Their home was in the spurs of the Caucasus and along the shores of the Caspian - called by medieval Moslem geographers Bahr-al-Khazar ("sea of the Khazars"); their cities, all populous and civilized commercial centres, were Itil, the capital, upon the delta of the Volga, the "river of the Khazars," Semender (Tarkhu), the older capital, Khamlidje or Khalendsch, Belendscher, the outpost towards Armenia, and Sarkel on the Don.
They were the Venetians of the Caspian and the Euxine, the organizers of the transit between the two basins, the universal carriers between East and West; and Itil was the meeting-place of the commerce of Persia, Byzantium, Armenia, Russia and the Bulgarians of the middle Volga.
The merchants of Byzantium, Armenia and Bagdad met in the markets of Itil (whither since the raids of the Mahommedans the capital had been transferred from Semender), and traded for the wax, furs, leather and honey that came down the Volga.
When Ibn Fadlan visited Khazaria forty years later, Itil was even yet a great city, with baths and market-places and thirty mosques.
Sarkel, Itil and Semender surrendered to him (965-969).
The older and scantier underlying ruins are supposed to be those of the once large and prosperous city of Itil or Atel (Etel, Idl) of the Arab geographers, a residence of the khan of the Khazars, destroyed by the Russians in 969.