Monday, April 27, 2020

Becoming Roman: The Thracians Part 2.

Suetthes III bronze portrait head, 4th century BCE at the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria
The son of the first king of the Odrysian Kingdom,  Sitalces, proved to be a good military leader and built roads to develop trade and a powerful army.  In 429 BCE.  Sitalces allied himself with the Athenians and  the Greek alphabet was adopted as a new Thracian script.  Sitalces also organized a vast army from independent Thracian and Paeonian tribes that, according to Thucydides, included as many as 150,000 men to defend Thrace against the Macedonians, now led by the ambitious Philip II of Macedon.

But, Odrysian military strength was based on intra-tribal elites, making the kingdom prone to fragmentation and as a result of the intertribal unrest, the Odrysian kingdom split into three parts.  Philip II of Macedon then invaded and conquered much of Thrace. Some Odrysian kings and other Thracian tribes submitted and paid taxes at times during different periods to Philip II, Alexander the Great and Philip V.

Two of the three kingdoms were forced into vassal status by Philip II in 352 BCE. Then in 342–341 BCE Philip conquered the Odrysian heartland deposing reigning kings and rebel vassals. Seuthes III (341-300 BCE) was one of the Odrysian kings that retained power. But, in 325 BCE, after Alexander's governor of Thrace, Zopyrion, was killed in battle against the Getae, Seuthes revolted against Macedon.  Then when Alexander died in 323 BCE, Seuthes took up arms against the new governor, Lysimachus, but they fought each other to a draw and withdrew from battle. Ultimately, though, Suethes was forced to acknowledge Lysimachus until 313 BCE during the Third War of the Diadochi, (Alexander's successor generals) when he threw his support behind Antigonus I and occupied the passes of Mount Haemus. But again, Seuthes was defeated and forced to submit. In 300 BCE, Seuthes died.

In 281 BCE, the Odrysian capital was sacked by the Celts, who had formed their own kingdom with its capital at Tylis near the eastern edge of the Haemus Mountains. In 212 BCE, an army led by an Odrysian king Pleuratus destroyed the Celtic kingdom and its capital. But, the restored Odrysian hegemony was short lived as the kingdom was conquered by the Romans in 146 BCE.  By then, Thracia had broken up into several kingdoms.  In 100 BCE, a Thracian kingdom under the leadership of a son of Beithys, one of the last Odrysian kings, arose but it is unclear if it was a vassal of Rome or independent.  Thracians under Odrysian leadership overran the southern Balkans, Epirus, Dalmatia and northern Greece, and penetrated the Peloponnese.

It was during this time that the famous Spartacus was born, according to some scholars, into the Maedi tribe which occupied the area on the southwestern fringes of Thrace, along its border with the Roman province of Macedonia. Both Appian and Florus state Spartacus became a Roman soldier but for unstated reasons was eventually enslaved and became a gladiator along with his Maedi prophetess wife. Five out of twenty kings of the Thracian Spartocid dynasty of the Cimmerian Bosporus and Pontus are known to have borne the name, and a Thracian "Sparta" "Spardacus" or "Sparadokos", was the father of Seuthes I of the Odrysae. But, there are no ancient sources connecting the Roman slave to this lineage. The gladiator Spartacus, though of Thracian origin, trained as a murmillo and not a Thraex. He was assumed killed in the final battle of the Third Servile War in 71 BCE at the hands of the legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus.

In 11 BCE, an uncle of Augustus was placed on the Odrysian throne and Romanization of the region began in earnest, although Greek rather than Latin remained the predominant language.  Then in 46 CE, the Roman emperor Claudius designated the region of Thrace as two new Roman provinces of Thracia and Moesia Inferior. Members of Thracian aristocracy were granted the right of Roman citizenship. Epigraphic evidence show a large increase in such naturalizations especially in the times of Trajan and Hadrian.  Then all Thracians gained Roman citizenship through Caracalla's constitutio Antoniniana.  Thrace was once more a central battleground during Rome's Gothic Wars of 376-382 CE. But, that's another tale!

More Thracian archaeology:   Professor Bogdan Filov, the Director of the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia, figured prominently in early Thracian archaeology.  Filov  conducted the first studies of the ancient city of Kabile, near Yambol, in 1912.  In 1918, he discovered Trebenishta, a necropolis of Peresadyes, rich with gold and iron artifacts. His find of a large ritual-funeral complex near the village of Douvanlii proved to be the royal necropolis of the Odrysian dynasty. Dating from the 6th-5th centuries BCE, finds included gold breastplates, gold rings and other jewelry, gilded siver armor and chariot trappings, shields, horse harness, and kantharos-like vessels.  Some of the finds reflected Achaemenid influence and made some scholars question if there had been a Persian princess among the deceased but others think the items were still obviously made in Odrysian workshops.

