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Razgrad Castle
Alternative name a) Abrittus
b) Abrittos
limes Mösischer Limes
section back line
Dating (occupancy) Constantine,
2nd half of the 4th century
to the 6th century
Type Legion and cohort fort
unit a) Legio IX Claudia (beneficiary) ,
b) Cohors II Lucensium
size 10 ha
Construction Stone fort
State of preservation Numerous remains of the wall of the ramparts and the interior buildings are visible above ground, the foundation walls have been restored and preserved
place Rasgrad
Geographical location 43 ° 31 '16 "  N , 26 ° 33' 6"  E Coordinates: 43 ° 31 '16 "  N , 26 ° 33' 6"  E hf
Previous Sexaginta Prista ( Russian ) (north)
The Limes on the Lower Danube
General plan of the Archaeological Park
Monument to Anani Jawaschow
Portrait of a married couple on a gravestone from the 2nd or 3rd century
Detailed reconstructions of the fort
The restored north gate
Remnants of a horseshoe tower
Tower 19 on the south wall
Finding plan of the enclosure and location of the intermediate towers mentioned in the article
Portico of the Praetorium
Entrance area of ​​the museum

Abrittus (also: Abritus, Abrittos) was a Roman fort and a civil settlement ( vicus ) or early Byzantine city ​​in the province of Moesia near today's Rasgrad (or Razgrad) in Bulgaria . Over time it developed into one of the largest urban centers in this region. The fort is one of the best-researched Roman sites in Southeast Europe . It was the first time that a Roman fortification was almost completely excavated and preserved in Bulgaria.


The ancient name of the city is u. a. known from the inscription on a limestone Hercules altar, which was found in 1954 and dates from 139 to 161 AD. The Latin inscription CIV was found on an early Christian tombstone . ABR. , which was interpreted by Boris Gerov and Georgi Mihailov as the abbreviation for Civitas Abritanorum , which was later confirmed by Teofil Ivanov. The letter A was also found carved into the walls of the northern horseshoe towers, the north gate and the east wall. Ivanov believes they stand for Abritus . Abritus can also be found in a Greek inscription (location unknown), which is now kept in the museum of Veliki Preslav .

Location and function

Razgrad is located in the center of northeast Bulgaria, in the valley of the Beli Lom river , in the Ludogorie landscape , which is part of the Danube lowland . The topography of this region has a flat or slightly hilly appearance. The Beli Lom is a tributary of the Russenski Lom , which flows into the Danube about 50 kilometers further north near Russe , once the site of the fort and naval base ( Classis Moesica ) Sexaginta Prista .

Over the course of many centuries, several trade routes that connected Central Europe with the Black Sea region and Asia crossed here. The "Archaeological Reserve Abritus" is located around 50 kilometers south of the Danube, in the Chisarlik corridor, one kilometer east of Razgrad, along the banks of the Beli Lom river, and covers an area of ​​approximately 1,000 hectares. This very fertile region has been used intensively for agriculture , viticulture and cattle breeding since ancient times and primarily supplied the settlements and military bases on the Danube border with food.

Abrittus served as a fortress for the rear Limes line, whose occupation was supposed to protect the Danube border of the Roman Empire and strategically important road and trade connections with Odessus , the provincial metropolis Marcianopolis and Sexaginta Prista from invasions from the north.

Research history

The first significant discovery was the Thracian predecessor settlement. This was followed by the localization of the late Roman fort and the early Byzantine city. Finally, the Bulgarian successor settlement was also examined archaeologically.

The explorations in Abrittus began in 1887. In 1893 the Razgrad-based school director Anani Jawaschow discovered the remains of a basilica from the 6th century and probably parts of the south gate 60 m east of the west gate. However, he mistook the basilica for a temple of Apollo due to an ancient inscription that was reused during construction . In 1928 the NE fan-shaped tower was exposed. In 1930, Jassow published his excavation results at Chisarlik.

In 1953 Teofil Ivanov excavated other parts of the basilica. When the inscription was found with the name of the place, it became clear in 1954 that the ruins that had been uncovered were the abbey mentioned in numerous ancient sources. From 1955 to 1976 the excavations were carried out by the Archaeological Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Historical Museum in Razgrad. During this time it was possible to determine the exact position of all towers and gates.

