Civitas Tropaensium

Civitas Tropaensium, situated in Moesia Inferior in modern Constanţa County, was a Roman castrum settled by Roman veterans of the Dacian Wars. It received the status of a municipium around 200 AD and became the largest Roman city of the province, covering an area of about 10 hectares. It was located at an important crossroad, almost halfway on the road that connected Durostorum (Silistra, Bulgaria) with Tomis (Constanța, Romania) on the western shore of the Black Sea, and on the road that led from Marcianopolis (Devnya, Bulgaria) to Noviodunum on the Danube. A milestone (CIL 03, 14464), dated to between 128 and 138 AD and discovered south of the site, indicates that Hadrian ordered the repair of the imperial road passing through the settlement.

In 116 AD, the inhabitants, under the name of Traianenses Tropaeenses, dedicated a statue to the emperor Trajan (CIL 03, 12470).
© Constanta – Muzeul National de Istorie si Arheologie, Foto: Ortolf Harl, 2012
Courtesy of Ubi Erat Lupa

The site was identified by excavations at the end of the 19th century. Four city gates, the main street (via principalis), countryside villas (villae rusticae) and the remains of six basilicas have been uncovered. The life of the site in the 2nd and 3rd century is known particularly through inscriptions reused as building material for the 4th-6th century fortress. The site became a municipium shortly before 170 AD during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

In the course of the 3d century AD, the fortress was repaired under Septimius Severus, Severus Alexander and Gordian, but later the site gradually lost its importance and was destroyed by the Goths. It was rebuilt during the rule of Constantine the Great with improved defensive walls. Civitas Tropaensium survived as an important religious centre and a bishopric until the Avars sacked the settlement in 587 AD. The city was no longer mentioned for seven hundred years.

The visible ruins belong to the 4th-6th centuries. The defensive walls were provided with horseshoe-shaped defensive towers (a single one was rectangular). Three gates were unearthed: two on the east and west sides and a smaller one on the south side. The via principalis (ca. 300 m long), lined on both sides with porticoes, linked the east and west gates. A large basilica forensis dated to the 4th century stood in the centre of the fortress, south of the main street. On both sides of the same street, excavations have brought to light the ruins of four Christian basilicas, three of them with crypts, and one with an elegant baptistery. A cemetery basilica stood on the hill north of the fortress.

Nearby stands the Tropaeum Traiani (‘Trajan’s Trophy’), a triumphal monument near Civitas Tropaensium built in 109 AD to commemorate Trajan’s victory over the Dacians in 102 AD, in the Battle of Tapae. Before Trajan’s construction, an altar stood there, on the wall of which were inscribed the names of the 3,000 legionaries and auxiliaries who had died “fighting for the Republic”. The Tropaeum Traiani contained fifty-four separate metopes with sculpted scenes of the Roman campaigns. Most of these metopes are now in the site Museum in Adamclisi.

Coordinates: 44°05’31.7″N 27°56’39.3″E


The eastern entrance to the settlement.
The eastern gate with horseshoe-shaped defensive tower.
The via principalis, lined on both sides with porticoes, linked the east and west gates. Under its pavement lay one of the aqueducts and a drain.
The large basilica forensis. It stood in the centre of the fortress, south of the main street.
The large basilica forensis.

Remains of buildings located on the northern side of the via principalis.
Remains of buildings on the northern side of the via principalis with the reconstructed Tropaeum Traiani in the distance.
View towards the western gate.
The western gate with U-shaped defending towers.
The defensive walls.

The 1977 reconstruction of the Tropaeum Traiani.
Original metopes from the Tropaeum Traiani.



Ulpia Oescus

The imposing and impressive ruins of the Roman town Ulpia Oescus are located near the village of Gigen in northern Bulgaria, at the confluence of the Iskar river and the Danube. The town was established in AD 106 in the province of Moesia Inferior and was granted the status of a colony by Emperor Trajan in honour of his victory over the Dacians. Ulpia Oescus was built on the former camp of the Fifth Macedonian legion which was positioned here with a canabae (civilian settlement) in late-Augustan times.

Coordinates: 43°42’28.6″N 24°28’00.2″E

In the 1st century AD, Oescus was an important military post that protected the Danube Limes road to Trimontium (modern-day Plovdiv). It was at this time that the Romans began to build a strong defensive system of fortresses on its northern border to protect them from attacks of barbarian tribes. Oescus thus became a main military point and the camp of two Roman legions, the Legio IV Scythica and the Legio V Macedonica which maintained its permanent military encampment at this site until 101 AD.

L(egio) V M(acedonica) Oes(ci)

The early military camp of the 1st century is now localized precisely under the ruins of the colony built over the subsequent century. The epigraphic monuments of veterans of the necropolis of Oescus also provide information about the early military camp, the canabae and the presumed vicus. In AD 96, the later emperor Hadrian served the fifth Macedonian legion as tribunus militum in Oescus.

The earliest inscription from Oescus in memory of Resius Chronius, liberated slave of centurion Resius Albanus from legio V Macedonica, dated to 9 AD.
Pleven Regional Historical Museum.

