Under goddess Cybele aegis
Kabyle near Yambol is a Roman city with rich Thracian heritage
12 April, 2018
Some 10km away from the eastern Bulgarian city of Yambol is located an archaeological reserve keeping the relics of the ancient city of Kabyle and settlements established around it. The city was founded approximately in the 4th century BC during Thracian times, at the foot of the nowadays Zaychi Vruh (literally, rabbit's peak), near a turn of the Tundzha River, on the site of an even older settlement. The name is associated with Cybele, goddess of fertility. According to some speculations, the name of the goddess herself is derived from the Thracian word for mare. In that sense, the goddess carries a name associated with the horse as a symbol of fertility. The settlement's strategic location as a point of intersection between major ancient roads predetermined its gradual expansion to a city that became a significant political, economic and religious hub of the Odrysian Kingdom and the Roman Empire. During Thracian times, the city was built in keeping with the principles of Hellenic urbanism and was developed around the agora, the central square that is the heart of public life in the city. There was a temple of Apollo and another one dedicated to the goddess Hecate, which featured a lot of inscriptions that essentially served as the city archive. In about 340 BC, Kabyle was conquered by Philip II of Macedon and later was a brief stop on Alexander the Great's campaign against the Persian Empire. In the first half of the 3rd century BC, Kabyle served as the residence of the Thracian kings Spartok and Skostok. It is the only city of central Thrace that had its own mint where royal and city emissions of money were coined between the 3rd and 2nd century BC. In 71 BC, the city was included in the Roman Empire and became one of the most important Roman military camps in the Thrace province. Thermaes, public buildings, military barracks, sanctuaries, and walls were built. After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion in the 4th century AD, Kabyle became the bishopric centre for the Thrace region. A monumental three-nave basilica was built in the city, with mosaic floors parts of which are on display in the archaeological reserve's museum. The place also shows most of the finds uncovered during the area's excavations. The city was devastated during the Barbarian incursions of the Balkans in the 5th-6th century and ceased to exist. Of special note is the sanctuary in the eastern part of the Zaychi Vruh casting its shadow on Kabyle. It is composed of two intersecting trenches carved into the uppermost part of the peak in the shape of a cross, with the separate sections pointing to each of the four cardinal points. The east trench is the entrance through which the sun was observed on the days of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The south trench allows for the culmination of some bright astronomical objects to be observed, while a flattened area in the centre is a good vantage point for observing the summer and winter solstice. There is a barely discernible image of the goddess Cybele hewn into the rocks.
The ancient basilica with preserved in situ mosaics.
Relics of the ancient thermae.
Zaychi Vruh overlooking the city's remnants.
Some of the exhibits on display at the archaeological reserve's museum.