A view of the right side of the Ancient Thracian aristocrat’s helmet with Greek mythology scenes found in the Thracian burial mound (tumulus) Pamuk Mogila in Bulgaria’s Brestovitsa in 2013. Photo: Plovdiv24
Ancient mythology, more precisely Ancient Greek mythology, has been a major influence on the world through science, arts, and religion for millennia.
In the modern-day world, having been an invariable presence in school curriculums the world over, its myths about heroes and gods have touched the souls of a countless number of people.
Yet, few today can perceive the extent to which the lives of the ancient people in the so called “Old World" were influenced by the Ancient Greek mythology – and the Ancient Thracian mythology – the two, as it is increasingly turning out – had a lot in common.
Archaeological artifacts depicting scenes and motifs from the mythology of Ancient Greece and Ancient Thrace might be the most tangible way for the modern-day person to try to experience that.
Following is a list of six truly impressive archaeological artifacts discovered in Bulgaria (mostly in recent years) with depictions of scenes from the Ancient Greek & Ancient Thracian mythology.
The selection is random, and features artifacts which we at ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com have covered so far in our news articles.
#1. This Ancient Thracian Aristocrat’s War Helmet Depicting Trojan War / Iliad Scenes
1st – 2nd century AD, Brestovitsa, Central South Bulgaria
A view of the back of the Ancient Thracian war helmet found in Bulgaria’s Brestovitsa: a Greek mythology scene from the Trojar War depicting the murder of Hector’s son Astyanax (Scamandrius) by Achilles’s son Neoptolemus. Photo: Plovdiv24
A very rare war helmet of a Thracian aristocrat from the 1st-2nd century AD featuring motifs from the story of the Trojan War – made world famous through the Iliad by Ancient Greek poet Homer – was discovered during emergency excavations in Southern Bulgaria in 2013.
The Thracian war helmet was found in an Ancient Thracian tumulus (burial mound) known as Pamuk Mogila in Bulgaria’s Brestovitsa, and was shown to the public for the first time in 2015.
Alongside images of ancient gods, Eros, Apollo, and Hermes, it features a scene from the Trojar War depicting the murder of Hector’s son Astyanax (Scamandrius) by Achilles’s son Neoptolemus.
It is said to be the world’s only known depiction of the said Trojan War scene which dates back to the Roman Age.
#2. This Silver and Gold Phiale Depicting Hercules (Heracles) and Auge from the Rogozen Treasure
6th – 4th century BC, Rogozen, Northwest Bulgaria
This phiale from the Rogozen Silver Treasure kept in Bulgaria’s Vratsa features a scene from the ancient mythology of Athena’s priestess Auge and the hero Hercules (Heracles). Photo: Vratsa Regional Museum of History
With a combined weight of 20 kg and the stunning number of 165 silver vessels, some with gold coating, the Rogozen Treasure is the largest Ancient Thracian treasure to have ever been discovered in Bulgaria, and, seemingly, anywhere else.
In 2016, Bulgaria marked the 30th anniversary since the discovery of the Rogozen Silver Treasure.
One of the most intriguing vessels from the treasure hoard collected from the 6th century BC until the middle of the 4th century BC is a silver phiale with gold decoration depicting Auge and Hercules (Heracles).
In Ancient Greek mythology, Auge was the daughter of the King of Arcadia Aleus and Neaera. She was a priestess of Athena Alea (a name for the Greek goddess Athena) in Tegea who was seduced by Heracles (Hercules) and bore him a son, the hero Telephus.
#3. This Silver Kantharos Showing the Sacrifice of the Golden Fleece Ram That Took Helle and Phrixus to Colchis in the Jason and the Argonauts Epic
The silver kantharos with gold depictions showing the sacrifice of the sacred golden ram that took Helle and Phrixus to Colchis is at the center of the exhibition on Jason and the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. Photos: Thrace Foundation
A silver kantharos (ancient cup) showing the sacrifice of the sacred Golden Fleece ram that took twin siblings Helle and Phrixus to Colchis (though Helle perished along the way) in the Jason and the Argonauts Epic has recently been shown to the public for the first time in a new exhibition in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The vessel showing the sacrifice of the Golden Fleece ram is the centerpiece of the exhibition on the Golden Fleece and the quest of Jason and the Argonauts.
The artifacts on display come from a private collection so little is known about where the silver kantharos with the sacrifice of the golden ram was originally discovered.
#5. This Silver Kylix Showing Theseus with the Marathonian Bull
445 – 440 BC
The silver kylix depicting Theseus with the Marathonian Bull dates back to 445 – 440 BC. Photo: National Gallery of Arts, Sofia
Another very intriguing item from the same exhibition has been a silver kylix (ancient wine cup) also depicting the top Antiquity hero from Attica, Theseus, but with the Marathonian Bull. The kylix dates back to 445-440 BC.
The Attica red-figure pottery krater with Oedipus and the Sphinx discovered in Bulgaria’s Sozopol is dated to the second quarter of the 5th century BC. Photo: ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com
Ancient Greek red-figure pottery from the Attica Peninsula with its mythology scenes is a huge topic in itself. But there should be no hesitation to include this well-preserved krater, a fresh find from the Ancient Greek colony of Apollonia Pontica (today’s Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol) in this list.
Depicting Oedipus and the Sphinx, a scene from Ancient Greek mythology in which Oedipus answers the riddle of the Sphinx, this intact red-figure pottery krater (a special vessel for mixing wine (and water)) is probably the most impressive find from the 2017 rescue excavations in Sozopol.
The krater with Oedipus and the Sphinx has now been unveiled to the public in the 2017 Bulgarian Archaeology Exhibition at the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.
According to the Oedipus myths, the Sphinx, a mythical creature with a human head and a lion’s body, guarded the entrance to the Ancient Greek city of Thebes. The Sphinx would ask travelers a riddle to let them pass, and would strangle and devour those who would fail to give the right answer.