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Odrysian Kingdom

c. 480 BC-30 BC
Flag of Thrace
The Odrysian kingdom during its peak under king Sitalces
The Odrysian kingdom during its peak under king Sitalces
(c. 330-250 BC)
Common languagesThracian
Greek (writing, trade, administration)
Thracian polytheism
Historical eraClassical antiquity
o Foundation
c. 480 BC
340 BC
o Foundation of Seuthopolis
330-320 BC
o Conquest of Odrysian heartlands by the Sapaeans
30 BC
Today part of Bulgaria

The Odrysian Kingdom (; Ancient Greek: ?; Latin: Regnum Odrysium) was a Thracian kingdom that existed from the early 5th century BC at least until the 3rd century. It consisted mainly of present-day Bulgaria, spreading to parts of Southeastern Romania (Northern Dobruja), parts of Northern Greece and parts of modern-day European Turkey. Dominated by the eponymous Odrysian people, it was the largest and most powerful Thracian state. Before the late 4th century it had probably no fixed capital, as the kings may have preferred to have moved between residences.[2] The main royal residence was the city of Odryssa (assumed to be modern Plovdiv).[3]

The Odrysian kingdom was founded by king Teres I, exploiting the collapse of the Persian presence in Europe due to failed invasion of Greece in 480-79. Teres and his son Sitalces pursued a policy of expansion, making the Odrysian kingdom the largest state in the eastern Balkans. Throughout much of its early history it remained an ally of Athens and even joined the Peloponnesian War on its side. By 400 the state showed first signs of fatigue, although the skilled Cotys I initiated a brief renaissance that lasted until his murder in 360.

Afterwards the kingdom disintegrated: southern and central Thrace were divided among three Odrysian kings, while the northeast came under the dominion of the kingdom of the Getae. The three Odrysian kingdoms were eventually conquered by the rising kingdom of Macedon under Philip II in 340. A much smaller Odrysian state was revived in around 330 by Seuthes III, who founded a new capital named Seuthopolis that functioned until the second quarter of the 3rd century BC. After that there is little conclusive evidence for the persistence of an Odrysian state, although the Odrysian tribe continued to exist. Their heartland was eventually annexed by the Sapaean kingdom in the late 1st century BC, which was converted into a Roman province in 46 AD.

The Odrysians

Greek vase painting showing a Thracian woman with tattooed arms, c. 470 BC

The Odrysians (Odrysae or Odrusai, Ancient Greek) were one of the most powerful Thracian tribes that dwelled in the plain of the Hebrus river.[4] This would place the tribe in the modern border area between Southeastern Bulgaria, Northeastern Greece and European Turkey, centered around the city of Plovdiv[5] or Edirne.[6][7] The river Artescus[8] passed through their land as well. Xenophon[9] writes that the Odrysians held horse races and drank large amounts of wine after the burial of their dead warriors. Thucydides writes on their custom, practised by most Thracians, of giving gifts for getting things done,[10] which was refuted by Heraclides. Herodotus was the first writer to mention the Odrysae.



Thrace in the late iron age

Since the Thracians had no literature of their own one is forced to reconstruct the history of the region with archaeological and numismatic evidence as well as accounts of Greek historians.[11] In the late 6th century Athenian settlers interacted with a "king of Thrace" (and possible predecessor of the Odrysian kings?) residing north of the Gallipoli peninsula.[12]

Persian Thrace

A man from "Skudra" in a pose of submission as depicted on a royal Persian tomb in Naqsh-e Rostam, c. 480 BC. "Skudra" is traditionally identified with Thrace, although this is not undisputed.[13]

In around 513 BC, an army of the mighty Persian dynasty of the Achaemenids crossed the Bosphorus, after already having subdued the Thracians of Bithynia thirty years earlier. King Darius I' goal was a punitive expedition against the Scythians at the northern shores of the Black Sea. Most eastern Thracian tribes submitted peacefully, except of the Getai, who were defeated. More expeditions under the generals Megabazus and Mardonius as well as king Xerxes I followed, even though they only managed to secure the Aeagean coast.[14]

