Thrace (/θreɪs/; Modern Greek: Θράκη, Thráke; Bulgarian:
Тракия, Trakiya; Turkish: Trakya) is a geographical and
historical area in southeast Europe, now split between Bulgaria,
Greece and Turkey, which is bounded by the
Balkan Mountains to the
Aegean Sea to the south and the
Black Sea to the east. It
Bulgaria (Northern Thrace), northeastern Greece
(Western Thrace) and the European part of
Turkey (Eastern Thrace).
In antiquity, it was also referred to as Europe, prior to the
extension of the term to describe the whole continent. The name
Thrace comes from the Thracians, an ancient Indo-European people
inhabiting Southeastern Europe.
2.2 Cities of Thrace
3 Demographics and religion
Ancient Greek mythology
4.1 Ancient and Roman history
4.2 Medieval history
4.3 Ottoman period
4.4 Modern history
5 Notable Thracians
6 Thracian gods
8 See also
11 External links
Thrace was established by the Greeks for referring to the
Thracian tribes, from
Ancient Greek Thrake (Θρᾴκη),
descending from Thrāix (Θρᾷξ). The name of the continent
Europe first referred to
Thrace proper, prior to extending its meaning
to the whole continent. The region could have been named after the
principal river there, Hebros, possibly from the Indo-European arg
"white river" (the opposite of Vardar, meaning "black river"), .
According to an alternative theory, Hebros means "goat" in
In Turkey, it is commonly referred to as Rumeli, Land of the Romans,
owing to this region being the last part of the Eastern Roman Empire
that was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
The name appears to derive from an ancient heroine and sorceress
Thrace, who was the daughter of
Oceanus and Parthenope, and sister of
The historical boundaries of
Thrace have varied. The ancient Greeks
employed the term "Thrace" to refer to all of the territory which lay
Thessaly inhabited by the Thracians, a region which "had
no definite boundaries" and to which other regions (like Macedonia and
even Scythia) were added. In one ancient Greek source, the very
Earth is divided into "Asia, Libya, Europa and Thracia". As the
Greeks gained knowledge of world geography, "Thrace" came to designate
the area bordered by the
Danube on the north, by the Euxine Sea (Black
Sea) on the east, by northern Macedonia in the south and by
the west. This largely coincided with the Thracian Odrysian
kingdom, whose borders varied over time. After the Macedonian
conquest, this region's former border with Macedonia was shifted from
Struma River to the Mesta River. This usage lasted until
the Roman conquest. Henceforth, (classical)
Thrace referred only to
the tract of land largely covering the same extent of space as the
modern geographical region.[clarification needed] In its early period,
the Roman province of
Thrace was of this extent, but after the
administrative reforms of the late 3rd century, Thracia's much reduced
territory became the six small provinces which constituted the Diocese
of Thrace. The medieval Byzantine theme of
Thrace contained only what
today is Eastern Thrace.
Cities of Thrace
Main article: List of cities of Thrace
The largest cities of
Thrace are: Plovdiv, Burgas, Stara Zagora,
Haskovo, Yambol, Komotini, Alexandroupoli, Xanthi, Edirne, Istanbul,
Kırklareli and Tekirdağ.
Demographics and religion
Main articles: Demographics of Bulgaria, Demographics of Greece, and
Demographics of Turkey
Thracian Bulgarians and Turks of Western Thrace
Most of the Bulgarian and Greek population are Orthodox Christians,
while most of the Turkish inhabitants of
Thrace are Sunni Muslims.
Ancient Greek mythology
Ancient Greek mythology provides the
Thracians with a mythical
ancestor Thrax, the son of the war-god Ares, who was said to reside in
Thracians appear in Homer's
Iliad as Trojan allies, led by
Acamas and Peiros. Later in the Iliad, Rhesus, another Thracian king,
makes an appearance. Cisseus, father-in-law to the Trojan elder
Antenor, is also given as a Thracian king.
Thrace was vaguely defined, and stretched from the River Axios
in the west to the
Black Sea in the east. The Catalogue
of Ships mentions three separate contingents from Thrace: Thracians
Acamas and Peiros, from Aenus;
Cicones led by Euphemus, from
southern Thrace, near Ismaros; and from the city of Sestus, on the
Thracian (northern) side of the Hellespont, which formed part of the
contingent led by Asius. Ancient
Thrace was home to numerous other
tribes, such as the Edones, Bisaltae, Cicones, and Bistones in
addition to the tribe that
Homer specifically calls the
Greek mythology is replete with Thracian kings, including Diomedes,
Tereus, Lycurgus, Phineus, Tegyrius, Eumolpus, Polymnestor, Poltys,
Oeagrus (father of Orpheus).
