Thrace or Thracia (Latin provincia Thracia, Greek Θρᾴκη Thrace; formally ἐπαρχία Θρᾳκῶν Eparchia Thrakon ) was a province in the Roman Empire, which existed in various limits of 46 to 395 AD.


The name of the province of Thrace was derived from the name of the landscape Thrace, the Thracians lived. It was 46 AD founded as an imperial province, after the previously existing, dependent of Rome Thracian Kingdom of Odrysians at the direction of Claudius (reigned 41-54 ) had been occupied.

The Romans promoted in the new province, mainly where there were already urban settlements, the craft, built the road network and built temples, to the places developed into Roman diverse cities. This created a middle class, who owned considerable estates. A large role in the Romanization of Thrace and the emergence of urban life played the officers, military officers and the soldiers themselves who came from other parts of the Roman Empire or from Italy, the veterans settled and brought into the country officials, merchants and craftsmen.

The Thrace Province set in the Roman Empire, the boundary between the western and eastern half of the empire is; she was considered to be the easternmost province in European territory of the outpost towards the East and also served as a staging area for military actions of Rome. Thrace was also an important recruiting ground for the Roman troops because its inhabitants were considered brave commonly, tough and numerous; so for example, Spartacus came from Thrace. At the northern border ( Danube Limes ) of the former Thracian territories Roman legions (I Italica, Macedonica V and XI Claudia ) and many auxiliary troops were stationed. Throughout the Roman period, however, the province of Thrace was not a frontier province and stood by incursions spared.

These were the conditions for the flourishing of the province of the mid 2nd to mid 3rd century. In general, the time of the Severus as the time of flowering in Roman Thrace. In the result of the spread of Roman life large parts of the province were Romanized, but sat mostly Greek as the official language by. A solid linguistic divide, it was not (see Jirecek - line).

After the reform of the Empire by Emperor Diocletian ( 284-305 ), the province of Thrace was divided into four smaller provinces, one of which was in turn Thrace ( see below). From the 4th century, after the division of the kingdom, Thrace belonged to the Byzantine Empire.

The Roman province of Thrace existed until the 7th century. Then it was replaced by the Byzantine theme of Thrace, which is about 680-1204 existed and then again from 1230 until the 14th century. One issue was the basic administrative unit of the Byzantine Empire.


The province of Thrace was located on an important geopolitical hub. Four of the major military roads, the Via Egnatia, the Via Diagonalis ( militarism ), the Via Traiana and Via pontica crossed here, linking Europe with Asia Minor and the Middle East. At the same time, the province access to three seas, the Sea of ​​Marmara, the Aegean and the Black Sea had. However, Thrace was not a frontier province, some smaller military units were only in late antiquity stationed there.

Thrace under the Principate to the Diocletian's imperial reform

The Thracian Kingdom of Odrysians was BC grown by 20 to Roman client kingdom, as the Greek city-states had come to the Black Sea coast under Roman control, initially " Allied " as civitates foederatae (cities with internal autonomy; singular: civitas foederata - Confederate community).

After the death of the Thracian king Rhoimetalkes III. and an unsuccessful revolt against the Romans, the kingdom was occupied and the area of ​​the Roman province of Thrace: Thrace was annexed under Claudius in 46 and placed under a procurator, the strategists to the side stood, each with a strategy ( district) managed. ( For more details see: Odrysians # decline and destruction )

The new province included not only the territory of the former kingdom of Odrysians, but also the northeastern part of Macedonia ( Macedonia), as well as the islands of Thasos, Samothrace and Imbros (now GOKCEADA ) in the Aegean Sea.

The southwestern border of the province of Macedonia was just southwest of the river Nestos and further to the north west to the province of Moesia Superior ( Upper Moesia ), not quite up to the Brongus River (now the Western Morava ). To the north the province of Thrace inferior ( Niedermösien ) from the Danube was separated by the narrow strip of land of the province of Moesia. Beginning was the provincial border along a line north of the Haemus Mountains (Latin, today known as the Balkan mountains ), including the cities of Nicopolis ad Istrum and Marcianopolis in Thrace. After the Dacian wars ( 101/102 and 105/106 ) the expansion of the Roman Empire to the north had to be secured to the lower reaches of the Danube. To ensure the external and internal security, the area of a thorough territorial planning has undergone.

