An ancient Thracian center, today the national capital, situated in a valley surrounded by mountains at the juncture of the road from Belgrade to Istanbul and the natural waterway of the Danube to the Aegean. It was occupied by the Romans, conquered by Licinius Crassus (29 B.C.), raised to the status of a colony by Trajan, and coined its own money from the reign of Marcus Aurelius to that of Gallienus. The city was the seat of the council that condemned the Arian heresy (343). It was destroyed by the Huns in the 5th c., was reconstructed by Justinian, under whom Santa Sophia was built. Originally, the Romans had probably established a garrison in the village and area of the Thracian market, giving the city a praetorium and a castellum. The city did not gain great military importance but in the 4th c. when it became the capital of the frontier province, Dacia Mediterranea, it was surrounded by walls (brick and rubble core on a stone base) with round towers. One walled area within the city with the remains of large structures is thought to have been the praesidium. The plan of the city is rectangular, covering an area of ca. 84 ha. The remains of the buildings belong to two distinct periods: 2d and 3d c. stone architecture, and 3d c. and 4th c. brick architecture. Except for some traces of the walls, round towers, and triangular abutments, only the foundations of some buildings are known: a temple of Serapis and its pediment; a brick calidarium of a 3d c. Roman bath, transformed into the church of St. George in the 5th c. Probably the 6th c. a basilica of Santa Sophia was built. It had three aisles and an apse which was close to the ancient necropolis where there are remains of two small ancient churches (with mosaics) and many chambered tombs. The tombs were painted between the 4th and 5th c. with floral motifs, birds, and candelabra, and one with the busts of arch-angels. In all these tombs we may recognize Hellenistic-Oriental and Roman elements. On the coins of Serdica various buildings are represented. Funeral stelai, religious inscriptions, architectural fragments, and inscriptions are collected in the National Museum and displayed in the great nine-domed mosque. The Museum houses antiquities not only from the city but from all over Bulgaria.
A. Frova, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
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