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Getai, South of the Ister-Danube 2


Helis was the capital of the Getic ruler Dromichaites which defeated and captured Lysimachus, a successor of the Alexander the Great.

Historically, after the Galatai destroyed Helis, the surviving population moved north of the Istros and rebuilt their capital at Argedava, now known as Popesti. 


  Helis, the capital of the Getae,south of the Danube, southern wall and water reservoir

Thracian city Helis - The Walls by Klearchos Kapoutsis.

The remains of the Getian city Helis, near village Sveshtari  now in Bulgaria

Founded during the second half of the 4th century B.C. the city spread over a territory more then 200 acres. The citadel on the plateau has a double fortification walls with monumental gates to the South and North as well. A route cut in the rocks leads to the springs in the valley where in the neighborhood of the Thracian sanctuary at Demir Baba Teke  quarters of the "Lower city" have been situated. The archeological excavations started in 1986 proved the Getic city was a prosperous political, economical and religious center having intensive trade and cultural relations with the most of the great Hellenic cities in the Aegean and Black sea area. The city was  a residence of a powerful Getic dynasty of the early Hellenistic times and it is to be identified with Helis - the capital of the Getic ruler Dromichaites which defeated and captured Lysimachus, a successor of the Alexander the Great.

North of the Haemus, the first well-known Thracian city is Helis now Sborjanovo(Stoyanov 2000), which flourished in the 3 rd century B.C. Its fortifications (Fig. 4) indicate its special importance, but the interior of the city is only partly known, and it was not built in the regular (Hippodamean) urban system. Several – probably more modest – parallels to Sborjanovo exist in SE Rumania, but Sborjanovo- Helis may best be considered the capital of the royal dynasty of the Getai whose cemetery was situated in Sveštari.

The Šumen settlement may also have been urban in character, but it has not been investigated enough to provide clear evidence, and it is probably later than Bobata near Osmar (Domaradzki-Taneva 1998, 42; Antonova 1995). There was another important site in the area on the hill Carevec (Domaradzki-Taneva 1998, 43).

The urban centres were connected by a system of roads (Fig. 5). They did not become independent political units with free citizens like the Greek poleis; they were dependent on the system of local kingdoms and dynasties, with the exception of Kabyle (the city minted its own coins).

Urban centres where Thracians lived, often with some Greeks, existed in some parts of the Aegean coast fairly early, and later on the Black Sea coast (like Tyrzis on Cap Kaliakra, Balkanska 1980, Velkov 1982)) and on a larger scale in inland Thrace south of Stara Planina at least from the 4 th century B.C. As in Italy or in other parts of the Classical world, the Thracians too adopted urban life from their Greek neighbours.

We do not have on our disposal any other funerary monuments from the area and the period in consideration. But we have some evidence about personal names of some representatives of the population in the biggest centre from the region north of Haemus, the Geto-Thracian fortified settlement, regularly excavated near the village of Sboryanovo (Stoyanov 2002, 207-221; Stoyanov 2003, 413-424).

Some personal names are attested on ca.20 graffiti on pottery sherds, discovered on the site. One of them is a Teres known as Thracian king’s name, but, obviously spread and fashionable amongst the common people as well. The other one is Skakas, unattested in other epigraphic monuments neither in Thrace, nor in other areas, probably a personal name with a local origin (Fig. 3).



 In the museum:


 Gold protome of Pegasus from the area of the village of Vazovo-5th - 4th century BC;

 Gold earring from Sveshtari royal tomb

Stone statuette of young woman 







Sveshtari royal tomb below Ginina Mogila Mound - 4th - 3th century BC



Geto- Dacic fortress at Demi Baba Teke, Bulgaria Photo at:

