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Overview of the Thracians (I will edit this post through time to update the thing when I have the time):

The Thracians are a mysterious group of different tribes, often mentioned in ancient sources and commonly known for their mercenaries but it is difficult to get a proper picture of what was the Thracian culture and how they lived. First, what are the Thracians? This is in fact an important issue because there are contradictory definitions depending on the point of view adopted. The most common definition is administrative, the limits of Thrace is based on the Roman divisions of their territories and the Thracians are simply the tribes living in this region (see the map below). This is good enough because most of the historical tribes are indeed in this region. But if we look from the point of view of the languages, there are connections between the Thracians and the Dacians and between the Thracians and the Illyrians. It seems that the case was ambiguous enough for Herodotos to conclude they are one of the most numerous population and most of the barbarian tribes north of Greece were belonging to the Thracians. Even up to the Crimea in other accounts, notably including the Getai/Getae. However, there is indeed a sharper linguistic group in the South of Thrace related to the historical Thracians and to their material culture. This group correspond to the tribes in front of the Aegean Sea, like the Bessi and the Odrysai. To sum it up, the concept of “Thracians” was very wide in the oldest accounts and became narrower through time to become restricted only to the Southern Thrace. This follows the historical interactions of the Thracians with the Hellenistic world.





Archaeologically, the territories of the modern Bulgaria and Romania were on the path of several migrating peoples from the Pontic Steppes. The Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture and the Middle Dnieper culture are ancient echoes similar to the migrations of the Scythians and Sarmatians during the historical period. This is the Indo-European origin for the Thracians and Dacians. But the first typical cultures that started the genesis of the Thracian civilization were the Ottomani culture and Wietenberg culture north of the Danube, far from the traditional homeland of the historical period. These two Bronze Age cultures developed the basis for the Thracian art that will flourish later; even some parallels are seen with the arm rings and bracelets of the Dacians and Thracians.


Here some artifacts from the Ottomani culture and Wietenberg culture:



The genesis will continue during the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age with the continuing influence from the North by the Noua culture, the Babadag culture and the Zimnicea-Plovdiv culture. These cultures will be the first to cross clearly the Danube and to establish themselves in the Southern regions of Thrace, forming the Pshenichevo culture. Finally the Urnfield culture will extend itself into the actual Romania and Bulgaria and will homogenize more efficiently the culture associated to the Thracians and Dacians (and probably the Illyrians as well). It is during the transition between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age that the split up associated to the historical Thracians from their neighbors occurred. A culture building megaliths was active during the Last phase of the Bronze Age in South-Eastern Thrace and Anatolia and this culture started to mix with the newcomers from the North inside the Thracian plains. This megalithic culture is associated to the migration of the Phrygians and of the Bithynians from Anatolia to the Thrace as explained by Herodotos and Strabo. While in the North, the influence from the Cimmerians and the Chernoles culture increased the contacts between the Geto-Dacians group and the nomadic peoples. This is how the two main groups of the early Thracians started to divide themselves bit by bit; the historical Thracians were in contacts with the Mediterranean and Anatolian spheres of influences while the Geto-Dacians were in contacts with the Nomads. However, the divide was not that sharp because of the Black Sea and of the Greek colonies further in the North. In fact, this is not a black and white contrast between the Geto-Dacians and the Thracians; it is easier to see these differences as the results of two gradients of influence. For example, the Animalistic art is widespread among the Thracians and the Geto-Dacians and this art comes from these contacts with the Cimmerians.

Here some artifact associated with the Northern limits of the Thracians during the 7th century BC, from Bessarabia (Moldova) to Ferigile (Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania); see the proximities with nomadic culture:






The beginning between the Greek, the Scythians and the Persians




Recent excavations have shown that several centuries before the great Greek colonization Euboians arrived in the north of the Aegean and settled permanently, evidently in Mende on the Pallene, the westernmost of the three peninsular extensions of the great Chalcidic Peninsula, and in Torone on the Sithonia, the central of those same three extensions. In the 8th century, Euboians again headed for the Chalcidic Peninsula and founded colonies, the Eretrians on the Pallene and the Chalcidians on the Sithonia and in its hinterland. About the middle of the 7th century, Andrians turned up on the east coast of the peninsula and founded four colonies between the isthmus of the Akte and the mouth of the Strymon River: Sane, Akanthos, Stagira, and Argilos. Finally, about the year 600, the Korinthians founded Poteidaia on the isthmus of the Pallene. About or after 700, Aiolians who came from Lesbos occupied Samothrake and used it as a starting point for the founding of several settlements on the opposite shore. The next destination of Greek colonists was the Thracian Chersonese (with Hellespont); most scholars date the start of the colonization to the seventh century. The first to come seem to have been the Aiolians; they occupied Madytos and Sestos, which lay on the strait, and Alopekonnesos on the northwest coast of the peninsula; from here they reached Ainos in the second half of the century. On the west coast the Milesians founded, partly together with the Klazomenians, Limnai and Kardia. Some decades later the Athenian Miltiades took colonists to the Chersonese, installed them in already existing cities or in new foundations, protected the inhabitants of the peninsula by building a wall across its isthmus, and established a private rule which became hereditary within the family and was only abolished by the Persians after the suppression of the Ionian Revolt. On the whole, there are three groups of colonies close to the Hellespont: on the south coast Milesian foundations (Kyzikos, Prokonnesos, Kios, and perhaps others); in the northeastern and northern part of the Propontis, Megarian foundations (Astakos, Chalkedon, Byzantion, Selymbria); and, the latest, on the north coast the Samian foundations Perinthos and Bisanthe, where the colonists seem to have met the strongest opposition from the native population.



Unlike the northern Aegean, there are very few written sources about the Black Sea and most conclusions are based on archaeology. An important difference with the Aegean is that, at present, there is no unequivocal evidence of a “precolonial” phase of maritime contacts that preceded the colonial foundations. Curiously, evidence from Mesambria alone, among the latest foundations, could begin such a discussion. Pseudo-Skymnos and Herodotos probably refer to two successive groups of settlers, respectively in the late sixth century and again in the early fifth. Strabo mentions an earlier name, however, Menebria, from Menas and bria, and the same tradition is attested by a later epitaph. Finds of Early Iron Age pottery seemingly confirmed the native origin of Mesambria and created the image of Mesambria as a major Thracian port, transformed by the colonists into a Greek polis. The actual colonization started from Dobrudzha, with the foundation of Istros and Orgame, some 400 km to the north of the Bosporus. Apollonia, the first safe harbor after the straits, appeared only a few decades later; Milesian colonists skipped several suitable sites to be settled later, like Apollonia. In the possible context of Miletos losing land to Lydia, these settlers were attracted apparently by the steppe flatlands and large rivers, which offered agricultural potential and other sources of food, like fish. One additional factor may have contributed to this choice: the near total absence of a native population. The early seventh century was a time of change and the local Babadag Culture collapsed, possibly as a result of general upheaval in the Pontic steppes. It would have been easier to found a colony in an almost empty landscape, although Orgame is situated on a naturally fortified promontory. It may even be the case that Orgame was the first Greek settlement, with the leading role later transferred to Istros, as at Borysthenes/Berezan and Olbia to the north.

By contrast Odessos, to the south of the steppe region, was founded in an inhabited landscape, as indicated by Thracian cemeteries that appeared in the late seventh century; in the Hellenistic period Krobyzai “lived in a circle” around the city. Founded later than Istros (ca. 610), Apollonia was situated on the coastal island of St. Kirik and a peninsula that provided safe harbor and natural protection. There is no evidence that the colonists needed it, although they did find an inhabited hinterland. Coastal Strandzha was part of the Early Iron Age “megalithic” culture, as attested by dolmens. On the heights of Meden Rid (“Copper Ridge”), which encloses the coastal plain around Apollonia, Thracian “hill-forts” were identified and investigations at Malkoto Kale have revealed continuity from the ninth century to after the arrival of the Greeks. These natives could be the Skyrmiadai mentioned by Herodotos. Archaeology provides evidence that the colonists quickly established relations with the Thracians. Throughout the city, traces of bronze metallurgy have been discovered, and on St. Kirik they are securely dated to the colony’s earliest times; the metal came from Meden Rid, where sixth-century materials were found associated with ancient mines. It is difficult to imagine that mining in the foothills of Strandzha would be possible without the consent of the natives, and Thracian pottery in the early layers of the city adds to the picture. This evidence for precocious metallurgy may reveal something about the reasons for the colonization. The interactions were not limited to Apollonia’s immediate surroundings, for the Thracian interior was most accessible by navigable lagoons at the head of the Bay of Burgas, where Greek imports appeared very early in the sixth century, before penetrating further inland.



