Bulgaria’s Burgas to Show Medieval Bulgarian, Byzantine Gold Rings at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve

Bulgaria’s Burgas to Show Medieval Bulgarian, Byzantine Gold Rings at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve

The inscription engraved on this 14th century ring of a Bulgarian aristocrat is in Bulgarian (Cyrillic), and reads, “Petar, Epikerniy (Pinkernis) and Cousin of the Tsar

The inscription engraved on this 14th century ring of a Bulgarian aristocrat is in Bulgarian (Cyrillic), and reads, “Petar, Epikerniy (Pinkernis) and Cousin of the Tsar". Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History

The museum of the ancient and medieval “Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis" Archaeological Preserve in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas is going to showcase two 14th century gold rings with inscriptions which belonged to nobles from the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396) and Byzantium.

The two gold rings will be on display at the Aquea Calidae – Thermopolis Museum as of June 1, 2016, Burgas Municipality and the Burgas Regional Museum of History have announced.

They were discovered in the mineral source of Aquae CalidaeThermopolis back in 1910-1911. These are seal rings which were used by members of the highest-ranking circles of Byzantium and the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396) in their correspondence.

The Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve was formally opened for visitors at the end of September 2015. Together with the ancient port of Burgos (Poros) on Cape Foros, Aquea Calidae – Thermopolis is one of the predecessors of today’s Burgas, Bulgaria’s fourth largest city.

The archaeological preserve located near today’s Burgas Mineral Baths resort was an ancient spa resort known as Aquae Calidae (meaning “hot waters" in Latin) in the Antiquity, and as Thermopolis in the Middle Ages. It features structures and artifacts from all major civilizations that inhabited the territory of modern day Bulgaria – from Ancient Thrace and Greece to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Bulgarian Empire, and Ottoman Empire.

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).

The partial restoration and continued archaeological excavation of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis has been carried out by Burgas Municipality and the Burgas Regional Museum of History with a total of BGN 500,000 (app. EUR 255,000) in funding from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.

Parallel to the restoration works, the Burgas archaeologists have kept working on their excavations and making new discoveries such as the newly found Ancient Thracian inscription shedding new light on the last years of the Thracians’ Odrysian Kingdom before its ultimate conquest by the Roman Empire.

The title “epikerniy

The title “epikerniy" (“pinkernis") was given to the cup-bearer of the Bulgarian Tsar. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History

Both 14th century rings that are to be displayed in the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Museum are made of massive 23-carat gold.

The first ring weighs 28 grams, and has an engraved inscription in Bulgarian (Cyrillic) reading, “Petar, Epikerniy (Pinkernis) and Cousin of the Tsar". The inscription is engraved on a round gold plate attached to the ring with two ornate lion heads.

It dates back to the beginning of the 14th century, and belonged to a very senior Bulgarian aristocrat judging from the title of “epikerniy" (“pinkernis") given only to persons who were very close to the Bulgarian Tsar, usually his relatives. In fact, he was the Tsar’s cup-bearer, and, thus, one of his most trusted aristocrats.

The second gold ring weighs 30 grams, and dates back to the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. It has an engraving of a cross-like monogram reading in Greek,NIKHФOPOC". The inscription is located on an octagonal gold plate attached to the ring. Nikiphoros was either a Byzantine aristocrat, or a rich man from Byzantium in private capacity.

Both gold rings were tossed into the warm mineral water source as votive offerings in gratitude for the treatment that their noble owners received at the medieval spa resort of Thermopolis (Aquea Calidae), explains the Director of the Burgas Regional Museum of History, Milen Nikolov.

The second ring, which may have belonged to a Byzantine noble, has has an engraving of a cross-like monogram reading in Greek, “NIKHФOPOC

The second ring, which may have belonged to a Byzantine noble, has has an engraving of a cross-like monogram reading in Greek, “NIKHФOPOC" (“Nikiphoros”). Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History

The mineral source of ancient Aquae Calidaemedieval Thermopolis was cleaned up by Burgas Municipality back in 1910-1911. The clean-up led to the discovery of two pools where a huge number of ancient and medieval items were found, including about 4,000 coins of silver and bronze, and many rings, crosses, combs, bone hairpins, fibulas, etc.

Today all of these artifacts from Aquae CalidaeThermopolis are part of the collection of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

“The finds from the pools are striking even today with their dignified appearance. The two gold seal rings stand out among them… These finds are evidence about the dynamic life at the mineral baths near Burgas during the Middle Ages," Nikolov says.

The exhibition of the 14th century gold rings at the Museum of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis is organized by the Burgas Regional Museum of History, and Burgas Municipality, with the support of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

In the fall of 2015, the Museum of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis exhibited another intriguing item – the famous votive tablet of “The Shrine of the Three Nymphs", as the site was known in the Ancient Thracian period.

Download the ArchaeologyinBulgaria App for iPhone & iPad!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr!

The second ring may have belonged to a Byzantine aristocrat or just a rich person from Byzantium who was in his private capacity. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History

The second ring may have belonged to a Byzantine aristocrat or just a rich person from Byzantium who was in his private capacity. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History

Also check out our recent stories about archaeological discoveries at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis in Bulgaria’s Burgas:

Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Inscription at Aquae Calidae Revolutionizing Knowledge about Last Years of History of Ancient Thrace

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

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

Archaeologists Discover Ancient, Medieval Coins, Ceramics at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Preserve in Bulgaria’s Burgas

…and our recent stories about the development of the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve as a cultural tourism destination:

‘Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis’ Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Burgas Shows Votive Tablet of ‘The Three Nymphs’

4,000 Tourists Visit Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Burgas in Week after Opening

Bulgaria’s Burgas to Offer Spa Treatments in Roman Bath Replica at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve

Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent’s Bath in Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Preserve in Bulgaria’s Burgas Causes Political Tension

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 “Aquae Calidae" 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".

Save