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Ancient tribe Thracians - Ancestry and origin

Who were the Thracians?

"Thracian" (Thrakes) is a Greek collective term based on linguistic and cultural homogeneity for the population of the northern Balkan peninsula from the northern coast of the Aegean to the Danube (ancient writers often include the area up to the northern Carpathians) and from the western coast of the Black Sea to approximately the Vadar River.
The heartland of the Thracian settlement was the Bulgaria of today.
Whether the Thracians of the archaic period descended from the Bronze Age population of this area is unclear.
The concepts of Thracian people and land are of variable extension and cannot always be clearly defined, either ethnically or territorially.
In ancient times, Thrace was understood to be the area north of Greece up to the Scythians, east of Macedonia and the region of Epirus up to the Black Sea, which was settled by the Thracian people, but did not include Dacia and the Goths to the north.


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What was the ethnogenesis of the Thracians?

The Thracian ethnic group - fragmented into numerous local tribal groups (Asten, Bisalts, Besser, Thynen, Bistonen, Odrysen and others) - already split off in the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C. from the Indo-Germanic "whole people", in which their language represents a separate branch of language. The cultural-linguistic profile of the closely related Dacians is a more recent development. Within the circle of Indo-Germanic peoples, cultures and languages, the Thracian-Dacian complex is closest to that of the Balts.



What was the language of the Thracians?

Thracian is an Indo-European language, related to Illyrian and (less) to Phrygian. Remarkable are many similarities with word stems of the Baltic languages. North of the Haimos (Balkan Mountains), Iranian elements can also be seen, Asia Minor especially in the southeast.

The historical presence of the Thracians can be traced in the heartland of their settlement area in more than a thousand place, field and water names.



How great was the Greek influence on the Thracians?

Since the middle of the 8th century BC, the Greeks founded colonies in the settlement area of the Thracians. These city foundations, which included Byzantium, subsequently developed into centres of Greek culture with far-reaching effects on the habits and traditions of the population throughout Thrace. Through their contacts with the Greeks, the Thracians became acquainted with the coinage system, the culture of writing and the world of the Greek gods.

The Greek scriptural tradition radiated on the Thracians' cultural work, and Greek served the Thracian elite as an educational language; the use of Thracian as a written language was probably not particularly promoted. Only few purely Thracian inscriptions in Greek script have survived.

In Hellenistic and Roman times, the Thracian language was increasingly replaced by Greek and to a lesser extent by Latin. Nevertheless, it seems to have been preserved in mountainous areas until early Byzantine times.



What were the Thracian states?

A significant turning point in the development of the southern Thracian country was the Persian occupation around 513 BC. After their withdrawal in 479 BC, the Persians left behind a political power vacuum that was filled by Thracian rulers who founded their own states and also minted their own coins. The largest Thracian empire was founded by the Odrysai, who subjugated large parts of the Thracian territory from southeast Thrace. Their rulers maintained good relations with Athens on the one hand and with the Bosporan Empire on the other.

These state formations changed the Thracian tribal world, of which, despite a wealth of names, ultimately little is known.

The Thracian empire disintegrated when Thrace became a Macedonian province in 341 BC. Thrace was also under the domination of the Celts for a short time in the 3rd century BC.



How did the Romanization and Greekization of the Thracians occur?

From the middle of the 2nd century BC, the Thracian dynasties were forced to take sides for or against Rome.

In 15 BC the Thracians became politically dependent on the Romans as vassals. Since 46 AD there was a Roman province with the country name Thracia, and since the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305) also a diocese of the same name.

The Thracian aristocrats found their place within the province in the new upper class; some of them held high positions in the Roman state apparatus and also in the newly founded cities.

Intensive urbanization, the strong influx of new settlers and Roman veterans, the increased involvement in the economic and political life of the Roman Empire and the numerous troop withdrawals among the Thracian population increasingly pushed the ethnic and cultural elements into the background. Greek became the main language in the south and east of the country, while on the Danube Limes and in the west, Latin prevailed.

The population of the Thracian cities was mostly composed of a mixture of Thracians/Dakers, Greeks, Romans and Asian artisans from Asia Minor, in the northeast also Scythians.

From the 1st half of the 3rd century AD onwards, there were heavy incursions of migrating tribes from the north. It was not until 269 AD that Emperor Claudius Gothicus succeeded in defeating the combined forces of the Goths, Gepids, Bastars and other tribes at Naissus. However, the province of Dacia could not be held (271 AD). Many Goths were settled as colonies in the heavily depopulated areas of the country.

After overcoming the deep crisis of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD, the Danube provinces became increasingly important in imperial politics, especially since some emperors (e.g. Diocletian, Constantine, Jovian) also came from these areas. From a peripheral country Thrace became the hinterland of the new capital Constantinople.

Thrace's importance resulted in particular from its geographical position at the intersection of important transport axes. Thrace was (especially after the loss of Sicily and Egypt) a supplier of food and at the same time the main deployment area of all potential conquerors from mainland Europe: Goths (378), Huns, Avars (626) and Bulgarians (since the end of the 7th century), but also the crusaders and Ottomans.

To the west of Constantinople, Thrace was established as a defence against the Bulgarians (first mentioned in 687).



Who were the Dacians?

The Dacians were an Indo-European people and closely related to the Thracians. They represented the majority population in Transylvania (Transylvania). A separate Dacian ethnic identity was formed around the middle of the 1st millennium BC. The ethnogenesis turns out to be a process of separation of a younger Dacian identity on the basis of an older Thracian "total people". Until Roman times the Dacians were not a unified people. Rather, individual Dacian tribal groups entered into alliances that either lasted for a short time or were more permanent.

The Dacians were the strongest opponents of the Romans in the Balkans. Only Emperor Trajan succeeded in subjugating the Dacians in two wars (101-102 and 105-106 AD). The victory of the Romans is celebrated in the friezes of the Trajan Column in Rome. The Romans founded numerous colonies in the newly won province of Dacia. Within a short time the Dacians assimilated among the Romanised population of the Balkans. Dacia belonged to the Roman Empire until 271 AD.

The memory of the cultural heritage of the Dacians lives on among the Romanians to this day. In their identity, the awareness of the Dacian origin of their people is intimately linked to the pride of belonging to the Roman civilisation circle.

Therefore, the followers of the Dacian-Romanesque theory of continuity assume that in modern Romanian at least 160 lexical inheritances consist of Dacian Thracian, the language of the Dacians who were subjugated by the Romans. The corresponding words, e.g. balaur (dragon) or brânza (cheese), are considered the Dacian substrate of the Romanian vocabulary. About 90 of these words are also found in the Albanian language.



Who were the last Thracians?

At the end of the Roman period the traces of the Thracians disappeared as a political entity. It is assumed that they were absorbed by the Bulgarian and Romanian population.

After 612 at the latest, South Slavic population groups settled in the Eastern Roman provinces of Moesia and Thrace in the course of the Slavic land seizure in the Balkans. The extent to which a largely Romanised Thracian population still lived in the territory of the Bulgarian Khans in the 7th century alongside the Slavs who immigrated after them is disputed.

Bulgarian national historiography sees the Thracians as the third element that has been absorbed into the new Bulgarian ethnos. In the mountainous landscape of the Rhodopes, remnants of the Thracian population would have preserved their culture and language until the 6th century AD, before they assimilated to the Slavs. Critics see this portrayal as being primarily motivated by the interest in establishing ethnic continuity with the ancient population of the region. However, most scholars believe that the Thracians had long since been Romanised or Hellenised at the time of the Slavic arrival.



What was the culture of the Thracians?

Various Bronze Age (1st half of the 2nd millennium B.C.) cultures defined by spiral and meandering pottery and named after sites are described in research as "Thracian", although this view cannot be based on any ancient sources.

The Thracians were famous for their goldsmithing. In the style forms of the Thracian gold work, Greek aesthetics are clearly evident, and Greek preferences are evident in the wealth of motifs.

The economic basis of the Thracians was agriculture, including horse breeding. Slave trade and mining were also important: iron, copper, lead, silver, gold and salt.

Because of their fighting skills and fearlessness, Thracians were much sought after and appreciated as gladiators (this type of gladiator was called thraex). Spartacus is also said to have been a Thracian.



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