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Current Name
Ancient Name
Medieval Name
Constantiana/ Constanteia/Constanza/Kustenge
History of the name

A mythological etimology for the names of the cities was usuallly practiced in ancient times. For the city of Tomis, the origin of its name is connected either with the murder of Absyrtos by the two fugitives, Medeea and Iason (early sources – Apollodori Bibliotheca; Ovidius, information taken over also by the later sources – Stephanus Byzantius), or with the legendary queen of  Scythians, Tomiris,  who settled the city in the 4th BC and gave it her name (later sources – Iordanes). Some researchers, taking into account Ovid’s information according to which the toponym would have had older origins, previous to the city’s settlement, suggest a Thracian etimology, connected strictly with the relief of the area (the Indo-European root tum = elevation of the ground). Constantiana or Constanteia,  names used in the 4th century in parallel with the ancient name, Tomis,  can be assigned  either to another settlement in  Scythia Minor,  not yet located,  or to the old city, which would have taken over gradually this name, giving up to the old one. Other researchers suggest the derivation of the modern name Constanţa, from Constanteia,  which, at its turn, would have been derived from the older Constantiana.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Administrative subdivision
Constanţa county
On the western coast of the Black Sea- with the coordinates km 0 = lat. N 44° 10', long. E 28° 09'
Foudation Date
6th century BC
Current condition
Today, Constanţa is a prosperous port city with a population of almost 310,471 inhabitants of different nationalities. Its administrative territory covers an area of about 1121.66 km2. Though the city has predominat trade features, by its intense port activity, Constanţa has also a cultural-artistical, scientific and educational life through : The National Opera and Ballet Theatre „Oleg Danovski”, State Theatre, „Elpis” Theatre, Museum of National History and Archaeology, Art Museum, Folk Art Museum, Marine Museum, Military Museum, Natural Sciences Museum, „I. N. Roman” County Libray, „Ovidius” University Constanţa, different specialized highschools etc.