The large-scale excavations had to be temporarily stopped in 1972 because the Roman wall sections now disappeared under the site of a pharmaceutical factory. In the central and western sections of the archaeological site in particular, they were severely restricted by the factory premises. However, the then socialist government of Bulgaria was not ready to relocate one of the largest medical production centers in the Balkans. The most important excavation campaigns were under the direction of Teofil Ivanov. Based on his findings, an exact reconstruction of the fort was possible, based also on comparative studies with the help of ancient sources and similar camps uncovered at the Limes. The surrounding walls, which are up to 2 m high in places today, have largely been exposed. The archaeological investigations - a little further away from the factory - were only resumed in the 1990s.

In 2002, a lapidarium with 60 inscription stones was set up near the museum . The remains of the fort, which are still a few meters high in some places, have been restored and conserved and are now part of an archaeological exhibition area with an attached museum, in which the finds are kept and exhibited.

In the years 2007-2013 Abritus was funded by an EU project with EUR 2.5 million. The city of Razgrad took on a contribution of EUR 0.5 million. In 2017, many of the newly built paths were completely overgrown by vegetation.

Abrittus is one of the 100 national tourist objects in Bulgaria.


In 1921 wine growers discovered 26 bronze statues and reliefs of Greco-Roman deities from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD north of the Chisarlik. They are exhibited today in the Razgrad Historical Museum. During the excavations, a large amount of gold and silver objects were also found, including a large coin hoard from the 5th century AD, consisting of 835 gold coins weighing almost four kilograms. These were issues of ten different late Roman emperors. Among the noteworthy finds was a golden Pegasus , which is also represented in the coat of arms of Razgrad today.


The first traces of human settlement activity can be traced back to the Upper Palaeolithic . The hill of Chisarlik is located directly on the bank of Belo Lom. a. also a cultural layer from the 2nd half of the 5th century BC Found. The roots of the ancient abrittus go back to a Thracian settlement (4th to 1st century BC). It was probably the metropolis of the Rysiké strategy during the reign of the last Thracian kings .

In 45 AD the lower Danube became part of the Roman province of Moesia, after the division in 86 AD of the province of Moesia inferior (Lower Moesia ), in late antiquity the newly established province of Moesia secunda (Upper Moesia ). Roman auxiliary troops were also stationed here at least since the year 78 AD . In the 2nd century the Abrittus was the camp of the Cohors II Lucensium . The early fort has not yet been explored. Teofil Iwanow believes it is possible, based on the spolia found, that construction of the stone fort could have started under Marcus Aurelius or his successor Commodus . This place was best known for the Battle of Abrittus , in which Emperor Decius was killed in 251 by the Goths who had crossed the Danube between the forts of Augustae (Harlez) and Sexaginta Prista . The camp was evidently not destroyed during the Gothic War, but reinforced.

In the 4th century, gates and walls were further expanded and reinforced under Emperor Constantine the Great (306–327). After the withdrawal of the regular military, the fort was used as a fortified civil town ( civitas ). Abrittus was destroyed several times after that but was rebuilt again and again. Until its final decline, its built-up area reached a size of 300 hectares. In the meantime, in addition to Roman veterans and Thracians, many immigrants had settled here. After Christianity was established as the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Abrittus also advanced to become an ecclesiastical center.

In the last phase of the settlement of Abrittus, under Justinian , repairs were made to the defenses. In the south, a narrow wall was raised between tower 19 and tower 20 in front of the fort wall. All gates and hatches were walled up - except for the west gate. According to Hierocles , it was the seat of a bishop in Justinian times and belonged to the ecclesiastical province of Marcianopolis . The titular Abrittum also goes back to this diocese .

585 attacks by the Avars and Slavs severely damaged the fort; then it was given up. From the end of the 9th to the beginning of the 10th century, Bulgarians occupied the ruins and re-fortified them. This fortress was again burned down by the Pechenegs in the middle of the 11th century during the war with Svyatoslav I , prince of the Kievan Rus .


