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Federata of the Eastern Roman Empire on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus and evolution of a necropolis Tsibilium (2-7th centuries)

UDK 903.57; 94(4951.01


Evolution of the Abkhazian necropolis Tsibilium (M-MIND of centuries) belonging to apsila is considered. On materials of this burial ground the nature of the relations of the Empire and the East Black Sea barbarians, process of integration of apsil to the sphere of the East Roman military policy is shown. It is known that from 1st century AD east coast of the Black Sea was included in the sphere of the Roman military-political domination, and the territory of Abkhazia represented a key strategic position. To the middle of the 2nd century along the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus there is a chain of "kingdoms clients" of the Roman Empire which carried out the military kotrol over the Pontic border. At the end of IV — the beginning of the 5th centuries written sources demonstrate presence of the Roman garrisons on the Abkhazian coast. Military-political contacts of the Abkhazian barbarians with the Empire are well illustrated by archaeological materials of a necropolis Tsibilium. The chronological scheme of this burial ground consisting of several stages with fractional division into the periods is offered. Characteristics of every period are given, differences between them which show what changes were undergone by tsebeldinsky culture during time under the influence of the East Roman Empire are tracked.

It is known that from 1st century AD east coast of the Black Sea was included in the sphere of the Roman military-political domination. At the same time the territory of Abkhazia represented a key strategic position (fig. 1). First, along the Abkhazian coast there passed the sea coasting way to Bospor Kimmeriysky which is well described in peripla of the Roman time, and since the time of Mitridat Bosporskoye the kingdom was of particular interest the Roman strategists. Secondly, from Abkhazia through mountain passes it was possible to come into contact with the powerful Sarmatian people of the ponto-Caucasian steppes, such as aorsa or sirak, and then Alana. They very much interested Rome, especially in the context of the Roman bosporskikh otnosheniy2.

Later events Byzantine sasanidskikh wars showed that the Abkhazian coast quite could be suitable for disembarkation and expansion of the forwarding case for further advance for Iberia which was often becoming "apple of discord" between Rome and Iran. Also the Roman commanders for certain could expect such opportunity.

Peripl Flavia Arriana3 which made in 132-133 on the instructions of the emperor a sea trip along east coast of the Black Sea accurately fixes a military-political situation in the territory of Abkhazia in the 1st floor. 2nd century. The coast was protected by the Roman fortress Sebastopolis (fig. 1) representing an extreme northern point of the Roman military presence in the 2nd century AD on the Caucasian coast of the Black Sea.

The main territories were busy with the apsila which were operated by the tsar Yulian; abazgam of the tsar Resmaga which borrowed, on Ariana, the territory near Sebastopoli-sa; the saniga directed by the tsar Spadagas. All listed governors were vassals of Rome. To the north, behind the Akheont River (perhaps, the river of Sochi), lands zi-Hove at which Stakhemfax, also the protege of Rima4 (fig. 1) reigned were.

1 Work is performed with financial support of RGNF/NTsNI within the international Russian-French NTsNIL_a project, No. 07-01-94b52a, 2007-2009, "Barbaric kingdoms in the central and southern part of Eastern Europe during an era of Great resettlement of the people".
2 M.B. Schukin. At a boundary Ayr. SPb., 1994. Page 204-212.
3 Arrien, Periple du Pont-Euxin//Periple du Pont-Euxin/ed. A. Silberman. Paris, 1995. P. 11.
4 Arrien, Periple du Pont-Euxin, 18.


Institute of archeology of RAS, Moscow


amastyko va @ma il. ru

Thus, already to the middle of the 2nd century along the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus there is a chain of "kingdoms clients" of the Roman Empire which, most likely, exercised military control of the Pontic border. This system of vassal kingdoms showed the viability as it endured a crisis situation of 253275 when waves of northern barbarians (Gotha, boranes, etc.) fell upon the Roman possession on Black Sea poberezhye5.

