Name: There are various opinions for the origin of the name of Novae. According to a group of researchers, the name is the Latinized nomination of Noes, with which the local Thracian population called the local small river (known today as Dermen dere), at the mouth of which the early military camp was erected. According to another group of researchers this river is too insignificant to fall in the range of vision of the Greek historian Herodotus. In the name of Novae they see the plural form of the Latin adjective novus, therefore recognizing some feminine noun, for example canabae – new canabae. Argument in this direction is also the presence of at least two points, known from the sources, which bear the same name.

Written sources:The name of Novae in different form and context is discovered over twenty times in Antiquity and Early Medieval authors. The earliest mention of Novae in the form of Νοούαι is testified in the “Geography” of Claudius Ptolemy, who worked in the first half of the 2nd century. “Tabula Peutingeriana” presents the name as Ad Novas, while the “Itinerary of Emperor Antoninus” mentions the camp of the I Italic Legion of Novas. In the “List of Offices” Novae (Nouas) is mentioned as a camp under the leadership of the Dux of the Province of Second Moesia. Again in military aspects, as Nobas Italicathe name is found in the “Anonymous Ravenna Cosmography”. Marcellinus Comes in his “Chronicle”, when describing the Gothic king Theodoric, mentions the Moesian town of Novae (ad Novensem Moesiae civitatem).Describing the same events, the Gothic historian Jordanes in his work “Getica” uses the name of Nouas. Priscus in his “History” speaks for the Thracian Novae (Νοβών των Τρακίων), while Hieorcles, when listing the names of the seven towns of the Province of Second Moesia, delivers the name as Νόβαι. In civilian aspect the name is testified in the narratives of Aeugypius (Nouas civitatem),Anastasius Bibliothecarius (Nobes civitas), John Malalas (Όβασίπολις). The town Νόβας is listed among the fortresses, restored by Justinian I, in the treatise of Procopius of Caesarea “On the Buildings”. Describing the campaigns against the Avars and Slavs along the Lower Danube, Theophylact Comicatta mentions Novae (Νόβας) twice. In the form of Νοβώνthe name is discovered in the description of Theophanes the Confessor mentions Νόβασ. As an important bishop’s center Novae as Νόβων is mentioned in the “List of Bishops” while in later church acts it is also found as Νοβηνσίων πόλεως andNouensenae ciuitates.

The name of Novae (Novas) is also found on several tiles with stamps, discovered on the territory of the Late Roman fort of Sexaginta Prista in Rousse.

Location: The legionary center and Late Antiquity town of Novae are located in the eastern end of the contemporary town of Svishtov in the Staklen locality, subsequently renamed to “Pametnicite”. It is erected on a low plateau, limited on the north by the Danube, and from the south and east – by the small river Dermen dere. The canabae civilian settlement and municipium of Novae are located to the east of the military camp, in the “Ostrite mogili” locality, where there is data for monumental architecture and large number of registered buildings.


History of the research:Initially the ruins of the Antiquity town entered the field of vision of the French count Luigi Marsili, who describing his diplomatic mission of 1691 mentions a place, called Merlan, paralleled by all contemporary researchers with Novae. The first plan by sight and the description of the visible at that time structures is published in 1905 by K. Skorpil. The same author also delivers information for the items and coins, found in Svishtov. The beginning of the archaeological excavations takes place in 1960 with the execution of a joint project by the Academies of Sciences of Bulgaria and Poland. On the Bulgarian side, the excavations are directed by the Institute of Archaeology with Museum, and on the Polish side – by the University of Warsaw. In 1970 the University of Poznan also joined the project. On the Bulgarian side active participation is also taken by the museums in Svishtov and in Veliko Tarnovo. Since the beginning of the excavations the Polish sectors are 11. Under the management of Tadeus Sarnowski, were excavated the Principia of the legion. The valetudinarium (the legionary hospital) and the subsequent buildings over it, are studied by L. Press and P. Dyczek, and the fortification system of the early camp – by S. Parnicki-Pudełko. For revealing of the large legionary thermae and the subsequent bishop’s complex is appointed A. Biernacki. On the Bulgarian side it is being worked in four main sectors. Participation in the studies of the fortification system of the Late Antiquity extension of Novae took Dimitar Dimitrov, Maria Chichikova, Aleksandra Dimitrova-Milcheva, Bogdan Sultov and Varbinka Naydenova.Peti Donevski was assigned with the studies on the fortification system of the early camp in the section of the eastern and the southern gates. The excavation of the so-called Scamnum Tribunorum – the residences of the tribunes of the legion was directed by Aleksandrina Milcheva and Evgenia Gencheva, and the large residence, the Early Christian basilicas and a necropolis in the zone outside the western fortification wall – by Maria Chichikova and Pavlina Vladkova.

The results of the archaeological excavations are published in the specialized series of the Warsaw University Novaensia, in the periodical magazine “Archaeology”, issue of the Polish Academy of Science, as well as in various Bulgarian and foreign specialized publications from congresses, conferences and symposiums, with the total number exceeding 400.

