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Current Name
Ancient Name
Apsaros/Apsarus, Apsarunt
Medieval Name
Apsaros/Apsarus, Apsarunt, Apsarea, Acampsis (Middle Ages) Gonio (late Middle Ages).
History of the name

The name is connected to the Myth of the Argonauts. According to Roman and Byzantine sources (Arrian, Procopius of Caesarea), the town was once called Absyrtus after the name of the brother of Medea, who was killed by Jason and was buried at this place. Apsaros is derivative of Absyrtus corrupted by neighbouring barbarians.
In the 10th and 11th centuries, Acampsis, the Greek name of the River Chorokhi, was used for the city of Apsaros as well.
From the 14th century, the town was known as Gonio.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Administrative subdivision
Since 2011 – district within administrative borders of the city of Batumi, Adjara Autonomous Republic; before 2011 - Gonio village, Khelvachauri Municipality.
Gonio-Apsaros fortress is located on the southeastern shore of the Black Sea, on the left bank of the Chorokhi River, 12 km south of Batumi downtown. Distance from Tbilisi: 380 km, from the Georgian-Turkish border: 4 km.
Foudation Date
1st -2nd centuries AD
Current condition
Gonio has about 2800 residents. It is a popular seaside resort with hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, etc. It lies on the European route E70. Since 2009, Gonio-Apsaros fortress hosts the classical music festival "Night Serenades" every summer.

Located on an important military and trade route connecting Anatolia with Western Georgia (Lazica), Armenia, and Persia, Apsaros had a special strategic significance for the Roman (later Byzantine) Empire.
Archaeological excavations inside and around the Gonio-Apsaros fortress revealed several cultural layers, the earliest of which dates back to the first millennium BC. However, Apsaros gained particular importance from 1st-2nd AD, when it became a part of a chain of military footholds established by Romans along their eastern frontier. The earliest references to Apsaros go back to 1st and 2nd centuries AD. According to Plinius, it was a functioning fort already in the 70s AD. Arrian who travelled along the Black Sea coast in 134 AD mentioned five Roman cohorts (speira) stationed at Apsaros. Existence of Roman garrison in Apsaros is also confirmed by other evidence such as the 113-117 AD inscription of Abella, Italy, and papyrus (2 c. AD, Fayum, Egypt) written by a veteran of Apsaros. Apsaros and even its sketch appears on the map of the 4th century Roman geographer Castorius.
Archeological discoveries on the site that include remains of bathhouses, barracks, praetorium, water cistern, system of sewerage and water supply, red glaze pottery, oil-lamps and louteria (1th and 2th cc. AD), gems (2th and 3th cc. AD), rich collection of coins of Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Septimius Severus, and Tranquilin, collection of golden objects, statue and jewelry (found near the fortress) testify for the fact that Apsaros was a prosperous city in the Roman period. Sources also mention a theatre and a hippodrome in ancient Apsaros.
According to the Georgian Orthodox Church tradition, the grave of St Matthias (the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot) is located in Gonio. The source for this tradition is Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos, a 14th-century Byzantine historian who says St Matthias was stoned to death in Colchis. However, he mentions neither Apsaros nor Gonio in this context.
By the 4th century, Apsaros lost its former importance and became a military camp. Obviously, it did not have any significant role during the Byzantine-Iranian wars (541-562). Procopius of Caesarea described Apsaros as a once flourishing but almost abandoned city. However, several objects of this time were found inside the fortress including a coin of Justinian I. According to Agathias Scholasticus, murderers of the king of Lazica Gubazes II were confined in the Apsarunt prison in 555.
Apparently, the revival of Apsaros began from the late 6th century. 7th and 8th century Byzantine sources (Paschale Chronicle, Epiphanius of Constantinople) mention Apsaros and its military camp (παρεμβολή). The 8th century Georgian writer Ioane Sabanisdze refers to the town as Apsarea and says that it was under the Byzantine rule. 
The toponym Gonio that got into use from the 14th century might derive from the name of the Italian city of Genoa, as the Genoese merchants were actively engaged in trade in the region. The 14th century chronicle of Michael Panaretos suggests that at that time Gonio was a part of the Empire of Trebizond.
In 1547, Gonio was captured by Ottomans and remained under their rule for more than three centuries.  Soon after that they repaired the fortification and built several new buildings. The Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi who visited Gonio around 1640 wrote that the Ottoman garrison of Gonio consisted of 500 soldiers.
Gonio is drawn on the 14th -17th centuries European maps, atlases and portolan charts: the Catalan Atlas (1375), Luxoro Atlas (early 15th c.), maps of Gratiosus Benincasa (1461-1480), Giacomo Gastaldi (1561), David de Wilhelm (published by Willem Janszoon Blaeu in 1635), Battista Agnese (1534-1556), etc. Europeans refered to the town as Gonea, Gonca, or Genca. The 17th century Italian missionary Pietro Della Valle called it "La cita di Gogni". The other missionary Cristoforo de Castelli made sketches of the fortress in 1630s.
In the 18th century, Gonio became a small rural settlement. In 1878, under the Treaty of San-Stefano Gonio together with whole region of Adjara was incorporated into the Russian Empire. From 1921, Gonio is the part of Adjara Autonomous Republic of Georgia.