Only in very few cases can we guess how the different Thracian tribes reacted to the occupation of their coasts by the Greek colonists; and, as far as our written sources are concerned, we do not learn anything about their political history in the age of the great colonization. This, however, changed abruptly when, at the end of the sixth century, the Persians appeared on European soil and for more than three decades determined the history of this area, and when some decades later the Greek historian Herodotus wrote his history of the Persian Wars, in which he also mentioned events in Thrace, although not as fully as we would wish. According to him, the Great King Darius was the first to cross to Thrace with his troops. A recent critical examination of this account, however, leads to the supposition that already before Darius the general Megabazos had made an advance across the Straits and had conquered the territory along the Hellespont and the Propontis. This could only have been a prelude to further conquests on European soil, and, in order to safeguard these against possible raids of the Skythians who lived north of the Danube, in about 513 Darius himself arrived with a great army, crossed the Bosporos, conquered further tribes in eastern Thrace, marched to the mouth of the Danube and crossed the river. After having operated – allegedly unsuccessfully – for some time in the area of the Skythians he led his army back down the Hebros River, built a fort called Doriskos west of its mouth and returned via Sestos to Asia Minor. About 510 he marched west along the Thracian coast of the Aegean and conquered all tribes and cities until he reached the area of the lower Strymon. Some of the Paionian tribes in this region were deported to Asia Minor, and a diplomatic mission achieved the voluntary submission of the Macedonian king Amyntas. The Getae have been pushed in the North for at least several decades, probably in the region of the latter called Dacia. While Amyntas was obviously allowed to continue ruling, albeit as a vassal of the Great King, we do not know anything about the organization of the parts of Thrace that the Persians had conquered up to that time. These were restricted to the coastal areas and did not comprise, as some scholars assume, the big central plain in modern Bulgaria. If the conquest of the Straits and the south coast of Thrace as well as the extension of Persian rule to Macedonia was intended as the preparation for a campaign against Greece, nothing in fact happened in this respect, at least during the next ten years. Quite the opposite: the Persian rule in this region was so weak that in the years of the Ionian Revolt (499–494) it practically collapsed. Finally, in 492, Darius dispatched his son-in-law Mardonios with an army and a fleet and ordered him to restore Persian rule on the other side of the Straits as well. Although the Persian navy was shipwrecked while rounding the Athos peninsula and the locals successfully attacked the land army, killed many soldiers, and even injured the general, the campaign ended with a Persian success. In connection with the events of the year 480 Herodotos speaks of the numerous commanders in Thrace and at the Hellespont; these might have been appointed subsequent to Mardonios’ campaign. On the other hand we never hear of a satrap who resided in Thrace, and therefore most scholars are convinced that the Persians had not set up a separate satrapy but that the country consisted of different military districts which were governed by the previously mentioned commanders; these were possibly subordinate to the satrap who resided in Sardeis. Afterward, owing to Mardonios’ successes, Thrace remained firmly under Persian control until the year 480, as can be observed during the preparations for Xerxes’ invasion of Greece. In order to avoid another shipwreck a canal was built across the isthmus of the Athos peninsula; its traces are still visible on the ground. Furthermore, in the region where Amphipolis would later be founded, the Strymon was bridged and supply depots for the army were laid out in Thrace and Macedonia along the route of the planned advance. Such circumstances, however, changed during the course of Xerxes’ invasion. After being defeated at the battle of Salamis, the King hurriedly marched to the Hellespont with select troops; the survivors of the Persian army marched in great hurry through Thessaly and Macedonia and eventually reached Byzantion, after many of them had either been killed by the Thracians or had been worn out by famine and exhaustion. Soon after Xerxes’ invasion was repulsed, the Athenians founded and headed the so-called Delian League, which, as we shall soon see, after only a few years degenerated into an Athenian Empire. The aim of the first operations of the League was to expel the Persians from Thrace. The fortress of Doriskos, however, could repulse all Athenian attacks; it surrendered eventually to the Thracians and never became a member of the League, which, in Aegean Thrace, finally comprised the coastal cities from the Chalcidic Peninsula to the mouth of the Hebros River. The retreat of the Persians from Thrace opened the way for the Odrysians whose homelands were to be looked for in the fertile valleys of the Hebros (mod. Maritsa), Tonzos (Tundja), and Harpessos (Arda) Rivers. According to Thucydides (2.29.2) their king Teres “was the first to found a great kingdom of the Odrysians, which extended over the larger part of Thrace.” Details about the formation and the extension of this realm are barely known, nor can these events be dated exactly. Some of the territorial gains may even have been made by Teres’ son Sitalkes. We only know that Teres was on friendly terms with the Skythians, that he had given his daughter in marriage to a Skythian ruler, that he had suffered a defeat in the hinterland of the Propontis when he was attacked by the Thynians, and that allegedly he reached the age of 92. At the beginning of the Peloponnesian War his son Sitalkes ruled over the Odrysians.



The Odrysian kingdom




“Beginning with the Odrysians, he [Sitalkes] first called out the Thracian tribes subject to him between Mounts Haemus and Rhodope and the Euxine and Hellespont; next the Getae beyond Haemus, and the other tribes settled south of the Danube in the neighborhood of the Euxine, who, like the Getae, border on the Scythians and are armed in the same manner, being all mounted archers. Besides these he summoned many of the independent Thracian hill tribes, swordsmen called Dii, mostly inhabiting Mount Rhodope, some of whom came as mercenaries, others as volunteers; also the Agrianes and the Leaeans; there the empire of Sitalkes ends and the territory of the independent Paeonians begins. Bordering on the Triballi, also independent, were the Treres and the Tilataeans, who dwell to the north of Mount Scombrus and extend toward the setting sun as far as the river Oskius.” – Thucydides