 There is dispute among scholars whether the Getae were Dacians or had some other relationship with them.  The sources from the Antiquity claim the ethnic or linguistic identity of the two people. In his Geographia, Strabo wrote about the two tribes speaking the same language.[12] Justin considers the Dacians are the successors of the Getae.[13] In his Roman history, Cassius Dio shows the Dacians to live on both sides of the Lower Danube, the ones south of the river (today's northern Bulgaria), in Moesia, and are called Moesians, while the ones north of the river are called Dacians. He argues that the Dacians are "Getae or Thracians of Dacian race"[14] but also stresses the fact that he calls the Dacians with the name used "by the natives themselves and also by the Romans" and that he is "not ignorant that some Greek writers refer to them as Getae, whether that is the right form or not".[15] In accordance with these testimonies some Romanian and Bulgarian scholars[16] developed hypotheses and theories arguing for common cultural, ethnical or linguistical features in the space north of Haemus mountains where both the populations of Dacians and of Getae were located. The linguist Ivan Duridanov identified a "Dacian linguistic area"[17] in Dacia, Scythia Minor, Lower Moesia and Upper Moesia. The archaeologist Mircea Babeş speaks of a "veritable ethno-cultural unity" between the Getae and the Dacians while the historian and archaeologist Alexandru Vulpe finds a remarkable uniformity of the Geto-Dacian culture.[18] There were also studies on Strabo's reliability and sources.[19] Some of these interpretation have echoed in other historiographies.[20]  The Romanian historian of ideas and historiographer Lucian Boia states: "At a certain point, the phrase Geto-Dacian was coined in the Romanian historiography to suggest a unity of Getae and Dacians".[21] Lucian Boia takes a skeptical position and argues the ancient writers distinguished among the two people, treating them as two distinct groups of the Thracian ethnos.[21][22] Boia contends that it would be naive to assume Strabo knew the Thracian dialects so well,[21] alleging that Strabo had "no competence in the field of Thracian dialects".[22] He also stresses that some Romanian authors cited Strabo indiscriminately.[22]  His position was supported by other scholars. The historian and archaeologist G. A. Niculescu also criticized the Romanian historiography and the archaeological interpretation, particularly on the "Geto-Dacian" culture. [23]


According to Herodotus, the Getae were "the noblest as well as the most just of all the Thracian tribes."[24] When the Persians, led by Darius the Great, campaigned against the Scythians, the Thracian tribes in the Balkans surrendered to Darius on his way to Scythia, and only the Getae offered resistance.[24]

One episode from the history of the Getae is attested by several ancient writers.[25][26]

When Lysimachus tried to subdue the Getae he was defeated by them. The Getae king, Dromichaetes, took him prisoner but he treated him well and convinced Lysimachus there is more to gain as an ally than as an enemy of the Getae and released him. According to Diodorus, Dromichaetes entertained Lysimachus at his palace at Helis, where food was served on gold and silver plates. The discovery of the celebrated tomb at Sveshtari (1982) suggests that Helis was located perhaps in its vicinity,[27] where remains of a large antique city are found along with dozens of other Thracian mound tombs.

As stated earlier, the principal god of the Getae was Zalmoxis whom they sometimes called Gebeleizis.

"This same people, when it lightens and thunders, aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own." - Herodotus. Histories, 4.94.

Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia mentions a tribe called the Tyragetae (or Thyssagetæ),[28] apparently a Daco-Thracian tribe who dwelt by the river Tyras (the Dniester). Their tribal name appears to be a combination of Tyras and Getae.

The Roman poet Ovid, during his long exile, is asserted to have written poetry (now lost) in the Getic language.


At the close of the fourth century AD, Claudian, court poet to the emperor Honorius and the patrician Stilicho, habitually uses the ethnonym Getae to refer poetically to the Visigoths.

During 5th and 6th centuries, several writers (Marcellinus Comes, Orosius, John Lydus, Isidore of Seville, Procopius of Caesarea) used the same ethnonym Getae to name populations invading the Eastern Roman Empire (Goths, Gepids, Kutrigurs, Slavs). For instance, in the third book of the History of the Wars Procopius details: "There were many Gothic nations in earlier times, just as also at the present, but the greatest and most important of all are the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Gepaedes. In ancient times, however, they were named Sauromatae and Melanchlaeni; and there were some too who called these nations Getic."[29]

The Getae were also assumed to be the ancestors of the Goths by Jordanes in his Getica written at the middle of the 6th century. Jordanes assumed the earlier testimony of Orosius.


