Bulgaria in Antiquity. An Archaeological Introduction

Ralph Hoddinott


- Foreword

- Acknowledgements

- Abbreviations





As the formation of the Bulgarian nation belongs to the Middle Ages, the title of this book is contradictory in the sense that it is concerned with the territory of Bulgaria when it had other names and was inhabited by other peoples. Unlike Britain, in Antiquity it lay close to the centre of the world of Greece, Rome, and Persia, although at the same time acting as either a key bastion or a vulnerable frontier.


In the twelve hundred years from the country’s ‘discovery’ by Greek colonists about 600 b.c. until its conquest and settlement by the Slavs, such a situation ensured it an inescapably important role. Yet, outside Bulgaria, this is not generally reflected in archaeological literature, and on most archaeological maps of Europe Bulgaria is an almost empty space. Study of the monuments of neighbouring territories suggested to me the illusory nature of this ‘empty space’ and aroused a wish to see and to evaluate what it contained.


There are reasons, some of them substantial, why Bulgaria is so little known in this connection. Less than a century has passed since the country was among the more depressed provinces of the Turkish empire, of which it had been part for 500 years. Archaeology has consequently been a late starter. In the last quarter-century, the rapid progress of industrialisation and mechanised agriculture has accelerated the uncovering of new finds and sites, often of great importance. The rescue digs involved have placed a severe strain on national archaeological resources and exacerbated the problem of prompt and adequate publication. Archaeological reports are normally published in Bulgarian or, occasionally, in Russian. The Western-language summaries that usually accompany them have often been too cursory to be of use. Moreover, even readers of Bulgarian experience difficulty in gaining access to basic reports published outside the main archaeological journals.


The resulting lack of interchange of expert views has been no less a disadvantage to Bulgarian than to foreign archaeologists. This book, the result of several journeys during which almost every corner of the country, major site, and museum were visited, supported by my wife’s willingness to translate many thousands of words from archaeological reports of the last 70 or 80 years, is an attempt to begin to redress this imbalance regarding the period broadly definable as Antiquity, one of several in which the sites and monuments deserve wider knowledge and critical attention. Very little of the material has hitherto appeared in a western European language, although a few journals, such as, in English, Antiquity, have consistently drawn attention, within the limitations of space, to outstanding discoveries. Evaluation has been sporadic and rare anywhere.


Three distinct divisions emerge, each overlapping slightly but together forming a coherent chapter of the historical development of the country. In the first part, ‘Thracians and Greeks’, the general settlement pattern has yet to be established by further excavation, and native written sources do not exist. The approach, concentrating on the Black Sea colonies and on a few sites and some outstanding burials in the Thracian interior, therefore differs somewhat from that of the two later sections, when the territory was an integral part of the known world and a more comprehensive picture can be drawn.







The second part, ‘The Roman Presence’, invites many comparisons with other Roman provinces, including Britain, For reasons of space, analogies have been confined to a very few related sites in neighbouring territories; but the descriptions, photographs, and plans should enable an interested reader to draw his own parallels.


The transition from Rome to Byzantium, which began in a.d. 330, profoundly affected the area, lying as it did between the new capital and both the western provinces and the northern barbarians; but archaeologically the dividing-line is most apparent in 378, the year of the Visigothic triumph over the emperor Valens and of the accession of his successor, Theodosius I. Here, although a few relevant earlier monuments are included, begins the period described in ‘Christianity and the Byzantine Withdrawal’, by the end of which the Slavicised interior was once again almost as much a terra incognita to the then civilised world as it had been when Greek colonists first settled on the Black Sea coast.


Because historical circumstances varied greatly in different parts of the country, archaeological sites and finds have been grouped geographically as well as in their chronological setting, but the continuity of individual sites should be easy to follow. The grouping must not, however, mislead the reader in need of an archaeological guidebook. First, it has been necessary to be selective in order to describe as comprehensively as possible and within their historical and social context monuments chosen because they are either representative or outstanding. Secondly, some of the sites no longer exist and others are inaccessible or difficult to visit, for a variety of reasons. But if the traveller in or through Bulgaria finds that this introduction tempts him to explore, even a little, he will be well rewarded. Attention has been concentrated on sites rather than - with outstanding exceptions - chance finds. Certain sites about which little is yet known have been briefly mentioned in view of their potential importance.


