From the point of view of an of archeologist it was a usual beginning. Common guarded excavations were carried out on the given area several kilometers away from the Themess bay, on its coast now a city-part Novorossiisk is situated. A year before during usual excavations the workers found here a two-blade sword one meter long, glass and red lacquer utensils – they were the true signs of the Roman time burial (the first centuries AD). As experience shows it was a sign of good luck – since the very beginning the works had to overcome great difficulties. There was no technique in time to raise the upper “ballast” lay, then very heavy tropic rains filled with water both the excavation and a tent camp. But then came the first great achievement – a rich burial in a peculiar soil chamber, the dimensions were 2×2 m. On the bottom of the entrance pit filled with rock elements the people found the skeletons of two horses with harness and that of the cow. A man had been buried in the side niche, judging by a bronze dinner set, a set of two beautiful glass bowls, numerous decorations and amulets which accompanied it to the other world had at his time a very high social status.
Almost a whole week while clearing this tomb as if some unknown forces prevented us from working. However, the first success inspired us and literally doubled our energy. The ancient necropolis gradually revealed its secrets. Once after the clearance of the ballast of a large area in the immediate vicinity of the almost built house they started the excavations of the discovered objects ‒ spots of burial pits in the mainland loam. We worked quickly and thoroughly we were afraid not to have time to clear the place before evening or overnight rain would turn the excavation into mass. And here above our heads, from the balcony of an unfinished house, we heard the excited voice of the daughter of the home owner: «Mum, look, they have found snake-Gragon!» In one of those spots there were delineated three horse skulls, lying in the row. The girl took them for a fabulous monster. However, next to the horses we found long swords and a glass bowl with ribbed walls of the Roman works, as well as the excavated big tombs of rectangular form, in which there were two or three saddle horses, and next to the excavation niches there were their owners ‒ worriers with long swords and turned in the steel mail armor at their feet and it has allowed us to believe that there had been buried witnesses and people of those heroic times. Unfortunately, many pages of ancient history of the Black Sea area [1], us it turned out, have forever sunk into oblivion.

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As it turned out, the soil had yet kept something. A burial in the cemetery where we can distinguish the graves of warriors-riders with long swords, allow to speak about the main features of the funeral rite, professional occupation and, most significantly, of the cultural and ethnic identity of the people who left us this necropolis. The cemetery had been used continuously for almost three centuries (since the end of the first ‒ to the middle of the 3th century AD.), And sacrificed horses and bulls were of local breeds adapted to farming in the mountainous areas, however the analysis of the demographic structure of the people, who the cemetery belonged to showed its lack of viability: among the buried people prevailed the individuals not older than 20‒27 years, none of them had not lived to old age. Thus, as a closed group that society would be doomed to extinction.
The orientation, the position of the deceased to the Orientation, a shape of burial structures, excavation of tombs, and, finally, a mysterious detail ‒ a bowl under the head of the dead ‒ clearly pointed to the family ties with the owners of the home necropolis of Kuban’, the population at that age were Meotian tribes.
Interesting was the comparison of discovered materials with rather little data on the history of the Cimmerian Bosporus existed in those days on the shores ‒ now the Kerch Strait – the Kingdom of Bosporus. Its development had been influenced by the barbaric Iranian tribes (Scythians, Maiotians and Sarmatians). «Among the Meotians ‒ according to Strabo’s” Geography» ‒ there were the Sinds themselves and Dandars, Toreaties, Agras and Arrehis and Tarpeties, Obidiakenies, Sittakenies, Dokiss and others. They include aspurgians living space on 500 stages between Phanagoria and Gorgippia». In terms of modern geographical concepts, we can say that the land of the aspurgians covered the southern part of the Taman Peninsula, the suburbs of the modern cities of Anapa and Novorossiysk ‒ the territory called in ancient times Asian Bosporus.
As noted by linguists (L.A. Zgusta, J. Harmatta) the basis of the ethnonym aspurgians, as well as the name of one of the kings of Bosporus in the first century AD ‒ Aspurgus ‒ is the Iranian word «aspabara» (rider).
Without exaggeration it can be pointed out that to a long period in the history of the Bosporus state, a variety of puzzles and problems is linked with the Aspurgians. Before the 6th century AD they are mentioned by ancient authors (Ptolemy, Herodians, Stephen Byzantine, etc.) as a tribe inhabiting the plain region of the North Caucasus.
