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Ancient Thrace Map

Modern-day Thrace consists of the southeastern regions of Bulgaria, northwestern Greece, and the parts of Turkey that separate the Black Sea from the Sea of Marmara. But the antiquity of Thrace dates back to ancient Greek legends and the geographical boundaries of the Kingdom of Thrace were the Bosphorus Strait, the Balkan Mountains, and the Rhodope Mountains.

Thracian Myths and Legends
Historical evidence suggests that Indo-European tribes settled down to an agricultural lifestyle in Thrace around 1300 BC, but the legends of Thrace predate this. Greek mythology suggests that Thrax, the son of Ares (Greek god of war), made Thrace his home. Thracians, thus, were believed to be the descendents of the mighty Thrax.

In his epic, The Iliad, Homer describes Thrace as a kingdom that allied itself with the Trojans in the Trojan War. Homer also mentions two powerful Thracian monarchs in The Iliad - Cisseus and Rhesus. Thrace seems to have enjoyed close ties with Troy, the royal families of both kingdoms often marrying into each other. Ovid's Metamorphoses is another legend about the Thracian king Tereus. Many other Thracian kings such as Diomedes, Eumolpus, Oeagrus, Phineas, and Poltys found their place in Greek myths and legends.

Thracian Culture
Greek historians such as Strabo and Herodotus have documented the superior culture and advanced social mechanisms of the Thracians. A love for music, poetry and fine arts seem to have characterized Thracian society. Thracians were also very skilled warriors, who. often were hired as mercenaries to fight for the Greek and Macedonian forces. Life in ancient Thrace was very simple. It lacked the sophistication or architecture of Greek city-states. The Thracians had colonized many parts of the southern coast such as Propontis in Hellespont, Tomi on the Black Sea, Byzantium, Abdera, Apollonia, Aeneas, and Mesembria. Ancient Thrace was rich in gold and silver, and maintained healthy trade with Greece and other European kingdoms.

Persian and Roman Annexation
In around 516 BC to 510 BC, Thrace was invaded and annexed by Persian emperors. In 360 BC, Philip II, King of Macedon, annexed Thrace as part of the Macedonian empire. When his son Alexander the Great set out on his massive expansion campaign, Alexander greatly relied on the Thracian warriors who were part of his army. Initially the Thracian kings were vassals to the Roman emperors and reigned over their own territories, but by 46 BC Claudius I took direct control of the Thracian province. During the Roman rule the major cities of Thrace were Adrianople, Philippopolis, and Sardica.

By the third century AD, Thrace was reduced to a veritable battleground with various barbarian tribes such as the Goths, the Visigoths and the Slavic tribes. By 1453 AD, Thrace fell to the Ottoman invasion and much of it was annexed by the Ottoman Empire. The many wars and invasions caused many of the native Thracians to migrate out of their homeland. Most of the populace in Thrace is now of Turkish, Greek, and Bulgarian descent.