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The “Temple of Immortals” in Starossel reveals new secrets

The largest Thraceian underground temple has been discovered near Sarossel
Photo: BGNES
The most imposing underground Thracian temple in Southeastern Europe is situated near the Bulgarian resort town of Hisarya. It was discovered 10 years ago by the renowned Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov. The temple includes a rock fence, big staircase and an internal hall with dome roof. In 2008 and 2009, a team led by doctor Ivan Hristov, made further discoveries and samples from the fireplace in the heart of the temple were used to find out the age of the complex. The temple was built in honor of the Hestia goddess and the ancient people left for her huge stone loafs of bread. The samples from the fireplace were analyzed in Germany.

“The analysis shows the temple was built somewhere around 358-350 BC,” doctor Ivan Hristov says. Historical data point to the period of rule of Philip II of Macedon. At that time the Thracian king Amatok II was the ruler of the Thracian Odrisi tribe, followed by his son Teres II. Teres was overthrown by Philip. So, the construction of the temple started during the rule of these two Thracian kings. We don’t focus our efforts only on the temple. Starosel is actually a cult center, which includes a number of monuments dating back to the 4th century BC. These monuments are related to each other. In 2005 near the Kozi Gramadi peak in the Sredna Gora Mountain I found a king’s residence. It was destroyed during the campaign of Philip but its existence points to the existence of a Thracian political center in the region. This is also shown by the recent archaeological works in the region, which is very attractive to archaeologists. This year we are to start working again at the Kozi Gramadi archaeological site. This way we will be able to draw a connection between the temple in Starosel and the monuments high in the mountains.”
The temple near Starosel was called “Temple of the Immortals.” Doctor Ivan Hristov told us more. 

“In this temple rituals related to the ruler’s immortalisation were carried out. After his death a Thracian ruler became kind of semi-god. The burials happened in another place in sarcophagus-like tombs. Doctor Georgi Kitov discovered such a tomb near the temple. I can draw a comparison to the cathedrals of the French kings where they were laid temporarily after their death and then buried nearby. The temple near Starosel had various functions and was used by the Odrisi dynasty in the 4th century BC.”

According to the archaeologist, the temples in the region were connected through a route similar to the sacred road to Delphi.

“Sacred places were not isolated from each other,” the archaeologist says. “Complexes were built near them for the needs of the pilgrims. That is how a whole sacred region emerged. The number of religious monuments in the region of Starosel is very big. What archaeologists find are artifacts related to the Thracian beliefs for life after death. We are still to gain more knowledge about the sacred route that reached to the king’s residence near the peak in Sredna Gora Mountain,” doctor Ivan Hristov says.

The ancient route can be turned into a tourist landmark, doctor Hristov thinks and adds that this way people will get better knowledge of the Thracian culture. “The Municipality of Hisarya supports the idea of renovating the ancient route connecting the Thracian temple to the residence on Kozi Gramadi peak and I hope financing will be provided,” the archaeologist concludes. 

English: Alexander Markov
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