Thrace is mentioned in Ovid's Metamorphoses, in the episode of
Philomela, Procne, and Tereus: Tereus, the King of Thrace, lusts after
his sister-in-law, Philomela. He kidnaps her, holds her captive, rapes
her, and cuts out her tongue. Philomela manages to get free, however.
She and her sister, Procne, plot to get revenge, by killing her son
Itys (by Tereus) and serving him to his father for dinner. At the end
of the myth, all three turn into birds –
Procne into a swallow,
Philomela into a nightingale, and
Tereus into a hoopoe.
See also: History of
Western Thrace and History of East Thrace
Ancient and Roman history
Main article: Thracians
Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak.
The indigenous population of
Thrace was a people called the Thracians,
divided into numerous tribal groups. The region was controlled by the
Persian Empire at its greatest extent, and Thracian soldiers were
known to be used in the Persian armies. Later on, Thracian troops were
known to accompany neighboring ruler
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great when he
Hellespont which abuts Thrace, during the invasion of the
Persian Empire itself.
Thracians did not describe themselves by name; terms such as
Thracians are simply the names given them by the
Divided into separate tribes, the
Thracians did not form any lasting
political organizations until the founding of the
Odrysian state in
the 4th century BC. Like Illyrians, the locally ruled Thracian tribes
of the mountainous regions maintained a warrior tradition, while the
tribes based in the plains were purportedly more peaceable. Recently
discovered funeral mounds in
Bulgaria suggest that Thracian kings did
rule regions of
Thrace with distinct Thracian national identity.
During this period, a subculture of celibate ascetics called the
Ctistae lived in Thrace, where they served as philosophers, priests
Thrace particularly in the south started to become
hellenized before the
Peloponnesian War as a significant amount of
Athenian and Ionian colonies were set up in
Thrace before the war and
Spartan and other Doric colonists followed suit after the war. The
special interest of Athens to
Thrace is underlined by the numerous
finds of Athenian silverware in Thracian tombs. In 168 BC, after
the Third Macedonian war and the subjugation of Macedonia to the
Thrace also lost its independence and became tributary to
Rome. Towards the end of the 1st century BC
Thrace lost its status as
a client kingdom as the Romans began to directly appoint their kings.
 This situation lasted until 46 AD, when the Romans finally turned
Thrace into a Roman province (Romana provincia Thracia)
During the Roman domination, within the geographical borders of
ancient Thrace, there were two separate Roman provinces, namely Thrace
("provincia Thracia") and Lower
Moesia inferior"). Later, in
the times of Diocletian, the two provinces were joined and formed the
so-called "Dioecesis Thracia". The establishment of Roman colonies
and mostly several Greek cities, as was Nicopolis, Topeiros,
Traianoupolis, Plotinoupolis and Hadrianoupolis resulted from the
Roman Empire's urbanization. It is noteworthy that the Roman
provincial policy in
Thrace favored mainly not the Romanization but
the Hellenization of the country, which had started as early as the
Archaic period through the Greek colonisation and was completed by the
end of Roman Antiquity. As regards the competition between the
Greek and Latin language, the very high rate of Greek inscriptions in
Thrace extending south of Haemus mountains proves the complete
language Hellenization of this region. The boundaries between the
Greek and Latin speaking
Thrace are placed just above the northern
foothills of Haemus mountains.
During the imperial period many
Thracians – particularly members of
the local aristocracy of the cities – had been granted the right of
the Roman citizenship (civitas Romana) with all his privileges.
Epigraphic evidence show a large increase in such naturalizations in
the times of Trajan and Hadrian, while in 212 AD the emperor Caracalla
granted, with his well-known decree (constitutio Antoniniana), the
Roman citizenship to all the free habitants of the Roman Empire. 
During the same period (in the 1st-2nd century AD), a remarkable
Thracians is testified by the inscriptions outside the
borders (extra fines) both in the Greek territory  and in all the
Roman provinces, especially in the provinces of Eastern Roman Empire.
Macedonia (theme) and
By the mid 5th century, as the Western
Roman Empire began to crumble,
Thracia fell from the authority of Rome and into the hands of Germanic
tribal rulers. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Thracia
turned into a battleground territory for the better part of the next
1,000 years. The surviving eastern portion of the
Roman Empire in the
Balkans, later known as the Byzantine Empire, retained control over
Thrace until the 8th century when the northern half of the entire
region was incorporated into the
First Bulgarian Empire
First Bulgarian Empire and the
remainder was reorganized in the Thracian theme. The Empire regained
the lost regions in the late 10th century until the Bulgarians
regained control of the northern half at the end of the 12th century.