By far the most information about Sitalkes concerns the first years of the Peloponnesian War and comes from Thucydides who maintained close relations with Thrace, where he not only had the right of working gold mines but also exerted great influence on leading individuals. Additionally Herodotos knew of a meeting between Sitalkes and the Skythian ruler who was the son of the daughter of Teres and who had ousted his brother, the actual ruler; Herodotos’ account is vague about the chronology of this event, unfortunately. The deposed ruler had gone to Sitalkes, whereas a brother of Sitalkes (might he have been Sparadokos?) had found shelter with the Skythians. Instead of bringing back their protégés by force of arms the two rulers mutually handed them over. So both Sitalkes’ rule and the northern frontier of his kingdom were protected. As regards the Athenians and their allies, he protected himself with the help of an alliance that had been negotiated in the summer of 431 by Nymphodoros of Abdera, whose sister Sitalkes had married; on this occasion Sitalkes’ son Sadokos became an Athenian citizen, probably the first Thracian to be honored in this way. In the following summer of 430, Sitalkes and his son Sadokos demonstrated their loyalty to the Athenians by arresting and delivering up a group of Peloponnesian envoys who were on their way to the Persian King and had tried to bring the Odrysians over to the Spartan side. Sitalkes had promised the Athenians that he would assist them against the Macedonian king Perdikkas and the insurgents on the Chalcidic Peninsula. In the winter of 429/8 he set off against both of them. Although this campaign was only marginally relevant to the history of the Peloponnesian War and achieved no lasting success, Thucydides not only supplied a detailed report but also inserted a substantial digression on Sitalkes’ kingdom, its size, the king’s sources of revenue, and the army. His enumeration and description of the tribes that supplied troops for Sitalkes’ campaign against Macedonia are the most detailed account we have of the extent of the Thracian realm in the fifth century. Thucydides begins with the Odrysian homelands, without specifying their whereabouts, although they must have been located around the middle course of the Hebros River in southeastern Bulgaria; this gave the Odrysians not only an economic and strategic advantage but also access to the Thracian interior and to the coasts to the east and south. He then writes of the Thracians living between Haimos (now the Balkan Mountains, Stara Planina), Rhodope, and the sea (both the Pontos Euxeinos and the Propontis), and of the Getai and other tribes between the Istros (Danube) and Haimos. In addition to these different Thracians living chiefly in the plains of what are now Bulgaria and Greek and Turkish Thrace, Sitalkes also summoned the independent Thracians who lived in the mountains, most of them inhabitants of Rhodope in what is now southwestern Bulgaria. From here Thucydides moves to present-day western Bulgaria, mentioning the Agrianians and other Paionian tribes who were under Sitalkes’ sway, the Strymon River having been the western boundary of his empire. The Paionians west of the river were independent but seem to have been the target of an earlier expedition of Sitalkes; on that occasion he had even constructed a road, cutting a path through the forest. To the northwest the boundary was formed by the tribes who lived north of Mount Skombros (now Vitosha south of Sofia), east of the Oskios River (mod. Iskar), and south of the independent Triballoi. After this digression Thucydides describes the march of Sitalkes’ army through the interior of Thrace to the north of Macedonia and the invasion along the Axios. During this march many of the independent Thracians joined him without being summoned, so that the whole number of troops was said to have risen to no fewer than 150,000, of whom about a third were cavalry. Despite their numerical superiority the Thracians did not advance any further into Macedonia than Pella and Kyrrhos. Instead they ravaged the eastern parts of Macedonia and the adjacent areas of the Bottiaeans and the Chalcidians, frightening both the Greeks living to the south of Macedonia and the independent Thracians east of the lower Strymon. However, the Thracian army did not have sufficient food supplies and was also suffering from the cold; so Sitalkes returned home after just 30 days, taking the advice of his nephew Seuthes, who had himself been bribed by Perdikkas. In 424 Sitalkes undertook an expedition against the Triballoi but was defeated in battle and killed; after his death his nephew Seuthes became king of the Odrysians and of the rest of Sitalkes’ Thracian realm. This realm had been created partly by voluntary subordination under the Odrysian ruler whose power grew continually, partly by fighting. Some tribes were allowed to keep their leaders, in other parts so-called paradynasts were appointed as governors; some of these are known only from their coins which, however, must not be interpreted as an indication of independence movements or even rebellions. A capital of the Odrysian realm is never mentioned; the respective rulers seem to have stayed in different more or less fortified settlements or other central places. Thucydides speaks with admiration about the size of the Odrysian realm which extended from Abdera to the Danube or from Byzantion to the Strymon; this made it larger than all Greek states south of Macedonia and Epeiros. Furthermore he emphasizes the income of the Odrysian king, which under Sitalkes’ successor Seuthes had amounted in gold and silver to about 400 talents; to this sum must be added gifts in gold and silver and other precious materials whose worth reached the same sum. Such gifts were given not only to the ruler but also to the subordinate princes and nobles of the Odrysians.

Under Seuthes I, the son of Sparadokos, the Odrysian realm was able to maintain its position, and the income of the ruler could even be increased, but our sources seem to indicate that political and military activities decreased. In the years 424/3 and 422, Seuthes obviously did not take part in the clashes between Athenians and the Spartan Brasidas over the possession of Amphipolis, whereas Thracian tribes in the area of the lower Strymon supported one or the other of the parties; the Edonians of Myrkinos sided with the Spartans, while the Odomantian king, Polles, aided the Athenian general Kleon. During the rule of Sitalkes these tribes had been independent and obviously they seem to have maintained their independence. Likewise in the course of later Athenian actions along the Thracian coast, Seuthes is not mentioned. In these years the Athenians not only failed to recover Amphipolis, but also, in the second half of the Peloponnesian War, temporarily lost to the Spartans other important cities such as Byzantion, Selymbria, Perinthos, and Abdera. We do not know whether Seuthes made use of this situation and whether he, as many scholars assume, began at this time to expand his rule toward the Chersonese. The sources are silent about his later years, including the time of his death. His successor Medokos is mentioned for the first time in 405, when the Athenian Alkibiades told the Athenian generals, who were encamped at Aigospotamoi on the Chersonese, that the Thracian kings Medokos and Seuthes II were his friends and had promised him considerable troops for the fight against the Spartans. Some years earlier in the course of his military operations around the Hellespont and the Propontis, Alkibiades had seized some strongholds near Bisanthe and on the Thracian Chersonese. When he had to flee again from Athens, he withdrew there. Our sources tell us that he enlisted mercenaries,waged war on the Thracians who had no king at the time, captured much booty and gave the Greeks in this region safety with respect to the barbarians; that means that in the hinterland of the Propontis there were districts which were not part of any kingdom. When a little later Alkibiades fled to Asia Minor and the threats from the Thracians did not cease, the Byzantines turned to the Spartans and asked for help. The Spartans sent Klearchos, who set up a tyranny until he was expelled; however, he stayed in the country and went on fighting the Thracians until in 401 he joined the campaign of the younger Kyros against his brother Artaxerxes. According to Xenophon, Seuthes II already controlled a number of fortresses along the coast and in the hinterland, from which he undertook raids into the territory of the rebels, but had not yet succeeded in subjugating them. With the help of the Greek mercenaries, he campaigned not only in the former territory of his father but also in the principality of Teres; in doing so he had no moral scruples and butchered unmercifully those whom he actually wanted to become his subjects. After a number of successes which led him up to Salmydessos on the Black Sea coast, Xenophon with his mercenaries left Seuthes and entered the service of the Spartans, who were the decisive power in the area of the Straits after the end of the Peloponnesian War and who, since the year 400, had waged war on the Persian satrap Tissaphernes; Seuthes was glad to be rid of the Greeks, whom he had scarcely paid. With Xenophon’s help Seuthes II had been able to enlarge his territory, but obviously he still had to seek foreign support. Therefore he sent about 200 Odrysian cavalrymen and 300 peltasts to the Spartan general Derkylidas who since the summer of 399 had been in command in Asia Minor and who spent the winter in Bithynia. In the meantime, the inhabitants of the Thracian Chersonese had asked the Spartans for help against the raids of the Thracians and Derkylidas was instructed to look after them. He crossed to Europe, marched through Seuthes II’ territory to the Chersonese, and built a wall across the isthmus of the peninsula; this must have been at least the third such wall. The Thracians who had plagued the Chersonitans were not alone in revolting against the hegemony of the Spartans. When, after the outbreak of the Corinthian War, in 394 the Spartan king Agesilaos and his troops left Asia Minor by land, they had to fight against an army of an otherwise unknown tribe. Whereas we know relatively much about Seuthes II, his sovereign Medokos, who in our literary sources is sometimes called Amadokos and who presumably resided in the upper reaches of the Hebros River, is for the next years attested only by his coins. Seuthes II eventually rose against Medokos. We do not know any details of this insurrection and have only Aristoteles’ remark that Seuthes II had despised his overlord. The Athenian general Thrasyboulos, who, at that time, was operating on the Hellespont (389), reconciled them to one another and made them allies of the Athenians; in this context Xenophon calls Medokos/Amadokos “king of the Odrysians” and his opponent “ruler of the coast region”; this seems to indicate some form of subordination. In 383 Kotys became king.15 He was the right man to strengthen the run-down Odrysian realm, vigorous, and an artful diplomat who could take advantage of the respective political conditions. We know almost nothing about the first 18 years of his rule; with the help of Iphikrates, who was one of the best generals of his age, he seems to have managed to unite his territory with the realm of the dead Hebryzelmis; his coins were also minted at Kypsela. These efforts not only to restore the Odrysian kingdom to its former extent but also to enlarge it – especially toward the Chersonese – eventually gave rise to tensions and ultimately to war with the Athenians. In 375 allegedly 30,000 Triballians attacked the city of Abdera, which was rescued only by the intervention of the Athenian general Chabrias, who thereafter garrisoned the city. In 363 Kotys attacked the Chersonese. Several Athenian generals in succession fought unsuccessfully against him and his mercenary commander Charidemos. The generals were subsequently recalled to Athens, with some of them being accused and condemned. At the same time Kotys had problems with his former treasurer Miltokythes, who had risen against him and asked the Athenians for help, although in vain. Meanwhile, the war continued, but in 360/59, Kotys was assassinated by two brothers who came from Ainos. The Athenians honored them with citizenship and golden crowns but such awards do not prove that the Athenians had instigated the assassination. If, however, the Athenians had hoped that the removal of Kotys would improve their chances in the north of the Aegean and around the Straits, the Macedonian king Philip II was to disappoint them very soon and very bitterly. After the death of Kotys I in 360 BCE the Odrysian Kingdom entered a troubled age which ended in its complete annihilation. The period coincides with the reign of Philip II in Macedonia.



