Charax, Crimea
Charax is the largest Roman military settlement
The Latin word castra, with its singular castrum, was used by the ancient Romans to mean buildings or plots of land reserved to or constructed for use as a military defensive position. The word appears in both Oscan and Umbrian as well as in Latin. It may have descended from Indo-European to Italic...

 excavated in the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

. It was sited on a four-hectare area at the western ridge of Ai-Todor, close to the modern tourist attraction
Tourist attraction
A tourist attraction is a place of interest where tourists visit, typically for its inherent or exhibited cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, or amusement opportunities....

 of Swallow's Nest
Swallow's Nest (Crimea)
The Swallow's Nest is a decorative castle near Yalta on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. It was built between 1911 and 1912 near Gaspra, on top of 40-metre high Aurora Cliff, to a Neo-Gothic design by the Russian architect Leonid Sherwood. The castle overlooks the Cape of Ai-Todor of...


The Camp

The military camp
Military camp
A military camp or bivouac is a semi-permanent facility for the lodging of an army. Camps are erected when a military force travels away from a major installation or fort during training or operations, and often have the form of large campsites. In the Roman era the military camp had highly...

 was founded under Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 with the intention of protecting Chersonesos and other Bosporean trade emporiums from the Scythians. By the end of the 1st century AD, the Roman forces were evacuated from the peninsula. Several decades later the camp was restored by a vexillatio
A vexillatio was a detachment of a Roman legion formed as a temporary task force created by the Roman Army of the Principate. It was named from the standards carried by legionary detachments, vexillum , which bore the emblem and name of the parent legion...

 of the Legio I Italica
Legio I Italica
Legio prima Italica was a Roman legion levied by emperor Nero on September 22, 66 . There are still records of the I Italica in the Danube border in the beginning of the 5th century...

; it hosted a detachment of the Legio XI Claudia
Legio XI Claudia
Legio undecima Claudia was a Roman legion. XI Claudia dates back to the two legions recruited by Julius Caesar to invade Gallia in 58 BC, and it existed at least until early 5th century, guarding lower Danube in Durostorum...

 at the end of the 2nd century. The camp was abandoned by the Romans in the mid-3rd century.

The ruins of the camp were discovered by Peter Keppen in 1837; he estimated the length of the defensive wall
Defensive wall
A defensive wall is a fortification used to protect a city or settlement from potential aggressors. In ancient to modern times, they were used to enclose settlements...

 at 185 sazhens (395 meters). Keppen identified the site with Charax (from the Greek word for "fortification"), the only Roman camp recorded in Crimea. Although there is no evidence that Charax was situated near Ai-Todor, the name stuck. Intrigued by Keppen's publication, Count Shuvalov
Shuvalov is a Russian noble family which, although documented since the 16th century, rose to distinction during the reign of Empress Elizabeth and was elevated to counts on 5 September 1746.-Members of Shuvalov noble family:The notable Shuvalovs include:...

 funded the first (and rather amateurish) excavations of the site in 1849.

In 1896 excavations were resumed under the supervision of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia
Grand Duke Alexander Mihailovich of Russia, Александр Михайлович Aleksandr Mihailovits was a dynast of the Russian Empire, a naval officer, an author, explorer, the brother-in-law of Emperor Nicholas II, and an advisor of the said Emperor.-Biography: Alexander was born the son of Grand Duke...

, who had his summer dacha
Dacha is a Russian word for seasonal or year-round second homes often located in the exurbs of Soviet and post-Soviet cities. Cottages or shacks serving as family's main or only home are not considered dachas, although many purpose-built dachas are recently being converted for year-round residence...

 constructed in the immediate vicitinity of the ruins and the 1865 lighthouse. The excavations lasted for fifteen years and yielded a great number of Roman coins and bronze artifacts. Michael Rostovtzeff
Michael Rostovtzeff
Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtzeff, or Rostovtsev was one of the 20th century's foremost authorities on ancient Greek, Iranian, and Roman history....

, who oversaw the excavations on behalf of the St. Petersburg University
Saint Petersburg State University
Saint Petersburg State University is a Russian federal state-owned higher education institution based in Saint Petersburg and one of the oldest and largest universities in Russia....

, classed Charax as the "entire Roman city", rather than just a fort, as was previously thought. A museum of archaeological finds was opened at Charax in 1907.

Further exploration of the site, undertaken by Vladimir Blavatsky in 1931-35, revealed remains of two public water basins, thermae
In ancient Rome, thermae and balnea were facilities for bathing...

, and an aqueduct
An aqueduct is a water supply or navigable channel constructed to convey water. In modern engineering, the term is used for any system of pipes, ditches, canals, tunnels, and other structures used for this purpose....

. There were also a gymnasium and a sanctuary outside the walls. Blavatsky and his followers lent their support to Rostovtzeff's theory that the most ancient line of cyclopean walls at Charax was erected by the Tauri
The Tauri , also Scythotauri, Tauri Scythae, Tauroscythae were a people settling on the southern coast of the Crimea peninsula, inhabiting the Crimean Mountains and the narrow strip of land between the mountains and the Black Sea...

 before the arrival of Romans, a theory which since lost much of its popularity. They also hypothesized that the castrum had been ruined by retreating Roman soldiers in order to avoid its seizure by the enemy.
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