February 3, 2013

0494 BULGARIA (Stara Zagora) - Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak (UNESCO WHS)

I don't think that I wrong if I say that people in wide world know much fewer things about Thracians than about Greeks, Romans, Celts or Germanic tribes, although Herodotus wrote about them in the Fifth Book of his Histories (called Terpsichore) that "the Thracian race is the most numerous, except the Indians, in all the world: and if it should come to be ruled over by one man, or to agree together in one, it would be irresistible in fight and the strongest by far of all nations, in my opinion."

To the Greeks, Thrax (regarded as the patron of Thrace, from whom the Thracians took also their name) is one of the reputed sons of Ares, the god of war. Therefore it isn't surprising that the Thracians from the south of the Danube reached under Roman rule at a hundred years after the Greeks (46 BC), and the Dacians (generally considered a branch of Thracians), after another century and a half (106 AD). Nevertheless, probably the only Thracian widely known is Spartacus, who created so many problems to the Roman armies between 73 and 71 BC.

Thracians inhabited parts of the ancient provinces Thrace, Moesia, Macedonia, Dacia, Scythia Minor, Sarmatia, Bithynia, Mysia, Pannonia, and other regions on the Balkans and Anatolia. Unfortunately their cultural influence was highly reduced due to the repeated invasions of the Balkans by Celts, Huns, Goths, and Sarmatians, accompanied by hellenization, romanisation and later slavicisation. One of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians are the Thracians.

So far, in Bulgaria took place the most intense archaeological researches related to Thracians, and of course that in this country were discovered the most numerous and important vestiges, among them being the Tomb of Kazanlak (in the picture), situated near the ancient Seuthopolis, the capital city of the king Seutes III, the only Thracian city that has been completely excavated, preserved and researched.

In 1942, in full World War, a tomb dated to the 3rd century BC, from the Hellenistic period, was discovered in the romantic Valley of Roses, followed by others, more than 500, which show that the area was inhabited by a large Thracian population. The one from the picture, the only one of its kind anywhere in the world, perfectly preserved, found in 1944 inside a hillock within the necropolis, is, according to UNESCO,"a unique aesthetic and artistic work, a masterpiece of the Thracian creative spirit".

The tomb was built of stone and consists of three chambers required by the Thracian cult of the dead: an antechamber for the chariot, horses, or slaves which accompanied the dead man in the after-life; a corridor (dromos), which was a small room for the things needed in the after-life; and a burial chamber for the body itself. The murals are the chief asset of the Kazanlak Tomb, and in fact represent a monumental facade. They are memorable for the splendid horses and especially for the farewell gesture, in which a young couple has grabbed each other's wrists in a moment of tenderness and equality.

Among many others, Herodotus gave us information about the burial customs of the Thracians at that time (5th century BC): "... each man has many wives, and when any man of them is dead, a great competition takes place among his wives, with much exertion on the part of their friends, about the question of which of them was most loved by their husband; and she who is preferred by the decision and so honoured, is first praised by both men and women, then her throat is cut over the tomb by her nearest of kin, and afterwards she is buried together with her husband; and the others are exceedingly grieved at it, for this is counted as the greatest reproach to them. (...) The manner of burial for the rich among them is this: for three days they expose the corpse to view, and they slay all kinds of victims and feast, having first made lamentation. Then they perform the burial rites, either consuming the body with fire or covering it up in the earth without burning; and afterwards when they have heaped up a mound they celebrate games with every kind of contest, in which reasonably the greatest prizes are assigned for single combat."

The monument has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1979, under the name Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak.

About the stamp

The stamp is part of the series of definitive stamps Moths, designed by Stoyan Dechev and issued on January 15, 2004:
Noctua tertia (0.40 BGN) - It's on the postcard 0494
Rethera komarovi (0.45 BGN)
Syntomis marjana (0.55 BGN)
Arctia caja (0.80 BGN) - It's on the postcard 0677

This is a post for Sunday Stamps #108, run by Viridian from Viridian’s Postcard Blog. The theme of this week is Insects. Click on the button to visit Viridian’s blog and all the other participants.

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak - Wikipedia
Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak - UNESCO official website
Herodotus History translated into English - About.com

Sender: Fidel Angelov (direct swap)
Sent from Sofia (Sofia-grad / Bulgaria), on 18.06.2012

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