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A carved stone votive relief depicting a Thracian horseman was discovered during excavations in the ancient city of Heraclea Sintica, located in present-day southwestern Bulgaria, on the southern slopes of Mount Kozhuh and within the territory of the village of Rupite in the municipality of Petrich.
The ancient city of Heraclea Sintica, also known as Heraclea Strymonis (also referred to as Cynthia, Herculaneum Sintica, or Herculaneum Strimonska), was the centre of the Sintica region. One of the few ancient cities located in the region around the Strymon River, it was destroyed by a severe earthquake in 388.
The Thracian horseman is a recurring motif depicted in Hellenistic and Roman reliefs in the Balkans, primarily between the 3rd century BCE and the 3rd century CE. These motifs usually portray the solitary hero atop his horse triumphing over a boar or similar beast.
Professor Lyudmil Vagalinski stated to the Bulgarian News Agency: “This is the first time we have discovered such a finely crafted votive relief.”
“Another terracotta piece from the same period was found a few days ago, along with coins, bone needles, and a votive column depicting Artemis, indicating that the Thracians gradually increased their presence in the city,” Vagalinski said.
After the accidental discovery of a large Latin inscription in 2002, Professor Georgi Mitrev discovered Heraclea Sintica near the village of Rupite. The inscription is a letter from Emperor Galerius and Caesar Maximinus II in 308 CE, in which the rulers address the inhabitants of the city in response to their request to restore the lost rights of the city. In 2005, Professor Georgi Mitrev published another inscription referring to Guy Lucius the Scot and Hercules. With this, he convincingly proves that this specific ancient city is identical to Heraclea Sintica.
Since 2007, archaeological excavations in Heraclea Sintica have been continued by Professor Ludmil Vagalinski (NAIM-BAS) and the Historical Museum of Petrich.