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Title: Odrysian  
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Subject: Augustus, Thrace, Battle of Pydna, Thracians, Wreath, Dobruja, History of the Balkans, Teres I, Sitalces, Seuthes I
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Odrysian Kingdom

460 BC–46 AD
Odrysian kingdom under Sitalces
Capital Seuthopolis
Languages Thracian language
Religion Polytheism
Government Monarchy
Historical era Classical Antiquity
 -  Teres 460 BC
 -  Roman conquest 46 AD
Today part of  Bulgaria

The Odrysian Kingdom (/ˈdrɪʒən/; Ancient Greek: Βασίλειον Ὀδρυσῶν) was a union of Thracian tribes that endured between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC. It consisted largely of present-day Bulgaria, spreading to parts of Northern Dobruja, parts of Northern Greece and modern-day European Turkey. King Seuthes III later moved the capital to Seuthopolis.[1]

The Odrysians

The Odrysians (Odrysae or Odrusai, Ancient Greek: "Οδρύσαι") were one of the most powerful Thracian tribes that dwelled in the plain of the Hebrus river.[2] This would place the tribe in the modern border area between Southeastern Bulgaria, Northeastern Greece and European Turkey, centered around the city of Edirne.[3][4] The river Artescus[5] passed through their land as well. Xenophon[6] writes that the Odrysians held horse races and drank large amounts of wine after the burial of their dead warriors. Thucydides writes on their custom, practised by most Thracians, of giving gifts for getting things done.[7] Herodotus is the first that mentions the Odrysae.

The Odrysian Kingdom

Thrace had nominally been part of the Persian empire since 516 BC[8] and was re-subjugated by Mardonius[9] in 492 BC. The Odrysian state was the first Thracian kingdom that acquired power in the region, by the unification[10] of many Thracian tribes under a single ruler, King Teres[11] in the 5th century BC.

Extent and control

Initially, during the reign of Teres or[12] Sitalces the state was at its zenith and extended from the Black Sea to the east, Danube to the north, the region populated with the tribe called Triballi to the north-west, and the basin of the river Strymon to the south-west and towards the Aegean. Later its extent changed from present day Bulgaria, Turkish Thrace and Greece between the Hebrus and the Strymon except for the coastal strip the Greek cities occupied.[13] Sovereignty was never exercised over all of its lands as it varied in relation to tribal politics.

Historian Z.H. Archibald writes:

The Odrysians created the first state entity which superseded the tribal system in the east Balkan peninsula. Their kings were usually known to the outside world as kings of Thrace, although their power did not extend by any means to all Thracian tribes. Even within the confines of their kingdom the nature of royal power remained fluid, its definition subject to the dictates of geography, social relationships, and circumstance

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This large territory was populated with a number of Thracian and Daco-Moesian tribes that united under the reign of a common ruler, and began to implement common internal and external policies. Those were favorable conditions for overcoming the tribal divisions which could lead gradually to the formation of a more stable ethnic community. This was not realised and the period of power of the Odrysian kingdom was brief. Despite the attempts of the Odrysian kings to bolster the central power, the separatist tendencies were very strong. Odrysian military strength was based on intra-tribal elites[14] making the kingdom prone to fragmentation. Some tribes were rioting constantly and tried to separate while others remained outside the borders of the kingdom. At the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th century BC, as a result of conflicts the Odrysian kingdom split in three parts.[15] The political and military decline continued, while Macedonia was rising as a dangerous and ambitious neighbour.[16]


According to the Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides, a royal dynasty emerged from among the Odrysian tribe in Thrace around the end of the 5th century BC, which came to dominate much of the area and peoples between the Danube and the Aegean for the next century. Later writers, royal coin issues, and inscriptions indicate the survival of this dynasty into the early 1st century AD, although its overt political influence declined progressively first under Persian, Macedonian, later Roman, encroachment. Despite their demise, the period of Odrysian rule was of decisive importance for the future character of south-eastern Europe, under the Roman Empire and beyond.

Teres' son, Sitalces, proved to be a good military leader, forcing the tribes that defected the alliance to acknowledge his sovereignty. The rich state that spread from the Danube to the Aegean built roads to develop trade and built a powerful army. In 429 BC, Sitalces allied himself with the Athenians[17] and organized a massive campaign against the Macedonians, with a vast army from independent Thracian and Paeonian tribes. According to Thucydides it included as many as 150,000 men, but was obliged to retire through failure of provisions, and the coming winter.[18]

In the 4th century BC, the kingdom split itself in three smaller kingdoms, of which one, with the capital at Seuthopolis survived the longest. During the Hellenistic era it was subject at various times to Alexander the Great, Lysimachus, Ptolemy II, and Philip V, and was at one time overrun by the Celts, but usually maintained its own kings. During the Roman era its Sapaean rulers were clients of Rome until Thrace was annexed as a Roman province in 46 AD.


Under the Odrysians, Greek became the language of administrators[19] and of the nobility, and the Greek alphabet was adopted. Greek customs and fashions contributed to the recasting of east Balkan society. The nobility adopted Greek fashions in dress, ornament and military equipment, spreading it to the other tribes.[20] Thracian kings were among the first to be Hellenized.[21]


Residences and temples of the Odrysian kingdom have been found, particularly around Starosel in the Sredna Gora mountains.[22] Archaeologists have uncovered the northeastern wall of the Thracian kings' residence, 13m in length and preserved up to 2m in height.[23] They also found the names of Cleobulus and Anaxandros, Philip II of Macedon's generals who led the assault on the Odrysian kingdom.[23]

List of Odrysian kings

The list below includes the known Odrysian or Astaean kings of Thrace, but much of it is conjectural. Various other Thracian kings (some of them perhaps Odrysian like Pleuratus) are included as well.[24] Odrysian kings though called Kings of Thrace never exercised sovereignty over all of Thrace.[25] Control varied according to tribal relationships.[26]

Astaean line

Sapaean line

See also


External links

  • Map of the Odrysian kingdom in 5th century BC - (borders in red).
  • Odrysian Kingdom
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