One of the most intriguing ancient inscriptions discovered in Bulgaria in the past few years. Check out the list below. Photo: Parvomai.net
Ancient inscriptions are among the best windows into the past that archaeologists can find during their research.
Countless inscriptions from various historical periods have been discovered all over Bulgaria since the first archaeological digs in the country over 150 years ago.
Yet, Bulgarian archaeologists keep discovering more and more exciting inscriptions from ancient times very frequently, some of which directly help piece together crucial episodes of local and global history, while others (such as #1 below!) are just plain awesomely inspiring.
Following is a list of 12 ancient inscriptions found by archaeologists in Bulgaria since 2014.
The list is not exhaustive, and the selection features inscriptions whose discoveries we at ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com have covered so far in our news articles.
#12. This Roman Inscription from Sacrificial Altar Dedicated to Little Known Ancient God Porobonus
First half of 3rd century AD, Ad Putea Roman road station, Riben, Central North Bulgaria
The sacrificial altar of ancient deity Porobonus which has been found during the excavations of the Ancient Roman fortress and road station Ad Putea in Bulgaria’s Riben, Pleven District. Photo: InfoPleven
The precise role of ancient deity Porobonus in ancient mythology is unknown even though some scholars have hypothesized that the deity might be of Celtic or Thracian origin.
Only three altars dedicated to Porobonus have been found in Bulgaria. One of them was discovered in 2014 in the Roman road station Ad Putea near today’s town of Riben, Pleven District, in Central North Bulgaria.
The altar has an inscription in Latin which reads,
“Domitius Domitianus placed [for] Porobonus according to his vow for himself and his kin".
#11. This Roman Inscription from Major Danube City of Novae Mentioning Ancient Gods Apollo and Diana Together
2nd century AD, Roman Danube city Novae, Svishtov, Northern Bulgaria
The newly discovered inscription in Latin from the Ancient Roman city of Novae in Bulgaria’s Danube town of Svishtov is dedicated to ancient deities Apollo and Diana. It is intriguing because it mentions Apollo first, and Diana second, and because of the form of Apollo’s name – “Apollini". Photo: Trud daily
Novae was a Roman military camp and later a major fortress and city located at the southernmost point of the Danube River near today’s Bulgarian town of Svishtov.
In 2015, archaeologists discovered there a pedestal with an inscription in Latin which is dedicated to both ancient deities Apollo and Diana.
The partially preserved inscription is the first instance of an inscription found in the Roman city of Novae in which the names of Apollo and Diana appear together.
It was found near the site where several years prior Bulgarian archaeologists found a pedestal dedicated to Roman deity Minerva. Novae is known to have worshiped the Roman deities from the Capitoline Triad – Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.
Both inscriptions might have originated in a Roman pagan temple which was torn down and used as construction material after the adoption of Christianity.
The Apollo and Diana inscription is also intriguing because of the dedication form of the name of god Apollo written as “Apollini".
In modern-day Bulgaria, the form Apollini has only been found in inscriptions in a Roman shrine in the northwestern city of Montana leading the archaeologists to conclude that this form of Apollo’s name was specifically used by the servicemen from a specific Roman legion based in Montana and Novae.
#10. This Early Christian Inscription from Major Roman and Byzantine City Zaldapa in Northeast Bulgaria
5th-6th century AD, Roman & Byzantine city of Zaldapa, Krushari, Dobrich District, Northeast Bulgaria
The stone inscription in Ancient Greek found at the bishop’s basilica in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine city of Zaldapa, Krushari Municipality, Dobrich District, in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Standart daily
Zaldapa was a major Late Roman and Early Byzantine city located on a high plateau in the midst of the arid but fertile Dobrudzha region in today’s Northeast Bulgaria, between the Danube River and the Black Sea.
In 2015, a stone inscription in Greek was discovered by the archaeologists in the ruins of Zaldapa’s Early Christian bishop’s basilica.
The inscription expresses gratitude for God, and was probably a gravestone inscription placed in the foundations of the bishop’s basilica in Zaldapa. It is a testimony to the city’s Early Christian culture.
Alongside the inscription, the archaeologists found red-marble columns leading to hypotheses connecting Zaldapa and its Early Christian bishop’s basilica to a major civil war in early Byzantium.
The city of Zaldapa was the birthplace of Byzantine general Vitalian (d. 520) who in 513 AD led a rebellion against Byzantine Emperor Anastasius which grew into a civil war that raged on for five years.
#9. This Inscription Dedicated to Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary from Byzantine Amphora Found in Danube Fortress Trimammium
6th century AD, Roman and Byzantine Danube Fortress Trimammium, Ruse District, Northern Bulgaria
The six-line inscription in Ancient Greek found on the fragment of a 6th century AD Byzantine amphora in the Trimammium Fortress in Northeast Bulgaria. Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History
The Trimammum Fortress was built as a Roman fortification and later a road station in the 1st century AD on the Danube near today’s city of Ruse. It was destroyed in barbarian invasions in the early 7th century but was later resettled and used by the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018) and the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396/1422).
