One of the biggest ancient Greco-Roman city of Dobrogea, Callatis, is called nowadays Mangalia. Like other ancient sites, it had the ill luck that the modern city was built on the ruins of the past. Furthermore, a large part of the ancient city is now under the Black Sea waters. The archaeological research at Mangalia started at the initiative of V. Parvan, who since 1901 instructed the engineer Pamfil Polonic to map out the inner wall. The ancient tracks were so numerous and well preserved that in 1913 Pârvan proposed their public unveiling and exhibition. Shortly before Romania entered the 1st World War, M.D. Teodorescu made some archaeological research in the northern part of the city. After the war, in 1924, O. Tafrali and Th. Sauciuc-Săveanu begun the systematic excavations at Mangalia.
For a short period, between 1930-1931, R. Vulpe and Vl. Dumitrescu undertook some research. After 1950, a Romanian Academy team of scientists, led by the academician M. Condurachi, began some archaeological excavations at the precinct wall (northeast), where some research had been conducted at the bishop's palace, which has a 6th century Syrian-type basilica. The same team researched a number of tumuli, including the one that included a tomb from which was recovered the oldest papyrus in this part of Europe, dated back to the 4th century BC. (1959).
After the 1960s the archaeological research of the Callatian site had a preventive character, determined by the urbanization and modernization program of the city of Mangalia and its outskirts.
The archaeological discoveries and the testimonies of the ancient literature certify the fact that Callatis was founded by colonists who came from Heraclea Pontica, a creation of Megara, sometime at the end of the 6th century BC. It is the only Dorian colony on the shores of the Romanian Black Sea. The colony was founded on the site of a Thracian settlement known as Acervatis or Cerbatis on a land near the sea and a freshwater lake. In the 6th century BC, the city recorded an important socio-political and economic development, recorded by the written texts and archaeological findings. The city had a rural territory that it used and an area of workshops. That was the period when the imposing landward defending walls were built; but there were also built the harbour, temples and public buildings. Due to its prosperity the city had its own silver coins and after a while its own gold and bronze coins. Callatis, together with the other west coast cities, accepted the authority of the Macedonian state lead by Philip the 2nd and Alexander the Great, which had spread up to the Danube. Enduring the restless 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, the city of Callatis joined the other neighbouring Greek colonies in the union organized by Mitridathes the 4th Eupator. In the 1st century BC, the Roman Empire reached the mouth of the Danube. An inscription discovered at Mangalia states the terms of a treaty (foedus) between Rome and Callatis, and the city was recognized as an ally of the Romans (72-71 BC.). The Roman administration abuses led to the mutiny of the 3 cities on the coast of Dobrogea in 61 BC., obviating the Roman domination. This situation had facilitated the expansion of the Dacian king Burebista, which expanded the borders of his kingdom up to the west Pontic coast. Over the years 29-28 BC., Marcus Licinius Crassus reconquered the territory lost three decades before. From that date Callatis, together with other Greek colonies, formed part of the Roman Empire. Callatis knew a new period of prosperity, reflected in the development of the extramural neighbourhood, new buildings were built and the productive activity and trading were flourishing. During this period the city has maintained its agricultural territory, as evidenced by the discovery of fragments of inscriptions, which belonged to the Traian administration. In the 3rd AD, during the "Scythian war" the archaeological evidence documented the destruction of the outer district of the city. The city erected a monument the Emperor Aurelian, in order to restore peace in the province. The reigns of the Emperors Diocletian and Constantine the Great, and later those of the Byzantine emperors form Anastasius I to Justinian I brought a secure and prosperous period for the city of Callatis. There had been built new buildings, was founded the Callatian episcopate, and the handicraft production and trading were resumed. Under the repeated attacks of Slavic and Avar tribes, the entire province from the Danube to the sea (Scythia) entered a period of demographic and economic decline, leading to the disappearance of urban life. In the first decades of the 7th century, Callatis was abandoned and only over almost three centuries the social and economic life restored, based on the existence of a Byzantine port scaffolding.
The name of the old city was lost with the final flicker of life of the city without being transmitted to the new city, which starting with the 13th century was known as Pangea, Pangu, Pangalia. An anonymous map of that era mentioned that this city together with Varna and Constanta were recorded as ports.
