Bulgaria’s Yambol Reenacts Thracian – Roman Battles in Ancient Thracian City Kabyle

The historical reeactment of Thracian - Roman battles at the Kabile Archaeological Preserve near Bulgaria's Yambol. Photo: Yambol Municipality

The historical reeactment of Thracian – Roman battles at the Kabyle Archaeological Preserve near Bulgaria’s Yambol. Photo: Yambol Municipality

A two-day fair of cultural tourism entertainment organized by the city of Yambol in Southeast Bulgaria has featured reenactments of Thracian – Roman battles amidst the ruins of the Ancient Thracian city of Kabyle.

The main battle between Ancient Thracian warriors and legionnaires from the Roman Empire is the main attraction of the fair, which is taking place on June 11-12, 2016, in the Kabyle Archaeological Preserve, Yambol Municipality has announced.

The Ancient Thracian city of Kabyle, which was established at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, is located on the southeastern slope of a tall hill known as Zaychi Vrah (“Rabbit’s Mount”) at a curve of the Tundzha River, with a rock acropolis shrine on the hill’s top.

Kabyle was a major Ancient Thracian city which also served as a residence of the early kings of the Odrysian Thracian Kingdom, and a crucial Roman military camp in the later Antiquity period.

The present event is the fifth edition of the historical reenactment fair organized by Yambol Municipality, the Yambol Regional Museum of History, and the Museum of Military Glory, also based in Yambol.

In addition to the Ancient Thracian and Roman warriors, the fair also features reenactors from the nearby cities Sliven and Karnobat presenting the lifestyle and military skills of the Ancient Bulgars from the 8th-9th century, i.e. the early period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018).

The battles between the Thracians and the Romans during the reenactment in Kabile. Photos: Yambol Municipality

The battles between the Thracians and the Romans during the reenactment in Kabyle. Photos: Yambol Municipality

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In addition to the Kabyle Archaeological Preserve, the event includes presentations of other major archaeological sites in Eastern Bulgaria which have been partly restored with EU funding.

These include the Abritus Fortress in Razgrad, the Tuida Fortress in Sliven, the Markeli (Marcellae) Fortress in Karnobat, and the Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve in Stara Zagora.

As part of their efforts to promote cultural tourism by attracting more visitors, in 2015, Yambol Municipality and Tundzha Municipality built a wooden Ancient Roman keep in the Archaeological Preserve Kabyle near today’s city of Yambol in Southern Bulgaria, and organized a historical reenactment of the life of the Roman military camp.

Kabyle’s tourism infrastructure has been improved as part of an EU funded project worth BGN 5.5 million (app. EUR 2.8 million) entitled “Go Inside History”, as the archaeological research of one of the most impressive cities of the Odrysian Kingdom, the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians, is continuing.

The ruins of the Ancient Thracian and later Roman city Kabyle are well preserved because the site has seen no construction after the Antiquity period, i.e. the city did not survive until the Middle Ages.

The Thracian and Roman structures that have been exposed and exhibited in situ include fortress walls and towers, public buildings, thermae (public baths), barracks, basilicas, with thousands of archaeological artifacts exhibited in the museum of the preserve.

The museum itself was first established in 1986 but its collection and exhibitions were fully updated in 2013.

All of Ancient Thrace south of the Danube, including the most powerful Ancient Thracian state, the Odrysian Kingdom, which existed in the 5th century BC – 1st century AD, was conquered by the Roman Empire by 46 AD.

Subsequently, not unlike many other conquered peoples in the Roman provinces, the Thracians and their aristocracy became integrated into the institutions of the Roman Empire, including the military.

At the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the Roman Empire turned Kabyle, the glorious city of the Odrysians, into one of the largest military camps in the Roman province of Thrace (most of which corresponded to today’s Southern Bulgaria).

The Kabyle Archaeological Preserve is located at the foot of a rocky peak known as Zaychi Vrah (Rabbit’s Mount) which used to be an Ancient Thracian shrine and observatory dedicated to goddess Cybele.

In their shrine on Rabbit’s Mount, which dates back to the 2nd millennium BC, the Thracians hewd platforms into the rock in order to secure a view in all directions so that the Ancient Thracian priests could observe from there the paths of the sun and the stars.

