Thanks to the testimonies of the old writers we know a lot about Thrace and the people of this country. They inhabited considerably large area – the territory of Modern Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, parts of Slovakia, Ukraine, Greece, European and Asian Turkey.
The best known Thracians are Spartacus, who made Rome tremble with his uprisal of the slaves, and Orpheus – the great musician and thinker. Not to forget the deified priest Zalmoxis, which doctrine became famous among many people.
Thracе was densely populated and its people began to migrate from their Balkan homeland very early. Strabo mentioned Thracian journey and settling at the Northern coast of the Adriatic Sea after the Trojan war . Some Thracian tribes as Sarapari became neighbours of the Medes (living in Iran) and Armenians – “ It is also said that certain of the Thracians, those called “Saraparae,” that is “Decapitators,” took up their abode beyond Armenia near the Gurani and Medes…” .
In the time of Pliny The Elder, Thracian Sarapari have reached even Bactria . Tribe with Thracian name Edoni is localized in the vicinity of Parthians and Sacae, who lived in Central Asia . Thracian Thuni and Ciconi (the last known from Odyssey) are mentioned not far from India .
Apparently Thracians not only came near India, but also colonized some part of it. In his work “Anabasis Alexandri” Lucius Arianus wrote that the Thracian Dionysus was the founder of the Indian civilization – “But when Dionysus had come, and become master of India, he founded cities, and gave laws for these cities… Dionysus whoever he was came to India and gave the Indians seeds of domesticated plants; then Dionysus first yoked oxen to the plough and made most of the Indians agriculturists instead of wanderers, and armed them also with the arms of warfare. Further, Dionysus taught them to reverence other gods, but especially, of course, himself ”.
Except Asia, Thracians visited many other places in the Antiquity. Irish chronicles claimed that a group of foreign colonizers came to their land from Thrace . Because of the fact that Thracian personal names are written on Cretan Linear A documents and artefacts , we know about the Thracian presence in Minoan Crete . That substantial number of Thracians inhabited Northern Part of Black Sea coast we know from the research of S.Krykin. He noticed the presence of a large number of Thracian personal names in epigraphy (and historical sources) in this region .
Fist mentioning of Thracian tribes and the land Thrace is from 14 th ct BC.
Later, during the Trojan War, Thracians became allies of the Trojans, to whom they were related. Various Thracian tribes participated in that ancient conflict. Mysians, Paeonians, Phrygians etc defended their king in the besieged city.
Thracians were present in other major events in the Antiquity. A waring of excellent qualities of the Thracian warriors, Alexander the Great took many Agrianians, Paeonians and Odrysi in his army. They proved to be worthy against the soldiers of the Persian king Darius.
If Thracians have colonized so many places, and participated in so many events in different lands, it is no wonder, that these people have been called by Herodotus the most numerous nation after Indians . In the middle of first millennium BC Thracians created a mighty state. Thucydides testified about the strength and splendour of the Odryssian kingdom (Odryssi were major Tracian tribe) – “For of all the nations of Europe that lie between the Ionian Gulf and the Euxine Sea/the Black sea/, it was, for revenue of money and other wealth, the mightiest.”
In 1st ct AD Thrace sunk in political crisis. The Romans used the chance and established their rule there in 44-45 AD . In the next century emperor Trajanus managed to conquer part of the Northern Thracians . However, even after the Roman conquest, Thracian population did not diminish seriously. Strabo testified that in 1st ct. AD Thracians could summon an army of 200 000 foot soldiers and 15 000 cavalry . Even for modern standards that is formidable force.
About half a century later, Pliny mentioned that Thrace is the mightiest in Europe. In 2nd ct AD Pausanias was also impressed by the numerous Thracian nation . In 4th ct AD the author of “Totus Orbis Descriptio” claimed that Thrace is inexhaustible source of good soldiers . That situation didn’t change even in the 6th ct AD, when Roman Emperor Justinian The Great expressed his admiration of the excellent qualities of the Thracians .
There is no doubt that Thracians were respected by the Romans. Thracian people received high functions in Roman Empire. In the time of Constantine The Great, governor of Egypt and Libya was Thracian man with name Roemetalcas . The greatest general of the Late Antiquity – Belisarius was Thracian too . Aetius – the mighty adversary of Attila was born in Durostorum and had Thracian father . Other high military commanders of Thracian origin were Vitalianus , Terentius, Zaidus, Rufinus, Marcian .
Thracian were not only high military commanders in the Roman Empire, many become even Emperors. Maximinus Thrax was native of Thrace, who thanks to his supernatural power and valour has managed to reach the rank of general and later was proclaimed emperor by his soldiers . Other Roman emperors of Thracian origin were Constantine the Great, Justinus I, Constantius II, Julian, Leo I, Leo II, Justinus I , Marcianus, Justinian I, Justin II, Tiberius, Phocas , Galerius, Maximinus Daia , Licinius, Caludius II Gothicus .
