The largest golden hoard of ancient coins in Bulgaria was found in the Roman town of Abritus near Razgrad. The 835 coins, weighing 4 kilograms in total, date back to the 5th century. The coins were minted in Constantinople, Ravenna, Antioch, and Thessalonica. Given how well the coins are preserved, it is believed they were part of a state treasury. The coins bear a mark guaranteeing their gold content. The treasure remained hidden during attacks on the city, and thus it was preserved for generations.
The historical city was founded in the 1st century by the Romans
However, gold coins are not the only treasures that fans of cultural tourism can find in the Abritus Archaeological Reserve, located only 2 kilometers from Razgrad. The city of Abritus was founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD upon the remains of an earlier Thracian settlement. The city was strategically positioned along key trade routes, which allowed it to expand and develop into a large urban centre. Abritus gained historical significance due to the Battle of Abritus that took place in 251 CE between the Roman Empire and the invading Goths. In the battle, the Roman emperor Trajan Decius, despite commanding an army of 30,000, was defeated by the Goths. He perished in the battle along with his elder son and co-emperor Herenius Etruscan.
The prosperity of Abritus continued during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine I the Great, who strengthened the city and constructed a formidable fortress wall encompassing it. This wall featured 35 battle towers and had a thickness of up to 3 meters, and total length of 1400 meters. The walls, reaching a height of 12 meters including the battlements, were designed to adapt to the surrounding terrain. In the 5th to 6th century, the city’s significance grew further. Abritus became one of the seven largest cities of the Roman province of Second Moesia and served as a bishop’s residence. The city endured repeated attacks and destruction by Goths and Huns, until the 6th century, when it was ultimately razed to the ground by the Avars. In the late 9th century, a Bulgarian fortress was constructed on the ruins, which survived until the 11th century.
The historical museum at the Abritus Reserve is even more captivating than the city’s history itself. Within its walls, visitors can encounter an original statuette from the renowned Thracian tomb in Sveshtari. Dating back to the 3rd century BC, this statuette depicts the goddess Nike. The museum also exhibits the mythical winged horse Pegasus. The remarkable statue, dating back to the 4th century BCE, is crafted of pure gold. Without a parallel in the world, the artifact, just under 480 grams, was discovered accidentally near the Bulgarian village of Vazovo. Alas, only half of Pegasus is on display in the museum. The story behind the other part is rather intricate. A farmer first discovered the artifact while operating his tractor. Unfortunately, running over a chunk of gold with a modern heavy machine can cause some damage. In this case, the Pegasus has been split in two. Unaware of its significance, for a while the farmer used what had gotten stuck underneath his tractor as an ashtray. Consequently, this portion has vanished later, leaving behind a fascinating tale to be discovered.
The interactive museum or Abritus consists of 12 halls, where families with children can learn more about the history of the place. Through interactive displays, visitors can immerse themselves in the history of the lost city – discovering how it was constructed, exploring the daily lives of its inhabitants, gaining insights into Roman fashion, and learning intriguing facts about the era. The museum also offers comprehensive information about the final battle of the Roman emperor Trajan Decius.
Not all of Abritus’s treasures are confined between walls. The site has also been transformed into an open-air museum. Within the park area, visitors can marvel at 70 epigraphic monuments adorned with inscriptions in Greek and Latin. Among these tombstones, there are also Christian, Muslim and Armenian ones. The area of the archaeological reserve is 3200 square meters. Among the exposed ruins is the residence of a high state magistrate. The courtyard also features Roman-Ionic columns, and the vacant plinths serve as fantastic photo opportunities for tourists.
The Abritus Reserve welcomes visitors every day from 9 am to 6 pm. As for those who want to learn more about the history of the place, the museum offers a tour guide. The entrance fee is BGN 2.50, and for students and pensioners it is BGN 1. Disabled people and children under the age of 7 enter the museum for free. A guided tour costs BGN 10. If you want to organize your own private party in the museum, the price is BGN 100.