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George Page
Micha Jelisavcic
John Sloan



Later History

In August 1997 we had the honor and pleasure of receiving a private guided tour of the archeological project being conducted on MANGUP in Crimea by Dr. Aleksander G. Gertsen, the Chief of the Department of Ancient and Medieval History of the Simferopol State University. This is one of the most interesting places visited during our trip to Crimea. Our indefatigable host and guide, Pavel Lyashuk, arranged a special military vehicle with experienced driver in the hope of sparing us the climb to this mountain fortress. He and Dr. Oleg Belii accompanied us and provided extensive historical information on the cave towns of southern Crimea. Micha Jelisavcic interpreted for all three, recorded the discussions, and later transcribed their recorded explainations.

Dr. Gertsen took much time from his busy day supervising a large group of students to guide is all over Mangup. An edited translation of this valuable information is provided here. In addition we have been obtaining some of Dr. Gertsen's numerous publications and will continue to add them as they are received. The following material was obtained from discussion with Dr. Gertsen and from translation of his and other Russian documents.

This page is a selection of photographs of the mountain top fortress and a preliminary report on its history.

Location and description:

Mangup was built on the top of a 475 meter high limestone plateau about 30 kilometers by road east and a little north of Sevastopol. The plateau rises with sheer white walls out of the dense green forest and towers above the Belbek River valley. It is accessible by a tortuous, narrow road originally hacked out of the cliffs by the Byzantines in the 6th century. Since then rain has turned much of this trail into an eroded stream bed. The location of the fortress city, capital of medieval Feodoro, is shown on this Russian map. The extent of its regional control was deduced by process of elimination from an Ottoman Turkish listing of locations controled by the Tatars at the time of Ottoman conquest.
The plateau is about one square kilometer in general area. Right up until the end of the 14th century, and the foundation of Kaffa with the construction of a defensive line by the Genoese, Mangup was the largest fortress in the Crimea.
The Mangup fortress was a three-tiered defensive system. The main line of defense provided defense for the entire contour of the plateau. This line was built during the reign of Justinian I ( 540-60 AD). Unfortunately, it is very hard to see the ramparts of this first line because they are buried deep underground. The upper section of the walls are fully exposed now, but they were built under the Ottoman Turks in the beginning of the 16th century. Here is a sketch map of the outline of the plateau showing the location of cross walls and the citadel. Map 2 The names of the promentories and valleys are shown.
A second line of defense cuts across the two promontories on the plateau where the town developed. It has been established from archeological research and the methods of construction that this line was built at the end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century. This was not built during the Turkish period. The third line was the citadel.
The second line of defense is the focus of current archeological excavations. It is interesting that a unique method was used to build the wall. When the engineers began to build the walls, they built a very large hearth to bake the limestone. Everything that is being uncovered currently is related to the activity of baking the limestone bricks. The large vessels (pythos), see close-up illustration below, were full of limestone, which were used to mix limestone with water and were found in situ.. When this wall was built there was a large amount of construction debris. The historical layer now under study is from the end of the 14th century, and right underneath are layers with artifacts dating back to the third century and up through the eight century. A historical period is missing in the time frame of the ninth to the fourteenth century.


