2,000-year-old treasure found in Black Sea fortress

PTI | | Updated on: Jan 13, 2013

Archaeologists have uncovered two hoards of treasure buried by desperate citizens of a town under siege by the Roman army, some 2,000 years ago.

Hundreds of bronze coins, and various items of gold, silver and bronze jewellery were found beneath an ancient fortress in the Crimean settlement of Artezia, in modern day Ukraine.

“The fortress had been besieged. Wealthy people from the settlement and the neighbourhood had tried to hide there from the Romans. They had buried their hoards inside the citadel,” said Nikolai Vinokurov from Moscow State Pedagogical University.

Artezian, which covered an area of at least 3.2 acres and also had a necropolis (a cemetery), was part of the Bosporus Kingdom, LiveScience reported.

At the time, the kingdom’s fate was torn between two brothers — Mithridates VIII, who sought independence from Rome, and his younger brother, Cotys I, who was in favour of keeping the kingdom a client state of the growing empire.

Rome sent an army to support Cotys, establishing him in the Bosporan capital and torching settlements controlled by Mithridates, including Artezian.

People huddled in the fortress for protection as the Romans attacked, but according to Vinokurov they knew they were doomed.

“We can say that these hoards were funeral sacrifices. It was obvious for the people that they were going to die shortly,” Vinokurov said.

The siege and fall of the fortress occurred in 45 AD.

Curiously, each hoard included exactly 55 coins minted by Mithridates VIII.

“This is possibly just a simple coincidence, or perhaps these were equal sums received by the owners of these caskets from the supporters of Mithridates,” researchers said.

Vinokurov’s team has been exploring Artezian since 1989 and has found that the people of the settlement followed a culture that was distinctly Greek.

And this Greek influence can be seen in the treasures the people of Artezian buried. Among them is a silver brooch engraved with an image of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and gold rings with gems engraved with images of Nemesis and Tyche, both Greek deities.

Published on January 13, 2013
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