In 2017, Bulgarian archaeologists discovered there a fragment from a 6th century AD Byzantine amphora with a fully preserved inscription in Greek.
The six-line inscription is a dedication to Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary who is known as the Holy Mother of God in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
During the excavations of the floor mosaics in 2015, the archaeologists a partly preserved bishop’s inscription in Greek. Only about 30% of it has been preserved but that includes the word “bishop" as well as a verb meaning “to make mosaics".
#7. This Inscription from Roadside Pillar Honoring Roman Emperor Philip the Arab at Sostra Fortress near Bulgaria’s Troyan
244 AD, Sostra Fortress Road Station, Troyan, Central Bulgaria
The newly discovered roadside Roman pillar found near the Sostra Fortress close to Bulgaria’s Troyan mentions Roman Emperor Philip the Arab and his son, Philip the Younger. Photo: National Museum of History
Tall Roman pillars with detailed inscriptions aren’t discovered every day. But one with an inscription honoring Roman Emperor Philip the Arab (r. 244-249 AD) was found in 2016 during excavations of a Roman road station at the Sostra Fortress near the mountain town of Troyan in Central Bulgaria.
The roadside pillar is 2.2-meters tall, and features an engraved inscription in 19 lines in honor of Roman Emperor Philip the Arab (r. 244-249 AD) and his son, Philip II (Philip the Younger). It also mentions the name of the provincial governor named Prastina Mesalinus.
The inscription pillar might have been erected when Emperor Philip the Arab passed through the Balkans on his way to Rome in 244 (when he might have visited the Sostra Fortress) or when his son Philip the Younger was declared a Caesar.
#6. This Bridge Construction Inscription of Roman Emperor Trajan Found at Ad Radices Road Station near Bulgaria’s Troyan
2nd century AD, Roman road station Ad Radices, Troyan, Central Bulgaria
This fragment from a marble slab with a partially preserved inscription in Latin indicates that Emperor Trajan built a bridge near today’s Bulgarian town of Troyan. Photo: National Museum of History
In 2015, a fragment of another Ancient Roman stone inscription was discovered at Ad Radices, another Roman road station on the Via Traiana road near Bulgaria’s Troyan. The inscription is partly preserved, and mentions Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD).
Via Traiana, which runs through the Troyan Pass of the Balkan Mountains, was vital in Roman Emperor Trajan’s wars for conquering the Dacians, the resisting Thracian tribes north of the Lower Danube, in today’s Romania.
The road connected Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called Limes Moesiae – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen and Novae near today’s town Svishtov, in the Roman province of Moesia.
Even though the inscription is only partly preserved, the imperial title of Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus (Trajan) can be made out in it, and so can the names of Roman consuls.
The Latin word for “bridge" can be seen in the last line leading to the conclusion that the inscription had to do with the construction of a bridge right after the Second Dacian War of Emperor Trajan (106 AD).
The researchers have also hypothesized that the bridge in question was one built over the Knezha River nearby.
#5. Donor’s Temple Inscription Mentioning Roman Caesars in Major City of Augusta Traiana in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora
303 AD, Roman city of Augustra Traiana, Stara Zagora, Southern Bulgaria
A marble slab from a temple frieze depicting two fighting gladiators found during the 2015 rescue excavations in the Roman city of Augusta Traiana in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora. Photo: Duma daily
An exciting discovery was made by archaeologists in the Roman city of Augusta Traiana, today’s Stara Zagora in Southern Bulgaria: a donor’s inscription stating the exact year when a Roman temple was built – 303 AD, and also mentions two Roman Caesars.
The inscription says the temple was erected by the governor of the Roman province of Thrace, Emilius Alexander, “for the glory of Roman Caesars Galerius Valerius Maximianus and Flavius Valerius Constantius" (i.e. Galerius and Constantius Chlorus).
Galerius and Constantius were part of the so called Tetrarchy, a government system introduced by Roman Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305 AD) in which the Empire was governed by two Augusti (Senior Emperors) and two Caesars (Junior Emperors). When the Tetrarchy was set up in 293 AD (the so called First Tetrarchy), Diocletian ruled the East of the Roman Empire as Augustus together with Galerius as Caesar, and Maximian ruled the West of the Roman Empire as Augustus together with Constantius Chlorus as Caesar.
Thus, Galerius (Galerius Valerius Maximianus) ruled in 293-305 AD as Caesar under Emperor Diocletian and in 305-311 AD as Augustus alongside Constantius, then Severus, then Constantine; and Constantius Chlorus (Flavius Valerius Constantius) ruled in 293-305 AD as Caesar under Maximian, and in 305-306 AD as Augustus alongside Galerius.
#4. Inscription Revealing Temple in Roman City Augusta Traiana Was Dedicated to God Hermes
3rd century AD, Roman city of Augusta Traiana, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
A head of a gladiator’s marble statue (in the middle) and other artifacts found during the 2015 summer excavations of the Ancient Roman city of Augusta Traiana in the southern Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora. Photo: Monitor daily
Another Roman inscription from the city of Augusta Traiana was discovered by archaeologists in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora in 2015.