The province of Thrace was founded numerous cities ( including Nicopolis ad Istrum, founded 102) urbanized. With the conquest of the province of Dacia in the north also reached Thrace as a trade route for the mining products gained a significant upswing in Dacia, which was evident in brisk construction activity especially under Emperor Trajan.

With the boundaries of the province of Thrace, especially with the proper "safety margin " for important Danube frontier, the Romans wanted to create a pure single province, which would be done without military structure. Then, however, the provincial border was moved to the south end of the 2nd century and now ran exactly along the Haemus Mountains. This was about Marcianopolis (founded after 106 ) since the province of Moesia Inferior.

For the military development of the Balkan region, the Romans put on the Via Diagonalis. This strategically important road was built in the time of Emperor Nero ( 37-68 ) in the 1st century. It was completed under the emperor Trajan ( 53-117 ). The east-west direction across the southern Balkans extending Via Egnatia was the forerunner of Via Diagonalis.

The area of the Thracian Chersonese (today Gallipoli peninsula ) was excluded from the dominion of the Roman governor and part of the personal domain of the emperor. The first capital of the province where the Roman governor resided, was Heraclea Perinthus (now Marmara Ereğlisi ). Thrace was an imperial province, the first headed by a procurator as governor of knightly rank, and, still under Trajan, probably from 107/109 a Legatus Augusti pro praetore, a senator with the rank of Prätoriers.

Otherwise, the internal structure of the ancient kingdom of Odrysians was retained and only partially overlaid by Roman institutions. The old, based on stems Stratégiai, the board a strategos, were retained as the basic administrative units. Some settlements have merged to kōmarchiai or neighboring towns assumed: so the two Roman colonies Colonia Claudia Aprensis (now Germeyan in Turkey, about 30 km west of Tekirdağ ) and Colonia Flavia Pacis Deultensium and various Greek cities, of which founded many of Trajan had been.

Approximately during the period to 55 to 60 was Marcus Vettius Marcellus procurator of the province of Thrace; him were under 33 strategoi ( commander of the Stratégiai ). To 61 Titus Iulius Ustus was procurator of the province of Thrace. Middle of the 1st century, there were 50 Stratégiai. But was assigned to these more and more land and so the number of Stratégiai reduced by the progressive enlargement of the cities. Finally, there was Stratégiai in the early 2nd century only 14. By 136 they were an official administrative subdivision completely abandoned. The progressive urbanization reached in the second half of the 2nd century graduated as the strategies were replaced by cities.

Since Thrace was an inner province, far from the borders of the Roman Empire, there was peace here, so that the landscape could thrive until triggered by the repeated invasion of the Goths from beyond the Danube kingdom crisis began in the 3rd century. During the campaigns against these invaders Emperor Decius 251 fell (reigned 249-251 ) in the battle of Abrittus in Thrace suffered particularly the invasions of the Goths, who came over the sea, in the years 268 to 270 was only 271 could Emperor Aurelian (reigned 270-275 ) secure the Balkan provinces for some time against the attacks of the Goths. After the Romans abandoned the province of Dacia in 271, they also had its lower Danube frontier rearrange. Therefore, the province of Thrace had to deliver another country to its northern neighbor provinces.

Late Antiquity after the Imperial Reform of Diocletian: Dioecesis Thraciae

After the reform of the Empire by Emperor Diocletian ( reigned 284-305 ), the province of Thrace was divided into four new smaller provinces. This late ancient provinces on the territory of the old province of Thrace were:

  • Thrace ( the north-western part of the old province of Thrace, with the new provincial capital of Philippopolis, the area is now southern Bulgaria)
  • Haemimontus ( the north-eastern part of the old province of Thrace, with the new provincial capital Hadrianopolis, the area is now the southeastern Bulgaria)
  • Rhodope ( the southwestern part of the old province of Thrace, with the new provincial capital Aenus ( Enos today in Turkey); , the area is now the north-eastern Greece)
  • Europe ( the south-eastern part of the old province of Thrace, with the new provincial capital Perinthus, which had meanwhile been renamed to Heraclea (today Marmara Ereğlisi ), the area is now the European part of Turkey, Eastern Thrace → )

The four Thracian provinces, together with the two provinces of Moesia secunda, and Scythia Minor, were the " Diocese of Thrace " ( Dioecesis Thraciae, Greek Διοίκησις Θράκης ) summarized, in turn, part of the " prefecture East" ( praefectura Praetorian Orientis, Greek ἐπαρχότης / ὑπαρχία τῶν πραιτωρίων τῆς ἀνατολῆς ) was.