The late antique fort was built in the late 3rd century or at the beginning of the 4th century. It was on a slight elevation on the opposite bank, west of the early Roman vicus . When choosing the location of the fort, the Roman architects based themselves on the Thracian predecessor settlement. The fortification had a rectangular floor plan and covered an area of ​​around 10 hectares. The camp was secured by the river on its north and east sides. In the south and west, a moat was also built, but was later filled up again. Some sections are still recognizable today as slight depressions. Most of the building material came from quarries near the fort. There is no evidence of marble quarries so far; The stone probably had to be imported from other provinces to design the representative buildings. The supply of fresh water was ensured by a water pipe consisting of clay pipes. Their starting point was in the village of Poroliste, 5–6 km away. The line passed under the south gate and reached into the center of the fort. Numerous channels for the drainage of rainwater and meltwater have been identified on the wall. However, this drainage system was not connected to the fortress' sewer system.


The thickness of the fortress wall varied between 2.40 and 2.85 meters; it was 1,400 meters long and probably reached a height of up to 12 meters. The battlement was at a height of approx. 10 m. Their foundations, on average 1.50 m deep, consisted of mortared limestone. The upper part of the foundations was provided with a final stone wreath on the front and inside. For this purpose, tombstones and architectural fragments were re-used ( Spolia ), which were decorated with reliefs and sometimes also provided with Latin or Greek inscriptions. Presumably they came from the surrounding necropolis or from destroyed public buildings of the 2nd century AD. They were supposed to compensate for the displacements caused by the weight of the rising masonry. The rising masonry was raised using the massive Opus implectum technique. The facing on the inside and outside of the wall was carried out with carefully worked limestone blocks, the space in between was filled with cast masonry consisting of mortared rubble with yellow and red brick fragments. In the east, the wall was adapted to the course of the edge of the river bank and thereby turned in the middle about 104 degrees to the northwest. The north wall was 295 m long, the eastern 358.90 m, the southern 354 m and the western 339 m long. At the north, south and west gates, there were staircases on the inside, through which one could reach the battlement on the wall. The staircase at the north gate was built from secondary building material and was 9.84 m long and 1.60 m wide. The arched niche under the stairs was used as a stacking place for projectiles. The stairs at the south gate were 12.66 m long and 2.10 m wide, at the west gate 6 m long and 1.86 m wide. There was no evidence of an entrance at the east gate.

Gates and hatches

The wall was broken through by four main gates, one each in the north, one in the south, one in the west and one on the northeast corner, and nine small secondary gates. In contrast to the camps of the Middle Imperial period, they were not exactly opposite one another. The gate chambers of all four gate structures were almost identical in their construction. The outer and inner facades of the gates were clad with limestone blocks that were held together by iron clips soldered with lead. There were semicircular niches at the entrances, which had been installed at a height of 1.70 m. Presumably there were statues in them.

The gates in the west and north had an approx. 10 m high gatehouse in the middle with an outside and inside gate. The gatehouses had two floors in which the winches for raising and lowering the portcullis were housed. Presumably there was also a battle platform with battlements as parapets above the gatehouses. The gate structures each had only a 4 m high passage that could be closed with a double-leaf wooden gate. The outer passage at the north gate was 4.16 m wide, the one in the west 4.50 m. The gate chamber had a length of 6.18 m. In the north the gate was flanked by the fan tower (No. 10) of the NE corner and to the south by a horseshoe tower (No. 11). They were 19 m apart. At the outer gates there were pilasters made of carefully hewn limestone blocks on either side .

The eastern gate was located in the NE corner because of the demolition of the terrain to the river bank. Like the south gate, it consisted of a square tower through which a passage (width 4.50 m) led.

The south gate stood in the center of a funnel-like indentation in the wall and was very similar to that of the Iatrus fort .

The outer and inner passage at the north gate were walled up in the 6th century, at the south and east gate only the outer passage.

The hatches were in the west between tower no.28 and 27, in the fan-shaped tower of the SW corner, in the east on tower no.13 and 15 and in the south east of tower no.17, as well as two each on the sides of the long rectangular towers ( No. 19 and 23).


