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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
THE PENINSULA OF TAMAN.
MODERN map-makers designate by the above name what was once a group of islands between the Straits of Kertch, the Sea of Azof, the Black Sea, and the mouth of the Kuban, and what is now a curious alternation of low lands and marshes, everywhere broken up and disrupted by phenomena of great rarity on the surface of the globe, but exceedingly common in this particular region-mud volcanoes-or diversified by the tumuli or sepulchral mounds of the great nations of antiquity; and of bays, gulfs, lakes, and estuaries of the sea, the different extent and the relation of which to one another, at various epochs and even in the present day, have long been a puzzle to geographers. A subject upon which we hope to be able to throw some definite light in the present paper.
The hostile flotillas of the Allies have already visited almost all the tangible points of the peninsula. The Boghaz, or mouth of Lake Kizil Tash, or Red Stone, and of the Kuban, on the Black Sea; Temriuk, at the outlet of Lake Aktaniz, or Ak Denghiz, “the White Sea” of the Turks; Taman, the Cossack capital of the district, and Suvarof's neighbouring fort of Phanagoria, abrogating to itself, with characteristic Russian impertinence, the name of the ancient capital of the Asiatic Bosphorian kingdom, the site of which was not at that spot, have all in turn been honoured by visits from the vindicators of the law of nations in the Black Sea and its appurtenances.
The Boghaz was attacked and its stores destroyed at a very early period in the war. Taman and Phanagoria were occupied by an AngloFrench naval and military expedition on the 24th of September, and Temriuk was threatened and its garrison exposed to a heavy fire from gun-boats at the same time as the Tyrambian peninsula was attacked, as also the bridge and causeway which connect that peninsula with what was once the island kingdom of the Cimmerians, and which the reader must learn to distinguish from the also islanded kingdom of the Asiatic Bosphorians, in which was Phapagoria, the capital and port, and Kepos, its far-famed and luxurious gardens.
The whole of the peninsula-or as some archæologists, thinking more of bygone times than the present, have designated it, Polynesia-presents the most remarkable peculiarities in a geological as well as in an archæological point of view. It had not its present form when an equilibrium was restored to the waters, and the actual aspect of the Crimea and the countries around the Black Sea were sealed by that catastrophe of the quaternary epoch which opened the Thracian and the
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Cimmerian Bosphorus, and depressed the course of the Don and the Sea of Azof. Traces of the volcanic agencies which brought about this last series of tilting-ups and subsidences remained in the volcano, which, bursting out in front of the actual harbour of Sebastopol, once covered the whole of the Heracleontic Chersonesus and a portion of the Crimea with cinders. Such was also the origin of the Cyanean rocks at the entrance of the Thracian, and of those of Opuk at the entrance of the Cimmerian Bosphorus.
At this epoch the Kuban emptied its waters into a gulf which it was gradually filling up with alluvial deposits, and instead of the low marshes of the present day and the group of low hills which constitute the Peninsula of Taman, there was only a spacious arm or inlet of the sea, with an islet, now the site of Yeni-Kaleh, but at that time separated from the rest of the Peninsula of Kertch.
There remained a power rarely to be met with, and indeed not very universally appreciated, to keep this district--where Homer placed with so much poetic justice the entrance to the infernal regions in a state of constant commotion and disturbance. This lay in its so-called volcanoes of mud, with their slimy and bituminous eruptions, which have never ceased to act up to existing times, and the accumulations arising from which have gradually given birth to new lands, filled up inlets of the sea, turned the courses of rivers, and obliterated gulfs, or converted such into inland lakes. It is thus that the island of Cimmeria or of Fontan, the island of Tyrambis, the island of Temriuk, and the island of Phanagoria, once separated by as many straits, are now united into one peninsula. The Kuban on its own side was also filling up with its detritus the gulf and inlet which separated it from the then Polynesia of Taman.
