Thrace (landscape)

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Thracian territories in the 5th to 3rd centuries BC Chr.
Southeast Europe in Roman times

Thrace ( Latin Thracia , ancient Greek Θρᾴκη Thrace [ ionic Θρηΐκη Thrēḯkē , epic also contracts Θρῄκη Thrḗkē ], Modern Greek Θράκη Thraki , Bulgarian Тракия Trakija , Turkish Thrace ), and Thrace , is a landscape on the eastern Balkan peninsula , which today to the states Bulgaria , Belongs to Greece and Turkey . The eastern Thrace is the European part of Turkey. The name of the country probably derives from its inhabitants, the people of the Thracians , from.

The concepts of people and land of the Thracians vary in scope and cannot always be clearly defined, both ethnically and territorially. The national and country name has been handed down in the Ionic form of Homer : the people as θρήιχες thrḗiches , the country as θρήχη thrḗchē and the corresponding adjective is θρήιχιος thrḗichios .

The coasts of the Black Sea , Marmara Sea and the Aegean Sea have been established as the eastern and southern borders of Thrace since ancient times . The northern border was formed by the Istros (lower Danube ) or later, as today, by the main ridge of the Haimos ( Balkan Mountains ). The rivers Vardar or Struma or Mesta have been named as the border to the Macedonia landscape in the west since ancient times . This results in a considerable fluctuation in the extent of Thrace in north and west direction.


The approximate borders of Thrace today

Today around 57% (42,161 km²) of Thracian land is in Bulgaria, around 31% (23,384 km²) in Turkey (the entire European part of Turkey) and around 12% (8,586 km²) in Greece.

Thrace is divided into different landscapes and surrounded by three seas ( Black Sea , Thracian Sea of the northern Aegean and Marmara / Dardanelles ). In the west are the Rhodope Mountains and in the east the Strandscha and Sakar Mountains . The river Mariza flows through almost the entire landscape and, with its lower reaches, separates the Greek western Thrace from the Turkish eastern Thrace . There it largely forms the natural border between Greece and Turkey .

The Thrace border begins at Cape Emine on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast and continues west along the Golubec , Ichtimanska Sredna Gora and Schumnatica line to Mount Musala in the Rila Mountains . From Musala it leads east over the Rhodope Mountains (Videnica) to the Bulgarian-Greek border at Kaintschal . From here it runs south to Nestos in Greece and on to the Aegean Sea .

The Upper Thracian Plain (Bulgarian Горнотракийска низина) is located in Bulgaria, where it is the largest plain in the country. It is bounded in the north by the Sredna Gora Mountains (Средна Гора) (a low promontory of the Balkan Mountains) and in the south by the Rhodope Mountains (Родопите). The lowland is 180 kilometers long, 50 kilometers wide and on average 168 meters high and covers an area of ​​6,000  km² . The river Maritsa (Evros) flows through them . Overall, the relief is flat with the exception of small hills near Plovdiv and Chirpan .

Thus belong to Thrace:

Thrace also includes the Aegean Islands Samothraki as part of the Greek prefecture of Evros and Imbros , which is part of the Turkish Canakkale. The Bulgarian Black Sea Islands ( Sweti Iwan , Sweta Anastasia and others) are also included in Thrace.

On the Black Sea coast, on the Marmara coast and on the Dardanelles you will find very different landscapes and climatic zones, hilly landscapes with sunflowers and wheat fields. There are only a few small settlements on the Turkish Black Sea coast, while the Marmara coast from Istanbul to Tekirdağ is heavily developed.

The Saros Bay between Greece and Turkey is one of the cleanest diving spots in the Mediterranean because there are no industries or cities there.

Traces of mining in Thrace can be traced back to prehistoric times. Depictions on coins of the city of Philippopolis indicate mining in the Rhodope Mountains. Mining and metal processing were important in the Strandscha Mountains. Ore has been mined since ancient times at the present-day places Sabernowo , Malko Tarnowo and Gramatikowo . At Malko Tarnowo, however, like at Sozopol and Burgas , mainly copper was extracted. Corresponding melting furnaces were located in the vicinity. A dedicatory inscription (from 155/156 AD) was discovered in a temple of Apollo near Malko Tarnowo , which Straton, head of a group of iron mines , had built. The inscription may come from people who worked in the iron mines near Demirköy (Malak Samokov).


