Eastern Gate


A street and the Eastern Gate of Roman PlovdivA street and the Eastern Gate of Roman Plovdiv

The grave of the dead soldier is an unexpected and moving evidence for an imperial visit of the city. However, it concerned a handful of people, mostly Marcus Ulpius Statius's friends in the regimen.

For the citizens of Philippopolis there was another, big and shiny, memorabilia for Hadrian's visit – a marble triumphal arch. It was commissioned, built and paid for by the city, which spared no money for its ornate façade. Back then the city in the plain lacked fortifications, so the arch was built on the most convenient place – the main road to Byzantium and the Bosporus.

Hadrian was the first to pass under it.

When the emperor left the city, the arch quickly gained its place in every-day life. Towering over the neighboring houses and the near temple of the health-bearing deities, the arch became a spot where people of every breed converged – poor and rich citizens, villagers, foreign merchants, soldiers. Soon everyone got used to its magnificence and stopped noticing it.

Several decades later things changed. The danger of Marcomannic invasion forced Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) to kickstart a fortification building in this part of the empire. In 172, a great stone wall encircled that part of Philippopolis which lay in the plain. The eastern course of the wall was built a few dozen metrers south of the arch, leaving it and the surrounding houses and streets defenseless.

The end of the construction was commemorated with an inscription which tells in Latin and Greek that Marcus Aurelius paid for the wall. The inscription was built into the new Eastern Gate of the fortification.