The Thracian horseman (also "Thracian Rider" or "Thracian Heros") is a recurring motif depicted in reliefs of the Hellenistic and Roman periods in the Balkans—mainly Thrace, Macedonia,Thessaly and Moesia—roughly from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. Inscriptions found in Romania identify the horseman as Heros and Eros (latin transcriptions of Ἥρως) and also Herron and Eron (latin transcriptions of Ἥρων), apparently the word heros used as a proper name. He is sometimes addressed in inscriptions merely as κύριος, δεσπότης or ἥρως. Inscriptions from Bulgaria give the names Salenos and Pyrmerula/Pirmerula.
The Thracian horseman is depicted as a hunter on horseback, riding from left to right. Between the horse's hooves is depicted either a hunting dog or a boar. In some instances, the dog is replaced by a lion. Its depiction is in the tradition of the funerary steles of Roman cavalrymen, with the addition of syncretistic elements from Hellenistic and Paleo-Balkanic religious or mythological tradition.
The Cult of the Thracian horseman was especially important in Philippi, where the Heros had the epithets of soter (saviour) and epekoos "answerer of prayers". Funerary stelae depicting the horseman belong to the middle or lower classes (while the upper classes preferred the depiction of banquet scenes).
The motif most likely represents a composite figure, a Thracian heroes[ clarification needed ] possibly based on Rhesus, the Thracian king mentioned in the Iliad, to which Scythian, Hellenistic and possibly other elements had been added.
Under the Roman Emperor Gordian III the god on horseback appears on coins minted at Tlos, in neighboring Lycia, and at Istrus, in the province of Lower Moesia, between Thrace and the Danube.
In the Roman era, the "Thracian horseman" iconography is further syncretised. The rider is now sometimes shown as approaching a tree entwined by a serpent, or as approaching a goddess. These motifs are partly of Greco-Roman and partly of possible Scythian origin. The motif of a horseman with his right arm raised advancing towards a seated female figure is related to Scythian iconographic tradition. It is frequently found in Bulgaria, associated with Asclepius and Hygeia.
Stelai dedicated to the Thracian Heros Archegetas have been found at Selymbria.
Apart from syncretism with other deities (such as Asclepios, Apollo, Sabatius), the figure of the Thracian Horseman was also found with several epithets: Karabasmos, Keilade(i)nos, Manimazos, Aularchenos, Aulosadenos, Pyrmeroulas. One in particular was found in Avren, dating from the III century CE, with a designation that seems to refer to horsemanship: Outaspios, and variations Betespios, Ephippios and Ouetespios.
Related to the Dioscuri motif is the so-called "Danubian Horsemen" motif of two horsemen flanking a standing goddess.These "Danubian horsemen" are thus called due to their reliefs being found in the Roman province of Danube. However, some reliefs have also been found in Roman Dacia - which gives the alternate name for the motif: "Dacian Horseman". Scholarship locates its diffusion across Moesia, Dacia, Pannonia and Danube, and, to a lesser degree, in Dalmatia and Thracia.
The motif of a standing goddess flanked by two horsemen, identified as Artemis flanked by the Dioscuri, and a tree entwined by a serpent flanked by the Dioscuri on horseback was transformed into a motif of a single horseman approaching the goddess or the tree.
The Madara Rider is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria. The monument is dated in the c. 7th/8th century, during the reign of Bulgar Khan Tervel. In 1979 became enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The relief of the Madara Rider in Bulgaria, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Siteincorporates elements of the autochthonous Thracian cult.
The motif of the Thracian horseman was continued in Christianised form in the equestrian iconography of both Saint George and Saint Demetrius.
The motif of the Thracian horseman is not to be confused with the depiction of a rider slaying a barbarian enemy on funerary stelae, as on the Stele of Dexileos, interpreted as depictions of a heroic episode from the life of the deceased.
Thrace is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe. Bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east, it comprises present-day southeastern Bulgaria, northeastern Greece, and the European part of Turkey, roughly the Roman Province of Thrace. Lands also inhabited by ancient Thracians extended in the north to modern-day Northern Bulgaria and Romania and to the west into Macedonia.
Castor and Pollux are twin half-brothers in Greek and Roman mythology, known together as the Dioscuri.
The Dacians were the ancient Indo-European inhabitants of the cultural region of Dacia, located in the area near the Carpathian Mountains and west of the Black Sea. They are often considered a subgroup of the Thracians. This area includes mainly the present-day countries of Romania and Moldova, as well as parts of Ukraine, Eastern Serbia, Northern Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Southern Poland. The Dacians and the related Getae spoke the Dacian language, which has a debated relationship with the neighbouring Thracian language and may be a subgroup of it. Dacians were somewhat culturally influenced by the neighbouring Scythians and by the Celtic invaders of the 4th century BC.
The Thracians were an Indo-European speaking people who inhabited large parts of Southeast Europe in ancient history. Thracians resided mainly in Southeast Europe in modern-day Bulgaria, Romania and northern Greece, but also in north-western Anatolia in Turkey.