  1. ^ Herodotus. Histories, 4.93-4.97.
  2. ^ Arrian. Anabasis, Book IA. "The Getae did not sustain even the first charge of the cavalry; for Alexander’s audacity seemed incredible to them, in having thus easily crossed the Ister, the largest of rivers, in a single night, without throwing a bridge over the stream. Terrible to them also was the closely-locked order of the phalanx, and violent the charge of the cavalry. At first they fled for refuge into their city, which. was distant about a parasang from the Ister; but when they saw that Alexander was leading his phalanx carefully along the side of the river, to prevent his infantry being anywhere surrounded by the Getae lying in ambush, but that he was sending his cavalry straight on, they again abandoned the city, because it was badly fortified."
  3. ^ Strabo. Geography, 7.6.1. "On this coast-line is Cape Tirizis, a stronghold, which Lysimachus once used as a treasury."
  4. ^ Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 18.288
  5. ^ Strabo. Geography, 16.2.38-16.2.39.
  6. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History, 68.9.
  7. ^ Livy. Ab Urbe Condita, 103.
  8. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History, 38.10.1-38.10.3.
  9. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History, 52.24.7; 26.1.
  10. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History, 51.26.
  11. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History, 54.20.1-54.20.3.
  12. ^ Strabo. Geography, Book VII, Chapter 3.13. "The language of the Daci is the same as that of the Getae."
  13. ^ Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus: "Daci quoque suboles Getarum sunt" (The Dacians as well are a scion of the Getae).
  14. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History, 55.22.6-55.22.7. "The Suebi, to be exact, dwell beyond the Rhine (though many people elsewhere claim their name), and the Dacians on both sides of the Ister; those of the latter, however, who live on this side of the river near the country of the Triballi are reckoned in with the district of Moesia and are called Moesians, except by those living in the immediate neighbourhood, while those on the other side are called Dacians and are either a branch of the Getae are Thracians belonging to the Dacian race that once inhabited Rhodope."
  15. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History, 67.6.2.
  16. ^ Giurescu, Constantin C. (1973) (in Romanian). Formarea poporului român. Craiova. p. 23.  "They (Dacians and Getae) are two names for the same people [...] divided in a large number of tribes". See also the hypothesis of a Daco-Moesian language / dialectal area supported by linguists like Vladimir Georgiev, Ivan Duridanov and Sorin Olteanu.
  17. ^ Duridanov, Ivan. "The Thracian, Dacian and Paeonian languages". Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  18. ^ Petrescu-Dîmboviţa, Mircea; Vulpe, Alexandru (eds), ed (2001) (in Romanian). Istoria Românilor, vol. I. Bucharest.  It should be noted Al. Vulpe speaks of Geto-Dacians as a conventional and instrumental concept for the Thracian tribes inhabiting this space, but not meaning an "absolute ethnic, linguistic or historical unity".
  19. ^ Janakieva, Svetlana (2002). "La notion de ΟΜΟΓΛΩΤΤΟΙ chez Strabon et la situation ethno-linguistique sur les territoires thraces" (in French). Études Balkaniques (4): 75–79.  The author concludes Strabo's claim sums an experience following of many centuries of neighbourhood and cultural interferences between the Greeks and the Thracian tribes
  20. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History (Volume 3) (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. 1982.  In chapter "20c Linguistic problems of the Balkan area", at page 838, Ronald Arthur Crossland argues "it may be the distinction made by Greeks and Romans between the Getae and Daci, for example, reflected the importance of different sections of a linguistically homogenous people at different times". He furthermore recalls Strabo's testimony and Georgiev's hypothesis for a 'Thraco-Dacian' language.
  21. ^ a b c Boia, Lucian (2004). Romania: Borderland of Europe. Reaktion Books. p. 43. ISBN 1-86189-103-2. 
  22. ^ a b c Boia, Lucian (2001). History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness. Central European University Press. p. 14. ISBN 9639116971. 
  23. ^ Niculescu, Gheorghe Alexandru (2004-2005). "Archaeology, Nationalism and "The History of the Romanians" (2001)". Dacia - Revue d'archéologie et d'histoire ancienne (48-49): 99–124.  He dedicates a large part of his assessment to the archaeology of "Geto-Dacians" and he concludes that with few exceptions "the archaeological interpretations [...] are following G. Kossinna’s concepts of culture, archaeology and ethnicity".
  24. ^ a b Herodotus. Histories, 4.93.
  25. ^ Strabo. Geography, 3.8.
  26. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 1.9.5.
  27. ^ Delev, P. (2000). "Lysimachus, the Getae, and Archaeology (2000)". The Classical Quarterly, New Series 50 (Vol. 50, No. 2): 384–401. doi:10.1093/cq/50.2.384. 
  28. ^ Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia, 4.26. "Leaving Taphræ, and going along the mainland, we find in the interior the Auchetæ, in whose country the Hypanis has its rise, as also the Neurœ, in whose district the Borysthenes has its source, the Geloni, the Thyssagetæ, the Budini, the Basilidæ, and the Agathyrsi with their azure-coloured hair."
  29. ^ Procopius. History of the Wars, Book III (Wikisource).

