The ancient Dobrogea

In Ancient Times, the first to colonise were the Greeks. Next came the Romans, who conquered and annexed it to the Empire by the name of Scitia Minor. After the Roman Legions left Dacia, the province remained a northern outpost of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and fell into decay. Eleventh-century documents speak of it as Paristrion. Between 1186 and the 14th century it was part of the Bulgarian Empire. In the 14th century, the Empire crumbled and this Principality, led by Dobrotich (from whom its name is derived), was temporarily annexed by the Romanian Principality of Walachia. For five centuries Dobrogea stood under the Ottoman Turks who changed the old place names eg. Callatis became Mangalia and Tomis, Kiustenge etc. On October 8/20, 1878 the province of Dobrogea was reunited with Romania.

Although proofs of ancient and continous inhabitation from the Paleolithic (at Adam and La Izvor), the Neolithic (at Hamangia and Gumelnita) and the Bronze Age (Tracian population) do exist, the population began growing and increasing its pressure on the environment only in the Antiquity, after Milesian and Dorian Greeks settled at Tomis and Callatis, after the Romans conquered Dobrogea turning it into a Roman province (46BC) and especially after the Byzantine occupation that lasted up to the 10th century. The present geographical space between the Danube and the Black Sea is known as the Dobrogea Plateau, a name circulated in the 20th century due mainly to Bratescu's work, Die Dobrudgea (1909).

Studying Dobrogea’s history we are thinking about the equlibrium between heritage and testimony, about the interactions between local history and European history in different fields, superposition in time and space of events.
Situated in an important commercial point, Dobrogea gathered the two main directions of trade during history:
- The first, connecting the sea (cross sailed by the ships of all nations - from the Greeks of Herodotus to the Austro- Hungarians and to the sailors of Pie Monte) to the interior of a continent that produces and sales row materials (corn, wheat, leather).
- The second, connecting the bottom of the far European continent (Flanders, Bohemia, Silesia) to Byzantine provinces and Arian territories (India, Syria).

The proofs of the history

In the heart of Dobrogea, at Baia (Hamangia), diggings brought forth an exceptional archeological inventory, the base of the Hamangia Neolithic Material Culture (4th-2nd millennia BC), with evidences all over the region (Gura Dobrogei, Cernavoda, Agigea etc.); in the northern part of the zone, at Tulcea, there was a Halstatt settlement where iron working was known (11th-7th centuries BC); on the bank of the ancient gulf Babadag, at Enisala, there lived the Thraco-Getae in the 9th-7th centuries BC; from the princely tumulus at Agighiol, excavators dug out objects of gilded silver (5th century BC); the fortifications of Aegyssus (Tulcea), Troesmis (Turcoaia), Argamum (Jurilovca), Axiopolis (Cernavoda), Histria - the oldest town in the country's territory; museum - Tomis (Constanta), Callatis (Mangalia) are only a few of the foundations by the Greek colonists come from Milet (7th-6th centuries BC), intent to keep relations with the local Thraco-Getae. The Romans, who pushed them aside (1st century BC - 4th century AD), trying to protect their empire at the northern frontier, created there one of the most grandiose constructions of the ancient world – Limes Scythicus, a chain of fortresses on the Danube banks, often on the sites of earlier structures, a genuine "Chinese Wall" of the Balkans, that stood until around the year 600. Since the 2nd-3rd centuries, were added the fortifications of Altina (Oltina), Sacidava (Dunareni), Capidava, Carsium (Harsova), Civs (Garliciu), Beroe (Piatra-Frecatei), Arubium (Macin), Dinogetia (Garvan), Noviodunum (Isaccea). we should also record here, as singular in the epoch the settlement of Adamclisi, which was equally a Roman stronghold, part of the Limes (2nd century AD), and the site where Trophaeum Traiani (106 AD) was built, the most impressive triumphal memorial built in Roman provinces (40 meters high, 54 metopae; museum). Followed the years when Dobrogea embraced the Christian faith promoted by Saint Andrew; and the first victims too, were recorded (at Niculitel, the Martyricon of of the 4th century was restored).
Upon Roman domination, at Dinogetia (Garvan) appeared after the year 968 the elements "...for the oldest medieval town archeologically documented in Romania’s territory", whereas at Basarabi, still insufficiently identified local people were carving in chalk a compound singular in the country: churches, living rooms, funerary chambers, corridors, galleries with drawings and inscriptions. In the 10th-13th centuries, Genoese sailors used the ports of Dobrogea, they were building fortifications (Enisala), while autochthonous political-administrative formations were run by Balica, by Dobrotici (hence, probably also the name of Dobrogea), and after 1390 by Mircea the Old, Prince of Wallachia "...and master of either parts all over the Danube and down to the big Sea and the city of Darstor". A quite particular presence is the fortification at Pacuiul lui Soare, on a Danube isle: a naval base after 970, overlapped by settlements of the 9th-14-th centuries. Selgiucide Turks, then Ottomans appeared in Dobrogea around 1260 and continued to coexist with the Romanians as well as with the Tartars and Lipovans colonized in the Dobrogean space along the years. The museum in the town of Babadag is the repository of numerous evidences of the medieval oriental culture.

