Constanța is a city on the coast of the Black Sea, in an area called Dobrudja (south-east Romania). The settlement bearing the name Tomis was established around 600 B.C. by the queen Tomyris who ruled over an ancient Eastern Iranian nomadic confederation. Tomis was eventually conquered by the Romans, becoming one of the remotest borders of the empire, the capital of the region called Scythia Minor, a place where the critical voices of the Roman establishment were exiled, as it was the case of the Roman poet Ovid, who spent in this area of the Black Sea (i.e. Pontus Euxinus as it was named by the Romans) the last years of his life. Falling under influence of the Eastern Roman Empire afterwards, it was named after a sister of the Emperor Constantine the Great, herself named Contantia or Constantiana. Dynamic trade activities took place here and the archaeological excavations undertaken in the second half of the nineteenth century and in the mid-twentieth century in the area revealed complex constructions consisting of a network of goods storage rooms or workshops where the ancient ships were repaired.
Tomis/Constanța experienced its golden age in the second half of the nineteenth century when it officially became part of the newly established Romanian state. The city became the most important city harbour of the country, all the goods shipped via Danube River were coming here; the nearby construction of the Constanța-Cernavodă railways in the 1860s gave further impetus to the development of trade. Most of the representative public, religious buildings or private palaces built by rich merchants were erected in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
Afterwards, in interwar time, the city consolidated its renown as a place where rich people would come and spend here time or money in the imposing Art-Nouveau Casino that overlooked the sea. Later, in communist time, Constanța was rebranded, thus becoming a city, port at the seaside that was accessible to all, particularly the working class (e.g. the imposing buildings had all been ascribed to state ownership, the so-called nationalization, as the law at the end of the 1940s had it). It has to be stated nevertheless that many archaeological activities and renovations of historical houses were performed in communist time, more precisely in the 1960s-1970s.
Being a city-port, Constanța has always been home to several ethnic communities of which the Armenian and Tatar are the most important. Thus, multiple religions coexisted, as the places of cult bear witness (e.g. mosques, Catholic, Eastern Christian). A telling example is the fact that the construction of the Saint Anthony of Padova Catholic Church was financially supported by all inhabitants of the city.
Today, Constanța is, unfortunately, the victim of the faulty local administration that failed to do anything significant for all the buildings that are facing the rapid erosion caused by the specific climate. Since 1990, Constanța is slowly turning into a ruin sprinkled with few shades of past glory like few residences of rich merchants or, paradoxically, the nice (e.g. compared to those of today) restaurants dating from communist times. Even these remnants are undermined by kitsch, wood chunks hanging instead of windows, or simply by the numerous stray dogs and cats that are roaming around the old city through the garbage that is waiting, in turn, to be eventually lifted. Sadly, Constanța is the perfect expression of the dreary state of historical architecture in southeastern Romania, resulting from a mix between the corruption and lack of care of the authorities, and the lack of civic involvement of the ordinary citizens.
A very pale comfort to this is the Tomis port, a small area boasting of restaurants, bars, and private ships.