Tomis,  the ancient Greek colony, gradually took over the features specific to a Roman city, but the Greek traditions continued to exist at material, cultural, administrative, linguistic etc. level. Tomis used to have a sinuous history. The city reached moments of economical and political apogee and became the most important metropolis at the Left Pont, but it also had  periods of strong decline. Though the ancient city is totally superposed by the modern one, epigraphic, numismatic, literary and archaeological information create an image coherent enough for the city evolution in ancient time. A complex stratigraphic analysis was elaborated after the  archaeological research in the Cathedral Park, research supported and completed by other different preventive archaeological interventions in various areas of the modern city. Thus there have been designed twelve archaeological levels corresponding to the period between 6th BC and 7th AD.
Even since it was founded, Tomis benefited from a docking place for the trade ships. In spite of the fact no written information localize exactly the city port and mention the way this port was organized and what installations used to have, the quantity of imported material from different Pontic, Aegean etc centres, images of sailors near their ships on the funerary stones, the presence of the shipowners from Alexandria at Tomis, coins issued in different well-known trade centres  represent the evidence for the intense commercial activity and implicitly the port activity at Tomis.
The 6-4th centuries are well documented archaeologically at Tomis by various types of ceramics coming from different places (Greek-Oriental ceramics, Attic ceramics, colonial ceramics), which beside the monetary discoveries attest trade relationships with centres as: Histria, Callatis, Chios, Lesbos, Thassos, Apollonia Pontica, Mesambria etc.
The Hellenistic period, marked by a political event with consequences upon the west part of Pontus Euxinus – Tomis’ war –, represents the beginning of the progress of the city ; during the Roman  age, the city was the most important political, cultural and religious centre of the province Moesia Inferior (later on Scythia Minor). The period above mentioned is marked also by the first Tomitan monetary issues in the 3rd century BC, but also by the first official epigraphs (2nd century BC). The actions taken by Mithridates VI Eupator in Pont  raised Rome’s interest on the colonies on the west-Pontic shore ; the Roman interest was to be seen in the first Roman military campaign in this area led by Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus (72/71 BC).
During the  Principate, Tomis is mentioned as an important trade and political centre in the 2nd century BC, being attested epigraphically with the title „Metropolis of the Left Pont”. In the 3rd century, the city area, initially limited only at the Tomitan peninsula, is enlarged by the construction of a new precinct wall. The second enlargement of the inhabited area was  built in the 5th century, when there will be integrated by the extension of the precinct and the western district of the Roman-Byzantine city. Tomis’ trade interest during the Roman age aims Pontic, Aegean, micro-Asian and north-African centres.
There are known for the ancient time thousands of  isolated coins and about 70  hoards and monetary deposits that document the remarkable Tomis economical development. These discoveries, as  well as the sigillography prove the urban Roman-Byzantine pattern for the development of the city (615/619).
The last ancient traces of the settlement are represented by a small hoard including bronze coins from Heraclius, Constans II, Constantine IV.
Even if there are news about the Tomitan metropolitan in the next centuries, they reflect a strong tradition and not a real fact.
In the half of the 10th century, Tomis is mentioned in the work of the emperor Constantine VII Porphirogenet,  under the name of Constantia, a stopover in the way to Constantinople. Two seals from the end of the 10th century, the beginning of the 11th century that mention the bishops of Tomis, Anicet and Vasile, together with monetary discoveries from the 10-11th centuries, as well as other archaeological materials demonstrate the living around the middle of the 11th century. After this date, beginning with the end of the 12th century, until the 16th century, the settlement is mentioned again in the Italian portolan charts as a modest  port under the name of  Constansa  or Constança.
At the beginning of the 15th century, probably this port activity continued to develop, as a monetary hoard from Mircea cel Bătrân,  hidden around 1418-1420 is the evidence.
The establishment of the Ottoman administration brought about for Köstence (the  Ottoman name of the town) trade, custom and fiscal regulations.The town is mentioned in the documents either as ” port Köstence”, or as ” the town Köstena”.
In the 17th century, the foreign travellers and mostly the Turkish traveller Evlya Çelebi, speak about a small  port and a settlement of about 150  houses, shops and stores.
At the end of the 18th century, its condition was unchanged according to Claude de Peysonnel’s narration. The frequent military confrontations in the 19th century brought  Küstenge  in the light of history:  a modest settlement which would develop rapidly after the railway Cernavodă-Constanța was finished (1860) and the port was organized (1862) by a British company. Romania’s Independence War and  the settlement of the Romanian administration in Dobruja (1878)  determined Constanța  to become the main port of Romania at Black Sea, port that was modernized at the end of the 19th century and then in the 60-70’s of the 20th century.
The development of the city gets also a touristic aspect attributable to the construction of Mamaia resort in the 20’s of the 20th century.
Today Constanța is placed among the first cities in Romania in number of inhabitants and economic development (tourism, education, culture,  trade, naval and  river transportation, ship building etc.).


The lastest ancient monuments preserved in present Constanţa  do not overrun the end of the 6th AD – beginning of the 7th AD.  Thus, the Roman-Byzantrine patrimony preserved in Constanţa  includes:  precinct wall (3rd AD), preserved along the north side of the Archaeological  Park (parts of the later extension were recorded during the preventive archaeological researches); basilica preserved in the basement of the actual  Ibis hotel  (5-7th AD); the crypt with painting traces which belonged to a basilica situated on the upper terrace of Constanţa  south-western coast ; basilica in front of the gate no 1 of the actual Constanţa port;  an area of a residential district inhabited in the above mentioned period was sistematically researched in the ´70’s of the 20th century, and can be visited today in the Cathedral Park; mosaic edifice which functioned since the 4th century AD up to the 7th AD on the south-west coast of  Tomis – a complex trade building, through the storehouse of its vaulted rooms where the imported goods  were sheltered;  the Roman baths situated on the east side of the mosaic edifice, baths built in the same style as the edifice.


