The Thracians and Philip of Macedon

For a short period of time the Thracians fell under the domination of Philip of Macedon and of his son Alexander the Great. After two centuries of heroic resistance they were conquered about the middle of the first century A. D. by the powerful Roman Empire. The long-continued domination of the Romans has left lasting vestiges in Bulgaria: roads, aqueducts, temples, public baths, masterpieces of ancient art, whole cities.

The so-called Great Migration of Peoples which started in the 4th century affected the Balkan Peninsula as well. Barbarian hordes of Goths, Huns, Avars and other tribes passed through it, leaving desolation and ruins behind them. The Roman Empire, torn by internal contradictions, could not resist the impact of the Barbarians and in the year 395 disintegrated into two parts – Western, whose capital was Rome, and Eastern, with Constantinople (Byzantium, present-day Istanbul) for its capital. In 476 the Western Roman Empire was destroyed by the Barbarian tribes, while the Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist for still another millennium under the name of Byzantine Empire.

Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians

The Slavs were of the Indo-European stock of peoples, to which the German, Baltic-Slav, Greek, Celtic, Iranian and Indian tribes belonged. During the third millennium B.C. they inhabited a vast region in Eastern and Central Europe, bordering on the River Dnepr in the east, by the River Oder in the west and the Carpathian Mountains in the south. In the late 2nd and early 3rd century A. D. the Slavs began to move to the south and by the end of the 5th century they had settled in the plain between the Danube and the Carpathian Mountains. The Slav tribes which inhabited the territory near the estuary of the Danube and to the east of it were called Antae and those living in the lands of present-day Romania and Hungary – Slavini.

In the early 6th century, numerous Slav contingents began to cross the Danube, and to return with rich booty. Their daring incursions could not be stopped either by the fortified strongholds along the Danube and in the Balkan Range, or even by the Long (Anastasius’) Wall built to defend the immediate approaches to the Byzantine capital. At the end of the same century, under the pressure of the powerful state of the Avars founded in Pannonia (present- day Hungary) and of new barbarian tribes coming from

Bronze helmet of a Thracian warrior the east, the Slavs began to settle in the depopulated areas of the Balkan Peninsula, and even as far as the Aegean islands and Asia Minor. Because of their common language, religion and way of life, the Slav tribes which settled in Moesia (between the Balkan Range and the Danube), Thrace and Macedonia became known later as the Bulgarian Slavic Group, to be distinguished from the Serbo-Croatian Group which formed the western wing of the Southern Slavs.