Revealed structures and finds: The archaeological excavations, conducted for fifty years, lead to the revealing of almost the entire fortification system and some of the main zones of the legionary camp and the Late Antiquity town. Several main periods of fortification are determined and a number of repairs and additions, made in different periods. To the first period is referred a earthwork-wooden fortification, built in the first half of the 1st century AD. In this initial period first the VIII Augustan, and then the substitute First Italic Legion constructed a permanent military camp. In terms of planning, this is a typical military camp with rectangular shape, three-sectioned internal division with dimensions 485 x 365 m.It is directed following the world’s directions, and the fortification facilities surround an area of almost 18 ha. Initially, its fortification system consists of a series of moats with different profile and walls, erected in the form of an earthworks, supplemented in height by a wall, made of wood. Along the internal corners are located wooden rectangular towers, five of which are archaeologically studied. For the interior shape of the camp in this period, especially in the first phase during the presence of the VIII Augustan legion, is known relatively few. It is presumed that the first principia has been located on approximately the same place, where the later one is erected. It has probably also been constructed by wood and adobe, in similarity to the other buildings and elements of the fortification. Several buildings are known from this period, archaeologically studied to one degree or another, discovered underneath the foundations of subsequently erected ones within the fortified territory. The traces of barracks can be referred to it, revealed to the northwest of the principia and one large, partially studied bath with significant dimensions and lavish decoration. Probably as early as the construction of the first camp were marked the main lines of interior communication, which, without significant changes, continued to be used throughout the following centuries.In relation to the preparation of the empire for war with the Dacians, in the time of Emperor Trajan a stone fort was erected, which surrounded the legionary camp. The wall is relatively thin – with width of 1.5 m, made of small stone blocks, jointed with white mortar. On the internal side and at the corners are erected square stone towers, with the towers protruding in front of the wall only at the gates. To a different degree are studied the four gates of the legionary camp, with a number of repairs and additions being made on them. In the first period of the stone fortification the gates are flanked by two rectangular towers with relatively small dimensions and irregular shape. The towers on the western and the eastern gates are thick. In a following stage the western and the southern gates are divided with the erecting of a masoned pillar in the middle of the passage space. there is no evidence for transformation at the eastern gate, and the northern one is only paqrtially preserved, due to which the data for its arrangement and the stages of function are too scarce.

In this period the building within the camp is entirely of stone and are restored or newly-erected all the buildings, required for its adequate functioning, among which are the Principia (military headquarters), residences for the officers and the soldiers barracks, new thremae (baths) and valetudinarium (legionary hospital).

The Principia of Novae are located in the central zone of the legionary camp, on the crossroad of the two main streets – via principalis and via praetoria. Its dimensions are 106 x 59,5 m and it has built-up area of over 6000 sq. m., which is equal to 3.5% of the total area of the camp. In front of the Principia there is the so-called groma – arc-shaped gate, where the two streets are crossing. From the gate it is entered inside a vast yard with portico with colonnade on the north, the east and the west. Behind the portico are located a number of equal premises, which are the arsenal of the legion. In the southern part of the yard there is a long and narrow crosswise premise – the so-called basilica. On both sides there are stone podiums for delivering speeches. Behind the basilica there is a row of seven premises – offices for the high command. In the central and largest premise is constructed the so-called shrine of standards, where the military flag and the legion’s relics are kept. From the Principia originate a number of votive inscriptions, parts of statues, bronze applications and coins. Its construction is placed within the time of the Flavians (69-96 AD), and the basilica several years later – at latest the time of Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD). In this shape and functions of a headquarters, the Principia existed until the last quarter of the 4th century. So far within the fortified territory of Novae is not yet revealed the praetorium (the residence of the legion’s legate). For such is considered one large building of residential type, revealed 70 m to the west of the western fortification wall. The building has an area of over 1800 sq. m., it has a large inner peristyle yard and rich decoration. In its antechamber are found inscriptions which mention a name of senate’s origin. According to the researchers the particular building appears to be a residence, where high state officials were temporarily been accommodated during their visits to Novae. The building is demolished in the middle of the 3rd century. Another large building, the residence of a high officer from the First Italic legion is revealed in the passage of the so-called Scamnum Tribunorum, located to the north of the Principia on the crossroadof the two main streets.The building has an area of over 1600 sq. m. and is constructed over earlier soldiers’ barracks from the camp of the VIII Augustan legion and individual premises from the initial period of habitation of Novae by the First Italic legion. The new building, constructed in the early 2ndcentury is of the type “urban villa”. It consists of a row of premises, built around a central inner yard. The main entrance is from the west, where there was a portico with colonnade. A vestibule lead to three large premises with hypocaust (floor) heating, decorated with colorful mosaics. In the southern wing of the villa there is a bath studied, and in its northern part – kitchen premises. The building is destroyed in the 3rd century.

In the northern part of the camp, in immediate proximity to the northern legionary gate (porta praetoria) is located a valetudinarium (a hospital). The building has impressive external dimensions: 82 x 73 m. It consists of a row of chain premises, which surround the four sides, as well as a second, internal row of premises, divided by the first through a corridor. The rows of premises consist of pairs of two hospital rooms (with dimensions 5 x 5 m), divided by a small corridor. In the central part of the building there is a large open yard with dimensions of 42 x 33 m, fenced by a colonnade. Within the yard was erected a small temple to the health-bringing deities of Asclepius and Hygeia. The entire building was supplied with water and sewer system and in its northwestern corner was unearthed a latrina (a toilet) with canal for leading the dirty waters. The construction of the hospital is referred to the early 2nd century, and its large dimensions are explained with the need of a medical facility in relation to the wars of emperor Trajan against the Dacians (101-102 and 105-106 AD). The hospital existed as such until the beginning of the 3rd century when it was abandoned and military barracks and residential buildings were constructed on its site.