Odrysian state in the 4th century BC Chr.

Under Thrace was understood in ancient times the area that north of Greece to the Scythians was, east of Macedonia and the region of Epirus until the Black Sea was enough and the people of the Thracians was settled, but not the north to Dacia , and the Geto with a castle. According to legend, Thrace was home to Orpheus , Dionysus and Apollo .

513 BC Thrace was crossed by the Persians under Darius I and thus conquered, while Darius married a daughter of the Getenkönig. The Thracian people formed around 450 BC. A common kingdom. The southern parts of it stood in the tension field of the Greco-Persian wars under Persian rule. During this time, the Thracians split up into many tribes. Among them, the Odryses played the leading role, often allied with Athens . In 341 BC The Thracians had to recognize Macedonian supremacy through King Philip II , father of Alexander the Great . After the death of Alexander the area fell to Lysimachus , who 306/5 BC. Was crowned king of Thrace. In the 3rd century BC BC came the invasion of Celtic tribes , but they could be defeated. Some of the remaining Celtic warriors founded a principality in Thrace around the city of Tylis and some immigrated to Anatolia ( Galatians ).

The Roman provinces under Trajan (117 AD)

In the year 44 AD the Roman province of Thrace (Latin Thracia ) was established. The importance that Thrace had for the Greek world also retained the country in the Roman era. In Roman times the name was used for the area between Macedonia , Illyria , Danube and Asia Minor .

With the division of the empire in 395 , Thrace became the center of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire as the region surrounding the capital Constantinople . West of Constantinople was to ward off the Bulgarians , the topic set Thrace (first mentioned in 687). Before the city was conquered in 1453, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror had his most powerful war machines built there.

In 1878, after the Berlin Congress from Northern Thrace, the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia was conceived within the Ottoman Empire , which occupied a large part of Thrace. This was able to unite with the Principality of Bulgaria after a coup in 1885 . In the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, Bulgaria also conquered Western Thrace. In 1914 the Ottoman government ordered the expulsion of the Greeks from Eastern Thrace, and the implementation was accompanied by looting. In April 1917, the last remaining Greeks were finally deported to Asiatic Turkey. In the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, Bulgaria finally had to cede western Thrace to Greece.

The landscape is since 2010 named for the Trakiya Heights , a mountain in Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsula .


