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SERDICA
THAT IS MY ROME
During the construction of the "EUROPE" Warehouse and Trade Center in Sofia a Thracian tumulus from the Roman period was discovered. This unique archaeological object was explored with the financial assistance of "K & K" company by the archaeologists guided by Daniela Agre.
One of the most exciting abilities nowadays is the ability of modem people to meet the works, thoughts and feelings of their forefathers. The spiritual interests of the humans has created a science intended to investigate the human past using new methods and technical equipment. This science is called by the Greek name - archaeology (archaos - ancient and logos - studies) which means the science about the antiquity. The antiquity is covered up by the forgetfulness of the sands and by the silence of the thousand years and only from time to time it reveals something of itself yielding to the persistence of the archaeologist. One can meet the antiquity every day especially in a country as Bulgaria that is extremely rich by the evidences of the time passed. To realize such a meeting in the current moment the Bulgarian archaeology needs help of the patriotic Bulgarians. Such people are the presidents of "K & K" company whose financial support made it possible to accomplish the emergency excavation of a Thracian tumulus from the Roman period near Sofia.
Romans occupied the Balkan Peninsula during the II c. B.C. After the battle near Pidna in 168 B.C. Macedonia became a Roman province. After century and half, in 15 B.C., Misia was occupied and also turned to a province of the Roman empire. Finally, after hard fights with Thracian tribes that were living in the area in the south of Hemus, and as a result of multiple campaigns of the Roman army, in 46 A.C. the next Roman province - Thrace - was created. In that period the Thracian population was not numerous. According to the evidences of the ancient writers, Rome got the victory at Balkans by pitiless killing of Thracians. A part of the survived Thracians continued to live free at the depopulated fields and the most of them withdrew to the mountains. Invaders settled in the newly built fortresses and towns among which was Sofia.
The town received its name Ulpia Serdica from Roman emperor Mark Ulpi Traian (96 - 111 A.C.). He named it "Serdica" since its original inhabitants were Serdians - one of the Thracian tribes. However, in order to be remembered as a founder of the town, the emperor added also the name of his father - Ulpi.
Serdica was gradually growing as an administrative, military, economical and cultural center. There were being developed the trade and crafts related mainly to building the fortress, palaces and temples. Romans were excellent builders and during the short period they erected a beautiful town. The buildings were with various internal and external architecture, the fine statues of gods decorated squares, palaces and numerous temples. Serdica's streets were straight, perfectly covered by the paving stones and had an advanced system of drains and water-pipes. The towifhad nice baths situated near the warm mineral springs. The importance of Serdica among the other towns from the Roman provinces is acknowledged by the fact that it had a right to mint its own coins named autonomous.
Besides of Thracians and Romans, the town were inhabited by Greeks and Anatolians. The native Thracian culture came under the strong influence of the general Roman culture. However, Thracians saved their burial practices. Its characteristic ethnic feature - erecting the ground burial mounds - was preserved in Thrace during the Roman period as a continuation of an old burial tradition.
The town was intensively blowing during Roman emperor Constantin the Great (303 - 337 A.C.). After he left Rome, Constantin had an intention to declare Serdica as the capital of the Roman Empire. He liked to say: "Serdica is my Rome". The emperor frequently visited Serdica where he issued a lot of his laws.
After accepting the Christianity the numerous churches were erected and the town became very famous with its religiousness.
During the III century the town was frequently attacked by several tribes and peoples. The rich Serdica was very damaged by the raids of Huns, Goths and Westgoths. The splendid villas near Serdica belonging to the Roman and Thracian aristocracy were destroyed. The most terrible was the great Huns' invasion. In that time Serdica was razed to the ground. However, the town brought to life again soon - the fortress walls were restored and some new towers were raised. The town became again rich and lovely and in the time of the emperor Ustinian it achieved its last prosperity related to the Roman rule.
Our knowledge about the material and spiritual culture of the Thracians is based to a great extent on investigating the tumuli which are the closed archaeological complexes. When a tumulus contains a burial, it is possible to observe a preserved ritual related to one of the most important events in the Tracians' life - the death. The reconstruction of all details of the burial practices is a very important task allowing us to approximate the ideology of these tribes died out from a long time.
Despite of having inconsiderable dimensions (diameter - 15 m and height - 1.80 m), the investigated tumulus proved to be a source of many findings which are very interesting and significant from scientific point of view . The tumulus contained two burials - one made by cremating and another - by laying a dead body. A notable deceased was burnt on the funeral-pile situated in the center of the tumulus. The discovered findings - bronze fibulas (clasps for clothes), a small cosmetic ivory box, a bronze earring and other metal things very damaged by fire - prove that the deceased was a woman. Two decorated big ceramic vessels were placed in the tumulus as a funeral gift. One of them contained a small, very nice-decorated bowl which is found in an absolutely perfect condition. In the funeral-pile there was found a hand-made small ceramic vessel placed upside-down.
A part of the findings discovered in the tumulus
A part of the findings discovered in the tumulus.
A bronze earring and rings
A bronze earring and rings.
A bronze disk-like fibula
A bronze disk-like fibula.
An iron ring with gem
An iron ring with gem
(which is missing now).

A ceramic vessel in which a small ceramic bowl was found
A ceramic vessel in which a small ceramic bowl was found.
A ceramic vessel
A ceramic vessel.
A small ceramic bowl
A small ceramic bowl.
A small hand-made ceramic vessel
A small hand-made ceramic vessel.
A small ivory box
A small ivory box.
An iron scraper
An iron scraper.
The biggest part of the burnt remains was placed into another ceramic vessel used as a funeral urn. The um was situated at the tumulus periphery near the second burial made by laying the dead body. The deceased was a notable man probably killed during a fight - the lower part of his legs was cut during his life and his skull was very damaged by blows. The upper part of the body was covered by bricks - teguli forming a primitive tomb.
Some of the findings such as the ceramic bowl, disk-like fibula and the small ivory box are among the rarest findings discovered in Bulgaria. The finery are an example of the high quality bronze plastic art . The small ivory box proves both the considerable financial abilities of its owner and the wide trade relations of the native people with other parts of the world.
Analyzing the shape and the decoration of the vessels as well as the method of building the tomb, it is possible to date the burials to the beginning of III c. A.C.
The great Herodotus claimed that there was a practice in some Thracian tribes to select one of the wives of the dead man to accompany him after his death. According to the father of history, there was a real quarell between wives of the deceased to determine his companion since only the most deserving and beloved wife could be awarded with such a honour. The funeral practice observed in the tumulus makes use assume that this legend might be true.
Being situated at the crossroads, the Thracian lands has attracted attention of different peoples. The invaders has arrived both from the North and West. They have gone away but part of them also have left in Thrace and have continued to live together with native inhabitants. This resulted in a very complex situation both in ethnic and cultural aspects of Thracian life. However, the Thracian, the historical Thracian, as far as we could study and understand him during the centuries, succeeded to survive and to preserve his own originality till the coming of Slavs.
Daniela Agre