There used to be Greeks around here…

The influence on the Sea

If you follow the Black Sea’s coast to the North, after finishing with the touristic resorts for masses, slowly you are welcomed and surrounded by fresh water. The water is not the Sea anymore but in turn, you can find different sorts of lakes. The Sea is pretty far already, behind the small islands that split it from this necklace of lakes.

You are in the territory of the Delta of the Danube over here. The Danube is already fat when it reaches us and in time we got this wonderful thing: a Delta. Blessed place, I tell you, a place we share with our fellows Ukrainians (from 3 branches we got 2 and a half) and a place that pushed the boundaries of the Sea for kilometres. That’s because the Danube river deposits tonnes upon tonnes of dirt and whatever it brings from upstream (logs, vegetation, etc.), in some places blocking the Sea and in other just making new land from where it used to be water.

On the edge of one of these lakes (Razim-Sinoe) sits the ancient city of Histria. It used to sit on the edge of the Sea of course but sometimes around the 7th Century A.D. the bay got closed by the debris the river brought and the city got abandoned.

It is the oldest city, officially mentioned, on the face of Romania. It thrived for more than 1300 years and the thing that gave its name and its treasures (the Danube – Istrio) was also the one who closed its connections to the world. That’s because then, the river blocked completely the sea and the former bay was not on the open sea anymore. Ships couldn’t come in or get out so the commercial value of the place has fallen.

Histria writings

When authorities just don’t care

If there would not for the GPS or the small signs pointing towards it from the national road, you would surely pass by it. I guess that for a lot of time this was the actual purpose: to make the potential clients go away. There are some shepherd constructions nearby, that looks relatively new (the ’80s maybe) that are constructed with stones taken from the old citadel. Nowadays there is a small museum, a restaurant and some staff dependencies I guess. Otherwise, there is nothing else for miles in this God-forgotten field. Maybe just the electricity poles that mark the way to the main road, with its occasional stork nest on top of it.

Histria stork

Tickets are sold in a very small booth, post-communist style. 30-32 degrees Celsius outside, the door of the booth is always open, the guy inside would die otherwise. It’s a despicable display once he is trying to get you to visit the insides of the museum. The poor sob has no guilt for the fact that he is the only human being tempting the visitors to check out the museum. The Tourism Minister is jacking off anyway.

That’s the level we are at with promoting and selling tickets to a potential tourist attraction and cultural nursery; this ancient city is fucking old and it’s not been used for more than 700 Centuries. The level of excavations is laughable at most. This citadel hasn’t seen a real conservation and excavation program since the communists, I tell you. And it’s a pity…

The whole place is pretty huge. It’s a damn Greek colony, dating back to 657 B.C. and it passed through all the phases of romanisation, of migrators’ attacks and flourished through all right around the 13th-14th Century.

Histria Tickets Booth

Civilisation bringers

It gets a little visible how large Histria was as you start moving around the stones. You can still make out some streets (like the main one, behind the main gate) but some are interrupted by portions of walls, sign that in the many layers of civilisation here, the city was reshaped constantly. There still are though some important pieces of history, time landmarks for which to hold on and touch while visiting the place. The bar on the former taverna is still in place and you can make out where you getting inside and where the tables could have been placed, etc.

Histria main gate

There’s also this beautiful mosaic that is left to be rained on, to be walked on or even to be stolen, piece by piece. Apart from the small fence (that I don’t even know if it covers the whole place), there’s nothing stopping thieves and/or idiot tourists from stealing it bit by bit. How, why, who left it like that?! Those are questions to consider when we think about how well we know our future because if in the history we had at least this level of idiocracy (which we did for sure), then our main history is still buried under tonnes and tonnes of soil.

Histria mosaic

Once you get closer to the lake, on the Eastern side of the citadel, you start getting the real picture of how big this was. That was the living quarter and it was clearly a Greek settlement, with streets crossroads in 90 degrees, with small houses whose footprint can be seen because 10-15 cm of the walls is still standing, with shops, baths and temples. Of course, everything is explained on some metal sheet boards; no audio guide, no guide, not really much to help you understand and picture the way the place must have looked like in the past.

Histria details

Good thing I took my drone with me and made some aerial shots of the place. That way you can really understand the importance this city had in the bigger picture, the one about the control over the Black Sea that the Greeks were trying to uphold through a real plethora of citadels/cities, all set around the western shore. Histria, together with Tomis (the city of Constanța nowadays) and Callatis (the city of Mangalia nowadays) were main ports, in charge of engrossing sea trade and also military ports that nursed armies and fleets. Histria was the fastest of the 3 Greek colonies here and that’s why it became the first to mint its own coins and become, in a few centuries, a hub not only for trade but also for production (ceramics, tools, weapons and cereals production as well as fish products).

Histria map

The presence of the Greeks here was clearly influential on the Dacians that were native here. Our ancestors are part of the Thracian people that lived around the territory of Romania and Bulgaria, going even higher into the Pannonian fields. The connection between the two people can be seen also in some Greek writings, which describes how the Dacians looked like and how they behaved while the statues of the Greeks depict them very visually and quite elevated looking.

The city ends in the lake. There, the rocks stop and at this point of the excavations there’s no sign of what used to be a majestic port. Most likely the Danube and the lake that it created, has engulfed the constructions on the shore, in the centuries since then.

Histria columns

 

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