History of Plovdiv

Remains of ancient, mediaeval, revival and modern culture coexist and are interwoven into the unobtrusive, irresistible and eternal beauty of this city. They do not stand in each other's way; they complement and enrich each other to make Plovdiv a synonym of Bulgarian history and a genuine world city.

Plovdiv is very, very old. The Eternal City, as Rome is conventionally called, is much younger. Athens, Carthage and Constantinople came into being later. A contemporary of Troy and having survived Mycenae, Plovdiv is a city upon layers of cities and an epoch upon layers of epochs. Plovdiv is all in one: a Thracian and classical Greek polis, the pride of Philip of Macedon, the capital of Thrace under the Roman Empire, a centre of Byzantinism, a stronghold of the Bulgarians, a dream of the crusaders -- a magnificent, wealth and most important city.

Kendros, Eumolpia, Philippopolis, Pulpudeva, Thrimonzium, Pulden, Populdin, Ploudin, Filibe -- those were the ancient names of Plovdiv throughout its 6000 to 8000 years of existence. The name Plovdiv first appeared in 15 century documents and has remained till today.

In the distant past Plovdiv was situated on seven hills: Taxim, Nebet, Jambaz, Sahat, Jendem and Bunarjik. The seventh hill, Markovo Tepe, has nowadays subsided completely under the pavement of modern Plovdiv.

In 432 B.C. the town was conquered by Philip II of Macedonia. During his rule the ancient Thracian fortress and towers were rebuilt. The vain Philip II gave the city his own name, Philippopolis. Soon it became a Thracian town again, called Pulpudeva. During the 1st century A.C. it was conquered by the Romans. The practical Romans called the town Thrimonzium (lying on three hills) because the Roman town was situated on three hills, Taxim, Nebet, and Jambaz Tepe. The Roman emperors Trayanus and Marcus Aurellius built solid fortresses around the town. They intoduced many improvements, as well as coin minting. At the time Plovdiv was known as Ulpia Thrimonzium, the most flourishing metropolis of the Thracian province.

The magnificent amphitheatre above dates back from Roman times. Now it is restored and classical drama, operas, and concerts are presented on stage in the open air... In 447 the Huns ruined the town. In the sixth century the Slavs settled in the Balkan Peninsula and introduced the names Pulden and Plundiv. In 815 Khan Kroum seized the fortress. In the following five centuries the town was ruled by Bulgarians, then conquered by Byzantium. The Bulgarian army came again later. The Crusaders demolished and plundered the town several times on their way to Mecca.

1365 was a fateful year for Plovdiv. The town fell under the Turkish yoke. Later it was renamed Filibe and became an important administrative and military center of crafts. Filibe was the seat of the ruler of the district of Rumelia. At that time the town possessed a mysterious charm and striking poverty typical of the Orient. The functioning Jumaia Mosque attracts visitors to the center of modern Plovdiv with its fine minaret and its sun-dial.

The commercial area of the town was between that mosque and the river Maritza. One of the oldest clock towers in Eastern Europe is located behind Sahat Tepe. The clock is working even nowadays. As the Turkish traveller Evlya Chelebi wrote in 1651, "Philibe is the biggest one among 10 big towns in the European part of Turkey, and is getting richer every day".

The 19th century brought Plovdiv closer to the rennaissance from cultural opression during the Turkish occupation. That was the time of spiritual awakening when the Bulgarian people began their struggle for religious, cultural and political independence. Many citizens of Plovdiv sacrificed their lives because they had the courage to rise against the sultan. In 1850 the well-known enlightener Naiden Gerov established a class school. In the following year the anniversary of the Slavic enlighteners Sts. Cyrillus and Methodius was celebrated for the first time. Hristo G. Danov founded the first Bulgarian publishing house in 1855. He circulated the printed books, newspapers and magazines around the Bulgarian land. The first printing press in Bulgaria appeared at that time. The Bulgarian revolutionist Vassil Levski organized a revolutionary committee in Plovdiv.

The long cherished liberation came to Plovdiv on January 19, 1878, after 500 years of waiting. However, the extasy of it was short. The Berlin Congress divided newly liberated Bulgaria into the Principality of Bulgaria and the autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia with its capital Plovdiv. Just seven years later the unification of Bulgaria was proclaimed on September 6, 1885. That was the first blow agains the unfair Berlin Agreement. This is a photo of the lovely monument in the middle of Unification Square that honors the hundredth anniversary of that great event. The monument depicts the Mother-Country with the laurel wreath of victory stretched in her hands, with her two wings, the two regions brought together, ready for the coming 20-th century.