Nicopolis ad Nestum

Nicopolis ad Nestum, Nicopolis ad Mestum or Nicopolis ad Nessum was an ancient Roman city that is today in Blagoevgrad Province in southwestern Bulgaria.


The ruins of Nicopolis ad Nestum now are in the village of Garmen ( Bulgarian Гърмен ) in the area Martschow Tschiflik and Chisarlaka, 7 km east of the town of Gotse Delchev.

The town was built on the right bank of the Mesta (Greek and in ancient times: Nestos ) built. The original town extended over an area of ​​25,000-30,000 square meters. The floor plan of the city was an irregular quadrilateral. Nicopolis ad Nestum was surrounded on all sides by high walls. The city walls are still preserved as ruins date from the 4th century BC Also from the city ruins are still left. Most of the buildings were destroyed by fire.

The Mesta separates the Pirin Mountains in the west of the Western Rhodopes to the east. Nicopolis ad Nestum located in the northeast of this basin in the upper Mestatal between the two mountains, a little closer to the Western Rhodopes as the Pirin Mountains.


Nicopolis ad Nestum was founded in 106 by the Roman Emperor Trajan ( 98-117 ), in honor of his victory over the people of the Dacians in the Second Dakerkrieg ( 105-106 ). At the site there was previously a Thracian settlement. The name of the city of Nicopolis ad Nestum means " City of Victory, located at Nestos " after the river Nestos ( Bulgarian Места / Mesta ).

Beginning of the 2nd century, in the Roman province of Thracia cities Nicopolis ad Nestum, Nicopolis ad Istrum and Marcianopolis founded and many other settlements received city rights, including Pautalia (now Kyustendil ), Serdica (now Sofia), Augusta Traiana (now Stara Zagora ), Traianopolis ( Traianopolis in Rhodope, 5 km east of Alexandroupolis ), Plotinopolis ( at Didymoticho ) and Hadrianopolis (now Edirne )

The Roman province of Thracia was from 45 AD associated with the valley of the Mesta. Nicopolis ad Nestum was one of three fortified towns that Trajan founded the occasion of this victory, on the Balkan Peninsula, two of them on the territory of today's Bulgaria.

Nicopolis ad Nestum had easy access to the ancient road network. The city was located on the road that led to the Aegean Sea to the south. This road ended in the south in the city of Drama on the Via Egnatia. The Via Egnatia was an important Roman road that ran from west to east on the Aegean coast and the northern area of ​​the Adriatic with Konstantin Opel union.

To the north the road from Nicopolis ad Nestum via the Rhodope Mountains and the lowlands Oberthrakische according to Philippopolis (now Plovdiv ). The location on the road favored the growth of Nicopolis to the economic, political and cultural center during its heyday in the late antiquity in the 2nd to the 6th century. Rhodopenstraße from the Struma River in the west further stated about Nicopolis ad Nestum after Adrianople.

Coins found and altar reliefs attest to the worship of the gods Zeus, Pluto, Hermes, the Thracian Horseman, Asklepios and Hygieia, as the Mesta river god worshiped by the Thracians and the Ares and Dionysus.

End of the 6th century, the city was destroyed by the Slavs and Avars. During the 9th and 10th century, the city was again under the name Nicopol, existed until the 13th century and went under during the Crusades. In the late Middle Ages there were there on a part of the former city a Bulgarian settlement and in the southeast part of the fortified city a Ottoman landowners ( çiftlik ). During Ottoman rule, the settlement was moved a few miles to the west, where the name of Nicopolis in version Newrokop remained ( Bulg Неврокоп ). Newrokop is today's Gotse Delchev.

During excavations a 280 m long city wall was exposed and the foundations of administrative buildings and buildings with religious functions. In addition to the city a tumulus can be seen ( grave mound ). The archaeologists have found among other fragments of votive offerings of the Thracian horseman, a small statue of the god Hermes, 95 gold coins and 22 bronze coins from the late 6th century, an old Christian grave, made ​​of glass and bronze, ceramics and a gold ring.

Some of these finds are exhibited in the Historical Museum of Gotse Delchev. In the near Nicopolis ad Nestum the remains of a basilica from the early days of Christianity ( 4th century ) were found. It is believed that the basilica also belonged to the city. The Basilica has mosaic floors with geometric and natural motifs. In this so-called " Basilica No. 1" there are some mosaic floors in opus sectile technique, which are strongly influenced by northern Greek -Macedonian area in terms of motifs and style.

The remains of the city walls, which are in places up to 6 m high and the ruins of the city wall tower and residential buildings can still be seen today. Similarly, the ruins of the public baths ( Thermae) in the southern part of the city center, built in the 3rd or 4th century. To recognize the individual premises equipment: changing rooms ( Apodyterion ), hot pool ( caldarium ), cool room ( frigidarium ) and warm air heating ( hypocaust ). The southern city wall with a length of 200 m and the two square towers guarded gate were extensively studied archaeologically. The two towers were faced with a wide-open semi-circular exedra. On the southern city wall still the remains of four round towers were found.

In the southeast part of the walled city area, close to the city walls, a representative residential building with a peristyle was ( courtyard with portico ) found. The columns of the peristyle were originally part of another building and are then been adapted for the portico ( porch ).

The archaeologists excavated a circular altar table made ​​of white marble. He has only survived in fragments and had a diameter of 1.15 m. He is a representative piece from the late antique stone carving. The table shows four scenes - three hunting scenes and a scene with whimsical sea creatures - and four human heads between each of the scenes.

Nicopolis ad Nestum has only once coins minted ( as " Nicopolis ad Mestum " ), between February 211 (death of Septimius Severus ) and December 211 ( murder of Geta ), with the heads of Caracalla, Geta and Julia Domna and different rear representations ( Tyche, Hygieia, Ares, Nemesis, etc.). Coins of other emperors ( eg Commodus ) that are mentioned in catalogs, counterfeit coins or other cities (eg Nicopolis ad Istrum in Moesia ). All genuine pieces are rare. Holger Komnick, author of the only previous comprehensive scientific study of the coins of this city, a total of 237 copies describes. In his review of the book speaks Francis Jarman of a "grand total of about 300 [ known coins ] ". Pictures can also be found in the well-known catalog of Ivan Varbanov, the coin descriptions are not always correct and the specified there rarity and value data untrustworthy.


Nicopolis ad Nestum belonged to the diocese of Thrace. The city was the seat of an archbishop. Today is the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Nicopolis ad Nestum a titular one. See Nicopolis ad Nestum ( Titularerzbistum ).


Nicopolis ad Nestum is the only ancient Roman town in the Rhodope Mountains. It was declared by Bulgaria to the archeology and architectural monument of antiquity and the Middle Ages.

2004 ( "Promotion of cultural, tourist and human resources in the border region " ) have been provided EU funds for excavations, restoration, conservation work and renovation work on the tourism infrastructure in the framework of the PHARE program for the promotion of cross -border cooperation between Bulgaria and Greece. The work was carried out from 2006 to 2008.