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The project is realized with the financial assistance of "Culture" National Fund.

The City
Photo: Chavdar Stoichev

The Thracian royal city of Cabyle is located on a plateau, crowned with a stone acropolis, which is a sanctuary-observatory (see below). According to some observations, the following things have been discovered there: a rock-cut "Cybela relief", the foundations of a public building, and two rectangular chambers having most likely a cult-related character (Velkov, 1982a; Najdenova 1982).

The name of the habitat originates from Cybela (according to Velkov 1982: 14). A later toponym of the habitat is Dampolis/Diampolis as a corruption of Diospolis (Velkov 1977: 130-131). Fol, 1994: 219-224 states the hypothesis that Diospolis, i. e., "Zeus's city", is a translation-description of the honoring of a supreme male god, most likely Sabasius. Partially, the reason for this hypothesis is the possible etymology Kab-/Sab- in the root of Cabyle's name.

The second part of the toponym 'yle gives the opportunity for using "sacred forest", i. e., Cabyle's name to depict "Sabo's (belonging to Sabasius) holy forest". This interpretation is supported by the rock-cut monument on the top which functioned during the 2-1 mil. BC.

Photo: Chavdar Stoichev

The place of residence originated around the sanctuary at the end of the 2 mil. BC. The plateau is located at the rover Tundzha"s turn south towards Edirne (today's Turkey), and dominates over the plain. The ceramics discovered from 10-6 c. BC proves that the place of residence existed during the early Iron Age as well.

Cabyle was a key place on the way from Aenos (today's Enes), next to Maritza river's mouth (ancient Hebros), to Hemus (Stara Planina) and the lower course of the Danube river. Cabyle was also important if one was traveling diagonally from Byzantium through Serdika (Sofia) - Naissos (Nish) towards the middle course of the Danube river (Fol 1982).

This location predetermined the destiny of the place of residence for centuries to come. The archaeological material shows that during 5-4 c. BC the city maintained important trade relationships with the Hellenic cities at the Aegean and Black sea coasts.

Photo: Chavdar Stoichev

The city was conquered by Phillip II during 342-341 BC. A military unit was deployed there. During Hellenism the city was built according to the architectural principles of the era with a well-formed agora. According to an inscription discovered in the city of Seuthopolis (IGBulg III 2, 1731), the capital of the Odrysian ruler Seuthes III, Cabyle had a temple of Artemis Phosphoros and an Apollo's sanctuary (Najdenova 1982).

At the end of the 4th, and the bginning of the 3rd c. BC, Cabyle was the capital of the Odrysian paradynast Spartok, mentioned in the Seuthopolis inscription. He was famous from his own coins, cut during the first quarter of the 3rd c. BC. During the Celtic invasion, the royal power in Cabyle was replaced with a city rule. During the 3rd-2nd c. BC the city was a large economic and trade center which maintained relations with Asia Minor and the coastal cities.

The city was conquered and destroyed by Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus in 72 BC. He was a consul in Thrace in 73 BC and pro-consul in 72-71 BC. in Macedonia. He undertook a two-year long campaign in Thrace as a punitive action for the Thracians" participation as allies of Mithridates VI Eupator against Rome.

Photo: Chavdar Stoichev

During the 1st c. BC - 1st c. AD two Roman cohorts were located in the city. It gradually declines, but during the 2nd-3rd c. became the most important Roman military camp in the Thracian province. This is also the time when Cabyle flourished as a crossroad center.

Christianity penetrated the city as early as the 4th c. A monumental basilica with a nave and two aisles with mosaic floors, reconstructed in the 5th c., as well as a smaller basilica with a baptistery located in the outlines of the military camp have been discovered. In 377 there was a battle around the city between the Visigoths and the Roman armies.

The barbarian invasion forces the population to relocate behind the walls of the military camp. Cabyle was destroyed by the Avars in 583. A small population continues to live in the 7-8 centuries, as well as during the Middle ages on the territory of the already insignificant place of residence. The toponym is preserved today as the name of the village located near the ancient city.

Author: Valeria Fol

The Sanctuary


Diagram 1: Alexey Stoev

The acropolis of the ancient city of Cabyle is located on the east rocky side of the "Zajchi vruh" elevation. The long archaeological research of the acropolis, spanning for many years, reveal that the main facilities of the acropolis are concentrated around the rock-cut monument in the principal rock.

The monument is most likely to be much older than the ancient habitat, which has been nowadays transformed into an open-air museum. Many authours have written about the role of the acropolis as a sacred place and about the connections between it and the city located at its pedestral. According to v. Velcok (1982) "… this is the oldest sanctuary – a rock with a stone-cut image of the Great mother of gods (Cybela), later Arthemis over of a lion. Another image was discovered as well. It is about 0,40 m. Tall and represents a kind of Arthemis Fosforos known from the Cabyle coins.