After the gothic wars by the main conductor of the Roman policy in the Western Transcaucasia there is Lazik's kingdom (Egrisi) (fig. 1) to which barbaric kinglets in the territory of Abkhazia, namely governors of apsil and misimian6 submit. The fidelity of this kingdom of the empire was confirmed in 362 g when to Yulian Otstupnik there comes the embassy of inhabitants of the Phase, that is lazov7. Laziki's dependence on the Empire amplifies from the 2nd half of the 5th century 8 According to messages of authors of the 6th century, the tsar of manholes at a crowning receives regalia from Konstantinopolya9, in the same place he chooses to himself and the wife among notable senatorial familiy10. At court of the tsar of manholes there were in the course Roman titles, such as tad1e1eg11.

At the end of IV - the beginning of the 5th centuries, a gYoSha of Dignitatum" fixes direct presence of the Roman garrisons at fortresses on Abkhazian poberezhye12 that is confirmed also archaeological istochnikami13. During Justinian's era a large number of veterans of the Byzantine army lives among abasgov14. All this emphasizes value of the territory of Abkhazia in the East Roman military policy once again. Such situation remains up to the Arab invasion at the end of the 7th century 15

Military-political contacts of the Abkhazian barbarians with the Empire are illustrated also by archaeological sources. Thanks to Yu.N. Voronov's researches, the richest material of a necropolis Tsibilium (GYENA across Agafy) 16, belonging to ancient apsila (2-7th centuries) 17 was introduced for scientific use.

By preparation of the edition of the book of Yu.N. Voronov in French yazyke18, we carried out the analysis of this material which made separate volume - the annex to the publication pamyatnika19. At the same time an attempt to reconstruct evolution of a necropolis was made. For dating of the closed complexes the chronology of the Abkhazian antiquities, the developed O.A. Gey and I.A. Bazhanom20 modified was attracted

5 M.B. Schukin. Gothic way. SPb., 2005. Page 134-151; Shchukin M., Kazanski M., Sharov O. Des Goths aux Huns. Le Nord de la mer Noire au Bas-Empire et a l&epoque des Grandes Migrations/BAR - Interantional Series 1535. Oxford, 2006. River 25-Z6.
6 Martin-Hisard B. Continuite et changement dans le bassin oriental du Pont Euxin (IVe-Ve s.)//From Late Antiquitty to Early Byzantium. Proceedings of the Byzantinological symposium in the 16th International Eirene Conference. Prague, 1985. River 144, 145; Yu.N. Voronov Colchis at a Middle Ages boundary. Sukhum, 1998. Page 11-14.
7 Ammien Marcellin. Histoire/ed. J. Fontaine et alii. Paris, 1968-1996. XXII.7.
8 Martin-Hisard B. Continuite et changement...... River 145, 146.
9 Agathias, Historiarum Libri Quinque/ed. R. Keydell. Berlin-New York, 1967. I II.15.
10 Procopius, III-V. History of the Wars, Books V-VIII (prod. H.W. Dewing, Loeb Clasical Library). London-Cambridge (Massachusetts), 1962-1968. Bel. Got., IV.9.8.9.
11 Procopius, Bel. Got., IV.10.2.
12 Zuckerman C. The Early Byzantine Strongholds in Eastern Pontus//Travaux et Memoires. 11. 1991. P. 527-553.
13 V.A. Lekvinadze. Pontic limes / / Messenger of Ancient History. 1969. No. 2. Page 75-93; Yu.N. Voronov Colchis at a Middle Ages boundary... Page 37-44.
14 Procopius, Bel. Got. IV.9.10-12.
15 Marin-Hisard B. La domination byzantine sur le littoral oriental du Pont Euxin (milieu du VI Ie - VII Ie siecles)//Byzantino-Bulgarica. Vol. 7. 1981. P. 141-156.
16 Agathias, IV.15
17 Yu.N. Voronov. Graves of apsil. Results of researches of a necropolis of Tsibilium in 19771986 years. Pushchino, 2003.
18 Voronov Ju. Tsibilium. Vol. 1. La necropole apsile de Tsibilium (Caucase, Abkhazie). Fouilles de 1977-1986/BAR, International Series-1721. Oxford, 2007.
19 Kazanski M., Mastykova A. et alii. Tsibilium, vol. 2. La necropole apsile de Tsibilium (Caucase, Abkhazie). Etude du site/BAR, International Series-1721. Oxford, 2007.
20 The gay O.A., Bazhan I.A. Hronologiya an era of "gothic campaigns" (in the territory of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus). M, 1997.

us according to dates of central and Western European and also North Pontic antiquities.

