History

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Philippopolis coin from the end of the 1st Century with the goddess which protects the city, Plovdiv Archaeological museumPhilippopolis coin from the end of the 1st Century with the goddess which protects the city, Plovdiv Archaeological museum

Philippopolis became a part of the Roman Empire in 45 AD and would remain in it for the rest of Antiquity. The seminal change did not happen overnight.  Establishing Roman rule in Philippopolis was a long process.

It started as early as the 3rd Century BC, when the Roman Republic, young and ambitious as it was, started meddling in the Balkans. In 168 BC, Macedonia was subdued. Greece followed in 146 BC. Thracians, whose tribes had inhabited the Balkans since millennia, were the next on the Roman agenda. The Romans wisely alternated open war with the divide-and-rule tactics. They skillfully played some of the tribes against their brethren, gaining friends here and defeating enemies there, only to turn against the friends once the enemies were defeated. Numerous as they were, the Thracians were famously independent-minded, and couldn't form an anti-Roman alliance, thus easing the Romans' task.

By the 1st Century BC, the greater part of Thrace was still free. Some of the Thracian kings even befriended King Mithridates VI (120-63 BC) of Pontus, at the time Rome's archenemy. This triggered the campaign of 72 BC, when the proconsul of Macedonia, Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, went deep into Thrace. One of the cities he captured after a fierce battle, was millennia-old Philippopolis.

With Lucullus, the Romans set foot at the Black Sea for the first time and conquered the Greek cities on its shore. Thracians, however, were not appeased. When Rome went into a civil war after Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, Thracian rulers eagerly took part in the battles, sometimes switching sides or simultaneously supporting both sides.

 

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