The rock has ingrained furrows and niches, probably related to a religious ritual". Later, at 1986, D. Saselov (1986) published his hypothesis regarding the probable astronomical usage of the top part of the rock sanctuary "Sajchi vruh".

A description of the rock-cut monument "Sajchi vruh"

Diagram 2: Alexey Stoev

The rock-cut monument is located on the east side of the elevation "Sajchi vruh" (Taushan tepe in Turkish). The two-headed rocky dominates the area, and is the only one which dominates over the Yambol field. The rocks are evened out and cultivated at their top. Mutually perpendicular trenches with a variable depth have been hewn out in them.

Thus the massif has adopted the specific cross-like shape (see Diagram 1). The trenches' orientation follows the direction of the four main directions, the exactitude according to the azimuth being ±30". The trench situated at the East – West axis is 12 m. long. The one situated at the North – South axis – 15 m. A view of the line of the local horizon is revealed from the central part of the cross. From northeast to southwest this view is particularly even.

For an observer standing at the rock-cut monument "Zajchi vruh" the far horizon is located 4 – 8 m. away. Its height above the line of the mathematical horizon is an average of 1°. Evened-out small surfaces are positioned at the walls of the trenches and of the horizontal sections. The most interesting surface is the one placed at the cross point of the trenches. According to specialists (V. Najdenova 1982), the bas-relief image of the goddess Cybela is located precisely here. In the west side of the sanctuary, next to the trench East – West, are the foundations of an edifice made from large levers stones which form a square.

South, in the distance, following the North – South trench, one can see two mounds, one behind the other. When executing archaeological drillings, specialists discovered large quantities of wood ashes.

The geographical coordinates of the rock-cut monument – geographic width, geographic length and sea-level– are specified with a 1" (one arch second) margin of error, as follows: φ = 42° 25' 36", λ = 25° 37' 53", and h = 256,7 m.

Morphology and tectonics of the adjacent geographic region

Diagram 3: Alexey Stoev

Structurally the rock-cut monument "Zajchi vruh"'s adjacent territory is situated entirely in the borders of the Transitional (Kraishte-Srednogorska area) blockers fault structure, more specifically in the Eastern Sredna gora structural zone (Georgraphy of Bulgaria 1997).

This zone's conception is registered during the Upper Creta period. This is when a rift, linear collapse and formation is registered around the northern periphery of the Macedonian-Rhodopi massif. This is a collapse of ditches (formed during the Upper Creta period, situated from west to east. They are subjected to an intensive sedimentation, accompanied by magma activity, including a volcanic one.

The andesite rocks formed this way. They are overflow its banks and sub-volcanic entities, formed by magma overflowing which did form the form of the "Zajchi vruh" elevation. There, they are surrounded by alluvium formations – flood plain and overflow terraces. The region's Morpho-tectonic image to a large extend has the character of hereditary development of the morphological structural entities which formed during previous eras.

Archaeo-astronomical data and interpretation

Diagram 4: Alexey Stoev

The geometry of the rock-cut monument's spatial organization indicates an exact concurrence of the straight line connecting the sunrise in the points of the spring and autumn equinoxes with the trench of the East – West axis. The projection of the main meridian in the place of observation coincides with the North – south trench.

The Great goddess-Mother's relief image has a north-eastern exposition. The rock, located diagonally following Cybela's image, has been artificially evened out (Diagram 2) The straight line which connects the relief-image with the line of the horizon has a 0° slope.

Consequently, the first solar rays can illuminate Cybela's image each morning in the period between the spring and the autumn equinoxes (i. e., during the semi-year of vegetation). In the "autumn-winter" period, the relief is covered from the south side of the east trench during sunrise, and is practically not illuminated.

Diagram 5: Alexey Stoev

The timing of the sunrises in the equinox days are determined most exactly when the observer is at the end of the east-west trench. Then the corner size of the trench's section is the smallest – app. 1°. Since the sun's corner size is approximately 30", we can say that the ancient observer could determine ±1 day the equinoxes' arrival with the help of the east-west trench.

The rock blocks situated at the trench's length (north-eastern and south-eastern) form a kind of muzzle sight which allows a highly exact envisioning of the sunrises during equinoxes. However, the atmospheric conditions are not always ideal for similar observations. Frequently the Sun rises behind clouds located almost at the line of the horizon. This makes the solar disk too bright of an object for studies, as it reaches 70% of its daily brightness very fast after the sunrise.

Photo: Chavdar Stoichev

For this reason the observers needed to screen out of the bright solar disk. They achieved this by using a stone hewn in the form of a cut pyramid (Diagram 3), put additionally at the line for watching of the Sun. The stone plays the role of a screen and secures a bearable intensity of the solar light to the viewer.