The first issue is to identify the ruined city on Mangup with medieval references to cities such as "Doros". In the nineteen sixties an article was published in a compendium entitled the Archaeological Research on Medieval Crimea, in which the authors E. I. Solomonik and O. I. Dombrovskii focus their attention on the interpretation of Procopius of Ceasaria's works by the American school of Byzantology, A. A. Vasiliev, The Goths in the Crimea. In this work first published in the Soviet Union in 1921 by the State Institute of Cultural Antiquities, Vasiliev points to the location of Dori at the shores of the Crimean peninsula and a center in Mangup in which Goths have become vassals of the Byzantine empire. Here is an illustration from the 19th century. The Soviet authors say this contradicted Vasiliev's main source of information, Procopius. Furthermore they say that Vasiliev did not throw out all of Procopius' points and recognized the value of those on the "Long Walls." Further criticism is leveled at Karamzin although the authors do backtrack and allow latitude, but heap their attack on N. I. Repnikov who placed the locality of Procopius' Doros. He categorically denied any location other than in the mountains of the South-West part of the Crimea at Eski-Kermen. Another fortress, Eski-Kermen, a fortified catacomb city in the manner of Mangup-kale founded in the 6th century as part of the defenses around Kherson, was populated by the allies of the Byzantines, the Goths and the Alans. (We visited this location as well and illustrations are found at Eski-Kerman.
Results of new archaeological research have led to the conclusion that Doros was situated on the Mangup plateau, and documented by A. G. Gertsen, in "The Fortress Ensemble at Mangup," Research information on Archaeology, History and ethnology of the Taurid, pages 136-137.
The unfortified settlement on Mangup first appeared in the middle of the third century A.D. In all probability the inhabitants were Goths and Alans who pushed their way through into the Crimea. Up until the middle of the 6th century they were hostile to the Byzantine empire, but later they became allies and joined the federation. Fifteen kilometers from Mangup as the crow flies is Chersonese in the middle ages known as Kherson. That was the main bridgehead of the Byzantine ideological and political presence in the Crimea. The second point of operation was Kerch on the Cimmerian Bosphore. The historian of Justinian I, Procopius of Caesarea, (Kissariisky) wrote that Justinian I rebuilt and renovated the walls of Chersonese and Bospor. In addition to this he built two other fortresses at Alushta (Alustan) and Gurzuf (Gorzubity). The location of these two fortresses are in present day resort cities on the Black Sea coast, and are being excavated by archaeologists. In the last few years rumor has it that Justinian fortress traces have been found. Procopius wrote also about the construction of long walls, in Greek Makratei. These long walls have been found and one of the walls cuts thru the valley on the approach to Mangup from the north. Along the asphalt top highway the wall crossed the valley. Evidently the construction of the fortresses on Mangup and on neighboring Eski-Kermen took place during the last years of Justinian's life. Procopius never mentions the construction of the fortresses on those sites. However on Mangup a tablet was found with an inscription bearing the name of Justinian I and archaeological research has led to the conclusion that the time period for the construction of the Mangup fortress was during his reign.
Why would they go to such tremendous trouble to build a fortress up on Mangup? The fortress is very close to Kherson and defended the approaches to Chersonese. The general reason was to give the neighboring population and refuges a safe haven from attacking armies. The proximate reason was the emergence of the huge Turkic Khaganate state laying in Asia from the Azov Sea to the Pacific Ocean basins. In the last decades of Justinian's rule, that in the sixties and seventies of the sixth century, it is generally accepted that the Turkic Khaganate posed a real military threat and that Justinian was well aware of this. Later, in the eighties of the sixth century, the Turkic armies did conquered the Bosphor, but were unable to conquer this area. These were the early, Turkic peoples, who preceded the Cumans and Pechenegs, (Kipchaks). The Pechenegs came about at the end of the 9th century, whereas the early Turkic (pronounced "Tiurki"), formed a state in the 6th and 7th centuries.
Historical interpretation is focused on the question regarding the mission of the Byzantine Empire in the Crimea and the archaeological work on the numerous sites of which Dr. Gertsen has been the latest leader of scholars attempting to ascertain the location of such early medieval cities as Fulla. Since the nineteen twenties the question of the discussion has centered on the historical time frame and reasons for the appearance of fortified settlements located inside the Justinian Long Walls. In the Vth and VIth centuries, the Byzantines were busy strengthening the old cities and building fortresses in the mountanenous border areas, trying to stem the flow of barbarians into the peninsula. Justinian brought to heel the Goths in the Bosphore and in Kherson. He rebuilt the city walls and on the southern shoreline he built the fortresses of Aluston and Gorzuvitakh..
The answers were not found in contemporary documents of the VI-IXth centuries. One such source is the writings of Menander the Protector on a diplomatic mission of Emperor Tiberius II to the Turkic Khanate, whose empire spread over Asia to the eastern shores of the Azov sea in 576-579. Another is the Life of Ioan Gotskyi in which archbishop Iona is held captive by the Khazars in the "Fullas, and a third is an historical event in the Life of Constantine (Kiril) the Philosopher, where-in on the return leg of his journey from Khazar lands, where he had been to participate in religious debates, Constantine managed prior to sailing away from Chersonese, to visit the Fullas, no-doubt located nearby. It was here that he preached the word of God to the pagans and after their conversion he convinced them to cut down the oak they had worshiped.
Two schools of thought approach the subject, one from the angle of the process of influence of the Byzantine Empire in the Crimea and the other from circumstances which led to the "Phenomenon" of the Catacomb cities.

Role of Khazars

For more discussion of the Khazars, see Kevin Brook's new book, Jews of Khazaria, published by Jason Aronson. For much information visit his web site at Khazars.