The defensive wall protected the entire area of the city, in Callatis being identified 2 enclosures. The first was probably built in the late fourth century BC, and the second in the second century AD (the last decades of this century or the beginning of the next). The Hellenistic precinct included an area of 80 ha. The length of the wall on the west side had 420 m and on the south 120 m. The wall had a width between 3.12 m and 3.40 m, and the original height was 8-9 m (now the height is maximum 2 m). The construction was provided with quadrilateral towers which were about 7 m wider than the wall. Also, there were two gates, one on the west side (the big one for the access of the commercial and war chariots) and the other on the south side (provided with a threshold and marble stairs intended for the public), the first one being flanked by strong towers. In the third century, the enclosure is probably rebuilt by the architects Cleodamos and Athenaios, and followed the default path, including well-preserved portions of the previous wall, enclosing a trapezoid area whose large base was built on the high sea shore. The northern, western and eastern parts were traced in a straight line. Later, after the multiplication of the buildings in the city and severely limitation of the available space, their construction near the inner wall became necessary, as it happened with the basilica in the north-eastern corner of the ancient city. The basilica buildings included the basilica, the atrium and the episcopal palace. Apparently they were built in the fifth century AD, but suffered two further transformations. That basilica was a Christian place of worship, rectangular, paved with limestone slabs, with three naves, an atrium, a shrine and a baptisterium. It has a partial sides roof, with triangular pediments. The access was done through the main atrium through a gate provided with a molded stone portal. The whole structure presented great similarities in design and building techniques with similar buildings in Syria. With some repairs required by the many military events occurred in those eras, the wall defended the city until the early seventh century, when the city lost its urban character. Outside the city, in the west and south side, there is an extramuros neighbourhood, whose development can be tracked down to the Hellenistic period until the Roman times. In one of the houses built there was found a hoard of bronze and silver coins composed of 9,000 pieces, together with gold jewellery and engraved stones. The neighbourhood disappeared in the second half of the third century AD, in a large proportions fire, archaeologically discovered.
The port is now submerged, but it could be seen on the water surface in the early twentieth century. Its partial path was recorded on a map of Mangalia in the years 1924-1925, and it was depicted as a zigzag line. Today its ruins (which can be traced over a distance of 80 m from the city beach till the beach of the village 2 Mai) are covered by the sea.
During 1993-1994, Mangalia’s Museum of Archaeology Callatis initiated in the area of the former Hotel Scala - now Hotel President - extensive archaeological rescue research triggered by the repair works of the hotel. On this occasion there was discovered the remains of a Roman-Byzantine neighbourhood of the ancient city of Callatis.
Situated near the Mangalia’s beach, the complex is built on the site of the former ancient southern tower of Callatis. In the basement it includes this architectural element, including a fragment of the ancient archaeological site itself. On an area of over 1000 sqm there were discovered the remains of some buildings of the southern district of the city. The neighbourhood was crossed by a main street, east-west, 6 m wide, paved with carved limestone slabs. The street had a foul sewer, made of large limestone slabs, 1m deep and 1m wide, were other smaller drain pipes discharged, which were connected to the buildings or courtyards at the north or south of the main street. The foul sewer and the street were used during the sixth century and the beginning of the seventh century, as proven by the coins found "in situ" dated back from the eras of Justin I (518-527), Justin II and Sophia (565-578).
Part of the wall built in the fourth century was rebuilt or dubbed as the sixth century building works generally kept the same orientation imposed by the existence of the southern side of the Callatian wall and the southern gate. Also in the southern side there was discovered a small thermal resort, consisting of two rooms with walls made in opus mixtum. The entire complex can be considered a model of preservation of the ancient relics.
a) The Hellenistic necropolis and the royal tomb
Much more accurate data, both for dating but especially for the urban plan of the city, is offered to us by the study of the ancient necropolis of Callatis, whose location is connected to the two ancient roads form Callatis to Tomis (south-north) and Callatis Odessos (Varna, east-west).
The oldest tombs dated to the fourth century BC are located at only 50 m from the north-west corner of the callatian complex and in the centre they had the famous tumulus tomb discovered in 1959, where had been preserved an ancient papyrus, dating from the same period.
The more than fortunate occasion, took place in August 1993 when during a rescue archaeological excavation initiated by Callatis Museum of Archaeology of Mangalia in one of the most important burial places, known since the interwar period as "Documaci hill", there was the discovered a large funerary complex. It was also discovered that this place was affected, in the modern era, by the excavations made to obtain clay. The funerary complex consists of a large grave situated on an east-west axis, with a rectangular building whose functionality has not been established yet. The tomb consisted of a funeral chamber having the dimensions of 3.56 m x 3 m and a height of 3.62 m at its highest point. The access to the burial chamber was done through a dromos located on the east side, 9.55 m long and 1.61 m wide. The building was done in two phases: the first represented a burial chamber and part of the dromos which had a round shaped roof, plastered with mortar and the second phase represented a part of the dromos, built later and added to the first phase, with a partial side roof made of large blocks of limestone. In the burial chamber there was a poliform fresco. At the entry there was a door with had a geometric patterns painted marble frame.
b) Roman necropolis
The second burial area of Callatis is the one built in the second and third centuries AD, stretching 200 m west and north from the Hellenistic precinct.
