An intact Roman inscription in Latin dating back to the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161 – 180 AD) has been found by archaeologists during the ongoing excavations in the large ancient Thracian and Roman city of Kabyle.
|The newly found inscription provides invaluable information about the construction of the Roman thermae
in the ancient Thracian city of Kabyle during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius
[Credit: Yambol Regional Museum of History]
The new find is the first fully preserved Roman inscription to be discovered in Kabyle in the past 35 years, Stefan Bakardzhiev, Director of the Regional Museum of History in the city of Yambol, has announced.
The ancient Thracian and Roman city of Kabyle is located on the southeastern slope of a tall hill known as Zaychi Vrah (“Rabbit’s Mount”) at a curve of the Tundzha River. The site was first settled at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, and had a shrine on the hill’s top.
It was a major ancient Thracian city which served as a residence of the early kings of the Odrysian Thracian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st century AD), and was a crucial Roman military camp in Late Antiquity.
All of ancient Thrace south of the Lower Danube, including what had been left of the Odrysian Kingdom (5th century BC – 1st century AD), probably the most powerful kingdom of ancient Thrace (which had been reduced to a client state of Rome by the early decades of the 1st century), was conquered by the Roman Empire in 46 AD. The Thracian aristocracy and population became well integrated in Roman society.
The Thracian (Getian/Dacian) regions north of the Lower Danube were conquered by the Romans under Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD) in 106 AD, and were lost in 271 AD, while the rest of ancient Thrace, south of the Danube, remained part of the Roman Empire and later the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) up until the expansion of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018) south of the Danube in 680-681 AD).
The newly discovered Roman inscription in Kabyle consists of seven lines. Its Latin letters are engraved on a stone slab, which is 60 centimeters tall and 80 centimeters wide.The inscription refers to the construction of the Roman thermae (public baths) in the city of Kabyle in 166 – 169 AD.
The Kabyle thermae were built by the Cohors II Lucensium (Second Lucensian Cohort), Roman military unit based in the Thracian city at the time. The unit was commanded by prefect (praefectus) named Elius Rufus.
The stone slab itself has been found near the principia, the building for the command staff of the respective Roman military unit.
“All in all, the inscription’s translation reveals that the thermae in Kabyle were built by the Cohors II Lucensium (Second Lucensian Cohort) at the time when the Thracia province was governed by Governor Appius Claudius Martialis,” Bakardzhiev said.
“During this period, [the Roman Empire] was ruled by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and the construction was carried out under the supervision of the commander of the Second Lucensian Cohort, Aelius Rufus,” the archaeologist elaborates.
During their 2017 excavations, the team of the Yambol Museum, which also includes archaeologists Miroslav Kozarev and Yavor Rusev, excavated the residence of the prefect (commander) of the Roman cohort based in Kabyle, while their new digs in 2018 are focused on the principia of the city.
Until the new discovery of the Roman inscription from the principia, the archaeologists only knew that the Cohors II Lucensium (Second Lucensian Cohort) arrived in Kabyle in 136 AD.
However, they have had no information whatsoever about the construction activity of the military unit.
“The discovery of this inscription is further evidence that we are indeed excavating the headquarters of the Roman military unit based in Kabyle,” Bakardzhiev has emphasized.
The newly found inscription is the fourth one ever found in Kabyle to provide information about the Roman construction works in the ancient Thracian city.
“Up until now, we were not aware of the time when the Roman thermae of Kabyle were constructed,” the Yambol History Museum director says.
For the past four seasons, the excavations in the ancient Thracian and Roman city of Kabyle have been carried out with funding from Yambol Municipality; after July 2018, they are set to continue with funding from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.
The archaeologists hope to be able to exhibit in situ the structures that they have discovered during the past couple of years, including the principia and the prefect’s residence.