Archaeologists Discover Ancient, Medieval Coins, Ceramics at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Preserve in Bulgaria’s Burgas

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

A total of 25 coins from different time periods as well as early Byzantine ceramic vessels have been discovered during the excavations of the Ancient Thracian city of Aquae Calidae (known as Thermopolis and Therma in the Middle Ages) in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas.

The current excavations of the ancient (Thracian / Roman / Greek) and medieval (Byzantine / Bulgarian / Ottoman) Archaeological Complex Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis, which are funded by the Burgas Municipality, started just a few days ago, in early November 2014, the press service of the municipality has announced.

This is the third stage of the municipally funded excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis, after in April 2014 and August 2014; the goal of the Burgas Municipality is to turn the ancient and medieval archaeological complex into a major tourist attraction by completing the excavations, and exhibiting all interesting finds in situ or in a special museum that will be built on the spot.

The press service of the Burgas Municipality points out that Aquae Calidae (meaning “hot waters” in Latin) and known as Thermopolis in the Middle Ages has been famous as a “spa resort” since ancient times because of its mineral springs, and was visited by ancient and medieval rulers, including Macedon Kings, Bulgarian Khans, Byzantine and Latin Emperors, and Ottoman Sultans.

The municipality has already restored the bath of Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD) which will be open for visits by tourists as part of the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis archaeological complex.

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

The third stage of the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis covers an area of 200 square meters in the western part of the ancient and medieval complex; the local archaeologists are studying the strata at a depth of 2.8 meters, and continuing to dig deeper.

They have found large amounts of ceramic vessels from the Early Byzantine period – 5th-7th century AD as well as some pottery from the period of the Ottoman Empire.

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

The 25 coins discovered at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis so far are just as interesting. These include mostly bronze and silver coins from the Antiquity and Middle Ages as well as one gold Ottoman Turkish coin from the 19th century.

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Most of the coins are Roman and Byzantine, and are dated back to the 4th century – which according to the archaeologists is a testimony of the period when a Byzantine complex with mineral baths was erected on top of a previously existing Roman bath complex.

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Some of the other coins found are Byzantine coins from the High Middle Ages – especially 11th-12th century. During this period (1018-1185 AD) the Byzantine Empire prevailed temporarily over the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD) (conquering Bulgaria after centuries of Bulgarian-Byzantine Wars, once again warring later with the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD)).

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins have been discovered during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Several Ottoman Turkish coins, mostly from the 19th century, and a Western European coin, also from the 19th century, have also been discovered.

The Burgas archaeologists have also found iron artifacts such as rings and buttons, and two lead fillings.

During the excavations of some medieval buildings at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis they have also come across a medieval sewer draining out in northern direction.

A 19th century golden Ottoman coin has been found during the excavations of Aquae Calidae - Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

A 19th century golden Ottoman coin has been found during the excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis. Photo by Burgas Municipality

Background Infonotes:

The originally Ancient Thracian city of Aquae Calidae (meaning “hot waters” in Latin) is an archaeological site located on the territory of Bulgaria’s Black Sea port city of Burgas, on the site of today’s Burgas quarters of Vetren and Banevo. It is proven that Aquae Calidae – known in the Middle Ages as Thermopolies or Therma – was visited by important ancient and medieval rulers such as Philip II of Macedon (r. 359-336 BC), Byzantine Emperors Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD) the Great and Constantine IV the Bearded (668-685 AD), Bulgarian Khan (or Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718/721), and Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD). Archaeological excavations have found that the Aquae Calidae mineral baths were used as early as the Neolithic Age, with three prehistoric settlements being located there in the 6th-5th millennium BC.

The Ancient Thracians settled near the mineral waters in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, turning the major spring into the revered ancient “Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs” by the middle of the 1st century AD when the Roman Empire was wrapping up the conquest of Ancient Thrace. The earliest written testimony about the ancient spa resort Aquae Calidae dates back to the 4th century BC when Philip II of Macedon went there. The name b comes from the name of a Roman road station near the mineral springs which was erected along the major Roman road Via Pontica running along the Western coast of the Black Sea. The Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs was revered in Roman times. The Roman baths at Aquae Calidae were rebuilt and expanded in the early years of the Byzantine Empire – the 4th-5th century, with fortress walls constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great.

In the Middle Ages, Aquae Calidae became known as Therma or Thermopolis (“warm city” in Greek). In 708 AD, Khan (or Kanas) Tervel, ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire, defeated the army of Byzantine Emperor Justianian II (r. 685-695 and 705-711 AD) in the first Battle of Anchialos close to Thermopolis, conquering the ancient and medieval “spa resort” for Bulgaria. Another interesting episode from the history of Thermopolis has to do with the so called Latin Empire established when the knights from the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople. After Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) of the Second Bulgarian Empire defeated the crusaders in the Battle of Adrianople in 1205 and captured Latin Emperor Baldwin of Flanders (also Baldwin I of Constantinople), the next year the Latin Emperor’s brother, Henry of Flanders, marched against Bulgaria conquering Thermopolis, looting the city and burning it to the ground. The city of Thermopolis never recovered even though the mineral baths themselves were rebuilt later and used by Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent in 1562. In modern-day Bulgaria, in the 20th century the town near the mineral baths was known as Banevo until the 1980s when it was renamed to Burgas Mineral Baths; it became part of the city of Burgas in 2009.

Aquae Calidea – Thermopolis was first excavated in 1910 by renowned but controversial Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan FIlov (known as Bulgaria’s pro-German Prime Minister during World War II). The contemporary excavations were started in 2008 by Senior Fellow Tsonya Drazheva and Ass. Prof. Dimcho Momchilov. In 2011, the ancient and medieval city was formally declared “The Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve”.

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