It seems most likey that the Achaemenids did not establish a satrapy (provincial administration) in Thrace,[13][15] even though the historian Herodotus claimed that the subdued regions had to pay taxes. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence for important administrative centers. Instead, Persian authority was merely exersiced through a couple of garrisoned forts, most importantly those of Doriskos and Eion.[13] Hence, the vast majority of Thrace remained unaffected by the Persian presence.[15] After the failed invasion of Greece in 480-79, the Persian foothold in Europe collapsed. By around 450, Persian authority in Europe, including Thrace, had vanished entirely.[16]

Foundation and early years (c. 480-431 BC)

Early tribal kingdom

Although the Persian presence in Thrace was short-lived, it probably stimulated trade and first state formations among the Thracians. Mintings of Thracian coins started around 500 and may be an indicator for a variety of early tribal kingdoms. It has been suggested that the Odrysian kingdom might have had its origins in this period, even though the name of the Odrysians is notably absent from the numismatic evidence.[17] The Odrysians eventually stepped into the light of history in the aftermath of the Persian failure in Greece, when they were mentioned by Herodotus, but without any further details.[15] The Odrysians had their core territory in the valleys of the Maritsa river and its tributaries Tundzha and Arda.[18] Like other Thracian polities, the Odrysian tribal kingdom attempted to fill the vacuum left by the Persian retreat.[19]

Expansion under Teres I

The first known Odrysian king was the expansionist Teres I, who is claimed by Thucydides to have been the first Odrysian king altogether.[15] Writing in the late 5th century BC, he wrote that Teres "was the first powerful king of the Odrysae" and that he "was the first founder of the great Odrysian empire, which he extended over a large part of Thrace, although many of the Thracian tribes are still independent."[20] Said independent tribes consisted of Thracians living along parts of the Aegean coast[21] and in parts of the Rhodope mountains and as well as the powerful[22]Triballi around the Balkan mountains.[23]

Teres most likely came to dominate central Thrace soon after 480 BC. Building his realm on a priviliged warrior aristocracy, he and his son Sitalces expanded the realm from the Danube in the north to the outskirts of Abdera at the Aegean Sea. He also expanded to eastern Thrace, although he suffered a setback at the hands of the Thynoi. In the north-east, he cemented the position of his realm by allying himself with the kingdom of Scythia under king Ariapeithes, who married Teres' daughter.[24] In conclusion, the Odrysians were the first to superseed the Thracian tribal system and establish a large state in the eastern Balkans.[25]

A typical Odrysian elite tomb: the Zhaba Mogila tumulus near Strelcha, 5th-4th centuries BC
Gold funeral mask from the Svetitsa tumulus near Shipka, second half of the 5th century BC

Around the middle of the 5th century, when Sitalces had not yet succeeded his father,[26] the Odrysians intervened in a Scythian civil war, seemingly on the side of the dethroned king Scylas against Octamasadas, who was a son of Ariapeithes and Teres' sister. When the two armies met at the Danube, however, Sitalces simply agreed to hand over Scylas (who was killed on the spot) for an unnamed brother of his who resided among the Scythians.[27] Another important event may have happened further east, in the Bosporan Kingdom, when a Thracian named Spartokos seized power in around 438. It is not unlikely that he was of Odrysian descent and that his takeover was instigated by the Odrysian royal house, although this must remain speculation.[28]

The early Odrysian elite in archaeology

Archaeological evidence confirms that by the middle of the 5th century, a new and powerful elite had emerged that accumalted a wealth of precious artifacts of both local and regional origin.[24] Burial practices were changing after the Persian withdrawal and a new type of elite burial emerged in central Thrace[29] in the form of tombs with ashlar masonry, sometimes with stone sarcophagi.[30] The tomb of Rouets from the late 5th century even contained traces of wall paintings.[31] The earliest of these new elite tombs can be found in the necropolis of Duvanli, with the oldest tombs dating to the mid-5th century.[32] Their inventory is exceptional not only by contemporary Thracian, but even Mediterranean standards.[33] According to the archaeologist Tonkova they contained "splendid sets of head and body ornaments, consisting of numerous hoop or boat-shaped earrings, pendants for earrings, a necklace, a torque, bracelets, finger-rings, chains with pendants and fibulae, and pectorals."[32] Most Thracian elite tombs have been identified as warrior burials as they contained weapons and gold pectorals. Two burials from Svetitsa (second half of the 5th century BC) and Dalakova (early 4th century BC) also contained finely crafted and rather impressive gold funeral masks.[32]

The Odrysians and the Peleponnesian war (431-404 BC)