Integral part of the architectural outlook of the legionary camps are also the baths (thermae). The earliest thermae in Novae were registered in the zone of the valetudinarium. They are built with the dislocation of the First Italic legion in Novae in 69 AD. The dimensions of the baths are 45 x 80 m. Partially revealed are separate warm and cold premises, as well as the zones for relaxation and walks. It is supplied with hypocaust heating, and inside one of the premises mosaics is revealed. In the end of the 1st century the baths are abandoned, and the legionary hospital is erected on its site. The functions of legionary baths are acquired by a second one, constructed 20 m to the west of the Principia. The building is partially excavated. A caldarium is unearthed, which has been heated through hypocaust, the furnace for supercharging the hot air and one rectangular pool with dimensions of 10 x 7 m, which probably belonged to the cold premise of the bath (frigidarium). The construction of the bath is referred to the middle of the 2nd century, and its functioning with the several testified repairs – until the last quarter of the 4th century.

Themainpartofthefortifiedcampterritorywasoccupiedbythesoldiers’ barracks (contubernia). Such in Novae are revealed in the northwestern corner of the fortification. These are long and parallel constructions with premises, divided inside them. Soldiers’ barracks, but from the 3rd century are also revealed in the zone to the south of the eastern gate. Six premises are studied in two rows with dimensions of 3.70 x 3.60 m.

Withthisoutlook, thecampoftheFirstItaliclegionmettheheavyinvasionsfromthemiddleofthe 3rdcentury, whenitwasoneofthefirstcenterstosufferthestrikesoftheGoths, invadingfromthenorth, leadbyKniva. Although being under siege, Novae sustained the Gothic pressure. However, the archaeological studies testify for certain damages both on the camp and on the immediate vicinity.

After eliminating the inferior threats in the second half of the 3rd century, started the last large period in the development of Novae, marked first by extending the existing fortification system. Within this stage is also shaped the Late Antiquity town center, known from the sources. Probably as early as the end of the 3rd – the early 4th century was built the fortification system of the so-called Novae II, which covers additional 10 ha to the east of the existing legionary fort and appears as its extension. Thus, the overall protected area of Novae now covered almost 28 ha. 

From the new fortification system are studied in details the eastern and the southern fortification walls and the towers, located along them. The eastern wall is traced for 340 m, with four rectangular towers studied along it. The building of the walls and towers is of well-shaped stone blocks with middle size, jointed with white mortar. Between towers № 1 – № 3 the thin fortification wall is only 1.60 m wide and is strengthened by a second one, attached immediately to its face, thus reaching a total thickness of the wall of almost 3 m. At tower №4 a similar extension is also revealed, but in this case the new wall is attached on the inner face of the existing wall. Along the southern fortification wall of the extension are located three new towers, also protruded entirely in front of the wall’s face and with rectangular outlines in plan. Interest is caused by the rectangular tower-gate, which is also last of the towers that belong to the new fortification of the so-called Novae II. The tower-gate is constructively connected to the fortification wall and is aslant against the curtain.

No traces of a gate are discovered along the eastern wall. Such, however, is presumed to have existed, but has been entirely destroyed during the tracing of the contemporary road in the end of the 19th century, which crosses the remains of Novae.

Several additions on the existing fortification system of the legionary camp, the so-called Novae I, are made during this period. They are best documented at the western and the southern gates. New towers were also erected, entirely protruded outside the front of the wall, the side towers at the southern gate were made longer and acquired a U-shape, and identical transformation was undergone by the corner southwestern and southeastern towers.

The western gate was also mainly reconstructed. In its initial outlook, it was single-passage, guarded by two thick towers. Now the gate is made with two passages, with a massive pillar erected in the middle. The gate is flanked by two newly-constructed rectangular towers, almost twice the size of the preceding ones. Their interior now is not thick, but divided in two rectangular premises, where stone stairs are arranged.

Within the fortified territory of the old legionary camp following the second half of the 3rd century there are also a number of changes In the center of the legionary camp – the Principia, are marked several transformations, like overarching the treasuries, facilitating the heating installation for one of the premises and renewing of the decoration. Researches show that the building was abandoned at stages somewhere around the beginning – the middle of the 5th century, and the site remained inbuilt.

Changes were also made in the zone of the Scamnum Tribunorum. A large building with inner yard and wide entrances on the eastern and the southern facades was constructed. The main face of the building is from the east and is flanked by two premises, each of which has a bath of its own with entrance from the street. At this stage the building is interpreted as covered market with bath in it. According to the data from the numismatic finds, it has been partially demolished and abandoned as early as the reign of Emperor Valens, probably as result of the Gothic invasion in the last quarter of the 4th century. Part of the building survived and is not entirely destroyed. Their preserved premises are used until the middle of the 5th century and the large Hun invasions at that time. Small workshops for bronze, glass, pottery and bone were accommodated inside the survived sections of the building until its final abandonment.

Along the changes at the Principia and Scamnum Tribunorum, such are also found at the legionary hospital, located to the north of them. At the end of the 3rd – the early 4th century the ruins of the valetudinarium and the light constructions from the end of the 3rd century were removed and on the site was constructed a street with east-west direction, crossing the area of the former hospital almost in the middle. Given the materials, used for its pavement – mainly architectural details and gravestones with inscriptions, the street was named via Inscriptionum. Besidesthenewstreetseveralbuildingswithdifferentdimensionsandpurposesfrom the traditional ones for a legionary camp were also constructed. One of these new buildings is a horreum (grain storage) with relatively large dimensions, made of adobe with minimal use of mortar. In parallel to the horreum, a glass workshop was also studied. These buildings seized to exist around the middle of the 4th century, following which, within the area that belonged to the former legionary hospital, new changes took place. A large building with inner yard, that occupied the entire area of the insula, was constructed. In its final outlook the building had the shape of an irregular rectangle, along the sides of which were organized the premises, and in its center was arranged a yard. Several periods are divided in its construction history. Within the corpus of the building are incorporated several survived walls from the valetudinarium. The best preserved part of the large complex is the south wing of the villa. It consists of five premises and in nature it presents a relatively vast bathing complex. The villa is constructed relatively mindfully with the use of crushed stone and white mortar. In parallel to the construction of the bath, probably a second floor has been erected over the west body of the villa. These additions are dated generally prior the large Hun invasions from the 440s. In this outlook, the villa continued to exist under the middle of the 6th century.

