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 Vladimir Anatolyevitch Gorontcharovskiy
Iluraton: A Fortress of the 1st- 3rd centuries AD on the European Kimmerian Bosporos

Iluraton in the 3rd century AD - The final stage of the fortress' existence and its destruction

The last stage in the development of Iluraton's defensive system was the construction of a built-up area outside the northwest defensive wall in the first third of the 3rd century AD. This probably represented an attempt to solve the problem of lack of space inside the fortress. It also eliminated the opportunity for the enemy to concentrate his forces on the terrace located there so as to storm the relatively weak section of the defences there. It is interesting to note that construction work in this area did not begin earlier that the reign of King Ininthimaios (234/5-239/40), whose coins were found among the ash and household waste dumped in this area down at the beginning of the 3rd century AD. During this period significant fortification works were undertaken elsewhere in the Bosporan Kingdom: new fortifications were under construction and existing ones were repaired. Undoubtedly, they were undertaken in preparation to repel new Barbarian attacks.

The external face of the multi-level inhabited complexes found out on the slope runs approximately 30 m from the defensive wall. In case of attack the narrow entrance corridors and the alleys between the houses could be blocked, creating an additional obstacle in the way of the enemy, forming a kind of proteichisma, as it is marked on the plan of P.Dubrux (Gajdukevic V.F., 1958, p. 13. Fig. 37). So, the front of an alleyway in one of the houses 1.3 m wide has been blocked by the several carefully assembled large limestone slabs (Fig. 5, 2), apparently at some moment of military danger. It would have been easy to block the entrance to the building, which was located nearby. Its excavated length was 19 m, and its width was 2.5 m at one end and 0.87 m at the other, apparently reached by a postern. This part of the corridor was constructed as a nine-stepped descending staircase. In case of serious threat the defenders could withdraw into the internal part of the fortress through a postern in the northwest wall.

Figure 5.
2. House on the northwest terrace of site.

As far as its defensive capabilities are concerned, Iluraton remained one of the most strongly fortified settlements on the Bosporos for more than two centuries. It is enough to compare the thickness of its walls, sometimes exceeding 8 m, to those of other Bosporan cities: Panticapaeum - 4.5 m, Tiritaka - 3.4 m, Myrmekion - 2.5 m (Gajdukevic V.F., 1952, p. 17; idem, 1952a, p. 136; Tolstikov V.P., 1977, p. 158). Only the walls of Neapolis Scythica stand comparison, with their thickness varying from 5.4 m up to 7.35 m (Vysotskaja T.N., 1979, p. 44. Fig. 8, 9). Thus, the fortifications of Iluraton can be studied as a benchmark for Roman times on the Bosporos, evidently showing their evolution during this period, and all the elements, which are characteristic for the period.

Iluraton ceased to exist during the Gothic campaigns. The attack on the fortress probably happened quite suddenly. Fires broke out in a number of the housing blocks. Owners of some of the houses were not able to lead out their animals, which were all lost in the fire (Šurgaja I.G., 1970, p. 63). In the corner room of a house near the crossroads of the main streets a hoard of 66 staters was found dated to the reign of King Rheskuporis V (AD 242-267) (Frolova N.A., Šurgaja I.G., 1982, p. 91-96.). All coins in the hoard were of the same type, with the king's head turned right on the obverse, and the head of the Roman emperor on the reverse with an additional symbol (club, wreath, star, sword or trident). Seemingly, many of the coins had never been in circulation. They had therefore belonged to a relatively wealthy man, able to put them aside over a quarter century.

The hoard was unearthed in the corner of a room used for housing animals. Many coins were found in a dense mass projecting from the wet ground. They were preserved in some form of knapsack made from skin or cloth (Fig. 9, 1). Evidently the owner had pushed it under stone slab in a hurry, in a place where no one would be likely to look for them, but he was unable to return for it.

Taking into account that no coins were minted on the Bosporos between 267 and 275, the destruction of the fortress, left by its garrison without a fight, should fall around this time. The results of the recent excavations in northeast area of the settlement help explain why to a certain extent. Here, house № 8 was excavated. It had been so thoroughly destroyed as a result of an earthquake about the middle of the 3rd century AD that a stone tumbled up to 1.2 m in height was not removed. Directly on its leveled surface the old walls were strengthened or, perhaps, new walls were erected. Few years had passed between the earthquake and the end of use of the house, since there had not been sufficient time to re-pave the courtyard. Traces of damage caused by a serious seismic wave coming from northeast can be observed in a number of other monuments of the European Bosporos lying on terraced slopes of the same date (Vinokurov N.I., Nikonov A.A., 1998, p. 101-103; idem, 2004, p. 95-103). Even if the walls and towers of Iluraton were at least partially damaged as a result of these tremors, then it had been hardly possible to restore them in circumstances of state instability and lack of funds in the state treasury. Therefore it becomes understandable why, as it has already been observed by V.F.Gajdukevic, the normal life of the fortress only went down to the middle of the 3rd century AD. After the beginning of the second half of that century Iluraton ceased to be an important feature in the Bosporos' defensive system. The garrison's command element left the city. Their large houses in the central city's quarters began to be used by the inhabitants who remained here, at their own risk, during the restless period of the Gothic campaigns (Gajdukevic V.F., 1958, p. 73). After AD 267, when Barbarian pressure suddenly grew on the borders of the Bosporan state, the last inhabitants of Iluraton did not fight for their city but abandoned it hastily.

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