Bulgarian & Thracian History
The history of the Rhodope Mountains is very rich and interesting. Since ancient times, the Rhodopes have been regarded as a place of the gods, and the myths and legends surrounding them shape the region’s history.
The name Rhodopes, according to the legend, begins with the Thracian queen Rhodope who was turned into a mountain along with her husband king Hem. These two were, as a punishment from Zeus and Hera, turned into mountains so that they could not be together. Because of their great love, they have called themselves new Zeus and new Hera, and that insulted old one, and they decided to separate forever two lovers, and now we have Rhodope and Balkan mountains.
Also, legend says that Orpheus, singer of the Greek gods, was born in Rhodopes. It is said that much of today people and animals, who live in this mountain are descendants of those who Orpheus enchanted with his singing and brought here. Tragic love between him and Euridice happened in this mountains.
Thracians were the first people to settle in mountains. The have left many archeological sites and various culture behind them. Many cities, religious sites, oracles and other places are kept and preserved in good condition. Most famous are Perperikon and Tatul. Both of them are thousands of years old places. Perperikon was inhabited 5000 years B.C., and it was a sacred city with the cult of god Dionysus. Tatul is temple dating 4000 years B.C., and here you can find sarcophagus and a tomb from an unknown Thracian king, and in this place cult of Orpheus was idolized.
These places were well known far away, and in one occasion Alexander the Great visited Rhodopes. He went to an oracle at the top of the mountain and wanted to hear about his future, and his glory. The oracle predicted him that he will become the greatest king of all time.
Later Byzantines brought their culture with them, and churches all around the mountain were mostly built in the time of byzantine emperors. Also, some of the castles made by them are preserved and remainings are a tourist attraction. Lytitsa, Mezek and Tsepina represent part of the byzantine culture.
Later in the 14th century, Ottoman empire and Turks have ruled this area, and they made people convert religion from Christian to Islam. Many of the people living today remained in Islam.
We could say that Thracians shaped history and culture of Rhodopes. Without them, it would not be the place we know today.
The jewel of Thracian history can be found in Aleksandrovo near the town of Haskovo. Here you can see Thracian tomb which is one of the finest and most preserved in whole Rhodopes. Next to the tomb is the “Museum of Thracian art of eastern Rhodopes”. This place was opened by Japanese prince Akishimo in 2009. Here you can see a replica of the tomb, and many artifacts and frescoes, scenes from the Thracian lifestyle. You can feel how ordinary people, on one side, and aristocracy on the other, were living, prayed, hunting.
But the main exhibit is the 98 pieces of jewelry, dating 4000 years B.C. It is believed that this golden jewelry is one of the oldest processed gold in the world. That is something that everyone should see because it is the one of the greatest heritage of our civilization. “Museum of Thracian art of eastern Rhodopes” is most equipped and known museums in the whole country, and that is one reason more to visit him.