The Serdika II Metro Station in downtown Sofia is lined with glass-cased displays of archaeological finds. Photo: Archaeology Travel
The Serdika II Metro Station in the downtown of the Bulgarian capital Sofia is seen as a “gateway to the Roman past" of the city in a review of Archaeology Travel, a leading website for international cultural tourism.
According to Archaeology Travel author Thomas Dowson, who is himself an archaeologist based in the UK, the Serdika II Metro Station and the Serdica Archaeological Complex right outside the station present “an excellent introduction to many more Roman features nearby, as well as [Bulgaria‘s]National Archaeological Museum".
“Instead of billboards on the platform, passengers arriving at Sofia’s Serdika II Metro station get to see stylish glass cases displaying just a handful of the city’s prehistoric and ancient artifacts. Complete Neolithic pots and well preserved capitals of Classical columns are amongst a few objects used to tell stories of Sofia’s past. Taking the escalators to street level commuters and visitors then get to walk through the restored streets of RomanSofia, or Serdica; from which the metro station takes its name," he writes.
Dowson notes that the Serdika II Metro Station is worth a visit even if one is not taking the subway, with the metro ticket of BGN 1.60 (app. EUR 0.80) being, in his words, “the cheapest museum ticket in Sofia, if not Bulgaria!"
He finds the archaeological exhibition in the SerdikaII Metro Station in Sofia reminiscent of discoveries and exhibits in metro stations in Athens and Paris.
While summarizing the history of Sofia, emphasizing the Neolithic and especially the Roman period, the review also provides an informative account of the open-air museum of the Serdica Archaeological Complex which was opened in April 2016 as part of the so called Sofia Largo Project.
The archaeological restoration of the Ancient Roman ruins of Serdica in downtown Sofia came under fire in a number of media publications in the fall of 2015 because the reconstructed ruins seemed artificial and different from the way their original appearance from the time when they were exposedduring the construction of the Sofia Metro back in 2009-2011.
(You can compare what the ruins of Ancient Serdica looked like upon their excavation in 2010 and what they looked like upon their restoration in October 2015 in our PHOTO GALLERY.You can also view the photos in our in our Facebook Albums HERE and HERE.)
The Archaeology Travel review acknowledges the public criticism of the archaeological restoration of the ruins of ancient Serdica at the Sofia Largo but nonetheless deems “the presentation of the Roman remains at the Serdika II Metro station is an excellent addition to the cityscape."
“For me, the Serdika II Metro Station is an interesting and impressive point from which to explore Sofia’s past… Here in the heart of present-day Sofia locals and visitors can see the remains of an ancient street from the city of Serdica. And these remains rival those in any other major European city. The Serdika II Metro station is in effect a gateway, not only to many other fascinating sites in the Bulgarian capital, but also to many thousands of spectacular sites throughout the country“, writes Dowson.
The Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Serdica is the precursor of the contemporary Bulgarian capital Sofia. The oldest traces of civilized life in Sofia are from a Neolithic settlement dated back to 5000 BC located in today’s Slatina Quarter. There are also traces of life from the Charcolithic (also known as Aeneolithic or Copper Age) and the Bronze Age.
After the Bronze Age, the Sofia Valley was inhabited by the Ancient Serdi who are believed to have been a Celtictribe (some Bulgarianscholars hypothesize that the Serdi were a Thraciantribe, or a Thraciantribe which assimilated a smaller Celtictribe while keeping its original name).
The name of the Serditribe gave the name to the Ancient Thracian settlement called Serdica or Sardica. The city of Serdica was conquered briefly in the 4th century BC by Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.
Around 29 BC, Sofia was conquered by the Romans and renamed Ulpia Serdica. It became a municipium, the center of an administrative region, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117), and saw extensive development with many new buildings. It is known to have been the favorite place of Roman Emperor Constantine I the Great who used to say, “Serdica is my Rome”.
In 343 AD, the Council of Serdica was held in the city, in the 4th century church that preceded the current 6th century St. Sofia Basilica. In 447 AD, the city was destroyed by the Huns. During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD), a new fortress wall was built whose remains have been excavated and can be seen today. This is when it was renamed Triaditsa.
It became part of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) in 809 AD when it was conquered by Bulgaria’s Khan Krum, and was known by its Slavic-Bulgarian name Sredets until the 14th century when it took the name of the St. Sofia Basilica.
The Sofia Largo is the architectural complex of government buildings in downtown Sofia erected in the 1950s, in the early years of the former communist regime. Regardless of their Communist Era architecture, today the buildings house the most important Bulgarian government institutions and are one of the most famous parts of Sofia’s cityscape. Parts of the ancient city of Serdica, which have been excavated, can be seen in the underpasses and the Serdica Metro Station right next to the Sofia Largo.