Today we appreciate their architectural value, but in the past they were the most important fortification that stopped raids on Europe's oldest living city


As in most ancient cities, traces and ruins of the fortification system of the ancient settlement can be found in many places in today's Plovdiv. It consisted mainly of walls, towers and gates. It is assumed that the first Philippopolis fortress wall was built as early as the 4th century BC.

Fragments of it are still visible today on the northern and northwestern slopes of Nebet Tepe. In this section, the fortress wall was equipped with small openings - posterns, which led to passages - tunnels inside the rock, through which the northern foot of the hill was reached by means of stairs.

In the second century, however, under the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, it was necessary to strengthen the existing and build new fortress walls, especially around the city in the plain. According to an inscription found in the area of the Eastern Gate, this construction took place in 172. It is one of the most important architectural ensembles from Antiquity on the territory of Plovdiv. A street with a width of 13.20 m, with sidewalks and porticoes on both sides, was revealed, leading to one of the city gates.

The complex, which has reached us with its layout from the 4th century AD, was built on the revised fortress wall from the 2nd century AD. The East Gate occupied an important place in the defense system of Philippopolis. The monumental layout of the architectural ensemble proves that it was the most prominent city gate, and the street leading to it was the main entrance-exit artery of the ancient city.

Photo: Dimitra Lefterova

Philippopolis also acquired a new fortification system during the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. In this period, the city shrank again, with the new fortification being built only around the Three Hills and largely following the Hellenistic route. The best-preserved fragments can be seen today near the church of St. St. Constantine and Elena. There, a part of the curtain and the round corner tower can be seen preserved at a great height above ground level. The remaining towers were triangular.

Another part can be seen on Vitosha St. Fortress walls built in the time of the emperor Marcus Aurelius in 172 AD have been preserved on it. A new fortress wall with alternating triangular towers and buttresses was built next to the outer face of the Roman fortress wall during the early Byzantine period, which provided protection to the Three Hills, where the troops traditionally stayed and the population sought protection in case of attacks. Also from the period of Emperor Marcus Aurelius is the city wall at the Roman Stadium, as well as the foundations of the Roman aqueduct of Philippopolis.

At the beginning of the 7th century, another fortress wall appeared on the Three Hills. It was not built as a ring around it, but only strengthened the eastern, southern and southwestern parts, and in some places it was built directly on the ruins of the Ancient City. Various architectural fragments from the ancient buildings of Philippopolis were reused for its construction - parts of columns, friezes, capitals, etc.

Remains of fortress structures can also be seen exposed on the left side of Konstantin Stoilov Street above the parking lots and around the underpass next to the Central Post Office and the Ramada Princess Trimontium hotel.