Place-names constitute a problem which I cannot claim to have solved. In some cases, both antique and modern names are known, sometimes only the latter; there are also sites, identified by inscriptions, in what is now the middle of nowhere. Moreover, names of settlements and of physical features were by no means constant throughout Antiquity, nor are they always undisputed. Whilst Greek was the language in which the country was first described and was later in common use, especially in the south and along the whole coast, Latin was long dominant on the Danube. This also complicates the nomenclature of gods. Artemis and Diana co-exist.


Consistency therefore seeming impossible, I have adopted the following general guidelines. Mountains and rivers are given modern, Bulgarian names, facilitating reference to modern maps (both ancient and modern names of rivers and mountains, where known, appear on the two maps included). Ancient names of sites are used where they have been identified with reasonable certainty; modern equivalents are given at the first text mention and again, if it falls later, at the first main site description. Both appear on the maps, in the site bibliography, and in the index. Unidentified sites are referred to by the nearest modern settlement or location.


Greek, Latin, and Byzantine technical terms have presented another difficulty. Over a range of twelve hundred years one man’s daily diet can be another’s exotic - or dubious - rarity. Where technical terms have been considered





necessary, they have been briefly explained within their context when first used.


To avoid tiresome repetition of dates and the background of events, a brief Historical Outline has been included. Readers unacquainted with the period in this area may find it useful to glance at the relevant section of this Outline before reading the main text.


My four visits to Bulgaria within the last nine years - covering most of the sites described, some more than once - were planned and carried out completely independently by my wife and myself. Only once, at my request, an official guide was provided, when we visited a monument in a military zone. We are therefore especially grateful to the Directors of Museums and other archaeologists and scholars in associated disciplines who have been so generous with their time and assistance, in some cases contributing their own photographs as well as their publications. The number is too great to list, but I hope they will find Barbara’s and my appreciation reflected in the dedication. They will probably also find mistakes, for which I must accept full responsibility.


must gratefully acknowledge, too, the invaluable assistance of the Bulgarian Committee for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries with official introductions and permits, and the gift of many photographs of museum objects. In the same connection my warm thanks are due to the Directors of the National Archaeological Institute and Museum in Sofia. It is also a pleasure to thank the Director and staff of the Great Britain-East Europe Centre in London for their constructive advice, for the continuing contacts afforded by meetings at the Centre, and for the use of its Library.


During the research for this book we have received and would like to record our appreciation of the warmly given assistance from Librarians and their colleagues of University of London libraries, in particular, of the Institute of Archaeology, the Joint Library of the Institute of Classical Studies and the Societies for the Promotion of Hellenic and Roman Studies, the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, and the Warburg Institute. Similar thanks are due to the Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and also to the Reference and Lending Departments of the Chiswick District Library.


I am especially grateful to my publishers for adopting a generous attitude towards illustrations and plans which will be of particular value to the student in view of the difficulty of access to many of the publications and sites.


Bulgaria welcomes tourists and we are grateful for helpful introductions from Balkantourist in both London and Sofia. But official resources are not yet geared to provide for the wanderer. This circumstance brings its own reward in the shape of many acts of practical kindness for which my wife and I would like to thank countless strangers in the cities, towns, and villages and on the roads of Bulgaria.


My wife’s role in the preparation of this book has been no less than mine. All translations from Bulgarian and Russian are her work and, both at home and abroad, research, compilation, and writing have been shared. The work has benefited greatly from our discussions and - usually - constructive criticisms of each other’s share. As titular author, it is a pleasure to record my collaborator’s unstinting and equal contribution and my son Geoffrey’s practical help in photographic and other technical matters.


R. F. H.



September 1973







Photographs made available under the general aegis of the Bulgarian Committee for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries are gratefully acknowledged from the following sources:


Archaeological Museum, Sofia (Pls. 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 28, 29, 32, 33, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 51, 62, 66, 77, 82, 91, 92, 93, 98, 125, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 202 by Rosa Staneva; Pls. 16, 79, 80, 175 by Peter Hlebarov)

Archaeological Museum, Plovdiv (Pls. 30, 34, 38, 39, 52, 118, 120, 126)

Archaeological Museum, Varna (Pls. 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 89, 144, 150, 191, 196)

Razgrad Museum (Pls. 108, 109)

Silistra Museum (Pls. 88, 90)


The assistance rendered by the Directors of these Museums and their colleagues, including, in some cases, special photography for this book, is warmly appreciated. In addition, I am especially grateful to the undernamed for the following: Pl. 94 by courtesy of T. Ivanov and the Director of the Sofia Archaeological Museum; Pl. 102 (P. B. Tarashenko) by courtesy of B. Sultov and the Director of the Veliko Turnovo Museum; Pl. 103 by courtesy of G. Toncheva; Pls. 163, 164, by courtesy of V. Antonova, Director of the Shoumen Museum.


Foto-Arhiv, Sofia (Pls. 8, 9, 15, 17, 19, 22, 37, 49, 61, 63, 64, 65, 68, 69, 70, 76, 78, 99, 104, 107, 113, 114, 117, 124, 136, 139, 145, 194, 195, 197, 198) Foto-Arhiv, Plovdiv (Pls. 31, 57, 58, 59, 60, 121, 123, 177)

After Ancient Art in Bulgaria, published by Bulgarski Hudozhnik (Pls. 4, 71, 119)


Pls. 5, 20, 21, 35, 36, 56 are by Sava Boyadjiev


No reproduction of any of the above photographs is allowed without permission of the copyright holder.


Pls. 115, 167, 168 are, respectively, after L. Ruzicka, G. Katsarov and B. Filov.


The remaining photographs (Pls. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 14, 40, 41, 53, 54, 55, 67, 72, 73, 74, 75, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 95, 96, 97, 100, 101, 105, 106, no, hi, 112, 116, 122, 127, 137, 138, 140, 141, 142, 143, 146, 147, 148, 149, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, l60, 161, 162, 165, 166, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 176, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 192, 199, 200, 201) were taken by the author who has pleasure in recording the full cooperation of the many authorities concerned.


Excerpts from John Jackson’s translation of Tacitus, Annals, Book IV (Loeb Classical Library) are quoted by permission of Harvard University Press: William Heinemann Limited; from H. Cary’s translation of Herodotus, Books IV and V (Bohn’s Classical Library) by permission of G. Bell and Sons Limited ; from C. D. Gordon, The Age of Attila, © 1960, by permission of the University of Michigan Press.









AAP(A) — Acta Antiqua Philippopolitana: Studia Archaeological Sofia, 1963.


ABV — Beazley, Sir J., Attic Black-Figure Vase Painters, Oxford, 1956.


Actes Ist BC — Actes du 1er congres international des etudes balkaniques et sud-est europeennes, II, Sofia, 1969.


ARV — Beazley, Sir J., Attic Red-Figure Vase Painters, 2nd edn., Oxford, 1963.


CIL — Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.


IGB — Mihailov, G., Inscriptiones Graecae in Bulgaria Repertae, I (2nd edn.), II-V, Sofia, 1958-70.


Izsled Dechev — Izsledvaniya v chest na Akad. D. Dechev, Sofia, 1958.


Izsled Shkorpil — Izsledvaniya v pamet na Karel Shkorpil, Sofia, 1961.


NAC — National (Bulgarian) archaeological conference held annually and reported in Arheologiya.


Prouchvaniya — Gerov, B., Prouchvaniya vurhu Zapadnotrakiskite zemi prez Rimsko vreme, Sofia, 1961.


Romanizmut — Gerov, B., Romanizmut mejdu Dounava i Balkana ot Avgoust do Konstantin Veliki, Sofia, 1954.


RP — Razkopki i Prouchvaniya, I-IV, Sofia, 1948-50.


AJA — American Journal of Archaeology.


Arh — Arheologiya, Sofia.


BASEE — Bulletin d’Archeologie Sud-Est Europeenne, Bucarest.


BCH — Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique.


Bull. Byz. Inst. — Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute, Paris.


CA — Cahiers Archéologiques.


GNM — Godishnik na Narodniya Arheologicheski Muzei v Sofiya.


God Plovdiv — Godishnik na Narodniya Arheologicheski Muzei v Plovdiv (for earlier titles, see pp. 344—5).


GSU — Godishnik na Sofiskiya Universitet.


GSUFIF — Godishnik na Sofiskiya Universitet Filofsko-Istorichesko Fakultet.


IBAD — Izvestiya na Bulgarskoto Arheologichesko Drujestvo.


IBAI — Izvestiya na Bulgarskiya Arheologicheskiya Institut.


Iz Bourgas — Izvestiya na Narodniya Muzei Bourgas.


Iz Shoumen — Izvestiya na Narodniya Muzei Shoumen (for earlier title see p. 345).


Iz Turnovo — Izvestiya na Okrujniya Muzei Turnovo.


Iz Varna — Izvestiya na Narodniya Muzei Varna (for earlier titles see p. 345).


MP — Muzei i Pametnitsi na Kultura.



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