The Art and Culture of Ancient Towns on the Northern Black Sea Coastlands:
700 B.C.-3rd century A.D.

Ground floor, rooms 100,115-117,119 and 120

In 1830 soldiers digging stone on the steppe near Kerch by chance
came across, beneath the Kul-Oba burial mound (Tartar, "Hill of
Ashes"), a grave dating from the fourth century B.C. containing many
valuable objects, among them a large number of gold articles of Greek

origin. Underneath the mound in a stone vault three persons were buried,
-a warrior of the aristocracy, possibly a Bosporan ruler, his wife and a
slave weapon-bearer. A gold vase with the figures of Scythian warriors
making camp on the steppe, a crescent-shaped neck ornament (grivna)
embellished with small figures of Scythian horsemen, a gold phial, weap-
ons ornamented with gold, earrings, pendants, bracelets, plaques-all
these were brought into the Hermitage and are kept in the Gold Room as
part of the unique collection of ancient Greek jewellery. The remainder
are in room 116, case 22.

The Bosporan kingdom, with its capital at Panticapaeum on the site
of present-day Kerch (see rooms 115,116 and the case entitled "Panti-
capaean Necropolis"), lay on both sides of the straits of Kerch-Bosporus
Cimmerius. The population of this slave-owning state was made up of
Greeks, who had founded colonies on the Black Sea coast as early as the
sixth century B.C., and local tribes. The relics found on the territory of
the Bosporan kingdom reflect the unusual mode of life which had devel-
oped there as a result of the interaction of local and Greek culture. The
local tribes dwelt mainly on the steppes, maintaining close contact with
the Greek inhabitants of the Bosporan towns. Significant in this respect
are the fifth century tombs of the local "hellenized" ruling class from the
"Seven Brothers" burial mounds near the Kuban (room 116, case 12).
The graves, in which according to local custom horses were buried along
with the deceased, yielded many objects of Greek origin. Of an obviously
Greek character is the grave of a woman discovered at the end of the last
century on the Taman peninsula near ancient Phanagoria (room 115,
case 16). Here, among other things, were unearthed some famous fancy-
shaped vessels for keeping fragrant oil made by Greek craftsmen at the
end of the fifth century B.C. The finest of these, in the form of a sphinx-
a fabulous creature with the face of a woman, the body of a lion and the
wings of a bird, has preserved its colours wonderfully. In the Bosporan
kingdom, the population of which lived by agriculture and vine-growing,
the cult of the goddess of fertility, Demeter, was particularly widespread.
The Bolshaya Bliznitsa burial mound on the Taman peninsula, where
in stone vaults decorated with murals were buried priestesses of Demeter,
became famous due to the truly incredible riches found there; one of the
priestesses' dresses alone was embellished with more than two thousand
gold plaques. The gold crowns, earrings, bracelets and other exquisitely
made decorative objects are kept in the Gold Room of the Hermitage,
the remainder in room 116, case 30. From the ancient Bosporan graves
were extracted silver and bronze utensils and excellent examples of Attic
vases (rooms 116 and 117). A well preserved antique sarcophagus of
cypress and boxwood, with carved designs and traces of blue and red
paint, was found in one of the stone vaults of the Yuz-Oba mound near
Kerch (room 117). Also of interest is a group of objects from a late
royal tomb dating from the third century A.D. (room 116, case 32 and
the Gold Room ), in which of particular note are a gold mask, apparently
representing the Bosporan ruler Rhescuporis, and a large silver dish,
a gift to a Bosporan king from the Roman emperor Caracalla. At the end
of the third and beginning of the fourth centuries, the Bosporan kingdom
was destroyed by the Goths.

Room 120. Nymphaeum, 600 B.C. -3rd century A.D. The small
Bosporan town of Nymphaeum, which traded with Athens in corn, was
founded by inhabitants of the island of Samos in the sixth century B.C.
on the site of a Scythian settlement. Excavations carried out by a Hermit-
age scientific expedition discovered dug-outs dating back to Scythian
times with fragments of earthenware and the remains of grains of wheat
and barley. Of great interest and importance was the discovery of a Greek
shrine dedicated to the goddess Demeter. Many terracotta statuettes
were found here, as well as goblets, rhytons, jugs of local and Attic origin
brought by the natives of Nymphaeum as a gift to the gods, and some
finely made terracotta acroteria and parts of a cornice. At the entrance
to the shrine was a stone bearing the Greek inscription: "Do not befoul
the shrine".

Room 100 contains relics from Olbia (600 B.C.-3rd century A.D.)
and from Chersonesus (500 B.C.-4th century A.D.). Olbia, one of the
colonies belonging to Miletus founded in the sixth century B.C. on the
banks of the Bug estuary, was an important trading town which supplied
Greece with corn.

Excavations led to the discovery of a fortress wall, the ruins of houses
and temples, artisan quarters, potteries, wineries and bakeries. In Olbia
there have been found relics of Greek writing (funeral and dedicative
texts), works of art, Olbian bronze coins and various other articles.

The Tauric Chersonesus, three kilometres west of Sevastopol, was
founded by Greeks in the fifth century B.C., and excavations have been
carried out on the site of the ancient town from 1888 up to the present
day. Displayed in the exhibition are ceramics, architectural details, coins,
relics of writing and sculptures.



The Art and Culture of Ancient Greece: 800-200 B.C
The Art and Culture of Ancient Towns on the Northern Black Sea Coastlands: 700 B.C.-3rd century A.D.
The Art and Culture of Ancient Italy and Rome: 700 B.C.-4th century A.D.

- The Hermitage - The History of the Museum -
- The Hermitage - The Department of Russian Culture -
- The Hermitage - The Department of Prehistoric Culture -
- The Hermitage - The Department of the Art and Culture of the Peoples of the East -
- The Hermitage - The Department of the Art and Culture of Antiquity -
- The Hermitage - The Department of Western European Art -
- The Hermitage - The Numismatic Department -
- Floor Pans -