The strong sea streams,  as well as the limited visibility in the continental area of the Black Sea and the numerous modernization works in the actual port- that meant to remove the main part of the rocky areas and to deep the modern port basin- have spoiled all the efforts to rebuild the ancient port. The only sources that can provide a minimum of information are : the foreign travellers testimonies, maps or even maps of old Constanţa and mainly those of  the area to be modernized (the port and the south-western pier) and the divers notes who remarked the presence of some artifacts on the sea bottom near some areas of the Tomitan peninsula. The epigraphical attestations of shipowners and shipowners associations at Tomis and the images of ships on coins or funerary monuments are  ranged among the  indirect evidence for the existence of a port at Tomis, in the Roman period, as well ; the presence of the imported goods in the city and the activity in the mosaic edifice in the late Roman age attest an intense port activity to the end of the 6th century. Unfortunately, the archaeological researches could not bring into light the proper port installations, but only some of the annexes situated near the Tomitan port area (the most important is the mosaic edifice with the two rows of stores set on the inferior terraces, probably near the ancient dock). 
As a consequence, the only direct archaeological evidence regarding the  Tomitan port area is this building. The mosaic edifice was discovered during the works for construction of blocks of flats on the south-west coast of the city, in 1959.
The imposing edifice was spread in ancient times on three terraces, cut in the sea-wall slope ;they used to be leveled in order to ensure the building stability. The edifice was situated on the very quays of the old Tomitan port, from whose level the first series of rooms opened. The edifice included eleven vaulted rooms used as storehouse for the goods brought by the trade ships coming to the port.The access to the next two terraces was  through some massive lime stairs. The second level was similar to the first. It used to have also eleven valuted rooms used for the same purpose as the first ones. But the outline of the third level was totally different compared to the other two.  Here, there used to be a huge somptuous and undivided room.  The room used to have a rich decoration, and the improvised platform on the eastern-north side shows that the room had a special and different purpose. Initially, this room communicated with the city through an entrance situated on the north side. Later on, the entrance was bricked up and it was used as a niche. The second terrace vaults collapsed almost entirely and damaged the rooms inside and mostly the mosaic the vaults used to support. All the room surface was covered by a polychrome mosaic decorated with vegetal and geometrical motifs ; the mosaic covered an area of  about 2,000 m2 (L=49.80 m and w=16,60 m)  of which there are still preserved 800 m2. The walls were built in the techniques opus mixtum, of bricks and lime stone, thickened with mortar.
In the Middle Ages, Constanţa is mentioned again on the map of trade interest in the Black Sea area as a stopover or as a modest port. It is possible that the port used the same docking basin as in ancient times, because in the first part of the 20th century,  between the entrance gates no 2 and 3 of the present port, the traces of a pier were preserved on one km length. This basin was made of shaped stone and oriented towards west ; it was situated in the extension of the precinct Roman –Byzantine wall line and this could attest its construction during the Roman-Byzantine period, when the precinct wall was still functioning. Its preservation up to the modern period suggests that it could have been also used in the medieval period. The tower partially preserved on the western shore, near the so-called „edifice with stairs” seem to belong rather to the precinct wall and not to an individual structure for port survey.
After the Russian-Turkish war between 1828 and 1829 and the damages brought about, Constanţa and its port were in ruin. The plague epidemic and the disastrous condition of the docking places determined the town rebuilding to be slowly. The Crimean war in  1854 and the cholera epidemic that followed maintained the settlement in the same misery and impossibility to be developed or even to coagulate a minimal urban structure. Eventually, in the second part of the 19th century, the interest of the great powers of that time for the Black Sea passage on a sure and passable way led to the granting of the British society Danube and Black Sea Railway Company, by the Ottoman government in order to build a railway from Cernavodă to Constanţa.
Various products were  imported in ancient times : wine, olive oil, luxury ceramic vessels, ornament objects, rush-lamps, sculptural pieces, marble, iron, different organic substances (many types of resins) etc. The discovery of a group of imported products stored in two vaulted rooms on the second terrace of the mosaic edifice provide a complete image upon the imports in the Roman-Byzantine period ; we speak about an impressive quantity of stamped ceramics, rush-lamps, rush-lamps moulds, amphorae full with different organic substances (turpentine, mastix, stirax, colofonium, incense, myrth),  as well as amphorae carrying iron nails, piles of iron ingots, 8  iron anchors,  marble plates. We have little information about the imported products, but it is less probable to have been trade with Tomitan finished products. These were especially addressed to the internal consumption in the city and its rural territory.  The few rush-lamps regarded as Tomitan products, discovered in different Pontic centers cannot be the evidence of a systematical trade with this type of objects, but the result of some individual commercial initiatives.
Among the areas with which Tomis developed trade relationships in the Roman-Byzantine period, we mention the Syrian-Palestinian area, the Mediterranean, as well as the Pontic ones. The lead trade seals attest commercial relationships with Ephesus, Smyrna, and Metropolis etc.
Nowadays, Constanţa port has a remarkable enlargement as it was extended to the south to Agigea (an area of 3,926 ha). Constanţa port is situated at the crossroads of three pan-European transportation corridors (IV, VII and IX) and of the trade routes that connect the European countries having no sea passage and Transcaucasia, The Extreme Orient and Central Asia. Together with the satellite ports Midia and Mangalia, it forms the Romanian port complex. The construction of the canal Danube –Black Sea helped in a great manner the development of relationships with different countries around the Danube. The project of building a canal between the Danube and the Black Sea dates even from ancient times. The emperor Trajan was first who took into consideration this opportunity on Carasu valley that cuts the present Dobruja from east to west. However, the project was initiated and ended only in the contemporary period, ensuring for Constanţa, beside the attribute of a maritime port, the status of a river port.


