Archaeologists have uncovered treasure buried by the 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.
Researchers believe the loot was hurriedly buried by wealthy people sheltering from the attacking Roman legions who were backing one side in a civil war.
Buried for 2,000 years: Archaeologists have uncovered hoards of buried treasure hidden beneath a Black Sea fortress by residents who were facing the might of Rome’s legions during a destructive civil war
‘The fortress had been besieged. Wealthy people from the settlement and the neighborhood had tried to hide there from the Romans,’ said Nikolaï Vinokurov, a professor at Moscow State Pedagogical University.
‘They had buried their hoards inside the citadel.’
As the Romans highly trained and well equipped soldiers attacked people huddled in the citadel for protection, however Professor Vinokoruv told LiveScience they knew they would not survive.
At the time of the siege and fall of the fortress in 45AD, Artezian was a part of the Bosporous Kingdom where a rivalry was playing out between two brothers for political control.
The elder, Mithridates VIII, wanted to win independence from the Roman Empire, while his younger brother Cotys wanted to keep the kingdom as a client state.
Roman soldiers soon arrived to support Cotys’ claims to the throne. They established his regime in the Bosporan capital and torched settlements controlled by his brother, including Artezian.
Hellenistic culture: These two rings are engraved with the images of Greek gods. The people of the region borrowed many aspects of their culture from Greek colonists who had established outposts in the are hundreds of years before
A silver brooch depicts Aphrodite, goddess of love: Centuries earlier, at the height of classical Greek culture, sailors had navigated the Black Sea and created colonies to the east, intermarrying with the locals
Professor Vinokurov’s team have been recruiting volunteers to study the town since 1989. It covered an area of at least 3.2 acrea, including a necropolis where many finds have been made.
Archaeologists’ work in the area has revealed that the people of Artezian followed a culture that was distinctly Hellenistic.
Professor Vinokurov said that although the ethnicity of Artezian’s residents was mixed, ‘their culture was pure Greek. They spoke Greek language, had Greek school; the architecture and fortification were Greek as well.
‘They were Hellenes by culture but not that pure by blood.’
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Ancient decorated spindles were also found on site: The Romans arrived in support of Cotys I, a usurper to the throne of the Kingdom of Bosporous, who asked for their help with deposing his older brother
Centuries earlier, at the height of classical Greek culture, sailors had navigated the Black Sea and created colonies to the east, intermarrying with the locals.
Their customs and crafts seem to have endured through the intervening years despite being practised nearly 600 miles from Greece itself. This influence can be seen in the treasures the people of Artezia concealed as they waited for the final assault from their Roman enemies.
Among the finds is a silver brooch engraved with an image of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, as well as gold rings set with gems on which are engraved images of Nemesis and Tyche, both also Greek deities.
Dig: Nikolaï Vinokurov, a professor at Moscow State Pedagogical University, has been leading expeditions to the Artezian site for archaeologists and volunteers since 1987
Peeling back the past: The fortress at Artezian was torched by the Romans in 45AD, then later rebuilt – but it’s treasure remained undiscovered until now
Excavations of other portions of the site, which was razed to the ground by the attacking army, have revealed further evidence that the people of Artezia had a Greek culture.
‘In the burnt level of the early citadel, many fragmentary small terra cotta figures were found depicting Demeter, Cora, Cybele, Aphrodite with a dolphin, Psyche and Eros, a maiden with gifts, Hermes, Attis, foot soldiers and warriors on horseback, semi-naked youths,’ the researchers wrote in their paper, published this month in the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.
The town was later rebuilt by Cotys I, who successfully managed to dispatch his brother with Roman help, but the treasures of its earlier inhabitants have remained untouched until now.