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Who were the Thracians?.

Guerrero tracio

Thracian warrior

The Thracians were a group of tribes that occupied the southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula, the area it currently occupies Bulgaria. They are little known because there have been few remains of their culture and because their civilization was assimilated by others and their entire legacy was blurred.. The main theory about its origin indicates that the Thracians were the original inhabitants of this area based on the genetic data of the DNA tests carried out on the remains of the Stone Age humans, iron and bronze that coincide with those of the Thracians and even genetic coincidences with the current Bulgarians remain.

Thracian tribes inhabited this part of Eastern Europe from about the year 4.000 a.C , nothing more and nothing less!… remember that the Egyptian civilization began towards the 3.000 a.C, the greek towards him 2.100 BC and the Roman to the 750 BC The Thracians left an important mark on European civilization that the latest discoveries and research are bringing to light.

It is known that the Thracians decisively influenced the cultures of Greece and Rome, for example in Greek mythology and in the worship of gods, both Greek and Roman many of them are of Thracian origin. Thracian tribes came to be up to 80 different and even sharing the language and culture were habitually confronted with each other for the territory.

Historical written references.

The first written reference to the Thracians was made by the Greek Homero in his book The Iliad (8th century to. C), where he mentions that the Thracians were powerful warriors who fought alongside the Trojan army, and it is because of their worth the Thracian warriors were often hired as mercenaries by other armies, case of Troy and also of Alexander the Great who had up to 7.000 Thracian warriors in the army that set out to conquer Persia… too Xenophon speak in his book “Anábasis” of what until 1.000 Thracian soldiers were mercenaries in the Persian army of Prince Cyrus in the year 401 a.C….

“The father of history” , greek Herodotus (484 a.C.- 426 a.C.) he also wrote about the Thracians: “The nation of the Thracians is the largest in the world, and the Indian nation is the only one that resembles it in population. If the Thracians were ruled by a single sovereign and were united, They would be, In my opinion, inconquistables, invincible and much stronger than other nations….”

Heródoto

Herodotus

Herodotus was right, the Thracians were skilled warriors because of their long history of inter-tribal conflict, they were well armed, they were fearless warriors and horsemen. There were several attempts to unify the tribes but they did not last long because the tribes' exceptional love of freedom ended up separating them from having a single ruler.. proof of this “love of freedom” is the story of the most famous Thracian: Spartacus, leader of the Thracian tribe of the Medi who fought to free themselves from their slavery and fought unevenly for the freedom of their people against the Roman invasion…But that is another story, find more information about Spartacus here.

 

Time of Thracian splendor: Odrisio Kingdom.

Anyone interested in history is familiar with the testimony of Thucydides (460 – 395 a.C.) , who explains that “the Odrisio Kingdom is the richest and most powerful in Europe”. The tax revenue that this Thracian kingdom received, received from the Greek cities he controlled, It amounts to 400 talents of gold and silver. Others 400 talents are obtained as gifts: gold and silver items, expensive screens, etc. Source: [1] – Thuc . II .97.

In other words, the entrance of the kings orrisios, only of the taxes of foreigners who trade in Thracian territory is approximately 800 talents of gold and silver. Taking into account that the weight of an Attic talent is 26 kg, the amount collected by the odrisios was enormous: more of 19 tons of pure gold . To this must be added the income from the gold and silver mines, the funds received from the wheat, the wheat, timber, etc., sold to greeks.

A rich country must be guarded by a strong army, and the Thracians of the Odrisian Kingdom had one. A few ago 2,500 years, “King Sitalk had an army of 150.000 mens, a third of which were cavalry, principalmente de Gets y Odrysians”. Source: [1] – Thuc II .98.

 

En color azul; territorio controlado por los Tracios en su apogeo

In color blue: Thracian controlled territory at its peak during the Odrisian Kingdom, 5th and 4th centuries BC.

 

Their reputation as good horsemen is related to the love and devotion that the Thracians felt for their horses, Homero account: “Rhesus, leader of the Thracians owns the tallest and best horses I have ever seen, whiter than snow and faster than the wind. His chariot drawn by these horses is richly decorated with gold and silver and Rhesus wears his gold armor with him.…”

 

Recreación de Rhesus, uno de los líderes tracios

Rhesus Recreation, one of the Thracian leaders

 

Funeral rites.