Sitalces and his alliance with Athens

Teres, who is claimed to have lived 92 years, had died by the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war in 431. His successor was his son Sitacles, whose reign is mostly known thanks to the account of Thucydides.[18] Before the war he is known to have campaigned against the Paeonians in the west, subjugating some of the tribes living along the upper reaches of the Struma river.[34] Now, his influence extended over much of Bulgaria, Greek and Turkish Thrace and also parts of southeastern Romania: from the Struma and Iskar rivers in the west to the Black and Marmara Seas in the east as well as the Balkan Mountains and the mouth of the Danube (which was ruled by the tributary Getae) in the north.[35][36] According to Thucydides, the Odrysian state was "very powerful, and in revenue and general prosperity exceeded all the nations of Europe which lie between the Ionian Sea and the Euxine."[37]

In the south, much of coastal Thrace had passed under the rule of Athens, making them direct neighbours of the Odrysians.[38] The Athenians had already taken some interest in the Thracian interior before 431, but it was in said year when they concluded an alliance with Sitalces against Perdiccas II of Macedon in the west.[39] This pact was cemented by a dynastic marriage, as Sitalces would marry the sister of the Athenian ambassador, Nymphodoros of Abdera. Sitalces' son Sadokos was sent to Athens and was granted the Athenian citizenship.[36] Sitalces, apparently an experienced leader with political acumen,[40] would prove his commitment to the alliance in the next year, when he arrested a Peloponnesian embassy that tried to persuade him to join the Spartan side and handed it over to Athens.[36]

Greek vase painting showing Orpheus singing for two Thracian warriors, c. 430 BC

At the turn of the year 428, Sitalces raised a massive, multi-ethnic army to march against Macedon and insurgents on the Chalkidiki peninsula. His army consisted of a variety of Thracians (some, like those of the Rhodope Mountains were independent, but joined nonetheless), Getae and some Paeonians.[36] In total, this army was claimed to have numbered 150.000 men. While this number is probably inflated, there is still little reason to doubt that Sitalces' force was very large, even though most of these men were not professionals, but mere levies.[41] While Sitalces managed to subjugate some of the Thracian tribes of the lower Struma his invasion of eastern Macedon and the Chalkidiki was less successful, as his opponents avoided open combat and simply hid behind their walls. The Odrysian army had not the means to storm them, plus winter was approaching and food supplies were running out. Furthermore, the Athenian force that was promised to them never arrived, perhaps because Athens feared the might of the unleashed Thracian kingdom. After failed negotiations with Perdiccas II Sitalces reteated back home.[42] Thus, after only 30 days the Odrysian invasion had come to an end.[36]

Seuthes I

Sitalces was succeeded in 424 by his nephew Seuthes I after the former was killed while campaigning against the Triballi,[43] who resided north of the western Balkan Mountains.[44] Throughout his reign, the Odrysians did not inteverne in coastal Thrace, which had now become a contested battlefield between Athens and Sparta.[45] Athens for its part began to make heavy use of Thracian mercenaries acting as light skirmishers, the peltasts. Due to their success the Greeks soon began to raise peltast units of their own. Still, the Athenians eventually lost the Peleponnesian war and, for a few years at least, much of their influence in the northern Aegean.[46] Seuthes I was eventually succeeded by Amadocus I, also known as Medokos, in around 410[47] or 405 BC.[45]

First signs of decay and brief revival under Cotys I (404-360 BC)

The civil wars between Amadocus I and Seuthes II

Thraco-Phrygian bronze helmet with silver appliques. Pletena, first half of the 4th century BC

By the turn of the 4th century the Odrysian kingdom showed its tendecy towards fragmentation. Two rulers are known by 405: Amadocus I and Seuthes II.[48] The historian Diodorus Siculus even called both of them "kings of the Thracians", although this is most likely a misunderstanding: by 405 Seuthes II still considered Amadocus I as his suzerein.[49] Amadocus was the son of the previous king Seuthes I, while Seuthes II was the son of a Thracian chieftain named Maisades. Maisades was a descendant of king Teres, making Seuthes II and Amadocus I distant relatives. There was also an autonomous Odrysian prince in the western hinterlands of Byzantium named Teres.[47]