    The King of the Getae, Dromichaites, and his wife - Lysimachos’ daughter tomb at:

 The Sacred Tombs of the Rulers of the Getae

Published by baksanir in Archaeology, History, Origin, Persons & Characters, Religion, Rulers, Temples & Churches, Thracians, Tombs & Crypts
The territory of another Thracian people , the Getae, spread in the northeastern part of the present-day Bulgarian state. The remains of their capital, Helis, were discovered in the remarkable natural environment near the villages of Sveshtari and Sboryanovo. In immediate proximity there are more than 100 tumuli making up the royal necropolis of the ruler of Getae.The Sveshtari tomb, excavated in the early 1980s, is the masterpiece among all tombs discovered . That grandiose architectural construction was created in the first half of the 3rd century BC and was plundered then.
 That was the era of the historic campaigns of Alexander the Great. After his early death, his military commanders divided among themselves the enormous empire, whereby Thrace went to Lysimachos. Scholars have proven that the tomb was intended for the king of the Getae, Dromichaites, and his wife - Lysimachos’ daughter.
The Sacred Tombs of the Rulers of the Getae
Norther corner of the central burial chamber. Caryatids  3 and 4
The access to the three vaulted chambers of the tomb was through a corridor. The entrance is shaped with massive columns above which there is a slab decorated with stylised bull’s skulls: bucrania.
All the chambers are built of perfectly hewn stone blocks. The central burial chamber contains the funerary beds of the royal couple. The walls are decorated with ten splendid sculptures of standing women with almost natural height. They are caryatids supporting the roof of the building with their hands. Their faces are strongly individualised and additionally coloured. A decorative facade resembling a temple with exquisite columns, capitals and cornices, is built in front of the dynast’s funerary bed.


The Sacred Tombs of the Rulers of the Getae

 A beautiful scene is painted above the caryatids, an invaluable masterpiece of Hellenistic art. The deceased ruler is depicted in it as hero-horseman heading to the world beyond. The goddess standing before him is offering him a gold wreath, and the four women behind her are bringing gifts to the hero-king. He is accompanied by two of his arms-bearers with spears and swords. In this way, the composition presents the actual moment of the heroization or deification of the deceased dynast. This is the end of a long process the origin of which was seen in the megalithic monuments from the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, created one millennium earlier.
Discovered in 1982 near the village of Sveshtari, this 3rd-century BC Thracian tomb reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings. The tomb has a unique architectural decor, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals. The 10 female figures carved in high relief on the walls of the central chamber and the decoration of the lunette in its vault are the only examples of this type found so far in the Thracian lands. It is a remarkable reminder of the culture of the Getes, a Thracian people who were in contact with the Hellenistic and Hyperborean worlds, according to ancient geographers
 For more informations:

 The Thracian Tombs near the villages of Aleksandrovo and Silistra (n.a. a Getae tomb)

After the discovery of the Kazanlak tomb in 1944 (currently under protection of UNESCO) the Aleksandrovo tomb is the second one with amazing frescos depicting humans figures from the Hellenistic Ages. The tomb is discovered in 2000 and is situated near the town of Haskovo. It was built in 4th century BC. The frescos represent religious rituals and hunting scenes.

