1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Olbia (Euxine)

OLBIA, the chief Greek settlement in the north-west of the Euxine. It was generally known to the Greeks of Hellas as Borysthenes, though its actual site was on the right bank of the Hypanis (Bug) 4 m. above its junction with the estuary of the Borysthenes river (Dnieper). Eusebius says that it was founded from Miletus c. 650 B.C., a statement which is borne out by the discovery of Milesian pottery of the 7th century. It first appears as enjoying friendly relations with its neighbours the Scythians and standing at the head of trade routes leading far to the north-east (Herodotus iv.). Its wares also penetrated northward. It exchanged the manufactures of Ionia and, from the 5th century, of Attica for the slaves, hides and corn of Scythia. Changes of the native population (see Scythia) interrupted this commerce, and the city was hard put to it to defend itself against the surrounding barbarians. We know of these difficulties and of the democratic constitution of the city from a decree in honour of Protogenes in the 3rd century B.C. (C.I.G. ii. 2058, Inscr. Or. Septent. Pont. Euxin. i. 16). In the following century it fell under the suzerainty of Scilurus, whose name appears on its coins, and when his power was broken by Mithradates VI. the Great, of Pontus, it submitted to the latter. About 50 B.C. it was entirely destroyed by the Getae and lay waste for many years. Ultimately at the wish of, and, to judge by the coins, under the protection of the natives themselves, it was restored, but Dio Chrysostom (Or. xxxvi.), who visited it about A.D. 83, gives a curious picture of its poor state. During the 2nd century A.D. it prospered better with Roman support and was quite flourishing from the time of Septimius Severus, when it was incorporated in Lower Moesia, to 248, when its coins came to an end, probably owing to its sack by the Goths. It was once more restored in some sort and lingered on to an unknown date. Excavations have shown the position of the old Greek walls and of those which enclosed the narrower site of the Roman city, an interesting Hellenistic house, and cemeteries of various dates. The principal cult was that of Achilles Pontarches, to whom the archons made dedications. It has another centre at Leuce (Phidonisi) and at various points in the north Euxine. Secondary was that of Apollo Prostates, the patron of the strategi; but the worship of most of the Hellenic deities is testified to in the inscriptions. The coinage begins with large round copper pieces comparable only to the Roman aes grave and smaller pieces in the shape of dolphins; these both go back into the 6th century B.C. Later the city adopted silver and gold coins of the Aeginetic standard.

See E. H. Minns, Scythians and Greeks (Cambridge, 1909); V. V. Latyshev, Olbia (St Petersburg, 1887, in Russian). For inscriptions, Boeckh, C.I.G. vol. ii.; V. V. Latyshev, Inscr. Orae Septent. Ponti Euxini, vols. i. and iv. For excavations, Reports of B. V. Pharmakovsky in Compte rendu de la Comm. imp. archéolog. (St Petersburg, 1901 sqq.), and Bulletin of the same, Nos. 8, 13, &c., summarized in Archäologischer Anzeiger (1903 sqq.).  (E. H. M.)