Fragment of Greek warrior relief found in Bulgaria

A piece of a terracotta relief depicting ancient Greek warriors has been discovered at Sozopol on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. The fragment dates to around 500 B.C. and features two hoplites at march. They both wear Corinthian style helmets and armored breastplates. The one of the left (the more intact figure of the two) carries a spear in his right hand and has a shield strapped to his back. He holds a horn to his mouth with his left hand. It is a section of a larger frieze that once adorned a temple to Apollo.

Sozopol was founded by colonists from the Greek city of Miletus in the 7th century B.C., making it one of the oldest cities of the western coast of the Black Sea. Dubbed Apollonia Pontica, it was dedicated to Miletus’ patron deity, Apollo, and was famous in antiquity for the 45 foot-high bronze colossus of Apollo sculpted by the 5th century B.C. Greek sculpture Calamis. It stood outside the Early Classical temple of Apollo Iatros (the healer) for 400 years until the Romans looted it in 72 B.C. and installed it on the Capitoline Hill. It was lost in the 4th century, likely melted down along with so many other pagan bronzes.

The temple of Apollo was located on what is now St. Cyricus Island. The first archaeological excavation of the site was done by French diplomat L. Degrand in 1904. Further investigation was interrupted by wars, and the island was a restricted military zone until 2005. Excavations began again in 2009 and have since unearthed materials from a Late Archaic temple as well as from the famous Early Classical temple complex.

Other fragments of the terracotta frieze were discovered in 2018 and 2019. A total of 20 fragments have been unearthed in the recent digs, all of them from the same scene. Degrand’s excavation also recovered a section of the frieze which is now in the collection of the Louvre along with the rest of the artifacts Degrand unearthed. The Louvre’s section is appears to be an exact match of the newly-unearthed one, albeit much less worn.

2 thoughts on “Fragment of Greek warrior relief found in Bulgaria

  1. In between the Sea of Marmara in the South and to the North in Bulgaria Sozopol, there is the river “Bulanik Dere”, i.e. the “muddy” Dere. I could personally not say if the Dere is what originally had been the Tearos river, but spring and rock might have been the same. The mud, however, might not have been there all the time. “Iatros” is indeed just another word for “healer”, hence the Psych- and all the other -iaters.

    Herodotus 4.90: “The Tearos is said by those who dwell near it to be the best of all rivers, both in other respects which tend to healing and especially for curing diseases of the skin both in men and in horses: and its springs are thirty-eight in number, flowing all from the same rock, of which some are cold and others warm. The way to them is of equal length from the city of Heraion [Heraion Teichos/ Ἡραῖον τεῖχος] near Perinthos [Herakleia/Marmara Ereğlisi in what today is Turkey] and from Apollonia upon the Black Sea [Ἀπολλωνίης τῆς ἐν τῷ Εὐξείνῳ πόντῳ, Sozopol], that is to say two days’ journey by each road. This Tearos river runs into the river Contadesdos [Κοντάδεσδος] and the Contadesdos into the Agrianes [river Ergene] and the Agrianes into the Hebros [bulg. Maritza, Марица, gr. Ἕβρος], which flows into the sea by the city of Ainos [Enez in what today is Turkey].

    The river Hebros/Maritsa is dotted in red, coming from Bulgaria, then flowing at the border between Turky and Greece, not into Marmara but the Mediterranean Sea:


    Though I am unable to read it, there is on 600(!) pages from 1963 a “Lexicon” on Thrace, its History and Geography “From Ancient to Byzantine times”, and there might be a much better explanation for the “Tearos” river (and the Contadesdos):

  2. According to the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), the ‘Tearos’ is indeed the ‘Dere’.

    Two maps of Thracia, and particularly the rivers, with “Perinthus” at the Sea of Marmara (Propontis) on the 2nd map, roughly 180km from “Apollonia” (Black Sea), and equal in length to the cold and warm springs of the Tearos/Τέαρος:,_Macedonia,_Dacia,_Moesia,_Pannonia_and_Thracia.jpg

    The spring waters “had the reputation, among the neighbouring people, of being pre-eminently medicinal, especially in cases of itch or mange (ψώρη). On his march towards the Danube, Darius the Great halted his army for three days at the sources of the Tearus, and erected a pillar there, with an inscription commemorative of their virtues, and of his own.”.

    cf.: (513 BC, i.e. shortly before our “fragment”).

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