Mount Mithridat and the Great Mithridates Staircase

Located at the center of the Ukrainian city of Kerch, Mount Mithridat was nominated as one of the seven wonders of Ukraine in the 2007 contest to name the country’s seven top historical and cultural monuments. While the prominent landmark did not make it into the final list, it is nonetheless of historical importance in the city of Kerch and is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can climb the Great Mithridates Staircase to reach the top of the hill – a challenging, but rewarding, endeavor. The view from Mount Mithridat across the city and the Strait of Kerch is breathtaking, and on a clear day it is possible to see the Caucasus shore in the distance.

The 19th century museum that stood at the top of Mount Mithridat was destroyed during the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856, and in its place stands a monument known as the Obelisk of Glory as a memorial to the soldiers that defended the coastal city and Kerch Peninsula during World War II. The mountain is named in honor of the ruler of the ancient kingdoms of Pontus and Armenia Minor in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), Mithridates VI of Pontus, who made a valiant stand against the Roman Empire in the region before being betrayed by his own son.

The Great Mithridates Staircase is a series of flights of stairs with ornate balustrade terraces and statues at various intervals. Low stone walls flank the staircase, and considering it was completed in 1840, the staircase has weathered the elements remarkably well. Lampposts are set at intervals along the staircase, which was designed by Italian architect Alexander Digbi, and large trees enhance the scenery.

One of the more notable features of the staircase leading up Mount Mithridat is the large stone statue of a Griffin. With the body of a lion, and the head and wings of an eagle, the griffin was considered to embody the powers of the king of the beasts and the king of the birds. Griffins were said to guard treasure and priceless possessions, and were even considered to be a symbol of divine power. Griffins are most commonly seen in the art and folklore of ancient Greece, but have been found in other cultures in Europe, as well as in Egypt.

Visitors to the city of Kerch in eastern Crimea – an autonomous republic governed by the laws of Ukraine – should definitely include Mount Mithridat on their list of places to explore.