BULGARIA IN ANTIQUITY
Author: Gavril Katzarov
I. STATE AND SOCIETY
Among the peoples who came into immediate contact with the Mediterranean powers the Thracians may claim more attention than is due only to their direct effect on the main course of political history. It is true that scholars have usually adopted a very unfavourable view of their capacity for any high degree of cultural development. Such a judgment, founded chiefly on the evidence of the writers of antiquity, by whom the Thracians are represented as in many respects a primitive people, seems, however, to be too sweeping. Although archaeological exploration of the regions inhabited by the Thracians is still in its infancy, it is already clear that by the middle of the second millennium B.C., the tribes there had developed a flourishing Bronze Age civilization. The political and social life of the people at this period must have corresponded to that of the Achaeans as represented in the Iliad. Indeed, we find the South Thracians appearing in the Iliad with the same weapons and methods of fighting as the Achaeans. Homer expressly mentions Thracian swords, and it is worthy of note that two swords and a lance-head of Mycenean form and workmanship, as well as a small bronze votive double-axe have been found in the district of Philippopolis in Southern Bulgaria. The well-known tholos-tomb near Kirk-Kilisse (Lozengrad), dating from the fourth century B.C., the gold diadems and other ornaments found in Thracian burial mounds, furnish evidence for the survival of Mycenean influence even down into the Classical period. In view of these facts, and of the circumstance that the Thraco-Phrygians exercised, at any rate in religious matters, a considerable influence upon the Greeks, Thracian civilization must have its place in any account of the development of European culture.
Neither the scanty and often incidental statements about the civilization of the Thracians which have come down to us in Classical authors, nor the archaeological material, as yet incomplete, enable us to trace the historical development of their culture. We are often obliged to combine earlier and later sources in order to obtain at least a general picture. But we ought not to assume that the same conditions obtained among all the Thracian tribes. The southern races, who were early exposed to influences coming from the south and east, stood on a higher cultural level than those of the interior, who even at a comparatively late period were living in primitive conditions recalling those which may be postulated of the undivided Indo-European peoples.
The greatness and the wide distribution of the Thracian people were well known to the ancients. According to Herodotus it was the largest of all nations after the Indians; if it had found a leader or had been united, it would have been far the strongest. And in point of fact the Thracians were at one time in possession of the whole of the Balkan peninsula from the Euxine to the Adriatic; while northwards, the Dacian peoples extended as far as the middle course of the Oder, the lower reaches of the Vistula and the rapids of the Dnieper.
Information about the total numbers of the Thracian population has naturally not come down to us; it is only regarding the numbers of their army that we have some scattered notices. In 429 B.C. the Odrysian King Sitalces is credited with an army of 150,000 men, of whom a third were cavalry and two-thirds infantry. The area of the Odrysian kingdom is estimated at about 50,000 square miles; and 150,000 men capable of bearing arms would imply a population of at least 600,000. This is not in itself impossible, but Sitalces' army was probably magnified by rumour. In 376 B.C., 30,000 Triballi invaded Thrace and laid waste the territory of Abdera. The Getae, north of the Danube, put into the field to oppose Alexander an army of 4000 cavalry and more than 10,000 infantry. The Odrysian prince Seuthes III, in the year 323 B.C., could assemble against Lysimachus an army of 20,000 foot soldiers and 8000 horsemen. The Roman general Manlius, in the year 188 B.C., was attacked in the defile between Cypsela and the Hebrus by 10,000 Thracians, drawn from the tribes of the Astii, Caeni, Maduateni and Corpili. According to Strabo, writing under Augustus, Thrace south of the Danube counted 22 races, and was able, though then much exhausted, to raise an army of 15,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry. These numbers obviously are not reached by a census but by conjecture.
Among the Thracians polygamy and. marriage by purchase prevailed. The husband bought his wife from her parents with money or with goods, and thereupon she became his property. Unmarried women were allowed to have intercourse with whatever men they wished, but the married women on the other hand were very strictly guarded. Naturally, only the chiefs and men of wealth could buy a number of wives, the generality had to content themselves with few or one. The social status of the women was low. They had to grind corn, to weave, to draw water, to prepare food, and to perform various services for the men.
Among the Agathyrsi, Herodotus informs us, community of women prevailed, while in general their manners and customs resembled those of the Thracians. Herodotus received this information on which doubt has been cast, but without justification from merchants in the colonies on the north-western shores of the Euxine, who carried on an active trade with the inhabitants of the interior, and were well acquainted with this wealthy tribe. The Agathyrsi were Scythians, who in the course of the migration of this people towards the west had settled in Transylvania and had conquered the indigenous Dacian population. They had abundance of gold ornaments, for they inhabited a rich gold-bearing region, and indeed archaeological finds have proved that from the latest period of the Bronze Age onwards Dacia was rich in articles of gold. As the Agathyrsi had for a long time lived side by side with the numerically much stronger Dacians, they had naturally adopted Thracian customs.
In social life there is plenty of evidence for a division of the Thracian population into nobles and commons. In the Thracian language the nobles were called Zibythides; among the Dacians, Tarabostesei (cap-wearers), because they alone had the right to wear the felt cap ("pileus"); the common people, generally, went bare-headed. Herodotus tells us that the Thracians held agriculture to be an unworthy occupation; the life of the warrior or the robber, on the other hand, was the most honourable. A life of leisure was of course the prerogative of the rich; the mass of the people had to work hard, as is clearly shown by the flourishing condition of agriculture in various parts of ancient Thrace.
As a reaction against the prevalent vices of unchastity and drunkenness there arose sects or ascetic orders who strove after a strict and virtuous way of life. Among the Dacians there were the so-called Polistai, whom Josephus compares with the Jewish sect of the Essenes. South of the Danube among the Moesi there was the sect of the Ktistai, whose members abstained from all flesh, and confined themselves to a diet of milk, cheese and honey; they also practiced community of goods and avoided intercourse with women. They were known as God-fearing ("theocratistes") and the Kapnobatai (the latter term being perhaps a Thracian word corrupted by the Greeks).
There was of course a servile population in Thrace as elsewhere, but we have no detailed information about it. The Greeks drew many slaves from that country; according to Herodotus the Thracians even sold their children into slavery, and kidnapping and slave-trading were certainly quite common. At Athens, Thracian women often appear as slaves and nurses; in the New Comedy the names Geta and Davus are the most usual names for slaves. In Italy, Thracian slaves appear as early as the period of the Republic; and from them were drawn some of the gladiators.
The Thracian people were divided into many tribes. Herodotus mentions nineteen, Strabo gives twenty-two south of the Danube, Stephanus of Byzantium enumerates forty-three, and obviously the number must have varied in the course of centuries. The larger tribes had several subdivisions; in the incessant feuds many of the smaller ones were wiped out or absorbed by the larger.
Throughout the whole course of their history the Thracians never succeeded in combining into one State. The mountain tribes in particular, who lived mainly by hunting, cattle-breeding and brigandage, maintained their independence down to a late period. The first State of any considerable magnitude arose in the Hebrus valley, which was early exposed to cultural influences from the south — along the Hebrus there ran at this period an important trade-route which led northwards from Philippopolis across the Haemus to Moesia. This State was founded shortly after 480 B.C. by the Odrysian king Teres who extended his sovereignty as far as the Euxine and the Hellespont. His son Sitalces subjugated the tribes of Mt. Rhodope, part of the Paeonians, as far as the Strymon, and the Getae north of the Haemus. It is probable that even the Greek towns on the Pontic coast were compelled to acknowledge the overlordship of the Odrysae and to pay them tribute. Thence-forward the king of the Odrysae called himself "King of the Thracians".
