Taurica, Tauric Chersonese, and Taurida were names by which the territory of 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...

 was known to the Greeks and Romans
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...


Etymology of the name

The Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 named the region after its inhabitants, 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...

: Ταυρικὴ Χερσόνησος (Taurikē Khersonesos) or Χερσόνησος Ταυρική (Khersonesos Taurikē), "Tauric peninsula". Chersonesus Taurica is the Latin version of the Greek name (Chersonese literally means "peninsula"). This Latin variant of the name should not be confused with the city of Chersonesus.

As the Tauri inhabited only mountainous regions of southern Crimea, at first the name was used only for this southern part, but later it was extended to the whole peninsula.

Legend about the Tauri

According to Greek legends
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, the Tauri were the people to whom Iphigeneia
Iphigenia is a daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra in Greek mythology. In Attic accounts, her name means "strong-born", "born to strength", or "she who causes the birth of strong offspring."-Post-Homeric Greek myth:...

 was sent after the goddess
A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing....

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

 rescued her from her father Agamemnon
In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

, who was about to sacrifice her
Human sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...

 to appease Artemis. She became a priestess at the goddess's temple
Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis , also known less precisely as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to a goddess Greeks identified as Artemis and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was situated at Ephesus , and was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction...

 in the land of the Tauri, where she was forced by King Thoas to sacrifice any foreigners who came ashore. The land of the Tauric Chersonese and its rumored custom of killing Greeks are described by Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 in his histories, Book IV, 99-100 and 103.

Early history

The Tauric Chersonese was inhabited by a variety of peoples. The inland regions were inhabited by Scythians and the mountainous south coast by the Tauri, an offshoot of the Cimmerians
The Cimmerians or Kimmerians were ancient equestrian nomads of Indo-European origin.According to the Greek historian Herodotus, of the 5th century BC, the Cimmerians inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, in what is now Ukraine and Russia...

. Greek settlers established a number of colonies along the coast of the peninsula, notably the city of Chersonesus near modern Sevastopol
Sevastopol is a city on rights of administrative division of Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 . Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, after the Port of Odessa....

According to Diodorus Siculus (xii. 31), the region was governed from 480 BC to 438 BC by a line called the Archaeanactidae, probably a ruling family, which gave way to the tyrant
A tyrant was originally one who illegally seized and controlled a governmental power in a polis. Tyrants were a group of individuals who took over many Greek poleis during the uprising of the middle classes in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, ousting the aristocratic governments.Plato and...

 Spartocus (438 BC - 431 BC), apparently a Thracian
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

. He founded a dynasty which seems to have endured until around 110 BC. The Spartocids have left many inscriptions which indicate that the earlier members of the house ruled as archon
Archon is a Greek word that means "ruler" or "lord", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem ἀρχ-, meaning "to rule", derived from the same root as monarch, hierarchy, and anarchy.- Ancient Greece :In ancient Greece the...

s of the Greek cities and kings of various native tribes, notably the Sindi of the island district and other branches of the Maeotae. Unfortunately, the texts, inscriptions and coins do not supply sufficient material for a complete list of these monarchs.

Satyrus (431 BC - 387 BC), Spartocus' successor, established his rule over the whole district, adding Nymphaeum to his dominions and laying siege to Theodosia, which was a serious commercial rival because of its ice-free port and proximity to the grain fields of eastern Crimea. It was reserved for his son Leucon (387 BC - 347 BC) to take this city. He was succeeded by his two sons conjointly, Spartocus II, and Paerisades; the former died in 342, and his brother reigned alone until 310. Then followed a civil war, in which Satyrus defeated his younger brother Eumelus at the Battle of the River Thatis
Battle of the River Thatis
The Battle of the River Thatis was part of a succession dispute in the Bosporan Kingdom that was fought in 310 BCE. On the death of Pairisades, Satyrus took the throne but his younger brother, Eumelos, fled to the Thataeans who backed his claim....

 in 310 BC, but then was killed, giving Eumelus the throne.

His successor was Spartocus III (303 BC - 283 BC) and after him Paerisades II. Succeeding princes repeated the family names, but no certain order can be assigned. It is known that the last of them, Paerisades V, unable to make headway against the power of the natives, in 108 BC called in the help of Diophantus
Diophantus of Alexandria , sometimes called "the father of algebra", was an Alexandrian Greek mathematician and the author of a series of books called Arithmetica. These texts deal with solving algebraic equations, many of which are now lost...

, general of Mithridates the Great of Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

, promising to hand over his kingdom to that prince. He was slain by a Scythian named Saumacus who led a rebellion against him.
The house of Spartocus was well known as a line of enlightened and wise princes; although Greek opinion could not deny that they were, strictly speaking, tyrants, they are always described as dynasts. They maintained close relations with Athens
Classical Athens
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...

