Last updated
Provincia Thracia
ἐπαρχία Θρᾳκῶν
Province of the Roman Empire
46–7th century
Roman Empire - Thracia (125 AD).svg
The province of Thracia within the Roman Empire, c. 125 AD
Capital Heraclea Perinthus, Philippopolis
Historical era Classical Antiquity
 Annexation of Thracian client state
 Division by Diocletian
c. 293
  Theme of Thrace established
7th century
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Thracian kingdom (Roman vassal state)
Thrace (theme) Blank.png
Today part ofFlag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117-38), showing the imperial province of Thracia in southeastern Europe. Roman Empire 125.png
Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117–38), showing the imperial province of Thracia in southeastern Europe.
The Roman diocese of Thraciae. Dioecesis Thraciae 400 AD.png
The Roman diocese of Thraciae.

Thracia or Thrace (ΘρᾴκηThrakē) is the ancient name given to the southeastern Balkan region, the land inhabited by the Thracians.



From the perspective of classical Greece, Thracia included the territory north of Thessaly, with no definite boundaries, [1] sometimes to the inclusion of Macedonia and Scythia minor. [2] Later, Thracia proper was understood to include the territory bordered by the Danube on the north, by the Black Sea on the east, by Macedonia in the south and by Illyria to the west, [2] roughly equivalent with the territory of the Thracian kingdom as it stood during the 5th to 1st centuries BC.

With the annexation of the Thracian kingdom by the Roman Empire, by order of emperor Claudius, in AD 46, Thracia (formally provincia Thracia "Thracian province", ἐπαρχία Θρᾳκῶν "eparchy of the Thracians") was established as a Roman province. After the administrative reforms of the 3rd century, Thracia was reduced to the territory of the six small provinces of the Diocese of Thrace. Later still, the medieval Byzantine theme of Thracia contained only what today is Eastern Thrace.

Under the Principate

The Odrysian kingdom of Thrace became a Roman client kingdom c. 20 BC, while the Greek city-states on the Black Sea coast came under Roman control as civitates foederatae ("allied" cities with internal autonomy). After the death of the Thracian king Rhoemetalces III in 46 AD and an unsuccessful anti-Roman revolt, the kingdom was annexed as the Roman province of Thracia. [3]

The new province encompassed not only the lands of the former Odrysian realm, but also the north-eastern portion of the province of Macedonia as well as the islands of Thasos, Samothrace and Imbros in the Aegean Sea. To the north, Thracia bordered the province of Moesia Inferior; initially, the provincial boundary ran at a line north of the Haeumus Mountains, including the cities of Nicopolis ad Istrum and Marcianopolis in Thracia, but by the end of the 2nd century AD the border had moved south along the Haemus. The area of the Thracian Chersonese (modern Gallipoli Peninsula) was excluded from its governor's purview and administered as part of the emperor's personal domains. [4] The province's first capital, where the Roman governor resided, was Heraclea Perinthus. Thracia was an imperial province, headed initially by a procurator , and, after c. 107/109, by a legatus Augusti pro praetore . Otherwise, the internal structure of the old Thracian kingdom was retained and only gradually superseded by Roman institutions. The old tribal-based strategiai ("generalcies"), headed by a strategos ("general"), were retained as the main administrative divisions, but some villages were grouped together into kōmarchiai ("village headships") or subordinated to neighbouring cities (the two Roman colonies of colonia Claudia Aprensis and colonia Flavia Pacis Deueltensium and several Greek cities, many of whom were founded by Trajan), which were set apart. In the mid-1st century, the strategiai numbered fifty, but the progressive expansion of the cities and the land assigned to them reduced their number: by the early 2nd century, they had decreased to fourteen, and c. 136 they were abolished altogether as official administrative divisions. [5]

Personification of the province of Thrace from the Hadrianeum Hadrianeum Tracia.JPG
Personification of the province of Thrace from the Hadrianeum

As it was an interior province, far from the borders of the Empire, and having a major Roman road (Via Egnatia) that passed through the region, Thrace remained peaceful and prosperous until the Crisis of the Third Century, when it was repeatedly raided by Goths from beyond the Danube. During the campaigns to confront these raiders, Emperor Decius (r. 249–251) fell in the Battle of Abritus in 251. Thracia suffered especially heavily in the great Gothic seaborne raids of 268–270, and it was not until 271 that Emperor Aurelian (r. 270–275) was able to secure the Balkan provinces against Gothic raids for some time to come. [6]