Tsibilium's burials were correlated to the next chronological periods:

>- Stage of I (170/200-330/340), periods 1 (170/200-260/270) and 2 (260/270330/340gg.), in general corresponding to the periods of C1 and C2 of chronology of the European Barbarikum.

>- The stage of II (320/330-400/410), the periods 3-4 in tsebeldinsky material are divided hardly, perhaps, their boundary falls on 360/370. In "barbaric" chronology it is the periods of C3 and Dl.

>- The stage of III (380/400-440/450), the fractional division into the periods 5-8 offered by authors of the Abkhazian chronology is not possible. In Barbarikum's chronology it is the period of D2 — "horizon Unterzibenbrunn".

- The stage of IV (450-640/670), is divided into the periods 9 (450-550) and 10-11 (530/550-640/670). In chronology of the East European antiquities they correspond to the postgunnsky period — "Shipovo's horizon" and to the horizon of "heraldic" belts.

The last period, Г^/10-11, can be divided further more fractionally, but so far on the materials Tsibiliuma of it it is not possible to make.

The earliest graves of Tsibilium belong to the Hellenistic time (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 35; Tsibilium-2, pogr. 370, 372-374; Tsibilium-8, pogr. 445). Several burials belong to the early Roman time (Tsibilium-2, pogr. 309, 380, 418; Tsibilium-8, pogr. 446, 448), their communication with the late Roman and early medieval population is not clear.

The numerous population living here, at least, till 7th century appears in Tsibilium, judging by funeral monuments, in the period of I/! (170/200260/270). Graves of this time are known at five cemeteries: Tsibilium-1 (pogr. 14, 64, 67, 83, 93, 94, 97, 98, 102, 117, 162), Tsibilium-2 (pogr. 305, 307), Tsibilium-10 (pogr. 454, 455-457), Tsibilium-11 (pogr. 458, 461) and Tsibilium-12 (pogr. 462). These are the men's and women's burials made on a ceremony of an ingumation and cremation with stock, typical for tsebeldinsky culture. In men's graves the weapon — a spear and axes is noted, swords are more rare. The men's suit includes zone buckles, sometimes fibula. A female attire — fibula, bracelets, necklaces from a beads, an earring, a pendant. The provision of objects on frame allows to speak about formation of the characteristic suit which kept the main lines prior to the beginning of the 6th century

Men's cremation 456 with a sword was followed by women's cremation and burial of a horse. Probably, it is about exclusive burial.

But bulk of burials of the period!/1 on stock belongs approximately to one level of wealth. Even burial 448 (Tsibilium-8), being followed by burial of a horse and therefore carried to number privilegirovannykh21, contains usual stock. All this demonstrates weak hierarchization of the population of Tsibilium during this era.

It is known that inclusion of tsirkumpontiysky barbarians in an orbit of the Roman military policy led to their militarization which is shown in funeral obryade22. It is possible that weapon in the period of I/1 reflects the beginning of this process in Tsibilium's graves. Once you, however, note a comparative rarity of professional arms, it, swords, in funeral stock.

Burials of a stage ^2 (260/270-330/340) are known at cemeteries Tsibilium-1 (pogr. 19, 25, 38a, 53, 75, 80, 156, 251), Tsibilium-2 (pogr. 320, 343), Tsibilium-8

21 Voronov You. La civilization materielle de l&aristocratie apsile (la cote est de la mer Noire) du IVe au VIe siecle//La noblesse romaine et les chefs barbares du IIIe au VI Ie siecle. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 1995. River 217-225.
22 Kazanski M. Contribution a l&histoire de la defense de la frontiere pontique au Bas-Empire//Travaux et Memoires. 11. 1991. River 487-526; I.O. Gavritukhin, A.V. Pyankov. Burial grounds of IlI-IV of centuries / / the Crimea, Northeast Black Sea Coast and Transcaucasia during a Middle Ages era. The 4-13th century. M, 2003. Page 187-189.