Thehorreum, locatedtothenorthofthevilla, continuedtobeusedevenafterthemiddleofthe 4thcentury, buthasbeenentirelyrebuilt, thistimebystone, jointedwithplaster, withoutchangesintheplanning.

In the 3rd and the 4th century the legionary thermae continued to exist as volume and to function according to purpose, without significant changes, related mainly to the change of purpose of some of the earlier premises. Their end is related to the damages caused to Novae in the years of the Second Gothic war, which was unsuccessful for the Romans. Over their preserved ruins in the middle of the 5th century a large bishop’s complex was built, the so-called episkopeon, which contained large number of different in purpose sections, organized around a large three-nave basilica. The basilica is by far among the largest, discovered along the Middle and the Lower Danube. Five phases of development are determined within the chronology of the temple, dated between the first quarter of the 5th century and the third quarter of the 6th century. In the first of them the main body of the basilica was erected. It was single-apse, three-nave, with narthex and atrium, in the second half of the 5th century a baptistery was constructed in the atrium. In the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century, to the east of the south nave was added a martyrium. In the first quarter of the 6th century more serious changes took place in the building – two additional apses were constructed on the east side, towards the northern and the southern naves. The interior of the temple is supplemented with a new marble decoration and apulpit. In the third quarter of the 6th century within the southern premise in the eastern part of the temple was designed a baptistery. In its final outlook, the basilica is 46.20 m long and 24.30 m wide. The internal division between the naves is implemented through marble pillars, decorated with Corinthian capitals. In the end of the 5th century to the northwest of the bishop’s basilica was constructed a new one. It is a three-nave temple with one semi-round apse, a narthex and a portico, which stretches in front of its north face. To the north and to the south of the large basilica there are a large number of premises, which are integral part of the bishop’s complex.The premises in the southern part are interpreted as storage and production ones. Following the second half of the 5th century a poorhouse was accommodated. To the north of the large basilica is spread another important part of the bishop’s complex – the bishop’s residence. It consists of thirteen premises and a bath, located to the west of it. During the research it was clarified that large part of the constructions on the bishop’s residence are related to the earlier legionary thermae, located on that site and that large portion of them, sometimes even entire premises, are incorporated into the bishop’s residence. The bishop’s complex in Novae is not erected as product of a single construction thought, and components are added to it for more than a century. It is finally shaped not earlier than the middle of the 6th century. Modifications as result of destructions and fire are visible on it. Finally, the complex was destroyed by fire.

Another two Early Christian temples are studied within the town. The first of them is located in proximity to the eastern gate of the legionary camp. It is a three-nave, single-apse basilica with single-section narthex. The temple is relatively small, with length of 16 m and width of 11.30 m, the internal division is implemented through two rows of four stone pillars on each side. The basilica is erected in the end of the 4th century or the early 5th century on the site of earlier buildings, dated in the 2nd-3rd century and associated with the legionary camp. It turns it into the earliest known Christian building in Novae. Somewhere around the 5th century on its ruins was constructed a small chapel.

A second large Early Christian basilica is erected on the site of the Scamnum Tribunorum and the shops, built over it in the end of the 3rd and demolished in the end of the 4th century. The basilicas are two – from different periods, whose foundations coincide partially. The data for the first one is not a lot, besides the fact that it is single-apse and constructed of cut stones and white mortar. It is dated in the second half of the 5th century. Over it in the early 6th century is erected a single-apse three-nave basilica with length of 29 m and width of 12.95 m.

The significance of Novae as military and civilian center in this part of the empire is visible also in the type and the characteristics of the finds, discovered here. Large number of epigraphic material originates from Novae, as well as architectural details (foundations, pillars, capitals and profiled cornices) and sculptural decoration. Distinguished here is a fragmented statue of Nymph, the marble segments of statues with portrait images of the Emperors Maximin Thrax, Carinus and not last – the impressive portrait of Caracalla. Exceptionally rich is also the collection of glass vessels and small bronze plastics, armament, provincial Roman and barbarian adornment and coins.

Chronology:The archaeological excavations, conducted for fifty years, lead to the significant clarification of the main stages of the historical development of the Early Roman camp and the late Antiquity town.

The first construction period of Novae is wooden-earthwork. It is associated with the dislocation of the VIII Augustan Legion in 45 AD and the construction of its camp and architecture. This initial period of strengthening is dated around the reign of Claudius/Neor, but the generally constructed fortification system was also supplemented during the Flavians in the second half of the 1st century, and therefore at least two phases can be distinguished. The second phase during the first construction period is related to the stationing of the First Italic Legion in Novae in 69 AD.

The beginning of the second construction period is characterized with the building of the stone fortification system of the camp, referred by the researchers to the early 2nd century. Several large phases are visible during this period, related to repair works and restorations of the fortification walls and the interior camp architecture. The end of the period is marked by the large Gothic invasion in the middle of the 3rd century. It affected not only the military camp, but also the unfortified civilian canabae settlement and the municipium. Until the general rebuilding of the military camp at the end of the 3rd century, on the territory of Novae are registered repair works, which can be separated into a third construction period, although the data that we have at the present are scarce.The fourth construction period, testified on the field, falls within the chronological frames from the end of the 3rd century to the Gothic wars of the last quarter of the 4th century. It is characterized with the overall reconstruction of the military camp, its extension in eastern direction and the change of internal architecture. In similarity to the other large periods, we observe several phases, related to the implementation of the construction programs of the individual rulers. Overcoming the results and the demolition from the unsuccessful Second Gothic war mark the beginning of a subsequent large construction period. It is characterized with entirely changed interior planning, related to the gradual transformation of Novae from a strictly military camp into a civilian settlement with urban features. Its ending in the middle of the 5th century is marked by destructions and fires, the reason for which is probably the large Hunnic invasion of 441.