Throughout the 13th century and the first half of the 14th century,
the region was changing in the hands of the Bulgarian and the
Byzantine Empire (excluding Constantinople). In 1265 the area suffered
a Mongol raid from the Golden Horde, led by Nogai Khan, and between
1305 and 1307 was raided by the Catalan company.
Flag of rebels of
Thrace during the Greek War of Independence.
In 1352, the Ottoman Turks conducted their first incursion into the
region subduing it completely within a matter of two decades and
occupying it for five centuries. In 1821, several parts of Thrace,
such as Lavara, Maroneia, Sozopolis, Aenos, Callipolis and Samothraki
rebelled during the Greek War of Independence.
Proposal to cede
Eastern Thrace to
Greece during World War I. This
photocopy came from a larger color map.
Congress of Berlin
Congress of Berlin in 1878,
Northern Thrace was incorporated
into the semi-autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia, which
Bulgaria in 1885. The rest of
Thrace was divided among
Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century,
following the Balkan Wars,
World War I
World War I and the Greco-Turkish War. In
Summer 1934, up to 10.000 Jews were maltreated, bereaved and then
forced to quit the region (see 1934
Today, Thracian is a geographical term used in Greece,
Orpheus was, in
Ancient Greek mythology, the chief representative of
the art of song and playing the lyre.
Protagoras was a Greek philosopher from Abdera, Thrace
(c. 490–420 BC.) An expert in rhetorics and subjects connected
to virtue and political life, often regarded as the first sophist. He
is known primarily for three claims: (1) that man is the measure of
all things, often interpreted as a sort of moral relativism, (2) that
he could make the "worse (or weaker) argument appear the better (or
stronger)" (see Sophism), and (3) that one could not tell if the gods
existed or not (see Agnosticism).
Herodicus was a Greek physician of the fifth century BC who is
considered the founder of sports medicine. He is believed to have been
one of Hippocrates' tutors.
Democritus was a Greek philosopher and mathematician from Abdera,
Thrace (c. 460–370 BC.) His main contribution is the atomic
theory, the belief that all matter is made up of various imperishable
indivisible elements which he called atoms.
Spartacus was a Thracian who led a large slave uprising in what is now
Italy in 73–71 BC. His army of escaped gladiators and slaves
Roman legions in what is known as the Third Servile
A number of Roman emperors of the 3rd–5th century were of
Thraco-Roman backgrounds (Maximinus Thrax, Licinius, Galerius,
Aureolus, Leo the Thracian, etc.). These emperors were elevated via a
military career, from the condition of common soldiers in one of the
Roman legions to the foremost positions of political power.
Two main gods of the
Dionysus (worshiped as
Zagreus) and Bendis.
Zagreus was worshipped by followers of Orphism
(the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices associated
with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus), whose late
Orphic hymns invoke his name. Actually
Zagreus was a Thracian god
prototype later known as Dionysus – the god of joy, wine and
ecstasy in the Greek and Bacchus in the Roman mythology.
Holidays (mysteries) dedicated to
Greece were called
Dionysii; in Rome they were known as Bacchanalia and in
Rozalii. Orphic mysteries held in honor of Dionysus-
performed only by devoted unmarried men. They were called a-bii, which
means "not alive" because they did not lead an ordinary life. The
mysteries were held in secret places far from the eyes of the ordinary
people and were accompanied by choral songs and mimic games. The
culmination of the mysteries was the symbolic death of the
king-priest, identified with
Zagreus who according to myth was torn
apart by the Titans. Following the "death", the mother goddess was
also symbolically born. The first part was carried out through a
sacrifice of a bull, horse, goat or even people and the latter through
a sexual orgy. Later on, Orphic mysteries became a part of the
Wine and fire were essential to the cult of Dionysus. The act of wine
producing itself was recognized as a tale of the life and sorrow of
the god. Picking and smashing the vines represent the way that the
Dionysus apart. That is why vinification was a mystery
that was accompanied by sad songs.
Bendis was a goddess worshiped in Southwestern Thrace. She was
typically presented as a hunter, wrapped with leather with boots and a
fox fur hat. She holds a spear, a bow or a net and she is often
accompanied by a hunting dog. In
Greek mythology boots are a symbol of
Bendis is different from her Greek analogies in that she wears
a fox hat.