After his victory over the Dacian tribes, Trajan turned the military camp into a town centre and directly elevated it to a colonia, the highest rank of provincial government. The name of the colony – Colonia Ulpia Oescensium – is mentioned for the first time in an inscription from the time of Hadrian.

Ulpia Oescus flourished in the 2nd-3rd century AD as a major city in the Roman province of Moesia Inferior during the times of the Antonines (r. AD 117-192) and the Severans (r. AD 193-235) dynasties. The town had a typical Roman urban planning with a rectangular shape and streets oriented east-west and north-south and covered an area of about 28 hectares. The streets were covered with stone slabs under which laid a water supply system and sewage channels. About one-third of the city was occupied by public buildings and the rest by workshops and houses. At its peak, Ulpia Oescus had a population of about 100,000.

Plan of Ulpia Oescus: 1- 3. Temples of the Capitolian Triad (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva), 4. Civic basilica, 5. Temple of Fortuna, 6. Building for the walking during the winter, 7. Building with the mosaic “Acheioi”, 8. Late Roman Bath, 9. Extra muros building.

The town flourished again at the beginning of the 4th century AD during the reign of Constantine the Great when the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople and a stone bridge was erected over the Danube (officially inaugurated on 5 July AD 328 in the presence of the emperor) between Sucidava (present-day Romania) and Oescus. The town was partly destroyed in the 5th century AD by the Huns, and rebuilt under Justinian in an attempt to re-establish Oescus as the stronghold of the Danube defence system. However, all the efforts were stopped in late AD 585 and early 586 by the invasion of the Avars.

The archaeological excavations have revealed the city’s forum, the temples of the Roman deities from the Capitoline Triad –Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva- (built in AD 125 during the reign of Hadrian), a large basilica (built in AD 135), thermae, and other public buildings. In 1948, the mosaic known as “The Achaeans” was discovered. It is currently on display, along with many other of the site’s artefacts, at the Pleven Regional Historical Museum. Other artefacts from the site, such as a statue of the goddess Fortuna, are on view at the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia. Most of the inscriptions and monuments belong to the 2d century AD and give evidence of people coming from Asia Minor and from the province of Gaul, the establishment of the city, and numerous religious cults including Mithras.


View of the public baths built during the last quarter of the 3rd century AD when the V Macedonica returned to Oescus following Aurelianus’ retreat from Dacia. The baths occupied an area of 700 sq.m, were built in opus mixum (mixed masonry), and had 8 separate rooms.
The remains of stores with 7 rectangular rooms arranged side by side with entrances from the south. The stores were built at the end of the 2nd century AD. In one of them, fine glazed pottery was sold coming from big ceramic centres in Lower Moesia.
The street between the public baths and the stores.
The street between the public baths and the stores.
The Building with the “Achaeans” Mosaic. This was the praetorium of the Roman colony. In one of the rooms was found a coloured floor mosaic depicting a scene of the play The Achaeans by Menander.
The mosaic “The Achaeans of Menander” depicting a scene of Menander’s The Achaeans with the inscription MENANDROU ACHAIOI. It is dated to the time of the Septimius Severus. The play was unknown prior to the mosaic’s discovery in 1948. Pleven Regional Historical Museum.
Overview of the Decumanus Maximus and the Temple of Fortuna.
The Decumanus Maximus.
The ruins of the Temple of Fortuna. The temple area, which adjoined the southeast corner of the forum complex, consisted of a portico facing the south, a peristyle courtyard and the temple itself, occupying an area of ​​50 x 29 m.
The ruined Temple of Fortuna, one of the emblematic buildings of Ulpia Oescus. It was erected in 190-192 AD, with funding provided by Commodus. The temple area was destroyed by fire at the time of the Goth invasion in 376/78 AD.

Architrave from the Temple of Fortuna with garlands, medusa heads and bucrania.
Scattered architectural elements from the Temple of Fortuna.
Scattered architectural elements from the Temple of Fortuna.
View of the forum which was made out of limestone in the Corinthian style. It occupied an area of ​​96 x 58 m and was surrounded by porticoes to the east, south and west. At the north end of the forum stood the three temples of the Capitoline Triad as well as the basilica civilis.

Pediment with Latin inscription from the eastern portico of the Forum.
The northern end of the forum complex was flanked by a three-aisled civic basilica of impressive dimensions (100 х 24 m). The basilica was the last building to be erected in the forum during the reign of Hadrian.

Scattered architectural elements from the civil basilica.
A caryatid, one of the sculpted female figures that served as architectural elements and supported the pillars of the basilica. The use of relief caryatids in a public building is so far without parallel in the Roman cities of Thrace and Moesia.
Fragment of fresco from the civic basilica.
Pleven Regional Historical Museum.
One of the medallions with portrait busts that decorated the basilica and placed beneath the caryatids.
Scattered architectural elements from the civil basilica.
Scattered architectural elements from the civil basilica.

Scattered architectural elements from the Temple of Minerva.
Scattered architectural elements from the Temple of Jupiter.
Scattered architectural elements from the Temple of Juno.
The extra muros building dated to the middle of 3rd century AD and covering an area of ​​52 x 64 m.
U – shaped tower dating to the 4-5th century AD.