The climate in those days was much colder than today.
How did the colonists of the Bosporus fight?
There is no direct answer to this question, but there are well-founded assumptions.
First, the Greeks preferred to fight with the phalanx. Such a military formation had already taken shape by the XNUMXth century BC. e., long before the colonization of the Northern Black Sea region. It was a linear battle formation of heavy infantry (hoplites), closed in ranks. The warriors lined up shoulder to shoulder and at the same time in ranks at the back of the head to each other. Closing their shields and armed with spears, they moved slowly towards the enemy.
Secondly, the phalanxes were extremely vulnerable from the rear. And they were not able to fight on rough terrain. For this, they were covered by detachments of cavalry and, possibly, light infantry. In the case of the Bosporan Greeks, the role of these detachments was performed by local tribes, who were excellent in riding skills and well-controlled with horses.
Third, the city-states did not have the opportunity to maintain permanent detachments of professional warriors. An average Bosporan settlement of that time could hardly have fielded more than a couple of dozen soldiers, which was clearly not enough for an open battle. But several settlements, having cooperated, could organize a serious military force. It is likely that it was this need that prompted the independent policies of the Bosporus to create a defensive alliance.
Fourthly, due to the fact that the main opponents of the Greeks of that time were not large nomadic armies, but small mobile detachments of horsemen (whose tactics consisted of unexpected attacks, robbery, and a rapid retreat from the battlefield), the actions of the phalanx in defensive battles turned out to be extremely ineffective. It seems quite logical to assume that under these conditions the Greeks, having united with the local tribes, created their own flying detachments that could meet the enemy in the open field and impose a battle. Considering that the maintenance of a horse and equipment for it was quite expensive, it can be assumed that mainly local aristocrats fought in such groups, who relatively quickly began to prefer equestrian combat formations to the traditional foot formation of the phalanx.
Thus, by the middle of the XNUMXth century BC. e. the Bosporan army was a bizarre mixture of dense battle formations traditional for the Greeks and the swift dagger detachments of the barbarian cavalry.
Summing up, we can conclude that the actions of the Archeanaktids, aimed at protecting the Hellenic lands, were very successful. Under their leadership, in a defensive alliance, the Greeks were able to defend not only their cities, but also (with the help of the Tiritak Wall) an entire region in the eastern part of the Kerch Peninsula.
The militia of the policies and the barbarian squads were able to defend the Hellenic colonies. Which subsequently led to the formation of such a political entity as the Bosporan Kingdom.