The Imperial Reform of Diocletian exhausted itself not only in the province of reform, which reduced the size of the provinces and thereby increased their number. The provinces were each administered by a governor with the rank of Konsulars. Thracia was now called, only the old Thracian heartland.

These four provinces passed to the division of the kingdom of 395 included the new provinces of Thrace to the north-west part of the old province, ie the valley at the headwaters of the river Hebrus (now Mariza ) between the Hemusgebirge ( the Balkan mountains ) and Rhodope mountains, including Philippopolis (since 46 AD Trimontium - but the city was also rather then known under its old name, today Plovdiv ).

Philippopolis was the beginning of the 3rd century, so become even before the administrative reforms of Diocletian, the provincial capital of Thrace.

Militarily, the whole region was detected ( Heermeister for Thrace ) under the control of the magister militum per Thracias.


The population of the hinterland consisted mainly of Thracians, while the coastal towns that were predominantly pre-Roman foundations were mainly inhabited by Greeks or Hellenized Thracians.

With the establishment of Roman rule, numerous veterans of different origin settled. The emerging urbanization under Trajan attracted many immigrants in from the East, especially from the Black Sea regions, Asia Minor and Syria. These were in the majority craftsmen, builders and dealers, who found good options for a secure livelihood and prosperity in Thrace.


The Romans made up some places the existing infrastructure used. So go some towns, and settlements of back to Thracian cities. So already called Demosthenes, for example, Kabyle, Masteyra, Drongilion and Helys as Thracian cities. The most significant nowadays known odrysische city is Seuthopolis at the Tundscha in Kazanlak. The Macedonians had dominion the creation of many cities on the rate as Philippopolis, Beroe and Serdica.


Pre-Christian religions

Early Christianity

Christianity is in Thrace since apostolic times ( 1st century AD) is, as the apostle Paul traveled through the Balkan peninsula, and probably arrived in the vicinity of Augusta Traiana and Philippopolis. In the 2nd century the first bishoprics were established in the province, including in Serdica, Philippopolis, and Deultum Anchialos. From the 3rd century, life descriptions of some martyrs (which?) Are known. After the end of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire under Emperor Galerius and the toleration of Christianity by Constantine the Great, the new religion in Thrace sat quickly and comprehensively through, but broke clashes between the faiths from which fought each other sharp.

Around the middle of the 4th century the Arian doctrine achieved a large following. The so-called Kleingoten ( Gothi minores ) with Bishop Ulfilas were Arians and received by Constantius II ( 337 or 350-361 ), who was also followers of this doctrine, the permission on the territory of Nicopolis ad Istrum that in this time already belonged to Moesia inferior to settle. In other cities, such as in Hadrianopolis, this is not orthodox Christian doctrine was widespread.

In Thrace, also some important events of the Christian Church took place: 343 Christian dignitaries gathered to condemn Arianism ( including 270 bishops from the Western and Eastern Church ) to the Council of Serdica. At the same time the Arians organized a counter- council of 80 bishops in Philippopolis. About the time of the Christianization of the province 's population between the 4th and 6th centuries, there are many sources and inscriptions. In the 5th century, there was in most cities of Thrace Christian churches and their bishops were directly under the Patriarch of Constantinople Opel. From 553, under the reign of Justinian I, the civil administration in Thrace already fully covered with the church and the power of the bishops grew especially in the cities.

Early Christian basilicas are found in all parts of Thrace, such as in the coastal towns Perithos, Maroneia, Mesembria, Anchialos, Sosopolis, as well as in the inland cities such as Augusta Traiana, Kabyle, Serdica, Pautalia, Nicopolis ad Nestum, Hadrianopolis. So Diocletianopolis was (now Hisarya ) known for his more than ten basilicas as an important center of Christianity.