There is no sufficient data for the structure of the town in the 6th and the early 7th century. Certain repair activities on the fortification walls and blockage on the gates are associated by researchers to the information of the restoration works, implemented by Justinian I. If we rely on the evidence of Theophylact Simocatta for the town, then it appears that at the end of the 6th century it is one of the few functioning town centers along the lower stream of the Danube and has apparently endured the heavy Avar invasions in the 580s, which lead to the obliteration of life in other towns of the province. At this time, however, the town has apparently been in a serious decline and the information from Simocatta serve the presumption that the inhabitants of Novae to not maintain active relations to the central authority.

The data from the numismatic material reveal that Novae has suffered a heavy impact in the beginning of the second decade of the 7th century. The last coins of the town belong to the coinage of Heraclius and are related to the Avar invasion of 614-615, when Novae was finally conquered and habitation was not restored on the site.


Name: According to all researchers, the name of the fort is of Latin origin - from the verb abrumpo with meaning "tear, lacerate" and could be translated as "steep", a peculiar allusion for the steep eastern slope of the town.

Written sources:The name of Abritus is found relatively often in the descriptions of Antiquity and Early Medieval authors. The reason for this are the events from the middle of the 3rd century, tragic for the Empire, which took place in the vicinities of the fort, and lead to the death of the Emperor Trajan Decius himself in 251 AD. Thus, Dexippus wrote in his “Historical Chronicle” that the emperor and his son were killed in Abritus, at the so-called Forum Tembronius (...έν Άβρύτω τω λεγομένω Φόρω Θεμβωνίω). In the same spirit the events and the name are delivered by Eutropis, Lactantius and Sextus Aurelius Victor. When describing the struggle, lost by the Romans and the followed death of the emperor, Cassiodorus mentions that this happened in the Thracian settlement of Abrito (inAbrittoThraciaeloco). Inhiswork “Getica” Jordanes, whoworkedthreecenturiesaftertheseevents, istalkingabout “Abrito, atowninMoesia” (...adAbrittoMoesiaecivitatem). Theeventsof 251 ADaredescribedalsobyseveralByzantinechroniclersofthe 10thandthe 11thcentury, likeLandolfusSagaxandLeoGrammaticus.

Again as a town, the seat of a bishop’s cathedra, Abritus is mentioned in a message from 458 AD, sent to emperor Leo I to the Archbishop of Marcianople (the capital of the Province of Second Moesia, the present-day town of Devnya), where the name of Macianus, the bishop of the town of Abritus, is found (...MartianusepiscopuscivitatisAbriticae). In the form of Abriton (ό Αβρίτον) the name is found in the so-called “List of the Bishops”, composed in the 8th century, but reflecting earlier events. Again as a town center, one of the seven towns of the Province of Second Moesia, Abritus (erroneously written as Ebraitos - Έβραιττος) is recognized in “Synecdemus”of Hierocles, from the first half of the 6th century. As AbittusandAbritusthe name is found in the treatise of Procopius of Caesarea “On the Buildings” among the fortresses, restored by Emperor Justinian I.

The name of the fort is also found in several stone inscriptions, part of them revealed during archaeological excavations, reused as construction material in subsequent constructions. In the form of Abrito (Abrito) it is testified on a sacrificial altar with dedication to Heracles, dated in the years of reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161). On a miliar pillar from 245-247, the name is presented as TERR(itorium) ABRI(tanorum). On another fragment with inscription with unclear location, is visible the abbreviation of CIV(itas) ABR(itanorum). As Abritu(Άβριττου) the name is delivered in an epigram kept in the museum of Preslav and on another inscription from Aquileia in the present-day northern Italy, dated in the 3rd century, we learn about the “castle of the Abrits” – castell(o) Abritanor(um).

Location:Until the beginning of the regular archaeological excavations in Razgrad in the middle of the 20th century the ruins at the Hisarlaka locality are paralleled with the town of Dausdava (Δαούσδαυα) mentioned by the Alexandrian geographer Claudius Ptolemy. Abritus is initially localized at the village of Aboba, Shumen region, and later with the ruins at the renamed in Abrit village of Aptaat, Dobrich region. As early as following the discovery of the mentioned sacrificial altar and milliar pillar that contain the name of Abritus, did its localization become possible. The Late Antiquity town is located on a low hill, in the outskirts of the contemporary town of Razgrad. Immediately to the east of the fort there is a large concentration of massive architectural remains, concentrated on a significant area of over 80 ha in the Beli Lom river valley. The numismatic finds there testify for a vital commercial exchange from the 2nd to the end of the 4th century. On this site, the researchers engaged with the problem are also seeking for the mentioned in a number of inscriptions Eraly Roman fort of Abritus and it belonging civilian settlements – canabae and vicus.