Vine and Haberlea rhodopensis (Orpheus' flower) were objects of cult
for the Bessi. Wine and flame were believed to cause euphoria.
Svetonii Tranquil and Herodotus described rituals in which worshippers
would divine by pouring wine on the altar and observing the height of
the blaze. Other tribes would also burn a sacrificial animal on the
altar. They believed that if the flames were vigorous, the year would
Trakiya Heights in
Antarctica "are named after the historical
1989 expulsion of Turks from Bulgaria
Celtic settlement of Eastern Europe
Hawks of Thrace
Music of Thrace
The Destruction of
Thracian Bulgarians in 1913
Turkish Republic of Thrace
Turks of Western Thrace
^ Greek goddess Europa adorns new five-euro note
^ Pagden, Anthony (2002). "Europe: Conceptualizing a Continent" (PDF).
The idea of Europe: from antiquity to the European Union. Washington,
DC; Cambridge; New York: Woodrow Wilson Center Press ; Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 9780511496813.
^ Θρᾴκη. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English
Lexicon at the Perseus Project
^ Θρᾷξ. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English
Lexicon at the Perseus Project
^ Pieter, Jan.
Thracians and Mycenaeans: Proceedings of the Fourth
^ Swinburne Carr, Thomas. The history and geography of Greece.
^ a b c Smith, Sir William (1857). Dictionary of Greek and Roman
geography. London. p. 1176.
^ Johann Joachim Eschenburg, Nathan Welby Fiske. Manual of classical
literature. p. 20 n.
^ Adam, Alexander. A summary of geography and history, both ancient
and modern. p. 344.
^ Joseph Roisman,Ian Worthington. "A companion to Ancient Macedonia"
John Wiley & Sons, 2011. ISBN 144435163X p 343
^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 2: The Assyrian and
Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East, from the Eighth
to the Sixth Centuries BC by John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, E.
Sollberger, and N. G. L. Hammond ,ISBN 0-521-22717-8,1992,page
597: "We have no way of knowing what the
Thracians called themselves
and if indeed they had a common name...Thus the name of
that of their country were given by the Greeks to a group of tribes
occupying the territory..."
^ A. Sideris, Theseus in Thrace. The Silver Lining on the Clouds of
the Athenian-Thracian Relations in the 5th Century BC (Sofia 2015),
pp. 13-14, 79-82.
^ D. C. Samsaris, Le royaume client thrace aux temps de Tibere et la
tutelle romaine de Trebellenus Rufus (Le stade transitif de la
clientele a la provincialisation de la Thrace), Dodona 17 (1), 1988,
^  D. C. Samsaris, The Hellenization of
Thrace during the Greek and
Roman Antiquity (Diss. in Greek), Thessaloniki 1980, p. 26-36
^ D. C. Samsaris, Historical Geography of
Western Thrace during the
Roman Antiquity (in Greek), Thessaloniki 2005, p. 7-14
^  D. C. Samsaris, The Hellenization of Thrace, passim
^  D. C. Samsaris, The Hellenization of Thrace, p. 320-330
^ D. C. Samsaris, Surveys in the history, topography and cults of the
Roman provinces of Macedonia and
Thrace (in Greek), Thessaloniki 1984,
^ D. C. Samsaris, Les Thraces dans l’ Empire romain d’ Orient (Le
territoire de la Grèce actuelle). Etude ethno-démographique,
sociale, prosopographique et anthroponymique, Jannina (Université)
1993, pp. 372
^ D. C. Samsaris, Les Thraces dans l’ Empire romain d’ Orient
(Asie Mineure, Syrie, Palestine et Arabie). Etude ethno-démographique
et sociale, VIe Symposium Internazionale di Tracologia (Firenze 11-13
maggio 1989), Roma 1992, p. 184-204 [= Dodona 19(1990), fasc. 1, p.
^ La Venjança catalana. Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana.
^ see footnote 4
^ Trakiya Heights. SCAR Composite Antarctic Gazetteer.
Hoddinott, R. F., The Thracians, 1981.
Ilieva, Sonya, Thracology, 2001
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Thrace.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ancient
Thrace and Ancient
Ethnological Museum of Thrace, comprehensive website on Thracian
history and culture.
Bulgaria's Thracian Heritage. including images of the comprehensive
art collection of Thracian gold found on the territory of contemporary
Information on Ancient Thrace
The People of the God-Sun Ar and Areia (modern Thrace) 
Coordinates: 42°N 26°E / 42°N