Chersonesus (Ancient Greek: Χερσόνησος) is an ancient Greek colony founded in the 6th century BC in the southwestern part of the Crimean Peninsula, near Sevastopol. Settlers from Heraclea Pontica in Bithynia established the colony. From the 2nd century BC onward, it was controlled successively by the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, the Huns, and the Byzantine Empire.

It was useful to Byzantium in two ways: it was an observation point to watch the barbarian tribes, and its isolation made it a popular place of exile for those who angered the government. Among its more famous "inmates" were Pope Clement I, Pope Martin I, and the deposed Emperor Justinian II.

The town disappears from history after 1396, when it seems to have been abandoned by its inhabitants. In 2013 UNESCO listed Chersonesus as a World Heritage Site. It is often referred to as Khersones (Херсонес), which should not be confused with the Tauric Chersonese, a name often applied to the whole of the southern Crimea, nor the city of Kherson in Ukraine proper.

Kherson in Agent of Byzantium[]

Kherson was regarded as the bleakest place of exile in the Roman Empire. In 1317, Eutropios, Patriarch of Constantinople, exclaimed "Saved from Kherson!" when his council helped him find a solution to the iconoclasm crisis.[1]

Kherson in Justinian[]

Kherson in later Roman times was a small merchant town on the southwest coast of the Crimean peninsula. Nominally a part of the Roman Empire, the town's real ruler was a strongman from the Khazar Khaganate. In the late 600s the town received the deposed, mutilated emperor Justinian II in the local monastery, where he dwelt for nine years with his faithful bodyguard Myakes. While in Kherson, Justinian met a merchant from India named Auriabedas who told him that he would reconstruct his nose for five nomismata. His nose being (partially) restored, Justinian eventually found out the merchants of Kherson were planning to sell him to agents of the emperor Tiberius III in Constantinople. Justinian and his followers managed to flee the city before the plot could be carried out. Years later, Justinian, once more on the throne of the empire, plotted to get revenge on the people of Kherson, pledging to "wipe it off the face of the world as a man wipes shit from the cleft of his buttocks." Three expeditions were dispatched to the town to destroy it; the third never managed to finish the job because members of the earlier expeditions had rebelled against Justinian and allied with the Khersonites and the Khazars.

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  1. Agent of Byzantium, 2018 edition, pgs. 217-218.