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Archaeologists Find Traces of 251 AD Invasion of Roman Empire by Goths

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Krystal Coenen
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« on: March 30, 2018, 01:11:55 pm »

Archaeologists Find Traces of 251 AD Invasion of Roman Empire by Goths during Digs at Antiquity Odeon in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv

March 28, 2018 · by Ivan Dikov · in Ancient Rome / Roman Empire, Ancient Thrace, Antiquity

Archaeologist Maya Martinova in the newly discovered Roman Era public building near the Antiquity Odeon of ancient Philipopolis in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv. The building has three floor levels, the third of which is built on top of rubble from the Gothic Invasion of the Roman Empire in 250-251 AD. Photo: Plovdiv Time

Archaeologists have unearthed part of an unknown Roman Era public building in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv which bears traces from the Invasion of the Roman Empire by the Goths in 250-251 AD when the Goths went as far south as Philipopolis (Plovdiv’s predecessor) and ransacked it.

The unknown public building which shows traces of destruction caused by the Goths during their barbarian invasion has been discovered right to the west of Plovdiv’s Antiquity Odeon, an ancient performance facility, and north of the main square of Philipopolis.

The emergency excavations at Plovdiv’s Antiquity Odeon made headlines from the start when the archaeological team discovered a medieval grave from the 11th-12th century with an arrow in the chest of the buried person.

Subsequent digs, however, revealed deeper a room from an unknown Antiquity building with three floor levels built one on top of the other.

“We’ve managed to study one room from an unknown so far public building… We’ve discovered several floor levels. In the upper-most layer, we’ve found the burial from the Middle Ages, 11th – 12th century, when the spot in question used to be a necropolis… We’ve also found an arrow," lead archaeologist Maya Martinova from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology, has told local news and culture site Plovdiv Time in an interview.

“We’ve managed to study [the Antiquity building’s] room in depth. It has turned out that it has three floor levels, the latest of which was organized on top of rubble from the city destruction," she adds.

“This [rebuilding] happened after the Gothic invasions in 251 AD. Back then the entire city [of Philipopolis] was burned down and damaged," Martinova emphasizes.

In 250 AD, about 70,000 Goths led by Gothic chieftain Cniva invaded the Roman Empire by crossing the Danube at Novae.

They were initially halted by Emperor Trajan Decius at Nicopolis ad Istrum (near today’s Nikyup) but then went on to raid a number of Roman cities reaching as far south as Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv) which was ransacked.

Upon retreating north, from Thrace (Thracia) into Moesia, the Goths were met by the forces of Emperor Trajan Decius and his son Herennius Etruscus near the major Roman city of Abritus (near today’s Razgrad in Northeast Bulgaria).

In 2016, near the town of Dryanovets, Bulgarian archaeologists discovered the battlefield of the Battle of Abritus, one of the greatest battles in the Late Antiquity.

In the Battle of Abritus in July 251 AD, 1765 years ago, the Goths routed the Roman forces, and killed not one but two Roman Emperors: Roman Emperor Trajan Decius (r. 249-251 AD) and his co-emperor and son Herennius Etruscus (r. 251 AD).

The Goths prevailed even though Roman Emperor Trajan Decius probably selected deliberately the location of the battlefield because of the flat terrain which gave the Roman legions an advantage.

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Archaeologist Maya Martinova in the newly discovered Roman Era public building near the Antiquity Odeon of ancient Philipopolis in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv. Photo: Plovdiv Time

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An Ionic order capital discovered from amidst the rubble at the Antiquity Odeon in Plovdiv. Photo: Plovdiv Time

The excavations of the unknown public building west of the Antiquity Odeon of ancient Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv) have revealed traces precisely from the city’s ransacking by the invading Goths in 251 AD.

“In the ruble, we’ve also discovered this wonderful Ionic capital,” lead archaeologist Martinova stresses.

The artifacts discovered by the archaeological team include a large amount of household pottery, other household items, bronze lamps, and a bronze door key (3-4 cm in length), all of them from the Roman Era.

The excavated location west of the Antiquity Odeon is supposed to become the ticket office of a large tourism visitor center as Bulgaria’s Plovdiv is going to exhibit in situ the Forum, i.e. the main square of ancient Philipopolis.

“The Odeon where we’ve just work is the so called Forum North which encompasses the northern part of the city square of the Antiquity city, the so called agora. Here in the northern part [of the Forum], there is a complex of public buildings which were connected with the government of the city," the lead archaeologist explains.

“This Odeon, which later had the functions of a small theater building, was used as a bouleuterion where the boule, the city’s magistrates, would meet," Martinova adds.

She points out that all decisions for the government of ancient Philipopolis at the time were made there.

“The northern part of the city square (Forum) includes not just the bouleuterion (Odeon) but at least three more buildings, including the city library, of which 80% have been studied. To the west of it, there was another public building with a very rich façade facing today’s Central Post Office," the researcher elaborates.

It was in that last building where archaeologists have discovered an arc-shaped niche with a statue of Roman Emperor Commodus (r. 177/180 – 192 AD).

“It has been proved epigraphically that the northwestern part of this complex [of Roman buildings] was occupied by a building of the [city] treasury because in the 1950s, during a reconstruction of the main streets, here were discovered two [stone] blocks with inscriptions in Latin, saying ‘Treasury Building’," Martinova says.

She notes that the statue of Roman Emperor Commodus discovered there has helped with the more precise dating of the building.

“The northern part of city square [the Forum of Philipopolis] – which was one of the largest in the Eastern Roman provinces – covered an area of over 25 decares (appr. 6.2 acres). Plovdiv’s modern-day Central Post Office covers only about a quarter of the square space," the archaeologist explains.

She points out that when no archaeological excavations were conducted when the post office was built. Archaeological research was carried out only later, in 1972, when the post office building was expanded.

Unlike the northern section, the southern part of the Forum of ancient Philipopolis had commercial functions.

Back in 2015, Plovdiv Municipality won a court battle against local merchants allowing it to link the Roman Forum of Philipopolis with the already restored Antiquity Odeon.

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Along with other public buildings, the Antiquity Odeon of ancient Philipopolis was located in the northern part of its Forum (main square). The southern part of the Forum was commercial space. Bulgaria’s Plovdiv is presently seeking to exhibit the entire Forum in situ. Photo: Plovdiv Time

The latest excavations of the Ancient Thracian and Ancient Roman Nebet Tepe Fortress in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv have revealed issues with earlier archaeological research casting doubt on whether Plovdiv indeed was the oldest city in Europe, while not denying the exquisite historical, archaeological, and cultural value of the site.

The 2017 archaeological digs have marked the second consecutive season since the renewal of the research of Plovdiv’s Nebet Tepe Fortress in the 2016 excavations, more than 35 years after the previous excavations were completed in the 1970s.

Because of those previous excavations on the Nebet Tepe Hill, Plovdiv has claimed the title of “Europe’s oldest city" (and the world’s six oldest city, according to a Daily Telegraph ranking).

Later, in the Antiquity period, the city was known as Philipopolis (named after King Philip II of Macedon), and Trimontium (following its conquest by the Roman Empire).

In addition to challenging the existing hypotheses about the Nebet Tepe Fortress and Plovdiv’s early urban development, the 2017 archaeological excavations there have produced a wide range of exciting discoveries.

These include a previously unknown Roman fortress tower, a storage facility containing a barrel with preserved wheat, 50 bronze horse harness appliques, and a weird medieval funeral in which a woman was buried face down, with hands tied on her back.

Learn more about the history of Plovdiv and Nebet Tebe in the Background Infonotes below! (Based on the pre-1980 excavations.)
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