Bulgaria’s Plovdiv to Buy Back Roman Forum of Ancient Philipopolis 15 Years after Selling It

The Ancient Roman Forum in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv is yet to be properly restored and exhibited in situ. Photo: Maritsa daily

The local authorities in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv have struck a deal to buy back a property containing the southern part of the Ancient Roman Forum (main square) of the Antiquity city of Philipopolis, a property that was perplexing sold by Plovdiv Municipality to a private firm back in 2003.

The property encompassing the southern part of the Roman Forum of Philipopolis, the predecessor of today’s Plovdiv, is located between the city’s central post office and the “Tsar Boris III the Unifier" Boulevard. It covers an area of 5.6 decares (app. 1.4 acres).

Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, which is also considered “Europe’s oldest city“ because of the prehistoric settlement and fortress on the Nebet Tepe hill, is the successor of the Ancient Thracian and then Roman city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva / Philipopolis, which was also known as Trimontium in the Roman period (1st-4th century AD).

At the end of 2016 and in early 2017, archaeologists discovered the earliest aqueduct of Philipopolis and also found a Roman inscription revealing that the first de facto “mayor" of Roman Philipopolis was a man named Titus Flavius Cotys (also spelled Kotys), son of Rhescuporis, an aristocrat who was a descendant of the royal family of the Ancient Thracian Odrysian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st AD).

An unknown Roman Era residential quarter in the outskirts of ancient Philipopolis has recently been discovered by accident during construction works.

In 2015, the excavations of the the western part of the Ancient Roman Forum of Plovdiv were completed, and the exposed ruins were even flooded.

In the summer of 2014, local archaeologists discovered there a marble statue of a male and a marble bust of a female on a pedestal dating to the height of the Roman Empire – the 2nd-3rd century AD.

Back in 2015, Plovdiv Municipality also won a court battle against local merchants allowing it to link the Roman Forum of Philipopolis with the already restored Antiquity Odeon.

The municipality has now completed the negotiations for buying back the property of the southern part of the Roman Forum, local news site Pod Tepeto reports, citing municipal records.

Thus, Plovdiv Municipality is going to pay EUR 2.2 million, plus a 20% value-added tax fee, for a total price of over EUR 2.7 million.

According to an independent appraiser, the market price of the property is BGN 4.3 million (app. EUR 2.2 million), VAT excluded.

The ruins of Plovdiv’s Roman Forum are located north and south of today’s central post office. Photos: Pod Tepeto

The municipal authorities are going to pay the sum, which is roughly four times greater than the price it sold the property for 15 years ago, in two installments by the end of 2018.

Back in 2003-2004, Plovdiv’s City Hall sold the property to a private firm, “Mladost Alfa" Single Person Ltd, for a total of BGN 1.24 million (app. EUR 600,000).

Subsequently, the buyer failed to make the promised investment of BGN 5.65 million (app. EUR 3.3 million) but is now going to make a profit anyway.

In addition to restoring and exhibiting in situ the southern part of the Roman Forum of ancient Philipopolis, Plovdiv Municipality is also going to exhibit in situ the rest of the Roman Forum located to the north of today’s central post office.

In addition to its Roman Forum, Bulgaria’s Plovdiv has already restored its Antiquity Odeon and Ancient Roman Stadium (which was restored between 2009 and 2012), while its best known landmark is its Antiquity Amphitheater.

Background Infonotes:

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 the prehistoric, 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 period Eumolpia / 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.

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