Panticapaeum [Пантікапей; Pantikapei]. (Map: Greek colonies on northern Black Sea coast.) An ancient Greek colony founded in the early 6th century BC at the site of present-day Kerch, in the Crimea. Strategically located on the western shore of Kerch Strait, the city grew quickly and before the end of the century it was minting its own coins. As the leading trade, manufacturing, and cultural center on the northern coast of the Black Sea (see also Ancient states on the northern Black Sea coast) it became the capital of the Bosporan Kingdom, which arose in the 5th century. It was heavily damaged in Saumacus' revolt and Diophantus' capture of the city at the end of the 2nd century BC and by an earthquake ca 70 BC. Panticapaeum was rebuilt under Roman rule, and by the 1st century AD had regained its commercial importance. It began to decline in the 3rd century as tribal raids disrupted the trade in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Basin. Panticapaeum was destroyed by the Huns ca 370. Later a small town arose at the site, which in the Middle Ages became known as Bosphorus.

The city was dominated by Mount Mithridates, on which the temples and civic buildings were placed. The slopes were terraced and covered with private villas. The large bay provided an excellent port. At its apogee the city occupied approx 100 ha. Beyond the city walls was a large necropolis, which has been excavated since the end of the 19th century. It included a number of famous kurhans, such as Melek-Chesmen kurhan, Tsarskyi kurhan, Zolota Mohyla, and Yuz Oba. The city itself has been excavated systematically since the Second World War.


Blavatskii, V. Pantikapei: Ocherki istorii stolitsy Bospora (Moscow 1964)
Marchenko, I. Gorod Pantikapei (Symferopil 1974)

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

Encyclopedia of Ukraine