Aspurgians are mentioned in the inscriptions of the Bosporus in the III. AD, however, they are not subordinated to Bosporus kings among other nations, but as a kind of political structure or administrative unit headed by a «Chief aspurgian». On the pedestal found in Kerch as far back as in the middle of the last century (KBN №36), the senior officials of the Bosporus state are numbered: «… Menestrat, son of Gosemfliya, governor of the royal residence of the governor and of Theodosia; Fann, the son of Saclay, chiliarch and the Chief of aspurgians; Funn son Agafusa, chief secretary; Chariton the son of Nikefora, a lokhag (captains) …».
The contradictory nature of the information contained in written sources, lets us see in the aspurgianis not an ethnicity, as stated by Strabo, but a political party, some armed detachments or even military colonists. However, a number of researchers, since antiquity prominent scholars M.I. Rostovtsev and I.I. Tolstoy, see in them a military unit or a political party of supporters, followers of the Bosporus king Aspurgus. According to N.I. Sokolsky, was being formed of the ranks of aspurgians: a new Bosporian aristocracy in many nations of the ancient history a warrior-rider ‒ a representative of the elite, experienced in military affairs, and who knew to command. There is nothing unusual in the fact that the new coming military units (brigades), or even the whole tribes occupy a privileged position, concentrate in their hands the command positions in the social structure.
Their appearance on the historical scene is associated with a fairly meaningful circumstances: according to Strabo, the Bosporian king Polemon wanted to attack the inhabitants of the space 500 Stages between Phanagoria and Gorgippia, the aspurgians under the guise of friendship, but their intentions were revealed ‒ he was encountered by the aspurgian army, taken prisoner and killed. Thus, in the time described by Strabo the aspurgians had already firmly established in the Bosporus and symbolized an opposition to the forces that had contributed to the complete subordination of the Bosporus state to Rome.
The date of the appearance of aspurgians in the Bosporus can be seen on the basis of archaeological sources. Perhaps the brightest in this respect can be called the archaeological monument of the fortified residence of a major aristocrat, a representative of the new aristocracy of the Bosporus on the Taman peninsula, built in the time of late Hellenism (2th‒1th centuries BC) on the ruins of the temple complex? may be the sanctuary of Aphrodite Apatury.
Discovered in the ruins an inscription on a massive plate: «ΧΡΥΣΑΛΙΣΚΟΥ TΥΚΗΕ BA [ΣI] ΛEΥΣ AΣANDROΣ ΦIΛ [OΡOΜAIOΣ] (Hrisaliska Tikhe. King Asander, a friend to Romans)» ‒ had kept the name of the owner of the fortress – Hrisalisk. The mention of the king Asander, who had ruled in the Bosporus in 47‒17 years. BC, along side with other archaeological finds, allows to date the last period of this fortress and associate its end with a punitive action of Polemon that had cost, as it was mentioned above, him, his life.
On another equally massive block was depicted (in a very schematic manner) patron of Hrisalisk ‒ Tihe standing on the tower of the fortress the goddess of destiny and happiness: on her head there was a helmet or a crown, in one hand a staff with a spear end at the bottom and the leafy end on the top (lightning -?), and in the other ‒ the scepter with a finial in the shape of a star. Popular among the Aspurgians was the Hellenistic goddess of fate Tihe ‒ Roman Fortuna had, according to N.I. Sokolsky, the attributes peculiar to the Iranian deity. On the other hand, the rod shown in this hand of the deity is very similar to iron scepters of graves of the Maiotian nobles who usually were crowned with figures of animals. Such a “scepter” was among the grave goods found in the excavated by V.M. Sysoev in 1896 Kurdzhipskom mound (4th century BC).
The researcher of this monument N.I. Sokolsky concluded that the aspurgians appear on the Asian Bosporus as far back as in the middle of the 2th century BC with a wave that had brought into the Bosporus culture and life the elements that are usually characterized as a Sarmatization.
The penetration of nomadic Sarmatian tribes into the steppes of the Azov and Kuban’ begins, according to some researchers, begins at the end of the 4th century BC. They brought from the East new types of protective and offensive equestrian and weapons. Widespread in the steppe (Sarmatian) burials and cemeteries in the Bosporus cities had became long double-edged swords with a handle in the form of sharpened pins which were supplied once with the plates made of organic materials, mostly of wood. In later versions, with a wide-bladed sword, rivets were used to for attach the wooden linings. The appearance of such swords makes it possible to restore some of the images. For example, on the tomb of the first archon of Khersonesos Gazurius son of Metrodorus, manager of civil and military affairs, among the major components of the armed warrior Chersonesites is a long sword in its sheath.