History of the research:The first organized archaeological excavations in the Hisarlaka locality are conducted by the local teacher Ananie Yavashov in 1887, when he unearthed a large public building in the western part of the fort, interpreted by him as temple of Apollo. In 1893 he partially studied a Christian complex in the eastern part of the fortified territory and a pipeline in the southern.In 1928 he also studied the northwestern corner tower of the fort. Its first plan, marked by 24 towers, 3 gates and the revealed by Yavashov basilicas, is published in 1914 by K. Skorpil. In 1953-1976, directed by Teofil Ivanov and Stoyan Stoyanov were conducted regular excavations, due to which the problem with the localization of Abritus was finally resolved, the overall fortification system of the town was unearthed, premises in proximity to the northern wall of the town, a large horreum (grain storage) near the western gate, a large peristyle building. With bath next to it, constructed over four earlier buildings. It was finalized the initiated by A, Yavashov search for the Christian basilica. On the base of the results from the excavations, conducted by both directors, in 1980 was published a specifics volume, called “Abritus. A Roman fort and an Early Byzantine Townin Lower Moesia”. In the 1960s also began the excavations on the necropolises of Abritus. Georgi Ginev studied a burial mound in the northern necropolis, Lidiya Kvinto – significant section of the southern necropolis, and Alexander Parushev – individual graves of the southwestern necropolis.In 1990 the archaeological excavations were renewed, directed by Petko Georgiev and Galena Chobanova. Three premises of buildings were revealed, one of which being a workshop for bone items, trench surveys were conducted at the unfortified settlement, to the east of the fort, two mounds in the northern and eastern necropolis. Again in this period, directed by P. Georgiev, D. Dimitrov and G. Dzanev is studied the Early Medieval fortress, located in the northeastern section of Abritus. In the recent years the archaeological studies were renewed in relation to the implementation of a project for the socialization of the Roman town and its transformation into an attractive tourist product.

Reveled structures and finds:The earliest structures in the Hisarlaka locality refer to the Hellenistic period and belong to a large Thracian settlement with unknown name and dating from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD. Structures of the Early Roman period are not revealed, which undoubtedly displays that the military camp and the civilian residences were located in the plain part on both sides of the Beli Lom river, to the east of the hill, where the Late Antiquity fort of Abritus is located. As result of the long years of studies, its fortification system is entirely examined, as well as part of the internal planning. Given the configuration of the terrain, the fort has the shape of an irregular square.Massive fortification walls with total length of 1400 m surround an area of 15 ha. In front of the southern and western fortification walls there is a moat, about 10 m deep and to 15 m wide. The fort has four gates, thirty-five towers and nine posterns. The towers have different shapes – fan-shaped in the four corners, two massive rectangular ones at the southern curtain, four with irregular square shape along the eastern wall, and the others are U-shaped. The foundations are deeply dug with thickness to 3.20 m. The plinth is of large, well-processed stones, and in height – of smaller blocks. In separate sections the fortification wall has varying width – from 2.10 m at the eastern wall to 2.85 at the southern. The gates are located in the middle of the fortification wall, except for the eastern one, which has been moved to the northeastern corner tower. The southern gate is jutted inside the fortified territory. All gates are flanked with U-shaped towers. The gates have two doors – external, falling (a cataract) and internal, two-leaved. The passage at all gates is single-sectioned, with width from 4.14 to 4.50 m. The closed space between the two doors, the so-called propugnaculum, has rectangular shape. Nine postern are revealed, arranged as a simple opening in the fortification walls, but always in proximity to the towers. Studies reveals that all towers were three-storey, with roof of massive wooden construction and tiles.

In the interior of the fort were revealed several large buildings, different in chronology, which refer to the different periods of its habitation. To the time of the fort’s construction refer four partially studied buildings in the eastern half of the fortification. These are massive buildings on both sides of the street with east-west direction and width of 5 m. The building located to the north of the street has rectangular plan and length of 31.50 m and width of 24.50 m. It consists seven premises around a large internal yard. A latrina (a toilet) is revealed inside the building, with bricked canal for leading the dirty waters. The second entirely studied building is revealed in the southern side of the street. It has dimensions of 32 x 18 m. It consists of five premises. The other two buildings are partially studied, but given their planning scheme these are dwellings without doubt. To this first construction period of the fort also refers one large horreum (grain storage), revealed 10 m to the south of the western gate. The building is oriented in north-south direction, it is parallel to the western fortification wall and stands 5 m from it. Its dimensions are impressive: 56 x 20 m. Its longer sides have 13 buttresses each, constructively related to the walls. In height, the building has mixed construction – alternating belts of stones and bricks. The roof was two-sloped, covered with tiles.The horreum has two wide entrances – one from the northern short side, and another from the east. To this initial period of existence of the fort there also one partially studied building underneath the foundations of the Early Christian complex, as well as several pipelines and canals. To the same period, but at a later stage, it should be referred one three-sectioned building, located in proximity to the horreum. It is built from diligently shaped stone blocks with plaster jointing. It is attached to the western fortification wall. It had two entrances from the south and probably from the north. Its plan and its location in immediate proximity to the western gate give us the reason to interpret it a barracks building.

To the second construction period of the fort are also referred several studied buildings. Thus, over the remains of the destroyed four buildings in the eastern part of the fortification there is a new one constructed, with solid building and impressive dimensions.It occupies the entire area of the earlier buildings and protrudes outside its outlines to the north and the south. It is partially studied. Sections of its northern and southern walls are revealed with length correspondingly 24 m and 32 m.The purpose of this building is unclear. In immediate proximity to it there is another unearthed building – the so-called building with the shops. It presents six premises in rectangular plan, located on one line along the east-west direction. Between them there is an entrance studied, and in front of them – a portico with colonnade in Ionian order. The portico is parallel to the street, it has length of 41 m and with of 4.65 m. It has 15 pillars at distance of 2.07 m from one another. It is covered with massive wooden construction and tiles. The shops present rectangular premises with length of 3.65 m and width from 4.85 to 5.30 m. They were closed with one-leaved door with width of 1.25 m. Two of them had additional entrance from the north as well. In the middle between the row of shops there was an entrance, which lead to another rectangular premises with dimensions of 3.65 x 4.85 m. To the second construction period of Abritus also refer two buildings to the south of the large peristyle building, one of them being a workshop for production of bone items, as well as a third building, located underneath the Early Medieval Christian complex.

