The site of Chersonesos, located near modern Sevastopol at the southwestern tip of the Crimean peninsula, was settled by Greek colonists from Heraclea Pontica, on the south coast of the Black Sea, as early as the 5th century BC. The settlers first chose a site for their city near good deep-water harbors at the edge of a territory controlled by the indigenous Taurian people. Both the urban center and its chora (agricultural territory) were divided by orthogonal grids within the first century of settlement. Thus began the 2000-year history of this Greek-speaking community. Chersonesos survived threats from Scythians in its Greek incarnation, was reborn as a Roman provincial city, resisted later barbarian invasions, and went on to become a wealthy and prominent Byzantine center before suffering a severe destruction in the 13th century AD. The city plays a substantial role in the history of Christianity in Ukraine and Russia: Orthodox tradition considers it the site of the martyrdom of St. Clement in 98 AD and of the baptism of the Kyivan Rus' prince Volodymyr in 988 or 989 AD.
After its gradual abandonment in the 14th century, Chersonesos was not subject to the sort of reoccupation and construction that has affected many ancient and Byzantine sites. It was left alone while the city of Sevastopol was founded in 1783 by Catherine the Great around another, deeper harbor, and the entire area, as the headquarters of the Black Sea fleet, was closed to visitors during the Soviet period. As a result, the archaeological record at Chersonesoshas two unique features. The most striking is the chora of the Greek city, large tracts of which have been preserved almost unchanged since antiquity. The stone walls that divided the settlers' plots, together with farmsteads and even vine-planting walls, are still visible in the countryside. The other unique feature of Chersonesos belongs to the end of its long life: the fiery destruction that overtook the city in the later part of the 13th century AD left objects where they lay and helped, ironically, to preserve a detailed picture of all aspects of life in a Late Byzantine city.
By including Tauric Chersonesos in the World Heritage Fund, we can preserve our rich heritage for future generations. Large areas of Tauric Chersonesos have not been escavated, erosion prevention and international specialists are needed to preserve the fragile environment of it's shorefront location.
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