THE TREASURES OF ANCIENT THRACE

Municipal Cultural Complex Sea Casino Burgas, Bulgaria - 2011

 

 

THE TREASURES OF ANCIENT THRACE


PURPOSE AND OWNERSHIP OF THE TREASURE


THE GOLD MASK OF TERES


PANAGYURISHTE GOLD TREASURE


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RHYTON IN THE SHAPE OF STAG'S HEAD WITH SCENES REPRESENTING LABORS OF HERACLES AND THESEUS
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RHYTON IN THE SHAPE OF STAG'S HEAD WITH A SCENE REPRESENTING THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS
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JUG-RHYTON REPRESENTING THE HEAD OF GODDESS HERA
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JUG-RHYTON REPRESENTING THE HEAD OF GODDESS ATHENA
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JUG-RHYTON REPRESENTING THE HEAD OF GODDESS APHRODITE
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PHIALE (A VESSEL FOR RITUAL LIBATIONS)
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AMPHORA-RHYTON
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RYTON WITH A PROTOME (FRONT PART) OF A HE-GOAT AND A SCENE WITH HERA. APOLLO, ARTEMIS AND NIKE
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RHYTON WITH HEAD OF A YOUNG RAM AND DIONYSIAC SCENE


GOLD JEWELRY FROM THE NECROPOLIS OF MESAMBRIA

 

 

 

 

THE TREASURES OF ANCIENT THRACE

The ancient Thracians were the first inhabitants of the east part of the Balkan Peninsula and a part of the Northwest Asia Minor that had been evidence in the written sources. The larger portion of the territory occupied by them is at present within the borders of modern Bulgaria. The ancient historians, among whom - Herodotus, "the father of history" (5-th century BC) - describe the ancient Thracians as the most numerous population on earth after the Indians.

The Odrysians - one of the most numerous Thracian tribes - established in the 5-th century BC the powerful Odrysian Thracian Kingdom. Shortly after that the Odrysian kingdom united a large portion of the Thracians and became a significant factor in the political history of Southeast Europe.

Thucydides (5-th century BC), the ancient Greek historian, states that the Odrysian Kingdom was the largest in territory and richest among the states situated between the Euxeinus Pontus (Black Sea) and the Ionian Gulf (Adriatic Sea). We learn again from Thucydides that during the reign of King Kotys (383-359 BC) taxes at the rate of 400 talents in gold and silver entered annually his treasuries from the Greek colonies and from some barbarian tribes that inhabited territories under his rule. Scholars from the early 20-th century had calculated that these incomings equaled to 1 200 000 gold francs. This fact is also confirmed by the numerous treasures and rich burial offerings that are periodically discovered during the last two centuries accidentally and during archaeological excavations. Even a small portion of these - the treasures from Borovo, Daskal Atanasovo, Duvanlii, Letnitsa, Lukovit and Rogozen - gives reason to describe the Bulgarian lands as lands treasures.

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 PURPOSE AND OWNERSHIP OF THE TREASURE

The total weight of the Panagyurishte gold treasure is 6.165 kg and it is a unique set. The amphora with two spouts in the bottom was connected to a royal ritual. No similar vessels have been discovered in the Greek world. A silver-gilt jug-rhyton with ovoid body is part of the Borovo treasure. The latter also comprises three rhyta and a large bowl with two hinged handles. There is an inscription on the mouth of that jug-rhyton according to which, it belonged to the Thracian King Kotys I (383-359 BC). Two of the rhyta also bear this inscription. The largest Thracian silver treasure, the one from Rogozen, consists of 165 vessels with a total weight of 20 kg. Fourteen of the bear inscriptions that define them as property of Kotys I, of his son Kersebleptes and of Satokos (end of the 5-th century BC). There is information about not lesser riches of other Odrysian kings along with that concerning the large annual incomes of Kotys .

According to an inscription in a stone slab discovered in a trade center with mixed population of Thracians and Greeks-Emporium Pistiros located near die village of Vetren, Pazardzhik Region - King Kotys and his heirs made a contract with their Greek partners by taking an oath in the name of Dionysus. One other inscription discovered in the palace of Seuthes I (330-297 BC) is connected with the surrender of Epimenes, who sought shelter in the temple of the palace Epimenes yielded himself with all his possessions to Spartokos, who announced himself as a Thracian king to reign in Kabyle after the death of Lysimachus (281 BC). The slabs with the text of the contract were placed in the indicated temple at the altar of Dionysus in Seuthopolis, as well as in the temple of Artemis Phosphoros in Kabyle. It is possible that the Panagyurishte treasure, which dates from the late 4-th century BC or from the early 3-th century BC, was made and used in connection with that event.