The Thracian Tomb near the village of Aleksandrovo

The latest Thracian tomb to be opened (Another 80 to 100 thousands still to go!) is located near the village of Aleksandrovo and is dated to approximately the first half of the IV century BC.

The Thracian Tomb near the village of Aleksandrovo
The Thracian horseman/hero is depicted on the hunt.
The Thracian Tomb near the village of Aleksandrovo
The Thracian Tomb near the village of Aleksandrovo
The Thracian Tomb near the village of Aleksandrovo
The twin-bladed Thracian axe, the elk and the dogs show on the above pictures are all symbols of the ruler’s power. Not all the tombs in Bulgaria belong to Thracian kings, an estimated 22 Thracian tribes had a heredetary monarchy. Of the 70 tombs that have been excavated, most are dated between the 3rd millenium BC and the IV century AD.
 Beaker with birds and animals, 4th century b.c.
New York Metropolitan Museum
Thraco-Geti style
Lower Danube region, Thrace

H. 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1947 (47.100.88)


The ancient land of Thrace encompassed a large area now divided into Bulgaria, southern Romania, eastern Yugoslavia, northeastern Greece, and parts of European Turkey. The first inhabitants of Thrace came from the northern part of Europe and appeared at least as early as the second millennium B.C. Thracian tribes of the mid-first millennium B.C. adopted some of the decorative traditions and nomadic habits of their Scythian neighbors to the east, but they had closer cultural relations with European prehistoric peoples and preserved many of the traditions of the European Bronze Age. From the mid-first millennium, such objects as ceremonial helmets, armor, cups, and ornamental gear for horses—worked from silver and sometimes gilded—have been discovered in graves and in chance finds that must have been the buried hoards of Thracian princes and chiefs.

This silver beaker is a fine example of fourth-century B.C. Thracian workmanship. It probably was made in the region of present-day Romania or Bulgaria, as similar beakers have been found in a princely tomb at Agighiol, near the delta of the Danube in eastern Romania. The beaker is raised from a single piece of silver with stamped, chased, and repoussé decoration. A horned bird of prey holds a fish in its beak and clutches what seems to be a hare in its claws. The bird is flanked by one horned and two antlered animals, and, facing the large bird, a tiny bird of prey hovers over the horned animal. Almost opposite the large bird is a staglike creature with eight legs. His antlers extend into a border of tines ending in bird heads that circle the upper portion of the cup. Around both the rim and the base of the beaker runs a pattern of overlapping semicircles; below, the pattern is fringed with scrolling that suggests waves. On the bottom of the cup a winged, griffinlike monster chews an animal leg and grasps a small beast in its clawed feet.

Although certain contemporary Scythian and Iranian stylistic influences can be seen, the iconography of these scenes is clearly Thracian and probably refers to a native myth or legend. The monstrous bird of prey with land and water creatures in its grasp appears to symbolize dominance over land and water, while the eight-legged stag probably represents a fabulous capacity for speed. Scholars have suggested that its placement on the side of the cup opposite the bird of prey may indicate that the stag is always free from the bird's domination. Though a precise interpretation of the iconography remains uncertain, scholars also have suggested that these animals were symbols associated with a heroic ruler and served as protective spirits, avatars, and tribal totems.

The Golden Ring from Ezerovo 

A poem in daco-thracian language?

 Original scripto continua with grecian alphabet from the Ezerovo ring


 We think that in this scripto continua is hiding a poem in 5 line (daco-thracian tanca) with an eneasiliab in the first line, a sixsilabes in second, third and forth line, and three or forth silabes in fifth line

Rolist Eneas Ner Eneat     Se-nvirte Unu, curge Noua    One is round, Nine are flowing

Il Te A Nesk O A                El te-a nascut, o A               He had borned You, O, A

Ra Ze A Dome Ant             Ra, zeu al casei ant             The God of Ant's House, Ra

Il Ez Viit Amice             El e venit, prieteni                      He had came, my friends

Ra Ze L Ta                         Ra, zeul tau                         Your God, Ra     





The golden ring from Ezerovo.

Only four Thracian inscriptions have been found.

