Крымская Скифия в системе культурных связей между Востоком и Западом (III в. до н.э. – VII в.н.э.)
The collective monograph “Crimean Scythia in a system of cultural connections between East and West (III c. BC – VII c. AD)” consists of articles devoted to the actual problems of ancient history of the Crimea. It is intended for archaeologists, historians, museum staff, teachers and students of archaeology and history.
On the basis of archaeological sources, it is expedient to study cultural transformations conditioned by events of a socio-political nature. Networking in the political sphere is closely connected with the exchange of symbols of power and status. In material culture, such symbols might be represented among the so-called ‘prestige objects’. Changes in the assortment of such items observed over a long time-span can help us visualize the development of domestic and external relationships among social elites. Proceeding from such preconditions, the present paper will look at funeral complexes of the Crimean ‘Barbarian’ elites located on the territory between Chersonesus Taurica and the Bosporan kingdom dating from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. In the late 4th century BC, a fortress of central importance was erected at Ak-Kaya. Here and in other strategical places, there are traces of fires and subsequent restoration or enhancements of the defensive systems dating to the 270s BC. Shortly afterwards, the burial complexes of the ‘Barbarian’ population display prestige La-Tène-style objects belonging to the military elite. These elites controlled probably the territory of the Crimean ‘Barbaricum’, as well as the steppes adjoining the Crimea from the north, including settlements from the nearby territory of Olbia. By the mid-2nd century BC, the consolidation and centralization of the elites seems to have taken place. The capital fortress was moved westwards (Neapolis Scythica) and developed into a capital of a state of early-Hellenistic appearance. The process of consolidation was interrupted in the late 2nd century BC through the annexation of the Crimea by Mithradates VI Eupator. For a short time, the region got under his direct influence, which allowed for further elite contacts. Since their victory upon Mithradates, the Romans recognized the strategical importance of the region, not least during their conflicts with Parthia. The elite burials reflect interactions with new contact zones. On the one hand, they contain Roman bronze and silver tableware, and funeral wreaths – customary for Greco-Roman burial rites. On the other hand, there are Chinese Lacquer Boxes and the silk clothing. The subordination of the ‘Barbarian’ elites to the centers of the Greco-Roman civilization continued throughout the second and third centuries AD until the demise of Roman imperial policy in the region.
The terms “Crimean Scythia” and “Late Scythian Culture of the Crimea” are modern concepts reflecting an interpretation model formed by the study of written and epigraphic sources. The term “Late-Scythian Culture” appeared rather late in comparison with other culture-terms known in the Northern Black Sea Region, after 1946, in the frame of the work of the Tauro-Scythian expedition headed by Pavel Schulz. It is formed according to the ethno-chronological principle for the designation of the material culture of the “Scythians” supposedly superseded by the “Sarmatians” from most of the territory occupied by the “Great Scythia” of the 6th till the 4th BCE, and formed two enclaves – the Crimean-Dnieper and the Thracian, both known from Strabo as the “Scythia Minor” (Strabo, Geogr. VII.4.5).
The term “Crimean Scythia” for the designation of the Crimean part of the Strabo’s Scythia Minor appeared in the late 1980s – early 1990s under conditions of the collapse of the USSR. The continuity between the Scythian kingdom in the Crimea and the Great Scythia was questioned. It seemed that its formation took place in the conditions of the appearance of new ethnic groups in the Crimea, first of all the Sarmatians of Prokhorovka culture. In this sense, the term “Crimean Scythia” reflects the idea of the appearance in the Crimea of a separate new Scythian state and, in fact, represents an expression in historical terms of the concept of the Late Scythian culture of the Crimea.
At the present stage, the phenomenon of the Late Scythian archaeological culture of the Crimea seems to be a reflection of the economic and cultural development of the Barbarian population of the Crimean peninsula in the context of its involvement in the world-system with two geopolitical centers – Rome and Parthian Iran. Their weakening or destruction in the 3rd century AD led to the rupture and reformatting of most of the networking systems – ideological, military, trade and economic. Under these conditions, the idea of transforming the Late-Scythian culture under the influence of “Sarmaticization” seems meaningless. The migrations from the steppe or the Caucasus being very likely, which are confirmed by the data of physical anthropology, had a much lesser effect on the functioning of social networks and the economic and cultural appearance of the Crimean Scythia than the proximity of the ancient cities and geopolitical aspirations of the main hegemonic powers.
he new data that has become available in the last two decades show that the Scythian kingdom with the capital in Neapolis Scythica which existed in the Crimea in the 2nd c. BC, was much closer to Hellenistic states ruled by Barbarian dynasties than to the nomadic kingdom of the Scythians of the 4th c. BC. At the same time, these data allow us to return in part to the old view formulated by Rostovtzeff about continuity between the Scythia of the 4th c. BC and the Late Scythian kingdom, from which most researchers refused in the last thirty years. It turned out that this continuity existed at least at the ideological level, and the excavations at Ak-Kaya (Vishennoe) filled the chronological gap between the Scythian kingdoms of the 4th and 2nd c. BC. Apparently, Ak- Kaya became one of the political centers of the Scythians as early as in the late 4th c. BC, before the fall of the “Great Scythia”, and the capital of the Crimean Scythians was located here before moving to Neapolis. In the formation of the Late Scythian culture and the Late Scythian kingdom with the capital first in Ak-Kaya and then in Neapolis, apart from the Scythian elements, sedentary Tauroi as well as probably the Greeks and the Hellenized population of the chorai of the Greek cities of the north-western Crimea, took part. A key role in changing the character of the Scythian culture was apparently played by a change in the economic-cultural type and the transition from nomadic pastoralism to settled agriculture. This article also proposes a new interpretation of the inscription on the mausoleum of Argotas, discovered in Neapolis in 1999. Argotas was apparently not a Scythian, but a Greek, despite his Scythian name. This Bosporan aristocrat with Scythian family ties married the widowed Bosporan queen Kamasarya in the second quarter of the 2nd c. BC (CIRB 75). He played an important role in governing the Bosporan kingdom and its protection from attacks from the east. Then, most likely after the death of Kamasarya, he moved to the neighboring kingdom of the Scythians, where he became one of the leading generals, the right hand of the king and the tutor of his children. After his death in ca. 130–125 BC, he received from King Skiluros unprecedented honors – a heroon in front of the facade of the royal palace was erected for him, and this was the only truly Greek building in Neapolis: it was built in accordance with the rules of the order architecture and decorated with Greek statues and reliefs, as well as a metric epitaph with numerous Homeric forms and expressions.