Niculitel Martyricon
The Pale-Christian monument in Niculitel is placed in the north-eastern part of the locality, at the foot of the hill Piatra Rosie, which borders the village at the eastern side. Within this area vestiges of villae rusticae were discovered and a tomb of incineration of Roman epoch of 2nd century AD was investigated
The monument was discovered due to torrential rains during the spring of 1971 which brought about the partial unveiling of the crypt vault. placed in a slanting area, in a dwelt and cross-roads zone, the monument needed a thorough research which developed in successive phases (1971, 1975, 1985, 1994).
We are faced at Niculitel with an architectonic ensemble built within an older dwelling area. It consists of a Pale-Christian basilica placed above some martyr tombs.
The basilica belongs to a types of monuments found in the Balkan-Danubian region during the 4th-5th centuries AD. It was built at the end of the 4th century during the rules of the emperors Valens-Valentinian the 2nd, according to a Christian Roman layout, with a protruding semicircular apses, wide in comparison with its side, with rectangular nave divided in three by independent pillars which supported within the vertical space of the building a wooden two-sided roof, covered with burnt-earthen shingle. The building had no narthex, but it had pilasters at the southern edges of the side naves which supported transversal archways and divided the interior space of these naves, at both sides of the entrance of the central nave. This entrance was wide placed on the axis of the apses.
At the beginning of the 5th century, during the rule of the emperor Theodosius the 2nd. the basilica is strongly modified, both in its horizontal layout and the vertical one. In the zone of the apses an open narthex was endorsed. Probably there also was a strium (a small interior courtyard from where one could pass through the narthex to the interior of the basilica). It is divided by continuous stylobates (basements which could support high columns). The presbyterium (sanctuary which hid the martyr remains and the same time the place where the mass was officiated) was surrounded by a transversal wall. As for the vertical plan, there was the central nave with a two sided roof. Above the side naves there was a "cathedral" roof.
In the central zone of the apses, under the pavement of the altar, there was an entirely buried monumental martyr crypt. The tiered structure of the crypt allowed to have here two groups of martyrs. A first group of four martyrs was placed at the upper part of the martyricon. Other two were found at the lower part. The four martyrs were put in a collective coffin and in anatomical connection, emphasizing a primary burial. Their quality of Christian martyrs and their names (Zoticos, Attalos, Camasis and Philippos) are written on the wet plaster of the crypt walls. They are known in the Martyr's Chronicles as being martyred at Noviodunum (Isaccea). The martyrdom was during the second half of the 4th century AD. The osteological remains discovered in the "basement" of the martyricon proceed from an older martyr tomb, dismantled when the monumental crypt was built. Its rests (that is the floor made of bricks) are found near the crypt. Its orientation, as well as the basilica's one, was along the axis of the first martyr's tomb. The size of the sanctuary depended of the fact that it had to include the two martyr tombs under its basement. The name and the age of the two martyrs still are obscure. The only mention is found on the inscription which blocked the access to the basement: "Here and there (is) the blood of the martyrs.
The Niculitel Martyricon is a unique monument in Europe. The whole building is designed according to the principle of the intersection of two semi cylinders (vooute d'arete), having as result a hemispherical vault with interior pendants which bound walls with rounded archways. The Niculitel Martyrion having a cube shape, with acrotermius and hemispherical vault, represents the first transposition of the architectural principles which made up the background of the Greek-Roman mausoleums into the Pale-Christian architecture. The elements revealed by the planimetry of the basilica space certify that the crypt and the basilica were built according to the Byzantine foot (0.32 m).
The ensemble of Niculitel is included in a protecting building having a planimetry which harmonizes with the shape of the paleo-Christian tomb. Its elegance and the uncrowned interior space create a pleasant atmosphere. The side gallery designed for the visitors ensures a permanent visual contact with the monument. The permanent exhibition of paleo-Christian objects, color photos and slides completes the visit of the whole paleo-Christian ensemble.