Generally, the provincial and urban policy of Roman emperors, with the foundation of several cities of Greek type (city-state), [7] contributed more to the progress of Hellenization than to the Romanization of Thrace. So by the end of Roman antiquity, the phenomenon of Romanization occurs only upon the Lower Moesia, while Thrace lying south of the Haemus mountains had been almost completely Hellenized. [8]

As regards the Thracian dispersion outside the borders (extra fines provinciae), from epigraphic evidence we know the presence of many Thracians (mostly soldiers) throughout the Roman Empire from Syria and Arabia to Britain. [9] [10]

Late Antiquity

Under the administrative reforms of Diocletian (r. 284–305), Thracia's territory was divided into four smaller provinces: Thracia, Haemimontus , Rhodope and Europa .

The new province of Thracia comprised the northwestern portion of the old province, i.e. the upper valley of the Hebrus river between Haemus and Rhodope and including Philippopolis (in Thracia), which had become the provincial capital in the early 3rd century. It was headed by a governor with the rank of consularis .

The four Thracian provinces, along with the two provinces of Moesia Inferior, were grouped into the diocese of Thraciae, which in turn was part of the Prefecture of the East. Militarily, the entire region was under the control of the magister militum per Thracias. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

Thrace geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe

Thrace is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. It comprises southeastern Bulgaria, northeastern Greece, and the European part of Turkey. The region's boundaries are based on that of the Roman Province of Thrace; the lands inhabited by the ancient Thracians extended in the north to modern-day Northern Bulgaria and Romania and to the west into the region of Macedonia.

Moesia Historical region of the Balkans

Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Central Serbia, Kosovo and the northern parts of North Macedonia, the whole of Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobruja and small parts of Southern Ukraine.

Thracians ancient Indo-European people that lived in eastern parts of Europe

The Thracians were an Indo-European people who inhabited large parts of Eastern and Southeastern Europe in ancient history. Thracians resided mainly in the Balkans, but were also located in Anatolia and other locations in Eastern Europe.

Western Thrace Traditional region of Greece

Western Thrace or West Thrace is a geographic and historical region of Greece, between the Nestos and Evros rivers in the northeast of the country; East Thrace, which lies east of the river Evros, forms the European part of Turkey, and the area to the north, in Bulgaria, is known as Northern Thrace.

Odrysian kingdom Union of Thracian tribes and kingdoms (5th century BC to 1st century AD)

The Odrysian Kingdom was a state union of over 40 Thracian tribes and 22 kingdoms that existed with interruptions between the 5th century BC and the 1st century AD. It consisted mainly of present-day Bulgaria, spreading to parts of Southeastern Romania, parts of Northern Greece and parts of modern-day European Turkey. Dominated by the eponymous Odrysian people, it was the largest and longest-lasting Thracian state in recorded history.


The Getae or Gets were several Thracian tribes that once inhabited the regions to either side of the Lower Danube, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. Both the singular form Get and plural Getae may be derived from a Greek exonym: the area was the hinterland of Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast, bringing the Getae into contact with the ancient Greeks from an early date. Although it is believed that the Getae were related to their westward neighbours, the Dacians, several scholars, especially in the Romanian historiography, posit that the Getae and the Dacians were the same people.

Bessi Ancient Thracian tribe

The Bessi were an independent Thracian tribe who lived in a territory ranging from Moesia to Mount Rhodope in Northern Thrace, but are often mentioned as dwelling about Haemus, the mountain range that separates Moesia from Thrace and from Mount Rhodope to the northern part of Hebrus.

Didymoteicho Place in Greece

Didymoteicho is a town located on the eastern edge of the Evros regional unit of East Macedonia and Thrace, in northeastern Greece. It is the seat of the municipality of the same name. The town sits on a plain and located south east of Svilengrad, south of Edirne, Turkey and Orestiada, west of Uzunköprü, Turkey, about 20 km north of Soufli and about 90 km north of Alexandroupoli. The municipality of Didymóteicho has a land area of 565.4 km² and a population of 19,493 inhabitants.

