Archaeologists Find Byzantine Coins, Roman Inscription in Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Preserve in Bulgaria’s Burgas

A fragment of a Roman inscription on a marble slab has been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

A fragment of a Roman inscription on a marble slab has been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

A new batch of various ancient and medieval artifacts has been discovered during the excavations of the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas, the Burgas Municipality has announced.

The latest finds from the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Aquae Calidae – known as Therma or Thermopolis in the Middle Ages – which was famous for its mineral springs, include a large number of Byzantine coins, a fragment of an Ancient Roman inscription on a marble slab, an ancient marble statuette as well as part of the city fortress wall.

The Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve is currently being excavated in rescue digs funded by the Burgas Municipality not only as part of its plans to turn the site into a major tourist attraction, but also because of the ongoing rehabilitation of the water supply and sewerage system in Banevo and Vetren, the two Burgas quarters located on top of the ancient and medieval city. The archaeologists are exploring the strata at a depth of 3 meters.

A total of 80 artifacts from different time periods have been found, including 45 coins. Some of the Byzantine coins are “cup-shaped", the so called scyphates, dating back to the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century. They were minted by the Byzantine Emperors from the Komnenos Dynasty (1081-1185 AD) and the Angelos Dynasty (1185-1204 AD).

The archaeologists have also found Byzantine coins dating back to the 7th century, before the establishment of Danube Bulgaria, i.e. the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD), in the Balkans.

Perhaps the most interesting new find from Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis is a fragment from a marble slab inscription from the early imperial period of Ancient Rome, i.e. the 1st-2nd century AD. Similar marble slab inscriptions have been found in the nearby area known as Manastir Tepe. A marble statuette dating back to the 2nd-3rd century AD has also been found.

A medieval building has been found at Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis, with coins discovered in it (pictured). Photo by Burgas Municipality

A medieval building has been found at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis, with coins discovered in it (pictured). Photo by Burgas Municipality

The archaeologists have uncovered part of the fortifications of the Late Antiquity and medieval city of Thermopolis (Therma), as the Ancient Thracian and Roman “spa resort" came to be called in the Byzantine era, as well as a medieval building.

Other artifacts found in the site include parts of ceramic vessels from the 12th-13th century, glass bracelets, Ottoman Turkish smoking pipes, two silver Ottoman Turkish coins, and two lead seals, one of them dated to the end of the 11th century.

During the previous stage of the excavations in November 2014, the Burgas archaeologists found Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins.

The press service of the Burgas Municipality points out that Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis (meaning “hot waters" in Latin) has been famous as a “spa resort" since ancient times because of its mineral springs, and was visited by ancient and medieval rulers including Macedon Kings, Bulgarian Khans, Byzantine and Latin Emperors, and Ottoman Sultans. The municipality has restored the bath of Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD) which will be opened for tourists as part of the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve.

The entire new tourist complex Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis will be opened for visitors in the summer of 2015.

Background Infonotes:

The originally Ancient Thracian city of Aquae Calidae (meaning “hot waters" in Latin) is an archaeological site located on the territory of Bulgaria’s Black Sea port city of Burgas, on the site of today’s Burgas quarters of Vetren and Banevo. It is proven that Aquae Calidae – known in the Middle Ages as Thermopolis or Therma – was visited by important ancient and medieval rulers such as Philip II of Macedon (r. 359-336 BC), Byzantine Emperors Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD) the Great and Constantine IV the Bearded (668-685 AD), Bulgarian Khan (or Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718/721), and Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD). Archaeological excavations have found that the Aquae Calidae mineral baths were used as early as the Neolithic Age, with three prehistoric settlements being located there in the 6th-5th millennium BC.

The Ancient Thracians settled near the mineral waters in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, turning the major spring into the revered ancient “Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs" by the middle of the 1st century AD when the Roman Empire was wrapping up the conquest of Ancient Thrace. The earliest written testimony about the ancient spa resort Aquae Calidae dates back to the 4th century BC when Philip II of Macedon went there. The name b comes from the name of a Roman road station near the mineral springs which was erected along the major Roman road Via Pontica running along the Western coast of the Black Sea. The Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs was revered in Roman times. The Roman baths at Aquae Calidae were rebuilt and expanded in the early years of the Byzantine Empire – the 4th-5th century, with fortress walls constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great.

In the Middle Ages, Aquae Calidae became known as Therma or Thermopolis (“warm city" in Greek). In 708 AD, Khan (or Kanas) Tervel, ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire, defeated the army of Byzantine Emperor Justianian II (r. 685-695 and 705-711 AD) in the first Battle of Anchialos close to Thermopolis, conquering the ancient and medieval “spa resort" for Bulgaria. Another interesting episode from the history of Thermopolis has to do with the so called Latin Empire established when the knights from the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople. After Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) of the Second Bulgarian Empire defeated the crusaders in the Battle of Adrianople in 1205 and captured Latin Emperor Baldwin of Flanders (also Baldwin I of Constantinople), the next year the Latin Emperor’s brother, Henry of Flanders, marched against Bulgaria conquering Thermopolis, looting the city and burning it to the ground. The city of Thermopolis never recovered even though the mineral baths themselves were rebuilt later and used by Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent in 1562. In modern-day Bulgaria, in the 20th century the town near the mineral baths was known as Banevo until the 1980s when it was renamed to Burgas Mineral Baths; it became part of the city of Burgas in 2009.

Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis was first excavated in 1910 by renowned but controversial Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan FIlov (known as Bulgaria’s pro-German Prime Minister during World War II). The contemporary excavations were started in 2008 by Senior Fellow Tsonya Drazheva and Ass. Prof. Dimcho Momchilov. In 2011, the ancient and medieval city was formally declared “The Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve".