NICOPOLIS AD ISTRUM
(Nikup) N Bulgaria.
A city 20 km from Tarnovo beside the river Rossitza
which empties into the Jantra, a tributary of the Danube,
at the foot of Mt. Haemus. The city was founded by
Trajan at the junction of the roads to Danubium and to
Philippopolis. It was raised to the status of a municipium
by Hadrian, coined its own money from the reign of
Antoninus to that of Gordian III, flourished particularly
under Septimius Severus, was captured by the Goths, reconstructed by Justinian, and finally abandoned. The city
was Greek in tongue and in its constitution, with many
foreign settlers and a large number of religious cults.
The city was formed on a regular grid plan of which
some axis streets have been brought to light. It was encircled by walls and round towers with an appendage,
also walled, in the form of an irregular pentagon, on
broken ground—much like a defensive castellum. The
gates and towers are represented on coins.
The central area has been excavated, including the
forum (55 x 42 m) surrounded on three sides by a colonnade of Ionic columns. On the W side of the forum
are the bouleuterion and other structures (perhaps the
praetorium) and a colonnaded peristyle opening on one
side onto the forum portico. On the other side it opened
onto the great propylaea, which presented a facade of
four columns supporting a frieze that contained a dedicatory inscription to Trajan. Beside the grandiose peristyle is a small Corinthian-style theater or perhaps an
odeion. It had a perfectly semicircular orchestra (9.3 m
in diam.). The cavea (21.8 m in diam.), was raised on
brick vaults. The theater was inscribed in a rectangle
which comprised a series of rooms, rectangular and
square (tabernae ?), which opened on the decumanus
behind the cavea. Many statue bases have been found,
as well as altars, honorary inscriptions (one in honor
of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus mentions games
given by a high priest and by his daughter), facades with
shields and lances, and friezes. An aqueduct, canals, cisterns, and paved roads have been brought to light.
In the architecture of Nicopolis, Hellenistic elements
from Asia Minor predominate. Many architectural pieces
are fragmentary. Among the sculptures, a statue of Eros
is most noteworthy. It is a Roman copy of the 2d c. A.D.
of the Eros of Praxiteles at Paros. There are many religious reliefs (the relief of the gods which is a unique
provincial work), a beautiful bronze head of Gordian
III (now in the National Museum of Sophia), and many
G. Seure, “Nicopolis ad Istrum,” RA
(1907) 257, (1908) 33; B. Filov, “Erosstatue aus Nicopolis ad Istrum,” JdI
24 (1909) 60I
; S. Bobcev in Iz. BuIg.
. 5 (1928-29) 56MPI
(architecture); G. Kazarov in RE
XVII (1936) 518-34; D. Zoncev, “Monuments
de la sculpture romaine en Bulgarie meridonale,” Latomus