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Current Name
Ancient Name
Medieval Name
Ardabda, Kafas, Caffa, Kafa (Kefe)
History of the name

The Greek name of Theodosia (Θεοδοσία) can be translated as ‘given by God’. Under the Alans the settlement was called Ardabda which might have a meant ‘of seven gods’. During the Byzantine period the city was known as Kafas (Καφᾶς). Later the Genoese and the Ottomans transformed this name into respectively Caffa and Kafa (the latter being a Turkish version of the Crimean Tatar Kefe). 

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Autonomous Republic of Crimea
Administrative subdivision
Region of Feodosia
On the shore of the Harbor of Feodosia on the southeastern coast of the Crimean Peninsula, 115 km from Simferopol and nearly 880 km from the capital city of Kyiv (45°02'56'' N 35°22'45'' E).
Foudation Date
6th c BC
Current condition
Modern Feodosiya is an important sea port and a resort city with a population of nearly 70,000 residents (as of the year 2012). It has beaches, mineral springs and mud baths, sanatoria and rest homes. Apart from tourism and maritime transport, its economy rests on agriculture and fisheries, local industries include fishing, brewing and canning.

The city was founded as Theodosia by Greek colonists from Milethus in the 6th century BC. By the middle of the 4th c BC it arguably turned into the second largest city of the Bosporan Kingdom. In the 4th century AD the Huns destroyed the city and for much of the next nine hundred years Theodosia remained a small village known as under the Alanic name of Ardabda. During that time it fell under the jurisdiction of the Khazars, the Byzantine Empire (where it was known as Kafas) and eventually the Mongols who conquered the city in 1230s.
In 1204–1261 and in 1296–1307 the city was in hands of the Republic of Venice, the main rival of Genoa. Eventually, in the late 13th c the Genoese merchants managed to purchase the city from the Golden Horde that ruled the city at the time and established there a flourishing city called Caffa, which virtually monopolized trade in the Black Sea region and served as the main port and administrative centre for the Genoese settlements around the sea. Since 1266, Caffa was governed by a Genoese consul, who since 1316 was in charge of all Genoese colonies on the coast of the Black Sea.
Because the Genoese started intervening in the internal affairs of the the Crimean Khanate, a Turkish vassal, the Ottomans seized the city in 1475 and deported the whole population to Istanbul. The city now renamed to Kefe, became one of the most important ports of the Ottoman Empire on the Black Sea.
Following the annexation of the entire Crimea to Russian Empire in 1783 the city was renamed to Feodosia, a Russian version of its ancient Greek name.


Unfortunately, not many historic buildings in Fepdosia managed to survive throughout the World War II. The Genoese period is represented by remains of a fortress dated to the 14th-15th cc (towers, walls, gates of a citadel and a bridge). Of the same age are Armenian and Greek churches. From the Ottoman period there are left a barbican, a mosque and Turkish baths.
Economic rise of the city in the beginning of Russian period, from the 19th c to the first decade of the 20th c, is represented by a number of historic buildings and industrial structures including those of the Picture Gallery, Astoria Hotel, Water Tower and villas of members of wealthy families of the Russian Empire. 


Little is known about the appearance of the port in antiquity and medieval times. During the Ottoman period Kefe became one of the main Turkish ports on the Black Sea and the largest slave market in the North Pontic region.

The commercial port of Feodosia was initially built in 1892-1895. Located in a non-freezing harbor the port today has an area of almost 13.5 ha divided into two zones, one for handling dry cargos and another for transshipping oil and oil products. The latter features three piers capable of operating tankers with deadweight of up to 80,000 tons and a draft of 12 m. There is also a passenger terminal in the port of Feodosia.


The fortress built by Genoese in Caffa in the 14th c had two lines of fortifications, an inner citadel and an outer defense line. Wall of the citadel built 1340-1343 had 718 m in length, 11 m in height and 2 m in thickness. The perimeter of the outer line of fortifications reached almost 5.5 km in length and consisted of over 30 towers. Each tower had a name after either a Genoese consul or a Pope.
In the citadel there was a consul’s castle, a treasury, a residence of a bishop, a courthouse and storehouses of valuable goods such as precious stones, furs and silk.
In the 19th c most of the fortress was dismantled and only few structures have survived till the present. These include a southern wall of the citadel with two towers, a partial western wall, pylons of the gates, several towers in different parts of the city, a bridge, Turkish baths and several churches.