The annual imposts which were levied in the country itself and from the Greek towns on the coast amounted in the time of Seuthes I to about 400 talents of gold and silver; and an almost equal sum was represented by the presents in gold and silver which were offered to the king, without taking into account the offerings of brightly coloured stuffs, both worked and plain, besides other presents (Thucydides). These presents were made not only to the king but also to the lesser chiefs and to the other Odrysian nobles; no man could effect anything at court unless he brought a gift with him. It was, however, counted more disgraceful to refuse a request than to have a request refused. This universal Thracian custom is pleasantly illustrated in Xenophon's Anabasis. During the banquet given by Seuthes II in honour of Xenophon, a Thracian appeared leading a white horse, took up a full horn, drank to Seuthes and presented him with the horse; another brought him a young slave; a third, garments for his queen; a fourth, a silver vessel, and so on. From this description the inference has been drawn that there existed among the Thracians a solemn form for the conclusion of treaties — a meal eaten in common by the contracting parties, accompanied by presents, the acceptance of which laid the recipient under obligation to do as much or more in return.
The Odrysian State had a quasi-feudal character, the mass of the people being in economic dependence on the king and his nobles. In this respect it offers analogies to the Bosporan kingdom. The royal power was unlimited; after the death of the king his realm was divided among his sons, at any rate when the circumstances were normal. Whether the kings at this time had a fixed royal residence we do not know; in the fourth century Cypsela was the capital. There was as yet no standing army.
Besides the king there were lesser tribal chiefs, usually members of the reigning house, who, under his overlordship, administered the several territories. Under weak sovereigns these vassal rulers grew so strong that they could even declare their independence. Circumstances of this kind naturally often gave occasion for the outbreak of conflicts between the several chiefs, especially when any king took upon himself the task of suppressing them, as did Cotys I. On the other hand, this state of things made it always possible for the neighbouring powers, Athens or Macedon, to keep Thrace permanently disunited by giving support now to one and now to another of the lesser chiefs.
The union of kingship with priestly power, frequently found among primitive peoples, existed in several of the Thracian tribes; thus, among the Cebreni and Scaeboe the holder of the office of priest of Hera was at the same time ruler of the people. Among the Dacians the kingly power had been separated from that of the priests, but the High Priest of Zalmoxis, who was called a god and dwelt in a cave in Mt. Cogaeonon, played an important part as the king's counselor and helper. According to Herodotus the Thracian kings worshipped Hermes above all gods, swore only by him, and claimed him for their ancestor. This statement, which no doubt applies only to the tribes living in the vicinity of Mt. Pangaeus, is confirmed by the silver octadrachms of the Derroni. It is possible that the kings of these tribes belonged to a different race from their subjects. Finally it may be mentioned that among many of the Thracian tribes kingship did not exist.
The kingdoms which sprang up among the Getae after the fall of the Odrysian State did not attain to any great importance, since they were too greatly exposed to the Scythian invasions. At the beginning of the second century B.C., there arose a Dacian kingdom, which had to wage war with the Bastarnae, but this also was of no long duration. Later, however, the Dacians succeeded in forming a powerful state, which drew upon itself the attention of the Romans; this was the kingdom of Burebista.
The Thracians lived for the most part in numerous open villages (in Thracian "para", in Dacian "dava"), which were scattered about the plains, hills and mountains. It is probable that originally each tribe had a fortified village or mountain fortress in which the chief resided. They preserved this agricultural and village life down into Classical times; city life, with any considerable trade and industry, did not develop till Roman times. Exchange of goods between the various tribes took place at annual fairs, as is still the case among primitive peoples.
The graphic description given by Herodotus of the pile-villages of the Paeonians on the lakes of Cercinitis and Prasias is well known; from it we gather that each wife had a new hut built for her, as is still usual among primitive polygamous races. Herodotus' statement that the horses and draught-oxen were fed on fish is confirmed by parallels from Scandinavia. Among the Dacians also, houses built on piles were usual. Xenophon mentions villages in the territory of the Thyni, and describes the houses, which lay at a distance from each other and were fenced about with high palisades to keep in the sheep.
The Dacian villages of the La Tene period are better known. They were small (covering not more than five acres), the huts huddled together, surrounded with palisades and deep ditches. The furniture found in them is poor, consisting chiefly of pottery (native, Celtic and Greek) and various objects in iron, bone, stone and glass, and more rarely of bronze and gold. The graves (all cremation burials) lie close to the settlements, or under the houses, and very little has been found in them. As in the neolithic period the houses were really huts with a rectangular ground-plan and a saddle-roof, thatched with straw or reeds. The walls were of wattle, plastered with a mixture of clay and straw. In the mountainous parts they were built of planks and beams, with foundation-walls of stone. The hearth was usually placed in a corner or near a wall, not in the middle of the room. In the Dobrudja we hear of Troglodytes who lived in underground dwellings, a mode of life which in the Balkan peninsula survived down to recent times. Caves also were used as human habitations.
In the interior of Thrace few towns are mentioned — apart from the colonies founded by Philip II — and it is hard to form any definite conception of them. Among those known are Cypsela, Doriscus, Xantheia (modern Xanthi) and Bizye (modern Viza), the seat of the latest Odrysian royal house. A poorly fortified town on the left bank of the Danube was taken by Alexander the Great. In south-east Wallachia there was the town of Helis where the Getic King Dromichaetes entertained his prisoner Lysimachus.
Some of the hill-top towns in the territory of the Dacians (e.g. Costeshti, Graditea Muncelului) have recently been scientifically excavated. They are placed on hill-tops which command plains and roads, and consist of a series of concentric terraces, strengthened on the outer side with palisades on walls. On one of the lower terraces stands the great fortification-wall (2-4 yards thick), with square towers at intervals. Its foundation is of squared limestone blocks bonded together with wooden beams; above that, the wall is built of sun-dried bricks. On the highest terrace stands a square tower, which was the dwelling of the chief. Such fortified towns are especially numerous in Transylvania, date for the most part from the late La Tene period, and were centres of considerable industrial activity.
II. AGRICULTURE AND MINING
From the days of Peisistratus down to Roman times foreign nations repeatedly made attempts to get a foothold in Thrace in order to exploit the natural resources of the country. Thrace, like Macedon, was well wooded; it was chiefly thence that the Greeks, from the fifth century B.C., drew their supplies of timber for shipbuilding. In the neighbourhood of Dysorus (Krusha-Planina) lay a town called Xylopolis, the name of which is an index to its trade. The region of the lower Strymon was very rich in timber, and the loss of Amphipolis in 424 B.C. deprived the Athenians of one of their most important sources of shipbuilding material.
For the cultivation of cereals we have abundant evidence.
Thracian wheat had many husks and was late in germinating.
The corn of the plain of the Hebrus was heavy, free from bran, and ripened in
the second month after sowing. In this neighbourhood lived the
tribe of the Pyrogeri (i.e. dwellers in the
wheat region); Pyrumerulas (Protector of the Corn) is the name
of a Hero worshipped by the Thracians. Thracian corn was as important to the
Athenians as the South Russian. Lysimachus sent to Rhodes, when it was
being besieged by Demetrius Poliocetes, 60,000 bushels of
barley and the same quantity of wheat. In addition to wheat,
barley, millet, olyra (a kind of spelt) and rye
were cultivated. Corn was also grown by the Getae. Among
the Dacians there were even special officials charged with
the supervision of the cultivators. Part of the corn which the Greek merchants imported from the Black Sea regions was drawn from the Dobrudja. For the storage of the products of the soil, underground chambers ("siroi") were used.
The relatively high standard of agriculture in Thrace is attested by the flourishing cultivation of the vine and of vegetables (especially onions and garlic), and also of fruit trees. Homer knows of the Thracian wine. During the whole of antiquity the strong aromatic wine of the Ciconian town of Ismarus (in the neighbourhood of Maronea) was famous, and the wine of Biblinos was exported to Greece and Sicily. The country of the Bisaltae, west of the lower Strymon, was very rich in figs, olives and grapes, especially the coast-lands on both sides of the Nestus. According to Pomponius Mela the interior of Thrace was not very favourable to viticulture, and the vine ripened only when it was protected from the cold, a statement that naturally applies only to the higher and colder regions. Even in Dacia vine-growing was not unknown, although Greek wine was imported in large quantities. Nor was wine the only strong drink of this region.
The Thracians, like the Phrygians, knew how to make a kind of barley beer ("bryton"), which as it had barleycorns floating in it, was sucked up through straws. Hemp was grown in all parts of Thrace, and garments were made of it which could hardly be distinguished from those of linen. In southern Thrace, however, flax was not unknown.