Initially raised at the court of Amadocus, Seuthes was sent to eastern Thrace several years before 405. By 405 he had managed to consolidate his position[50] over a realm stretching from Apollonia Pontica over the Strandzha to parts of the northern Marmara coast. In 400 BC he hired Greek mercenaries under Xenophon to expand his dominion at the cost of Teres and other rebels, forcing them to reaknowledge the authority of Amadocus.[51] Due to lacking funds they left his service already after two months. Seuthes II eventually rose against Amadocus, although little is known about this insurrection. In 389 the Athenian general Thrasybulus mediated between the two parties, resulting in Seuthes II, whom Xenophon called "ruler of the coast region", recognizing Amadocus' authority again.[52]

Amadocus, who had defied Seuthes' inscurrection probably due to his own popularity, died soon after 389.[53] His successor was Hebryzelmis, about whom very little is known, but who, like Amadocus, sought the good will of Athens. Seuthes II on the other hand allied with Sparta.[54] An Athenian inscription from the year 386/5[54] confirms that Hebryzelmis sent a delegation to Athens to legitimize his rule and/or gain an ally against Seuthes. However, the Athenians had little interest in another war in the region and thus limited themselves to kind words.[55] Meanwhile, Seuthes had risen yet again against the crown. This second war went badly, as he seemingly lost all of his domains before reconquering them thanks to a mercenary army led by Iphicrates. Iphicrates subsequently married the daughter of Seuthes' son, Cotys I.[54]

Renaissance under Cotys I

Silver coin of Cotys I, 383-360/59 BC

Cotys I succeeded Seuthes II in 383. The historian Michael Zahrnt described Cotys as "the right man to strengthen the run-down Odrysian realm, vigorous, and an artful diplomat [...]."[54] Indeed, it was under him that the kingdom reached its greatest might and became a considerable political factor in the nascent Hellenistic world. He was also the only Odrysian king whose character was excessively discussed by ancient scholars, although primarily in a rather unfavourable way.[56] While virtually nothing is known about the early years of his rule it is clear that he, together with his son-in-law Iphicrates, managed to conquer the domains of the deceased Hebryzelmis, thus uniting the Odrysian realm under his rule.[54] In 375 he faced an invasion of the Triballi, who devastated the western parts of the realm while marching towards Abdera at the coast.[57]

Cotys eventually set his eyes on the strategic Thracian Chersonese and the Hellespont, challenging the Athenian hegemony in the region.[58] The Athenians were more than ready to fight for the control of the Hellespont, as it was vital for Athens' grain supply from the northern Black Sea region.[59] An early invasion in 367 failed, but in 363/2 Cotys was more successful and repeatedly defeated several Athenian generals.[60] Thus, the Chersonese and the Hellespont had come under direct Odrysian rule. This achievement, however, proved shortlived:[58] much to Athens relief, Cotys I was eventually murdered in 360/59.[60]

Disintegration and conquest by Macedon (360-340 BC)

The three kingdoms

The peace treaty between Athens and the three Odrysian kings Cersebleptes, Amadocus and Berisades as recorded in a Greek inscription from Athens, 357/6 BC

The death of Cotys, almost contemporary to the coronation of the talented Philip II of Macedon, marked the beginning of the kingdom's downfall. The Odrysian state was divided among three competing kings: Cersebleptes, the son of Cotys, ruled the eastern parts beyond the lower Maritsa and Tundzha; Amadocus II, perhaps a son of Amadocus I,[61] ruled central Thrace between Maroneia and the Meritsa; Berisades controlled the western part from Maroneia in the east to the Struma in the west.[62][b]

Cersebleptes was the most ambitious of the three. He continued his father's war against Athens for the Chersonese, while also striving to reunite the Odrysian kingdom. His attempts proved futile, for Amadocus II and Berisades, who received support from Athens, resisted his attacks. In 357 he was forced to accept a peace treaty that sealed the division of the Odrysian state.[63] An inscription from Athens describes said treaty. First, Cersebleptes had to cease his hostilities in the Cheresonese. Second, all three kings and Athens agreed to share their tributes received from the Greek colonies along the Aegean and the Hellespont. Third, the kings promised to enter an alliance with Athens and both sides had to provide eachother with military support if tributary Greek colonies revolted. Cersebleptes, however, soon quit that treaty and continued his war in the Chersonese.[64]