(pogr. 459), Tsibilium-10 (pogr. 453). Exclusive graves and women's cremation are not characteristic of this stage. But the certain militarization of the population which was expressed in emergence of objects of "professional" arms foreign by origin, such as boards with metal umbona and handles maniples is noted (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 127, 255, dated a stage ^2 or the beginning of a stage of II). It is necessary to emphasize that soldiers of Abkhazia only in the Caucasian region used this type of weapon more typical for the European barbaric people (Celts, Germans, Balts, Baltic Finns, Thracians) and for late Roman armii23.

Also in the late Roman time in Abkhazia there are amber fungoid pendants of the East German origin which, however, since the 4th century, extend in the Roman Empire povsemestno24.

Sometimes distribution of the western types of weapon and the German jewelry is considered as the proof of resettlement of some German groups in the territory of Abkhazia especially as Germans (Gotha, a gerula, etc.) in the 3rd century really show big military activity on the Black Sea. However, there are no other peculiar German features in tsebeldinsky culture, and weapon and decoration of the German shape at this time widely extend in late Roman impe-rii25, in particular, in the military environment.

Probably, in emergence of the "western" cultural elements in Abkhazia it is necessary to see rather influence of the varvarizovanny Roman army occupying coastal strong points on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, or even resettlement in Abkhazia of veterans of the Roman army about what it was told above.

Numerous graves of a stage of II (320/330-400/410) are known on burial grounds Tsibilium-1, Tsibilium-2, there are they and on burial grounds Tsibilium-3, Tsibilium-4, Tsibilium-11, Tsibilium-12 and Tsibilium-13. Increase in number of burials obviously demonstrates demographic growth of the population which material culture more and more takes the forms, "classical" for Tsebelda. The main part of things from funeral stock repeats the types presented already during the previous period.

At this time ingumation, and cremation, judging by finds of objects of arms dominate, belong generally to men. Several kremation contain female stock (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 262; can be pogr. 427 Tsibiliuma-3; pogr. 459 Tsibiliuma-11).

The number of graves with "professional" weapon (long swords, boards with umbony) and also with the Roman imports (glass, metal jewelry, krasnolakovy ceramics) and things of the "western" barbaric origin increases. Most likely, during this era of an apsila were already integrated into the system of defense of the Roman Pontic border, as explains proliferation of objects of arms in funeral stock and also a significant amount importov26.

Men's exclusive graves for this stage are not allocated, except for, maybe, burial 259 (Tsibilium-1), the horse who was followed by burial, but with rather ordinary stock.

But four women's burials containing magnificent brooches with carnelian are noted (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 91, 115, 173, 192) which are considered social Mar -

23 Kazanski M. Les eperons, les umbo, les manipules de boucliers et les haches de l&epoque romaine tardive dans la region pontique: origine et diffusion//Beitrage zu romischer und barba-rischer Bewaffnung in den ersten fier nachchirstlichen Jahrhunderten. Lublin - Marbourg, 1994. River 429-485.
24 A.V. Mastykova. About distribution of an amber fungoid beads pendants of the late Roman time in the south of Eastern Europe and in Transcaucasia//Hundred years to the Chernyakhovsk culture. Kiev, 1999. Page 171-202.
25 In the same place.
26 Kazanski M. Contribution a l&histoire de la defense....

kerom27. It is remarkable that burials 173 and 192 with brooches were nearby one from another, on one site of cemetery Tsibilium-1, and men's burials (236, 248, 259) with swords which usually are considered as a prestigious type of weapon were located here. It is possible that it was the site of burials of some privileged group (families?).