To the third construction period of the fort refers the building of the most representative buildings, studied in Abritus. These are the so-called peristyle building and the building with hypocaust (floor heating).  

The peristyle building is located in the eastern part of the fortified territory, on the ruins of the earlier four buildings and the one with the shops. It is named this way because of the yard in its center, with colonnade on its four sides. The overall built-up area is almost 3000 sq. m. During its construction, the builders incorporated the earlier building with the shops and the portico in the general volume of the new building.It is built of relatively well-processed stone blocks, with joints coated with pink plaster. Functionally, the building consists of three sections: commercial-economic, residential and peristyle yard. The six shops with the portico belong to the first section, as well as the rectangular premise between them and additional six premises around a large open yard with size of 25 x 12.5 m. Its four sides are surrounded by a colonnade with width of 3.20 m. The total number of pillars is twenty-one – eight on each of the longer sides, two at the northern and three on the southern shorter sides. The north portico of the yard and a corridor separate the commercial-economic section from the residential. It consists of nine premises, located symmetrically around the central one, which ends with an apse to the north. Inside one of the premises was revealed a latrina, a pipeline and a canal for the dirty waters.

Immediately to the west of the peristyle building there is another one revealed, with length of almost 23 m, interpreted as a bath. Together with its extensions, it possesses ten premises. The entrance is from the west, and one of the premises has an apse on its eastern side. The two large southern premises have hypocaust, and inside another premises a latrina is facilitated, with canal for the dirty waters.Inside the premise with the apse is discovered a stone block with a cross, incised on it, additionally colored in red. The availability of this find provokes the researchers to presume that inside the premise was accommodated a church at a later stage of its functioning.

At 60 m to the east of the western gate is unearthed a three-nave Christian basilica with three-sectioned narthex. Its northern and southern sides are constructed of crushed stones with mortar joint, additionally coated with mortar coating, while the walls of the building’s naves are constructed of bricks. The floor is also bricked. In immediate proximity to the eastern fortification wall, at this moment only partially studied, there is a second basilica. Its dimensions and architecture allow at this stage for it to be interpreted as a bishop’s.

To this third construction period of the functioning of the Late Antiquity fort also refer the examined remains of several framed dwellings, attached to the northern, the southern and the eastern fortification walls. They are built of crushed stones with earth joint at the foundations and of adobe in height.

As result of the archaeological excavations, field observations and accidental finds, it is cleared that Abritus had four necropolises. Their investigation began as early as the end of the 19th century. We contain the largest quantity of information for the southern necropolis, where in the 1960s were studied 238 graves. Of them, 228 are body-laying, and the others are of cremation. The discovered material is diverse and dates the necropolis within the borders of the 2nd-6th century. Another 19 graves of this necropolis are studied in 2010. The northern necropolis was a mound one. A. Yavashov reports for fifteen mounds, nowadays obliterated. Only one of them has been studied. Studies were also conducted in the western mound necropolis. Several graves with poor inventory are revealed.

As result of the long years of archaeological excavations on the territory of the Antiquity town of Abritus, hundreds of finds are unearthed, large part of which are exhibited in the halls of the Razgrad Regional Museum of History. Among them, with their high scientific and exhibition value are distinguished the numerous epigraphic and votive material, architectural details, stone and bronze plastics, armament, adornment. Without parallel in the contemporary Bulgarian lands is a collective find of 27 bronze items – 16 plates-matrices, 1 statuette, 1 application and 9 chariot decorations, discovered to the north of Abritus. There are various opinions for the character of the find – sanctuary inventory, burial gift, inventory of a toreut’s workshop.On the plates-matrices there are images of Zeus and Hera, Cybele, Mars, Artemis, Sabazios, Heracles, and the so-called Razgrad goddess. The numismatic material, originating from Abritus, is also extremely numerous. In 1971 in the interior of the fort, next to the eastern fortification wall, was unearthed one of the largest in Europe hoards of golden coins. The treasure contains 835 solids or emperors and empresses of the 5th century, concealed during the reign of Emperor Zeno (476-491).Particular interest is also caused by a second golden coin treasure, discovered within the outlines of the Early Medieval Bulgarian fortress. It consists of 11 Byzantine solids, hidden by their possessor in the years of campaign of the Kievan prince Svetoslav against Danube Bulgaria.

Chronology:The results of the archaeological studies, combined with the data from the epigraphic material and information from the historical sources made possible the clarification of the stages of development of the Roman Abritus. During the excavations on the Late Roman town on the hill, known as Hisarlaka, the archaeologists discovered structures of a settlement from the Hellenistic period. One accidental find – a fragment of a dedication inscription, discovered secondarily used in the floor of the Christian basilica in the western part of the town, delivers important information for the significance of the Thracian settlement, which existed here in the years preceding the Roman conquest.The dedication is made during the reign of the Thracian king Rhoemetalces II (19-26) by the Strategos of Anchialus, Seletica and Ryusike. Interest is cause by the title of the Thracian king. At the time of the inscription, he was only “dynast of the Thracians”, and a later stage the text is corrected and his new title is indicated – king. We learn from Tacitus when and why did this happen. Describing the events in Thrace and the internal conflicts among the Thracian aristocracy, the Roman historian mentions that Rhoemetalces IIprovided assistance to the Romans in suppressing the riots that emerged among the Thracians, and because of this he received the title of “King of the Thracians”. Namely these events are reflected by the change in the ruler’s title at the described inscription. It is placed over a sacrificial altar, made to glorify Apollo. Another inscription, dedicated to Apollo, and placed by inhabitants of Abritus, as well as a fragment of his statue, discovered within the riverbed of Beli Lom, reveals that Abritus had a significant temple to this deity. It is very likely that its location was on the higher hill in the Hisarlaka locality, where during the 4th century the Late Roman fort was constructed.