A new stage in the formation of warrior horsemen equipment was marked by the appearance of mounted warriors in armor – cataphracts and related new combat techniques. It is believed that the Sarmatian cavalry “cataphracts” is known at least since 35 AD, although the use of armored mounted men was common much earlier in the East. Fundamentally a new fact was the use of new tactics: attack wedge formation assault using the «assault» peaks (Kontos) and long swords (Arrian, Tactics, 16, 6). The Romans had an opportunity to evaluate strong features of the Sarmatian-Alan tactics (Tacitus, History, 1, 79), so as a part of the Roman army under Emperor Hadrian (117‒138 AD) appears a unit of armor clad riders (ala I Gallorum et Pannoniorum catafracta).
However, purely the Sarmatian origin of aspurgians causes a serious doubt. They are traditionally associated with the Asian part of the Bosporus, their presence was not marked by either in the European or in the Bosporus colony at the mouth of the Don ‒ Tanais, while widely Sarmatians had settled in the Black Sea steppes.
In addition to evidence of Maiotian accessories of the aspurgians by the ancient authors, and we have archaeological evidence. Since the time of the Scythian rule in the Kuban’ region the most significant strike force of military units of local tribes were the warriors-riders. Here, in the Kuban’ region yet in the 4th centuryBC. There had developed a rather peculiar offensive weapon of piercing and slashing action ‒ a long, sword up to 1 m, «Sindo-Maiotian» type, long enough to kill the enemy sitting on the horse back. It’s interesting, but the study of technologies to produce the swords in aspurgian, in our opinion, Tsemdolina burial confirms a link with the traditions of Kuban’: they are made of strips of raw steel, the tip of the blade, the size of one third of the length of the blade, was subjected to quenching.
There are other parallels established between the burial complexes of Tsemes valleys and plains of Kuban’. The most interesting comparison can cause a necropolis excavated on the territory of modern Adygeya in Zakuban’ye on the Pshish river. There they also found in large earthen burial tombs the skeletons of riding horses (a fixture of camp life), armor and powerful offensive weapons (swords, spears) – the burials of representatives of the estate of the elite military cast.
Discovered here are the elements of the protective armor known as «Sarmatian-Alan» for quite numerous pictures, such as the frescoes of the vaults of the Bosporus and the triumphal reliefs of Trajan’s Column. The head was protected by a pointed, conically shaped iron helmet made of narrow vertical plates interconnected by strips. Archaeological finds of these helmets are associated mainly with the left bank of the Kuban’ river. It was found twice in the burials of the Tsemes Valley.
An integral part of panoplia of cataphracts a shell that had spread, according to the observations of S.P. Kozhukhov, in the Kuban’ region in the last 1th century AD. Scaled armor used in that region in the Scythian time, displaces from the beginning of the first century AD. A chain mesh borrowed, according to some researchers, from the Romans, who had participated in the violent events in the Bosporus, described by Tacitus (Tacitus. History.).
The cut of coats of mail could be different. The equestrian chain mail, according to the material of the burial ground on the Pshish river was up to one and a half meter long. The sidess had incisions on the front and in the rear, indicating to the traditional posture of the Kuban’ riders.
Just as in the Kuban’ Region, in the equestrian burials of the Tsemdolina repository the spearheads (contos) had not always been found. It may be due to the requirements of the funeral rite. A sword, in turn, in many nations is not only a sign of military valor but also the main item for many military ceremonies. The symbolism of the sword in the funeral ritual of aspurgians proves, in particular, the facts of intentional damage (bending) of blades. For example, in one of the Tsemdolina ‒ kenotaph burials next to the skeleton of the horse the clothes were found of which remained only a fastener fibula and two short swords bent in half. The studies have shown that to bend the hardened steel blades it was necessary to subject them to the second heating.
Witnessed events and human sacrifices (killing ritual) in the graves (№2 and 6) of the Pshish cemetery on the river at the bottom of the pits along with killed horses human remains had been found. The position of the bodies in one case, crouched sides in the other one ‒ face-down. Moreover, the overlap of human skeletons by horses ones shows that originally the holes were in precisely human bodies placed into the pits.
Unfortunately except these details of the funeral ritual, we know virtually nothing about this military subculture, something probably similar to the life of medieval knights. The ability to use weapons ‒ a long sword, to control a horse in the heavy mail armor required constant training and participation in combat clashes. The life of these warriors, no doubt, was regulated by their own laws, worked out among the Kuban’ tribal aristocracy. Some impact on this kind of «Code of Honor» could have been rendered by ideology of nomadic Sarmatian tribes.
