‘Bulgarian Science’ Forum Tackles Translation of Newly Found Ancient Thracian Inscription from Aquae Calidae

The newly discovered Ancient Thracian inscription from Aquae Calidae is dated to 26-37 AD, about a decade before the Odrysian Kingdom, and respectively Ancient Thrace, was fully conquered by the Roman Empire. Photo: Burgas Municipality

The newly discovered Ancient Thracian inscription from Aquae Calidae is dated to 26-37 AD, about a decade before the Odrysian Kingdom, and respectively Ancient Thrace, was fully conquered by the Roman Empire. Photo: Burgas Municipality

The recently discovered Ancient Thracian inscription (in Greek) mentioning three of the last kings of the Odrysian Kindgom, the most powerful Thracian state, which has been found during the excavations of the Aquae Calidae – Thermpolis Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Burgas has become a matter of discussion in the online forum of the “Bulgarian Science” magazine.

The forum users, including international users, have translated the inscription in English and Bulgarian, while also debating the nuances in the wording and the meaning, leading Burgas Municipality to issue a special release about their discussion with one of the English translations of the inscription:

“Apollonius, (son) of E(p)taikenthos, military governor of Anchialos, (dedicates) this altar to Demeter, for the well-being/salvation of his masters: King Rhoemetalces (II); and (his sister) Pythodoris (II), the daughter of Cotys (III/VIII), the son of King Rhoemetalces (I); and their children”.

The thread in the Bulgarian Science magazine forum about the newly found Thracian inscription at Aquae Calidae can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, a post of a photo of the inscription from Aquae Calidae on the Facebook Page of the Archaeology Magazine has received about 11,000 ‘likes’. 

The ancient inscription provides information about the history of Ancient Thrace in its last years before its conquest by the Roman Empire. The inscription is in Ancient Greek, and is recorded on a marble slab. It is dated back to the 20s-30s of the 1st century AD, roughly about the same time as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

It belongs to Apollonius, son of Eptaikentus, who was the strategos (military governor) of the lands around the city of Anchialos, today’s Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Pomorie.

The inscription was discovered on June 9, 2015, but has been announced only now, at a special news conference in the Burgas Regional Museum of History.

The inscription itself has been found built into an altar in the ancient spa resort Aquae Calidae (known as Thermopolis in the Middle Ages), whose ruins are presently being excavated further because of a water supply and sewerage rehabilitation project, and are also being partly restored in order to be turned into a cultural tourism destination.

The real value of the discovered inscription has to do with the fact that it mentions the names of three of the last Thracian kings of the Odrysian Kingdom from the Sapaean Dynasty as well as their dynastic links.

The inscription is the first historical source ever discovered to mention the children of Odrysian Thracian King Rhoemetalces II (r. 18-38 AD) and his sister Pythodoris II (also known as Pythodorida II (r. 38–46 AD)), and confirms that the Thracian Queen Pythodoris was the daughter of King Cotys III (r. 12-18 AD), who in turn was the son of Rhoemetalces I (r. 12 BC – 12 AD).

The inscription is dated more specifically to between 26 AD and 37 AD, the time when Jesus of Nazareth was already in his mature age, and was attracting followers in the Roman province of Judea.

While the Sapaean Dynasty ruled what can be described as a client state of the Roman Empire, the Sapaeans were the last Kings of the Odrysian Kingdom, i.e. of Ancient Thrace, and just about a decade after 37 AD, in 46 AD, the Romans deposed them, thus turning Thrace into just one of the many Roman provinces.

The newly found inscription also mentions a shrine built by Apollonius Eptaikentus, strategos (military governor) of the region of Anchialos under the Sapaean Thracian King Rhoemetalces II.

The shrine was dedicated to Ancient Greek and Thracian goddess Demetra (the Thracians shared much if not all of the mythology of the Ancient Greeks), and the marble slab with the altar where it was found was probably part of a temple dedicated to her. The archaeologists believe that it is very likely that the shrine will be discovered in Aquae Calidae, i.e. in today’s Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas.

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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 Calidea – 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”.

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