The remnants invaded




After the death of Kotys, the Odrysian kingdom was divided in three parts. Kersebleptes the son of Kotys took the easternmost realm, presumably to the east of the rivers Tonzos and Hebros; Amadocus, probably a son of Medocus the Odrysian king in Xenophon’s Anabasis, took the mountainous hinterland of Maroneia; while one Berisades established himself in the area around the lower Nestos. It remains unknown who of the three new kings took the rich inland plain of the Upper Hebros. Meanwhile, Athens was occupying the cities of the Chersonesos with cleruchs and Kersebleptes attacked Amadocus, Perinthus and Byzantium. Philip seized the occasion to make them his allies, and invaded the kingdom of Kersebleptes in the autumn of 352 BCE. Although Philip fell ill during the campaign, in the end Kersebleptes was defeated, and had to send a son to Pella as a hostage. There were also some collateral results: Demosthenes mentions that in Thrace Philip “expelled some kings and replaced them with others”, while Justin offers an anecdote about two brothers, Thracian kings, who summoned Philip as an arbitrator, but he came with his whole army and dispossessed them both. It was only a few years later that Philip felt confident to undertake a full-scale invasion of the kingdoms of Teres and Kersebleptes, who seem to have buried their mutual strife in face of the common danger. This was a war on a scale not comparable with the previous short incursions, and seems to have lasted through three summer seasons, 342–340 BCE, without interruptions for the intervening winters. In another episode Philip, who was suffering from inadequate funds, made an incursion for plunder in the lands of the Getae to the north of the Haemus, but was repulsed from a city (Odessos?) by a group of Getic priests who came out dressed in white and playing on guitars. It is often presumed that it must have been during these northern raids that Philip made an alliance with a Getic king, Kotelas, and married his daughter Meda. It would also have been during the Thracian war that Philip first entered in contact with the Scythian king Atheas who had crossed the Danube into Dobrudja; on his request Philip sent him some military aid.

In the spring and early summer of 335 BCE, the year after his accession, Alexander the Great undertook an expedition against the Triballi in Thrace with his whole army. In a demonstration of force Alexander crossed the Danube, defeated a swarm of Getae who had gathered on the northern bank of the river, and took one of their fortified places. He then accepted ambassadors from King Syrmos and the other independent Danubian tribes and concluded a pact with all, including some Celts from the Adriatic who had also sent a delegation. After this the Macedonian army retreated hastily to the south through the lands of the Agriani and Paeonians, that is, through the areas of the Upper Strymon and Middle Axios, in order to invade the lands of the rebellious Illyrians. The information on the Thracian units in Alexander’s army during the wars in Asia suggest a marked difference in the status of the southern and northern Thracians. The main Thracian detachments more or less regularly mentioned in the battle accounts, the heavy cavalry commanded by the Macedonian Agathon and the light infantry which included the akontistai of Sitalces and probably another smaller body of peltasts jointly commanded by Ptolemaeus the “strategos of the Thracians,” are usually designated either as “Thracians” or as “Odrysians” and therefore would have come mainly from the territories of the Odrysian kingdom annexed by Philip. The light Paeonian horsemen commanded by Ariston and the elite light infantry (akontistai) of the Agriani under Attalus are similarly recognized as regular conscription units. Diodorus is the only author who mentions, in the list of Alexander’s army crossing into Asia, Triballian and Illyrian infantry; these seem to have been allied volunteers or mercenaries rather than conscripted units. The Triballi are not mentioned any more, and similarly there is no mention at all of Getae in the accounts of Alexander’s wars in the East.

(To continue)




Buildings and architecture



Xenophon (Anabasis 7.4) describes fighting in Thracian villages near Perinthus in 399. His comments on the settlements are vague, but are certainly consistent with the remains of small villages found at Vinitsa, Brestak, and Devnja. Vinitsa was a fourth-century hamlet of twenty or twenty-five one-roomed rectangular wattle-and-daub huts. The roofs would have been pitched and made of thatch. The huts ranged from 3×3 m to 4.5×4.5 m, and most were “Halberdhütten,” in which the floor level inside the hut had been dug out some 30–90 cm deeper than the ground level outside, to give more headroom. Most huts had a small internal hearth in or near one corner, and an oven built against an outside wall, often under a simple lean-to. There were numerous round pits, some for garbage, but most for grain storage. These villages would have had 100–200 inhabitants. There were also some bigger and longer-lived sites, such as Shoumen, which was partly protected by double stone walls; and recent work at Adjiyska Vodenitsa (an emporion called Pistiros) has revealed houses built from monumental stone blocks. This site was bigger than Shoumen, and may have been a princely seat within the Odrysian kingdom (while being as well a commercial center for the Greeks). There had been Greek cities on the Black Sea coast at Apollonia, Mesembria, Odessos, and Histria since Archaic times, but most Thracians went on living in tiny villages. As with the handmade pottery, it was only in Hellenistic times that traditional ways changed significantly. Philip II founded cities at Beroe, Kabyle, and Philippopolis in 342/1, and Aegean-style urban life began to penetrate Thrace. Late in the fourth century, the Thracian rebel Seuthes established Seuthopolis. This small town was filled with very Greek-looking large courtyard houses, but they were organized around a distinctively Thracian palace complex. The houses had mudbrick walls on low stone foundations, faced with plaster on lath, and tile roofs. In the third and second centuries, the kind of villages Xenophon had seen became less common in southern Thrace.


Cannot find any sketch of these huts described above so here some random Iron Age examples of pit-house and wattle-and-daub houses (up to 3D artist to do whatever he wants from the description):






Brick houses:




Pistiros - Adjiyska Vodenitsa






"Seuthopolis provides a good example of a manifest regularity, repeated in many settlements that become prominent political centers and seats of members of the high aristocracy; developed quickly, often without continuity with earlier settlements in the same locality, within a short time they become central in the settlement hierarchy. Many such sites, however, lose their importance equally quickly or come to an end, as their livelihood was evidently closely bound to that of their founders and the political structures created by them. The duration of settlement occupation at Vasil Levski, Krastevich, Seuthopolis, and Sboryanovo was brief, ranging from a few decades to slightly more than a century. In the last decade, in fact, the issue of whether or not some of the settlement forms widely distributed throughout Thrace ca. second half of the 1st millennium bce were in fact royal residences has undergone an important development. Various ancient authors mention fortified small places, “thyrseis,” that have been interpreted by modern scholars as towers or residences which served as “permanent homes of the Thracian aristocracy” or a “typical kernel of urbanization in Thracian settlement life” (Fol 1970, 166–168, with summary of the ancient sources). For a long time, this specific element of the Thracian settlement structure has had no convincing archaeological counterpart or, alternatively, the architectural complex excavated on the shores of Mandrensko Lake near Burgas was cited as a unique example (Dimitrov 1958; Balabanov 1984). The recent discovery of the residences near Kozi Gramadi (Khristov 2011, and earlier publications cited), Smilovene (Agre and Dichev 2010а, 214–217), Sinemorets (Agre and Dichev 2010b, 217–219), and Knyazhevo (Agre and Dichev 2013, 143–145) have revised this picture and confirmed the ancient sources. These compact architectural complexes are characterized by monumental architecture and often fortification; Knyazhevo is at present the only exception. On the other hand, the investigations at Sinemorets demonstrate that this settlement form, specific to Thrace, was in use not only in the heyday of early Thracian states, between the fifth and the first half of the third century bce, but also during the later stages of the Hellenistic period. [...]