Medieval Sites


• Citadel of the fortress, 1340-1343 (Genoese Fortress)

The interior castle built of limestone with walls 718 m long, 11 m high and 2 m thick. It functioned as a residence for Genoese consuls and bishops. There also were and a treasury and a courthouse. Only ruins of the citadel have survived into the present.

• Tower of Clement, 1348 (Genoese Fortress)

The tower is located in the southern corner of the citadel defending the gates that led inside the citadel.  Walls at the lower levels have narrow embrasures while those at the upper levels feature wider openings. On the top of the tower there is a defense platform crowned with battlements (merlons).

• Church of John the Baptist, 1348 (Genoese Fortress)

The church is composed of two parts, the older and the younger. The older one represents a small square with a dome over it while a more recent part is a rectangle divided into three naves by pillars. Interior is decorated with bass-relieves typical for Armenian architecture and ornamentation of Seljuk styles.

• Turkish Baths, 15th-16th cc (Genoese Fortress)

Located inside the citadel of the fortress, it is a low square structure roofed with two large and four smaller domes. Two entrances in the eastern walls of the structure lead inside where there were two rooms, a cloakroom and a washing room. In the middle of each room there were bedstones, along the walls there were stone benches. The baths were in function until the early 1920s.

• Genoese Bridge, 14th cc (Genoese Fortress)

The bridge over a shallow ravine represents a single-arch structure built from limestone blocks. Today it is the only old bridge in Ukraine found in a main street of a ancient city that remains in function.

• Mufti Jami Mosque, 1623
Today it is the only Muslim religious structure which has survived in Feodosia since the Ottoman period. Even though the mosque have suffered many reconstructions throughout its history, some remains of the original building indicate that architecture of the mosque was influenced by the Byzantine tradition and, probably, the school of Mimar Sinan, one of the most renowned Ottoman architects.


• Feodosia Museum of Antiquities (11 Ayvazovsky Avenue)

Opened in 1811, this museum is considered to be one of the oldest museums in Europe. The museum is located in a historic building erected in the late 19th – early 20th cc and contains over 70,000 artifacts and documents showing history, archaeology and ethnography of the region.

• National Picture Gallery (2-4 Galereyna Street)

The gallery is located in two historic buildings and contains over 12,000 pictures by painters of seascapes including the largest in the world collection of paintings by a famous Russian seascape painter Ivan Ayvazovsky (417 pictures).

• Feodosia Museum of Money (12 Kuybysheva Street)

This numismatic museum opened in 2003 contains over 30,000 coins and banknotes from the 7th c BC until the recent past. Among others, there are coins of ancient Theodosia, the Bosporan Kingdom and the Crimean Khanate. There are also unique coins which can be seen only in this museum.

Textual Sources

Detailed description of the castle of Caffa as it appeared in 1666 can be found in Seyâhatnâme (travel notes) by Ottoman Turkiah traveler Evliya Çelebi.
Another first-hand information about late medieval Caffa is also provided in works by Swedish historian Johann Erich Tunmann who visited Crimean Khanate in the 17th c.


• Ancient Greek Cities in Crimea. Kiev, 2004.
• Balakhonova A.I., Balakhonov V.I. Feodosia: Putevoditel [Feodosia: A Guide] (in Russian). Sinferopol, 1984.
• Gavrilov A.V. Okruga antichnoy Feodosii [Environs of the Ancient Theodosia] (in Russian). Simferopol, 2004.
• I genovesi in  Crimea: Guida storica [Genoese in Crimea: Historic Guide] (in Italian and Ukrainian). Kiev, 2009.
• Öztürk Y. Osmanlı Hakimiyetinde Kefe 1475—1600 [Kefe under the Ottoman Rule in 1475-1600] (in Turkish and Russian). Ankara, 2000.
• Petrova E.B. Antichnaya Feodosia [Ancient Theodosia] (in Russian). Simferopol, 2000.
• Tarasenko N.F. Feodosia (in Russian). Simferopol, 1978.

Links (City Council of Feodosia) (Feodosia Information Portal) (Feodosia Museum of Antiquities) (Feodosia Museum of Money) (Commercial Sea Port of Feodosia)

Visual Material
Writer / Date
Sofronios Paradeisopoulos, Brach of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture Valeriy Suntsov 29/05/2013
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