Kabyle was declared an archaeological site by the Bulgarian authorities in 1927; in 1969, it was granted the status of a monument of culture of national importance, and a national archaeological preserve, and in 1979, it was made part of a nature preserve.

In 2014, the Kabyle Archaeological Preserve was visited by a total of 11,600 tourists – which, while a small number, is an increase compared to previous years.

The best researched archaeological structure in Kabyle is its Early Christian Great Basilica which features replicas of its original floor mosaics.

The Thracians (above) and the Romans (below) before their battle reenactment in Kabile. Photos: Yambol Municipality

The Thracians (above) and the Romans (below) before their battle reenactment in Kabyle. Photos: Yambol Municipality

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A demonstration of crafts.

A demonstration of crafts during the fair in Kabyle.

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A demonstration of a trained falcon.

A demonstration of the skills of a trained falcon during the fair in Kabyle.

The stand of the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History during the fair in Kabile.

The stand of the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History during the fair in Kabyle.

The official poster for the historical reenactments in Kabile.

The official poster for the historical reenactment fair in Kabyle.

Learn more about the history of the Ancient Thracian city of Kabyle near Bulgaria’s Yambol in the Background Infonotes below.

As part of its efforts to promote cultural tourism, in addition to Kabyle, Bulgaria’s Yambol has also restored with EU funding its 16th century Ottoman covered market, the so called bedestan.

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Background Infonotes:

The Ancient Thracian city of Kabyle is an Archaeological Preserve located 10 km away for the southeastern Bulgarian city of Yambol. The city of Kabyle was founded at the end of the 2nd millenium BC, and was one of the most important cities of Ancient Thrace. In fact, it is believed to have been one of the royal residences of the kings from the Odryssian Kingdom, the most powerful state of the Ancient Thracians. In 341 BC, Kabyle was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon. The Ancient Thracian city is mentioned by 14 ancient authors, the first of whom describes its conquest by Philip II of Macedon.

After the collapse of Alexander the Great’s empire, in the 3rd century BC, Kabyle was ruled once again by the Ancient Thracians. It was conquered by the Roman Empire in 71 BC, and was later incorporated into the Roman province of Thracia (Thrace). It was an important regional center in the Late Antiquity as well. The city of Kabyle was modeled after the Ancient Greek cities at the time. It boasts a stone acropolis with a unique rock relief of the ancient goddess of Cybele, a protector of the city. In the 4th century AD, Kabyle was conquered by the Goths, and was later destroyed for good by the Avars.

Kabyle is located on the southeastern slope of a tall hill known as Zaychi Vrah (“Rabbit’s Mount”) at a curve of the Tundzha River, with a rock acropolis shrine on the hill’s top. It stood at the crossroads of several major ancient roads, and the fact there is no modern-day settlement built on top of it makes the Ancient Thracian city a fruitful place for archaeological research and cultural tourism.

Kabyle was declared an archaeological site by the Bulgarian authorities in 1927; in 1969, it was granted the status of a monument of culture of national importance, and a national archaeological preserve, and in 1979, it was made part of a nature preserve. The Kabyle Archaeological Reserve has a territory of 650 decares (160 acres). It features ancient structures such as the agora (a central square), Roman barracks, Roman thermae, a bishop’s basilica, among others. Kabyle is excavated every year by archaeological teams from Bulgaria and abroad.

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Bulgaria’s Yambol District, which has a territory of 3335 square kilometers, boasts about 4000 archaeology sites, averaging more than one archaeology site per square kilometer. Those include over 3000 burial mounds (tumuli) of which fewer than 2%, or about 60, have been excavated and researched; over 300 prehistoric settlements and settlement mounds; about 50 fortified towns from the Antiquity period (including the Late Iron Age, Ancient Thrace and Ancient Rome, and the Late Antiquity); and about 50 fortified towns from the Middle Ages (Bulgaria and Byzantium). In addition to the 60 excavated burial mounds, only about 20 of the rest of the archaeological sites have been excavated and studied. A total of 87 new archaeological sites, mostly burial mounds but also a dolmen, were discovered in Bulgaria’s Yambol District in 2014 alone.

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