In addition to agriculture, cattle-raising flourished, especially among the mountain tribes of the Haemus, of Rhodope, and of the Carpathians. Homer speaks of Thrace as "breeder of horses" and praises the horses of Rhesus. In later times the Thracians worshipped a Hero who was a Protector of Horses. A warrior with his horse appears upon the silver coins of the Orescii, Tynteni and Bisaltae; a rider, or a horse alone, is met with on the coins of many Thracian kings. The Thracian horse was of small size, compact and well-knit, had a long thick tail and a short mane, and carried its head high. The ass, too, was of small size like that of Illyria. For sheep, goats and cattle, Thrace, like the whole northern part of the Balkan peninsula, was an excellent grazing country, and milk, cheese and butter were important elements in the national diet. The breeding of swine, too, was part of the national economy.
As the inland Thracians, with the exception of the Dacians, had no salt, they were obliged to buy it from the Greeks; on the lower Strymon this trade was in the hands of the Athenians. In exchange for salt, the Thracians traded, among other things, slaves. The Greek colonies on the shores of the Aegean and the Euxine used to dry salt from the lagoons, e.g. in Mesembria, Anchialus and Aenus, and then take it inland to sell.
We have no information about metal-working in the interior of Thrace previous to Roman times. But in southern Thrace, there were the mines of Dysorus which produced for Alexander I of Macedon a talent of silver daily, and also the great mining region of Mt. Pangaeus, the abundant silver and gold of which was exploited in the time of Herodotus by the Odomanti and Satrae. East of Crenides or Datum there were gold mines, as also at Skaptesyle south of Pangaeus, opposite Thasos, which according to Herodotus produced 80 talents of gold, presumably annually. It is possible that ancient accounts of the productivity of these mines are exaggerated, but the abundant silver coinage of the Thracian tribes of this region (Derroni, Orescii, Edoni, Bisaltae, etc.) certainly show that, as early as the sixth century B.C., these mines were being actively worked, and had given rise to a notable degree of skill in metal-working. Many of the Thracian rivers, too (e.g. Hebrus), brought down alluvial gold, which could be extracted by the use of primitive gold-washing devices. In Transylvania the Dacians exploited the gold mines, and probably also mined the silver from which they produced large numbers of coins and ornaments. The smelting and working of iron was for the most part carried on in workshops in the neighbourhood of the mountain fortresses which have been mentioned above.
III. COSTUME, PHYSICALITY, SPORT AND WAR
The Thracians loved gaily-coloured and embroidered garments, which were for the most part made out of hempen cloth. On Greek vases they are represented, like the bards Orpheus and Thamyris and the Storm-god Boreas, in native costume, wearing caps of fox-fur with ear-pieces and long woolen cloaks ornamented with geometrical patterns. The high leather boots ("embades"), which together with the horseman's cloak ("zeira") found their way into Greece in the fifth century, are all part of the Thracian dress; their fur cap, indeed, was for a time adopted as the fashionable wear of the Athenian knights. Equally Thracian are the breeches which are worn by a horseman on a sepulchral monument from Abdera. A silver plaque from Czora (in Transylvania) bears a representation of a Dacian wearing a belt, long close-fitting breeches and laced shoes. The typical Dacian dress of both men and women can be seen on Trajan's column. In winter the Getae wore fur cloaks and long loose breeches.
The custom of tattooing and painting the body, which was highly esteemed among the Thracians, is mentioned by Herodotus. It was in special favour with the women, and the more nobly born they were, the richer and brighter coloured were the designs they used. The Agathyrsi painted both their faces and their limbs with indelible designs (distinctive tribal marks), while the nobles also dyed their hair blue. Painting of the body was customary among the Dacians also. It is probable that the tattooing had originally a magical significance, as on Attic vases the Maenads are sometimes represented with the figure of a stag tattooed upon them, i.e. with the figure of the sacred animal which in the Dionysiac Mysteries was torn in pieces by the Bacchantes. Men perhaps used for this purpose the mark of the ivy-leaf, which played an important part in the Dionysus-cult. But later on the custom of tattooing was practiced from purely ornamental motives.
In appearance the Thracians were large, powerfully built men, with fair or even reddish hair, and a skin white, delicate and cold; and they had a tendency to put on flesh. They are spoken of as straight-haired and with their hair dressed in a kind of top-knot. The chin-beard of the Thracian on the Orpheus vase from Gela is characteristic of his race, as also of the Dacians; the cheeks are shaved, apart from short side-whiskers. It is likely that the Thracians were not an unmixed type even at the time of their immigration into the Balkan peninsula; it is also probable that in their new home they were superimposed upon an earlier autochthonous population which was perhaps of a darker complexion.
The favourite occupation of the Thracians was the chase, and they even represented their principal gods in the guise of hunters. Besides leopards, foxes, panthers and bears, in earlier times both the lion and the aurochs were hunted in southern Thrace; and the huge horns of the latter were exported to Greece. The kings of the Odrysae, Paeonians and Getae, were accustomed to use aurochs' horns, sometimes overlaid with gold and silver, as drinking vessels. The bison ("vison") which the Thracians knew how to capture alive, was found in the mountains of Orbelus and Messapium (the modern Svigor and Maleshevska-Planina, on the Strymon). The stag, the boar and the hare were widely distributed. As we know from Herodotus, the lakes and rivers were full of fish, while the Strymon was particularly rich in eels. In the navigation of these lakes and rivers small dug-outs were used. On the lower part of the Danube larger boats and ships were also known, the use of which had been learnt by the inhabitants from the Greeks, who came up the river to trade.
The Thracians, as other Indo-European races, were devoted to drinking. They intoxicated themselves not only with wine but also by inhaling the smoke produced by the burning of certain seeds (perhaps of hemp). Even the women drank wine undiluted. Among the Thracian Ligyri the soothsayers made themselves drunk with wine before giving their prophecies; and before the beginning of a battle the warriors used to prepare themselves for the fray in a similar fashion.
An interesting description of a native banquet is given by Xenophon in a passage cited above. The Thracians and their guests sat down in a circle, and before each banqueter was set a three-legged table with meat and leavened bread. The chief, Seuthes II, and the other Thracians, threw bread and meat to the guests, while horns of wine were handed round. When Xenophon drank friendship to Seuthes, the latter rose and drank along with him, and then poured the remainder of the wine from the horn over himself. Then came men who blew a blast upon horns and played a tune upon leather trumpets, whereupon Seuthes sprang up, uttered a war-cry, and made vigorous leaps, as though he were trying to avoid a missile.
The same author describes the sword dance — "the Thracians danced, with weapons in their hands, to the music of the flute, springing lightly to and fro and brandishing their swords. At last one seemed to strike down the other, and the stricken dancer pretended to fall dead. The other stripped him of his arms and went off singing. Others then dragged the fallen man away, as though he had been really dead".
We hear of other sports, which were cruel and often highly dangerous, for example the hanging game described by Seleucus, in which the feasters drew lots who should put his head in a noose, and cut himself down before it tightened. And if he is not quick enough in severing the rope with his scimitar, he is a dead man, and the others laugh and make merry at his death. So slight was the value set on human life.
The national weapons of the Thracians were the sabre, in the
form known as "yataghan", and especially the
sickle-shaped iron sword and knife; also the
six-foot pike, half of which consisted of a heavy iron double-edged blade.
The double-axe appears upon the coins of some
of the Thracian kings, and also in the hands of the Thracian
Maenads; it is possible that the double-axe was a hereditary
symbol of authority in the Odrysian royal house. In addition they used
javelin and bow; and it was said that the
mounted bowmen of the Getae used to tip their arrows with
poison. For defense there was a light, crescent-shaped shield
made of wood, or wicker-work, covered with leather, and
sometimes strengthened by a round iron or bronze boss. The
various forms of Thracian cap were early converted by the
Thracians into helmet shapes, the use of which spread also to Greece. Mention is also found of armoured Thracian cavalry. The Thracians in the army of Perseus bore long shields, greaves and heavy pikes. The Dacians in the late La Tene period fought with bows, heavily-curved sabres and spears, but wore no helmets. They had a special battle-standard in the form of a dragon with open wolf-like jaws.
