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Ruins of Philippopolis' Eastern Gate, which was a part of the city defense from 171 onwardsRuins of Philippopolis' Eastern Gate, which was a part of the city defense from 171 onwards

Suddenly, in the 160s, Philippopolis was threatened.

When the legions of Marcus Aurelius returned from the wars with the Partians in Asia, they brought with them a deadly disease. The so-called Antonine Plague took so many lives that the weakened Roman army hardly withstood the attacks of the Marcomanni on the Danube border. Marcus Aurelius spent the rest of his life trying to stop them, comforting himself with writing his stoic Meditations.

Philippopolis was no longer safe. In 172 the fortifications on the acropolis were rebuilt and a great wall encircled the city in the plain. It was strong and well constructed from big squared blocks. In it, three gates led to the main roads east, south and west. However, it was built in haste, and it showed. Its foundations were laid directly on some of the streets and its southern course run too close to the forum. Several streets and neighborhoods were left outside the wall's protection.

For the relief of the citizens of Philippopolis, the Marcomanni never made it to their city. In the following years the Barbarian menace was forgotten, until the arrival of Cniva and his men.

The city recovered soon after the Goths' invasion and the walls of Marcus Aurelius were rebuilt and reinforced. They served the city well. In 314, Emperor Constantine I (306-337) chose Philippopolis as a safe place to stay while quarreling for supremacy with his co-ruler Emperor Licinius (308-324). When the rebellion of Procopius broke in 365-366, the city became the hotbed of his followers in Thrace and joined the revolt. They, however, were defeated by Emperor Valens (364-378), who entered Philippopolis and punished the rebels accordingly. There is no evidence, but the people in the city were probably quite satisfied with Valens's death in the battle with the Goths near Adrianopolis, in 378. Philippopolis itself was left undamaged during this invasion.

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