Trophaeum Traiani Adamclisi
The monument is the proof of one of the most interesting chapters of the Romanian history. It has been ordered by Emperor Traian and raised between 106-109 A.D., to celebrate the victory of the Romans against the Dacians, further to a frightful battle.
Restored in the70-ies, the monument is very similar to Traian Column in Rome, the historians presume they both were built by the same architect – Apolodor from Damascus.
The monument consists in a 30 m high cylindrical nine-staired pedestal, revealing aspects from Roman-Dacian battlefield ,as well as the Roman military life. The pedestal sustains a double ranged hexagonal base, with two components : the sculpture adorned trunk and the statue presenting a Roman soldier's suit, with armour, coat of mail and helmet. At the base of the pedestal, three Dacian prisoners are compelled to look at the trophy, pointing out, once again, the Romans' victory, always thirsty for power, led by the god of war, Mars “the Avenger”, the monument' s addressee ..
Considered as “the stone chronic” of the Romanian people 's identity, the Adamclisi monument stands as one of the most important proof of romanian history, long-lasting across the centuries. The words in the funerary altar are self-evident : “In the memory of the brave men who have struggled for their country, in the war agains the Dacians, and passed away.”
Adamclisi village houses the Museum of the Monument, where a visitor can admire a lot of archeological objects discovered in time. In this area , the visitor can admire the ruins of Tropaeum Traiani Fortress, too, built in the same period as the monument. The newly born “municipium”, knew a huge development until 170 A.D. , when, was destroyed further to the repeated attacks of the migratory peoples During Constantin The Great' s reign , the town was rebuilt and became an important religious center. ,The Christian churches discovered in the area as standing as an obvious evidence. The Avars' attacks from the 6th and 7th centuries have entirely destroyed the fortress..
The archeological works have lately reveled the fortress' s inner wall, offering a complex image to the tourists found of history.

Histria Fortress
The name of Histria derives from the ancient name of the Danube – Istros. Discovered in 1914 by the historian Vasile Parvan, Histria fortress was founded in the 8th century B.C. by the Greek colonists from Millet. The dynamic commercial exchanges, the developed agriculture, as well as the high political activity made of Histria one of the most prosperous ancient towns at the time. The fortress suffered a lot of changes , such as: the Roman conquest , then the rule of the Dacian king, Burebista, and again the Roman conquest, when the town enjoyed a quiet period. The numerous barbarians' attacks, associated with the negative effects of the gulf sending-up process, will finally lead to the fortress's decay and its abandon in the 7th century A.D.
Having discovered the ruins in 1914, a lot of archeological research campaigns revealed Histria' s vestiges, permitting a large part of the fortress be cleared up and fit for visiting.
The large stone-stabled pavements of the fortress leads our steps to Histria's former district ruins ; still visible nowadays are parts of walls, columns, inscriptionated pedestals, traces of the well – known mosaic paved thermae, the limestone ruins of a temple dedicated to Zeus or Afrodite, all remembering of the flourishing and prosperous ancient town.
Not far away from the fortress there is a museum, joining the most important testimonies of the fortress history – Greek amphoras, Latin inscriptions, jewelry, tools and guns since Hellenistic period, then Roman and Roman- Byzantine Age.
The ruins cover a fairly small area, depiste the fact that this was the most important of the ancient Greek settlements along the coast until the seventh century, when the port was smothered in silt and the town abandoned.
Histria is an excelent birdwatching place; 267 species have been recorded of which 94 breed and 12 merely accidentals. The area is a stretch of marshy land, reedbeds and pols between the freshwater Lake Nuntasi and the brackish lagoon of Lake Sinoe - the last one was open to the sea until 1960

Enisala is a village situated 5 miles east of Babadag, and about 1 km from the ruined Heracleea Citadel, which overlooks lake Razim. Along its history, it was a Getic-Thracian settlement, later on the greatest Dacian necropolis in Dobrudja, and further on a Roman military camp. What can be seen today are the ruins of the Byzantine fortress of Heracleea (645-650 A.D.) rebuilt by the Genoese in the 13th century to secure trade at the mouths of the Danube. At some point, it was a Turkish fortification, and in the 14th century it was ruled by Mircea the Old, Prince of Wallachia. It is an important station for the artificial breeding of fish.