It remains a mystery, under what circumstances, there had appeared this military burial ground belonging to, in our opinion, the historical Aspurgians, at some distance from the areas that are connected with a possessions of the Aspurgians. The landmarks of the modern city of Novorossiysk is a rather specific area in the Bosporus state, which is characterized by mostly plain landscape. Due to natural conditions, mountain ranges ‒ the spurs of the Main Caucasian ridge, covered with impenetrable woods ‒ that country had been was a safely protected from the alien invasion. Therefore, lived here at a time when the Greeks had donly begun to explore the Black Sea coast, and Torets & Kerkets did not particularly resent the power of the rulers of the Bosporus, who had declared them their subjects at the beginning of the IV th. BC century yet.
According to archeological data, the colonization of these lands of the Bosporus began only at the end of the 4 th сentury BC: in the ancient city close to the modern village Raevskaya, located at the hillfeet, there had appeared a fortified settlement ‒ a Bosporian outpost. It is important that in the development of new territories the Meotian population of Kuban’ had taken part: in the burial necropolis located near the Rajevski settlement, there were equestrian burials like those in the Kuban’ region, long equestrian swords of «Sindo-Maiotian» had been spread there as well as a specific custom to put a bowl under the head of the deceased. It is possible that here «Hunters of Fortune» from the Kuban’ region, had rushed in and formed a new military political party and which had grown in to the Bosporus power structures.
Apparently, the area controlled by the «aspurgian Head» was more extensive and its borders can undergo over time significant changes. It is possible that this territorial region had been intentionally created by the rulers of the Bosporus as a buffer zone, which protected from the east the biggest Bosporus cities Phanagoria and Gorgippia and land (χορα). To control these territories and to secure access through the mountain passes and canyons the Bosporians had created fortified patrol sentry points. The archaeological material suggests that it happened in the middle of the 1th century BC, under Bosporus King Asander. The Asander ruling is connected with indisputable growth of political positions of the Bosporus state on the whole. The Bosporus gains independence from the ruler of Pontus Pharnaces, at a time when he had been involved in the fight with the troops of Julius Caesar. Asander had strengthened success by a marriage with Dynamis, who, according to Dion Cassio, was a daughter of Pharnaces and a granddaughter of Mithridates Eupator (Dio.Cass. LIV, 24, 2-6).
The mountainous country, one could get into only by passing along the Tsemes valley, was one of the hiding places of the Aspurgian possessions. It is suggested that it was just there Dynamis and her son Aspurgus of Asander found a refuge after the break with Polemon. The find in the gorge Shirokaya Balka of a female bronze bust, according to M.I. Rostovtsev, was a portrait image of Bosporus Queen Dynamis with a Phrygian cap decorated with inlaid silver stars in the ruins of the ancient monumental building ‒ a tower according to an eyewitness findings in 1898.
Political stability in the Bosporus returned when Aspurgus came to power. He received support in Rome, and as a confirmation of he was received by the Emperor Augustus, receiving a dynastic name of Tiberius Caesar. After a marriage with a thracian lady Gipepiria Aspurgus receives a second name Thracian ‒ Riskuporid. However, the most significant support for his power in the Bosporus were close ties with the local Sarmatian-Maiotian tribes, their symbol brought him the third name of the Bosporus dynast ‒ Aspurgus. It was exactly the aspurgianis – a military-political formation to begin with military units formed by the aristocratic elite of the Kuban’. Sarmatian-Maiotian tribes stationed in the Asian Bosporus. They became his reliable support for the period of coming to power, they had helped to eliminate a political opponent Polemon, and enjoyed at that moment a full support of Rome. Later during, two or three centuries, they are present in the political system of the Bosporus, but the role of these units and the territory under their control could vary.
In the middle of 1th century AD (after the death of Aspurgus in 38 -?) Tsemes the Tower Estate located in the Tsemes valley, near the cemetery in Tsemdolina, (as well as a number of others) had been burnt as a result of brutal raids: in the ruins they found deformed due to high heat pieces of vessels, pieces of melted bowls, burnt human and horse bones. The death of these estates ‒ links of the Bosporus signalguard system can be regarded as an evidence of the weakening of control over the country by the Bosporus rulers ‒ the aspurgians. How big was the autonomy of the aspurgians in this period, perhaps can be evidenced by the numerous finds of Roman coins-imitations to dinarius depicting the coming Mars, which received in a special numismatic coins literature the name of «the unknown people».