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THE GOLD MASK OF TERES

 

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The Saint burial mound near the village of Shipka was explored in 2004 by an expedition led by Georgi Kitov. A sarcophagus-like grave built with well dressed stone blocks where a noble Thracian was laid to rest, was unearthed in the mound. The rich inventory of this burial includes weapons, vessels and other artifacts.

The most remarkable of the finds is the gold death mask; besides it among the finds there is a gold ring, solid bronze armor consisting of two parts, complete with iron pieces - a collar, sleeves, a belly guard; two iron swords, two iron spearheads, 144 arrowheads, two ceramic amphorae which must have been filled with wine, two red-figure Attic vases with two vertical handles, a bronze hydria. The finds uncovered are dated to the 5th c. BC and the burial supposedly took place in the last quarter of the century. Most probably it belonged to a member of the ruler's family or another high-ranking representative of aristocracy in the Odrysian kingdom.

The mask is the first gold mask to be found in a burial in the central parts of Thrace, and is dated to a much later period compared with similar funerary masks found in other regions of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a relief representation of the face of a bearded man with individualized features and closed eyes. The band of the ring has a rectangular cross-section and the shape of a semi-ellipse, closed by an oval plate with a deep relief depiction of seated naked man with his head portrayed in profile and profuse curly hair carved into the plate.

It is one of ht e most realistic images found in trace and the only one with a subject like this among the approximately 15 gold signet rings known so far.

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PANAGYURISHTE GOLD TREASURE

 

The treasure was found by accident on December 8-th 1949. That morning, the three Deikov brothers were digging clay for the ceramic plant in the southeast territory of Panagyurishte and came upon glittering vessels. They were at a depth of 2.20 m, below the millennial deposits from the running in the close vicinity river of Merul. They were carefully taken out, washed in the river and taken to the District Council. The find was puzzling for the moment. Even qualifications like "gipsy music" were herd among the many present, due to the strange shapes of the vessels. Dr. Peter Gorbanov, curator at the City Museum, was called. He had graduated in Archaeology in the Vienna University and was the first one who identified the find as an unique ancient treasure from the 4-th century BC.

Cables were sent to Prof. Dimitar Dimitrov at the People's Archaeological Museum in Sofia who was the doyen of the Antiquity archaeology in Bulgaria and to die Archaeological Museum in Plovdiv. There was no reply to die cable sent to Sofia due to the celebration of die Day of the Bulgarian Students. The treasure was exposed in a showcase for samples in die local textile factory and in die evening the vessels were locked in a lock room in the bank. Next day Dr. Peter Tsonchev, Director of the Plovdiv Museum, transported the treasure with guards to the museum where it was entered in die inventory book. It had been the focus of its exposition for the next quarter century and a special showcase was made that sunk into a metal case in the evening. In 1984 the Panagyurishte gold treasure was included into the permanent exposition of die National Museum of History, Sofia, at the beginning in the Palace of Justice and since 2000 - in the former Building no. 1 of Boyana Residence.

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RHYTON IN THE SHAPE OF STAG'S HEAD WITH SCENES REPRESENTING LABORS OF HERACLES AND THESEUS

 

The rhyta are vessels with an opening at the base for vine outflow.

The lower part of the rhyton is shaped as head of a stag (Dama Asiatica). Heracles, the greatest Greek hero, is represented with the fur of the Nemean Lion thrown over his shoulders, in the act of capturing the golden-horned Ceryneian Hind. Representations of the hero are to be seen on the silver appliques for horse trappings (4-th century BC), found in a Thracian tumulus near Panagyurishte. Theseus, the greatest hero of Attica, is represented with a chlamys flying behind his back, carrying a sword in a fight with the wild bull that devastated the crops in the lands near Marathon. Heracles had tamed the bull on the Isle of Crete on the order of Euristheus. He rode on its back to the shore and let the bull tree.

Both Heracles and Theseus took part in the quest of the Argonauts and in the campaign against the Amazons.

Heracles liberated Theseus from the underworld, Tartarus the kingdom of Hades. Theseus had become part of a rock there as a punishment for his bold request He demanded Persephone, the wife of Hades, for his friend Pcirithous.

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- RHYTON IN THE SHAPE OF STAG'S HEAD WITH A SCENE REPRESENTING THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS

 

This rhyton is of the same shape as rhyton 1 Apart from the difference in the scenes represented, the two rhyta differ in the treatment of the handles too. The lion in the first one standing on a column with vertical flutes, while the lion in the second one stands on a column composed of six drums decorated with Lesbian cyme. In contrast with other metal vessels, the woman's head at the base of the handle elegantly passes into an outline of human bust in perfect harmony with the features of the animal head The decoration in relief of the upper part of the rhyton employed a complex technique.

