The City

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Hisar Kapiya Gate, PlovdivHisar Kapiya Gate, Plovdiv

About a century after Roman power was imposed in Philippopolis, two deities appeared in the sky above it. Flying over the lush Thracian plane, which is squeezed between the mountains of the Rhodope and the Haemus (today's Stara Planina), Heracles and Hermes came over but not as tourists. They, as satirist Lucian of Samosata tells in his dialogue The Runways, were after some escaped slaves. However, the two Olympian gods couldn't resist the temptation to stop in mid-air and to marvel at the beautiful vista beneath their divine feet - the mighty Hebros River flowing by the three hills "that rise like three castles looking down upon the city that lies below."

Lucian's economical, but vivid description of Philippopolis was probably born after the author himself visited the city. His account is a rare example of how Philippopolis looked at the times of its greater prosperity. Lucian (125-180), visited it in 165-166, several years before a major change in the cityscape appeared - the fortress wall, which from 172 onwards protected the city in the plain.

Cities are like organisms. In good times, they grow and at times of stagnation they shrink, capsulating in their core, and once prosperous periphery turns into wasteland. Philippopolis is no exception.

At the beginning of the Roman rule, the city had already left the security of the three hills and spread in the plain. The Odrysian kings had spared no money to make the city fit for the standards of the times, and had built a large agora and a planned grid of streets around it.

 

 

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