Rousse Regional Museum of History
"All that I experienced afterwards had already been in Roustchouk". Elias Canetti
ROMAN FORT OF SEXAGINTA PRISTA

Contacts: phone: +359 82 825 002

Working time: 9.00 - 12.00, 12.30 - 17.30 h
 Days off: Sunday and Monday

Sexsaginta Prista is located in the contemporary Northwestern part of the town of Rousse, on an upland next to the riverbank of the Danube. The castle is localized at the end of the 19th century by Felix Kanitz on the ground of the distances between the fortresses, marked in the Roman route maps.

The first evidences for the castle and its remains we received in the beginning of the 20th century by the Skorpil brothers. During construction and excavation works in the yard of the Military club remains of the castle were registered, but archaeological research was conducted in the period 1976-1978 and 2005-2006. As a result, about 50 m of the northwest fortification wall were found, as well as a tower, six buildings, a temple of Apollo and the Principia – the headquarters of the military unit in Sexsaginta Prista. A conservation of the structures, found in 1976-1978, took place and in 2002 the “Sexsaginta Prista” open air exhibition was opened. During the past years the site was socialized and now it is among the attended museum exhibitions. 

Traditionally, the name of the castle is translated as “The port of the 60 ships”. After the analysis of all available data, it has been determined that the castle received its name in connection to events from the end of the 1st century AD, namely – the Dacian wars of emperor Domitian (85-89 AD). At this time, across the Danube river at the mouth of the Rousse Lom river, a Roman legion was transferred, consisting of approximately 6000 men. Exactly 60 ships of the pristis type were necessary for this action. In honour of the victory over the Dacians, the castle received its new name. Probably until then the fortification bore the Thracian name of the Rousse Lom river. The earliest known epigraphic and written sources about Sexsaginta Prista are from the beginning of the 2nd century.

Until recently it was presumed that an unfortified Thracian settlement had existed on the site of the castle from the period between the 3rd century BC to the arrival of the Romans. The latest research undisputedly prove that the hill has been a place where the Thracians conducted rituals and cult practices that are unknown to us. The remains from these activities are hundreds of pits, around 50 of which have been excavated so far. The Thracian pit complex is being dated within the 1st century BC - 1st century AD period. The site is an important ritual center, and the settlement, located nearby (at around 500 m) had important trading and political functions. This period is among those that have been lightly researched in Bulgaria in terms of archaeology. A great number of ceramic vessels have been discovered inside the pits. bronze objects, coins, bones and other finds. Part of the vessels have been put inside intact. A unique one is a zoomorphous vessel with a rich incised and glossy decoration that ends with the head of an eagle.

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Distinguishable among the rest of the materials are several (fibulae, etc.) which are ususally met in Western Europe. The 2005-2006 research proved that the first Roman military camp here (from the end of the 1st century to the end of the 3rd century) has not been located on the researched site. Its place is so far unknown, but it is supposed that it has been located at the mouth of the Rousse Lom river, deeper that the Late Roman fortification. The remains on the hill from the 2nd-3rd century period are mainly from civic constructions, probably a settlement around the camp, separated as a ritual center as well. The remains of several buildings have been excavated. One of them is a temple of Apollo with discovered intact and fragmented votive plates of the Thracian Horseman and Apollo, pottery, coins and other finds. The altar of Apollo was also discovered on its site with an inscription. The plan of the revealed temple is interesting. It is directed towards Northeast-Southwest and resembles a Christian temple. The closest parallels of similar pagan temples are at the village of Ruchei, Krumovgrad Minicpality; Benwel, the United Kingdom, and Porolisum in Dacia (Romania). The revealed temple is an evidence for the borrowed by the Early Christians construction plans from the pagan temples.

The votive plates of the Thracian Horseman and Apollo were discovered at the exedra of the temple, placed inside pits. The building ceased its functions at the end of the 3rd century and one of the most important buildings in the Roman military camp was built over it – the Principia. At that time (the end of the 3rd – the beginning of the 4th century) the Late Antiquity castle was constructed, to which belong the buildings, the northwest fortification wall and the tower, revealed in 1976-1978. In the beginning of the 4th century, under the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great, was erected the Principia of the Sexsaginta Prista castle. This is a large building, which has been violated by later constructions. Its chronology, however, has been determined – from the beginning to the 80’s of the 4th century. The building suspended its functions as Principia during the disorders, caused by the Goths at the end of the 4th century. After that it has been reused until the first decades of the 5th century. The finds from the period are few – mainly coins and pottery fragments. Out of the 204 coins, found in 2005-2006 around 100 are from the 4th century. The next chronological levels have been destroyed by a later embankment and from a leveling during the 19th-20th century. We learn about them by digs into earlier chronological levels. A habitation during the Late Antiquity (5th-6th century) and the First Bulgarian state (10th-11th century) has been evidenced by coins and fragments of pottery. The statement for the existence of fortress during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom here has been revised. The discovery of a Christina grave and bones from other individuals allows the hypothetical presumption that during the 12th-15th century period one of the necropoles of Rousse has been located here. The next clues of habitation are from the end of the 19th century – the remains of several houses, nine septic tanks and a tunnel date from that time. It is possible that it leads down to the arsenal of the Ottoman fortification of Kirk Cami. The last level refers to the remains of contemporaneity (the 20th century).