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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 small bronzes.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

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. Arch. Inst. 5 (1928-29) 56MPI (architecture); G. Kazarov in RE XVII (1936) 518-34; D. Zoncev, “Monuments de la sculpture romaine en Bulgarie meridonale,” Latomus 39 (1959)I.

A. FROVA

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