It was by the continuous operations of the two agencies combined that what was sea has been converted partly into land and partly into a region of an amphibious character, where earth, fire, and water in perpetual conflict cause new metamorphoses to take place every year in the topography of the country around. Thus the antique land inhabited by the Cimmerians of Homer and of Herodotus is not that described by Strabo, and that of Strabo is not the same that exists in the present day. The Kuban, which in those times washed the walls of Phanagoria, and constituted the harbour of the place, has quitted the neighbourhood to seek altogether another outlet. Where a hundred years ago there was a navigable channel, now there is nothing but mud. Islands also constantly appear and disappear.
Kurki, or Kurganskoi, is the first station at which the traveller coming from the region of the Don puts foot on the peninsula. A group of tumuli or kurgans dotting the country around have given their name to the place, not far from which a small arm of the Kuban, expanding to form a series of lakes, empties itself into the liman or estuary of Temriuk, also called Gorku Liman. Traces of a fort erected at this point by the Turks are still visible. There was also attached to this fort a considerable enclosed space, which appears to have been a kind of fortified station or suburb, with its associated fort or citadel.
Formerly the great road across the peninsula to Taman passed to the south of the lake or estuary of Aktaniz, or Aftaniz, by the fords and forts of Smolianoi, Perevlanskoi, and Sednoi, whence Steblievska was reached, and thence the capital of the district. This road has not, however, been used in latter times, and the existing post-road goes by Temriuk, Peressipskaia, and Sennaia-balk.
The road from Kurki to Temriuk crosses the island of Kandaur, which rises about two hundred feet above the level of the sea, and is covered with rich pasturage. Many tumuli are scattered about, giving evidences of former population. On one side is the Sea of Azof, on the other Lake Aktaniz, whose waters extend beyond the reach of vision.* There is nothing in Europe that can be precisely compared with this vast extent of inland seas, lakes, gulfs, and marshes, presented by the Peninsula of Taman. Near Temriuk are some mud volcanoes: one of which filled up a little lake in the spring of 1815, and left behind it an eminence now known as the Guila-Gora, or rotten hill.”
Under the Turks, Temriuk was a place of some importance; but when Dr. Clarke visited it, in 1800, there was only a post-house inhabited in the whole place. When Dubois de Montpereux was there, in 1841, it boasted of eighty houses, and of a pretty little church, built with the stones from the old Turkish fortress of Adass. A muddy channel still keeps up a communication between the estuary of Temriuk and Lake Aktaniz. In former times vessels of small burden used to pass from the Black Sea by the channel of Kisiltash, thence ascend the Kuban, and pass by one of its arms that flowed past the fort of Perevlanskoi, but which is now dried up, into Lake Aktaniz, and thence by the channel of Temriuk into the Sea of Azof. Great quantities of fish are caught and salted in the estuary of Temriuk; the waters of which are so shallow that the boats of the Allied flotilla were unable to effect a landing.
Adass Kalahsi stood, as its name indicates, on an island in the Temriuk channel. All that remains in the present day are traces of a square one hundred and twenty feet in every direction, and an old iron gun. In Clarke's time there were four towers at the angles; but we have seen that the fort has served as a quarry for the new church of Temriuk, The Russians assaulted this fortress at a time when the waters were frozen, but the Turks having taken the precaution to break the ice, they lost five hundred men in the undertaking.
Opposite to Temriuk is another island, the approach to which is defended by a square earth work, raised by Suvarof, with four bastions and a ditch. This fort occupies the place where once stood the Acropolis of the Milesian port of Tyrambis. The site of the port is still marked by an ancient mole, near which are the huts of some fishermen, called the Khuter of Temriuk. Tumuli are scattered all over the island, which is six versts in length; their presence is invariably indicative of the existence of ancient colonies in the Bosphorus, and their number and size indicate the former population and importance of the place. The island of Tyrambis terminates in a sandy slope between two giant tumuli called Adassi Burun, or Island Cape, at the station of Peresippe. An old arm of the sea which once united the Sea of Azof to Lake Aktaniz is crossed
* Ak-Denghiz, or White Sea of the Turks ; Temrivukskoi Liman of the Military Map of 1800; Kubanskoi Liman of the Map of the Staff, Tiflis, 1834; Andenisskoi Liman of Khatof's Map, Aftonis Liman of Stevens, and Aphtoniz Liman of Favre.