Less than an hour away from Sofia is one of the fortresses, which keeps one of the most glorious moments in Bulgarian history – the victory of Tsar Samuil over the Byzantine Emperor Basil II. The Trajan’s Gate near Kostenets today stands nearly 5 meters above the rock on which it was built in the 3rd century. Most of the solid remain of ancient times, but the fortress has been restored and upgraded. The height of the fortress walls, however, was about 10 meters in the past, and the three towers – two at the entrance and one on the south – were two to three meters higher. The walls were more than 2 meters thick.
Interestingly, the fortress was built according to the peculiarities of the terrain. Because of the rock that rises highest in the region and gives a strategic advantage for observing approaching enemies, the Trajan’s Door has almost rectangular shape and its three towers are pentagonal. In addition to the central gate, the fortress also had five smaller ones that were used to allow soldiers to go out in the siege and do special tasks like destroying enemy’s siege guns.
In addition, the fortress also had a secret tunnel that led from its almost central entrance to the nearby river to be able to buy the precious drink in the event of a siege. Its beginning is evident today, but the underground road is almost entirely buried with earth. The fortress was, in fact, extremely important strategically, because it was on the ancient Roman Via Via Militaris and guarded the road between East and West. Even though only about 120 soldiers lived there, they were sufficient to guard the passage because of the strategic location of the fortress. Near it, there was a huge arch with a height of about 18 meters, which, unfortunately, was not spared by the time. We know how it looked from the drawings of 18th-century travelers.
The Trajan’s Gate fortress became a scene of Samuil’s victorious battle over the Byzantine Emperor Basil II on August 17, 986. Then the ruler of the Eastern Empire returned from Serdika’s failed siege. Tsar Samuil set him a trap in the Trajan’s Gate, and almost completely destroyed the 30,000th Roman army. The Emperor himself was miraculously saved along with a very small part of his army. As a result of the battle, Bulgaria expanded its borders to one of the largest territories in its history in the following years.