Undoubtedly the most prominent manifestation of centralization processes and stratification in the settlement system of Thrace arrives with the emergence of political capitals – the leading urban centers of various Thracian political formations. If southern Thrace has yielded the example of Seuthopolis, for northeastern Thrace such a role is played by the Getic city research has enabled some investigators to identify the Thracian settlement in Sboryanovo with Helis, the capital of the Getic ruler Dromichaetes – a political opponent of Lysimachus (Delev 1990; Stoyanov 2000b; Stoyanov in press, cf. Chapter 5). The image that the city boasted during the end of the fourth and the beginning of the third century bce corresponds to its leading position within the strong Getic state developed on both sides of Danube. In the fortified area of the settlement both residential and artisanal neighborhoods existed. Recent archaeological data show that, in the southwestern part of the fortified section of the city, the remains of a basileia – an internal quarter in which the ruling aristocratic elite resided (Stoyanov in press) – can be identified. Numerous residential neighborhoods and other urban areas of commercial and manufacturing character were located outside the city walls, with the total area of the city exceeding 30 ha. Archaeology shows that the city was destroyed by an earthquake in the middle of the third century bce. Attempts to resurrect it failed to restore its previous role. The site at Sboryanovo does not seem to have followed in its development the main trends outlined on the basis of the settlements of higher rank located in southern Thrace. The site’s excavator rightly notes that, in its development of the individual elements of its urban character, architectural forms, and construction techniques, the settlement diverges from the rules of Greek and Hellenistic architectural features, which had been directly imported in some centers south of Stara Planina, but rather shows a regional variation of local development (Stoyanov 2006; Stoyanov in press)."






For the fortress of Shumen, this is a place occupied for a very long time and most of the construction are actually medieval I think. A picture of the site is not useful in our case. I starting to understand why there are so little information about these fortresses: here, here and here. Nationalist fantasy everywhere :crazy:










Royal tombs (possible civic center or temple):



Tumulus and Telos like tombs:






Tumulus with a Temenos (rectangular area):



Getae Tumulus Tomb:









General scheme of Greek tholos tomb:



Greek temples in Thracian towns (possible use as a temple?):




Royal palace of Seuthopolis (inhabited between 325 to 281 BC):



Walls and fortifications:














Getae (Sboryanovo):


Dacians fortresses:











Getae sanctuary:



Dacian sanctuaries (actually they are not similar to the Getae and Thracians):










Sanctuary from Piatra Roşie



Rock-cut monument:













Early Peltast/Akontistai or Highlander Thracians (Triballi, Dii, Serdi, etc.) as described by Xenophon:


















Dii swordsmen/machairaphoroi (highlander Thracians):


“Beginning with the Odrysians, he [Sitalkes] first called out the Thracian tribes subject to him between Mounts Haemus and Rhodope and the Euxine and Hellespont; next the Getae beyond Haemus, and the other tribes settled south of the Danube in the neighborhood of the Euxine, who, like the Getae, border on the Scythians and are armed in the same manner, being all mounted archers. Besides these he summoned many of the independent Thracian hill tribes, swordsmen called Dii, mostly inhabiting Mount Rhodope, some of whom came as mercenaries, others as volunteers; also the Agrianes and the Leaeans; there the empire of Sitalkes ends and the territory of the independent Paeonians begins. Bordering on the Triballi, also independent, were the Treres and the Tilataeans, who dwell to the north of Mount Scombrus and extend toward the setting sun as far as the river Oskius.” – Thucydides














Noble spearman or Noble spear cavalryman:













Light cavalry:






Light noble cavalry:






Getae Horse archer:



Celtic influenced Noble Thracians:





















Artillery and fortifications:





rhomphaia infantryman:

"They were tall men armed with white shining shields and greaves, underneath dressed with black chitons, swaying on their right shoulders raised upwards heavy iron rhomphaias."  - Plutarchus

"And the Thracians could not even use their rumpias here, which, being too long, intertwined with the stretching from everywhere tree branches." - Livy










Edited by Genava55
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So I think what need to be done is first of all to find a concept for the texture and the design of the building. To find something that is not too much Hellenistic and not too much barbarians. And finally, something that can be reused for the possible Illyrians and Dacians addition in other mods. Thankfully, the Illyrians are very Hellenized in the South and the Dacians are close to the Thracians thanks to their genetic relationship with the Getae.

Civic-center: For the civic-center, I see three directions, something like a small fortress as Xenophon said about the Thracian princes, living in small fortified position with a "tower". It could be similar to the Dacian small fortresses:







The other possibility should be something inspired from Seuthopolis and the Royal Palace:




And finally it could be something centered around the Royal Tombs and tumuli because they were associated to settlements in general:




Edited by Genava55
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Thank you for the information posted, it looks very promising! Yes, having a complete and unique architecture set is imperative for any civilization—the Illyrians should get their own set. The Thracians already have a few structures (barracks, centre, corral, houses, temple, tower); they were committed by @Stan` a year ago:


It's a start; hopefully more structure actors will be created in the same style.

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A full architecture set has the following structure structure actors:

  • civic: centre, houses, temple, wonder
  • defensive: small tower, large tower, fortress, walls (tower, short, medium, long, gate)
  • economic: corral, dock, farmstead, market, storehouse
  • military: barracks, range, stable, workshop
  • special: one or more unique structures
  • optional: elephant stable, field, mercenary camp, rotary mill, additional scenario-only eye-candy
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2 hours ago, Nescio said:


I don't want to be that guy, but if the only originality in the core design of the Thracians (or even Illyrians, Dacians etc.) is basically "Hellenistic... but in wood", I don't think it will be remarkable. For the moment I understand it is only a mod for the game, but if in the future it will be incorporated, I do not think it will fit within the others for quality.

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25 minutes ago, Genava55 said:

I don't want to be that guy, but if the only originality in the core design of the Thracians (or even Illyrians, Dacians etc.) is basically "Hellenistic... but in wood", I don't think it will be remarkable. For the moment I understand it is only a mod for the game, but if in the future it will be incorporated, I do not think it will fit within the others for quality.

Thanks for be me , lol. But st last we are like the scholar guy....

Some kind of Hellenistic early...

When I saw , I think in our Thracian mod.

Imagen relacionada

Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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@wowgetoffyourcellphone I did not hate your texture, I just wanted to learn texturing with Substance Designer (Which also allowed for a clean normal map and specmap) hence why I did not use it :)

@Genava55 I went for that style because that was what was depicted on that romanian web site.(I surely posted some picture somewhere on the forums) Greek columns slate roofs lot of wood :) If someone wants to make everything better and throw everything in the trash I have no issues.

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13 hours ago, Genava55 said:

I don't want to be that guy, but if the only originality in the core design of the Thracians (or even Illyrians, Dacians etc.) is basically "Hellenistic... but in wood", I don't think it will be remarkable. For the moment I understand it is only a mod for the game, but if in the future it will be incorporated, I do not think it will fit within the others for quality.


1 hour ago, Stan` said:

@wowgetoffyourcellphone I did not hate your texture, I just wanted to learn texturing with Substance Designer (Which also allowed for a clean normal map and specmap) hence why I did not use it :)

@Genava55 I went for that style because that was what was depicted on that romanian web site.(I surely posted some picture somewhere on the forums) Greek columns slate roofs lot of wood :) If someone wants to make everything better and throw everything in the trash I have no issues.