The Khazars were a splinter group having gained independence from the huge Turkic Khaganate state which existed for 70 years but broke up in the second half of the 7th century. The Khazars were in the western part, between the Caspian and Black Seas and north of the Caucasus mountains. At the end of the 8th century the Khazars were able to bring under their control a large part of the Crimean peninsula including the brief capture of Mangup.
M.S. Grushevskii states that the Khazars solidified their settlements on the shores of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea in the first half of the VIIth century; that in the first half of the VIIIth century they made their way up into the Dnieper river region; and that at the beginning of the IXth century their position began to weaken. He states that in the same manner as other tribes and peoples, that the druzhina element came about as a result of the attacks by other tribes and the necessity to defend themselves. He quotes the Ipatyev chronicle that the Polyani at some point "Were fighting with the Drevliane and won," that the Khazars subjugated them and made them pay tribute; this last event took place it is believed, approximately around the middle of the VIIIth century.
The conquest of the larger part of the Crimean peninsula by the Khazars in the VIIth century was to have a telling effect on the local population which had diminished following the invasion of the Huns and was partially regenerated. I. A. Baranov wrote in his work, "The Taurid in the Era of the Early Middle Ages," that "Until 730 A.D. there is no direct indications of hostile moves by the Khazars in the Byzantine Taurid." Quoted in the article of V. F. Filippenko "On the History of the Inkerman Catacomb Monastery (the first stage of its existence), in the compendium The History and Archaeology of the Crimea, page 115. Baranov continues: "This was the period of a --military parity --of the two powers. Relations worsened according to Baranov in the middle of the 8 the century, when a second wave of Khazars broke into the Taurid, and this invasion was accompanied by the destruction of the Byzantine fortresses and settlements."
At the end of the VIIth century the Khazar Khaganate began to spread its rule over the eastern regions of the peninsula, making possible a flow here of Turkic speaking population. Dr. Gertsen, "The Byzanto-Khazar Boundaries on the Taurid," page 59 of the compendium. The History and Archaeology of the South-West Crimea. He continues..."The situation sharply changed at the end of the VIIIth century, when, according to the "Life Of John the Goth," the Khazars decisively penetrate into the hinterland regions of the South-West Taurid and capture its main fortress Doros".
This city was destroyed when the local Orthodox Church Metropolitan, John the Goth, led an uprising in 787 against the Khazars and this fortress and Mangup with its city of Doros joined in the rebellion. The local inhabitants were appalled at the barbarity of the Khazars and rebelled with the support of an unknown who went under the name "The Lord Doros." Taking into consideration the opposition of John the Goth to the empire's iconoclastic rule, this unlikely alliance (of Goth/Alans and Greek Christians) can be construed as an independence movement in the Taurid from the Byzantine empire and the Khaganate.
The Khazars controlled the Mangup fortress for only a half century. The Byzantine empire wrested the fortress back and set up a military gubernatorial administrative system, the Thema in Kherson.. A more concise description is that of a large military units, bivouacked in the provinces of the Byzantine Empire, namely those displaced in Asia Minor. The Taurid was freed from the rule of the Khazars, joined the ranks of the Thema under the name of the Goth Klimat (Alan Climates, the definition of this term as it pertains to the region of the Taurid on which were built seven fortresses belonging at first to Byzantium and later turned over to the Khazars and then retaken).

