Durostorum

Name: Larger part of the researcher’s states that the name of the fort is of local, Thracian origin. The other hypothesis is that it is Celtic, or Latin-Celtic. At this stage, it is unanimously accepted that it is twofold, with the first part (durus) meaning strong, durable.

Written sources: Durostotum is initially mentioned in the Roman road map - itinerarium, composed y Claudius Ptolemy around the middle of the 2nd century, as Durostoron (Δουρόστορον). Under the name Durostero or Dorostoro (Durostero, Dorostoro) it is presented in other road maps – Tabula Peutingeriana and Itinerarium Antonini, which reflect the geographical reality in the time of emperors Augustus and Caracalla. In the “List of Offices” (Notitia Dignitatum), it is mentioned that the XI Claudian Legion is stationed in Durostoro (Durostoro). In Dorostol (Dorostolo) the emperors Diocletian and Maximian issued an edict on debts and their payment in 294 AD, preserved inside a law collection book, known as the Codex of Justinian. As Dorostori (Durostori) it is mentioned in another decree from September 25, 367 AD, preserved within the Codex of Theodosius. In 363 AD Dorostori (Dorosthori) is mentioned by Hieronymus. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus notes Dorostorus (Dorostorus) as one of the important towns in Moesia. Eusebius Hieronymus reports that in the time of Emperor Julian (361 – 363 AD) in Durostor (Dorostori) the Christian Emilianus was executed by fire. In his work “On the Buildings” Procopius of Caesarea mentions Dorostol (Δоρόστολος) among the fortresses, restored by Justinian I. Theophylact Simocatta mentions Dorostol (Δόρоστολον) in connection to the campaigns against Avars and Slavs in the time of Emperor Mauricius. In the Anonymus of Ravenna, Durostol (Durostolun) is marked as one of the important towns in Moesia.

Location: Durostorum is located on the Danube riverbank, underneath the contemporary town of Silistra, 120 km to the northeast of Rousse. It is the ending point of the present-day Bulgarian section of the river. Within the territory of the village of Ostrov in Romania is located the vicus of Durostorum.

History of the excavations: The fort is localized on the base of field observation work by Karel Skorpil and Mihail Vankov in 1905. During construction activities in the second half of the 20th century different archaeological structures are registered, but systematic excavations in Silistra were initiated in 1969 in relation to the building of the new quay wall. They turned into regular ones and until 2006 were directed by Stefka Angelova. Part of the northern fortification wall were studied, as well as belonging buildings, the Bishop’s and the Patriarch’s church and residence of the Bishops and Patriarchs of Drastar from the 9th-10th century. With public act of the Council of Ministers from 1971, large part of Silistra is announced a “National Archaeological Reserve Durostorum-Drastar-Silistra”.

Following the Second World War were also initiated the excavations on the territory of the vicus of Durostorum – at the village of Ostrov in present-day Romania. They are conducted even nowadays – 19 kilns for pottery are revealed, domestic pits and a bath facility. The studies on the Romanian side are related to the names of Crişan Muşeţeanu, Dan Elefterescu, Adela Bâltâc, etc. The coins, found during the excavations, are published.

Sections of the Durostorum necropolises of the Roman and the Late Antiquity periods are also studied, with eight tombs being of interest. One of them has richly decorated interior – frescoes, and is discovered by accident in 1942. Today it is exhibited and accessible to visitors.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, during several rescue excavation works, Peti Donevski and Ivan Bachvarov managed to determine the area (19 ha) and the location of the early legionary camp. Section of the fortification wall is revealed, as well as residential buildings for the soldiers in it. There are also examined buildings of the civilian settlement – the canabae of Durostorum, located in proximity – several representative buildings and a balneum. During the construction of a shopping mall in 2007, Rumyana Koleva and Chavdar Kirilov revealed part of a building, interpreted as a pagan sanctuary. In 2015 Boyan Totev and Kristiyan Mihaylov managed to determine the plan of the building. Several pagan altars are revealed in proximity.

In the recent decades, the research works in Silistra are associated with the name of Georgi Atanasov. He determined the plan of the late fortification on the Danube riverbank, as well as parts of buildings and other structures within the territory of Durostorum. Section of the southern fortification wall of the late fortification is exhibited. A medieval necropolis, located on the site, is also studied.