In this sense the presence of the stone edifice can be explained as a location which likely served to protect the watcher from the effects of the environment.

The research of the north-east trench shows that an observer standing in its maximal depth can see the line of the main meridian in the place for observation. Consequently, he or she can establish in a practical way the culmination moments of the bright luminaries in the sky – Sun, Moon, planets, bright stars.

Photo: Chavdar Stoichev

The two mounds positioned at the line coinciding with the line of the main meridian shows that they have a direct relationship with the viewing procedures done in the Antiquity. At night-time one had to light a fire to facilitate their identification. This explains also the heap of large quantities of wooden ashes at the mounds' tops.

Evaluations regarding the chronological borders of the object's existence have been done using methods of archaeo-astronomy. Taking the rock-cut monument's functional elements in consideration, one can say that in the period 2000-1500 BC the sunrises during equinoxes have been observed.

The small corrections of the observer's positioning, as well as the additional facilities (separate stones, additional slits, stone columns situated at the vision ray) indicate that most probably the monument was used almost until 3 – 1 c. BC.

Photo: Chavdar Stoichev

Using this relatively precise instrument, the ancient viewers could measure time in units larger than the day – a year, semi-year, trimester (season's duration).

At the same time, observing the daily solar culmination and some of the brighter stars, they could measure time in units smaller than the day. The solar culminations and the starts separate the day and the night in two equal parts.

In this way the day is separated in four parts, the duration of which is not even throughout the year. The bright and the dark side of the day are only even in the days of the equinox, when their respective halves even out as well (in order: from sunrise to midday, from midday to sunset, from sunset to midnight, and from midnight to sunrise).

Author: Alexey Stoev


1. Velkov, V. 1982 Cabyle. Topography, research, sources. In: Cabyle, vol. I. Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia: 7-17. /in Bulg./

2. Velkov, V. 1982a. Ten years of archaeological excavations in Cabyle. In: First national symposium "Residential life in Thrace". Yambol: 7. /in Bulg./

3. Najdenova, V. 1982. Cults and gods in Cabyle. In: First national symposium "Residential life in Thrace". Yambol: 126-140. /in Bulg./

4. Fol, Al. 1982. The road Enos " Cabyle " Hem and the territories eastwards until the end of the 6th c. BC. In: Fol, Al. (Editor). 1982. Megaliths in Thrace. Part 2. 1982. Thracian monuments, vol. III. Thracia Pontica. Art and Science. Sofia: 15-31. /in Bulg./

5. Fol Al. 1994. The Thracian Dionysos. Book two: Sabazios. "St. Kl. Ohridski" University Press. Sofia. /in Bulg./

6. MIHAILOV G. 1956"1970. Inscriptiones Graecae in Bulgaria repertae. Vol. I"IV. Vol. I2 (1971). Academia Bulgara Scientiarum. Serdicae. Vol. V (1997). In Aedibus Typographicis Rivae. Serdicae.

7. VELKOV, V. 1977. Cities in Thrace and Dacia in Late Antiquity. Studies and Materials. Hakkert Publisher. Amsterdam.

8. SASELOV D., 1986, Reflection on the astronomical knowledge in the Thracian rock-cut monument “Zajchi vruh”. Published in magazine Living in Thracian habitats II, Yambol.

9. STOEV A., VARBANOVA YU., 1996, Positional Systems for solar and lunar observations in the archaic cultures in Bulgaria, In Astronomical Traditions in Past Cultures., Proceedings of the First Annual General Meeting of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture (SEAC), Smolyan, Bulgaria, 31 August - 2 September 1993, Sofia, pp 93-100.

10. RADOSLAVOVA T., STOEV A., 1991, Astronomical traces in ancient rock monuments in Bulgarian lands., In Colloquia Internationale Archaeologia a Astronomia, eds. G. Romano and G. Traversari, Rome, pp 176-179

11. Stoev A., Varbanova Yu., 1994, Arhaeoastronomic investigation of the Thracian rock sanctuary “Zaichi vrah”., Proceedings of the IIIrd International symposium “Cabyle”, 1993, Jambol, pp. 426 – 434

12. Geography of Bulgaria /Physical geography/, 1997, “Prof. Marin Drinov” Academic Publishing House, Sofia, pp. 54 - 66

List of figures

Diagram 1. Scheme of the “Zaichi Vruh” Sanctuary in Kabile. On the west there are the cult edifice remnats. Two directions – east/west and north/south – are clearly outlined by couloirs carved in the rock. The second one is shown on the scheme – it is directed to two burial mounds raised in the field below the hill.

Diagram 2. Orientation of the spatial cross situated at the highest point of the “Zaichi Vruh” Sanctuary in relation to the local horizon.

Diagram 3. Sunrise on the day of the summer solstice and illuminating of the image of the goddess Kibela by the first solar beams.