1. One is a gold ring found in 1912 in

 the town of Ezerovo, Bulgaria. The ring was dated to the 5th century BC. On the

ring is an inscription written in a Greek script which says:

The meaning of the inscription is not known, and it bears no resemblance to any

 known language. Thracologists such as Vladimir I. Georgiev and Dechev have

proposed various translations for the inscription but these are just guesses.

2. A second inscription was found in 1965 near the village of Kyolmen, Preslav

district, dating to the 6th century BC. It consists of 56 letters of the Greek

alphabet, probably a tomb stele inscription similar to the Phrygian ones:

ebar. zesasn ēnetesa igek. a / nblabaēgn / nuasnletednuedneindakatr. s

3. A third inscription is again on a ring, found in Duvanli, Plovdiv district, next to the

left hand of a skeleton. It dates to the 5th century BC. The ring has the image of

a horseman with the inscription surrounding the image. It is only partly legible (16 out of the initial 21)

ēuziē.....dele / mezēnai
ΜΕΖΗΝΑΙ likely corresponds to Menzana, the Messapian "horse deity" to which

horses were sacrificed, compared also to Albanian mëz, mâz "pony" (preserved

into Romanian as mânz "colt"), derived either from PIE *mongw(i)- "virile" or

PIE *mend(i)- "to suckle".

These are the longest inscriptions preserved. The remaining ones are mostly single

 words or names on vessels and other artifacts. In addition, Thracian lexical elements

 have been drawn from inscriptions in Greek or Latin.

4. In a Latin inscription from Rome discussing a citizen from the Roman province of

Thracia, the phrase Midne potelense is found; this is interpreted as indicating the

Thracian's place of origin, midne being seen as the Thracian equivalent of Latin

vicus, "village". If this is correct, the Thracian word has a close cognate

(Latv. mitne, "a dwelling") in Latvian, a Baltic language.

Main article: Classification of Thracian
Further information: Paleo-Balkans languages
The classification of the Thracian language has long been a matter of contention

and uncertainty, and there are widely varying hypotheses regarding the position

of Thracian among the Paleo-Balkan languages.[2] It is not contested however

that Thracian was an Indo-European language which had acquired satem

characteristics by the time it is attested.

Most of the Thracians were eventually Hellenized (in the province of Thrace) or

Romanized (in Moesia, Dacia, etc.), with the last remnants surviving in remote

areas until the 5th century.[3] Some Thracian tribes have probably been Slavicized

, after the Slavic re-settlements to the south of the Danube river and eventually

merged with the invading Slavs, Bulgars and other peoples.

See also



  1. ^ Duridanov, Ivan. "The Language of the Thracians".
  2. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  3. ^ Ilija Casule even links Thracian and Phrygian with the
  4.  Burushaski language, a language isolate spoken in northern Pakistan.
  5. ^ R.J. Crampton (1997). A Concise History of Bulgaria.
  6. Cambridge University Press. pp. 4. ISBN 0-521-56719-X. 

Further reading

  • V.I. Georgiev, Introduction to the History of the Indo-European Languages, Sofia (1981).
  • I.I. Russu, Limba Traco-Dacilor / Die Sprache der Thrako-Daker, Bucharest (1967, 1969).
  • Paul Kretschmer, "Glotta", in: Zeitschrift für griechische und lateinische Sprache 7, 1915.
  • Keith Massey, "Further Evidence for an "Italic" Substratum in Romanian,"
  • in Philologie im Netz 43/2008, pp. 11-16.

External links

Βρωλυθρίσβειν Δρυήσου Αρουλον

şi traduce:

“Lui Brôlythribis, fiul lui Driazis, născut la Arrôlos”.