Later History

The first mention of the Klimat is by the chronicler Theophanes regarding the exile of the Roman Pope Martin to "Kherson and the Klimat," in 655 and then concerning the events pertaining to the exile of Justinian II in 695. (Dr. Gertsen says that at this time the Byzantine rule over the Alans (Goths) inhabiting the area known as Doros was weak and that the Khazars where nearby and were a strong force); This Justinian fled to the Khazars in 705 and after regaining the throne mounted a punitive campaign against the alleged mutiny of the Khersonites, Bosphorites and Klimates. It is in Theophanes' work that the Khazars were requested by the inhabitants of fortresses to help repulse the marauding invaders. On the return trip Petrona Camaretus stopped in Chersonese and back in Constantinople he advised the emperor to not trust the Chersonese self-chosen ruler and to replace the local government with a Thema. A more concise description is that of a large military units, bivouacked in the provinces of the Byzantine Empire, namely those displaced from Asia Minor. The first prefect (strategon) was Petron Kamatir himself.
The pause in the activity of the Mangup fortress came at the turn of the 10th and 11th century. This is thought to have been linked to a cataclysmic earthquake. Life and inhabitants returned in the 14th century. At this time Mangup is known as the Feodorite principality. Here is a map showing the extent of Feodoro and adjacent lands just before the Ottoman conquest in 1475. Did it become really an independent state? It was semi-independent at first from the Tatar-Mongol hordes and later from the Crimean Khaganate. The population of the principality were the descendants of Goths and Alans that were converted to Christianity. This was the height of the Mangup society. In 1475 the Ottoman Turks took all of Crimea. In one month they took Kaffa and other Genoese fortresses. They laid siege to Mangup for half a year. They used the same tactics they used in the siege of Constantinople twenty years before, but Mangup resisted for an additional four months. The main action took place in a crevice between two of the plateau arms. The Turks emplaced their artillery battery on the slope. They had two large siege artillery pieces, with caliber of 40 centimeters and 35 centimeters. The cannons fired granite projectiles weighing up to 100 kilograms. The fire was concentrated on two walls. One wall which bridged a gorge has been excavated. The second focus of fire and was another wall crossing the valley, where the Turks broke through and ended the siege. It crossed at a point where trees are now fully grown and hide the precipice. The walls and the towers were 15 meters high. They are well preserved, but were subsequently rebuilt by the Turks. The Turks were able to break through into the city in this direction and were not even slowed down by the second tier wall of the defensive line of which a tower remains.
The last refuge of the garrison was a Citadel. The area of the citadel was one and two tenths hectares, the promontory is defended by a defensive line. In the center of it was a keep, or donjon, that might have been a fortified palace. The gateway was built in the Armiano-Seljuk architectural style, the present configuration was constructed in the 1420s. Prior to this was another citadel in 1395 with another wall, which preceded this one and was destroyed when Tamerlane conquered Mangup. This was during Tamerlane's war against the Golden Horde leader, Toktamysh, who fled to Lithuania. (The mausoleum of Toktamysh's daughter is on Chufut-Kale. [see illustration in that section ]) When the Turks captured the citadel, they built the present walls. The Turks re-built the walls to their configuration to facilitate their use of cannon fire. The Feodorites did not have cannons. Archeological digs have been on-going for twenty years. The Ottoman Turks used this fortress for more than three hundred years. It was an overseeing emplacement, a control point and outpost from which they were able to maintain order and rule over the Crimean Tatar Khans. The territories that were occupied by the Ottoman Turks namely the land of the Feodorite principality and the Genoese holdings were all part of the Ottoman empire. The lands of the Crimean Tatars began to the north at Belbeck. The Turkish garrison abandoned the fortress in 1774. In 1792 the last inhabitants left Mangup, these were the Karaites.


The shortest route to Mangup from Sevastopol is by way of the valley north of Balaklava and the Cherniya River. Here the road passes by the Makenzie Heights. Heights. After threading one's way through several winding valleys by secondary roads one reaches the turn off into a dirt path. The entrance is not marked.

The road climbs as it circles the plateau making several switch-backs and skirting shear precipices. Soon the fortress walls become clear through the trees. The driver must be exceptionally dexterous to avoid axle-breaking ruts as his vehicle lists 45 degrees to port and then to starboard and the passengers are thrown from one side to the other. Some ruts are better negotiated with the van empty. While surveying the scene on the road the fortifications can be seen towering invitingly high above. Fortifications Even military vehicles have their limitations. Stalled We walked from here. As the road approached the summit ancient walls appeared in the underbrush. Walls Once on top the view is breathtaking. Initial view

The plateau is in the form of three long fingers and a thumb, rather like a bird's claw. Between the fingers are deep crevices or ravines, filled with broken rock debris. Whereever the slope seemed to offer possible access the ancients built extra cross walls. Here is a view from one finger to another. view. This ravine was the scene of the main Turkish assault in 1477. Note the extra wall that was breached by cannon fire here.
The current archeological work focuses on the 14th century fortifications at a transverse wall across the plateau. Dig. Here the engineers slaked lime next to the new wall. kiln And close-up. Here we view the summer encampment of archeology students. Here is Dr Gertsen with several of the students. They come from many different countries to enjoy this opportunity. Two more students.
During his lecture, Dr. Gertsen frequently took us right to the edge of a cliff.
The citadel was on the 'thumb' and protected by a cross wall isolating it from the rest of the plateau. The citadel is now hidden in the trees. The wall was strengthened in the center by a massive square combination donjon or keep and gate tower. A large part of the citadel area was occupied by churches. Here is the foundation of a prototypical Byzantine octagon shaped church. Here is the wall at the plateau. The garrison occupied look out posts right up to the edge and in caves underneath with windows overlooking the valleys. Dr. Gertsen explains the construction of a medieval basilica and then proceeds to explore a guard post here. Here is a spectacular view of adjoining terrain. As we leave we view the citadel wall from inside.
After an enjoyable visit we trudged down part way, not trusting our vehicle on this section of dry stream bed.
From Mangup our path led to Eski - Kerman, an even more ancient and remote cave town. (See illustrations.) The versions of photographs shown here have been made small to preserve web storage space. For cities in Russia and Ukraine go here.

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