, their best customer for the Bosporan grain export, of which Leucon I set the staple at Theodosia, where the Attic ships were allowed special privileges. The Attic orators make numerous references to this. In return, the Athenians granted him citizenship and set up decrees in honour of him and his sons.

In the 2nd century BC, the eastern part of the Tauric Chersonese became part of the Bosporan Kingdom
Bosporan Kingdom
The Bosporan Kingdom or the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus was an ancient state, located in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula on the shores of the Cimmerian Bosporus...


In the 1st century BC, after his defeat by Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 in 63 BC, Mithradates VI, King of Pontus, fled with a small army from Colchis
In ancient geography, Colchis or Kolkhis was an ancient Georgian state kingdom and region in Western Georgia, which played an important role in the ethnic and cultural formation of the Georgian nation.The Kingdom of Colchis contributed significantly to the development of medieval Georgian...

 (modern Georgia) over the Caucasus Mountains
Caucasus Mountains
The Caucasus Mountains is a mountain system in Eurasia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the Caucasus region .The Caucasus Mountains includes:* the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and* the Lesser Caucasus Mountains....

 to Crimea and made plans to raise yet another army to take on the Romans. His eldest living son, Machares, viceroy of Cimmerian Bosporus, was unwilling to aid his father. Mithradates had Machares killed, and took the throne of the Bosporan Kingdom. Mithradates then ordered conscription and preparations for war. In 63 BC, Pharnaces II, his younger son, led a rebellion against his father, joined by Roman exiles in the core of Mithridates' Pontic army. Mithradates withdrew to the citadel in Panticapaeum
Panticapaeum , present-day Kerch: an important city and port in Taurica , situated on a hill Panticapaeum (Greek: Παντικάπαιον, Pantikápaion), present-day Kerch: an important city and port in Taurica (Tauric Chersonese), situated on a hill Panticapaeum (Greek: Παντικάπαιον, Pantikápaion),...

, where he committed suicide the same year. Pompey the Great buried Mithradates in the rock-cut tombs of his ancestors in Amasya
- History :Its location in this steep valley makes the city a mountain stronghold, easy to defend, and thus Amasya has had a long and prominent history.-Antiquity:...

, the old capital of Pontus.

Roman Bosphoran Kingdom

After the death of Mithridates, Pharnaces (63 BC - 47 BC) made his submission to Pompey, then tried to regain his dominion during the civil war, but was defeated by Caesar at Zela and later killed by a former governor of his.

A pretender, Asander married his daughter Dynamis, and in spite of Roman nominees, ruled as archon, and later as king, until 17 BC. After his death, Dynamis was compelled to marry a Roman usurper called Scribonius, but the Romans under Agrippa interfered and set Polemon I of Pontus (16 BC - 8 BC) in his place. Dynamis died in 14 BC and Polemon ruled until 8 BC.

After Polemon's death, Tiberius Julius Aspurgus (8 BC - 38), son of Dynamis and Asander, succeeded him and founded a line of kings which endured with certain interruptions until 341 AD. Originally called Aspurgus, he adopted the names "Tiberius Augustus" because he enjoyed the patronage of the first two Roman emperors, Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 and Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

. All of the following kings adopted these two Roman names followed by a third name, mostly of Pontic and Thracian origin (such as Kotys, Rhescuporis and Rhoemetalces), but sometimes of local origin (such as Sauromates, Eupator, Ininthimeus, Pharsanzes, Synges, Terianes, Theothorses and Rhadamsades).

As the dynasty descended from King Mithridates VI of Pontus through Aspurgus, the kings adopted the "Pontic era" introduced by Mithridates, which started with 297 BC; this era was used to date coins. Bosporan kings struck coinage throughout the kingdom period, which included gold staters bearing portraits of the respective Roman emperors. However this coinage became increasing debased in the 3rd century. The rulers' names and dates are fairly well known, though scarcely any events of their reigns are recorded. Their kingdom covered the eastern half of Crimea and the Taman peninsula
Taman peninsula
The Taman Peninsula is a peninsula in the present-day Krasnodar Krai of Russia. It is bounded on the north by the Sea of Azov, on the west by the Strait of Kerch and on the south by the Black Sea. The peninsula has evolved over the past two millennia from a chain of islands into the peninsula it is...

, and extended along the east coast of the Maeotian marshes
Maeotian marshes
In the geography of Antiquity the Maeotian marshes lay where the Don River emptied into the Maeotian Lake near Tanais. The marshes served as a check to the westward migration of nomad peoples from the steppe of Central Asia.The area was named after the Maeotae who lived around the Maeotian Lake....

 to Tanais
Tanais is the ancient name for the River Don in Russia. Strabo regarded it as the boundary between Europe and Asia.In antiquity, Tanais was also the name of a city in the Don river delta that reaches into the northeasternmost part of the Sea of Azov, which the Greeks called Lake Maeotis...

 at the mouth of the Don, a great market for trade with the interior.