Warlike temper, courage, and soldierly qualities are generally recognized to have been characteristic of the Thracians, and in the second century B.C. Thrace was an inexhaustible source of fighting men. One motive, indeed, which led foreign powers to contend with one another for the possession of the land was the desire to be able to levy fighting forces there. In these circumstances it is not difficult to explain the large use made of Thracian mercenaries, especially from the time of the Peloponnesian War onwards. In Athens they served also in the corps of mounted and unmounted bowmen. Thracian peltasts and cavalry appear, during the Peloponnesian War, in the armies both of the Athenians and Spartans in the theatre of war; and, later on in the Army of the Ten Thousand. A very important part was played by the Agrianes and Paeonians in the armies of Alexander the Great; they served as javelin-men, archers and slingers, as light cavalry, mounted scouts and pioneers; and Thracian mercenaries in larger or smaller numbers took part in almost all the great battles in the times of the Diadochi and Epigoni; a considerable number of them were planted as Katoikai in the Egyptian military colonies; they served also in the armies of the Pergamene kings, of the Achaean League, and of Mithridates Eupator.
Of the art of war as practiced by the Thracians we know little. Arrian reports that the northern Thracians had learnt the wedge-shaped battle formation from the Scythians. The Triballi were accustomed to draw up their forces in four ranks — in the first were placed the weaker, in the second the stronger men, behind them the cavalry and, last of all, the women who if the men wavered, rallied them with cries and taunts. When Alexander the Great forced the passage of the Haemus the Thracians had drawn up large numbers of wagons in front of them, intending to use them in the fight as a kind of wall, and also, as the enemy were mounting the slopes, to roll them down upon them, in order to break up the Macedonian phalanx. Parallel to this is the remarkable device which the Bessi used to defend themselves against the Roman general, M. Lucullus, in 73 B.C. — wheels fastened together by their axles and studded with short spear-points were hurled down upon the enemy as they advanced up a steep slope (Sallust). Similar devices though in a more developed form are also found in use among the Dacians; they may therefore be considered to be a Thracian invention. Thucydides describes how Dian mercenaries from Mt. Rhodope made a successful defense against the Theban cavalry in 413 B.C. by first skirmishing in open order and then closing their ranks again. Watch-fires were left burning in front of the camp of Seuthes II in order that no one might be able to approach it without being observed by the sentries. Before a battle the Thracians used to rattle their weapons in order to strike terror into the enemy. When in flight they slung their shields upon their backs. According to Livy, the Thracians used to return from a victorious battle singing and bearing on the points of their lances the severed heads of their enemies. Among the Paeonians it was the custom for any man who had slain an enemy to bring his head to the king, and receive in reward a golden cup.
IV. RELIGION AND FUNERAL CUSTOMS
Traces, though not very clear ones, have been found of animal-worship among the Thracians. We may recall the representation of Dionysus in animal form, Artemis Tauropolos, and the religious significance of the fox ("bassara") which according to many scholars was treated as the totem of the Bessi. It is at least clear that the Alopekis (fox skin) and the Nebris (fawn skin) had a religious significance; the votaries clothed themselves in the skins of the animals which they sacrificed and devoured, in order to become like the god. And the Getic Zalmoxis was originally thought of as having the form of a bear.
That the Thracians worshipped the universal Indo-European sky-god Dios, is attested by the personal and tribal names in which "dio", or "deos" is found as an element. A Thracian secondary name of the god was Sbelsurdos (Zibelsurdos), which appears in dedications of the Roman period. A goddess whom the Greeks identified with Hera was worshipped by the Cebreni and Scaeboae. It is noteworthy that recently in the interior of Thrace a sanctuary of Roman times has been discovered with many votive reliefs which almost without exception have a representation of Hera.
There was also another god worshipped, to whom the Greeks gave the name Helios. Sophocles, for example, speaks of Helios as "the eldest divinity of the horse-loving Thracians". The Bithynians, who were of kindred race to the Thracians, held their courts of justice in the open air, facing the sun, that the god might look upon their judgments; here, as often elsewhere, the sun-god has become a god of justice. The Paeonians worshipped Helios in the form of a disc attached to a staff. The coinage, too, of the Thracian populations in Macedonia and Paeonia before the time of the Persian War affords proof that sun-worship was actively practiced. The Thracian Helios-cult was taken up into Orphism, in which Helios became identified with Dionysus.
From the wide-spread worship of Apollo in Thrace in the Roman period we may fairly conclude that this divinity had found entrance in early times — there is evidence in an inscription of the third century B.C. for the existence of a Temple of Apollo in the territory of the Bessi (in the neighbourhood of Tatarpazardjik).
Herodotus names Ares, Dionysus and Artemis as native gods of the Thracians. Throughout the whole of antiquity, too, Thrace was recognized as the native home of Dionysus; it was thence that his cult was brought, by Thracian tribes, into Greece. As early as Homer we have mention of his nurses (nymphs) who were attacked by Lycurgus in Nysa. Dionysus ("god's son") is a Thracian name like Sabazios; the Nysian Fields were the Land of the Gods, the counterpart of the Hyperborean country, the Thracian land of blessedness which lay high "above the mount" (Bora) — the Thracian origin of the Hyperborean belief may be considered certain. There used to be a sanctuary of Dionysus upon Mt. Pangaeus; it was a possession of the Satrae, but the men who served as priests were of the tribe of the Bessi. A woman soothsayer (promantis) gave oracles there in the same way as the Pythia at Delphi. A second, more important sanctuary was situated on Mt. Rhodope, in the territory of the Bessi; it was visited in 340 B.C. by Alexander the Great.
Dionysus was originally a god of vegetation and fruitfulness.
Ivy, the evergreen plant, was held to be one of the forms in which
the god appeared; the Thracians even wreathed their weapons
with it. In the land of the Bisaltae Dionysus, by a sheet of flame,
made known to his votaries, assembled in the sacred grove, when
it was his will to grant a fruitful year. Every spring, at the
awakening of nature, the god appeared upon the mountains
attended by a troop of semi-divine beings. His worshippers, for
the most part women, thrown into an ecstasy by the whirling
dance and the shrill music of the flute, called aloud upon the
god, and professed to recognize him in some beast, ox or goat,
which they tore in pieces and devoured raw. Through this
sacrament they received the power of the god, felt themselves
united with him, and so were called Bacchi (Bacchae), Saboi and Sabazioi. The Orphic Mysteries had their roots in the Dionysus-cult. The story of the sufferings of Zagreus which they embody, was invented to explain the Thracian rite of tearing animals to pieces and devouring them. It has, moreover, been conjectured that the Titans already had a place in the Thracian religion. Finally, it may be remarked that in his native country Dionysus was worshipped early not only as a vegetation god, but also as a great lord of life and of the whole of Nature. As the lord of souls he guaranteed immortality to his votaries.
Along with Dionysus there also came into Greece the Thracian Earth-goddess Semele, who had already in her native home been associated with the sky-god. It can scarcely be doubted that the Indo-European myth of the marriage of the sky-god with the earth and of the child who sprang from this union (Dionysus) was also current among the Thracians.
The goddess whom Herodotus calls Artemis was doubtless the Thracian Bendis (Mendis), to whom the Thracian and Paeonian women presented offerings wrapped in wheat-sheaves. She was a great goddess of fruitfulness and was also a goddess of hunting; as such she bore two lances. She was also identified with Hecate. In the time of Pericles her cult was introduced into Athens, and served as an object of ridicule to the Comic poets. Plato gives a description of the first celebration of the Bendideia at the Piraeus. The festival consisted of a procession in which the Athenian citizens, and especially the Thracians who had settled at the Piraeus, took part, and of a torch race on horse-back and a night celebration of an orgiastic character. A temple of the goddess was situated in the neighbourhood of the lower Hebrus (Maritza). In Greek bas-reliefs she is represented in Thracian costume.
