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The so-called “cave towns”, located in remote places of the Inner ridge of the Crimean mountains protected by the very nature, appear in the Crimea in early medieval times. One of these cities is Mangup-Kale – capital of the politically independent principality of Theodoro. 

The town was located on a large plateau-like mountain Baba-Dag (“Paternal Mountain”) in the south- western part of the foothills. Its territory was protected by walls and towers and represented a strong defensive unit. 

Roman military theorist and historian Vegetius Flavius Renat (IV-V cc.) in his treatise “Summary of military affairs” cites a number of requirements, to which, in his opinion, a fortified town should respond: “Towns and castles have either natural or man-made fortifications... which makes them particularly strong. It is possible to assume that the town is fortified by nature, if it stands on an elevated position, on a cliff...”. 

Mangup meets all these requirements. Here natural conditions are fully combined with man-made fortifications. Vertical rock precipices excluded the possibility of using missile weapons and battering rams, mobile towers in the storming of the fortress. At the same time, the dominant height, at which the town was situated, allowed shooting all the approaches to it with an ordinary bow. 

About Mangup-Kale in the same work Vegetius wrote: “A town enjoys a great advantage, if there are inexhaustible sources within its walls. If nature did not give it, you need to dig wells, no matter how deep you have to dig... Thirst will not so easy win those who are under siege, if during this period they can use at least a minor amount of water, even if only for a drink...”. 

On Mangup there are two never ephemeral sources and an artificial well dug inside the citadel. All this made Mangup a town that is able to withstand any opponent at that time. Archaeological excavations gave abundant material, indicating the development of trade and commerce in the principality of Theodoro and its capital. 

A large number of keys, locks, knives and tools indicate the development of smiting. Ceramics, which includes that of Chersonese, is evidence of the intensive trade of the principality. But its interests clashed with the interests of the Italian merchants of Venice and Genoa, who in XIII century founded their trading posts on the coast of the Crimea. Muscovy, interested in the struggle against the Tatars and the Genoese, tried to establish communication with the principality of Theodoro. 

From extant written sources we know that in 1475 negotiations took place between Ivan III and Prince of Mangup, Isaac: Ivan III sought marriage of his son with the Prince’s daughter. Marriage was prevented by the invasion of the Turks in the Crimea. 

In the summer of 1475, a large army of Turks landed at Kaffa (Feodosiya) and after a three-day siege took the town. Soon the entire coast of the Crimea was captured by the Turks. Their army approached the capital of the principality of Theodoro – Mangup. For six months the Turks stood at the impregnable fortress, six times they went to attack the town, applying a novelty of those days – guns – against the besieged, but could not take it. 

The inhabitants of Theodoro, exhausted by hunger and disease, surrendered to the Turkish pasha, who promised to spare the defenders of Mangup. But pasha did not keep his word: almost all the residents, including the elderly and children, were brutally exterminated or enslaved, and the town was burned. 

Since 1475, black pages start in the history of the Crimea. Destroying the high culture of the local tribes, enslaving the population of the Crimea, Tatar and Turkish feudal lords seized power in the peninsula, turning it into their nest of robbery – the Crimean Khanate. 

Literature: Ye.M. Yakusheva, A.M. Nizhura “Cave towns of the Crimea”. Guide. – Simferopol: Tavriya, 1972. 

P.Ye. Garmash. Guide to the Crimea. – Simferopol, 1996.


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