History of Thrace
Year / time period event
End of the 8th century BC Chr. Beginning of the Greek colonization on the southern Thracian coast
5th century BC Chr. Consolidation of the Odrysen rule in Thrace
3rd quarter of the 5th century BC Chr. Sitalkes becomes king of the Odryses
424-410 BC Chr. Seuthes I becomes king of the Odryses
approx. 383-360 BC Chr. Kotys I is king of the Odryses, after the murder of Kotys the Odrysian empire is divided into three parts.
342/1 BC Chr. The Macedonian king Philip II conquered the last Odryssian kingdom.
approx. 330-295 BC Chr. Incursion of the Celts into Thrace, Macedonia and Ellada
since the end of the 2nd century BC Chr. Armed conflict between the Romans and Thracian tribes
87 BC Chr. Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix subjugates the Thracian tribe of the Mäder
74-65 BC Chr. 3. Mithradic War: M. Lucullus defeats the Bessen and the Polis Apollonia Pontica and destroys the latter as well as Philippopolis and other Thracian cities.
73-71 BC Chr. Slave revolts in Italy under the leadership of the Thracian Spartacus
29/28 BC Chr. Moesian Wars of M. Licinius Crassus
27 BC Until 14 AD Reign of the Emperor Augustus
12/13 after Chr. After the death of the Thracian king Rhoimetalkes I , who was friendly to Rome, the Odryssen empire was divided by the influence of the Roman emperor.
At 12/15 Establishment of the province of Moesia on the lower Danube
19th The Rome-friendly Thracian king Kotys III. is murdered by his uncle and anti-king Rhauskouporis. The Roman Emperor Tiberius then has Rhauskouporis murdered.
21 and 25 Revolts by Thracians against the Roman rule and the Rome-friendly client king
45 The Thracian King Rhoimetalkes III. who was educated in Rome is murdered and the Roman province of Thrace is established.
150/160 Hunger riots in the province of Thrace
at 170 Invasions of the Kostoboks on the Balkan Peninsula
235 The Thracian Maximinus Thrax is proclaimed Roman emperor by his soldiers.
at 240 Beginning of the barbarian invasions on the Balkan Peninsula
250/251 Goths plunder Philippopolis
251 Emperor Decius is murdered at Abrittus in a battle with the Goths.
284-305 Emperor Diocletian reforms the administration and the military organization and divides the province of Thrace into seven smaller units and visits the province several times.
312/313 Edict of Milan through which Christianity is accepted as an equal religion
330 Establishment of Constantinople as the new imperial capital
364/365 Usurpation of Procopius with the support of Gothic federates from Thrace
August 9, 378 Battle of Adrianople : The Roman army under Emperor Valens is defeated and the emperor is killed.
390/391 Devastation of Thrace by Gothic federates
1st half of the 5th century Repeated barbarian incursions under the leadership of Attila , king of the Huns, lead to severe devastation in the Moesian and Thracian provinces.
approx. 493 Appearance of the first Bulgarians south of the Danube
about 520 Arrival of the first Slavs on the Balkan Peninsula
527-565 Reign of Emperor Justinian I , who rebuilt and fortified the destroyed cities in Thrace.
approx. 580-600 Wars with the Avars and the Slavs allied with them , which end with the abandonment of the border provinces on the Danube
678 Settlement of the Bulgarians under Asparuch north of the Balkan Mountains
680/681 Contractual recognition of the Bulgarian Empire by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV.
8th to 14th century As a border region, Thrace is constantly threatened by the armed conflicts between Bulgarians and Byzantines.
1453 After the Ottoman Empire conquered the Bulgarian Thrace in 1396, it conquered Constantinople and the last Byzantine territories of Thrace in 1453.

Thracian culture

Main article: Thracian culture

Thrace is known as "the golden realm of Orpheus" ( Homer ) and one of the oldest cultural landscapes in Europe and is known for its philosophers . Everywhere in Thrace, especially in the Upper Thracian Plain , one can come across the remains of ancient cultures and historical places. Many of them are poorly researched and little known. Thracian dolmens and tumuli (Thracian royal tombs) can be seen in the landscape .


The Thracian territories of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey await with a multitude of burial mounds, archaeological sites and museums of the Thracian culture. An important place is the Thracian Temple Perperikon in the Eastern Rhodopes. The sanctuary is located on a rocky peak (470 m) and 15 km from the town of Kardjali . The gold-bearing Perperikischka River flows next to it . The temple was probably also the sanctuary of Dionysus (Thracian god of the earth). In 2002 pieces of wood from the holy Jesus cross were discovered here, which can be seen in the museum of the city of Kardjali. The museum has around 27,000 exhibits, including many from the Thracian era.

Other internationally known sites are the graves of Aleksandrowo (middle of the 4th century BC), Panagyurishte (4th – 3rd century BC), Blagoewgrad (first half of the 4th century BC), the " Valley of the Thracian Kings " with numerous royal tombs.

Remains of ancient buildings have been preserved from Roman times in the cities of Adrianople , Karasura , Trimontium , Ulpia Augusta Trajana , Augusta , Diospolys , Anchialos and Deultum .


Northern Thrace (Bulgaria)

The population structure of the Bulgarian part of Thrace is made up of mostly Bulgarians as well as Turks and Pomaks . Descendants of the expelled ethnic Bulgarians from the neighboring Greek and Turkish parts of Thrace (see Thracian Bulgarians ) also mainly live in this region.