Theemergenceof the Roman military camp of Abritus in proximity to the old Thracian center is referred to the last quarter – the end of the 1st century AD. Thanks to epigraphic, we are aware that Abritus is a fort of an auxiliary unit – a cohort. The first military unit, stationed here, is the II Lucens cohort. It stayed here until 136 AD, when it was relocated to Kabyle in the Province of Thrace.Therelocationofcohorthoweverdidnotleavethecampempty, itisreplacedbyanothercohort, whosenamehasnotreachedus, butwehavecertainepigraphicinformation for its presence. For the fact that Abritus has been a fort at least until the end of the 3rd century we learn from the before mentioned inscription from Aquileia. The presence of a significant military unit in the interior of the Province of Lower Moesia can be explained only with the importance of the old Thracian center and its role as a regional center. According to a number of researchers, the Thracian settlement in the Hisarlaka locality has been a center of the long-searched Strategy of Ryusike, known from the sources and epigraphic monuments.

We have more details information on the chronology of the Late Roman fortification. Its researchers consider it to be the castle of the military unit and topographic successor of the camp of the II Lucens cohort. In the line of this hypothesis, they are placing the construction of the fort within the chronological interval between the middle of the 3rd and the early 4th century. Based on the similarities between the fortification system with the one at Yatrus and Tropaeum Trajani in the neighboring Province of Scythia, it is more reasonable to place the construction of the fort in the first quarter of the 4th century. Recently, on the ground of numismatic finds on the site, a presumption is made that the fortification has been one of the strong points of Emperor Licinius I in his struggle against Constantine I and as such it has been finished prior to 324 AD.

Three large construction periods in the functioning of the Late Roman center are registered through archaeological means. The first one falls within the chronological borders from the first quarter of the 4th century to 378 AD. This period is testified with the construction of the fortification system of Abritus, the horreum at the western gate, the remains of four buildings in the eastern part of the fortified territory. Within the period it can be distinguished a second phase, which is to be put in the context of the program for strengthening of the bordering Danube provinces and with the measures, taken by emperors Julian and Valens in the second half of the 4th century. The end of the first construction period is related to destructions, caused during or soon after the unsuccessful for the Roman Second Gothic war (376-378 AD).

The second construction period in the functioning of the Late Roman Abritus falls within the chronological frames between the last quarter of the 4th - the end of the 5th century. On the field, this is testified by the repair works on the fortification wall, the restoration and the general rebuilding of the constructions inside the defended territory. At least two phases can be distinguished within this period, too. The end of the first is associated with the large Hunnic invasions during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II. Judging by the discovered two coin hoards, the registered destructions should be related to the Hunnic invasion of 447 AD. It appears that Abritus was restored quickly following these events. Furthermore, the sources mention it as a town and a bishop's seat (458 AD). The discovery of the large treasure of 835 golden solids, hidden by their owner at the end of the 5th century is an eloquent marker for the cataclysm that hit Abritus at the end of the reign of Emperor Zeno (476-491). These events also put the end of the second construction period. The last large construction activity in Abritus is referred to the end of the 5th - the early 6th century. It also coincides with the third large construction period in the existence of the Late Antiquity town. Here it is also possible to trace two phases within the period. The first one generally coincides with the reign of Emperor Anastasius I (491-518). Probably at that time the fortification system of Abritus gained the outlook, known to us today. The last archaeological studies reveal lack of synchronicity between the eastern and the other fortification walls. The first three have similar characteristics and truly can be examined as synchronous, while the construction of the eastern can be dated as early as the end of the 5th century. To the first phase of the period, along the new eastern fortification wall, a number of other monumental buildings are erected, leading to a significant change in the urban environment. The new town dominants are two revealed Christian temples. To the monumental buildings, constructed at that time, is also referred the large peristyle residence, which incorporates the earlier corpus with the shops, as well as the building with the hypocaust premises, interpreted as a bath.The intensive construction in Abritus from this period, the end of the 5th century - the early 6th century, is completely in unison with the attempts of the central authority to erase, as much as possible, the traces of the heavy defeats, caused by the long wars with the Goths and Huns. Similar situation is observed in other affected centers in Second Moesia and the neighboring provinces.

The inclusion of Abritus among the fortresses and towns, restored by Justinian I, has also been confirmed within the archaeological environment. Namely this construction program represents the second phase of the third construction period of the Late Roman town. The construction activity is manifested mainly in the blockage of three fortification gates, after which only the western one was in use. During this period largely distributed became the building of framed residences, made of adobe on plinth of stones, jointed with earth. Part of the survived monumental town complexes were inhabited, but not according to their initial purpose. The general decline reflected over them as well and is visible in superstructures and division of premises, mainly through adobe and other light materials, the construction of new household facilities inside, etc.Similar fate was shared by the horreum next to the western fortification wall and the barracks to the north of it, where production facilities were accommodated. Chronologically, the beginning of this second phase is placed in the years following the large Kutrigur invasion of 558/559 and its end coincides with the end of the existence of the Late Antiquity town, destroyed during some of the Avar-Slav invasions at the end of the 6th century.