The earliest archaeological evidence in Gonio dates to the first millennium BC. Main cultural layers are those of the Roman, Early Medieval and Late Medieval periods.
Gonio-Apsaros fortress stands on the flatland near seaside. It was well protected by the mountains, river and sea. In addition the fortress was defended by its massive stonewalls and towers. The fortification that was originally built by Romans has a slightly elongated rectangular plan, with a length of 222 m and a width of 195 m covering 4.75 hectares. The total length of the walls’ outside perimeter is 900 m and the height of the walls is 5 m. Fortification walls are reinforced with 18 towers. Four corner towers are larger than others reaching 7 m in height. The towers have stone stairs inside the fort. The main entrance with arched gate is in western wall. Originally, fortification had 22 towers and 4 gates. The main facade and entrance are oriented to the sea.
Romans built the fortress using large hewn blocks. At present, this masonry can be seen in the lower portions of the walls, towers, and entrance gates.
Archaeological excavations revealed bathhouses, barracks, praetorium, water cistern, system of sewerage and water supply of the Roman period. Apparently, the majority of structures inside the enclosure were built of timber on stone foundations. According to Procopius of Caesarea, nothing but foundations remained of buildings in Apsaros in the 6th century.
Byzantine reconstruction of the fortress should be dated to the late 6th or 7th centuries. They partly rebuilt walls using cobblestone and brick. Arched entrances of towers and gates are of the same period. Remains of early Medieval buildings have been excavated inside the fortress. Byzantine structures were often built over the foundations of Roman buildings (for instance, of the Roman praetorium). The composite bases, imported and local pottery, glassware, and a copper coin of Justinian I belong to the same period.
Archeological investigations in Apsaros-Gonio did not reveal cultural layers of 8th-12th centuries while late Medieval layers are presented by diverse materials. In the 14th or 15th century, a new water supply system was made as well.
During the Ottomans rule Gonio-Apsaros underwent fundamental reconstruction. Cultural layers of 16th -17th centuries are visible all over the site. In 16th century the upper parts of original fortification walls had been restored. The merlons of the walls belong to the same period.
The major restorations of the fortress were undertaken by Ottomans in the 16th and 17th centuries. They added merlons above the wall and walled up three gates of the fortress, arranged a new water-supply system and stone-paved streets, constructed domed Oriental bath (built on the site of the Roman baths), stone mosque, and inner fortification in southwestern part of the original fortress. Archeological excavations revealed remains of Ottoman dwellings, glazed pottery and faience, weapon, coins etc.
Archeological exploration of the Apsaros-Gonio fort and adjacent area started in 1960s and continues until now. At present Gonio-Apsaros archeological expedition conducts research of the site. From 1994, the site functions as Gonio-Apsaros museum-reserve.   