Amphipolis was the seat of the worship of Artemis Tauropolos, who was doubtless a Thracian goddess of hunting allied to Bendis. Another goddess identified with Bendis is the Mystery-goddess Hecate (or Aphrodite), who was worshipped in the cave of Zerynthia on the island of Samothrace and on the opposite coast with sacrifices of dogs. She was, as it seems, goddess both of life and death. And the enigmatic cult-names Axiokersos, Axiokersa in the Mysteries of the Cabiri seem also to have been of Thracian origin. In an inscription of a brotherhood found at Piraeus, the Thracian god Deloptes is mentioned along with Bendis and he appears also as the Hero Deloptes in a votive tablet from Samos, where he is represented after the fashion of Asclepius, leaning upon a staff. This great Thracian goddess was worshipped also by the Dacians, and in the Roman period is often spoken of under the name Diana Regina. We may note that Diodorus ascribes to the Dacians the worship of Hestia also, for there are traits in the nature of Bendis which remind us of Hestia.
Another goddess with close affinities to Bendis is Cotys or Cotyto, the goddess of the Edoni, whose worship, probably following the course of trade, also found its way into Greece. In the orgies of this goddess dances were performed to a musical accompaniment, in which men appeared in women's garments. Mention is also made of a baptism of the mystae with water, which is doubtless to be thought of as rain-making magic. Cotys, too, was a goddess of fruitfulness.
In antiquity Ares was always represented as coming originally from Thrace, and he plays a part in the genealogical legends of the Edoni and Bisaltae. It is doubtless true that the Thracians worshipped a god of war; but a Thracian origin for the Greek Ares cannot be proved. We do not even know what the name of the Thracian war-god was; among the Crestonii he was called Kandaon. Perhaps the Apsinthian Pleistoros was a war-god.
A prominent part in the Thracian pantheon was played by the god whom the hellenized Thracians called by the name of Heros. This was the Thracian Horseman Hero who is known to us more widely from monuments of the Roman Empire. He is, above all, a chthonic deity and as such is also a god of vegetation and the bestower of all the gifts of nature. He is, therefore, represented on some second-century B.C. coins of Odessus as bearing a cornucopia though later he appears without it; in inscriptions he is designated by the Thracian name Derzelas.
In other towns on the Black Sea coast also (Tomi, Istros, Callatis) the Greek god of the underworld was identified with the Thracian Hero. The latter was also held to be the bestower of health and the guardian of the house and of the roads against all evil. Sometimes he is represented with three heads. He was also a god of the chase, like the Thracian king Rhesus (Rex) known to us from the Greek mythology, who lived as a hunter-god upon Mt. Rhodope, and upon whose altars the wild beasts offered themselves voluntarily for sacrifice. Rhesus was likewise a chthonic divinity and protected his worshippers from pestilence and other diseases. Traces of his cult are found at Amphipolis, Aenus and Byzantium. The Thracian Hero and Rhesus show a certain affinity with Dionysus, who is sometimes called a Hero, and appears as a hunter-god. They were perhaps hypostases of this many-formed Thraco-Phrygian chief god.
The extraordinary frequency of dedications to Asclepius from the Roman period warrants the conclusion that there was also a special god of healing who was worshipped in Thrace. Finally we may mention the Thraco-Phrygian god of springs and rivers, Bedi; also the goddesses of springs, who correspond to the Greek nymphs.
The strong religious feeling of the Thracians and their lively faith in another life were generally recognized in antiquity. Herodotus says of the Getae that they held themselves to be immortal; they had only one god, Zalmoxis, to whom they believed they would go after death. The Greeks who lived on the shores of the Hellespont and the Euxine gave the historian a rationalized version of the legend, which brought Zalmoxis into connection with Pythagoras.
The same writer tells us that every four years the Getae sent to Zalmoxis a messenger, chosen by lot, to make known to the god their desires. The messenger was flung into the air and caught upon the points of three spears; if he was pierced by the spears and died, he was held to be acceptable to the god; if not, another messenger was sent in his place. This custom is normally explained as the offering of a human sacrifice to the god. Such sacrifices were, it is true, customary in other tribes, but it may be that it was nothing else than the periodical slaying of the vegetation spirit with the purpose of increasing fruitfulness, and in this case we might conceive of Zalmoxis as a vegetation god. No doubt the slaying would originally take place every year, and the custom would gradually be mitigated later. It is in any case clear from the statements which have come down to us that Zalmoxis was a divinity of the Lower World, who was also thought of as a god who gave oracles and revelations. Whether the epiphany of the god was celebrated in enthusiastic festivals is not clear. Many scholars deny the existence of orgiastic cults among the Getae and conceive of Zalmoxis as a sky-god. In any case it must be assumed that the Getae did worship a sky-god (perhaps Gebeleizis, which was, according to Herodotus, another name for Zalmoxis), and we may venture on the conjecture that this sky-god had coalesced with an older chthonic divinity and so became a god of the Lower World, as happened also with the Greek Zeus in certain local cults. Another remarkable custom of the Getae is that of shooting arrows against a thunderstorm in order to frighten away the hostile power.
We have mentioned above the Thracian belief in immortality, but this immortality was doubtless conceived of as a corporeal existence. They believed that the soul after death took on a new human or, it might be, animal body. If in the legend Zalmoxis appears as the pupil of Pythagoras, that is only to be explained by the need that was felt to bring Pythagoras into connection with Thrace, because his teaching had become fused with Orphism.
Of the appearance of a Thracian temple at this period we can form no clear idea. A remarkable double ring of squared stones was found on the lowest terrace of the fortress at Graditea Muncelului (in Dacia), which recalls the cromlechs of western Europe. Its significance, however, is not yet certain; perhaps we have here an open-air temple like the circular sanctuary of Sabazios on the hill of Zilmissus in Thrace which Macrobius mentions.
The funeral ceremonies of the Thracians of high rank are described by Herodotus. For three days the body was exhibited and lamented, then animal sacrifices were offered and a banquet was held. Thereafter the body was either burned or simply buried in the earth; over the grave a mound was raised and contests (obviously funeral games) were held at which the highest prize was awarded for single combat. This statement has been fully confirmed by archaeological discoveries. In the neighbourhood of Bailovo (near Sofia) eleven tumuli of the fifth century B.C. were explored, and nine cremation burials and two graves containing skeletons came to light. The objects found included pottery, iron and bronze fibulae, swords, lances and remains of sacrifices (bones of oxen). In the necropolis of Vlashko-Selo (near Vratza in northern Bulgaria) both inhumation and cremation burials were found. In a tumulus dating from the fifth or fourth century B.C. near Ezerovo the sepulchral urn was found with its mouth turned downwards. The bottom, which was bored through, was covered with a perforated earthenware disc. Obviously the soul, conceived as a serpent, was to creep out of this opening in order to taste the offerings of food which were made to it. Cases also occur in which the tumulus has simply been piled up over the burnt body (which was not placed in a special grave). In other tumuli of the fifth to third centuries the bodies were placed in stone cists, and the dead man's horse buried with it or laid in the earth of the tumulus. The furniture of these graves recalls the contemporary Scythian graves in Southern Russia. The similarity of the method of burial among Thracians and Scythians is probably to be explained by their ethnic relationship and geographical proximity. A funeral chamber which had been plundered at some earlier date, with an ante-chamber built of squared limestone blocks, was found in a tumulus near Staronovo-Selo (near Philippopolis). The walls of the chamber were coated with plaster and showed traces of painting. The tholos-tomb near Kirk-Kilisse has already been mentioned. In the neighbourhood of Apollonia (now Sozopolis) a tholos-tomb was discovered, the construction of which recalls the Kostromskaya Kurgan. In this, as in other Thracian graves, gold wreaths and diadems of the same kind as those in Scythian graves were found.
There survived among the Thracians and Getae the custom, which goes back to remote antiquity, of slaying at the grave the dead man's favourite wife; and it is even related that the wives disputed among themselves which had been the favourite and that the friends of the dead took much trouble to discover who this was. The low estimation in which human life was held, coupled with the belief in immortality, explains other customs. When a child was born, for instance, the relatives wailed over it, because of the evils which awaited it in life; the dead, on the other hand, were buried amid jubilations because they were now freed from all sufferings and living in complete blessedness. And the Thracian tendency to suicide, of which we have ample evidence, has its roots in the same belief.
