Achaeologists from Bulgaria’s National Museum of History have uncovered more of what appears to have been a “luxury” Ancient Roman road station near the Roman fortress Sostra located close to today’s town of Troyan on the route of Via Trajana, a major road used by Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD).
Via Trajana, which runs through the Troyan Pass of the Balkan Mountains, was vital in Roman Emperor Trajan’s wars for conquering the Dacians, the resisting Thracian tribes north of the Lower Danube, in today’s Romania. It linked the Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called limes – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen and Novae near today’s town Svishtov, in the Roman province of Moesia.
A week ago an archaeological team led by Prof. Dr. Ivan Hristov, Deputy Director of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History, resumed excavations of the Roman road station near the Sostra Fortress, the Museum press service has announced.
The archaeologists have now uncovered more of the Roman road station. It was first found in April 2014 by Hristov’s team, which over the past few years has also been excavating the Sostra Fortress, an Early Christian basilica, residential buildings, and a section of the Roman road, all of which are located in close proximity forming an entire archaeological complex with an area of app. 6 square km in the valley of the Osam River.
It has been announced that the Roman road station near the Sostra Fortress covers an area of 500 square meters, and its walls have been preserved to a height of 2 meters.
According to the announcement of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History, the newly uncovered Roman road station might turn out to be one of the largest and the most “luxurious” of all Roman road station found to date in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered that it used to feature both a hypocaust, i.e. Ancient Roman underfloor heating, whose pipes have now been unearthed, and a large indoor swimming pool. Other swimming pools have been found nearby in what seems to have been an ancient spa complex with warm mineral springs.
The Museum statement reminds that Ancient Roman road stations were similar to modern-day gas stations and motels in their function because Roman carriages could stop there after covering their daily distance of about 30 km to feed and rest their horses, and house their passengers.
The National Museum of History has declared its intention to propose a National Monument of Culture status for the Roman road station near the Sostra Fortress and to invest efforts into the partial restoration of the site in order to help turn it into a cultural tourism destination.
Similar intentions have already been voiced by Troyan Municipality which, together with several other municipalities located at both ends of the Troyan Pass, has taken steps for the recognition of the Ancient Roman fortress Sostra, the Early Christian basilica St. George, and a fully preserved section of the Roman road by the Bulgarian Culture Ministry as “culture monuments of national significance”.
The municipalities of Troyan, Sopot, Hisarya, Karlovo, and Pavel Banya have come together for a joint project entitled Via Trajana Balkanica (“Trajan’s Balkan Road”), which was endorsed by the previous Bulgarian Cabinet in the spring of 2014. It is supposed to help set up a year-round alternative tourism destination using archaeological and cultural sites, mineral springs, and the nature of the central Balkan Mountains.
Sostra is an Ancient Roman fortress and road station located near the town of Lomets, 16 km away from the town of Troyan, along the major Roman road linking ancient Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) and the Roman outposts on the Lower Danube such as Ulpia Oescus (near today’s Gigen) and Novae (near today’s Shishtov) via the Troyan Pass in the Balkan Mountains (also known as Trajan’s Road, Via Trajana, or Trajan’s Balkan Road, Via Trajana Balkanica, to distinguish it from Emperor Trajan’s road on the Italian Peninsula). Sostra’s construction started around 147 AD at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and later it become a town with civilian population for a brief period. It became the target of barbarian invasions, and was destroyed in the 4th by the Goths, and completely destroyed by the Huns at the end of the 6th century. Sostra was excavated in 2002-2011 by Prof. Dr. Ivan Hristov from Bulgaria’s National Museum of History.