A wealth of Thracian discoveries have occurred in a steady stream ever since including the:

Valchitran Treasure in 1924 - consisting of 13 gold Kantharos-type vessels and discs dating clear back to the 14th century BCE.  Scholars think the treasure was a set of scred vessels related to the worship of nature and a sun cult.

Panagyurishte Treasure in 1949 - items thought to be the product of a Hellenic colony on the souther Black Sea in the mid 4th century BCE that included 4 gold rhytons, 3 gold decanters, 1 vial and a rhtyton-style amphora decorated with scenes from Greek mythology and Homer's Iliad. Now in the Archaeological Museum in Plovdiv. Now in the Archaeological Museum in Varna.

Loukovit Treasure in 1953, 1955, 1986 - 15 silver vessels, 23 appliques for horse harness, 200 silver rings, and buttons, tubules and other adornments.  Images of the Great Thracian Goddess in both her main hypostases have indicated to researchers that the find is related to annual change of seasons (or the nundial years) and the cults of the 'Mother-Earth' and her daughter, the Goddess-Virgin.

Varna Treasure in 1961 - Nine items including massive bracelets, a diadem, necklace fragments, a cross and two belt applications dating to the early Byzantine period in Odesos.

Letnitsa Treasure in 1963 - A bronze vessel full of gilt silver horse trappings depicting heroic hunt scenes and animals from the 4th century BCE.

Mogilanska Mound Treasure in 1964-65 - In the town of Bratsa, three graves, one sacked in antiquity but the other two containing a chariot with ritually killed horses, silver horse trappings, and the skeleton of a young woman thought to be a servant ritually killed to serve her master in the afterlife.  Another skeleton of a young girl was found wearing a golden wreath and wearing massive gold earrings and holding a mirror.  She was accompanied by the remains of a young Triball warrior, fully armed and thought to have died during Alexander the Great's campaign against the Triball King Syrmos in 335 BCE. Now in the Regional History Museum in Vratsa.

Borovo Treasure in 1974 - Dating to the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 4th century BCE, this find included four gilt silver rhytons and a large bowl with inscriptions referring to the Thracian king Kotis (383-359 BCE).

Preslav Treasure in 1977 - Byzantine coins and jewelry, hair needles and button from the second half of the 10th century CE.

Rogozen Treasure in 1985 - 165 silver, gold, and gilt silver vessels depicting plants, animals and the Thracian Great Goddess dating to the middle of the 4th century BCE thought to have been buried because of threat from Macedonian forces of Philip II and Alexander the Great.  Now in the Vratsa History Museum.

Ravnogor Silver Suite in 1987 - Near the village of Ravnogor archaeologist George Kitov excavated a burial of silver applications for a horse harness, several pieces adorned with busts of Athena. and animorphic gilt silver rhytons.

Teres' Golden Mask  in 2004 - Found during the excavations of Svetitsata Mound near Shipka in the Valley of the Thracian Rulers led by Professor Georgi Kitov. In addition to the golden mask thought to be the burial mask of the first Odrysian king Teres I, archaeologists found silver and bronze vessels and adornments depicting Hercules, Menadius, and Priapus as ell as swords and arrows.

Sboryanovo Treasure in 2012 - Excavated by Professor Diana Gergova from the Omurtag Mound, the monumental Dorian-style tomb from the end of the 4th to the beginning of the 3rd century BCE contained 264 gold appliques from horse tack and personal adornments including a gold diadem adorned with depictions of animals and mythical beasts, four gold spiral bracelets, a gold ring with a relief of Eros and number of gold threads, beads, and clothing adornments.

Most of these objects are now displayed in Bulgaria's National Archaeological Museum in Sofia unless otherwise stated. For more information See:
Thracian breastplate from Moushovitsa Mogila of the Odryses' royal necropolis near the village Douvanliy 5th century BCE
Gilt-silver rhyton from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt silver applique depicting a lion attacking a deer from the Loukovit Treasure Late 5th century BCE

Gold pitcher with chariot scene from the Mogilanska Mound 4th century BCE

Athena on a gilt silver disk from the Ravnogor silver hoard.

Gold offering dish from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Gilt silver applique of a warrior from the Loukovit Treasure Late 5th century BCE

Gilt silver greave from the Mogilanska Mound 4th century BCE

Gilt silver vessel from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Gilt-silver vessel from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt-silver rhytons from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Silver plate with bulls from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt Silver rhyton with bull protome from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Gilt-silver plate with mythological scene of Heracles from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt-silver pitcher from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt-silver relief from the Letnitsa Treasure 4th century BCE

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