In a legend, Saint George—a soldier venerated in Christianity—defeats a dragon. The story goes that the dragon originally extorted tribute from villagers. When they ran out of livestock and trinkets for the dragon, they started giving up a human tribute once a year. This was acceptable to the villagers until a princess was chosen as the next offering. The saint thereupon rescues the princess and kills the dragon. The narrative was first set in Cappadocia in the earliest sources of the 11th and 12th centuries, but transferred to Libya in the 13th-century Golden Legend.
Sabazios is the horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. Though the Greeks interpreted Phrygian Sabazios as both Zeus and Dionysus, representations of him, even into Roman times, show him always on horseback, wielding his characteristic staff of power.
Dacian is an extinct language, generally believed to be a member of the Indo-European family, that was spoken in the Carpathian region in antiquity. In the 1st century, it was probably the predominant language of the ancient regions of Dacia and Moesia and possibly of some surrounding regions. The language was extinct by the 4th century AD.
The Thracian language is an extinct and poorly attested language, spoken in ancient times in Southeast Europe by the Thracians. The linguistic affinities of the Thracian language are poorly understood, but it is generally agreed that it was an Indo-European language with satem features.
The Madara Rider or Madara Horseman is a large early medieval rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara. The monument is dated to the very late 7th or more often the very early 8th century, during the reign of the Bulgar Khan Tervel. In 1979, the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Dacian draco was a military standard used by troops of the ancient Dacian people, which can be seen in the hands of the soldiers of Decebalus in several scenes depicted on Trajan's Column in Rome, Italy. This wind instrument has the form of a dragon with open wolf-like jaws containing several metal tongues. The hollow dragon's head was mounted on a pole with a fabric tube affixed at the rear. In use, the draco was held up into the wind, or above the head of a horseman, where it filled with air and gave the impression it was alive while making a shrill sound as the wind passed through its strips of material. The Dacian draco likely influenced the development of the similar Roman draco.
The Bessi or Bessae were a Thracian tribe that inhabited the upper valley of the Hebros and the lands between the Haemus and Rhodope mountain ranges in historical Thrace.
In Roman literature of the early 1st century CE, the Moesi appear as a Paleo-Balkan people who lived in the region around the River Timok to the south of the Danube. The Moesi do not appear in ancient sources before Augustus's death in 14 CE and are mentioned only by three authors: Ovid, Strabo and Livy. Recent research suggests that a Paleo-Balkan people known as the Moesi never actually existed but the name was transplanted from Asia Minor Mysians to the Balkans by the Romans as an alternative name for the people who lived in the later province of Moesia Superior as Dardani communities. This decision in Roman literature is linked to the appropriation of the name Dardani in official Roman ideological discourse as Trojan ancestors of the Romans and the creation of a fictive name for the actual Dardani who were seen as barbarians and antagonists of Rome in antiquity.
The Thracian religion comprised the mythology, ritual practices and beliefs of the Thracians, a collection of closely related ancient Indo-European peoples who inhabited eastern and southeastern Europe and northwestern Anatolia throughout antiquity and who included the Thracians proper, the Getae, the Dacians, and the Bithynians. The Thracians themselves did not leave an extensive written corpus of their mythology and rituals, but information about their beliefs is nevertheless available through epigraphic and iconographic sources, as well as through ancient Greek writings.
The Rogozen Treasure, called the find of the century, is a Thracian treasure.
Nicopolis ad Nestum or Nicopolis ad Mestum is a ruined Roman town in the province of Thracia (Thrace) near to the modern village of Garmen on the left bank of the Mesta river, in Garmen Municipality, Bulgaria. Although "ad Nestum" is the more commonly used alternative, "ad Mestum" is the correct form of the name during the Roman period.
The Dacian bracelets are bracelets associated with the ancient people known as the Dacians, a distinct branch of the Thracians. These bracelets were used as ornaments, currency, high rank insignia and votive offerings Their ornamentations consist of many elaborate regionally distinct styles. Bracelets of various types were worn by Dacians, but the most characteristic piece of their jewelry was the large multi-spiral bracelets; engraved with palmettes towards the ends and terminating in the shape of an animal head, usually that of a snake.
Dacian art is the art associated with the peoples known as Dacians or North Thracians; The Dacians created an art style in which the influences of Scythians and the Greeks can be seen. They were highly skilled in gold and silver working and in pottery making. Pottery was white with red decorations in floral, geometric, and stylized animal motifs. Similar decorations were worked in metal, especially the figure of a horse, which was common on Dacian coins.
Lyuba Ognenova-Marinova was a pioneering Bulgarian archaeologist. She was the first underwater archaeologist in the country and headed the investigations of the ancient Thracian city of Nesebar. She became one of the leading Bulgarian researchers specializing in ancient and Thracian archeology, authoring over 100 scientific publications. She served on the faculty of Sofia University and as a senior researcher at the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia.
On the "Danubian Horsemen" or "Danubian Riders":