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Current Name
Ancient Name
Medieval Name
History of the name

Plinius the Elder, informs us about an early name of this Heraclean colony - Cerbatis (Nat. Hist., 11(18), 44). An inscription discovered at Dionysopolis (IGB V 5011) states that the southern confines of the Callatian territory, were marked by Καρβατις, presumably a river situated South of Callatis. Therefore the name is epigraphically attested as a hydronym, not as a toponym. As most of the ancient Greek cities Callatis had also had an etymology related by Stephan of Byzance to the greek word κάλαθος. This situation must be regarded as an incidental word resemblance.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Administrative subdivision
Constanţa County
on the western side of the Black Sea, coordinates: 43°49′ N; 28°35′ E
Foudation Date
6th century BC
Current condition
At present, Mangalia is a flourishing city-port on the western coast of the Black Sea, 44 km south from Constanta.

Pseudo-Skymnos  informs us that the Greek colony was set up by the Herakleans, following the indications of an oracle (most probably the one at Delphi, as several other inscriptions suggest), during Amynthas’ rule over Makedonia. Hence the question if it happened during the reign of Amynthas I (second half of the 6th century BC) or Amynthas III (first part of the 4th century BC). Several other literary sources, as well as epigraphic, historical and archaeological information point towards the first presumption, placing the foundation of Callatis in the second half of the 6th century BC.
From its very beginning Callatis developed as a typical Dorian colony. The first two years in its existence are very less known. Beginning with the Hellenistic period Callatis appears as a having a well-organized rural territory, which neighbored the Tomis territory towards north and the Dionysopolis territory towards south (after Bizone, situated between the two city-ports, ceased to exist due to a powerful earthquake). As agriculture was one of the main activities, the χώρα of Callatis, organized and systematized during the Hellenistic period, was protected, especially towards west, by fortified settlements (such φρούρια were recorded at Albești, Coroana, Hagieni etc., and one of them, Albești, is being systematically excavated since 1974).
Situated under the Makedonian domination, Callatis was the head of an unsuccessful rebellion started by the west-pontic colonies in 313 BC, against the Makedonian rulers. Afterwards, in 260 BC, Callatis tried to gain control over Tomis, by attracting Histria in an alliance against Byzantion. Callatis was defeated and the immediate consequences of this war produced the temporary downfall of this great city, until the 2nd century when it appears again as a prosperous city-port. Following this period Callatis is mentioned as part of king Mithridates VI Eupator’s alliance against the Roman Empire. Callatis benefited of a foedus with Rome. Along with Tomis and Histria, Callatis rises against the abuses of Caius Antonius Hybrida, governor of Makedonia province. The political instability created allows king Burebista to attack and conquer these territories. The Roman rule is restored at the end of the 1st century BC, by Marcus Licinius Crassus, proconsul of Makedonia.
Under Diocletian and Constantine a rich building activity started in Callatis as well. And as in the case of Tomis and partly Histria the early roman strata were leveled in order to allow newer structures to be raised.
The inscription written on a fragmentary architrave, τοῦ ϕιλωκτίστου, along with other sculptural monuments (especially capitals) discovered at Callatis show that during the second half of the 5th century and the first decades of the 6th century AD (under emperor Anastasius) a flourishing building activity was carried on in here.
Repeated attacks on the province, which were more and more devastating, led to the decay of urban life, the abandonment of Dobroudjan Pontic cities. This phenomenon increases in intensity after year 614/615 asa consequence of the damage done by the Avars and Slaves. Callatis undergoes the same process of decay and abandonment. During the 7th century there are a few discoveries that prove a dwelling in the city; anyhow it is not urban. In year 680 the Bulgarian transition in the Byzantine Empire is followed by a lack of news until 9th and 10th centuries.
Late 10th century brings back Byzantium in the area and with it the urban civilization. The city is being reborn, most likely as a maritime anchorage point and small commercial place.
Discoveries made on its territory (coins, Byzantine and imported pottery and others) prove the existence of such an anchorage point. The settlement was located on the important trade route “the road from the Varangians to the Greeks”, which connected the Baltic Sea to Constantinopole.
From the 13th century and until the 15th century the port settlement here is known in Italian navigation maps as Pangalia, Pangalla, Pancalia.
It is an important point in the network of Genovese trade places from the Pontic basin together with the other centers on the western shore of the Black Sea.
The name Mangalia (Mankalia) appears in an account from late 16th century. After the integration of Dobroudja in the Ottoman Empire, Mangalia becomes an Ottoman maritime scaffold and the residence of an administrative unit (kaza). There is also the oldest Ottoman monument of Romanian territory, Esmahan Sultan Mosque built by the daughter of Sultan Selim II (1575) and an old Muslim cemetery.
We find the most detailed description of the city at Evliia Celebi, traveler through Dobroudja in the middle of the 17th century: big port, where ships are loaded with grain to Istanbul. It had many buildings, 7 schools, inns for travelers, warehouses for goods.Other travelers refer to the city as a stopover point on the western shore of the Black Sea.
Aubry de la Montraye, traveler in the early 18th century, thought that Mangalia was at that time a village inhabited by Romanians and Bulgarians.
In 19th century Mangalia is a rural settlement, destroyed by the Russian-Turkish wars. In 1877 the population was estimated at 1600 inhabitants.
The 1930 census notified the population number at about 2800, but the settlement became a tourist center known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere with a Levantine air.
Nowadays the city has around 40000 inhabitants, Romanians, Turks and Tatars. Greek population, as much as it was, left the city in the 60’s to Greece. The economy is based on shipyard and leisure and treatment tourism.