There are no remains of ancient or Medieval harbour in the surroundings of Apsaros-Gonio fortress. However, the location and history of the city and fortress as well as archeological findings suggest that there was a harbour in the Middle Ages. In the Ottoman period, Gonio had a small harbour able to receive feluccas sailing along the coast of the Black Sea.
Gonio is drawn on the portolan chart (navigational map) of Battista Agnese (1534-1556)
It should be taken into consideration that the environment of the fortress has been much changed during centuries. Even in the late Middle Ages, the sea was closer to the fortress than it is today. The 17th century French traveller Jean Chardin described it as standing by the sea.
At present, there is no harbour in Gonio.


The fortress in Apsaros was constructed in the Roman period. It consisted of a circuit wall of an oblong rectangular plan and of various structures inside the enclosure. The wall was built of large hewn blocks. At present, this masonry can be seen in the lower portions of the walls, towers, and entrance gates.
Byzantine reconstruction of the fortress should be dated to the late 6th or 7th centuries. They partly rebuilt walls using cobblestone and brick. Apparently, some minor restoration works were carried out in the following centuries as well.
The major restorations of the fortress were undertaken by Ottomans in the 16th and 17th centuries. They added merlons above the wall and walled up three gates of the fortress. Building layers of the early Medieval and Ottoman periods are visible today all over the fortification.
In general, the fortress is preserved in good condition, though some parts of walls have been damaged. Buildings inside the fortification had been ruined and their remains were revealed during archaeological excavations. At present the site is well-protected.

Medieval Sites

Gonio-Apsaros fortresses, Gonio-Apsaros Museum-Reserve.
Artefacts from Apsaros-Gonio are kept in Georgian National Museum, Batumi Archaeological Museum, and Batumi Chariton Akhvlediani State Museum.

Textual Sources

Plinius, NH. 6, 12
Arrian, PPE, 7
Procopius of Caesarea, BG. VIII, 2
Agathias Scholasticus, III, 14
Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnika
Chronicon Paschale
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Adm. Imp., 46
Ioane Sabanisdze, The Martyrdom of Saint Abo, in: Dzveli kartuli agiograpiuli literaturis dzeglebi, ed. by I. Abuladze, Vol. 1, Tbilisi, 1963 (in Georgian)
Kartlis Tskhovreba, ed. by S. Kaukhchishvili, Vol. IV, Tbilisi, 1974 (in Georgian)


S. Kaukhchishvili, Georgica, II, 1965, Georgica, III, 52, Georgica, IV, 1957 (in Georgian).
O. Lordkipanidzé, T. Mikéladzé, D. Khakhutaisvili,  Le tresor de Gonio, Tbilisi, 1980.
A.Geyer (ed.), Neue Forschungen in Apsaros (2000-2002), Tbilisi, 2003.
Gonio-Apsaros, Collected Articles, Batumi, vol. 1, vol. 2, 2002, vol. 3, 2003, vol. 4 and 5, 2004, vol. 6, 2005, vol. 7, 8, and 9, 2009.
M. Mamuladze, A. Kakhidze, E. Kakhidze, Gonio-Apsarus, Tbilisi, 2007 (Georgian and English).
E. Kakhidze, A Roman Fort in Southwestern Georgia,
For Atlas and maps: K.  Kretschmer, Die italienischen Portolane des Mittelalters, Hildesheim 1962 (Repr.), p. 647.
Portulan-Atlas München, Universitätbibliothek, Cim. 18 fol 11v/12r


Tourist Information

Visual Material

1. Apsaros-Gonio. Plan of the fortress.
2. Apsaros-Gonio. General view of the fortress.
3. Apsaros-Gonio. Fortress from outside. Southern part of the eastern wall.
4. Apsaros-Gonio. Fortress from outside. Northern part of the eastern wall.
5. Apsaros-Gonio. General view of the fortress inside.
6. Apsaros-Gonio. Foundations of buildings inside the fortress.
7. Apsaros-Gonio. Fortress wall.
8. Apsaros-Gonio. Late Byzantine and Ottoman water pipelines.

Writer / Date
K. Mikeladze, D. Khoshtaria. June 7, 2013
This website has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of European Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine monuments and can in no way reflect the views of the European Union