Boutique hotel Villa Flavia is located in the very heart of the majestic and millennial city of Plovdiv – one of the oldest permanently inhabited cities in the world. The city was home to many civilizations - Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans. This is one of the reasons why over the centuries Plovdiv has changed its name many times – Kendrisos, Eumolpias, Philippopolis, Pulpudeva, Trimontium, Ulpia, Flavia, Puldin, Filibe are just some of the names that it has borne throughout its millennial history. With each step you take in Plovdiv, you come across a piece of world history, culture, and art. Join us as we dive deeper in Plovdiv’s tale and learn more about this awe-inspiring beauty of a town.
Ancient Thracian Settlement Kendrisia
The creation of the earliest settlements on the territory of modern Plovdiv dates back to the end of the seventh millennium BC. Archaeologists have discovered pottery and other objects from the Neolithic era that indicate that there was already an established settlement on this site.
Around 4000 BC on the natural elevation between the hills Nebet Tepe, Taksim Tepe and Djambaz Tepe (the three hills) was located an ancient Thracian settlement called Kendrisia or Kendros. There are a number of theories about the origin of the oldest known name of Plovdiv. According to one of them, the name comes from the Greek word for "center" (κέντρον, "kentron") which corresponds to the central location of the city of Kendrisia. It is possible that the name comes from the Thracian god Kendriso, equivalent to Apollo, or from the artifacts of the Thracian tribe known as Kendrisi. According to another common theory, mentioned in ancient chronicles, the name of the city comes from the cedar forests in the area.
Eumolpia – The Largest Thracian City
In ancient times, the Thracians inhabited the Three Hills and built a fortified settlement called Evmolpia or Evmolpeida. This settlement is one of the oldest settlements in Europe and later became the largest city in Thrace. It is believed that the city was named after the mythical Thracian king Evmolpos, son of Poseidon, who founded the city around 1200 BC. Other scholars have linked the origin of the name Eumolpeia to the Vestal virgins in the temples – the priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth.
Philippopolis – One of the Main Cities in Ancient Macedonia
In 342 BC. Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great of Macedon, conquered the city, leading to a new name change. The city was called Philippopolis, meaning the City of Philip. During this period the settlement grew significantly, becoming one of the starting points of the colonization activity of Ancient Macedonia.
The Thracians later regained control of the city but after a series of battles in the 1st century AD, it became part of the Roman Empire. When the Thracians recaptured the city, they named it Pulpudeva, which is most likely a Thracian interpretation of Philippopolis. There is also a theory that the name Pulpudeva comes from the Thracian word for "lake town".
Roman’s Trimontium - The City of The Three Hills
The Romans took control of the area in 42 AD and renamed the city Trimontium, Latin for "Three Hills." During the time of the Roman emperor Claudius, the Empire included the Thracian lands within its borders, and the city became the largest trading center in the Roman province of Thrace.
Roman Trimontium once again became an important center of economic and cultural life. With its magnificence and aristocracy, Plovdiv is mentioned with respect and is described as majestic in the chronicles. The city flourished large-scale construction of buildings, facilities, roads, aristocratic homes and impressive walls.
Many well-preserved artifacts from those times remain – the cobbled streets, fortress walls, water supply and sewerage systems. At that time the Plovdiv Ancient Theater was built, one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the world. Built in the late first century by the Roman emperor Trajan, it became a major venue for gladiatorial battles and performances. Today, the theater has been partially renovated and in addition to being a historic monument, it is still a place where many cultural events take place.
In the immediate vicinity of the pedestrian shopping street of modern Plovdiv are still visible traces of the Roman social life from the first century. The Ancient Forum, called agora in Greek, was built during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian and served as a starting point for the social, religious and economic aspects of life in the ancient city.
At the beginning of the second century during the time of the Roman emperor Hadrian, successor of Trajan, one of the largest and best preserved buildings from the time of Ancient Rome on the Balkan Peninsula - the Ancient Stadium - was built in the area of the Forum. Approximately 240 meters long and 50 meters wide, this monument of Roman splendor has gathered 30,000 spectators in its golden age and is one of the few of such colossal size ever built in the empire.
Plovdiv in the Reign of the Flavian Family
During the Roman era, when the Flavian family ruled the Empire, the city was given the name Flavia, and its inhabitants received civil rights under Roman law. At that time the city was also known as Ulpia and Julia, names originating from other noble Roman families. Another supposed name is Tiberius from the 1st century AD in honor of the Roman emperor Tiberius, under whom the kingdom of Odrys was economically, politically and militarily subordinated to Rome.
Puldin And The Settlements of the Slavs
In the first half of the 7th century the first massive settlements of the Slavs began, which led to another change in the city’s name – from Philippopolis to Pulpudeva. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Slavs transformed the name into Puldin (Ploudin, Pulden, Populdin, Plavdiv). In the 9th century, the name of the city began to appear in historical chronicles such as Papaldiv(n), Pladin, Plapdiv, Plo(v)div, Pladiv and Plovdin - names derived from the Thracian variant Pulpudeva.
Plovdiv in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, some Crusader writers mentioned the city as Prinepol, Sinople, and Finepol. However, these are thought to be due to a mispronunciation of the real name.
Ottoman Empire’s Filibe
In the 15th century, the Ottomans began to call the city Filibe, from the incorrect spelling of "Philip". During the Ottoman period, the city once again became a center of rapid construction - a number of madrassas, mosques and other public buildings were built. During the rule of the Ottoman Empire, many Revival houses were built into the remains of the old stone walls around the medieval gate of Hisar Kapia, which once served as part of the fortification system of Philippopolis. At the end of the 19th century, the small winding cobbled streets and polygonal crossroads became home to many merchants and craftsmen. Today, the area is known as Kapana Creative District (The Trap) and is a space well known for its cozy street restaurants and artistic bars. Nowadays you will not find traditional craftsmen here, but modern artists and entrepreneurs. This is the place where the real city life of modern Plovdiv is brewing.
Renaissance Plovdiv, Bulgaria
The modern name of the city of Plovdiv was first mentioned in the 11th century. There are also several written sources from 1430, which mention the city as Pludin and Plovdiv. After the liberation of the city, the name Plovdiv was adopted and spread by the Bulgarians in contrast to the Ottoman’s Filibe and the Thracian’s Philippopolis. Today, the ancient names of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, are connected and interpreted in the modern names of tourist facilities and cultural attractions.
Nowadays, the city of Plovdiv is home to more than 300 000 people and is considered as one of the prime destinations to visit in Bulgaria. Growing in popularity all over the world, in part because of the Cultural Capital title it proudly carries, it masterfully combines the small-town homely feeling with the big city’s dynamic pulse of life. Plovdiv’s guests are made to feel like home by its small streets, sunny weather, friendly people and a variety of cultural attractions and interesting events to see.