Only few of the ancient ruins have been discovered so far, because of the fact that Callatis is overlapped by a large modern city, Mangalia. Therefore the archaeological investigation of the old city is only possible when foundations for new buildings are being dug on empty spaces. This is how parts of the ancient fortification were brought to light, and are now preserved in open areas or protected by modern buildings.
A 5th century basilica, approximately rectangular, provided with atrium, baptisterium and richly decorated was discovered. Since several restoration works have been carried in the 6th century, different construction techniques can be noted in its walls. Upon discovery it was considered as belonging to the Syrian basilica type.
Different housing areas have been discovered, as well as paved areas belonging either to open public areas or to the Callatian street network. A 5th-6th centuries AD building provided with a basement with central pillar, where at least four dolia were discovered was discovered on one side of the main city street. In the southern part of the city an opus mixtum thermae complex was also discovered. Parts of the drainage system as well as the city’s water sources, aqueducts and several public wells have been discovered. The water for the inhabitants of the city was brought via canalis structilis or tubuli aqueducts from the northern slopes of nowadays Mangalia Lake, as well as from two different other sources situate about 8 km north from the city.
The Roman-Byzantine necropolis was partly researched. It was situated relatively far from the late city’s walls, probablie due to the fact that the extra muros suburbs continued to exist until the last phase of the city. The most interesting discovery was a hypogeum structure, provided with dromos and vaulted funerary chamber. Two Christian inscriptions, as well as Christian symbols were scratched on its walls.


None of the harbor installations is now visible . In the 1970’s a team of military divers undertook several underwater prospections on the whole length of the Romanian coast. At Mangalia (Callatis) they were able to register some of the most interesting situations. The ancient moles were still well preserved under water. They were able to identify 3 moles that protected a large bay and the entrance in the estuary of a river situated close to the city (the river no longer exists and its estuary morphed to what we today call Mangalia Lake). Between these 3 dams and the shore 2 more moles were identified. There is another opinion that interprets these last 2 discoveries as harbor quays, since in antiquity the surface of the city used to be much larger towards the sea.
There are two main views among scholars when speaking about the harbor of Callatis. The first one, based on Arrian’s expression ὅρμος ναυσίν, when referring to Callatis in Periplus Ponti Euxini, considers that the term ὅρμος refers to the second harbor of Callatis. Therefore, on this basis, a two harbor model is suggested for Callatis: the one situated in front of the city, protected by large dams because of its opening towards north, and a second one situated at the mouth of the nearby river, which opened towards the sea in an estuary. The archaeological traces found on each side of the estuary, towards the sea, seem to be part of a protection/defensive system for this second harbor, which was assimilated with the ὅρμος mentioned in Arrian’s work. The second view considers only one harbor at Callatis, provided with two entrances.
Unfortunately, none of the harbor installations is nowadays visible. Most of them are either underwater, or have been damaged by the urban development of the modern city of Mangalia. Still, the archaeological researches undertaken in the last century brought to light interesting ancient items. For example, an archaeological report from the end of the 20th century mentions a complex of warehouses, which is no longer visible today. Since it was situated close to the waterline it might have been part of the harbor commercial annex buildings, similar to the warehouses discovered at Tomis in the 1960’s.
In the 18th century the remains of the ancient harbor were still visible. Evlia Celebi mentions the large stone blocks visible under the surface of the water, assigning them to what once used to be the large, ancient port of Callatis.