Conquest by Philip II

Roman medallion of Philip II

As early as 359, the year of his coronation, Philip II of Macedon I contacted a "Thracian king" to persuade him to not harbour a Macedonian pretender to the thone. This king is probably to be identified with the western Odrysian king Berisades.[64] A year later he unified Macedon and subjugated the Paeonians to the northeast.[65] In these early years he did not bother much with Thrace yet, as he regarded the infighting Odrysian kingdoms as no threat for his rule.[62] A first push into the kingdom of Berisades and his successor Cetriporis occurred in 357/6, when he conquered Amphipolis and Crenides.[63] The latter was made into a garrison town called Philippi that was to serve as a launch pad for future invasions into the interior.[66] Cetriporis allied himself with the kings of Paeonia and Illyria, but Philip II defeated them one by one.[63] Cetriporis was allowed to keep his kingdom, at least for a few more years.[64]

Cersebleptes continued his attempts to unite the Odrysian kingdoms:[67] in 353/4 he and Philip discussed the invasion of the kingdom of Amadocus II and the Athenian domains in Thrace,[63] while around a year later he marched against the kingdom of Cetriporis.[68] Meanwhile, Athens feared a possiblle alliance between Philip and Cersebleptes and decided to make an example by conquering the town of Sestos and eradicating its population. Intimidated, Cersebleptes renounced his claims on much of the Chersonese and allied with Athens. This was unacceptable for Philip, who allied with Amadocus II and marched against Cersebleptes.[69] After besieging him in his residence in Heraion Teichos in 351, he forced the Thracian king to surrender and took his son as a hostage.[59] Around this time, Philip also abolished Cetriporis' kingdom[70] and deposed Amadocus II in favour of Teres II.[71]

The remains of ancient Cabyle in eastern Bulgaria, (re-)founded by Philip II during the final stages of the Odrysian war in 341 or 340 BC[72]

After these events, the Thracian front remained peaceful until 347 or early 346, when the Athenians again attempted to strengthen their presence in Thrace, which they probably did at the request of Cersebleptes. Macedon expelled the Athenian garrisons and defeated the Odrysians, preventing yet again a Thraco-Athenian alliance against him.[72] As a result of this campaign[73] Philip also put the Aeagean coast as far east as Acontisma (not the banks of the Nestos river as often assumed) under direct Macedonian administration.[66]

A few years later Cersebleptes allied with Teres II and invaded the Chersonese, which was now under Macedon's protection.[74] After asking the Persian king Artaxerxes III to cut the support of the Ionian towns for Cersebleptes,[75] Philip finally felt confident enough to begin his most ambitious project so far: the conquest of inland Thrace in the form of a large campaign that would last from 342 to 340.[72][76] Few details are known about this campaign.[72] It seems to have started in May or June, when Philip's army pentetrated the interior by marching upstream the Martisa river. The Odrysians resisted valiantly and confronted the Macedonians in many battles.[75] Philip faced several setbacks and even seems to have lost at least one battle. By the spring of 341, fighting was still raging and Philip was forced to call in reinforcements. Although detailed evidence is lacking he finally managed to improve his situation and defeated Cersebleptes and Teres at some point between the second half of 341 and the first half of 340.[72]

Rise of the Getic kingdom

A horseman on a Getic silver helmet from Agighiol, 4th century BC

The Getae, a northern Thracian people[77][78][79] located between the northeastern foothills of the Balkan mountain range and the lower Danube and the Black Sea, had been part of the Odrysian realm since Teres I, even though it is not clear how tightly they were actually incorporated into the state. When and how the Getae became independent is not discussed in the available sources.[80] Perhaps they became independent during the rule of Cotys I[81] or after his death in 360.[21] Rich funeral treasures from the second half of the 4th century, like those of Agighiol, Peretu or Borovo, attest to the increasing wealth of the Getic elite.[21] Several artefacts seem to have originated in the Odrysian kingdom and may well have been prestige gifts.[81]

By the middle of the 4th century there existed a Getic kingdom that was to thrive for a century.[82] The Getic capital was Helis, which has been identified with the archaeological site of Sboryanovo, which was founded in the 330's[83] or early 320's[21] and housed around 10.000 inhabitants.[84] It seems that the Getae also became active in Muntenia north of the Danube,[85][86] a region that would come to constitute a part of the "Dacia" of imperial Roman historiography.[87] The first Getic king to appear in the sources was Cothelas, who married his daughter Meda to Philip II,[21] thus concluding an alliance between the two states.[88] This probably happened during[89] or shortly after Philip's conquest of the Odrysians.[90] The kingdom survived two wars with Lysimachus[91] and the Celtic invasion in around 280, but eventually disintegrated a few decades later.[92] Helis/Sboryanovo was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the middle of the 3rd century.[84]

