July 18, 2012

0281 BULGARIA - Madara Rider (UNESCO WHS)

Because of the richness of archaeological monuments discovered in this zone,  Madara, a village in northeastern Bulgaria, which lies at the western foot of the Madara plateau, is called "the Bulgarian Troy". The Madara National Historical and Archaeological Reserve, located near to the village, includes Neolithic and Eneolithic findings, a Thracian settlement, Ancient Roman villa and fortress from the 2nd-5th century, medieval Bulgarian palace, pagan sanctuaries, Christian churches and monasteries, fortresses from the First Bulgarian Empire, and a cave monastery from the 12th–14th century. Most importantly, Madara is the location of the famous Madara Rider, an early medieval rock relief carved by the Bulgars, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979.

Madara Rider, the only monumental stone bas-relief in Europe, dated to about 710 AD, is hewn into sheer cliffs at a height of 23m, and presents a horseman who has speared a lion, with an eagle flying in front and a dog running after him, the carving being surrounded by three inscriptions in Greek, which are a short chronicle of the Bulgarian-Byzantine relations in those times. The image is obvious a scene of triumph, incarnating the grandeur of the Bulgars ruler and the power of the Bulgar state. If the bas-relief was carved during the rule of the Bulgar Khan Tervel (r. 700–721), and is probably a portrayal of the khan himself, a part of the inscriptions (of which content can be found here) were made later, describing events  that occurred during the reigns of Krum (803–814), Omurtag (r. 814–831), and Malamir (r. 831–836).

I can't resist to not present, even briefly, the context of birth of the First Bulgarian Empire. In the 6th and 7th centuries, several Slavic tribes crossed the Danube to the south, occupying (according to an Armenian geography from 7th century) "other lands in Thrace and Macedonia", "until in Achaia and Dalmatia", assimilating over time the local population. Meanwhile, the Bulgars (an Oghur Turkic people original from central regions of Asia) settled on the land between the Don and Volga, where they remained until the 5th century. It took another 200 years (during which they collided with the Avars, Byzantines and Khazars) to reach to the south of the Danube, where they subjected the Slavic tribes. Much less numerous than the Slavs, they were assimilated until 10th century, but they left their names to the country created on the south of the Danube.

After a war with Byzantium in 680, Asparukh settled in Dobrudja, and the Emperor Constantine IV Pogonatus recognized the Bulgars khanate in 681, regarded as the year of Bulgaria's birth. Terbel established the state borders, and after numerous clashes with the Byzantine Empire, Krum spreads its domination both north of the Danube and south of the Balkans, and in the west until to Banat. Moreover, he defeated and killed, in 811, the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros I, in whose skull he will drink wine at banquets. Only the Tsar Boris will Christianize the Bulgars, with the sword, in 864.

Very interesting seems to me that despite the fact that the Madara Horseman was made in pagan times, nobody tried ever to destroy it, not even the Christian hermits who lived in the Madara rocks during the 13th and 14th centuries. The explanation can be only one: the monument was always considered important to the foundation of the Bulgarian state, and not only a pagan edifice.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of a definitives series entitled Night Butterflies, about which I wrote here.

The second is one from a series of two, Flowers, about which I wrote here.

Madara National Historical & Archaeological Reserve - maps.spotilove.com
Madara Rider - UNESCO official site
Madara Rider - Wikipedia
History of Bulgaria - Wikipedia
Istoria Românilor, vol 1, by Constantin Giurescu - Editura Bic All, Bucureşti, 2007
Inscriptions On Madara Horseman - berberian11.tripod.com

sender: Desislava Eneva (direct swap)
sent from Sofia (Sofia-grad / Bulgaria), on 29.06.2012

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