About 15,000 massive ground barrows are still visible today in the hills and

 flatlands of the Balkan Range, anciently called Haemus. Thracian rulers and members

of the nobility were buried in monumental stone tombs, which also served as places

for ritual ceremonies to honor the deceased ruler, with offerings of rich funeral gifts. T

he tombs constituted underground temples of heroes, and have thus become known

as heroons. Approximately fifty such tombs have been uncovered in Thracian mounds

 in Bulgaria up to the present time, with ten structures found between 1992 and 1996.
[Fig.1: Silver-gilt breastplate from Hellenistic-era Thracian tomb in Bulgaria (

photo: Kr. Georgiev).]
Although the Thracians were mentioned by many classical sources including the

Histories of Herodotus (445-440 BC) and the Anabasis of Xenophon (401-399 BC),

they remained relatively obscure until the early twentieth century, with most

Thracian art objects assigned to the Scythian culture. After 1917, Dr. Bogdan D. Filow,

first director of the Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology, argued persuasively for the

 indigenous character and style of ancient Thracian art. Subsequently, in light of

such new interpretations, large quantities of important Thracian art objects have

been recovered in Bulgaria.
Most Thracian gold and silver items in the exhibit were manufactured between the

 5th and 3rd century BC, the period of greatest economic, political and cultural

expansion of Thrace under the Odrysian kingdom in the Balkan Peninsula, with

Kotys I (386-359 BC), rivalling king Philip II of Macedon in the first years of his reign.

Some of the richest burials, which date from 6th-3rd centuries BC (including

Varbitsa, Rahmanli, Brezovo, Dalboki, Ezerovo, Duvanlij, Mezek, Mogilanska

 mogila in Vratsa, Sveshtari, Kazanluk, and Shipka) show convincingly that

several centers of political activity existed in Thracian lands during that time. 

Thrace was also well known for its silver and gold mines, including the Pangeion

gold mines near the Strymon delta, captured by Philip II in 348 BC.
[Fig.2: Sites with mounds containing Thracian tombs in Bulgaria (Athena Review).]
While  varying  in layout and structure, tombs in Bulgaria during this era (5th-3rd

centuries BC ) share common architectural elements. Made of either cut stone

blocks or  fired bricks, they were sometimes adorned with a painted decoration.

Their main burial chambers were either rectangular in plan, or circular, topped by

a dome (tholos). The entrances to many Thracian tombs have sophisticated façades

comparable to Macedonian, Persian and Lycian examples, and also contain covered

 passages (dromos) with painted walls and ceilings which in some ways resemble

 Etrurian tombs.
Finds shown in the current exhibit have been selected from more than 350 Bulgarian

tombs spanning the period between the end of 3rd millennium to the 4th century AD.

 The high artistic mastery, stylistic features, and skilled workmanship of these

ancient Thracian objects, displayed for the first time in the US,  comprise a major

source of information on Thracian history, culture and art. The amount of detailed

evidence these objects contain may be seen from a sampling of the major

collections (most, from the 5th-3rd c. BC), discussed below.
The Vâlchitrân Treasure, found in north-central Bulgaria in 1925, and dating from

 the end of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1300-1000 BC), consists of 13 gold  vessels

and lids distinguished by the simplicity of their shapes and the subtlety of their

design. Some show close parallels with items from Mycenae, providing clear

evidence for cultural contacts between Thrace and the Mycenaean world. Other

Bronze Age deposits were found at Kazichene near Sofia.
The Panagjurishte Treasure, excavated in south-central Bulgaria in 1949, consists

of 9 vessels (8 rhyta and 1 large phiale) of pure gold from a ceremonial or feast set.

 Weighing a total of 6.100 kilograms, it is by far the richest and most brilliant gold

 hoard yet discovered. To give some idea of its relative value, it has been

calculated that a Thracian ruler in the late 4th century BC would have been able

to pay wages to 500 mercenaries for a year with this quantity of gold. These gold i

tems, finely crafted in the latter part of 4th century BC by a workshop at Propontis

or at Western Asia Minor contain various mythological subjects  including a scene

from the Greek drama `Seven Against Thebes' on the amphora, while one of the

rhyta with a ram-shaped protome shows Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera before the

 judgment of Paris. In some cases, the names of the gods are inscribed in Greek

beside their images. The vessels are also inscribed with graffiti showing their

weight in both Persian darics and Alexandrian (or Attic) staters.
The Borovo Treasure, found in 1974, consists of a set of five silver-gilt wine vessels

 dating from ca.375-350 BC Included are three rhyta or drinking vessels with  their

