Tomis, the oldest living city in Romania

Constanţa (historical names: Tomis, Greek: Κωνστάντια or Konstantia, Turkish: Köstence, Bulgarian: Кюстенджа) is the oldest living city in Romania, founded around 600 BC. The city is located on the Black Sea coast. A number of inscriptions found in the town and its vicinity show that Constanţa lies where once Tomis stood. Tomis (also called Tomi) was a Greek colony in the province of Scythia Minor on the Black Sea's shore, founded around 600 BC for commercial exchanges with the local Getic populations.

According to one myth dating from Antiquity, found in the Bibliotheca, it was founded by Aeetes: "When Aeetes discovered the daring deeds done by Medea, he started off in pursuit of the ship; but when she saw him near, Medea murdered her brother and cutting him limb from limb threw the pieces into the deep. Gathering the child's limbs, Aeetes fell behind in the pursuit; wherefore he turned back, and, having buried the rescued limbs of his child, he called the place Tomi".

Another legend is recorded by Jordanes (after Cassiodorus), who ascribes the foundation of the city to a Getae queen (The origin and deeds of the Goths): "After achieving this victory (against Cyrus the Great) and winning so much booty from her enemies, Queen Tomyris crossed over into that part of Moesia which is now called Lesser Scythia - a name borrowed from Great Scythia -, and built on the Moesian shore of the Black Sea the city of Tomi, named after herself".

In 29 BC the Romans captured the region from the Odryses, and annexed it as far as the Danube, under the name of Limes Scythicus. In AD 8, the Roman poet Ovidius (43 BC-17) was banished here by Augustus and died there eight years later, celebrating the town of Tomis in his poems. A statue of Ovidius stands in the Ovidius Square (Piaţa Ovidiu) of Constanţa, in front of the History Museum (the former City Hall).

The city was afterwards included in the Province of Moesia, and, from the time of Diocletian, in Scythia Minor, of which it was the metropolis. After the split of the Roman Empire, Tomis fell under the rule of Byzantine Empire. During Mauritius's Balkan campaigns, Tomis was besieged by the Avars in the winter of 597/598. Tomis was later renamed to Constantiana in honour of Constantia, the half-sister of Constantine the Great (274-337). The earliest known usage of this name was "Κωνστάντια" ("Constantia") in 950. The city lay at the seaward end of the Great Wall of Trajan, and has evidently been surrounded by fortifications of its own.

Vestiges of the old civilizations is found today almost everywhere in the city. In Constanţa one can see today the ruins of the Roman wall which closed the North-western part of the fortress and the ruins of the gates from West and North, on which was the exit from the fortress. The Roman edifice, the most precious architectural complex discovered, is from 3-4 centuries; the floor of this edifice with thick and high walls is formed by colored mosaic pieces, the drawing representing geometrical and floral figures. Considering the artistical conceptions and its dimensions, the mosaic from Constanta is one of the first of the kind in the world. It seams that the building served for trade, being also a place for delivery and deposit (at the middle and underground levels were storehouses for goods and a little market place). Many vestiges of the Tomis fortress are found in the city museum, among them being some special pieces like: the marble statue of the Godess Fortuna, the city protectress, with Pontos, the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) God.


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