Dolosman cape, situated on the ruins of an ancient Greek city, probably Argammum, this is the oldest antic establishment on the Romanian territory, mentioned for the first time by Hecateus de Milet (6-5 century BC.) Placed on the westic shore of Razim Lake, this location is popular also for birdwatching, especially in the winter time, when thousands of Red-Breasted Geese arrive from the Arctic region for wintering.

Babadag town (a name of an oriental origin, meaning "Father of the Mountains").
A Turkish minority are still part of the town's population amounting to 9,000. Art lovers may like to visit the town's art museum, a museum house of oriental character, a mosque dating from the 16th century, which is actually the oldest monument of Moslem architecture in Romania, with a spire of 23 m in height, as well as the Kalaigi drinking fountain (19th century). For those interested in history, there are to be found ruins of a settlement dating back to the Iron Age over which traces of life in La Tene (4th century b.C.) and subsequently of the Roman-Byzantine epoch (6th century A.D.) were superimposed.
Denistepe – The Great Hill – lies north to Babadag (876 feet in elevation), and its name is of oriental origin, i.e. "the hillock of the seas". A legend has it that the Argonauts who had set out in search of the Golden Fleece from Colchis moored their ship here by tying it to the iron ring fixed at the top of nearby rocks. Scientists from Rusia investigated the tale of the Golden Fleece and discovered the method used by the ancient inhabitants of Colchis in order to get gold from the rivers of the Caucasus by means of a ram's hide tanned in a special manner.

The Monasteries from N Dobrogea

Celic Dere
Orthodoxy piety home, Celic Dere Monastery is the heir and the perseverant of Dobrogeans monastic traditions. Their beginning is set in the 4-th up to 7-th centuries chronology, that are certified not only by the renowned Tomis Bishopric, but by the Danubes ones from Axiopolis (Cernavoda), Troesmis (Turcoaia), Noviodunum (Isaccea) and Halmyris (Murighiol).
The archeological findings from Niculitel brought to surface our saints relics, mentioned by the hieronymian martyrs scientist: Zoticos, Attalos, Kamasis and Filippos, being martyred at Noviodunum (Isaccea). Those from Halmyris from May 2001 confirm the information written in Acta sanctorum Julii on the oldest martyrs in Dobrogea: Epictet and Astion, martyred during Diocletian ruling (290) and whose bones are preserved today in Celic Dere Monastery's Church. To the same Roman-Byzantine period (4-th-7-th century) belongs the finding in "Slava Rusa" settlement of what it seems to be the oldest monastic settlement ever known.
Christianity development in dark ages Dobruja is documented by the Celtinia and mainly by the Vicinia Metropolitan Churches activity.
In 1359 the Metropolitan Bishop Iachint was fetched by the Romanian Country ruler Nicolae Alexandru in this last center of Byzantine Orthodoxy with the purpose of establishing the Metropolitan Church of Hungaro-Vlachia.
In the same period is established the clubs-molded church from Niculitel (11-th century), surrounded by fortifications (earth waves) and which is considered by some researchers a monastery settlement. More than that, Niculitel settlement was recorded, not much time ago, under the name of "Niculitel Monastery", and St. Atanasie Church, placed in the center of this settlement has its origins in the 13-th century. Tichilesti and Taita Monasteries, now being no more, pass in the area of spiritual values that compose the document of the monastic life and Romanian Orthodox Christian continuity, even under Ottoman domination.
Against the ups and downs of those gloomy ages with wars, destroying, difficulties from 18-th and 19-th centuries, life continued in the forests' shelter or in the reed thickets immensity.
In this legendary atmosphere, related to ancient times, to faith and hope in the future, the information that we have tell us that at the end of the 18-th century, some monks from Ardeal area, coming from the saint mountain Athos settled in this glade nearby Telita village, not far from the Mocans villages (shepherds transferred from Ardeal, settled in Dobrogea). Here, they built an Hermitage and few cells. An unfortunate fire destroyed the establishment. Soon after, between 1833-1840, the abbots Dositei Crihau, Paisre and Atanasie Lisavenco, with the blessing of Tulcea Greek Metropolitan Church and the approval of the sultan Abdul Medgid, in 1840, succeed in the reconstruction of the new monastic settlement Celic Dere, name given after the place they have settled in. Dere valley, Celic comes from the word cilec=wild strawberries, and have metamorphosed in "Celic" or "Cilic" in the process of language use.
In 1846 they built the first church, under the saint protection of "Holy Virgin fallen asleep" and a chapel of ease under the protection of the Archangels Saints Mihail and Gavriil - that also served as an eating room for the church inhabitants. In that time they have decided that the monastery remain in the custody of the nuns, the monks being transferred near the Saon swamp, where they will establish a new monastic settlement that will bear the name of the place.
Step by step, the diligence of these nuns will lead not only to the economic growth of the monastery, but also at its spiritual advancement. After Dobrogea's unification with the MotherLand, Celic Dere nuns were supported by the Lower Danube Bishopric bishops for the building of new constructions. The big church is protected by "Holly Virgin fallen asleep" and the semi-basement one by "Holly Virgin Spring".
In 1916 the church was built, but it will be finished not before 1932, when, on October 22-nd, they hallowed it.
The bishop Nifon could be considered the second monastery founder because of the cultural and spiritual activity he carried out.
Inside the monastery was established a primary school for adults under 40 years of age, at a workshop school of church painting. They initiated the church choir and a carpet workshop, a national fabrics with a section of artistic embroiders.