The defense system comprised four types of towers. It was reinforced by four fan towers at the corners, 29 horseshoe towers and six square intermediate towers (on the east and south walls). They were originally around 15 to 16 m high and had three storeys. The individual floors could be reached via simple wooden stairs. The findings of the excavations revealed that the towers were covered with tiled roofs. Remains of it could be found in all towers. Some of these yellow roof tile fragments were stamped ( FISC ). Their place of production is unknown. The battlements were located directly under the roof, from which the enemy could be fired - presumably through larger arched windows. The battlements on the lower floors were only provided with narrow loopholes. One such could be excavated on the east wall. The rising masonry was of the same construction as the fort wall. The foundations, which are up to 1.50 m deep, also consisted of mortared limestone rubble. In contrast to the fort wall, the towers stood on an approximately 60 cm thick base, the limestone blocks of which were held together by iron clips soldered with lead. The soil was made up of a simple gravel layer that was extracted from broken limestone and sandstone. The entrances were centrally located on the rear wall of the tower, and there were also exits to the battlements on the fort wall.

There were eight horseshoe towers on the north wall, including the two flank towers of the north gate. The distance between them ranged between 27.80 m and 28.33 m. On the east wall, on the other hand, there was only a horseshoe tower as the southern flank protection of the east gate, which also differed somewhat from the standard construction of the other horseshoe towers. The rest consisted of four rectangular towers. The distance between them was between 21.50 m and 79.75 m. Seven horseshoe towers and two long rectangular intermediate towers were built on the south wall. The distance between them varied between 19 m and 21.10 m.

The horseshoe towers cantilevered 10 m from the fort wall. The towers no. 27 and 28 are exemplary for all of them; they measure 18.90 m × 19 m × 10.25 m or 10.45 m. Its side walls went off the fort wall at an exact right angle. The only exception to this was tower no. 11 in the east, the side walls of which were attached to the fence, sloping a little further.

Inside the two long rectangular towers on the east wall (No. 19 and 23) stood two massive pillars with a rectangular base (2.10 mx 1.50 m), built in Opus mixtum . The pillars supported the intermediate floors of the second and third floors. The masonry mortar contained a small amount of small fragments of bricks or roof tiles. At a height of 2.10 m there was an outwardly protruding limestone cornice ( cranking ). A similar cornice was also observed on the north gate. The floor was raised a little later.

In the case of the four eastern rectangular towers (dimensions: 3.5 m to 7.30 m), it is particularly noticeable that two of them (No. 12 and 13) do not protrude behind the wall, which is what their neighbors (No. 14 and 15 ) but is very much the case.

Interior development

In terms of internal structures, three larger buildings could be uncovered, a warehouse on the west wall, the praetorium (commandant's house) in the east and two other larger buildings. The praetorium was a representative building with an inner courtyard, surrounded by a portico , supported on 22 marble columns in the east and 15 in the south, and a small temple. The large grain warehouses from the late Roman period were also of greater importance. The Horreum , ten meters south of the west gate, was completely excavated and examined more closely. It had a rectangular floor plan and was in use from the 4th to the 6th centuries. The building was oriented from north to south and measured 56 × 20 meters.


The following crew units are known for Abrittus:

Time position Troop name comment
Mid 2nd century AD unknown auxiliary cohort Javasov found during his investigations of the basilica a. a. also an inscription - now lost - naming a cohort of auxiliary troops and their commanding officer. It is only known that it was made at the time of Iulius Crassus , governor of the Moesia Inferior in the years 140–142 or 146–148. It was the earliest evidence of the presence of auxiliary troops in Abrittus.
late 2nd to 3rd century AD Cohors II Lucensium (the second cohort from the conventus Lucensis ) In the 2nd century AD, the headquarters of this cohort was established here. Under Septimius Severus it was moved to the Germania fort (today Saparewa Banja ).
2nd to 3rd century AD Legio XI Claudia (the eleventh Claudian Legion) During this time, a vexillation of this legion, which had its main camp in Durostorum , was stationed here as a beneficiary . From an inscription from the late 3rd century AD, found in Aquileia , the name of an Optios , Valerius Longinus, who was born in Abritus is known.

