Setting up of the Roman provincial structure in Moesia

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Borders of the province and its changes
Natives in the province

Borders of the province and its changes



The Roman province Moesia was created in AD 12. A short time before that the north Danubian Plain was under direct control of the legions V Macedonica, IIII Scythica and their auxiliary troops. Until AD 6 legio XX lay also some way north of the Balkan mountains. The Moesian lands had a pre-provincial form of government (praefectura Moesiae et Treballiae) . The newly created province initially included parts of modern-day east Serbia and northwest Bulgaria. The northern border was the Danube. In the east the Romans reached the Utus (modern-day Vit river in Bulgaria), in the southwest the border ran up north of the northern slopes of Haemus mons (Stara Planina) – at a distance in depth (north-south) between 25 - 45 km. In the west it was important to have access to the Morava (ancient Margus fluvius) valley in modern-day Serbia. During the reign of Tiberius (14 - 37) and Caligula (37 - 41) the east boundary reached the mouth of Osâm (Asamus) river and under Claudius (41 - 54) and Nero (54 - 68) - further east to Iatrus (Yantra river). In the west Moesia had a common border with Pannonia and included the mouth of the Sava (ancient Savus) and Mlava rivers in Serbia. In the south-southwest the provincial border reached the southern part of Dardania with Scupi (modern-day Skopje in Macedonia) which was to become a part of Moesia Superior. Tomis (modern-day Constanta in Romania) became the main city in Moesia. Under the Flavians (69 - 96) the Romans controlled the whole of present day Northeastern Bulgaria and the Dobrogea region (the northern part of which is now in Romania and the southern in Bulgaria). Thus in the first years of Domitian’s reign (81 - 96) Moesia with its c. 1000 km river frontier had the baulk of the lands between the Sav? river and the Black Sea, which today includes north Macedonia, Serbia, north Bulgaria and the Romanian part of Dobrogea. On the eastern flank of the Balkan mountains the border took on a southern direction and included the countryside of Greek colony ??sembria.
Due to military, strategic and economic reasons, in the autumn 86 the province was divided into Moesia Inferior and Moesia Superior. Initially the border between the two Moesian provinces ran up along the small right-bank tributary of the Danube (the Cibrica river – ancient Ciabrus or Kiabros). After 136 the border was slightly moved upstream, to the west of Lom (ancient Almus) in northwestern Bulgaria. In the west, Moesia Superior bordered with the province Pannonia. The capital of Moesia Superior was Viminacium (modern-day Kostolac in Serbia) and that of Moesia Inferior – the old capital Tomis.

The border between Lower Moesia and the adjacent territories of the province Thracia underwent many changes. Between the rule of Hadrian (117 - 138) and Commodus (180 - 192) the following modifications took place. After 134/136 the territory of Montana (modern-day Montana, former Mihailovgrad), earlier in Thracia, was incorporated into Moesia Inferior. Further east, the border passed north of the modern town Mezdra (Vratza district in northwestern Bulgaria) and south of Vicus Trullensium (present day village Kunino, Vratza district), by the modern village Bâlgarski Izvor and south of ancient Sostra (Lovech district).

The towns Nicopolis ad Istrum (Nikiup, Veliko Târnovo district), founded between 106 and 109, and Marcianopolis (Devnya, Varna region) belonged to Thracia although they were situated north of Stara Planina. The border continued to the villages Butovo (ancient Emporium Piretensium) and Maslarevo (Veliko Târnovo district), which were part of the territory of Nicopolis. After that the border ran up south of Abritus (present day Razgrad) and further east, in the direction of the modern villages Nikolaevka and Novakovo (Varna district). In 193 the rural territories of Nicopolis ad Istrum and Marcianopolis were incorporated into the administrative structure of the province of Moesia Inferior Thus, gradually in the late 2nd – early 3rd century the border between the two provinces was already going along the ridge of the Balkan mountains


Select bibliography

- D. Boteva, Lower Moesia and Thrace in the Roman Imperial System (A.D. 193 – 217/218), Sofia 1995
- D. Boteva, IGBulg. II, 659 i administrativno-teritorialnite promeni v rajona na Nikopolis ad Istrum pri Septimij Sever, In memoriam prof. dr. G. Mihailov, Serdicae 1996, 240-248
- D. Boteva, The South Border of Lower Moesia from Hadrian to Septimius Severus, Roman Limes on the Middle and Lower Danube, Belgrade 1996 (= Cahiers des Portes de Fer, Monographies 2),173-176
- V. Gerasimova-Tomova, Zur Grenzbestimmung zwischen Mösien und Thrakien in der Umgebung von Nicopolis ad Istrum in der ersten Hälfte des 2. Jh. n.Chr., Tyche 2, 1987, 17-21
- B. Gerov, Die Grenzen der römischen Provinz Thracia bis zur Gründund des Aurelianischen Dakien, Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II 7, Berlin – New York 1979, 212-240
- R. Ivanov, Das römische Verteidigungssystem an der unteren Donau zwischen Dorticum und Durostorum (Bulgarien) von Augustus bis Maurikios, Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission 78, 1997, 467-640
- M. Mirkovic, Rimski gradovi na Dunavu u Gornjoj Meziji, Beograd 1968
- A. Mócsy, Gesellschaft und Romanisation in der römischen Provinz Moesia Superior, Budapest 1970
- A. Mócsy, Pannonia and Upper Moesia, London-Boston 1974
- Tabula Imperii Romani, K-34 (Naissus – Dyrrachion – Scupi – Serdica – Thessalonike, Ljubljana 1976
- M. Taceva, Severnata granica na provincija Trakija do Severite (1. Ot Almus do Nikopolis ad Istrum), III Meždunarodne simpozium “Kabile”, Jambol 1994, 115-124
- M. Tacheva, The Northern Border of the Thracia Province to the Severi (from Nicopolis ad Istrum to Odessos), Thracia 11, 1995 (= Studia in honorem A. Fol), 427-434

Natives in the province



When the lands of the lower Danube region were annexed the Romans found a rather heterogeneous local population. In the western part of Moesia which was to become in AD 86 the province of Moesia Superior there is data of Illyrian ethnic groups as well as of the settlement of the Scordisci, a branch of the large Celtic community. They appeared in the region in the early 3rd century BC. Part of them also settled in Pannonia. Strabo calls these tribes “big Scordisci”. The Scordisci inhabited the valleys between the Danube, Sava and Morava near Singidunum, Aureus mons, Margum, Viminacium. The “little Scordisci” lived further east – in the direction of the Morava river (ancient Margus fluvius).
A large part of the territory of west Moesia represented a border contact zone between the Celts, Illyrians and Thracians. Ptolemy also writes in the 2nd century AD about Tricornenses and Picenses , the Getic tribes inhabiting the region of west Moesia (later Moesia Superior). They seem to have been resettled to that area from beyond the lower Danube in the beginning or in the sixties of the 1st century AD by Aelius Catus and Plautius Silvanus, Roman governors of Macedonia and Moesia respectively.
The present day Bulgarian lands, east of Dorticum, whose name is Celtic, and the Timok river (ancient Timak?s or Timachus), which are in the easternmost part of Upper Moesia, were inhabited by the Thracian tribes Triballi and Moesians about which the ancient authors do not provide clear definitions. The presence of the Moesians in the east is significant to the extent that it is bound with the name of the province. It was discussed at length in antiquity when the ancient authors tried to understand whether the Moesians were not actually the Getae. Strabo, a Greek geographer, as well as the Romans, until the first Roman map was made, must have believed Homer who had introduced information about Moesians in the Balkan lands. With the clarification of the lower Danubian ethnonyms through the campaigns of Roman generals the old ethnonyms, including the Getae, known before the toponym Moesia was created for the map of Augustus, were replaced with new, more precise ones. With the toponym Moesia the ethnonym Moesi came into use and covered the tribes bearing different names. A number of names of smaller tribes are known in Moesia, such as Timachi living along the middle and upper course of the Timok river and Dimenses around ancient Dimum (modern-day Belene in north Bulgaria), Dardani, Celegeri etc.
The northeastern part of Moesia was inhabited by the numerous Getae, tribes with the same speach as the Thracians. The proconsul ?. Licinius Crassus (BC 29 – 27) achieved a victory over “Thracians and Getae” (ex Thraecia et Geteis) and his campaigns in the lower Danube region dealt a heavy blow on the pre-Roman, Getic state organization.
On the western Black Sea coast Greek colonies had been established for a long time before the Romans appeared in this region. The Western Pontic cities were inhabited mainly by a mixpopulation of Greek origin from various regions of the Eastern Mediteranean. During the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods the coast was also occupied largely by hellenized Thracian and in the Dobrogea, Getic communities.


Select bibliography

- R.M. Batty, The Peoples of the Lower Danube and Rome (D.Phil. thesis, Oxford 1990)
- R.M. Batty, On Getic and Sarmatian Shores: Ovid’s Account of the Danube Lands, Historia 43, 1994, 88-111
- Chr.I. Danov, Die Thraker auf dem Ostbalkan von der hellenistischen Zeit bis zur Gründung Konstantinopels, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 7, 1, Berlin-New York 1979, 89 – 130
- M. Garašanin, Mysier - Nordthraker (Dako - Mysier) – Triballen, Thracia 12, 1998 (= Studia in honorem Chr. Danov), 37-44
- M. Mirkovic, Rimski gradovi na Dunavu u Gornjoj Meziji, Beograd 1968
- A. Mócsy, Gesellschaft und Romanisation in der römischen Provinz Moesia Superior, Budapest 1970
- A. Mócsy, Pannonia and Upper Moesia, London-Boston 1974
- F. Papazoglou, The Central Balkan Tribes in Pre-Roman Times (Triballi, Autariatae, Dardanians, Scordisci and Moesians), Amsterdam 1978
- D.M. Pippidi, I Greci nell basso Danubio dall’età arcaica alla conquista romana, Milano 1971
- A.V. Podosinov, Ovidij i Pricernomor’e: Opyt istocnikovedceskogo analiza poeticeskogo teksta, Drevnejšie gosudarstva na territorii SSSR. Moskva 1984, 8-178
- M. Taceva, Istorija na bâlgarskite zemi prez elinisticeskata i rimskata epocha, Sofia 1997
- R. Vulpe, I. Barnea, Din Istoria Dobrogei, II. Romanii la Dunarea de Jos, Bucuresti 1968