V. CULTURE AND FOREIGN INFLUENCES
With the exception of a short Thracian inscription in Greek letters, which has not yet been interpreted with certainty, all we know of the Thracian language which was still a living language in the sixth century A.D. consists of personal and place names and a few glosses. Androtion, the Athidographer, even declared that no one in Thrace knew how to write, and, indeed, that all the barbarian peoples of Europe regarded the use of writing as something disgraceful.
Music, dancing and poetry seem, however, to have flourished in Thrace. The worship of the Muses which had its earliest seat in Pieria on Olympus seems to have been of Thracian origin; and the names of the mythical Thracian bards, Orpheus, Musaeus and Thamyris, are well known. But it is possible that this relatively high musical art was derived from the earlier pre-Indo-European population of Thrace, which was connected with that of Asia Minor.
Even among the northern tribes the love of music was not unknown. Theopompus mentions the Getic custom of accompanying embassies of peace with the playing of the zither. The Agathyrsi learnt their laws by heart in the form of songs. Certain musical instruments (e.g. the magadis and the shepherd's pipe) were held to have been actually of Thracian invention, though whether with justice we do not know. A song is mentioned named the "sitalkas" which was probably sung in honour of King Sitalces; both a song and a dance bore the name of Zalmoxis; a song accompanied by the flute was sung over the dead. We hear also of magical chants with which the Thracian physicians healed both body and soul. Women, too, played an important part as sorceresses and soothsayers. Indeed, Menander makes mock of the deep-rooted superstition of the Getic women, who were always celebrating some festival or other and performing sacrifices with magic rites. Popular medicine had a considerable vogue among the Dacians ; the names of quite a number of plants which were used as medicines have come down to us.
The statement of Demosthenes that the Thracians were forbidden by law to inflict a death sentence on one of their own race is perhaps to be interpreted in the sense that the death penalty was not expressly laid down in any law; but no doubt the authorities could inflict it both upon enemy Thracians and upon foreigners also. Ancient writers have much to say of Thracian cruelty and treachery. Herodotus, it is true, declares that the Getae were the bravest and most just of the Thracians, but he seems here to have idealized them. In view of the cruelties which were practiced by the Greeks themselves in their own civil and external wars, we have no reason to think that the Thracians were more cruel than other peoples on the same level of civilization.
Hellenic influence in Thrace was disseminated from the Greek colonies planted on the shores of the Euxine (Apollonia, Mesembria) and on the Aegean coast. Among the latter Abdera, Maronea and Aenus were the most important, but the smaller ones, the 'factories' founded by Samothrace between Doriscus and Maronea, also contributed to the spread of civilization. The Attic tribute-lists show clearly that the Greek colonies which served as intermediaries in the trade with the interior had attained a remarkable degree of both material and intellectual culture. In these towns there were living and working painters and sculptors who were well acquainted with the conditions of life in Thrace and who have left important traces in the Greek art of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.
To this must be added the influence of Athens, for to Athens the Thracian coastal region was one of the most important bases of her commerce and prosperity. From Thrace she drew exports of cereals, cattle, slaves and metals. These commercial interests explain the friendly relations which Athens maintained with the Odrysian kingdom. The Odrysian kings even attempted to connect the lineage of the ruling house with the famous figures of Greek legend — King Teres traced his descent to Tereus who married the daughter of the Attic King Pandion. The fact that Thucydides took the trouble to refute this genealogical claim, shows that it had met with some acceptance in Athens also. Seuthes II in his conversation with Xenophon referred to the kinship and friendship between the Thracians and the Athenians. Even in later times these friendly relations were not broken off: Seuthes III in the year 338 B.C. sent his son Rhebulas to Athens. It is well known that Greeks played an important part at the Thracian court, and some of them even took Thracian wives. Nymphodorus of Abdera, for instance, who had married the sister of Sitalces, brought about the alliance between Thrace and Athens. One daughter of Cotys was married to Iphicrates, another to the mercenary leader Charidemus, who was in the service of Cersobleptes. The latter used Greeks as envoys to Philip II and the Athenians. The mercenary leaders, Athenodorus, Simon and Bianor, were connected by marriage with Cersobleptes' opponents, Berisades and Amadocus.
The coinage of the Thracian kings affords striking testimony to the lively commercial and political relations existing between the Greek colonies and the Thracians. The majority of the coins are of a Greek type, and are stamped with Greek legends. The coins of Sparadocus, the brother of Shakes, are of Olynthian type, and were probably struck in Olynthus. On the other hand the coins of Seuthes I bear a distinct national Thracian emblem, the figure of a horseman, which also appears on the coins of Cotys I and Seuthes III. The coins of Amadocus I, Amadocus II, and Teres III are modeled upon those of the town of Maronea, where they were struck. Not less popular were the types of Thasos, which are found on the coins of Eminacus (fifth century B.C.), Saratocus (c. 400 B.C.), Bergaeus (fifth century B.C.) and Cetriporis (c. 356 B.C.). Imitations of the coins of Abdera are less frequent, though there are some to be found, e.g. on the coins of the otherwise unknown Spoces (c. 360 B.C.). In the first half of the fourth century Cypsela was the seat of the Thracian mint, and Hebryzelmis, Cotys I, Cersobleptes and Philetas had coins struck there. Orsoaltius, not known in literary sources, in the time of Lysimachus struck coins of Alexandrian type. Seuthes III actually used coins of Philip, Lysimachus, Alexander the Great and Cassander, over-striking them with his own types. After the diadem had been introduced as the symbol of royalty in Macedonia it was probably adopted also by the Thracian kings; but evidence for this is only found later, viz. on the coins of Mostis (c. 200 B.C.), Cotys III, Sadalas, etc.
The colonizing activity of Philip in Thrace greatly stimulated the expansion of Hellenic culture. All the cities founded by him (which included Greek settlers) were given constitutions upon the pattern of a Greek polis. But the successful efforts of Philip to implant Greek culture on Thracian soil were not followed up by Lysimachus. In fact, the hellenization of Thrace was not taken in hand again until the time of the Roman Empire. The spread of the Greek language could not be long delayed. Seuthes II, though he understood Greek, made use in his conversations with Xenophon of the services of an interpreter, but from the Anabasis we learn that even the highlanders of Eastern Thrace could speak Greek.
For further light on the question now before us we have to turn to archaeological evidence. The finds from the Hallstatt period in Thrace, which are still very scanty, show a close affinity with the contemporary culture of Illyria. An interesting find at Bukyovtsi (8 miles south-west of Orechovo in northern Bulgaria), probably dating from the end of the Hallstatt period, included two silver vessels and jewelry consisting of five fibulae each with a handsome chain. The ornament seems to have been made, in imitation of a Greek prototype, in Thrace itself. A form of silver, bronze, or iron fibula from the early La Tene period is very often met in Bulgaria, and must be considered as a local variation of the Certosa type. Curiously enough, a similar fibula is represented on an earthen-ware funerary urn from Pashakyoi (neighbourhood of Kizilagach in Thrace) which is adorned with fantastic animal figures. Isolated examples of this form of fibula are found also in Dacia.
A very instructive find was made in a grave in a tumulus near
Duvanli (probably the grave of a woman of princely rank who
lived in the fifth century B.C.) in which two different groups of
objects could be distinguished. In the first group there were
objects imported from Ionia — e.g. a fine silver two-handled
amphora, which bore traces of gilding, a golden necklace, eight
golden earrings, silver omphalos bowl, two bronze hydriae
and other vessels of bronze and earthenware. But in addition
there were local objects, also of Ionian type but of a coarser
character — e.g. a diadem, a tore, two massive arm-rings with
serpent-head terminals, a small box ornamented with spirals and
rosettes, and two finger-rings, all of gold. Finally, there were
three fishes hammered out of gold plate such as are found in the
Scythian influence in Thrace is evidenced chiefly by graves at Panagyurishte, Brezovo, Bednyakovo and the find at Radyuvene of the fourth to third century B.C. In the tumulus grave near Panagyurishte there again appear Greek imported objects, made at Amphipolis, two small gold discs ornamented with embossed heads of Apollo, small quadrilateral silver slabs ornamented with a head of Apollo embossed in high relief, two silver discs with a relief of Hercules fighting with the Nemean lion, small silver jars, a bronze jar with trefoil-shaped mouth and a double-handled bronze bucket. Along with horse-trappings in Scythian style, there were some phalerae with representations in a barbarized Ionian style. Especially notable was a small silver plate (an ornament for a horse's forehead) of native work with mythological scenes and figures (such as Hercules and Cerberus, Griffins, Siren), though the interpretation is uncertain.
