One of the least known, but undeservedly so, Roman tombs in Bulgaria is in Silistra. Not many tourists know about its existence as access to it has been largely restricted. The reduced flow of tourists has helped the preservation of the colourful wall paintings on the mound, which have stood the test of time for 17 centuries. However, if one is really interested, the tomb can be visited, at the extremely affordable price of BGN 10 per visitor, but with a special permit from the Ministry of Culture of Bulgaria. Visits are only allowed by prior request and groups must be of 5 people at least. Photography is prohibited inside, but you can take a close look at the details of the Roman tomb on posters displayed in front of the mound itself.
At this ancient place, fans of cultural and historical tourism have the opportunity to get acquainted with the curious lore surrounding the tomb. It is believed to have been built to be the last home of a Roman aristocrat during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, but it was never used as a real tomb. The tomb nowadays is mostly a resting place for its own rich decorations, numerous frescoes, painted scenes of hunting, and colourful images of plants, animals, and geometric motifs. Among the most impressive frescoes are those of the lords who probably commissioned the tomb and of their servants who, at least as images, were supposed to accompany them in the afterlife.
The last house of a Roman magistrate is covered with ritual scenes
The main scene is a kind of procession of servants and maids, carrying costume elements and toiletries, heading towards the presumed owners of the tomb. The master is depicted in full length, dressed in the costume of a noble Roman general – a magistrate. He is supposed to have been a patrician. In his hand he holds an imperial charter – a codicil. Next to him is his distinguished wife.
Elements in the decoration of the tomb suggest that the magistrate, who commissioned the tomb was pagan. However, features in the iconography reference the new faith spreading in the Roman Empire – Christianity. Some light evidence suggests the artist who so masterfully painted the tomb was probably from the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, somewhere between Egypt and Syria.
The tomb is 2.30 metres high, 3.30 metres long and 2.60 metres wide. It is built of half-worked stones joined with pink mortar, and its vault is filled with bricks. After its grand opening in 1942, a building was constructed over it to preserve it for generations. The tomb itself has never been used for its intended purpose. Historians believe the magistrate most probably fled ancient Silistra during the Goth invasion in the late 4th century. The tomb is included in the list of monuments of national cultural significance.
This content has been prepared as part of a project of the Ministry of Tourism.