The Antiquity Amphitheater is the most important cultural landmark of Bulgaria’s Plovdiv, Europe’s oldest city, according to a new poll. Photo: VisitPlovdiv, Plovdiv Municipality
The Antiquity Amphitheater, which was built during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD), has been voted the most important cultural landmark of the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv in a poll of the local residents.
The results of the poll are hardly surprising since the Antiquity Amphitheater, also referred to as the “Ancient Threater" or the “Antiquity Theater" is probably Plovdiv’smost visited tourism site even though the city itself is packed with archaeological, historical, and cultural landmarks from all time periods.
What is more, Plovdiv is also considered“Europe’s oldest city“and theworld’s six oldest city (according to aDaily Telegraphranking). It was recently featured in an article of “The Guardian" as one of ten “Great European City Breaks You’ve Probably Never Thought Of”.
The poll in question has been organized by a NGO called “Plovdiv – Europe’s Oldest Living City" as part of a campaign to recognize and designate the city’s top cultural landmarks with “Marks of Ancientness" in order to help for their promotion.
A total of 6,327 local residents of Plovdiv (whose population is about 350,000, according to official statistical data, and probably substantially larger in reality) were polled by volunteers in person or voted online during a one-month period to determine the city’s most important landmark.
More than 50% of them have voted for the Antiquity Amphitheater, whose stage is presently being rebuilt by Plovdiv Municipality in an archaeological restoration project.
“It impresses because of both the history that it has inside, and its ornate beauty. And we are known for it all over the world. There are documentaries about Plovdiv, and the Antiquity Theater is [always] included,"Lyubomir Kostov, head of the NGO, has told BNT2.
“Tourists are increasingly visiting sites to make selfies, and since our main goal is to promote Plovdiv as Europe’s oldest living city, we would like it if they stand in such [selfie] spots where this fact is noted," he adds.
The NGO’s campaign is designed not just to boost Plovdiv’s cultural tourism numbers but also to support the city status as the European Capital of Culture for 2019.
The Ancient Roman Stadium is ranked as Plovdiv’s second most important landmark, while the third are the seven historic hills (not unlike Rome’s seven historic hills), the “tepeta", on which the city was built and developed over the ages, and which are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period (“tepe” is the Turkishword for “hill”).
Plovdiv’s other cultural landmarks mentioned by the respondents include the Rowing Canal, the Tsar Simeon’s Garden park, Hisar Kapiya, the Antiquity Odeon, the Roman Forum, the Nebet Tepe Fortress, the Ethnographic Museum in Plovdiv’s Old Town, the Kapana Architectural Complex, the Clock Tower on Sahat Tepe, the buildings of the Plovdiv International Fair, and the Monument of Soviet Soldier Alyosha.
The history of the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv – often dubbed the oldest city in Europe – began with the human settlement on the ancient hill of Nebet Tepe (“tepe" is the Turkishword for “hill"), one of the seven historic hills where Plovdiv was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times.
Thanks to theprehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement and fortress of Nebet Tepe, Plovdiv hold the title of “Europe’s oldest city" (and that of the world’s six oldest city, according to a Daily Telegraph ranking).
The hills, or “tepeta“, are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period. Out of all of them,Nebet Tepe has the earliest traces of civilized life dating back to the 6th millennium BC, which makes Plovdiv 8,000 years old, and allegedly the oldest city in Europe. Around 1200 BC, the prehistoric settlement on Nebet Tepe was transformed into the Ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, also known as Pulpudeva, inhabited by the powerfulAncient Thracian tribe Bessi.
During the Early Antiquity periodEumolpia / Pulpudeva grew to encompass the two nearby hills (Dzhambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe known together with Nebet Tepe as “The Three Hills") as well, with the oldest settlement on Nebet Tepe becoming the citadel of the city acropolis.
In 342 BC, the Thracian city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon renaming the city to Philippopolis. Philippopolis developed further as a major urban center during the Hellenistic period after the collapse of Alexander the Great’s Empire.
In the 1st century AD, more precisely in 46 AD, Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Roman Empire makingPhilippopolis the major city in the Ancient Roman province of Thrace. This is the period when the city expanded further into the plain around The Three Hills which is why it was also known as Trimontium (“the three hills").
Because of the large scale public construction works during the period of Ancient Rome’s Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD, including Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), Emperor Titus (r. 79-81 AD), Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96 AD)),Plovdiv was also known as Flavia Philippopolis.
Later emerging as a major Early Byzantine city, Plovdiv was conquered for the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) by Khan (or Kanas) Krum (r. 803-814 AD) in 812 AD but was permanently incorporated into Bulgaria underKhan (or Kanas) Malamir (r. 831-836 AD) in 834 AD.
In Old Bulgarian (also known today as Church Slavonic), the city’s name was recorded as Papaldin, Paldin, and Pladin, and later Plavdiv from which today’s name Plovdiv originated. The Nebet Tepe fortress continued to be an important part of the city’s fortifications until the 14th century when the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the period the Ottoman yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was called Filibe in Turkish.
Today the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement on Nebet Tepe has been recognized as the Nebet Tepe Archaeological Preserve. Some of the unique archaeological finds from Nebet Tepe include an ancient secret tunnelwhich, according to legends, was used by Apostle Paul (even though it has been dated to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)) and large scale water storage reservoirs used during sieges, one of them with an impressive volume of 300,000 liters. Still preserved today are parts of the western fortress wall with a rectangular tower from the Antiquity period.