No City is an Island: The Impact of the Cities of Late Antique Thracia on Provincial Ecclesiastical Construction

  • Fraser Reed School of History, Classics and Archaeology William Robertson Wing Old Medical School Teviot Place University of Edinburgh UK-EH8 9AG Edinburgh
Keywords: Late Antiquity, urbanism, ecclesiastical building, Thrace, landscape


Although the study of Late Antiquity has experienced a great deal of growth in recent years, there is still relatively little attention given to the economically and strategically important provinces of central and southern Thrace. Most studies of urbanism in the eastern Balkans have focused on the Danubian frontier area, particularly due to the influence of the excavations at Nicopolis ad Istrum. These studies, however, are inherently shaped by the heavily-militarized nature of the limes and its direct opposition to external threats to the empire; such factors cannot be assumed for cities located in the non-riparian provinces of Thrace south of the Stara Planina. This paper, therefore, analyzes the position of three inland Thracian cities – Philippopolis, Beroe, and Diocletianopolis – in the landscape and their effect on the ecclesiastical construction throughout the province of Late Antique Thracia. Specifically, it considers the archaeological data collected in the Tabula Imperii Romani K-35/2 to determine the location and distribution of known religious architecture from Late Antiquity. The analysis also draws comparisons with similar data from the neighbouring province of Moesia Secunda in order to contextualize properly the results from Thracia. The results of this investigation reveal the comparative strength of ecclesiastical construction in the inland province and confirm the primacy of urban centres in the religious organization of Thracia, although it is clear their influence was not limited to the intramural area.