80% from this large number of graves – all burial places - are Sarmatian burial tombs judging from their rite, ritual and after their inventory. There is a very rich inventory consisting of gold jewellery, bronze vessels, an impressive number of glass vases and weapons. The type of ritual is the essential element that characterizes these Sarmatian tombs.
c) Roman-Byzantine necropolis
Known to the specialists from several studies, scientific works and an old monography, the result of several years of archaeological research, the Roman-Byzantine necropolis of Callatis continues to reveal other tombstones which by their number, building manner and especially through their inscriptions confirm that Callatis had an intense spiritual life, especially during the triumph of Christianity.
In the south and southeast side of the mentioned necropolis and north of the highway Mangalia-Albesti in a rectangular perimeter, 45 m long and 30 m wide, 16 tombs were the focus of archaeological rescue, more or less affected by mechanical excavation.
From the category of the hypogeum tombs with arched chambers and dromos there can be noted the one situated on the east perimeter affected by the mechanical excavation.
The funeral building was discovered at -1.20 m from the current ground level and had a rectangular room, 3.60 m long, 2.30 m wide and 2.18 m high at the highest point of arched ceiling. Built from limestone blocks, beautifully shaped, connected with white mortar, with crushed brick traces, this burial had a chamber with an arched ceiling plastered with a white and grey binder of poor quality, in its composition being found a lot of chaff.
Access to the ancient ground floor located at -1 m from the actual one, was made through an access channel - dromos- 3 m long and equipped with 5 stair steps descending up to 2.20 m. On the eastern wall there was carved an entrance to the burial chamber, as the access path was blocked by a limestone slab, shaped in such a manner so that it perfectly sealed the tomb’s entrance. The access hall was covered with three slabs of limestone and from the last stair step the celling was arched and plastered with the same material used in the burial chamber. Above the entrance and on the side walls of the dromos there was painted with red paint a cross with broadened ends. Above the central cross is a Greek inscription, written with the same red paint:
"Lord please help me and wash me (meaning Lord please save me)".
The surprising elements of the burial chamber are represented by four perforations of the east and west walls, at the height of the entrance where were placed four beams that supported a floor on which were performed the last 9 burials. Each of the walls of the room had on the central part a red painted cross.
On the west wall, at 1.20 m from the ground level of the room, a red paint Greek written inscription stated:
"And I shall not fear, O Lord, because You (are) with me."
The situation discovered during the research, combined with the evident elements of restoration, easily visible both in the burial chamber and in the dromos, indicate at least two distinct phases when the burial rituals took place.
An anonymous map (preserved at the National Library of Paris) from the thirteenth century AD mentions the city named Pangalia, as Varna and Constanta were recorded as ports on the Dobrujan shores. The city reborns, the Genoese people protecting the harbour with a pier "whose ruins can be seen today – as Marin Ionescu-Dobrogianu, the great historian of Dobrogea, mentions in the early twentieth century - and it's almost unbelievable that the population of the city in the 12th and 13th centuries was of about 30,000 souls.
The beginning of the 15th century meant the inclusion of the city in the administrative area of the Ottoman Empire who occupied all of Dobrogea. The first traveller who entered the new geopolitical configuration of the existing city was the burgundy traveller Walerand of Wawrin. In 1445, during his journey, him and his companions reached "a port named Pangu, which was protected by a strong dam which entered the sea and was 30 or 40 feet long. Nowadays that dam is damaged and destroyed in many places, so that many ships are crushed on it pushed there by the storm.
Mankalia is first mentioned under this name in 1593 by Paolo Giorgi Raguza, but without any details as we have in the next half century. That was the well-known journey of the muslim Evlia Celebri, who travelled through Dobrogea many times. In 1652 he stays in Mankalia, which he briefly described. During the 18th-19th centuries, Mangalia was a maritime stop with few harbour facilities, with no economic importance, with a numerically lower population of fishermen and merchants. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mangalia was a patriarchal city, whose socio-economic development started after the First World War, development based on heliomarine and spa tourism, to which in recent decades, has been added an important ship building harbour.