Within the borderlines of the Roman empire most of the Thracian lands were structured in two big provinces - Moesia and Thrace. Apparently, both names have outlived the Thracians and even nowadays two of the three major Bulgarian historic regions (Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia) are still called by these names. The bloody decades of seizure of the Thracian lands were followed by peace and calm, and by years of construction. Soon the Thracians were declared fully-fledged citizens of Rome. Agriculture and cattle-breeding remained as the basis of livelihood in these lands and the manufacturing sector stayed in the hands of free farmers. The enormous latifundia of Italy employing tens of thousands of slaves were a phenomenon unknown in the Thracian lands.

During the first two centuries of their rule in the lands of ancient Thrace, the Romans embarked on the construction of well-designed roads. Some of these routes do indeed coincide with the European highway network of the modern times. Dozens of well-planned and well-built towns with well-developed craft industry (its social basis being again the free artisan association), cultural enterprises and a highly developed urban infrastructure, cropped up one after the other. The Thracians penetrated the state machinery, some of them reaching high administrative and military positions. They even made their way to the emperor's throne. The line of Thraco-Roman emperors began with the name of Mixjminus (235-238), a Thracian farmer who climbed up the career ladder from the dagger of a tyro in the Roman legions to the warder of the Divine Augustus very fast.

The almost idyllic picture of life in the Bulgarian lands got seriously overshadowed in the middle of the 3rd century AD. These flourishing parts of the Roman empire were swept by frightfully consistent waves of barbaric invasions, marking the advance of the Great Migration of Peoples. Peoples coming either from the ice-frozen steppes and marshlands of present-day Russia or from the deserts of Asia, broke through the system of Roman borderline fortifications. On the incomplete columns of extant written and epigraphic records, Bulgarian historians have counted as many as 54 peoples 'assailing' those lands between the 3rd and the 5th centuries AD. Having worn down the resistance of the legions and the city garrisons, the barbarians began plundering the treasures in the provinces, dragging away the population and razing the resplendent Thraco-Roman civilization.

The Roman authorities made serious efforts to stop the destructive pressure exerted by the barbarians. Castles and roads were rebuilt and constructed anew and the barbarian tribes got down to settling as foederati in the devastated regions. These efforts doubled after the division of the empire into two parts and upon the establishment of the capital of the Eastern Roman empire in Constantinople. The Bulgarian lands appeared as an immediate hinderland to this city of one million population.

It appears that all this was in vain. The blows of the barbarians followed one after the other. At the beginning of the 7th century AD the ancient culture of Thrace and Moesia was destroyed and life in the still existing settlements rusticated and became barbarian-like. Having suffered considerable demographic losses, the Thracians literally disappeared from the stage of history. Only small groups managed to survive here and there in the high, unscalable mountains or cared to withdraw to the big, well-fortified city-centers of the empire, beyond present-day Bulgarian lands. De facto, the power of Rome there was purely nominal and it was represented only in several of the city centers which stood out as isolated islands in the rough and wild sea warming with barbarians.

It looked as if those lands had not been fated to accommodate peaceful and creative life ever again. However, along the roads of the northern regions of the Balkan Peninsula, there could be heard the still indistinct steps of a people whose right, as assigned by history, was to bring the lands of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia back to the bosom of the European civilization.

The Thracians << | Roman Influence in Ancient Bulgaria | >> The Bulgarians

Translated from the book "Bulgaria Illustrated History" by Maria Nikolotva
text used here with permission from translator, save modifications for noding

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