Civil city

The Roman settlement was founded as a vicus by members of the fort's crew in the late 1st century AD . Its core was on the bend of the river or on the north bank of the Beli Lom. The heyday of the place extended from the 2nd to the 4th century. During this period the camp village grew into an important trading center.

The civil settlement, discovered in 1954, was located about 300 to 400 m south of the Chisarlik and had the characteristics of a typical Roman city, a right-angled road network, administrative buildings and a market square ( forum ) . It was also supplied with fresh water through a pipe made of clay pipes. During the excavations, a large building and some farms ( villa rustica ) were discovered on the main road . The city existed until the 6th century thanks to the presence of the army and its trade connections. Judging by the inscriptions found, the population consisted mainly of Greek traders and craftsmen, Sarmatians and Goths, and immigrants from western Asia Minor.


To the north, west and east of the city hill necropolises (so-called tumuli ) have been found. In the northern and eastern parts, mainly members of the Thracian upper class were buried. The remains of the southern and eastern necropolis have been partially excavated. The burials could be dated between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD. However, they contained only very meager grave goods. The eastern necropolis was built in the 5th century AD. The type of architecture and furnishings were previously unknown in Bulgaria.


  • Wilhelm Tomaschek : Abrytus. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume I, 1, Stuttgart 1893, column 116.
  • Teofil Iwanov: Archaeological research in Abrittus (1953-1961). In: VI Conference Internationale d'études classiques des pays socialistes. Bulgarska Akademija na Naukite, Sofia 1963, ZDB -ID 1002571-6 , pp. 81-93.
  • Ralph F. Hoddinott: Bulgaria in antiquity. An archaeological introduction. Benn, London et al. 1975, ISBN 0-510-03281-8 .
  • Dinu Adameşteanu:  Abrittus (Razgrad) Bulgaria . In: Richard Stillwell et al. a. (Ed.): The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1976, ISBN 0-691-03542-3 .
  • Teofil Ivanov: Abritus. Rimski kastel i rannovizantijski grad v Dolna Mizija .. Part 1: Topografija i ukrepitelna sistema na Abritus. Izdatelstvo Bulgarskata Akademija na Naukite, Sofia 1980 (with an English summary, pp. 236–248: Abritus, a Roman Castle and Early Byzantine Town in Moesia Inferior ).
  • Teofil Iwanov, Stojan Stojanov: Abritus. History and archeology. Directorate “Cultural and Historical Heritage”, Razgrad 1985.
  • Robert Browning : Abritus. In: Alexander P. Kazhdan et al. (Ed.): Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Volume 1: Aaro - Eski. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 1991, ISBN 0-19-504652-8 , pp. 6-7.
  • Velisar Velkov : Abritus. In: Adolf M. Hakkert (Ed.): Lexicon of Greek and Roman cities and place names in antiquity, approx. 1500 BC - approx. AD 500. Fascicule 1. Hakkert, Amsterdam 1992, ISBN 90-256-0985-6 , Sp. 39-41.
  • Iris von Bredow : Abrit (t) os. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 1, Metzler, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-476-01471-1 , column 31.
  • Galena Radoslavova: Abritus - a late Roman-Byzantine city in Moesia Secunda. In: Orsolya Heinrich-Tamáska (ed.): Keszthely-Fenékpuszta in the context of late antique continuity research between Noricum and Moesia (= Castellum Pannonicum Pelsonense. Vol. 2). Leidorf, Rahden 2011, ISBN 978-3-89646-152-0 , pp. 249-256.

Web links

Commons : Abrittus  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. AE 1957, 97 , with the name form Abritus .
  2. Stojan Stojanov: Златното съкровище от Абритус 5 в. след н.е. (German: The gold coin treasure from Abrittus, 5th century CE). Septemvri, Sofia 1982.
  3. ^ Inscriptiones Graecae in Bulgaria repertae 743 ( online ).
  4. CIL 16, 22
  5. CIL 3, 13727
  6. Iordanes , Getica 284th
  7. Prokopios , De aedificiis 4, 11.
  8. Hierocles, Synekdemos 63, 6, 8.
  9. CIL 5, 942 : ... natus in Moesia infer (iore) castell (o) Abritanor (um) .