The Moesi was a Thracian tribe which inhabited present day Northern Bulgaria and Serbia, which gave its name to the Roman province of Moesia after its defeat in 29 BC. Moesia was first established as a separate province in 45–46 AD.

Enez Place in Marmara, Turkey

Enez is a town and a district of Edirne Province, in Thrace, Turkey. The pre-Turkish name of the town was Ainos, Latinized as Aenus.

The term Thraco-Roman describes the Romanized culture of Thracians under the rule of the Roman Empire.

Diocese of Thrace

The Diocese of Thrace was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of the eastern Balkan Peninsula. Philippopolis was the capital.

Serbia in the Roman era

Much of the territory of the modern state of Serbia was part of the Roman Empire and later the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. In particular, the region of Central Serbia was under Roman rule for about 600 years, from the 1st century BC until the arrival of the Slavs into the Balkans during the 6th century. The territories were administratively divided into the provinces of Moesia, Pannonia and Dardania. Moesia Superior roughly corresponds to modern Serbia proper; Pannonia Inferior included the eastern part of Serbia proper; Dardania included the western part of Serbia proper.

Thracian warfare

The history of Thracian warfare spans from the 10th century BC up to the 1st century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Thrace. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Thracian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Thracians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Thracian tribes.

Rhodope (province)

Rhodope was a late Roman and early Byzantine province, situated on the northern Aegean coast. A part of the Diocese of Thrace, it extended along the Rhodope Mountains range, covering parts of modern Western Thrace and south-western Bulgaria. The province was headed by a governor of the rank of praeses, with Trajanopolis as the provincial capital. According to the 6th-century Synecdemus, there were six further cities in the province, Maroneia, Maximianopolis, Nicopolis, Kereopyrgos and Topeiros.


Develtos or Deultum was an ancient city and bishopric in Thrace. It was located at the mouth of the River Sredetska on the west coast of Lake Mandrensko, previously part of the Gulf of Burgas, and near the modern village of Debelt.

Anastasiopolis-Peritheorion Place in Greece

Anastasiopolis-Peritheorion is an archaeological site located in northern Greece, southeast of the village of Amaxades in the Rhodope regional unit in Western Thrace. Today you can still see parts of the fortification walls of the ancient city of Anastasiopolis and Peritheorion. It is unclear whether these are two different cities or a single one that has been renamed in the meantime. The ancient city was an important port on the Aegean Sea and station on the Via Egnatia.

Thracian kingdom (Roman vassal state)

The Thracian kingdom, alternatively also the Sapaean kingdom, was an ancient Thracian state in the southeastern Balkans that existed from the middle of the 1st century BC to 46 AD. It was dominated by the Sapaean tribe, who ruled from their capital Bizye in what is now northwestern Turkey. Initially only of limited relevance, its power grew significantly after the battle of Actium in 31 BC, when Emperor Augustus installed a new dynasty that proved to be highly loyal and expansive. Conquering and ruling much of Thrace on Roman behalf, it lasted until 46 AD, when Emperor Claudius annexed the kingdom and made Thrace a Roman province.


  1. Swinburne Carr, Thomas (1838). The history and geography of Greece. Simpkin, Marshall & Company. p.  56.
  2. 1 2 Smith, Sir William (1857). Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography. London. p. 1176.
  3. Soustal (1991), pp. 59–60
  4. Soustal (1991), p. 60
  5. Soustal (1991), pp. 60–61
  6. Soustal (1991), p. 62
  7. D. Samsaris, Historical Geography of Western Thrace during the Roman Antiquity (in Greek), Thessaloniki 2005
  8. D. Samsaris, The Hellenization of Thrace during the Greek and Roman Antiquity (Diss. in Greek), Thessaloniki 1980
  9. D. Samsaris, Les Thraces dans l' Empire romain d' Orient (Le territoire de la Grece actuelle). Etude ethno-demographique, sociale, prosopographique et anthroponymique, Jannina 1993 (University of Jannina)
  10. D. Samsaris, Les Thraces dans l' Empire romain d' Orient (Asie Mineure, Syrie, Palestine et Arabie), Dodona 19 (1), 1989, p. 5-30
  11. Soustal (1991), pp. 62–63


Coordinates: 42°N26°E / 42°N 26°E / 42; 26