The largest cities in the Bulgarian part of Thrace:

  • Plovdiv / Plovdiv (Пловдив) 377,909 inhabitants, second largest city in Bulgaria
  • Burgas (Бургас) 229,742 inhabitants, an important port city, currently the seat of the Bulgarian Black Sea Navy
  • Stara Sagora (Стара Загора) 181,508 inhabitants
  • Sliven (Сливен) 147,157 inhabitants
  • Pazardzhik (Пазарджик) 132,585 inhabitants
  • Haskovo (Хасково) 116,717 inhabitants
  • Yambol (Ямбол) 85,966 inhabitants
  • Pazardzhik (Пазарджик) 76,161 inhabitants
  • Dimitrovgrad (Димитровград) 41,840 inhabitants

Western Thrace (Greece)

The Greek region of Thrace today has a population of 366,139 inhabitants (as of 2001) and an area of ​​8,578 km² .

The majority of the Greeks live in Greek Thrace , part of today's Greek population was once expelled from Pontus , Anatolia or neighboring Eastern Thrace (European Turkey). In the 1990s, Russia-Greeks were settled, but due to a lack of jobs in the region, they mostly moved to the metropolitan areas. The remainder of the population of Western Thrace is a numerically significant Turkish minority (own name: Western Thrace Turks ) and Pomaks who, together with the Muslim Roma, are only recorded in the statistics as “Muslim residents of Western Thrace”. Greece relies on the Lausanne Treaty for this imprecise way of collecting data . According to a study by the Athens Academy , there are 105,000 Muslims in Western Thrace (as of 1995). The Greek Embassy in Berlin gives a number of 120,000 Muslims in Western Thrace.

The most important cities in Western Thrace are (data from 2001):

Eastern Thrace (Turkey)

Up until the Balkan Wars, the proportion of Turkish or Muslim in the total population was low. During the second Balkan War, the Bulgarian population (→ Thracian Bulgarians ) was expelled, in the years that followed (1913–1923) the Greek population , so that today Eastern Thrace is predominantly inhabited by Balkan Turks as well as ethnic Albanians and Bosnians. The majority of the Turks are people who, according to the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), fell under the population exchange (1923) and who previously represented minorities in the Greek region of Macedonia or on Crete. These settled in the area around Gelibolu . Turks from Bulgaria are mainly found in Edirne and the Kirklareli province. The city of Babaeski is the center of this population group. Pomaks (Muslims from Bulgaria) are also resident there. Crimean Tatars and Circassians ( Çerkezköy ) inhabit the area on the Black Sea coast around Kumköy .

The Turkish 1st Army is stationed in Eastern Thrace.

The most important cities in the Turkish part of Thrace (data from 2008):

See also


  • Carl Anderson: Lexicon of the Old World . Artemis, Stuttgart 1965, pp. 3072-3071.
  • Peter Soustal: Thrace (Thrace, Rhodope and Haimimontos) (= Tabula Imperii Byzantini . Volume 6). Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1991, ISBN 3-7001-1898-8 .
  • Andreas Külzer: Eastern Thrace (Europe) (= Tabula Imperii Byzantini . Volume 12). Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-7001-3945-4 .
  • Rumen Ivanov, Gerda von Bülow: Obris Provinciarum. Thracia. A Roman province on the Balkan Peninsula. In: Zabern's illustrated books on archeology, special volumes from the ancient world. Philip von Zabern, Mainz 2008, ISBN 978-3-8053-2974-3 .
  • Manfred Oppermann : Thracians, Greeks and Romans on the west coast of the Black Sea . In: Zabern's illustrated books on archeology. Special volumes of the ancient world, von Zabern, Mainz 2007, ISBN 978-3-8053-3739-7 .

Web links

Commons : Thrace  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Peter Soustal: Thrace (Thrace, Rhodope and Haimimontos). Pp. 58-60.
  2. Peter Soustal: Thrace (Thrace, Rhodope and Haimimontos). P. 151
  3. ^ Haldon: Byzantium in the seventh century. P. 214.
  4. ^ Tessa Hofmann : Persecution, expulsion and extermination of Christians in the Ottoman Empire . Lit, Münster 2004, ISBN 3-8258-7823-6 , p. 136.
  5. ^ Rumen Ivanov, Gerda von Bülow: Obris Provinciarum. Thracia. A Roman province on the Balkan Peninsula. Pp. 94-95.
  6. Status: March 14, 2008, NSI (National Statistical Institute)

Coordinates: 42 ° 0 '  N , 26 ° 0'  E