Unknown Richly Decorated Statue of Roman Emperor Trajan Kept in Storage of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History for Decades
An unknown statue of Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD) with a rich decoration of motifs from the ancient mythology has been kept for decades at the Laboratory of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History.
The bronze statue of Emperor Trajan, whose decorations feature gods and heroes from the Antiquity, was found during excavations of the Roman road station and fortress Candidiana located near the town of Malak Preslavets on the Danube River in Northeast Bulgaria.
It was discovered in the 1980s but its finding has never been announced, and it has never been shown to the public, according to a report of the Bulgarian daily Standart.
The Roman road station Candidiana near Malak Preslavets, Glavinitsa Municipality, Silistra District, dates back to the 2nd century AD when it was protected with a rampart. At the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 4th century, a fortress made of stone was added to the rampart.
The Candidiana Fortress was part of the Roman road along the Danube connecting major Roman strongholds on the Limes Moesiae, i.e. the Lower Danube frontier in today’s North Bulgaria: Novae (today’s Svishtov), Sexaginta Prista (today’s Ruse), Transmarisca (today’s Tutrakan), and Durostorum (today’s Silistra), and continued all the way to the Danube delta on the Black Sea coast.
After his victorious wars against the Dacians north of the Danube, Roman Emperor Trajan stationed the elite Claudius’ 11th Legion (Legio XI Claudia) at Durostorum (Dorostorum), today’s Silistra.
Some of the legion’s detachments were stationed at Candidiana from the last quarter of the 3rd century until the middle of the 4th century.
The Candidana Fortress itself ended up surviving until the Early Byzantine period, i.e. the end of 6th – beginning of the 7th century when it was destroyed in barbarian invasions.
The unknown statue of Roman Emperor Trajan found at Candidiana is broken in several pieces but its unique depictions of mythology scenes from the Antiquity period are well preserved, and the statue is supposed to be restored.
The fragments of the bronze statue itself have been seen lying on a piece of cloth on the floor of the Laboratory of the National Museum of History in Sofia as just one of the enormous number of archaeological treasures that it does not have enough space to display or does not have enough funding to restore.
According to the report, the restoration of the unknown statue of Roman Emperor Trajan described as “a real piece of art” with its depictions of ancient gods and heroes would cost BGN 60,000 (app. EUR 30,000).
However, the Museum cannot afford to pay that kind of money which is why its management has begun looking for private donors.
The Laboratory of the Museum also keeps in store a sculpture of Trajan’s successor, Roman Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138 AD). It was rescued by customs officers who seized it from antique traffickers at the Kapitan Andreevo crossing on Bulgaria’s border with Turkey.
Another similar item in the storage is a 4th century AD marble bust of (Eastern) Roman Emperor Valens (r. 364-378 AD) who died in the Battle of the Adrianople of 378 AD with the Goths.
Still another intriguing ancient artifact that is not displayed for the public is an ancient stele depicting a feast in honor of god Dionysus featuring celebrating deities and priests. It was found in the Dobrich District in Northeast Bulgaria.
Bulgaria’s National Museum of History is presently housed in a former government residence used by communist dictator Todor Zhivkov (in power 1954/6-1989) in Sofia’s Boyana Quarter.
According to its Director, Bozhidar Dimitrov, the Museum has on display about 1% of the total number of archaeological and historical artifacts that it owns, and is in need of a larger and better suited building.