In 2015 in relation to the change and renewal of the water-supply system in Silistra was conducted rescue archaeological excavations. Graves were examined, parts of buildings from the Roman and subsequent periods. Among the more notable structures are a fortification wall around the canabae, as well as a church with necropolis from the First and the Second Bulgarian Kingdoms.

Revealed structures: The earliest structures on the territory of Durostorum are the fortification walls of the Roman camp. The southwestern corner of the fort with a tower is revealed, as well as section of the south fortification wall. There is also a surrounding ditch in front of the wall registered. In the interior there is a building excavated, interpreted as “residence of the centurion”. In the western part of the camp there is also revealed a section of a building complex, interpreted as soldiers’ housing. They are constructed in the beginning of the 2nd century, and Peti Donevski presumes that the fortification wall is repaired after 170 AD, after the middle of the 3rd century, and during the Late Antiquity. During construction works were revealed sections of different buildings from the Roman period, which belong to the canabae or the unfortified settlement at the military camp. To the Roman period is also referred the studied bathing complex at the vicus of Durostorum (the village of Ostrov).

At the reached level of research, it is accepted that in the early 4th century a Late Antiquity fortification was erected on the riverbank of the Danube, which was rebuild from the ground in the 6th century. The planning of the construction is interesting, without parallels with the present-day Bulgarian lands. The walls are not in straight direction, but with a zigzag outline, ending with diamond-shaped tower on the protuberant part. The towers are at 30 m from one another. Parts of the eastern and the southern gates are also revealed. There are no examined buildings of the Early Byzantine period in the interior of the fortification.

There are also sections of the fortification wall revealed, which surround the civilian settlement during the Late Roman period. On its territory (its central part) in 1987 was partially studied a large church (Hellenistic basilica type), erected in the end of the 4th century and demolished in the end of the 6th century. Around 80 m to the east of the basilica was studied and exhibited a residential complex, which is interpreted as bishop’s residence with bath. The period of functioning is the same as that of the basilica.

The before mentioned eight tombs also refer to the 3rd and the 4th centuries. The one with the frescoes is one of the most notable monuments of the Late Antiquity art in the Balkans. It is single-chamber, rectangular arched construction, with entrance from the west and nine drawing panels along the other walls. It is considered that against the entrance is presented the buried individual. The ceiling of the tomb is also decorated with small panels with plants and animals.

Durostorum is one of the few examples from the territory of present-day Bulgaria, where there is no interruption in the existence of the settlement during the Antiquity and the Medieval period. Until now, there are excavated remains of unsolid housing (mainly dug-outs) from the First Bulgarian Kingdom, predominantly from the period following the adoption of Christianity.

As “the great renowned home on the Danube” from the early 9th century (mentioned in an inscription on a pillar from the time of Khan Omurtag) are interpreted the remains of a building on the Danube riverbank, attached to the north fortification wall. To the pagan period are also referred the remains of a heathen shrine, studied during rescue excavations in 2007 and 2015. In proximity to the shrine there are also two churches examined, one of which has been a Patriarch’s.

There are also remains of buildings from the period of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, as well as such of the Ottoman and the Late Ottoman period.

Finds and chronology: During the excavations on the territory of the contemporary town of Silistra, large number of finds is discovered, which were, unfortunately, not published systematically. Recently a large quantity of Roman coins from Durostorum was published, only a small part of which have been discovered during regular archaeological excavations within the present-day Romanian territory. Thousands of stamped bricks and tiles from the Roman period are also discovered, produced mainly in the workshop of the XI Claudian Legion. Partially published are also the works of the stone, metal and jewelry from the period. Over 100 epigraphic monuments also originate from Silistra, which are valuable source for the history of the Roman province of Moesia.

Here we should also mention the finds from the grave of a Roman magistrate from the end of the 3rd century, discovered around 60 m to the west of the tomb with frescoes. He is buried together with a chariot, armament and other gifts.

At the reached stage of research, there are no structures of the pre-Roman period, revealed within the territory of the contemporary town of Silistra, but there are separate earlier finds. It is commonly accepted that the camp of the XI Claudian Legion is constructed in the early 2nd century AD, when the legion was stationed here.

It continued to function until the end of Antiquity, experiencing many functional changes. Probably at the end of the Late Antiquity was also constructed the fort next to the Danube, where the main remains of the Medieval settlement are also located. The territory of the town continued to be inhabited until the present day. This is the reason for large part of the ancient remains to be destroyed or damaged in later periods.