Perperikon

Perperikon is an ancient Thracian holy city, located 470 metres above a rocky hill in the eastern part of the Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria.

perperikon

Perperikon is an ancient Thracian holy city, located 470 metres above a rocky hill in the eastern part of the Rhodope Mountains, 15 km northeast of the present-day city of Kardzhali in Bulgaria. The village of Gorna Krepost (“mountain fortress”) is located at the foot of the hill on the gold-bearing Perpereshka River. Perperikon is the largest megalithic structure in the Balkans.

Perperikon is believed to have been the famous sanctuary and oracle site dedicated to Dionysos of the Bessi. But with a history spanning over 8,000 years, Perperikon has been a significant center for various civilizations and played a crucial role in shaping the region’s past.

According to archaeologists, only 10% of the complex has been uncovered.

Human presence in the area dates back to the 6th millennium BCE, the period of the Neolithic Karanovo culture. There are no signs of habitation from that time, it seems to have been a purely religious centre. The finds multiply during the Copper and Bronze Ages. Found pottery and the impressive altar of 2m in diameter, carved out of the rock, date back to the Iron Age. There are indications that Perperikon was also home to the Thracian oracle, which foretold the victory of Alexander the Great. The archaeological finds show a prominent role for Perperikon in the Thracian civilization.

During the Thracian era, from the 5th to the 3rd century BCE, Perperikon became the capital of the Thracian tribe of the Bessi. The Bessi were known for their independence and fierce resistance against invading forces. They built a fortified citadel on the site, comprising of impressive stone structures and defensive walls. The architecture of the Thracian period reflects their advanced engineering skills and distinctive artistic style, characterized by intricate stone carvings and ornate decoration.

One of the most remarkable features of Perperikon is the Acropolis, situated at the highest point of the site. The Acropolis housed temples, palaces, and residences for the Thracian elite. Excavations have revealed the remains of grand buildings adorned with frescoes and statues. The most renowned discovery at the Acropolis is the “Throne of Dionysus,” an intricately carved stone seat associated with Thracian religious rituals and believed to be connected to the worship of the god of wine and revelry.

In the 4th century BCE, Perperikon came under the influence of the Macedonian Empire led by Alexander the Great. The site continued to thrive as an important regional hub and a center for trade and commerce. Perperikon’s strategic location along major trade routes facilitated the exchange of goods and ideas between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions. The influence of Hellenistic culture can be observed in the architectural elements and artistic motifs found at the site.

With the decline of the Macedonian Empire, Perperikon fell under Roman rule in the 1st century BCE. The Romans recognized the significance of the site and further developed it, constructing new buildings, temples, and a theater. The theater, which could accommodate up to 5,000 spectators, was a testament to the Roman love for entertainment and served as a venue for various performances.

Perperikon continued to flourish during the Byzantine era, from the 5th to the 14th century CE. The Byzantines built churches, fortifications, and expanded the existing structures. The Christian influence is evident in the remains of Byzantine churches adorned with intricate mosaics and frescoes. The site also served as a bishopric during this period.

Tragically, in the 14th century, Perperikon suffered devastation during the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans. The site was abandoned, and its grandeur was lost to time. It remained forgotten until the 20th century when archaeological excavations began.

In the 20th century, archaeologists rediscovered Perperikon, unearthing its ancient past and bringing it back to the world’s attention. The ongoing excavations and research have revealed a wealth of artifacts, including pottery, jewelry, coins, and religious objects, shedding light on the diverse cultural and historical layers of the site.

Archaeologists have shown that in Roman times there must have been a palace of several stories on-site and that the hill was surrounded by a fortification with walls up to 2.80 metres thick. Temples and community buildings were also located in this fortification.

The megalithic complex has fallen into disrepair and rebuilt many times throughout its history.

  • References

    Image: “Tourists at Perperikon” by Klearchos Kapoutsis is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

    Image: “The Tower of Perperikon” by Klearchos Kapoutsis is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

    Image: “Perperikon” by Suhopese is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/?ref=openverse.

    Image: “Perperikon Nenko Lazarow 131” by Nenko Lazarov is licensed under CC BY 2.5. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/?ref=openverse.

    Image: “Perperikon” by slavcho is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

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