The rebellion of Seuthes and the kingdom of Seuthopolis (c. 330-second quarter of the 3rd century BC)

Macedonian Thrace

Southern Thrace as part of Philip's II empire

The conquest of the Odrysian kingdoms doubled the size of the domains ruled by Philip II,[90] even though inland Thrace was not transformed into a Macedonian province, but was put under the loose control of a Strategos. Local Thracian rulers who seemed trustworthy were allowed to rule on Macedonian behalf, granted that they would pay a tithe and provide troops.[93] Such troops, generally called "Thracians" or "Odrysians", participated in the Macedonian conquest of Persia under Philip's successor Alexander the Great[94] and were probably commanded by Odrysian noblemen.[95] Philip founded several towns in Thrace to ease Macedonian rule, most prominently Cabyle or Philippopolis.[96] The situation south of the Balkan Mountains remained largely stable for the next few years,[97] albeit even here, Macedon never managed to impose its rule over all Thracian tribes.[94] Macedon's rule was precarious and a potential Odrysian upstarter could count on the support of much of the disgruntled population.[98]

Seuthes III and the Odrysian revival

Bust head of Thracian king
Bust head of Greek king
Left: Bust of Seuthes III, Kazanlak Right: Bust of Lysimachus, Ephesos

With Alexander's absence in Asia, the Strategoi of Thrace engaged in rebellions and failed expeditions against the Getae, greatly unsettling the country in the process.[99] At the end of the 330's or in the mid-320's (the dating is not entirely clear), a certain Seuthes, later known as Seuthes III, instigated a Thracian rebellion.[100] He seems to have been an Odrysian[101] and may have been associated with the royal house of Cersebleptes, although his social background must remain speculation.[102][103]

After Alexander's death in 323, one of his bodyguards named Lysimachus was appointed as the satrap of Thrace. Soon after his arrival he faced off with Seuthes, who had rallied much of Thrace around his banner.[104] Seuthes' goal seems to have been the revival of an independent Odrysian state.[105] A battle ensued between him and Lysimachus, which Lysimachus barely and by no means decisively won. Both sides prepared for a second conflict, but the primary source for this event, Diodorus Siculus, provides no details on its outcome.[106]

In any case, both parties eventually reached a settlement, restricting Seuthes to the interior and Lysimachus to the coastal regions of the Aegean and Black Sea.[104] There is no evidence for Lysimachus vassalizing Seuthes.[107] Thrace north of the Rhodopes probably remained outside of Lysimachus' reach,[108] as he may have regarded its pacification not worth the money and manpower.[107] In 313 Seuthes allied with revolting Greek towns on the western shore of the Black Sea, but Lysimachus defeated this alliance. It is possible that to guarantee the peace between the two opponents, Seuthes married a daughter of Lysimachus named Berenice. Afterwards, there is no evidence for another confrontation between the two.[109]

Coin of Seuthes III

Seuthes was keen to establish a Hellenistic kingdom,[110] although he avoided to label himself as king on his coins.[111] Perhaps already before his first confrontation with Lysimachus, Seuthes founded a town at the Tundzha river, near modern Kazanlak. He named it after himself: Seuthopolis.[112] The town was primarily based on contemporary Macedonian foundations and showed heavy Greek influences.[110][113] Seuthopolis probably acted as the capital of Seuthes' kingdom.[112] The size and power of this kingdom should not be overestimated, as its influence was most likely limited to the hinterland of Seuthopolis,[114][115] in particular the valley between the Rhodopes in the south to the Balkan Mountains in the north and the Stryama in the west to the upper Tundzha in the east.[116] Thus, his realm only covered the northwestern fringes of the former Odrysian empire.[101] Seuthes also only issued bronze coins, which were insufficient to challenge the Macedonian economic hegemony and its royal mintings in more precious metals.[117]

Fall of Seuthopolis

The Greek Seuthopolis inscription from the turn of the 3rd centuy. It mentions Berenice as the presumed widow of Seuthes III, their four sons and the king of Cabyle, Spartokos.