Scythian influence is recognizable in some silver horse-trappings from Brezovo, where also were found an iron sceptre and a gold finger-ring with figures of religious significance — horseman wearing an upper garment and breeches to whom a woman in a long robe is handing a drinking-horn. This scene, which is often represented on monuments in Southern Russia, is to be interpreted as the investiture of the king by the goddess, or as a communion in a sacred beverage. This shows that a local ruler was buried here (a Scythian, or the vassal of a Scythian ruler).
The tumulus grave of Bednyakovo contains a similar burial with Scythian horse-trappings of bronze and a drinking-cup of the fourth century with red figures. The find at Radyuvene consists of twelve silver vessels (omphalos bowls and a small jar) and two ornaments.
According to Rostovtzeff the explanation of this strong Scythian influence in Thrace is to be found in their political relations. The Odrysian kingdom, which in the fifth century stemmed the tide of Scythian expansion towards the west, fell to pieces in the fourth century, since it was no longer supported by Athens. Consequently the Scythians were able to resume their offensive, and established their supremacy at that time over certain Thracian tribes.
The story of the commercial relations of Thrace with Macedonia and the Greek coast-towns is clearly told by the numismatic evidence. In what is now Bulgaria are found great numbers of bronze, silver and gold coins of Philip II, Alexander the Great and Lysimachus, and silver coins of Abdera and the towns of the Thracian Chersonese; most frequent of all are the silver tetra-drachms of Thasos, while only a few examples of Athenian tetra-drachms appear. On the other hand imitations of the coins of Philip II, Alexander and Lysimachus, as well as of Thasian coins, are found in great numbers.
Farther north in the Daco-Getic
territory Greek influence was less powerful though the colony of
Istros played a notable part. Tomi did not acquire importance
until the third century B.C., while Callatis was more of an agricultural
colony and its trading was chiefly in corn. Istros, on the
other hand, had attained considerable prosperity as early as the
It exported fish, corn, hides, slaves, etc., while in return its
Greek traders passed on to the Dacians wine, oil, pottery and
other goods from Athens or the towns of the Pontic coast, as well
as other products of Greek craftsmanship. On the banks of the
Danube, especially between Calarash and Turnu Magurele there
arose Graeco-Getic trading-stations which served as points of
departure for traders who penetrated farther into the valleys of
the Danube basin, Seret, Yalomitza, and Argesh. After Philip II had extended the sphere of Macedonian power as far as the Danube, the Getae also began to strike a coinage in which they imitated the coins of Philip, Alexander, Lysimachus and those of Thasos. The coins of the Greek towns on the Pontic coast are less often found, which proves that in Hellenistic times trade was chiefly in the hands of wholesale traders from Greece proper and Macedonia. Later (between the second and first century B.C.), both Rhodian and Italian traders began to appear on the banks of the Danube and many fragments of Thasian, Rhodian and Cnidian amphorae have been unearthed in Moldavia and Wallachia. In the hinterland of the Greek colonies in the Dobrudja, Thracians and Greeks intermarried and there thus arose the Mix-hellenes, who could speak both languages.
The appearance of the Celts in the region of the lower Danube, and in Southern Thrace where they founded the kingdom of Tylis, threw racial relations into confusion. Although the economic connections of the Greek colonies with the interior were not broken off they fell into great distress, for there was no longer any dominant power in Thrace, and so these towns were exposed to incursions from the neighbouring tribes, which plundered their territory and exacted an annual tribute from them.
Celtic influence in Dacia, especially in the second and first centuries B.C., left deep traces behind it. Alongside the native hand-made pottery, which preserves the older forms (of the Neolithic and Bronze ages), there can be found importations or imitations of Celtic pottery as well as various iron tools of Celtic form (ploughshares, scythes, sickles, etc.). The iron weapons, on the other hand, are of Dacian form, though the fibulae whether iron, bronze or silver are of Celtic type. Among ornaments, arm-rings and neck-rings with serpent-heads of geometrical pattern are characteristic of Dacia. In Thrace, alongside the native curved sabres, long swords and lances of Celtic type, also fibulae, bridles, spurs, and so on are found.
Finally we may mention a find of the second or first century
which shows evidence of Sarmatian influence on Thrace. In the
neighbourhood of Galiche (Orechovo district in northern Bulgaria)
there were found fourteen gilded silver phalerae, which doubtless
formed part of a horse's trappings. On one of these phalerae
there is a representation, in high relief, of a richly-ornamented
woman's bust (a goddess); as a counterpart to this there is a
phalera with the representation of a horseman whose right hand
is raised in a gesture of adoration. Obviously we have here the
same religious scene, of Scythian (Iranian) origin, which was noted
at an earlier point. The remaining phalerae are adorned
with rosettes and leaf ornaments. They belong to a series of
phalerae from Southern Russia, which are characteristic of
In what precedes various cultural elements which the Greeks borrowed from the Thracians have been pointed out; it is also, as we have seen, possible to produce evidence of numerous points of contact between the two peoples, especially in the realm of cultus and myth. There can be no doubt that, with the progress of the archaeological exploration of Thrace, their mutual influence will become still more clearly manifest.
I. ANCIENT LITERARY SOURCES
Scattered notices in various authors: — Appian (Bell. Civ.), Arrian (Perip. Pont. Eux.), Ephorus (fragments in F.G.H.), Hecataeus of Miletus (fragments in F.G.H.), Herodotus, Pindar (Pap. Oxy.), Pliny (fragments in N.H.), Pomponius Mela (Chorographia), Ps. Scylax (Periplus), Ps. Scymnus (Periegesis), Stephanus of Byzantium, Strabo, Theophrastus (Hist. Plant.), Theopompus (Philippica), Thucydides, Xenophon (Anab.) and others.
II. MODERN WORKS
Casson, S. Macedonia, Thrace and Illyria. Oxford, 1926.
Detschew, D. Bedi alt makedonischer Gott. Glotta, 1928.
Detschew, D. Die thrakische Inschrift auf dem Goldring von Ezerovo. Glotta, 1916.
Detschew, D. Die dakischen Pflanxennamen. Ann. Univ. de Sofia, Fac. Hist.-Phil., 1928.
Diakovitsch, B. Hallstattzeitliche und Latenefibeln aus Bulgarian. Bull. Inst. Arch.
Diakovitsch, B. Grabfund von Duvanli. Ibid., 1925.
Filow, B. Denkmaler der thrakischen Kunst. Rom. Mitt., 1917.
Filow, B. Neue Funde aus dem Hugelgrab bei Duvanli. Bull. Inst. Arch. Bulg., 1926-27.
Filow, B. Goldener Ring mit thrakischer Inschrift. Bull. Soc. Arch. Bulg.,1912-13.
Filow, B. Zwei Tumulusgraber im Balkan. Ibid., 1910.
Filow, B. Die archaische Nekropole von Trebenischte. Berlin and Leipzig, 1927.
Hasluck, F. W. Tholos-tomb at Kirk-Kilisse. B.S.A., 1910-11.
Hoeck, A. Das Odrysenreich in Thrakien. Hermes, 1891.
Kalinka, E. Antike Denkmaler in Bulgarian. Wien, 1906.
Kazarow, G. Deloptes. Arch. Relig., 1908.
Kazarow, G. Grabfund bei Mesembria. Ath. Mitt., 1911.
Kazarow, G. Zalmoxis. Klio, 1912.