The only thing that looks like Genava's objection is the temple, IMHO. But it's difficult to imagine a Dacian/Thracian temple without good references, so it's very easy to latch onto the first decent reference we acquire, which in this case had some Hellenic influence. 


Screenshot from 2019-08-07 17-10-38.png

The Civic Center is interesting. Looks a lot like something from AOE3. Barracks I think the back part needs to be 2 stories, currently looking too diminutive. I think the rooflines need more pizzazz, specifically the seams between the different roof planes. It's a decent direction, just needs fleshed out. 

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2 hours ago, Stan` said:

@Genava55 I went for that style because that was what was depicted on that romanian web site.(I surely posted some picture somewhere on the forums) Greek columns slate roofs lot of wood :) If someone wants to make everything better and throw everything in the trash I have no issues.

Romanian? Perhaps reserve these for the Dacians then and hope for a new Thracian set. (Easy for me to say—I don't know how to use Blender and won't be the one making art assets.)

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For what it's worth, in my personal opinion, appearance wise the thracian buildings will look like more rough versions of the Hellenistic buildings, but to keep true to their historical appearance, it has to look like that. I think the buildings done already look nice, yes more simple or not as elaborate, but it seems like that is how the Thracians were in real life. Unfortunately not all nations and cultures built extravagant looking buildings. 

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1 hour ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

The only thing that looks like Genava's objection is the temple, IMHO

30 minutes ago, Nescio said:

Romanian? Perhaps reserve these for the Dacians then and hope for a new Thracian set. (Easy for me to say—I don't know how to use Blender and won't be the one making art assets.)



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1 hour ago, Stan` said:

 I went for that style because that was what was depicted on that romanian web site.(I surely posted some picture somewhere on the forums) Greek columns slate roofs lot of wood :) If someone wants to make everything better and throw everything in the trash I have no issues.

3 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

The only thing that looks like Genava's objection is the temple, IMHO. But it's difficult to imagine a Dacian/Thracian temple without good references, so it's very easy to latch onto the first decent reference we acquire, which in this case had some Hellenic influence. 

I understand totally, it is very difficult because the remains are scarce. I struggle myself on this matter. But the Dacians are not the perfect references for the Thracians: firstly because they were less influenced by the Hellenistic culture, the Getae were only a part of their union; secondly because the city of Sarmizegetusa is situated in the Western part of their territory, far from the Getae; thirdly the region around Sarmizegetusa is mainly composed of micaschistes unsuitable for construction. Everything was imported. For the big rectangular temple in Sarmizegetusa there is a first phase where it was built with wooden pillars on stone blocks and a second phase where the pillars were made in andesite and the architrave (the thing horizontal above that link the columns together) were made in andesite too. It is probable that the roof was made in wooden tiles. But there is a huge problem in assuming the temple is really Hellenistic because it is a lacking a cella/naos (and is lacking walls in general). Which is maybe meaning their design is not that much copying the Greeks. This is something I realized myself only yesterday by finding a document in French about Sarmizegetusa's temples. I agree with the author, it looks like these temples were for military cult. Personally, I see similarities with the Gallic open sanctuary with timbers, a roof and no walls found in the Treves which is often interpreted as the place for military assemblies.

Dacians are very interesting because they are sharing common ancestry with the Thracians but the link is older. It is coming from Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (1300 - 700 BC) developments. Contrary to the Dacians, Thracians have a better mastery in rock cutting techniques thanks to their Phrygian and Hellenistic influences. In the countryside, the Thracians were more rustic but close to the center of aristocratic fortified residences and Greek emporion it seems they were using brick and stones, at least for the foundation.

38 minutes ago, Nescio said:

Romanian? Perhaps reserve these for the Dacians then and hope for a new Thracian set. (Easy for me to say—I don't know how to use Blender and won't be the one making art assets.)

That could be an option.

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Subchapter about ritual space and religious practice:


