Present-day Bulgarian lands are in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula which is one of the most strategic locations in the world – a crossroad between Asia Minor and continental Europe and a gateway to continental Greece. As a result it had always been an attractive place to settle for people of very diverse origin which contributed to its tumultuous history from very early times. The oldest gold treasure in the world, dating from 4,600 BC to 4,200 BCE, was discovered near the town of Varna. Later the Greeks established settlements on the Black Sea coast while the interior was occupied by Thracian tribes. Herodotus called them the second-most numerous people in the world. They were divided into numerous tribal states which were at times independent or parts of the Persian Empire and later the Macedonian kingdom. Meanwhile Celtic tribes also passed through the region.
These Thracian lands later became a part of the Roman Empire, which divided them in the provinces of Moesia Inferior and Thracia. They later passed to the Byzantine Empire. These lands were attacked on numerous occasions by numerous tribes like the Goths, the Slavs and the Bulgars. The Bulgarian state was formed in 681 CE and united the Bulgars and some Slavonic tribes. The First Bulgarian Kingdom became a major power in Europe until it was subjugated by the Byzantines in the 11th century CE. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom reemerged in late 12th century and existed for two centuries before falling to the invasion of the Ottoman Turks. Ottoman rule ended in 1878 after the Russo-Turkish war and a new Bulgarian state was established. Several wars were fought in the next forty years culminating in World War I in which Bulgaria sided with the losing side. It was also an ally of Germany in World War II in the hope of regaining lost territories. The country became a part of the Soviet sphere after 1944. The Communist regime ended in 1989 and the new democratic history of Bulgaria started.
Considering their extraordinarily diverse history, it is not surprising that Bulgarian lands have produced some exceptional archaeological finds and treasures. There is no doubt that many more are waiting to be found.
To learn more about the history of Bulgaria check out Eric Halsey’s excellent “Bulgarian History Podcast”.