The port of sixty ships

Ruins of the Roman castle Sexaginta Prista lie in the centre of the city of Rousse

The remnants of Sexaginta Prista in the centre of Rousse are relatively well conserved.

In the centre of the big Danubian city of Rousse lie the remnants of an ancient Roman settlement known by the name Sexaginta Prista, or the port of 60 ships. The city was founded in the 1st century AD during the rule of Emperor Vespasian and served as a border castle built on the ruins of a more ancient Thracian settlement. It was an important element in the fortification system along the northern border of the Roman province of Moesia.

The name of the city is associated with the events of the late 1st century when Emperor Domitian waged a military campaign against Dacia. Then, a Roman legion, about 6,000-strong, crossed the Danube near the estuary of the Roussenski Lom River. For this operation the Romans needed exactly 60 ships of the 'prisitis' type. To commemorate the victory over Dacia, the castle was given a new name.

During the excavations in the city, archaeologists found a 50m-long northwestern fortification wall with a tower, six buildings, a temple of Apollo and Principia, the headquarters of the military unit deployed at Sexaginta Prista. An open-air exhibition has been placed in situ, amongst the ruins of the ancient city. There are also remnants of several civil buildings dated to the 2nd-3rd centuries. Probably, these are the remains of a settlement built near the camp, which served as a cult centre as well.

Some of the buildings have been studied. One of them is the temple of Apollo where archaeologists found four whole and many fragmented votive plates dedicated to the Thracian Heros (horseman) along with ceramics, coins and other finds, as well as sacrificial altar of Apollo with an inscription. The building plan of the discovered temple is worthy of note. It has a northeast-southwest orientation and resembles a Cristian church, which shows that the early Christians borrowed the building plans for their churches from pagan temples.

The votive plates of the Thracian Heros and Apollo were discovered in the temple's exedra, buried in pits. The temple stopped functioning at the end of the 3rd century and was replaced by one of the most important buildings for the Roman military camp - the Principia. At that time (end of the 3rd - beginning of the 4th century) the Late-Antiquity castle was built, including the northwestern fortification wall and tower.

Sexaginta Prista shared the fate of the other castles strung along the right bank of the Lower Danube. It was destroyed by Avar and Slavic raids at the end of the 6th - the beginning of the 7th centuries. Later, in the 9th-10th century, a medieval settlement emerged on its ruins.

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