Nicopolis ad Istrum

Nicopolis ad Istrum is an ancient Roman city with well-preserved infrastructure and interesting architectural details. Visiting the city, one can see the remains of the typical for Roman cities common areas – drainage, aqueducts, streets paved with limestone slabs and curbed on both sides, agora, termoperipatus (warmed place for walks), baths, villas in the city, nekropolis.

The official name of the city was Ulpia Nocopolis ad Istrum. It means the victorious city of Ulpius on the river Danube. The name comes from the Greek goddess of victory – Nike and the Latin name of Danube – Istros. Adding the name of the river was necessary, because there were six other cities with the name of Nicopolis. Ulpia comes from the name of the father of emperor Thrain.

Nicopolis ad Istrum has two main streets that are planned according the orthogonal system – one is oriented north-south – cardo maximus, the other - west-east – decumanus maximus. The rest of the street are parallel to them and cross each other at a right angle. All streets are covered with limestone slabs and curbed on both sides. Under the streets the Romans put well-organized sewer with one main ditch that took the waste water outside the city.

The city used three aqueducts. The west aqueduct is partly conserved today. At some of the crosses in the city are found also wells which were probably for common use. The city tank castellum aquae is situated at the valley of the nearby river of Rossitsa and its walls goes high up to 4m.

What has left from the ancient city council (called Bouleuterion) is a small building exact purpose of which remains unknown. To the southwest of it is the Odeon – a small theater with a rooftop. It consisted of an orchestra in a semi-circular form. On the west side stood the skene – the place for actors to store their masks and costumes and perform quick changes out of the side of the audience. On the east side stood the theatron – stone benches for the audience – which was separated from the orchestra by blocks of stone connected with an iron bracket. The benches were held up by arches, under which were situated 11 shops. Today we can only see the stone basis of their entrances.

One of the best conserved elements of the ancient city is an inscription in Greek, carved in limestone, the height of which is 2.3m. The inscription represents a copy of a letter sent from the emperor Septimius Severus to the citizens of Nicopolis ad Istrum. The letter expresses the gratitude of the emperor when he receives 700 000 denarius – a donation given by the citizen of the town for his victory over Pescencius Niger.

A necropolis is found at the east, north and west sides of the city. The archeologists have discovered mounds, made in Thracian way. From the Anatolian tribes are left slabs with relieved scenes and inscriptions.

Nicopolis ad Istrum is situated about 18km away from Veliko Turnovo. Traveling on the main road Veliko Turnovo – Ruse, you can take an exit for the village Nikiup. It takes 4,5 km to the village and after that there are signs that will guide you to the ancient city. The road is in good condition. There is also a shortcut directly from road E85. If you are travelling from Veliko Turnovo, take a left turn after you have passed the bridge over river Rossica. It is important to know that in spite of the distance being only 2km, there are no signs and the condition of the road is poor.