Thracians

BULGARIA - Thracian Tomb Sveshtari 1

 

In the year 680 there was a great battle which emphasized the birth of one nation in the Balkans, the battle was between the  Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV and khan Asparukh, the nation was Bulgaria. It’s interesting the fact that only due to the treaty between them , it was possible the proclamation and the establishment of the first Bulgarian empire. However, during the Ecumenical council the Emperor expressed his regrets by saying that if he’d had a ‘say’ , there would not have been involved in war with Bulgaria’ –not with the Bulgarian people, but with the nation, in other words Bulgaria’s birth was even earlier than  the  distant past of 681, but it was not officially accepted by Europe’s powers at that time. Some historians adhere to the belief that the appearance of Bulgaria could be dated back in 165.

However, when khan Asparukh took his feet on Bulgarian territory, he met two tribes: the Thracians and the Slavs, the first were on the verge of extinction , the latter was accustomed itself in the new territory.

The Thracians

Herodotus said that the Thracians,right after the Indians, were the most numerous nation of people and if they were united, they would be invincible ,but they were unable to do so. Amoung the historians there are heated discussions and debates regarding the origin of the Thracians, but the vast majority agree that in the end of the 4th century B.C. in the land between the Carpathians Mountains and  Aegean sea the first arrival of them took place. Those people soon emerged in the form of numerous tribes (around 77 and more) and instead of being cohesive community they fought against each other almost all the time. They fought so fiercely that they showed less mercy amoung themselves rather in the face of some foreign enemy. Their culture was mixture of bemusing habits and traditions, for instance when they were not fighting , they used to indulge themselves in drinking a lot of wine and rarely they could be bothered to do any additional work, they thought that from the plunder and the war they could derive everything they need.

Their physical appearance is depicted by the Greeks in the following way : ‘ ..Men make gods in their own image; those of the Ethiopians are black and snub-nosed, those of the Thracians have blue eyes and red hair.’

The Thracians had a cheerful personality when they were gathering together, singing and drinking around. They possessed discerning eye for the music, art and the lavish pleasantries from which they could derive pleasure and enjoyment. Not surprisingly, in the Rhodopes mountains was born the  most famous singer in all the times- the father of songs – Orpheus.

The Thracians had an extraordinary mixture of beliefs and cultural identity. For instance, for them the most prominent god was the mother Earth, followed by the God of the Sun. The mother Earth was incarnation of the endless cycle and the life itself, from which all the harmony in the Cosmos came from. Unlike other religions, they believed that the body and the spirit were one thing , not a separated one. According to Platon, they thought that the eyes could not find cure, if the head is not cured, therefore the body needed to be restored to health , but that could only be possible if the spirit was healed . We could see how according to them everything leads to another thing and this was bottled up in almost magical spirituality.

Another god which took central stage in the Thracians’ beliefs was the Zagreus-the god of joy, ecstasy and the wine , better known in the Greek mythology as Dionysus. There was a temple of Zagreus , suited near Kardzhali in the Eastern Rhodopes In the close proximity of the ancient city Perperikon. That temple existed from the 18th BC and in 11th BC it became officially thracians’ cult. The thing which makes this so extraordinary is the belief that there priestess looked into the future throughout the power of the fire and the wine. There was immense made of stones altar , 3 meters high, on which was burning the fire of eternity, the woman was ascending the altar to pour down on the fire wine to see the forms of the flames , according to them she was able to read your destiny. There in the 334 BC, Alexander the Great went to be given insights into his fate and what the future had in store for him. The blazes from the fire reached the sky and fortune teller told to him:

‘You will conquer the world,Alexander, but you will die alone like a dog…’

Let leave the fortune woman and Alexander and make a comeback to the thracians’ way of life.According to their beliefs, they didn’t hold credibility in the reincarnation of the soul in another body or form, they imagined that every man rebirths , but in the exactly same form in which he lived, neither the soul or the body could change its form. So here again, we could meet this spiritual endless cycle, which is the answer to everything in their macro-cosmos.  Moreover, they rejected the notion that after the death , the spirits leaves the body –as the Christians believe. In fact, they didn’t believe that they could die- they were on the opinion that the dead people descend in the underground’s realm where they could be welcomed with endless regale on which they were crowned with wreaths. It seems that the life on the Earth was only one step closer to another one, even much desirable and alluring than the first.

For many of them , the Earth’s living was unbearable one, as one brithish writer said that the life was ‘short, nasty and brutish’ ,it was , generally speaking, pretty much the same for the Thracians. That explained their bold attitude towards the wars and unquenchable desire for excessive drinking, they wanted to capture all pleasantries which were on their disposal during their lifetime.

However, there were many rituals in relation with which the Thracians were able to achieve some kind of access to their Gods, throughout them they purified their souls and bodies, that they called revival or rebirth. There was a very clear subordination of the level of the revival which someone might achieve according to their status in the society. There were ‘open’ level of achieving revival, which was for the plebeians or the ordinary people and ‘secret’ path with its rituals and sacral traditions for the so called royals. Unfortunately, there are not ample evidence which could justify the exact form and kind of those rituals, it might be for the reason that the royals had to make an oath, promising not to reveal the secret’s passages to their rites.

 

 

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