Pillar Discovered with Inscription Honoring Roman Emperor Philip the Arab

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The newly discovered roadside Roman pillar found near the Sostra Fortress close to Bulgaria’s Troyan mentions Roman Emperor Philip the Arab and his son, Philip the Younger. Photo: National Museum of History


By Ivan Dikov / 06.21.2016

Archaeology in Bulgaria

A sizable Ancient Roman stone pillar with an inscription honoring Roman Emperor Philip the Arab (r. 244-249 AD) has been discovered during the 2016 excavations of a Roman road station close to the Sostra Fortress near the town of Lomets, Troyan Municipality, in Central Bulgaria.

The Ancient Roman pillar whose discovery has been announced by the National Museum of History in Sofia and by Troyan Municipality, was a roadside pillar. It has been described by the Museum as a “valuable epigraphic monument”.

The pillar has been discovered by the team of Assoc. Prof. Ivan Hristov, Deputy Director of the National Museum of History, who has been working on the excavations of the Sostra Fortress since 2002.

The pillar is 2.2-meters tall, and features an engraved inscription in 19 lines in honor of Roman Emperor Philip the Arab (r. 244-249 AD) and his son, Philip II (Philip the Younger).

According to Assist. Prof. Nikolay Sharankov from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, an expert in Antiquity epigraphic monuments, the pillar features an official inscription in honor of the Emperor which dates back to 244 AD; it also mentions the name of the provincial governor named Prastina Mesalinus.

The inscription pillar might have been erected when Emperor Philip the Arab passed through the Balkans on his way to Rome in 244 (when he might have visited the Sostra Fortress) or when his son Philip the Younger was declared a Caesar, the Museum says.

The lower end of the inscription marks the distance of 1 Roman mile from the fortress to the nearby Roman road station which was discovered 2 years ago by Ivan Hristov’s team, not far from the site of the present excavations.

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The newly discovered Roman stone pillar with an inscription is 2.2 meters tall, and probably dates back to 244 AD. Photos: National Museum of History

This is the third epigraphic monument there to be discovered by Hristov’s. Since 2000, two fully preserved pedestals for statues of Roman Emperors Antonius Pius (138-161 AD) and Gallienus (r. 253-268 AD), which are part of the Lapidarium of the Museum of Crafts and Applied Arts in Troyan. The newly discovered pillar will also be placed in the Lapidarium.

The Sostra Fortress was located on the Via Traiana, Emperor Trajan’s Road.

Via Traiana, which runs through the Troyan Pass of the Balkan Mountains, was vital in Roman Emperor Trajan’s wars for conquering the Dacians, the resisting Thracian tribes north of the Lower Danube, in today’s Romania.

The road connected Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called Limes Moesiae – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen and Novae near today’s town Svishtov, in the Roman province of Moesia.

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“The 2016 excavations of the Sostra Fortress have brought valuable information about the construction of the Roman road section in front of the fortress walls – part of a large Roman highway starting on the Danube at Ulpia Oescus (today’s Gigen) and reaching Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv),” says the National Museum of History.

The archaeologists have unearthed a large section of the 7-meter-wide Ancient Roman road which had two lanes and a center line. The specific road section was in existence until the 3rd century AD.

While excavating the road, the archaeologists have found dozens of Roman coins minted in the provinces of Moesia [Inferior] and Thrace.

The archaeological team led by Ivan Hristov is continuing its work on a plot located to the east of the main gate of the Sostra Fortress, with funding from Troyan Municipality.

This is where the local authorities plan to build a visitors’ center, a parking lot, and other tourist infrastructure as part of a project to make the Sostra Fortress and the Roman road station nearby a popular cultural tourism site.

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An excavated section of the Roman road Via Traiana which connected Roman outposts on the Danube with Philipopolis (Plovdiv) through the Balkan Mountains. The road is very well preserved near Bulgaria’s Troyan. Photo: National Museum of History

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The Sostra Fortress near Bulgaria’s Lomets and Troyan was located on Emperor Trajan’s road, with a major road station nearby. The excavated sections of the road are visible in the foreground, before the fortress gate. The fortress was partly restored in 2005. Photo: National Museum of History

During the excavations of the Roman road station near the Sostra Fortress in the spring of 2015, the archaeologists discovered an Ancient Roman jacuzzi heater at what has been described as a “luxury road station”.

What is more, also in 2015, a fragment of another Ancient Roman stone inscription was discovered at another Roman road station on Via Traiana near Bulgaria’s Troyan, Ad Radices. The inscription is partly preserved, and mentions Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD).

Sostra is an Ancient Roman fortress and road station located near the town of Lomets, 16 km away from the town of Troyan.

It was situated on the major Roman road linking ancient Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) and the Roman outposts on the Lower Danube such as Ulpia Oescus (near today’s Gigen) and Novae (near today’s Shishtov) via the Troyan Pass in the Balkan Mountains (also known as Trajan’s Road, Via Traiana, or Trajan’s Balkan Road, Via Traiana Balkanica, to distinguish it from Emperor Trajan’s road on the Italian Peninsula).

Sostra’s construction started around 147 AD at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and later became a town with civilian population for a brief period of time.

It became the target of barbarian invasions, and was destroyed in the 4th by the Goths, and completely destroyed by the Huns at the end of the 6th century. Starting in 2002, Sostra has been excavated by Assoc. Prof. Ivan Hristov from Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia.

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