Kazarow, G. Beitrage zur Kulturgeschichte der Thraker. Sarajevo, 1916.
Kazarow, G. Heros (thrakischer Reiter). In: P.W. Suppl. III, n.d.
Kazarow, G. Zur Archaologie Thrakiens. Arch. Anz., 1918.
Kazarow, G. Forgeschichtliches aus Bulgarien. Wiener Prahist. Zeitschrift, 1923.
Kazarow, G. Zur Geschichte Alexanders des Grossen. Phil. Woch., 1927.
Kretschmer, P. Zur Deutung der thrakischen Ringsinschrift. Glotta, 1916.
Kretschmer, P. Die erste thrakische Inschrift. Glotta, 1915.
Minns, E. H. Scythians and Greeks. Cambridge, 1913.
Mouschmov, N. Munzfunde aus Bulgarien. Num. Z., 1918.
Patsch, C. Die Folkerschaft der Agathyrsen. Wien Anz., 1925.
Pick, B. Thrakische Munzbilder. J.D.A.I., 1899.
Popow, R. Materialen zur Erforschung der Hallstatt und Latenezeitkultur in Bulgarien. Ann. Musee. Nat., 1921.
Popow, R. Der Silberschatz. yon Bukjovtzi. Ibid., 1922-25.
Popow, R. Forgeschichtliche Forschungen im Gebiete von Vratza. Bull. Inst. Arch. Bulg., 1923-24.
Popow, R. Die Nekropole bei Dorf Bailovo. Ibid., 1921-22.
Popow, R. Hallstattzeitliche und Latenefibeln aus Bulgarien. Zeitschr. Bulg. Akad. Wiss., 1913.
Rostovtzeff, M. Iranians and Greeks in South Russia. Oxford, 1922.
Seure, G. Inscriptions de Thrace. B.C.H., 1900.
Seure, G. Voyage en Thrace. Ibid., 1901.
Seure, G. Archeologie thrace. Rev. Arch., 1911-12.
Seure, G. Etudes sur quelques types curieux du cavalier thrace. Rev. E.A., 1912.
Seure, G. Les images thraces de Zeus. Ibid., 1913.
Tomaschek, W. Die alten Thraker. Wien, 1893-94.
Addendum: Let us consider the article on ancient Thrace and Thracology from "Danov, H. Brief History of the Thracians. Sofia, 1979" presented in the booklist. I have read numerous articles and monographs from contemporary authors on the subject but couldn't find nowhere a good review on institutional history and academic development of the discipline. The jump from the Dark Ages seems straightforward — viz., from the early narratives on geography and mythology derived out of classical sources and up to the groundbreaking work of F. Cary (1757) and W. Tomaschek (1893). There follows a blank period for at least 70 years where no authorities are mentioned, neither bulgarian nor foreign, and finally comes year 1972 when Institute of Thracology has been found which stemmed hitherto a whole cohort of talented historians and archaeologists on Thrace. So far and so good, but we wish here to expand a bit on that missing period of some two-thirds from the XX century. We shall provisionally call these times primary and secondary stages in disciplinary Thracology.
Proceeding backwards, the period from 1945 to somewhere mid-1970s is called secondary or intermediate. The principal investigator of Classical Antiquity in Bulgaria, Prof. Bogdan Filov, has been incriminated on political reasons and put to death. Prof. Gavril Katzarov and Prof. Dimitar Detchev, as primer authorities on Greek and Roman philology, have been put on honorary retirement. Subsequently, the gap on Thracian studies was covered by some scholars from the periphery and that gave good fruits in the next 20-30 years. Probably because financing was abundant, this period had majored in large excavation works and solid archaeological artifacts were gathered and put to the museums registry. Thus came to circulation the Kazanluk tomb and the Mezek tomb was re-furnished in totality. High quality treasures from Panagyurishte were incidentally found and the Vulchitrun treasure was restored de-novo. The language of Thrace was firmly established as part of the Indo-European cultural space. The town of Seuthopolis affirmed the mixed character of late Hellenic and early Roman presence on these lands. Altogether, some major publications appeared but we wish to accentuate on those in English language. Ivan Venedicov published a solid monograph "Art Treasures of Thrace" and Vladimir Georgiev wrote an original monograph "History of the Thracian Language", both translated in English. The highest scholarship was attained by Englishman Ralph Hoddinott in two monographs, "Bulgaria in Antiquity" (1975) and "Thracians" (1981). The latter book treats an earlier archaeological sub-stratum, while the former book gives review primarily on Bulgaria from Greek and Roman times.
We get back to the main theme of our presentation. This concerns the work of the foremost bulgarian Thracologist, Prof. G. Katzarov (1874-1958). He studied in his young age as pro-sector to the Czech scholar Vaclav Dobruski at the first National Museum (1893). He got stipend for Germany and there graduated Classical Philology in Leipzig. His dissertation "De foederis Phocensium institutis" (1899) was written under the supervisory guidance of Prof. Paul Kretschmer. While back in Bulgaria, Gavril Katzarov got appointment as private Docent at Sofia University, Department of History. He travelled extensively abroad to gather materials and published (co-authorship with D. Detchev) the first edition of "Sources on ancient history of Thrace and Macedonia" (1915). The second edition, revised and enlarged, came out in 1949. Meanwhile, Prof. Katzarov compiled an impressive workload of articles and monographs on the antiquities in Bulgaria. The total volume is estimated to between 3000-4000 pages. Here we should concern only publications in German language (i.e., his main working language) and principally two works. Commendably, the article "Thrace" was written for the "Cambridge Medieval History, VIII, 1930" in English language.
"Beitrage zur Kulturgeschichte der Thraker. Sarajevo, 1916" — The book has 141 pages, with 38 photos and drawings. The golden age of the Thracians was the last step from the archaeology of the Balkans. Prerequisite for these had already been established as — 1) Scythian influence from South Russia and Dnieper region, consisting of isolated finds from Panagyurishte, Brezovo, Bednyakovo and Radyuvene /1897-1903/, and representing a barbarized Ionian style from 8th c. B.C.; 2) Persian influence from the invasions of Darius and Xerxes in the 5th c. B.C. The Odrysian kingdom of the united Thracians accepted much organizational discipline from Persia and architectural impetus for tholoi-tomb building. The imposing brick-layered style at Kirk-Kilisse (Lozengrad) from year 1910 was later reaffirmed on Bulgarian lands; 3) Greek influence from Mycenae and Troy. Amazingly enough Schliemann's archaeology found supporters in Bulgaria as exemplified by the fighting skills of the Achaeans and their weapons, bronze sword and double-axe, found in the district of Philippopolis /1897-1903/. Thus an exhausted picture of Thracian archaeology existed until years 1912-13, when two simultaneous finds came into site at Duvanli (Philippopolis district, today at Plovdiv's outskirts) and Ezerovo (Borisovgrad district, today a locality near Purvomai). See for details in the article above with the adjoining references.
"Die Denkmaler des Thrakischen Reitergottes in Bulgarien. Budapest, 1938" — The book has 272 pages, with 528 photos and 2 maps. This is the most accomplished work of the author and was published in abridged form at Pauly-Wissowa Real Encyclopadie. Here we give a brief synopsis and some notes. Before all, understanding the text is not easy and requires solid ground-knowledge in Greek religion. In the native country of Thrace, great god of life and nature Dionysus is represented on various bas-reliefs and votives. Semi-divine beings (Bacchae, Sabazioi, etc.) seldom accompany the main-god. Orphic Mysteries had also their roots in the Dionysus-cult. Along with Dionysus there come along several she-goddess (Semele, Bendis, etc.) which depict celebrations of orgiastic character. Finally in the Thracian pantheon rides the horseman Heros, who is known more widely from monuments of the Roman Empire. He is, above all, a chthonic deity and as such replaces Dionysus as bestower of all the gifts from nature. See the original book for details on inscriptions, clay figurines and stone slabs.
Picture 1: Sample illustrations on the text above.
(i). Prof. Gavril Katzarov (spelled, Gawril Kazarov) — viz., founder of the discipline of Thracology in Bulgaria.
Copyright © 2009 by the author.