lower ends (protomes) shaped as a horse, a bull, and a sphinx. There are also a

 large two-handled cup, and an amphora-rhyton with scenes from the mysteries

of Dionysus. Four of the vessels are inscribed in Greek, saying they were given

to the Thracian king Kotys I by inhabitants of the town of Beos in southeastern Thrace.
The Lukovit Collection from north Bulgaria, dating from  the second half of the 4th

 century BC, contains silver and silver-gilt pieces. These include three small jugs,

 nine phialai, and three full sets of appliqués and ornaments for horse harnesses,

 decorated with animal motifs and hunters on horseback.
The Letnitsa Hoard, also from north Bulgaria, and found in a large bronze receptacle,

 includes horse harnress appliqués in the form of fifteen square and rectangular

plaques showing scenes from Thracian myths. Such horse ornaments decorated

 with fabulous animal motifs were widespread among Thracians in the 6th-2nd

 centuries BC. Always occurring in pairs, they were placed symmetrically on

either side of the horse's head.
The Rogozen Treasure, discovered in the winter of 1985/86 in northwest Bulgaria,

is the largest single collection of ancient treasure ever found in southeastern Europe.

 The 165 pieces of silver in this hoard weigh almost 20 kilograms. The great majority

 of objects were phialai and jugs (fig.3), thirty-one of which are gilded. (Phialai are f

lat, somewhat shallow bowls with small round centers, typical of the Hellenistic

period.)  The Rogozen items were found in two groups of 100 and 65, placed five

meters apart at only 0.4 meters depth.  This immense hoard, accumulated over

nearly 150 years from the mid-5th century to the last quarter of the 4th century

BC, includes vessels from specific workshops in Anatolia, Eastern Greece,

Southern Thrace (Odryssi), and Northwestern Thrace (Triballi). Most of the jugs

are native Thracian, with the great majority taken from other Thracian burial

mounds or tumuli. Scenes depicted include a remarkable 'boar hunting' scene,

and the Great Thracian Goddess shown riding a likoness, and elsewhere i

n a quadriga, or 4-horse chariot. Many Rogozen Treasure vessels are inscribed in

 Greek with punched lettering, showing several royal Thracian names and geograp

hical sites in southeast Thrace.
[Fig.3: Silver-gilt vessel, Rogozen (E. Tsenova, Mus. of History, Vratsa).]
The Mogilanska mogila mound in Vratsa yielded , during 1965-66 excavations

 in the heart of the city, three stone tombs of noble Thracian chiefs. While one

had been plundered in antiquity, another with two funerary chambers, was fortunately

 intact.  In the outer chamber were remains of a biga, or a team of two horses,

with straps of the horse's bridle richly decorated with silver appliqués. In the main

 chamber skeletons of an adult man and a young man were found with two silver

jugs, four inscribed phialai, bronze Greek vessels, and arms including a wood quiver

 (gorythos) with many bronze arrowheads, iron spearheads, a bronze Chalkidian

 type helmet, a silver-gilt greave (knemis) The younger man, who had been killed

by an iron spearhead, wore an elegant gold head wreath, gold earrings, gold buttons,

  pendants and rosette-shaped appliqués. In the third Vratsa tomb, partly robbed

 in antiquity were skeletons of a man and a woman with gold and a silver jugs,

 gold jewelry, votive clay objects, a quiver with arrowheads, and iron spearheads.

The gold jug shows two galloping quadrigae (four-horsed chariots) with a man in

a hauberk.  Dating of the Vratsa tombs, based on several Attic pottery vessels

show, isabout 375-340 BC.
The Kasanluk Tomb in south Bulgaria  is famous for its beautiful wall paintings of

the early 3rd century BC, one of the most unique masterpieces of Early Hellenistic

pictorial art. Despite the small surface containing the decorative friezes, the unknown

 artist has created an exceptional work of art. This tomb was built during the reign

of king Seuthes III, either for him personally or for close relatives among the nobility.
The Shipka Tombs include seven tombs recently uncovered in the south foothills

of the Balkan Range.  They consist of developed façades, each notably different

from one another. Not surprisingly, most of these tombs had been robbed in

ancient times, with only one remaining untouched by treasure-hunters.