The second group of graves with separate gold things (pogr. 81) and polychrome-nymi brooches (pogr. 69, 91), it is possible to allocate in a northern part of the same site. It is interesting to note that in the territory of the cemetery 2 graves with gold things (pogr. 333, 355) and men's burials with swords (pogr. 349, 456) concentrated in the western part of the sector. Perhaps, it is some privileged group too.

Burials of a stage of III (380/400-440/450) in material culture and a funeral ceremony are very close to graves of the previous period. They contain, perhaps, the richest stock that demonstrates prosperity of tsebeldinsky community at this time. Burials of a stage of III are numerous on burial grounds Tsibi-lium-1 and Tsibilium-2, Tsibilium-3, Tsibilium-8, Tsibilium-9 and Tsibilium-15. Inga-matsii still dominate, but also several men's kremation and one women's are revealed (Tsibilium-2, pogr. 408). The material culture of tsebeldinets and structure of funeral stock in comparison with the previous period vary slightly.

It should be noted, nevertheless, emergence of three-blade "gunnsky" arrows, a metal mirror and also a serogoncharny Alania vessel (Tsibilium-8, pogr. 447). Also the isolated case of artificial deformation of a skull at buried is known (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 85). All these elements are connected by origin with barbaric (gunnsky, Alania) the cultural environment north of the Caucasian ridge.

The small two-lamellar fibula found in one of burials of a stage of III belongs to the Chernyakhovsk, i.e. East German type. In a women's suit there is large amber beads with a cut linear decor German Central European proiskhozhdeniya28, and in several women's burials the presence of pieces of a chain armor is noted (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 267; Tsibilium-2, pogr. 294, 351) that is also characteristic of Germans.

At the same time in burials the Mediterranean import is well presented: glass cups, krasnolakovy ceramics (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 61), a numerous beads — large crystal many-sided, serdolikovy polyhedral and so forth

Burials with weapon are very numerous. It is possible to assume that burials with "national" weapon (on terminology of the Scandinavian archeologists), such as spear and the axes which sometimes were followed by arrows, boards, daggers and skramasaksa belong to rank-and-file members of community. The graves containing rather full range of weapon including swords can be correlated to socially higher group. Men's cremation 383 (Tsibilium-2), being followed by burial of a horse, probably, is among exclusive though its stock is quite usual. But the ingumation 61 (Tsibilium-1), belonging to the teenager, on richness of stock obviously belongs to number of exclusive. It contained: a sword with a rich decor, a full range of arms, both "western" — a board with umbony, and "east", sasanidsky origin — a ceremonial dagger with four ledges for fastening. On the level of wealth it is burial quite corresponds to "vozhdesky" burials of the European barbarians of an era of Great resettlement on -

27 Yu.N. Voronov. Burials of women with brooches in Apsiliya's (Abkhazia) burial grounds//Materials on Archeology, History and Tavriya's Ethnography. Issue 4. Simferopol, 1995. Page 173-200.
28 A.V. Mastykova. An amber beads with a cut decor of an era of Great resettlement of the people / / RA. 2004. No. 3. Page 55-67.

rodov29. Possibly the end of IV — the 1st a floor. The 5th centuries are time of emergence in apsil of the military aristocracy which made political contacts with Constantinople.

Women's burials with the brooches decorated with carnelian (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 76, 89, 92, 101, 113, 213; Tsibilium-2, pogr. 382, 389), also are as it was already told, exclusive. At the same time burials 76, 89, 92, 101, 113, as well as exclusive men's burial 61, were found in the northern sector of the burial ground Tsibilium-1 and form, thus, compact (family?) group. At cemetery Tsibilium-2 female graves with polikhromny brooches (pogr. 375, 382, 389) and men's burials with swords and skramasaksa (pogr. 383, 399) concentrate in the northwest sector of the cemetery.