A pre-shape had been cast by the method of the lost wax. The voluminous figures had been raised from the inner side of the vessel. The high relief is enhanced by the sinking of the background. The details were chiseled and punched with a broad set of precise tools. The elements that had been made separately had been soldered then and the surface - polished. This technique had bean applied in the make of all vessels in the Panagyurishte treasure.

Hera and Paris are represented in the center of the scene. She is sitting authoritatively on a decorated throne. Paris-Alexander is dressed as a shepherd. His right arm is raised in a gesture that shows that he is about to announce his judgment. Athena wearing helmet and holding a shield and Aphrodite holding her himation are sitting on both sides. The three goddesses had directed their eyes to Paris awaiting his judgment which one of them is most beautiful.

The clothes of the personages, whose names are incised with a dotted line, are individualized. The goddesses and the woman below the handle are represented adorned with jewelry. The scene presented on this rhyton is related to the jug-rhyta in the shape of woman's head. (nos. 3, 4 and 5).

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-  JUG-RHYTON REPRESENTING THE HEAD OF GODDESS HERA

 

The shape of the vessel realistically presents a woman's head. A neck with ornamented rim is added. The handle is of the same type as the rhyta described. However, here the column is with a rectangular cross-section and the figure on it is a sphinx. The spout in the base is shaped as a lion's bead and the opening is situated in its mouth. It looks like a central element of the complex necklace. The sphinx is also represented with a necklace and ear-rings. The hair is represented gathered with a fine embroidered veil tied in a bow on her forehead. The elegant curls are represented in detail. The rhyton had been deformed on discovery.

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- JUG-RHYTON REPRESENTING THE HEAD OF GODDESS ATHENA

 

Athena is represented wearing a helmet decorated with figures of griffins in relief and incised plant ornaments. The decoration on the helmet of Athena is similar in the representations on the greaves from the tomb of the Odrysian king Seuthes in the so-called Valley of the Thracian Kings in the region of Kazanluk.

The eyes look unfinished as they had most probably been encrusted with some material that had not preserved. It is quite possible that it consisted of some vitreous matter that had decayed and fallen off. The outlines of the irises are discernible on this jug only. The vessel was severely deformed on discovery.

 

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- JUG-RHYTON REPRESENTING THE HEAD OF GODDESS APHRODITE

 

It is of the same type as no. 3. They differ in the details of the necklaces, the adornments on the forehead and in the more unruly curls of Aphrodite. Parts of the wings of the sphinx are missing.

 

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- PHIALE (A VESSEL FOR RITUAL LIBATIONS)

 

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The shape and size of this vessel determines its purpose for libations. Smaller phialae with bent outwards mouth had been used for drinking in the royal rituals as early as in the Ancient East. Similar feast is represented in a relief from Nineveh (645-635 BC), the capital of Assyria, and King Ashurbanipal is drinking from such a phiale.

Phialae, amphorae Jugs and rhyta made of precious metals were used to the royal rituals in Ancient Thrace. They are found in royal tumuli and in tombs of aristocrats and are described as symbols of power.

The phiale of the Panagyurishte treasure shows a bulging center - omphalos - which had been made separately and fastened by means of a soldered additional ring. The surface is richly decorated with concentric belts. The first one is composed of 12 small rosettes. The next four consist of radial situated 24 acorns and proportionally growing in size human heads. These represent Ethiopians who, according to the ancient Greeks, had inhabited the south end of the world, surrounded by Ocean. They had been the first to honor the gods with libations. There is a representation of Ethiopian head in a fragment from a black-slip vessel from Nesebur.

The rest of the surface is occupied by complex palmettos. The decoration is seen very well in negative inside the vessel. There is an incised lettering on the outer surface that marks the weight of the vessel in letters. Goddess Nemesis is represented holding similar phiale in a statue (4-th century BC) from her sanctuary in Ramnunt (Attica).

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- AMPHORA-RHYTON

 

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This vessel is the most significant in the treasure not only because of its weight. The neck it made separately and joined to the body. The handles are shaped as centaurs posing as if shooting with bows. Seven male figures are represented on the ovoid body between bands of plant ornaments. The first one is of an elder man who is professing over a liver from a sacrificial animal. A young man with stubble of beard is watching him. He is the central figure and is the only one that is not barefooted. After a favorable prophesy, a trumpeter plays the signal for attack, which triggered forward with bare swords the remaining four warriors. The first one has reached a gate and is pushing one of its wings. The head and the hands of an old unarmed bearded man are seen in the opened gap. The scientific interpretations are different: from the discerning of Achilles who had hid himself among the daughters of King Lycomedes on the Isle of Scyros, through mythological subject-matters - to a scene from an ancient comedy: an attack on the home of a hetaera and a Thracian martial dance in front of a tomb. However, most of the scholars accept that the scene represents The Seven Against Thebes, a scene associated with a tragic lesson aimed against any fratricidal war.