It is unknown when Seuthes III died, with estimations ranging from the end of the 4th century to the 280's.[118] Coins minted in his name include overstruck coins of Cassander (died 297) and Lysimachus (died 281), implying that his coins were produced until the early years of the 3rd century BC.[115] Seuthes was symbolically buried in the tumulus of Golyama Kosmatka, without his actual corpse.[119] It may well be that he had been killed in battle, perhaps fighting against Lysimachus[120] or with him as an ally.[121]

A long inscription from Seuthopolis attests to the decline of the fortunes of the town[122] and the trouble in Seuthes' household.[123] It mentions the wife of Seuthes, Berenice, and their four (probably underage) sons Hebryzelmis, Teres, Satocos and Satalas.[122] The document was issued in the name of Berenice and includes the phrase "when Seuthes was in good health", which implies that by the time of writing, he was either dead or dying[118] and that Berenice had taken the rule.[122] The inscription describes negotiations between Berenice and Spartokos, the ruler of Cabyle, a town once founded by Philip II.[114] Indeed, Cabyle had not remained a Macedonian fort for long, but began to mint coins[108] and developed into a city-state with considerable influence.[122] Although not mentioned in the Seuthopolis inscription and known only from a few coins and an inscription in a grave from Kazanlak, Seuthes seemed to have another son named Roigos, who eventually became king.[124] The fate of Seuthes' dynasty remains enigmatic.[111] Other Thracian monarchs recorded in sources from the 3rd century, like Cotys or Scostocus, can not be proved to have been Odrysian, even if they are often labelled as such by modern authors.[101]

Age of fragmentation (early 3rd century BC-1st century BC)

Later writers, royal coin issues, and inscriptions indicate the survival of this dynasty into the early 1st century AD, although its overt political influence declined progressively first under Persian, Macedonian and Roman encroachment. Despite their demise, the period of Odrysian rule was of decisive importance for the future character of Southeast Europe under the Roman Empire and beyond.

By 212 BC an army led by an Odrysian king Pleuratus destroyed the Celtic kingdom and its capital Tylis. The Odrysian kingdom had maintained continuity with its own kings, but had broken up into several kingdoms (including Canite and Odrissae) by the early second century BC. The kingdoms succumbed to complete Roman conquest by 146 BC.

In 100 BC a Thracian kingdom was restored, possibly by a son of Beithys, one of the last kings of the Odrissae. However, it is not clear if it was a vassal of Rome or entirely independent. Several years later, some Thracians and Celts overran the southern Balkans, Epirus, Dalmatia and northern Greece, and penetrated the Peloponnese.

A kingdom of another Odrysian bloodline had re-emerged in 55 BC (Sapei) and by 30 BC it conquered or otherwise controlled the other Odrysian kingdom (Antaea), although it, along with[clarification needed] other Thracian tribes, became a Roman proxy soon afterward. By 11 BC, the uncle of the Roman emperor Augustus was the Odrysian king, which led to the gradual Romanization of the region. The Odrysian king Rhoemetalces III was murdered by his co-ruler and wife Pythodoris II, and his kingdom was completely subjected to Roman rule in 46 AD.[125][126][127][128]


Ring from Ezerovo with a Thracian inscription in Greek letters, c. 400 BC

Odrysian crafts and metalworking were largely a product of Persian influence.[129][130]Thracians as Dacians and Illyrians all decorated themselves with status-enhancing tattoos.[131] Thracian warfare was affected also by Celts and the Triballi had adopted Celtic equipment. Thracian clothing is regarded for its quality and texture and was made up of hemp, flax or wool. Their clothing resembled that of the Scythians including jackets with coloured edges, pointed shoes and the Getai tribe were so similar to the Scythians that they were often confused with them. The nobility and some soldiers wore caps. There was a mutual influence between the Greeks and the Thracians.[132] Greek customs and fashions contributed to the recasting of east Balkan society. Among the nobility Greek fashions in dress, ornament and military equipment were popular.[133] Unlike the Greeks, the Thracians often wore trousers. Thracian kings were influenced by Hellenization.[134]Greek as a lingua franca had been spoken at least by some members of the royal household in the fifth century BC and became the language of administrators; the Greek alphabet was adopted as the new Thracian script.[135]


A golden wreath and ring from the burial of an Odrysian aristocrat at the Golyamata Mogila tumulus (mid-4th century BC

