One of the two Roman statues discovered during the excavations of the Ancient Forum in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv is a male statue. Photo: Plovdiv24
Two marble Ancient Roman statues – male and female – have been discovered during the excavations of part of the Ancient Forum in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, which is also known as Europe’s oldest city.
Both statues are with missing heads but their discovery is nonetheless significant because were possibly part of the Ancient Forum excavated by the team of archaeologist Elena Kisyakova from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology.
The excavation site of the Ancient Forum of Plovdiv, which was known as Philipopolis in the Hellenistic Period (after it was conquered by King PhillipII of Macedon in 342 AD), and as Trimontium in the Ancient Roman period (after all of Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Romans in 46 AD), is located near the Central Post Office in the downtown of the modern-day city.
According to Kisyakova,the newly foundstatues date back to the height of the Roman Empire – the 2nd-3rd century AD, reports local news site Plovdiv24.
What is more, both statues were used for the construction of structures built in the Middle Ages.
“We have found parts of two statues which were integratedinto medieval structures. This is very interesting. At first reading, one of them is a bust of a woman, and the other find is part of a [male] statue. Both date back to the Roman Period," says the lead archaeologist.
“I hope that some day they will be exhibited here at the Forum. We have found a number of statues already, which comes as no surprise to us. It is normal to have statues at the Forum – of both the Emperor’s family, and other prominent figures,"Kisyakova notes.
The male statue is smaller than a life size, and the archaeologist thinks that it may have been positioned at a place used for religious rituals.
The female statue is actually a bust with a pedestal; however, the lack of additional attributes makes it impossible to determine whether the statue depicted a deity or a member of the imperial family.
The second of the two marble Roman statues found at the Ancient Forum in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv is a female bust on a pedestal. Photo: Plovdiv24
The detailed depiction of the clothing on the statues testifies to the sophistication of the craftsmanship.
Kisyakova notes that during the excavations of Plovdiv’s Ancient Forum so far her team has been discovering artifacts dating from the 1st until the 12th century AD.
In 2013, the archaeologist excavating the site discovered a number of parts of Roman statues including the life-sized statue of a supreme magistrate holding a scroll, which was dated to the 3rd-4th century AD, as well as a head from another statue.
Until the recent excavations of the Ancient Forum in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv, it had been believed that the facility was built in the 1st century AD.
However, now there are indications that it is at least 100 years old, and that Ancient Philipopolis (Plovdiv) had a highly sophisticated and developed urban life before the arrival of the Romans.
The history of the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv – often dubbed the oldest city in Europe – began with the human settlement on the ancient hill of Nebet Tepe (“tepe" is the Turkishword for “hill") is one of the seven historic hills where today’s Bulgarian city of Plovdiv was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times.
The hills, or “tepeta", are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period. Out of all of them, Nebet Tepe has the earliest traces of civilized life dating back to the 6th millennium BC, which makes Plovdiv 8,000 years old, and allegedly the oldest city in Europe. Around 1200 BC, the prehistoric settlement on Nebet Tepe was transformed into the Ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, also known as Pulpudeva, inhabited by the powerful Ancient Thracian tribe Bessi.
During the Early Antiquity periodEumolpia / Pulpudeva grew to encompass the two nearby hills (Dzhambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe known together with Nebet Tepe as “The Three Hills") as well, with the oldest settlement on Nebet Tepe becoming the citadel of the city acropolis.
In 342 BC, the Thracian city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon renaming the city to Philippopolis. Philippopolis developed further as a major urban center during the Hellenistic period after the collapse of Alexander the Great’s Empire.
In the 1st century AD, more precisely in 46 AD, Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Roman Empire making Philippopolis the major city in the Ancient Roman province of Thrace. This is the period when the city expanded further into the plain around The Three Hills which is why it was also known as Trimontium (“the three hills”).
Because of the large scale public construction works during the period of Ancient Rome’s Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD, including Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), Emperor Titus (r. 79-81 AD), Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96 AD)),Plovdiv was also known as Flavia Philippopolis.
Later emerging as a major Early Byzantine city, Plovdiv was conquered for the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) by Khan (or Kanas) Krum (r. 803-814 AD) in 812 AD but was permanently incorporated into Bulgaria under Khan (or Kanas) Malamir (r. 831-836 AD) in 834 AD.
In Old Bulgarian (also known today as Church Slavonic), the city’s name was recorded as Papaldin, Paldin, and Pladin, and later Plavdiv from which today’s name Plovdiv originated. The Nebet Tepe fortress continued to be an important part of the city’s fortifications until the 14th century when the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the period the Ottoman yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was called Filibe in Turkish.
Today the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement on Nebet Tepe has been recognized as the Nebet Tepe Archaeological Preserve.
Some of the unique archaeological finds from Nebet Tepe include an ancient secret tunnel which, according to legends, was used by Apostle Paul (even though it has been dated to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)) and large scale water storage reservoirs used during sieges, one of them with an impressive volume of 300,000 liters. Still preserved today are parts of the western fortress wall with a rectangular tower from the Antiquity period.