Bulgaria’s Plovdiv Starts Restoration of Antiquity Odeon, Linking It with Ancient Theater, Roman Stadium

The Odeon of ancient Philipopolis is located in today's downtown in Bulgaria's Plovdiv. Photo: Mopkop, Wikipedia

The Odeon of ancient Philipopolis is located in today’s downtown in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv. Photo: Mopkop, Wikipedia

The Antiquity Odeon, an Ancient Greek and Roman public space for musical and theatrical performances and competitions, in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv will be reconstructed as part of the efforts of the local authorities to exhibit the city’s Thracian and Roman heritage.

Plovdiv Mayor Ivan Totev has launched the rehabilitation and restoration works of the Odeon of ancient Philipopolis (Plovdiv), which are worth BGN 230,000 (app. EUR 118,000), Plovdiv Municipality has announced.

The reconstruction of the Odeon is expected to be completed by the fall of 2015, and, in addition to its open-air museum role, it will also be used as a performance space with 350 seats, which will be built with stone masonry, explains architect Rumyana Proykova, who is the author of the reconstruction project for the ancient public space.

In her words, this part of the reconstruction of the Odeon of ancient Philipopolis has been modeled after the Odeon in Thessaloniki, Greece. The damaged stage will also be repaired.

Plovdiv Mayor Ivan Totev (left) has launched the reconstruction of the Odeon of ancient Philipopolis. Photo: Plovdiv Municipality

Plovdiv Mayor Ivan Totev (left) has launched the reconstruction of the Odeon of ancient Philipopolis. Photo: Plovdiv Municipality

The project provides further for the rehabilitation of the underground area of the Plovdiv Odeon, including facilities for disabled people, and a noise blocking wall.

The present project is actually the second stage of the reconstruction of the ancient Odeon, notes Plovdiv Municipality, adding that the first stage took place in 2002 and was funded by the Leventis Foundation.

The Ancient Theater, probably the most emblematic landmark of Bulgaria's Plovdiv. Not to be confused with the Odeon. Photo: CdaMVvWgS, Wikipedia

The Ancient Theater, probably the most emblematic landmark of Bulgaria’s Plovdiv. Not to be confused with the Odeon. Photo: CdaMVvWgS, Wikipedia

Now the Plovdiv authorities would like to build upon the recent archaeological discoveries in the downtown made in excavations since 2012. Thus, their plan provides for linking the Odeon with the central square, the Antiquity forum.

The Ancient Odeon of Plovdiv will be made into a top attraction, not unlike the restored Ancient Theater and Ancient Roman Stadium (which was restored between 2009 and 2012).

This 2010 photo of the Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria's Plovdiv shows it before its restoration. Photo: Kmrakmra, Wikipedia

This 2010 photo of the Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv shows it before its restoration. Photo: Kmrakmra, Wikipedia

This 2012 photo of the Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria's Plovdiv shows it before its restoration. Photo: Delyana, Wikipedia

This 2012 photo of the Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv shows it right after its restoration. Photo: Delyana, Wikipedia

The Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria's Plovdiv after its restoration. Photo: Novotel Plovdiv

The Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv after its restoration. Photo: Novotel Plovdiv

The Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria's Plovdiv after its restoration. Photo: Novotel Plovdiv

The Ancient Roman Stadium in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv after its restoration. Photo: Novotel Plovdiv

Other current projects focusing on the restoration of Plovdiv’s Antiquity heritage are the project for the restoration of the Early Christian Great Basilica, and the controversial project for the restoration of the ancient and medieval fortress on the Nebet Tepe Hill.

Background Infonotes:

Odeon is the name for a public Ancient Greek or Roman building built for musical and poetry shows and competitions. The word comes from Ancient Greek, and means “singing place” or “building for musical competitions”. The first Odeon was built in Ancient Sparta around 600 BC. Three Ancient (Roman) Odeons have been discovered in Bulgaria so far – in Philipopolis (Plovdiv), Serdica (Sofia), and Nicopolis ad Istrum in Northern Bulgaria. It is believed that the Plovdiv Odeon was first used as a bouleuterion, a building for the council of citizens (boule) in ancient city-states (poleis) but was later used as a space for theatrical performances.

The history of today’s Bulgarian city of Plovdiv began on the ancient hill of Nebet Tepe (“tepe” is the Turkish word for “hill”), one of the seven historic hills where it was founded and developed in prehistoric and ancient times. The hills, or “tepeta”, are still known today by their Turkish names from the Ottoman period. Out of all of them, Nebet Tepe has the earliest traces of civilized life dating back to the 6th millennium BC, which makes Plovdiv 8,000 years old, and allegedly the oldest city in Europe. Around 1200 BC, the prehistoric settlement on Nebet Tepe was transformed into the Ancient Thracian city of Eumolpia, also known as Pulpudeva, inhabited by the powerful Ancient Thracian tribe Bessi. During the Early Antiquity period Eumolpia / Pulpudeva grew to encompass the two nearby hills (Dzhambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe known together with Nebet Tepe as “The Three Hills”) as well, with the oldest settlement on Nebet Tepe becoming the citadel of the city acropolis.

In 342 BC, the Thracian city of Eumolpia / Pulpudeva was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon renaming the city to Philippopolis. Philippopolis developed further as a major urban center during the Hellenistic period after the collapse of Alexander the Great’s Empire. In the 1st century AD, more precisely in 46 AD, Ancient Thrace was annexed by the Roman Empire making Philippopolis the major city in the Ancient Roman province of Thrace. This is the period when the city expanded further into the plain around The Three Hills. Because of the large scale public construction works during the period of Ancient Rome’s Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD, including Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), Emperor Titus (r. 79-81 AD), Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96 AD)), Plovdiv was also known as Flavia Philippopolis. Later emerging as a major Early Byzantine city, Plovdiv was conquered for the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) by Khan (or Kanas) Krum (r. 803-814 AD) in 812 AD but was permanently incorporated into Bulgaria under Khan (or Kanas) Malamir (r. 831-836 AD) in 834 AD. In Old Bulgarian (also known today as Church Slavonic), the city’s name was recorded as Papaldin, Paldin, and Pladin, and later Plavdiv from which today’s name Plovdiv originated. The Nebet Tepe fortress continued to be an important part of the city’s fortifications until the 14th century when the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the period the Ottoman yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was called Filibe in Turkish.

Today the prehistoric, ancient, and medieval settlement on Nebet Tepe has been recognized as the Nebet Tepe Archaeological Preserve. Some of the unique archaeological finds from Nebet Tepe include an ancient secret tunnel which, according to legends, was used by Apostle Paul (even though it has been dated to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD)) and large scale water storage reservoirs used during sieges, one of them with an impressive volume of 300,000 liters. Still preserved today are parts of the western fortress wall with a rectangular tower from the Antiquity period.

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