Ritual communication with supernatural beings was performed by ancient man in his living space, with domestic cult taking place in his house, and communal cult in sanctuaries. Although use of these sacred spaces is known since early prehistory and was different from other types of daily activity, it is still difficult to define the religious functions of such spaces in Thracian society (Domaradzki 1994). Several types can be identified, based on their spatial positioning: intramural and extramural, the latter further subdivided into mountain and lowland locations. One may also distinguish between sanctuaries that attracted local participants and those which gathered worshipers from large areas. A third typological indicator is the character of the religious practices and the rituals that took place within sanctuaries, as can be reconstructed from archaeological evidence. In general, Thracian cults seem to have been aniconic, since images are known after the fifth century on utilitarian artifacts but not in sanctuaries. Among the earliest mentioned sanctuaries is that of Bendis in Athens, situated in Piraeus on Munychia Hill, where the Thracian goddess was celebrated by two distinct groups of participants – one of Athenian orgeones, the other of Thracians – in a night feast with torchlight races on horseback (Plato, Rep. 327a–328a). Intramural temples and shrines are known from Hellenistic Thrace. For example, the “Seuthopolis inscription” mentions a Phosphorion in Kabyle and an altar (bomos) of Apollo in the agora there, in addition to a Samothrakeion in Seuthopolis and an altar of Dionysus in his shrine (hieron) in the agora. The shrine of Samothracian Theoi Megaloi was probably located in the fortified quarter of Seuthopolis, in a complex of several rooms with a common portico and hearths in two of them (Dimitrov and Chichikova 1978).4 In another inscription from Batkun a sanctuary of Apollo is mentioned as a place where the citizens dedicated a stele (telamon) in honor of a prominent, unnamed individual, who is often regarded as a Thracian ruler, and his brothers (IGBulg 3.1, 1114). These examples of temples and shrines in an urban environment under strong Hellenic influence are suggestive of Greek religious cults. Kabyle was among the towns conquered by Philip II, where he settled inhabitants and installed a garrison, while the Great Gods were worshiped in Seuthopolis as a result of an agreement between Seuthes III and Lysimachus after a war when the construction of the city was started (Rabadjiev 2002, 10–54). The citizens mentioned in Batkun were probably from Philippopolis or nearby Pistiros, suggesting again Hellenic influence. Other known sanctuaries were at a remove from the activities of daily life, some of them on heights above 1600–1800 m in the wild area of mountains and lit by the sun. These are identifiable as rock sanctuaries, since there is a wide range of cuttings on exposed bedrock suggestive of ritual use as chutes, pools, niches, steps, and altars: prominent examples includes the sanctuaries at Babyak, Tatul, and Perperek. Cult sites of this type can also be found on elevations in lowlands, near settlements, or even within them, as at Levunovo, Nebet Tepe (Philippolis), and Kabyle. The holy precinct usually was enclosed by a peribolos and spatial separation of activities has been recognized in the temenos at Babyak, with different areas reserved for the presentation of gifts and for the burning of sacrifices on clay altars and hearths (Tonkova and Gotsev 2008). A great difficulty concerns the attempt to identify the deities worshipped in such sites. The oracle of Dionysus, located in high mountains where the Satrae dwelled, the Bessi were priests, and a priestess uttered prophesies as at Delphi, may have been housed in such a sanctuary (Hdt. 7.111). According to Alexander Polyhistor, the Thracian god was worshipped in a circular temple on top of the hill Zelmisos (FGrHist 273 F 103; Macrob., Sat. 1.18.11). It is not known whether this shrine can be identified with the sacred grove of Liber in Thrace mentioned by Suetonius, where the father of Augustus consulted barbarian gods for his son and the priests predicted world domination, visible in the high fire that flared on the altar from the libation with wine, just as happened to Alexander on that same altar (Aug. 94). The oracle has yet to be conclusively linked with a known archaeological site. Sanctuaries in plains were close to habitations and probably in agricultural land. Such sites are known from archaeological research alone, since they remained outside the interests of Greek observers and were not associated with any epigraphic practice. While some originated in the Early Bronze Age with sustained activity even down to Roman times, as at Bagachina, most sites of this type began to be used during the fourth century. The established practice consisted of the disposal of a wide range of objects and materials, possibly gifts for the gods, mostly in pits. Such sites can be described as “pit sanctuaries,” since they cannot be linked to any economic activity (see Chapter 11). The objects found therein can be described as ritual (e.g., models, clay figurines, amulets) and domestic (e.g., utensils, ornaments, clothes, tools, weapons) in function, but fragments of wall plaster and domestic hearths have also been recovered, as well as portions of the sacrificial meal, sometimes whole animals, and even human sacrifices (Tonkova 2010). These finds may be interpreted as donations to the gods in an actual exchange of values between human and divine worlds: worshipers give in order to obtain or to acknowledge what has been done with the assistance of the god. The pattern of burned sacrifice for the heavenly gods implies their omnipresence, but the deposition of sacrificial food in pits suggests that the recipients were to be subterranean gods, heroes, and the dead. Pits are known in cemetery areas, in and under burial mounds, probably intended as food for the dead (tomb cult), but also part of a ritual for the deified mortals (heroic cult). As for the human victims, literary sources mention such sacrifice in Thrace: Pleystor received human sacrifices (Hdt. 9.119) and Diegylis, chief of the Thracian Caeni, sacrificed two young Greeks in 145, explaining that kings and ordinary people could not use the same victims (Diod. 33.14). Religious activities are also documented in early Hellenistic domestic space, as in the case of the ornamented clay hearths (escharae) known mostly in urban environments like Seuthopolis, Philippopolis, Kabyle, Pistiros, and Helis. The attempt to link them with domestic cult (Makiewicz 1987) is not justified, since at Seuthopolis they were found in a separate and representative room not in the oikos, where the hearth was located. Their decorated surface, with traces of repairs after use, probably did not involve burning sacrificial food, but, as reported for certain Thracians (Solin. 10.5), incense or hallucinogens. Also associated with hearths were stone and clay “andirons” with protomes of horses or rams, arranged in pairs on both sides of the fire, some of which were small in size and thus portable, and surely ritual in function (Gerasimov 1972). Attempts to identify them as Celtic in origin, as T. Gerasimov proposed, are ineffective because they are found in environments with no Celtic artifacts; rather, they seem to represent the continuation of a Thracian tradition from the Early Iron Age. These andirons were present in domestic space in villages outside urban centers, but some were known from burial places; hearths are found in a similar range of environments. The ram was a domesticated animal, but the aristocratic horses probably implied in popular belief the idea of a solar chariot with heavenly fire and its purifying power. The notable change in ritual activity after the Roman conquest was the use of images and written dedications to the gods, like altars, stone reliefs and statues, and bronze statuettes. Temples for Roman cults were built in the newly founded urban centers of Moesia. The Capitolium in Oescus, a complex of three separate temples with an altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, was built as a monumental expression of these changes at the end of Trajan’s rule (Ivanov and Ivanov 1998, 92–151). A large sanctuary of Diana and Apollo, worshiped in Roman manner, has been excavated at the military camp of Montana (Ognenova-Marinova et al. 1987, 14–53); a sanctuary of Asclepius and Hygia is attested in the inner courtyard of the valetudinarium at the camp of Legio Italica I in Novae (Alexandrov 2010, 112–115). Most official dedications of altars in Roman cults were concentrated close to military camps and urban centers (Lungarova 2012). A similar pattern existed in Thracia with temples for Greek and Eastern cults in the towns, where the presence of foreign settlers – obvious in the religious life of settlements like Nicopolis ad Istrum (Gočeva 1984) – mainly from eastern provinces, is attested. Philippopolis was the residence of the Thracian koinon and the Imperial cult was celebrated with Pythian games since the time of Commodus, renamed later as Alexandrian by Caracalla, and Kendrisian at the time of Elagabalus; in Augusta Traiana the emperor was celebrated with gladiatorial games as evidenced by the mention of his priest archiereus di’hoplon (Gočeva 1985, 2007; Raycheva 2013). The cult of the Thracian rider was practiced mainly in extramural sanctuaries. Those in Moesia were situated far from towns and camps, mostly located in the foothills of the Balkan range and in the eastern parts of the province, where Romanization was not so robust. In Thracia the sanctuaries in plains were set on high ground for better visibility in the area, marked by natural rocks, springs, and rivers. With respect to the settlement network, there were small rural shrines available in the vicinity of villages, while more distant shrines were often focal cult centers between settlements; a separate group of mountain shrines was available only for festivals (Valchev 2011). These sanctuaries were different from the Greek in terms of their overall plan and layout, the absence of monumental altars (one is known in the sanctuary of Asclepius Keiladenos near Pernik), also in the use of temples as treasuries. The buildings too were simple and only in two cases did they resemble temple building of Greek type: a temple in antis near Pernik and a tetraprostyle near Kopilovtsi; a monumental divine image is known only at Kopilovtsi, Batkun, and Babyak (Valchev 2011). Complex constructions like theatres or stadiums, hospitals, and facilities for pilgrims were absent; such facts suggest that visitors were drawn from the rural population in the vicinity. In eastern Thrace, east of Philippopolis, where the cult of Apollo was dominant in urban centers, the equestrian deity was worshiped in a syncretic cult with him; in the west the syncretism was with Asclepius, rarely with Silvanus or Hephaestus in Moesia. Some other sanctuaries were dedicated to the Three Nymphs, close to thermal springs and bathing complexes, with the exception of the one at Burdapa, Pazardzhik district, which was rural in character. Only a small number of these sanctuaries, mainly in the Rhodope Mountains, reveal clear traces of pre-Roman use: most begin to be used from the second quarter of the second to the middle of the third century ce and continued in use until the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century ce, when the punishment by Theodosius and his sons put an end to pagan religious practices.

Subchapter about cult of the deceased and heroized mortals:


The margin between death and immortality in Thracian thought leads to those of high social status – this we learn in the narrative of Herodotus about Salmoxis who preached to the first among his countrymen, his sympotai in the andron, “that neither he nor his guests nor any of their descendants should ever die, but that they should go to a place where they would live for ever and have all good things”; the truth of this idea would be proved by Salmoxis’ return from beyond after a three-year stay there (4.95). What the princes had by their right was available to the rest of the Thracians through brave death in battle or by lot once every five years, when they would send a messenger to Salmoxis, believing that he would not die but go to their only god (4.94). Herodotus himself was uncertain about a story that he knew from the Greeks who dwelled along the Hellespont and Pontus, namely, that Salmoxis was a man and a slave of Pythagoras, and not a local deity (daimon) of the Getae (4.96). What the historian had refused to define, we find articulated by the author of the Classical drama about Rhesus, the Thracian king who would not descend to the underworld to be a shadow in the realm of death, but remained as an anthropodaimon in a cavern of silver-veined mountains ([Eur.] Rhes. 962–982). This description suggests something different from Greek heroization, which resulted in the preservation of the hero’s human nature, but reinforced it with divinity, since Rhesus achieved immortality without any transition through death, rather like the one promised by Salmoxis. This Thracian idea about psychosomatic immortality is confirmed by Plato in his story about one of the Thracian physicians of Zalmoxis (who must be identical to Herodotus’ Salmoxis), their king and god, who taught his principles that soul and body must be treated together, as they were an inseparable whole (Charm. 156e). The idea is similar to Pindar’s description of Heracles as “hero-god” (Nem. 3.22: heros theos); this may explain Porphyry’s note that Zalmoxis was worshiped by barbarians like Heracles (Vita Pythag. 14–15). Similar ideas can be traced in Greek religion: in Homeric epic, for example, Menelaus was promised bliss in the Elysian Fields and was transferred there before his death (Od. 4.561–569); Hesiod’s account of the ages of man suggests that the race of heroes was transferred to the Islands of the Blessed without death, too (Op. 166–173). Croesus, as described by Bacchylides, was brought by Apollo to the land of the Hyperboreans from his pyre (3.58); and Achilles was transferred to the White Island in Pontos from his funeral pyre by his mother, as revealed in the seventh-century Aethiopis (Rohde 1925, 55–87). The story about Achilles was known to Pindar in Nemean 4, but for him corporeal immortality was obsolete; it had been replaced by ideas about the immortality of the soul and its reincarnation or metempsychosis, which provided an opportunity to achieve post-mortem bliss equal to that of the great heroes. While such ideas can be discussed in the Greek world in relationship with the development of the polis and the new role of the demos in religious life, in aristocratic Thrace ideas about psychosomatic immortality of the elite could be traced to the origin of the state at the end of sixth century and continued until the Roman conquest. The Thracian elite was promised a post-mortem bliss, similar to their way of life, and psychosomatic immortality in places located on the periphery of the inhabited world ( oikoumene), but not beyond, transferred there by the god. Thus, they were not dependent on the living, as the pale shadows of ordinary Greeks in the kingdom of Hades were, which may explain the proximity of the Greek polis to its necropoleis. The challenge is to identify reflections of these ideas about anthropodaimones in Thracian burials, especially tumuli with built in chamber-tombs, which, by virtue of their construction and decoration, clearly had elite and even royal functions, since they ensured an available space both for the abode of the deceased and for conducting rituals to contact him. Thus the tombs, although covered with mounds, were all built on ancient ground level (or above it, in the case of reused embankments); such a location was probably a manifestation of the idea that those buried were not in the subterranean kingdom of dead, emphasized in some cases with magnificent stairs leading up into the tomb area. Most Iron Age burials were cremations, but in the chambertombs it is inhumation that is mostly attested. Perhaps reflecting the post-mortem activity envisaged for these deceased elites, mounds were at a distance from any habitation and the dead inside were laid on couches or beds (klinai), not dug into the floor, so that the interior was composed as a banquet scene, including tableware; the setting recalls the promise that Salmoxis gave to his followers. Religious activity in the form of pits and hearths in the mound offers clear evidence for communication with the buried dead. Since there is no published data indicating the duration of such practices, however, a key question arises: did such practices constitute tomb cult performed within the three generation period of “actual memory” of the deceased or, rather, do they indicate the worship of heroes for many generations in epic memory (Antonaccio 1995)? Such features have been discovered in front of the tomb’s entrance and dated to a period of time when the tomb was still visible, before it had been covered completely. These rituals resemble the cults performed on the altars at the front doors of Greek temples and homes for deities and heroes (Burkert 1985, 87); here they take place in front of the tomb, which may be regarded as the residence of an anthropodaimon. But it is difficult to define such acts as “heroic cult,” and since these rituals were limited in time, they are perhaps best described as a form of “rites of passage,” which aimed to achieve a new status for the deceased, that of an anthropodaimon, and to make manifest his psychosomatic activity in this very world. Such an interpretation is supported also both by the tomb’s entrance, which could be an exit, too, and provided communication between the two worlds through a dromos or open area leading towards an otherwise inaccessible interior, and by the dead body laid in the funeral chamber and his horse laid in the antechamber or in front of the entrance (Rabadjiev 2002, 92–111). The frequent presence of a horse within the burial complex must now be interpreted: it is likely that the horse was killed to attend his master, rather than offered as a sacrifice, since they were both treated in the same manner, either buried or cremated. The image of the horseman, prevalent on luxury items and in elite contexts, such as coins, signet rings, tableware, weapons, horse trappings, and drawings in tombs, can thus be explained as an image of the elite’s ancestor, divine protector, and anthropodaimon. The deification of a king after his death raises a question about royal cult. While we are told about his divine origin (Hermes as a progenitor) and can reconstruct scenes of his investiture or a hierogamy, such acts were within the scope of his royal power and could not be evidence for recognized divine status during his lifetime. The suggested idea is a convention, because most of the tombs were Hellenistic in date and not built before the second half of the fourth century; earlier dolmens and rock tombs were similar in idea as seen in their plans, but are known only in southeast Thrace, the early Odrysian territory. There is also reason to doubt the Orphic interpretation of Rhesus and Zalmoxis, for, the idea of the anthropodaimon implied a unity of soul and body preserved after death, even post-mortem activity in the same world, while the Orphic concept opposed the immortal soul to its body, which was regarded as the prison occupied by the soul until released through death (Rabadjiev 2002, 125–165). Some Hellenistic burials suggest an attempt to personalize the burial place with a visible inscription or portrait; this practice represents a new cultural trend based on literacy, which displaced the old epic tradition, and gradually transformed psychosomatic immortality into “heroization” of the dead and his immortal soul. Such a process can be traced down into Roman times, when monumental burials lost their aristocratic character and the horseman’s image vanished from luxuries, appearing instead on multiple stone reliefs as votives in sacred spaces, some of them anepigraphic dedications of ordinary Thracians. This image on votives and burial monuments occurred throughout the vast territory of the Thracian provinces and beyond them, distributed in a way that resembles a “national” cult (Kazarow 1938; Oppermann 2006). Among the inscribed monuments, however, it is possible to distinguish the presence of local deities, since most of the names were either regional, as in the case of, for example, Kendreisos from Philippopolis, Karabasmos from Odessos, and Saldenos from his shrine at Glava Panega near Lovech; or functional, like Propylaios (“guardian of the gate”), Pyrmeroulas (concerned with the cultivation of wheat), and Aularkenos (the “home guardian”), among others (Gočeva 1992). Such dedications suggest that the figure had an anonymous identity, however, as they refer to the rider mainly as hero (heros), god (theos), sometimes as both hero and god, or master (kyrios). The iconographic convention of the image could be regarded as generic and able to be identified with different Greek gods by the presence of an inscription (Dimitrova 2002), but the lack of any specific identification supports instead the notion of a deified ancestor. Such an interpretation is further strengthened by the imagery of these votive reliefs, which appears to borrow from Hellenistic heroic cults and monuments, in which a tree marks the burial place as sacred and the serpent serves as its guardian, while a raised altar may suggest a ritual to achieve the hero’s epiphany as a horseman. The iconography is schematic and three types of scene are common (Kazarow 1938), although some simple narratives could be read (Boteva 2011). There is the solemn scene of epiphany, in which in front of the rider usually stands a goddess or goddesses, an altar, or a tree with snake (type A); on Attic reliefs a goddess or worshipers were presented performing a libation, and in Thrace this scene is used to depict local goddesses (Stoyanov 1985). Then there are scenes presenting the rider as hunter (type B ) or his return from hunting (type C), a popular motif of ancient funeral monuments for expressing the afterlife bliss of heroes. It is often difficult to distinguish clearly between funerary and votive reliefs, and the dead on gravestones were often identified as heros athanatos (“immortal hero”), as in the case of the son of Dinis (IGBulg 2, 796). Any discussion of the nature of the horseman as a hero or god is based on the definite Greek concept of the divine world, which is clearly inapplicable to the Thracian religious model, where mortals after death were to become divine ancestors or anthropodaimones. The history of Thracian religion as described above clearly illustrates a heterogeneous society, dependent on the political aspirations of its elite and ambitions to adapt foreign ideas and practices, even to adopt fashions; such trends are particularly evident in the influence of Greek colonization in Thrace, the Macedonian conquest, and the establishment of the Thracian provinces in the Roman Empire. This is just the official tendency, however, especially predominant in urban centers with their ethnic diversity. Different priorities are displayed in more conservative, rural communities, where ritual practice tends toward the stable behavior of traditional cult. In both settings, communication was directed primarily toward the beyond, namely: the divine ancestors of the elite, the anthropodaimones in their splendid complexes that can be understood as tombs, homes, and shrines; and the heroized mortals, who functioned as local heroes in rural communities and could be addressed in prayers for help and protection in simple rituals, without need of priestly mediation.


Edited by Genava55
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