They carried on a perpetual war with the native tribes, and in this were supported by their Roman suzerains, who even lent the assistance of garrisons and fleets. In 63 AD, for unknown reasons, the Roman Emperor Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 deposed Cotys from his throne: the Bosporan Kingdom became a Roman province from 63-68. In 68 AD, the new Roman emperor, Galba
Galba , was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex...

, restored the Bosporan Kingdom to Tiberius Julius Rhescuporis I.

During the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries AD, Taurica was host to Roman legions and colonists in Charax
Charax, Crimea
Charax is the largest Roman military settlement excavated in the Crimea. It was sited on a four-hectare area at the western ridge of Ai-Todor, close to the modern tourist attraction of Swallow's Nest.-The Camp:...

. Charax 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 Chersonesus and other Bosporean trade centres from the Scythians. The Roman colony was protected by a vexillation 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 also 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.

Taurica remained a vassal state
Vassal state
A vassal state is any state that is subordinate to another. The vassal in these cases is the ruler, rather than the state itself. Being a vassal most commonly implies providing military assistance to the dominant state when requested to do so; it sometimes implies paying tribute, but a state which...

 of the Romans for nearly five centuries, and the southern shores remained under Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 control until the AD 13th century. At times, rival kings of some other races arose and probably produced some disorganization. At one of these periods (255), the Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 and Borani were able to seize Bosporan shipping and raid the shores of Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...


With the coins of the last king, Tiberius Julius Rhescuporis VI, in 341 AD, materials for a connected history of the Bosporus Cimmerius come to an end. The kingdom probably succumbed to the Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, who defeated the nearby Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

 in 375/376 AD and moved rapidly westwards, bringing destruction in their wake.

Modern history

The peninsula later became generally known by the name used for it by the Crimean Tatars
Crimean Tatars
Crimean Tatars or Crimeans are a Turkic ethnic group that originally resided in Crimea. They speak the Crimean Tatar language...

. The word "Crimea" comes from the Crimean Tatar name Qırım, via Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Krimeia (Κριμαία).

After the annexation of Crimea in 1783, the newly-installed Russian authorities made an attempt to revive the ancient name, and the former lands of the Crimean Khanate
Crimean Khanate
Crimean Khanate, or Khanate of Crimea , was a state ruled by Crimean Tatars from 1441 to 1783. Its native name was . Its khans were the patrilineal descendants of Toqa Temür, the thirteenth son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan...

 were organized into the Taurida Governorate
Taurida Governorate
The Taurida Governorate or Government of Taurida was a historical governorate of the Russian Empire. It included the Crimean peninsula and the mainland between the lower Dnieper River and the coasts of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov It was formed after the defunct Taurida Oblast in was abolished in...

. But this name was used only in the official documents and "Crimea" remained a common name for the country.

Following the 1917 October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

, the Taurida Governorate was briefly reformed as the Taurida Soviet Socialist Republic
Taurida Soviet Socialist Republic
The Taurida Soviet Socialist Republic was a short-lived Soviet Republic situated in Crimea and adjacent areas that were the former Taurida Governorate of the Russian Empire...

 in early 1918 before being overrun by the World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

. After the reassertion of Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 control in 1921, the governorate was divided between the peninsular Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created on October 18, 1921 as Crimean Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic of RSFSR in place of Taurida Governorate and within the Crimean Peninsula,...

 under the Russian SFSR and the mainland portions which were incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR
Ukrainian SSR
The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or in short, the Ukrainian SSR was a sovereign Soviet Socialist state and one of the fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union lasting from its inception in 1922 to the breakup in 1991...


Modern use of the name

Since 1921, the name Taurida has had no official status in Crimea and is used almost only in historical context. However, some institutions of the republic still use it, for example Taurida National University, the main university in Crimea.

See also

  • Roman Crimea
    Roman Crimea
    Roman Crimea is the area of actual Crimea that was under control of the Roman Empire and mostly coincided with the Bosporan Kingdom. For nearly five centuries it was a Roman "Client State", but under emperor Nero it was briefly an area of the Roman Province of Moesia inferior .-History:Rome started...

  • Colonies in antiquity
    Colonies in antiquity
    Colonies in antiquity were city-states founded from a mother-city—its "metropolis"—, not from a territory-at-large. Bonds between a colony and its metropolis remained often close, and took specific forms...

  • Turan
    Tūrān is the Persian name for Central Asia, literally meaning "the land of the Tur". As described below, the original Turanians are an Iranian tribe of the Avestan age. As a people the "Turanian" are one of the two Iranian peoples both descending from the Persian Fereydun but with different...

    , mythical ethnological homeland of the Turkic peoples
    Turkic peoples
    The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

     and their descendants, like the Turks
    Turkish people
    Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

     of modern Turkey
    Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

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