We see that Roman conquest not only did not diminished the strength of the Thracian people, but they even have become protectors and builders of the empire. Thanks to the policy of Constantine The Great, Christianity went out of persecution and became official religion. Other Roman emperor of Thracian origin – Justinian The Great financed the creation of the most magnificent buildings and fortifications.
Because of intense participation of the Thracians in the life of the Roman Empire, it was believed that at the end of Late Antiquity Thracians had become Romanized. It can not be denied that a large part of the Thracians learned Latin in order to make a carrier.
However, the largest part of the Thracian people – the peasants did not lose their old language and culture at least till 3rd ct AD. In 4th ct AD Thracians have translated the Bible into their own language . Even in the 6th ct AD Thracians still keep their names and hold on their nationality .
There is something else, which is often overlooked by different scientists. Not all the Thracians were subjects to the Roman Empire. Many of them lived north of River Ister (Danube), near Carpatian Mountains and Black Sea steppe. Strabo testified that Getae and Mysians ocupied lands on both sides of Danube – “the Getae lived on either side the Ister, as did also the Mysi, these also being Thracians and identical with the people who are now called Moesi”.
Part of Thracian Bessi were under Roman rule, but other part lived in freedom.
The free Thracians were menace for the Roman Empire. Often they crossed river Danube and terrorized the Roman colonist in Thrace. These so called invasions were nothing more than attempt for liberation. Of course Romans thought otherwise, they considered Thrace their dominion, looked upon free Thracian as savage invaders…and described them as such.
In 7th ct AD the Greeks took the power in Constantinople – the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Greeks have always been great enemies of the Thracians, plotting against them and even organized the assassination of their kings. Kotys I was killed by Python and Heraclides – two students of Plato .
From the deep antiquity there were bloody conflicts between Greek and Thracians. Thucydides testified about an attempt of Athenians to steal Thracian land. About 10 000 Greek colonists came along river Strymon/the Struma river now in Bulgaria/ and chased away the local population. That was not enough and the Greeks persuaded further into foreign territory. This time they did not have same luck and were destroyed by united tribes of the Thracians .
When in 2nd ct BC Greeks were conquered by the Romans the hostilities towards Thracians became impossible. However in 7ct AD the situation was different. Greeks had obtained power and were ready to use it in order to assimilate Thracians and take their land. The free Thracians and these under Roman rule understood that this is bad omen and began to organize themselves. At the end of 7th ct AD two large groups of Thracians – Getae and Mysians merged and formed tremendous army, who vanquished the legions of the emperor Constantin Pogonatos and even forced him to pay tribute to the new liberated state.
These united Getae and Mysians are known in the historical sources as Old Slavs and Old Bulgarians
Old Bulgarians had also an alternative name – Mysians. In the course of 1000 years Bulgarians were called Mysians and Bulgaria was equated with Mysia. It is the land to the south of the Danube and to the north of the Balkan mountains.
Old Bulgarian funeral rites, customs, weapons, homes and fortifications were as those of the Mysians and that is a prove that Bulgarians and Mysians are the same people.
The other name of Old Slavs was Getae. They lived to the north of the Danube river
The so called alliance between Old Slavs and Old Bulgarians was in matter of fact alliance between two major Thracian tribes – Getae and Mysians. That explains why the First Bulgarian Empire became so quickly a very powerful state – related people mix without problem. The claim that Old Bulgarians and Danubian Slavs were related is supported by two large anthropological researches. In both cases were examined more than 10 000 people and it was established that Bulgarian people are of European origin and have no relation with people of Central Asia.
Few years ago Swiss genetic research showed that the most of Bulgarian people are progeny of the Thracians. A bit later genetic research was made by Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The result showed again that there is no tracé of Turko-Altaic genes in Bulgarian population and that Bulgarians do have Thracian blood .
Even before the genetic and anthropological researches, many scientist knew that Bulgarians are progeny of the Thracians.Many scientists and historians presented many proves about Thracian origin of the Bulgarian people. Unfortunately the works of these people did not receive the needed attention. There was also censorship during the totalitarian period 1944-1989. It was forbidden to promote any material, which could generate national pride.
Only in recent times researchers as prof. A.Chilingirov , A.Kiryakov , Ch. Bonev and others were able to present to the Bulgarians public their discovery about the Thracian roots of the Bulgarian people.
Whoever Thracians were its proved that they were great warriors, skillful builders , talented musicians and excellent at Art and crafts.