But what do we know about the Thracian culture? in addition to its combative power. In Thracian beliefs, death is not the end… they believed that life continued in the same body but in another world, a world without sadness and eternal happiness. Herodotus also tells that the Thracians celebrated festivals when someone died and yet they lamented when a baby was born, listing all the misfortunes that he would suffer during his life until he reached death… Perhaps this explains the audacity and bellicosity of the Thracians, who did not fear death…

The Thracians were preparing for the “Life after death”, for this they buried the deceased with their best goods, weapons and even for the case of their kings, they were buried with their best horses and with one of their wives. Herodotus tells that when a king died, There was a strong argument among his relatives to decide which had been his favorite wife (the kings had several wives at the same time). Once chosen, she entered of her own accord into the room of the king's tomb and was sacrificed, resting with her husband-king forever… Later, the tomb was covered with earth, forming a mound and competitive games such as hand-to-hand fights were organized.… Few people relate it today but remember that the first Greek Olympics began in the year 776 a.C., who knows if its origin was in these Thracian competitive festivals after the death of their kings…

Tumba de un Rey Tracio, su esposa favorita y sus caballos

Tomb of a Thracian King, his favorite wife and her horses

Thracian archaeological remains in Bulgaria.

At present these tombs in the form of earth mounds can be found in present-day Bulgaria, specifically in the “Valley of the Thracian Kings” around the Bulgarian city of Kazanlak there are more than 200 tombs of this type, some of which are open as museums, the most famous mausoleum is the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak within the urban area of ​​Kazanlak which is declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.

los tracios

Decoration of the vault of the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak. UNESCO World Heritage

Rich treasures of gold have been found in these tombs, in fact the oldest gold treasure in the world has been found in the ancient necropolis next to the Bulgarian city of Varna, with an origin around a year 4.600 a.C. The gold hoard consists of 990 pieces of gold in a single grave (1,5 kg of gold in total), other 850 pieces of gold have been found in the rest of the tombs of the necropolis and, as we say, it is the oldest worked gold in the world.

 

Panaguiúrishte

Solid gold cup belonging to the Treasury of Panaguiúrishte , IV century a.C.

Religion and traditions.

Besides being known as skilled warriors and goldsmiths, the Thracians also achieved an important reputation as wine lovers, they produced and exported excellent wine (according to Homer in the book 9 of the Iliad) and they themselves consumed it frequently in their festivities without diluting it in water, which the Greeks and Romans did, who mixed it with even 3 parts of water… Richly decorated Thracian gold goblets and vessels intended for drinking wine have been found. further, among others, they worshiped the god of wine: Dionisio, building altars and temples in his honor.

The Thracians mainly worshiped pagan gods such as the Great Earth Mother, the Sun and others… they had priests and rites that the Greeks later adopted… Estrabón (64 a.C – 23 d.C), the father of geography, wrote: “the Athenians adopted the rituals of the Thracian religion renaming their gods”… Likewise the Romans later adopted the Greek gods renaming them… for example the Thracian god Sabazios was renamed as Dionysus by the Greeks and later as Bacchus by the Romans.

This data is not accidental, the Thracians were famous in ancient times for the quality of their wines, Ancient traditions and rituals related to wine are still maintained today in Bulgaria.

The Thracians built stone horses, mausoleums, temples and dolmens similar to those at Stonehenge, For example, the most famous archaeological complex that can be visited today is that of Perpericón.

 

Imágenes de los Tracios

Images of the Thracians

 

Current descendants of the Thracians.

The lands of present-day Bulgaria occupied by the Thracians were invaded on different occasions by the Persians, Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great, but it is from the Roman conquest in the 1st century AD. when the trace of Thracian culture begins to fade. It is thought that they were assimilated by Romans, Byzantines and Slavs, however as we mentioned before, genetic material of Thracian origin remains in present-day Bulgarians, so they can be considered the legitimate descendants of those tribes that were advanced in their time, although they eventually succumbed to harassment from neighboring nations and foreign invasions…

If you want to know more about the Thracians stepping on the same territory they walked, don't miss our trip with a Spanish-speaking guide “Searching for Spartacus in Thrace“.

Sources:

(1): Thucydides , The Peloponnesian War, transl. R. Warner, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, 1972;

4 comments

  1. Jaime Cabrera Reply at

    Thanks for the excellent information on this page, It is quite detailed and it is certainly comforting to read something entertaining and well structured, greetings from Chile.

  2. Mentepepe Reply at

    Of everything that I came to find out just by investigating where Spartacus was born

  3. jordi Reply at

    All ancient ancient civilizations of europe as Iberians, Celtic and Germanic Etruscans had the same customs and beliefs and their culture was based on Gnosticism.

    • Luis Reply at

      Thank you for your input. However, the Thracian culture is prior in time to those you mention and also prior to the origin of Gnostcism.

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