Ancient Thrace


The name of the territories inhabited by the Thracians (to the Carpathian Mountains on the north, to the Black Sea on the east, to the Aegean Sea on the south, to the Vardar River on the west). 

The Thracians were mentioned as allies of the Trojans in the Homer’s epic poem. Their name is also met in Cretan-Mycenaean written records. 

Greek colonies were established along the Thracian coast and developed in the 7th century BC. After that Hellenic authors began to provide more and more detailed information about the Thracians and their way of life. For example, Herodotus mentioned Teres – the first powerful ruler of the Odrysian kingdom. His successors – Sitalces, Sparadokos, Seuthes I and Cotys I managed to unite and dominate over many of the tribes living on the both sides of the Haemus Mons (the Balkan Mountains). After the death of Cotys I the kingdom was divided among three Thracian rulers. This made the expansions of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander of Macedon easier and they became rulers of a part of the Southern Thracian territories. After the death of Alexander the Great, Thrace remained under the reign of the diadochus Lysimachus. 

At the beginning of the 3rd century BC Celtic tribes invaded the Balkan Peninsula and established the capital of the Scordisci at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The Celtic enclaves remained in the Southeastern Thrace and established their kingdom somewhere near Byzantium. It seized to exist in 218 BC. 

In the 2nd century BC the Odrysian rulers helped Rome in war against king Perseus of Macedon. After the Roman victory in 168 BC they were paid honours and declared Roman allies. The other Thracian rulers (of the Denteleti, Maedi, Bessi) were ardent Roman enemies. As a result of the long Roman expansion on the Balkans and after many marches with a varying success, the Roman legions imposed their hegemony over the lands between the Danube River and the Balkan Mountains. Initially these lands were under the dominion of the Roman ruler of the province of Macedonia, and about 15 AD they were organized in the province of Moesia. In 87 AD the emperor Domitian, preparing for the march against the Dacians, divided Moesia into two provinces – Upper Moesia (Moesia Superior) and Lower Moesia (Moesia Inferior) (separated by the Ciabrus /Tsibritsa/ River). In 45 AD the Thracian kingdom of Rhoemetalces III was annexed and they formed together with the lands between the Balkan Mountains and the Aegean Sea the province of Thrace. As a result of the emperors’ reforms in 3rd – 4th century AD the old provinces of Thrace and Moesia Inferior were grouped into the diocese of Thrace, included in the prefecture of Oriens /”East”/. The western part of the Balkans was included in the dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia of the prefecture of Illyricum. From 395 AD the province of Thrace was part of the Eastern Roman Empire, which continued to exist as a separate unit – the Byzantine Empire – after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. In the 4th – 6th century AD Thrace was subjected to invasions that radically changed its ethnic composition. The invasions of the Bulgars /proto-Bulgarians/ started in 5th century AD, and the mass settlement of the Slavs started in the 6th century AD. In the 7th century AD the Bulgarian Empire was established on part of the territory of Thrace.

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