Historical monument and a very important monastic settlement in Tomis Archbishopric area, Cocos Monastery is placed in Tulcea County, at a 6 kilometers distance of Niculitel commune, isolated, settled on an older hermitage. It is integrated in Dobrogea's ancient mountains picturesque and wrapped in the fresh everyday scent of the linden tree forests, thus you can almost feel the Holy Trinity protection. In this permanent pilgrimage place, favorable to spiritual meditation, a heaven's place situated on Dobrogean land, under the so-called "Cocosului" (Cock's) Hill -you can sometimes hear at night a wild cock crowing. The monastery was named after this legendary cock.
Christianity grew inside the Romanian people in a spontaneous, natural manner, parallel with establishing his Roman nature. Dobrogea, land trod by the first God's apostle, St. Apostle Andrew, becomes Christianity's Romanian gate. Cocos Monastery inherits monastic customs from the first Christian ages, benefiting from a Tomis Bishop participation in the first ecumenical Synod from 325.
In 1833, three Romanian Neamt Monastery monks named Visarion, Gherontie and Isaia had visited the Athos mountain and now wanted to establish a monastery on the Romanian land between the Danube and the Black Sea, then under Ottoman domination. They get to buy a piece of land near Cock's Hill from a Moslem woman and start building a twigs and adobe praying settlement and shelters.
Tulcea Archbishop, the Greek Bishop Panaret meets Visarion and appoints him abbot. In 1841 this worship place enters Ottoman Empire legal evidence and Visarion, Gherontie and Isaia are acknowledged as the originators of the future Cock's Monastery, Romanian Dobrogea's spiritual center.
In 1853 they establish a stone and brick church next to the twigs one, both surviving until 1910, when they are demolished, impossible to consolidate. On September 1-st, 1911, under the guidance of Toma Dobrescu, architect, they begin the big church construction and finish it in autumn 1913. The Italian painter F. de Biasse will paint the new church in neo-Byzantine style.
Around 1870, they build a belfry of 30 meters height and the western cells are built in Oriental style, having porches and balconies and wrapped in tile. After this restoration they are declared, in 1959, historical monuments.
Without getting too much into Cock's Monastery vast history, we stop for a moment at the Romanian Christianity vault key. With God's will, in 1971, the rain water streams uncovered the stone and brick vault of a martyring tomb (of a martiryon) from the Roman epoch on a street of Niculitel commune, which is an ancient Roman settlement under the custody of Noviodunum Citadel. The tomb they discovered was sheltering the relics of 4 martyrs into Christ named Zotic, Attal, Kamasie and Phillip, pertaining, probably, to the 303-304 A.D. period-the great Diocletian persecution.
The relics were put away into an honorable place in Cock's Monastery church, as a living proof of our forefathers' faith. Today, for almost 2000 years, the Orthodox Christians come to the Cock's Monastery and kowtow before and kiss the 4 saint martyrs' chest, to find soul peace and tranquility.