Infant Heracles strangling the serpents sent to him by the enraged Hera and the reclining Silenus holding a double flute and a kantharos are represented on the bottom. The vessel is offered as if the wine that flows out of the amphora through one of its spouts in the lips of the Ethiopian heads on its bottom is filling the kantharos.

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-  RYTON WITH A PROTOME (FRONT PART) OF A HE-GOAT AND A SCENE WITH HERA, APOLLO, ARTEMIS AND NIKE

 

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This rhyton differs in shape from the rest. It is shaped as a horn that lightly passes into a protome of a he-goat. The vessel does not have handle. The spout shaped as a small tube. The decoration of the rim is that of the jug-rhyta. The figures are worked out in the same style as that of the rhyta. The inscriptions with the names of the personages are also of one and the same style, but here the name of Hera ends with Ŕ instead of A, as spelled on the vessel representing the Judgment of Paris. The animal head, part of the neck, horns, ears and the front parts of the legs were made separately. The animal is realistic molded. The eyes of the he-goat are shaped in the gold surface. They are bulging with incised pupils.

Hera is represented in the centre of the figural frieze. She is seated on a throne and her feet are resting on a short stool. She is performing libation with the phiale in her right hand. Her other hand is raising the end of her veil. The divine twins Apolo and Artemis are standing beside her. They are both holding bows in their left hands. The goddess of victory Nike is represented between them on the back side of the vessel. Her hair is tied in a high knot. The garment she is wearing leaves her breasts bare. Hera and Artemis are dressed in double-girded chitons but only that of Hera is adorned with ornaments. All goddesses are represented with jewels.

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- RHYTON WITH HEAD OF A YOUNG RAM AND DIONYSIAC SCENE

 

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The ram is realistic molded. The shape of the sclera is outlined with a fine line in the uneven surface of the eyes. The fur-locks are represented by rows of concentric circles.

Young Dionysus is seated in the centre of the scene. An ivy wreath is seen in the gathered hair that is running down his shoulders. The lower part of his body is embraced in a himation. He is holding a thyrsus in his right hand. His left hand is tenderly resting on the shoulder of a seated young woman who is holding his wrist. Dancing in ecstasy maenads are represented on both sides. One of the maenads is holding a thyrsus, while the other holds a drum.

Both central figures wear soft shoes with shoelaces like the one worn by the royal couple in the mural of the tomb in Kazanlak. The inscriptions on the rhyton define them as Dionysus and Eriopis. It is accepted that this name is an epithet of Ariadne who was in love with Theseus. After a prophetical dream Theseus left Ariadne on the Isle of Naxos, where she became wife of Dionysus. It is possible that the name was a variant of Erigone, daughter of Icarus, with who Dionysus was in love. Icarus received as for his hospitality to Dionysus a gift a vine and he was the first one who grew vines and made wine in Attica.

It is accepted that the cult of Dionysus was of Thracian origin. According to Diodorus (1-th century BC), Dionysus was the first one who descended to the kingdom of dead and brought back his mother Semele giving her gift of immortality. This belief under laid the Thracian religious doctrine of the life in the world beyond.

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GOLD JEWELRY FROM THE NECROPOLIS OF MESAMBRIA

 

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Very little is known about the everyday life of the inhabitants of the Hellenic Black Sea city-states near the Bay of Burgas during the Hellenistic age. Written records reflect major political events and processes, and take little interest in peoples way of living. One of the sources of information is obtained from the archaeological excavation of graves in which the dead were laid together with what might need in the world beyond according to the ideas and beliefs at that time. Jewelry made of precious metals was also an essential part of the funerary ritual.

The artistic techniques of processing jewelry items reveal the aesthetic tastes of the times, and judging by thee places where ornaments were worn the fashion trends in clothing can be traced.

In 1952 during excavations of the necropolis of antique Mesambria Prof. I. Galabov rounds several tombs with a rich inventory. One of them - 15, is represented by a full range of luxury objects made of gold - earnings, rings, chains and necklaces, with some of them showing various metalworking techniques in combination with cut and polished precious stones of various colors. By the stylistic peculiarities of the metal objects the burial of the high-born lady can be dated to the period after the second half until the end of the 3rd c. BC when the town of the Mesambrians experienced an economic and cultural boom. The jewelry items completely reflect the financial abilities of the individual citizens of this Black Sea polis and are typical examples of the fashion at that time.

 

 

                        

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