During the Greek and Early Roman times the fortified area is 50 ha large (most of it submerged). Afterwards, the inhabited area decreases significantly. The new Late Roman fortification encloses only 23 ha between its walls. Even though the intra muros area decreased, between 2nd - 4th centuries AD a large extra muros area was inhabited. These suburbs were also protected by a vallum – fossa defensive system.
Several parts of the roman fortification walls have been revealed and can now be seen in different parts of the modern city: close to the city stadium or preserved in the basement of hotel President. The Roman-Byzantine city walls were probably built in the 3rd century AD, as part of emperor Gallienus plan to improve the fortifications situated on the cost of Scythia Minor. The city walls enclosed a trapezoidal perimeter, oriented with the longer side towards the sea. All the towers discovered so far are rectangular and double the 2 m thick wall at equal or random distances. On the western side of the fortification a secondary entrance was discovered. Another entrance was situated on the southern side.

Medieval Sites

Cultural Complex “Callatis”, Şoseaua Constanţei, nr. 7-8, Mangalia, 905500; Tel./fax. 0241755580
The Roman-Byzantine quarter preserved under Hotel President – Teilor Street, no. 6, Mangalia 905500
Esmahan Sultan Mosque, Oituz street, Mangalia

Textual Sources

Scylax of Caryanda, Periplous, 67.
Strabon, Geografia, VII, 6, 1.
Plinius the Elder, Naturalis Historia, IV, 11 (18), 44; VI, 33 (39), 218.
Arrian, Anabasis Alexandrou, 24, 2.
Rufius Festus, Breviarium rerum gestarum populi romani, IX.
Amianus Marcellinus, Rerum gestarum libri XXXI, XXVII, 4, 12.
Procopius of Caesareea, De Aedificiis, IV, 11,20.
Ravennas Anonymus, Cosmographia, IV, 6, 47.
Constantinus Prophyrogenitus, De thematibus, 47, 1, 58-60.


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Balard M., La Romanie gènoise ( XII- debut du XV siècle), I, II, Rome, 1978.
Balard M., Notes sur les Ports du Bas-Danube au XIV siècle, SOF 38 (1979), p.1-12.
Baraschi S., Chera C., Note de topografie medievală dobrogeană, SCIVA 32(1981), 2, p. 253-260.
Baraschi S., Sur la topographie Ponto- danubienne au Moyen Âge. II Grasseto = Grosea, Banbola, Zanavarda, RRH 29 (1990), 1-2, p.121-135.
Baraschi, Silvia, Despre civilizaţia urbană în secolele XI-XIV, SCIVA, 42, 1991, 3-4, p.133-152.
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Barnea, I., Contributions to Dobrudja History under Anastasius I, Dacia NS 4 (1960), 363-374.
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Barnea, I., Les villes de la Scythie Minor au cours de V-e-VI-e siècles, BAIESEE, 10, 1972, 2, p. 143-177.
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Maxim, M., Le régime juridique des chrétiens dans les ports romains sous l’ administration ottomane (XVIe-XVII-e siécles), AUB, 29, 1980, p.85-89.
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Papacostea, Ş., La Mer Noire du monopole Byzantine àla domination des Latins aux détroits, RRH, 27, 1988, 1-2, p.49-71.
Petre, A., Byzance et Scythia Mineure au VII-e siècle, RESEE, 19, 1981,3, p.555-568.
Pistario G., Genova e i genovesis nel Mar Nero ( sec.XII-XV), Bulgaria Pontica II, 1988, 27-85.
Popescu, Em., Une liste des cités greques du VI siecle de notre ere, ACIESEE-2, T.2, Atena, 1970, p.323-332.
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Visual Material

1. Part of the Roman-Byzatine city walls
2. The so-called "Syrian" basilica

Writer / Date
Gabriel Custurea, Irina Nastasi
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