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The History of Philippopolis

"And, by Jupiter! one of the greatest and noblest [cities] in the whole country! Its splendour is even conspicuous at a distance. And the great river that flows close under its walls"
Words of Hermes, The Runaway Slaves, Lucian, 165-166 AD

In order to reveal the true cultural value of the Stadium it is necessary to become closely familiar with the history of Philippopolis. Plovdiv is not only one of the most ancient cities on the territory of Bulgaria, but also in Europe. What is unique about the city is that human activity has never ceased from the very first time it appeared – some 6 000 years ago – until present day. Although the town of Plovdiv went through various metamorphoses and change of boundaries, Plovdiv continues to be the eternal town of Bulgaria. No match can be found for the atmosphere of the city, which embraces the visitor at first glimpse, due to its centuries-old life and numerous cultural traces.

Eumolpia was probably the name of the ancient Thracian city, from which today’s Plovdiv has evolved. The fortified Thracian city developed during the Iron Age on the territory of Nebet tepe. During the 4th century BC Philip II included it in the Macedonian Empire and gave it one of its most popular names – Philippopolis. The town also had the chance to shine and make a name as a direct participant in the formation of Hellenistic culture. In 46 AD the district called Thrace was pronounced a Roman province. As a result the significance of the city, called by the Romans Trimontium, rose even more. This is the historical period that left the greatest impact on the cultural heritage.

At first the town evolved mainly on the territory of the so-called Trihalmie (Trimontium) - a massif of three hills – that was the Hellenistic Acropolis of ancient Philippopolis. Certain foundations were uncovered, which are believed to have belonged to the royal palace and the main cult centre. The city in the plain below had derived long before Romans took over. It evolved to the South, South-west and South-east of the Trihalmie. The city layout is based on the famous Hippodamian plan (orthogonal directions of the street infrastructure) which the Romans inherited and further developed.

The squareagora in Greek city planning, respectively – the forum in Roman, is situated in the very centre of the structure. Its location is fixed by the crossing point of the two main streets – cardo maximus (north-south direction) and decumanus maximus (east-west direction). Parallel to the two main streets numerous other cardi and decumani were traced forming eventually a grid of rectangles, each of which is called insula with dimensions (65-72 meters in east-west direction and 25-42 meters in north-south). The layout and dimensions of the insula depended on the master plan of the city as well as on the specific geographic profile of the terrain.

Insulae were developed to the South, Southeast and Southwest, but not to the North of the Forum since this site was set for the central zone of Trimontium in 2nd century AD. Here are situated some monumental buildings such as The Treasury, The Odeon, The Thermae and The Ancient Stadium.