Bulgaria’s Black Sea Resort Primorsko Starts 2016 Excavations of Newly Found Thracian Fortress Pharmakida

Part of the excavated ruins of Pharmakida, a fortified Ancient Thracian ruler's residence from the 2nd-1st century BC. Photo: Primorsko Municipality

Part of the excavated ruins of Pharmakida, a fortified Ancient Thracian ruler’s residence from the 2nd-1st century BC. Photo: Primorsko Municipality

The Black Sea town of Primorsko in Southeast Bulgaria has started with its own funding the 2016 archaeological excavations of the Ancient Thracian fortress Pharmakida, which was first discovered in the summer of 2015.

The ruins of Pharmakida, which dates back to the 2nd-1st century BC, were discovered in the summer of 2015 in the thick subtropical forests along the Ropotamo River by archaeologist Assoc. Prof. Ivan Hristov from the National Museum of History in Sofia.

The Pharmakida Fortress was the fortified residence of an Ancient Thracian ruler, the archaeologists have concluded at the end of the past archaeological season. Its name stems from an ancient cult for deities of healing and medicine.

It had a territory of a 1 decare (app. 0.25 acres), and was located on a hill, among three mound necropolises, and amidst a settlement; it was fortified with walls from all sides.

Pharmakida was located near a road along the Black Sea coast leading down to the Ancient Greek colony of Byzantium (later the city of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul).

During the 2015 exploration, the archaeologists excavated about a third of Pharmakida’s total area of about 1,000 square meters.

The 2016 exploration of the Thracian fortress is expected to be completed by the end of June, Primorsko Municipality has announced.

As in 2015, the digs will be led by Hristov and by the Director of the Primorsko Museum of History Daniel Pantov.

The Municipality reminds that the 2015 excavations organized swiftly after Pharmakida’s discovery also resulted in the finding of a total of 62 bronze and 5 silver ancient coins, local (Thracian) and imported (Greek) ceramic items, and other artifacts.

These include coins minted in Maroneia, Byzantium (Constantinople), and Odessos (Varna). The latest of the silver coins features an image of Emperor Alexander the Great of Macedon, and was minted in Odessos (Varna) ca. 80-70 BC.

The finds can be seen in the Primorsko Museum of History which organized a special permanent exhibit on Pharmakida in February 2016.

The Municipality notes that the Ancient Thracian fort and the settlement around it are now considered the Antiquity predecessor of today’s Bulgarian Black Sea town of Primorsko.

When Pharmakida was first identified in 2015, the local authorities noted that Primorsko has joined the ranks of the other ancient towns on Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, most of which have glorious Antiquity history as Thracian settlements and/or Ancient Greek colonies.

The archaeological artifacts and the cultural layers unearthed so far indicate that the Ancient Thracian fortress Pharmakida was involved in the wars between Ancient Rome, i.e. the Roman Republic, and the Kingdom of Pontus in Anatolia ruled by King Mithridates IV of Pontus (r. 120 – 63 BC), namely, the so called Mithridatic Wars.

In the 1st century BC, the Ancient Thracians living along the southwestern coast of the Black Sea and the Ancient Greek polis Apollonia Pontica (today’s Bulgarian town of Sozopol), became allied with Mithridates of Pontus. As a result, Apollonia Pontica was ransacked during a punitive military campaign of the Roman Republic led by general Marcus Lucullus (ca. 116 – ca. 56 BC) against King Mithridates VI of Pontus.

The archaeological finds indicate that the Pharmakida Fortress was destroyed by the Romans during the same campaign in the Third Mithridatic War.

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