The inscription in Greek has revealed that Roman temple in the city was dedicated to the deity Hermes, and that Augusta Traiana also had an odeon, an ancient performance and meeting space.
This second inscription was discovered engraved into the architrave of a portico found during the 2015 summer rescue excavations
The inscription reads, as follows,
“[he] furnished the columns (the portico of the temple) of Hermes all the way to the wide street leading up to the Odeon at his own [expense]".
#3. This Roman Inscription Showing Heir of Thracian Kings Was First Mayor of Ancient Philipopolis, Today’s Plovdiv
90s AD, Ancient city of Philipopolis, today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria
The newly discovered 1st century AD Roman inscription in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv provides invaluable information about ancient Philipopolis and the Roman Province of Thrace. Photo: Plovdiv24
During archaeological excavations in the underground galleries underneath the stage of the Antiquity Theater (also known as “the Antiquity Amphitheater"), the most famous cultural and historical landmark of Bulgaria’s second largest city Plovdiv, the successor of ancient Philipopolis, archaeologists discovered a missing fragment from an Ancient Roman inscription in Greek from the 90s AD.
All of Ancient Thrace south of the Lower Danube, including what had been left of the Odrysian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st century AD) (which had been reduced to a client state of Rome by the early decades of the 1st century), was conquered by the Roman Empire in 46 AD.
Part of the inscription designed to honor the de facto first mayor of ancient Philipopolis, roughly reads as follows,
“To the man who is from his ancestors, is a notable in the province, three times high priest of the Province of Thracia and the cities in it, judicial representative of the metropole and the person in charge of construction works, who during his terms as high archon decorated his motherland with splendid buildings."
The inscription has revealed very valuable historical information in at least three directions.
It shows 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 ThracianOdrysian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st AD).
Second, the inscription provides more context of a conflict between the city of Philipopolis and the city of Perinthus (Heraclea) on the European coast of the Sea of Marmara (in today’s Turkey) over the status of capital of the Roman province of Thracia (Thrace).
Third, the inscription also reveals that Plovdiv’s Antiquity Theater was not built between 108 and 114 AD, during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD) but is at least 20-30 years older.
The newly discovered Ancient Thracian inscription from Aquae Calidae is dated to 26-37 AD, about a decade before the Odrysian Kingdom, and respectively Ancient Thrace, was fully conquered by the Roman Empire. Photo: Burgas Municipality
In 2015, an Ancient Thracian description was discovered by archaeologists in the ancient spa resort of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Burgas revealing unknown about the history of Ancient Thrace in its last years before its conquest by the Roman Empire.
The inscription is in Ancient Greek, and is dated back to the 20s-30s of the 1st century AD, roughly about the same time as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
It belongs to Apollonius, son of Eptaikentus, who was the strategos (military governor) of the lands around the city of Anchialos, today’s Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Pomorie. It reads, as follows,
“Apollonius, (son) of E(p)taikenthos, military governor of Anchialos, (dedicates) this altar to Demeter, for the well-being/salvation of his masters: King Rhoemetalces (II); and (his sister) Pythodoris (II), the daughter of Cotys (III/VIII), the son of King Rhoemetalces (I); and their children".
The real value of the discovered inscription has to do with the fact that it mentions the names of three of the last Thracian kings of the Odrysian Kingdom from the Sapaean Dynasty as well as their dynastic links.
#1. This Vessel-Imprinted Inscription, Verse from Solon’s ‘Prayer to the Muses’, from Ancient Thracian Tomb in Bulgaria’s Tatarevo
1st century AD, Ancient Thracian Burial Mound, Tatarevo, Central South Bulgaria
The inscription that was printed on the balsamarium found in a 1st century AD Ancient Thracian grave in Bulgaria’s Tatarevo after the vessel was wrapped in a parchment has turned out to be a verse from the Athenian poet and politician Solon. Photo: Parvomai.net
2015 produced another really thrilling archaeological discovery from Bulgaria as far as ancient inscriptions are concerned.
The researchers have concluded that the “printing" on the balsamarium was most likely accidental, and appeared after the vessel was wrapped in a parchment on which the actual text was written.
It appears to be part of a quote from the poem “Prayer to the Muses" by the glorious Athenian politician and poet Solon (ca. 638 – ca. 558 BC), who, among other things, is credited with laying the foundations of the democracy of Ancient Athens.
The quote from Solon’s poem that was printed on the vessel from the parchment the balsamarium was wrapped into has been found to be part of the following verse of “Prayer to the Muses":
“[Grant me from the blessed gods prosperity, and] from all mankind the possession ever of good repute; [and that I may thus be a delight to my friends, and an affliction to my foes, by the first revered], by the others beheld with dread."*
It was the first time a parchment with the text of a ancient literary work has ever been found in Bulgaria.
A small ceramic slab from the 6th millennium BC with written signs which might be the world’s oldest writing has been discovered by archaeologists at a prehistoric settlement near the town of Nova Zagora in Southeast Bulgaria.