The Roman-Byzantine precinct wall preserved today in the archaeological park is dated in the 3rd century AD. There was added to this in the 5-6th century a curtain which included the defended area and also the recently western district. The wall was extended between the two coasts of the Tomitan peninsula, defending the  continent side of the city. There are preserved three entrances in the fortification : the south-west gate defended by two rectangular towers, the north-east gate defended by « the butches  tower », the gate with aperture to the north-west, guarded by two semicircular towers.
This precinct wall functioned until the end of the 6th-beginning of the 7th century AD.  There is no information about the existence of a precinct wall for the next period. But in the Ottoman period, the peninsula was defended on the north side, to the continent, by a precinct wall with three bastions, situated on the south from the Roman-Byzantine wall. The line of the Ottoman precinct is mentioned on the plan of Constanţa made by von Vincke in the 19th century. The entrance gate in the fortified area can be seen in a litography signed by H. de Bearn.

Medieval Sites

- Museum of National History and Archaeology Constanţa – Ovidiu Square, no 12, Constanţa;
- Mosaic Edifice,  Ovidiu Square, no 12, Constanţa;
- Beside the two above mentioned museums in Constanţa, where the visit is paid,  other archaeological vestiges which are preserved in situ can be also visited:  basilica preserved in the actual Ibis hotel, Mircea cel Bătrân st., no 39-41; basilica and the Roman baths preserved close to the port gate 1 ; The Gate with semicircular walls and gate through which there used to be the entrance in the Roman-Byzantine fortification, on the road coming from the north (probably from Histria) – at the crossroads of the streets Dragoş Vodă and Ecaterina Varga;  the Roman-Byzantine wall preserved along Ferdinand boulevard, in front of the Archaeological Park; the residential district preserved in the  Cathedral Park. Unfortunately, the painted tomb, situated near Modern beach, is not open to the public.

Textual Sources

Ovidius, Ex Ponto, passim; Ovidius, Tristia, passim.
Rufius Festus, Breviarum rerum gestarum populi Romani, IX.
Amianus Marcellinus, Rerum gestarum libri qui supersunt, XXII, 43 and XXVII, 4, 1.
Zosimos, Historia Nova, IV, 40.
Ravennas Anonymus, Cosmographia, IV, 6 and V, 11.
Hierokles, Synekdemos, 637, 1 and 6.
Iordanes, Getica, 62.
Procopius of Caesareea, De Aedificiis,IV, 11, 20.
Constantinus Profirogenetus, De thematibus, 47, 1, 58-60.
Theophylactus Simocattes, Historiae, II, 10.
Georgios Kendrenos, Sinopsis, 23.
Zonaras, Chronicon, XVII, 2, 33.
Franco Sivori, Memoriale delle cose occorse a me Franco Sivori del signor Benedetto dopo la mia partenza di Genova l’anno 1581 per andar in Vallachia, mss., apud Maria Holban (ed.), Călători străini despre Țările Române, vol. III, București, 1971, p.1-70.
Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Les six voyages de Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Ecuyer Baron d'Aubonne, qu'il a fait en Turquie, en Perse et aux Indes, pendant l'espace de quarante ans et par toutes les routes que l'on peut tenir, Paris, 1676.
Charles-Claude de Peyssonnel, Observations Historiques Et Géographiques: Sur Les Peuples Barbares Qui Ont Habité Les Bords Du Danube & Du Pont-Euxin, Paris, 1765.
Aubry de la Motraye, Voyages du Sr. A. de Motraye en Europe, Asie et Afrique, Haga, 1727.
Evlya Celebi, Seyahatname, Istanbul ,1896-1938.


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Visual Material

1. One of the gates of roman Tomis
2. Residential area in Roman Tomis (Cathedral Park)
3. The mosaic-floored building from Tomis
4. War ships, Constanta harbor, modern times

Writer / Date
Gabriel Custurea/27.10.2012, Irina Nastasi/29.10.2012
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