Burials of a stage ^/9 (450-550) were found in a significant amount on burial grounds Tsibilium-1 and Tsibilium-2. At this time finally disappear cremation, and ingumation become the only funeral ceremony. A set of things of funeral stock is comparable with a set of a prophetic stage III. The Mediterranean influence is shown in distribution of elements of the zone headset, ptitsevidny fibul, a beads from rhinestone. Men's burial which was followed by burial of a horse (Tsibilium-1, pogr. 376-377), perhaps belongs to number of exclusive. Women's exclusive burials are not revealed.

Profound changes in the nature of tsebeldinsky culture fall on a stage ^/11 (530/550-640/670). Burials of this stage, only ingumation, are available on the burial ground Tsibilium-1 and especially on the burial ground Tsibilium-2. The stock of burials differs from finds of the previous stage. Weapon is practically absent, except for copies in burials 313, 318 (Tsibilium-2).

But in burials on the same burial ground headsets of "heraldic" style are well presented (pogr. 279, 313, 314, 318, 325). This military fashion widely extends both in Barbarikum, and in the Byzantine army, since Justinian's era, that is from the 2nd third of the 6th century. By the way, as the stratigraphy of Tsebeldinsky fortress testifies, "heraldic" headsets appear here early enough, before the fire of 550 g caused by events Byzantine sasanidskoy voyny30. Burials with "heraldic" headsets differ from other men's graves in richer stock and, perhaps, belong to notable soldiers. So, the grave 313 (Tsibilium-2) was followed by burial of a horse and, probably, was exclusive.

In women's burials some fibula belong to local tradition, but the most part of elements of an attire (earrings, fibula, a beads, rings, bracelets) belong to the general Mediterranean types extending in Transcaucasia from Byzantium.

It should be noted presence of the North Caucasian ceramics of Alania type (Tsibi-lium-2, pogr. 297, 321), indicating in touch with the North Caucasian region and also existence of sasanidsky imports: a serdolikovy beads with the white inlaid decor and gems. It is possible that these imports are connected with presence in 550 g of the Iranian garrison at Tsebeldinsky fortress.

So, materials of a necropolis Tsibilium rather accurately reflect history of the relations of the Empire and the East Black Sea barbarians. Considerable militarization, appearance of the military aristocracy, flow of the Roman imports, distribution of the early Byzantine military fashion, most likely, are connected with a deep intergration of ap-sil in the system of defense created by the East Roman Empire on the Pontic border.

29 Kazanski M. Les tombes des chefs militaires de l&epoque hunnique//Germanen beiderseits des spatantiken Limes. Koln-Brno, 1999. River 293-316.
30 Yu.N. Voronov, Bgazhba O.H. Materials on Tsebelda's archeology. Tbilisi, 1985.

Fig. 1. The people of East Black Sea Coast in the 2-7th centuries

The cities and the large strengthened points: 1: Sebastopolis; 2: of Pitiunt; 3: Tsibilium;

4: Trachea; 5: Kutaisi; the 6: Arkheopolis (on: Kazanski M., Mastykova A. et alii. Tsibilium, vol. 2. Oxf., 2007)



This study traces the evolution of the Abkhazian necropolis of Thibil-ium (2nd-7th centuries), which belonged to Apsilians. The material of the necropolis throws light on the relations between the Empire and the Barbarians of the Eastern Pontus and the process of integration of the Apsilians in the scheme of the imperial eastern policy. When the eastern shore of the Black sea comes, in the 1st century A.D., under the military and political sway of Rome, territory of Abkhazia becomes a key strategic position. A chain of client-kingdoms, which emerges by the middle of the 2nd century all along the Pontic shore of Caucasus, assures the military control of the Pontic frontier. Written sources attest to the presence of Roman garrisons on the shore of Abkhazia in the late 4th-early 5th century. Military and political contacts of the Abkhazians with the Empire have left clear traces in the material of the Tsibilium necropolis. This study proposes a detailed chronology of the necropolis and a characterization of each period of its existence, thus showing the evolution of Tse-belda culture over time under the impact of the Eastern Roman Empire.

of A.V. Mastykova

Institute of Archaeology, Moscow


Timothy Wells
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