Residences and temples of the Odrysian kingdom have been found, particularly around Starosel in the Sredna Gora mountains.[136] Archaeologists have uncovered the northeastern wall of the Thracian kings' residence, 13 m in length and preserved up to 2 m in height.[137] They also found the names of Cleobulus and Anaxandros, Philip II of Macedon's generals who led the assault on the Odrysian kingdom.[137]

List of Odrysian kings

The list below includes the known Odrysian kings of Thrace, but much of it is conjectural. Various other Thracian kings (some of them perhaps Odrysian like Pleuratus) are included as well.[138] Odrysian kings, though called Kings of Thrace, never exercised sovereignty over all of Thrace.[139] Control varied according to tribal relationships.[140] Odrysian kings (names are presented in Greek or Latin forms):

Odrysian treasures

See also


  1. ^ "In Hellenistic Thrace, the double axe was an attribute of Zalmoxis, the god of thunder. It is also depicted on coins of Thrace as the symbol of the kings of the Odrysae, who considered Zalmoxis the ancestor and protector of the royal house."[1]
  2. ^ The historian Peter Delev is less explicit while describing the realms of Amadocus II and Berisades: "Amadocus, probably a son of Medocus the Odrysian king in Xenophon's Anabasis, took the mountainous hinterland of Maroneia; while one Berisades established himself in the area around the lower Nestos. It remains unknown who of the three new kings took the rich inland plain of the Upper Hebros."[63]


  1. ^ Kouremenos 2016, p. 46.
  2. ^ Borza, Eugene (1992). In the Shadow of Olympus: The Emergence of Macedon. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00880-9.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898),"(Odrusai). The most powerful people in Thrace, dwelling in the plain of the Hebrus, whose king, Sitalces, in the time of the Peloponnesian War, exercised dominion over almost the whole of Thrace. (See Thracia.) The poets often use the adjective Odrysius in the general sense of Thracicus."
  5. ^ [2]
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  8. ^ Herodotus, The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley),4.92.1,"XCII. From there, Darius set out and came to another river called Artescus, which flows through the country of the Odrysae; and having reached this river, he pointed out a spot to the army, and told every man to lay one stone as he passed in this spot that he pointed out. After his army did this, he led it away, leaving behind there great piles of stones."
  9. ^ Xenophon, Hellenica, 3.2.1, But when the Odrysians returned, they first buried their dead, drank a great deal of wine in their honour, and held a horse-race; and then, from that time on making common camp with the Greeks, they continued to plunder Bithynia and lay it waste with fire.
  10. ^ The History of the Peloponnesian War By Thucydides,"For there was here established a custom opposite to that prevailing in the Persian kingdom, namely, of taking rather than giving; more disgrace being attached to not giving when asked than to asking and being refused; and although this prevailed elsewhere in Thrace, it was practised most extensively among the powerful Odrysians, it being impossible to get anything done without a present".
  11. ^ Zahrnt 2015, p. 35.
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  13. ^ a b c Vassileva 2015, pp. 322-323.
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  30. ^ Archibald 1998, p. 169.
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  36. ^ a b c d e Zahrnt 2015, p. 41.
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  40. ^ Archibald 1998, p. 118.
  41. ^ Archibald 1998, p. 119.
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  43. ^ Archibald 1998, p. 120.
  44. ^ Archibald 1998, Fig. 4.2..
  45. ^ a b Zahrnt 2015, p. 42.
  46. ^ Sears 2015, pp. 312-314.
  47. ^ a b Archibald 1998, p. 122.
  48. ^ Zahrnt 2015, pp. 42-43.
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  50. ^ Zahrnt 2015, p. 43.
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  52. ^ Zahrnt 2015, pp. 43-44.
  53. ^ Archibald 1998, p. 218.
  54. ^ a b c d e Zahrnt 2015, p. 44.
  55. ^ Kellogg 2007, pp. 60-62.
  56. ^ Kotova 2014, pp. 39-40.
  57. ^ Archibald 1998, p. 220.
  58. ^ a b Kotova 2014, p. 39.
  59. ^ a b Worthington 2014, p. 57.
  60. ^ a b Zahrnt 2015, p. 45.
  61. ^ Delev 2015a, pp. 48-49.
  62. ^ a b Worthington 2014, p. 40.
  63. ^ a b c d e Delev 2015a, p. 49.
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  120. ^ Lehmann 2016, p. 37.
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