Plovdiv is one of the most ancient towns not only in Bulgaria, but also in Europe. It was a contemporary of Troy and far exceeded the system of chronology in Rome, Athens and Constantinople. Its system of chronology started as far back as 6 000 BC with the formation of some Neolithic settlements that existed until the Bronze era. From the year 2 000 BC on, the settlement of Nebet hillock was surrounded by a stone wall and some 1 000 years later was established the most ancient town in the region – Evmolpiya. It stretched over 82 acres and encompassed the present Three-Hillock and the archaeological traits of the constructions from that time can still be seen today. The later history of the town was connected with the Roman Emperor Phillip II – 341 BC and the Thracian king Sevt III. From the 1st century BC the town was included in the Roman Province of Thracia. It than became known as Pulpudeva, Philipopolis, Trimontzium. More than a century later, it turned into a metropolis with the right to cut coins. The preserved ruins of the Stadium for 30 000 people, theatre, Forum, temples, stronghold wall, two aqueducts of 23 kilometers in length are all symbols of its flourishing history.
After the subsequent destructions by Huns and Goths, from the north towards Thracian came the Slavs and the Bulgarian armies of Khan Krum reached in the year 812. Plovdiv was under Bulgarian rule at the time of prince Malamir. In the year of 970 Prince Vladimir of Kiev destroyed the town. In the XI-XII centuries Plovdiv was under Byzantine rule. In the year of 1189, the armies of the Third Crusade leaded by Fridrich I Barbarossa remained for six months. The fourth Crusade settled the so-called “Plovdiv Dukedom” in the year of 1204. Only a year after the victory of the Bulgarian king Kaloyan the town fell prey to the Byzantines and then to the Latin’s. This struggle continued from 1206 until 1344. A few decades later the armies of the Ottoman sultans entered.
The 18th and 19th centuries turned Plovdiv into a centre of the Bulgarian National Revival. Until this day, when one starts climbing the Three-Hillock area on the side of the Djumaya mosque one needs to make only a few steps on the cobbled streets, before he/she gets into the Bulgarian National Revival atmosphere of Ancient Plovdiv. Up to the famous Hissar Gate, one can see many houses and churches, all unique in their own names – the house of Hindliyan, Balabanov, Kuyumdjiev, and in the latter is located the Ethnographic museum and in its yard is held the International Festival of Chamber Music. One can also be captured by the enormous beauty of the ancient church “St Constantine and Elena” and the Cathedral temple “St Mother of God”. It is now clear to see why Ancient Plovdiv was honored with the UNESCO gold medal for contributions in the cultural monuments preservation.
It was found by chance, only a few decades ago, while executing strengthening work upon the southern stronghold wall. The Antique Theatre unfolded for the audience an impressive construction of the Roman times. The amphitheatre consists of two or three rings of 14 rows, each with the capacity to host close to 7 000 spectators. A curious fact is that the names of the town headquarters have been carved onto the benches of each sector. The stage is on two levels with rich architecture and decoration. After all the exhausting restoration work and conservation it has been turned today into the Antique Theatre of Plovdiv, a cultural focus for a great number of Bulgarian and foreign festivals, concerts and spectacles. Its most common everyday function is as a place for relaxation for tired tourists who can sit on the benches and enjoy the magnificent panoramic view.
Under the Hillocks
From the Three-Hillock area one has the opportunity to see that Plovdiv has three other big hills around it – Bunardjik, Sahat Hill and Djendem Hill. In the past there was also a smaller hill, called Markovo Hill. Beside the hills is the large river “Maritza”. A walk alongside its bridges will bring you into the newest part of the city, or in front of the gates of the Plovdiv Fair. Plovdiv can show you many more sites of interest – the Archaeological museum with invaluable antique collections of the Museum of the Unification, dated back to 1885 when the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined Eastern Roumelia, the rich Arts gallery, the exposition of “Zlatyo Boyadjiev”, the church “St Marina”, the Catholic church “St Ludwig” from 1863. Passing through the tranquility of the Town Garden formed by Swiss gardeners in the beginning of the last century you will find yourselves in the bustling and most favorite place for the citizens of Plovdiv – the pedestrian Main street.