Gorna Krepost, Bulgaria

Perperikon

Forrest Mallard

An abandoned 8000-year-old, massive city. The most impressive archeological site you have never heard of.

Location

About 20 km NE of Kurdzhali, Bulgaria

Directions

Perperikon Archeological Site

One of the most impressive things I have seen in a VERY long time. The Thracian city of Perperikon. Located in the Eastern Rhodope range, about 15 km away from the city of Kardzhali, this ancient site is often called Europe’s Machu Picchu.

The magnificent complex of Perperikon is considered to be the largest and oldest megalithic center in Europe. The complex includes a mighty fortress, acropolis with walls about 3 meters thick, extensive palace grounds and northern and southern suburbs that include streets dug into the rock, residential buildings, and temples.

What really overwhelmed me on my visit to this location was how free you are to move about these ancient ruins, without the watchful eye of guards keeping track of your every move. You pay 6 Bulgarian Lev at the entrance at the bottom of the hill, and once you start climbing the hill to the city.. you are on your own.

Perperikon History

Humans have been present in the region since 5,000 B.C and archaeologists have suggested the mysterious, long-lost Temple of Dionysus is hidden somewhere in the Rhodope Mountains

The site played an important role in the lives of the Thracians, a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting a large area in southeastern Europe.

What makes Perperikon so remarkable is that among these ancient ruins we find also traces of many other great civilizations, such as Romans, Goths, and the Byzantines.

The history of this ancient place is complex because the Thracians who were famous for waging war, making exquisite jewelry and producing wine, did not have not have a written language.

All information we possess about this enigmatic ancient civilization is based on the artifacts and ruins they left behind, as well as accounts that were written by ancient Greek and Roman historians, but we should not forget that the Thracians were considered barbarians by the Greeks so not all accounts are objective.

In the 14th century, invading Ottoman Turks destroyed many ancient temples, sacred shrines, and fortresses at Perperikon, but it’s still possible to piece together the clues scattered across the site and learn more about the intriguing ancient history of this place that was once home to many ancient civilizations. It was first an ancient Thracian city. Later it was taken over by the Romans, Goths, and the Byzantine Empire.

Thousands of years ago, Perperikon was a massive bald rock and it became a place of worship.

An ancient legend tells that the peak at Perperikon was called the “rock home of the Sun God”. Ancient historians wrote that the shrine of God Dionysus was hidden somewhere in the mountains. The site was of immense importance because of its important ancient prophecies.

Temple of Dionysus

1. The temple of Dionysus was located here. In its time, this was as important and famous as the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. The famous Temple of Dionysus was mentioned by Greek historian Herodotus in his writings. One possibility, suggested by famous Bulgarian archaeologist and Professor Nikolay Ovcharov is that the ancient Temple of Dionysus can be found among the ruins of Perperikon. Professor Ovcharov has been excavating at the site since 2000 and he thinks he has enough evidence to claim that the stone city of Perperikon could be a sanctuary of ancient Greek and Thracian god Dionysus.

In Greek mythology, Dionysus (Bacchus) was the son of Zeus. He was the god of wine, joy, theatre, and revelry and of course many festivals were held in his honor.

Visit by Alexander the Great

2. It is said that it was right here that the Oracle gave to Alexander the Great, his prophesy that he would go on to conquer the world. Also, the prophesy that Rome would become an Empire. In April 334 B.C, Alexander the Great visited the Temple of Dionysus and the oracle prophesied that he would conquer the world. This happened just before Alexander the Great’s invasion of the Persian Empire.

Professor Ovcharov is convinced the complex of Perperikon was one of the greatest cult sanctuaries of the Antiquity period. “We know that in Perperikon, 7000 years ago, there was a rock sanctuary of the sun cult. We have seen these images on ceramics from the Stone-Copper Age, and then this persists throughout the Bronze Age, during which the altars were cut into the sanctuary. The second millennium before Christ was the most important period because this is when the entire system of rock altars, which we are now studying along the mountain range, Professor Ovcharov said.

More Impressive than Most Famous Attractions in Europe

I was actually able to climb the rocks and sit in the stone chair of the Oracle, which looks down on a vast yard where people came to hear him speak. You can actually interact (RESPECTFULLY) with the ruins. So much better than paying all that money to look at Stonehenge from such a distance.

Despite years of archaeological excavations at the site, we still know little about this mysterious ancient complex. Examinations of unearthed ancient artifacts and ruins have helped us to better understand our ancestors’ traditions and religious beliefs.

Perperikon is slowly revealing its ancient secrets, but it cannot be denied that Europe’s largest megalithic sanctuary is so rich in history that it will take many more years before we can put together all archaeological pieces that are scattered across Perperikon.

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By Forrest Mallard

By Forrest Mallard

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