Shrine of Asclepius at Glava Panega spring near the villgae ov Zlatna Panega, Lovech District

Shrine of Asclepius at Glava Panega spring near the villgae ov Zlatna Panega, Lovech District
Ivan Valchev


Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski"                                                             DOI                                                 
Archaelogy Department 20 June 2020
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Abstract: The shrine of Asclepius near the spring Glava Panega is one of the largest shrines in Thrace. The worship center dates back to the middle of the 2nd c. AD, but probably is older than that. Religious syncretism led to the merging of Asclepius with the Thracian horseman and for this reason Asclepius bears a local Thracian epithet. The ethnic and social background of the devotees is very diverse. The latest coins come from the time of Constantius II and perhaps the shrine ceased to function around the middle of the 4th c. AD.

Key words: Shrine, Asclepius, Pagan Religion


 The shrine is located in a picturesque area near the spring river of Zlatna Panega in the region of Lovech. The spring forms a small lake and on its shore the worship site is located.[1]

The shrine-complex consists two small buildings of rectangular design. One of them, which is considered a temple by the researcher Vaclav Dobruski, has an east-west orientation and measures 5.70 x 7.70 m. The walls are built of quarry stones and mortar. In front of the entrance, which is oriented in the direction of the lake, a fragment of a column base was found, but there is no other information on the architectural decoration of the building. Another building, which is found directly to the south side, is considered a sanatorium.[2]

The revered Asclepius of the shrine bears the local thracian epithets Σαλδηνος (IGBulg II, 510, 511, 523, 539, 544, 566), Σαλδοκεληνος (IGBulg II, 531, 540, 543, 554), Σαλδοβυσηνος (IGBulg II, 512, 514, 516, 517, 521, 525, 526, 529, 530, 532, 536, 537, 551, 573, 577) or Saldecaputenus (ILBulg 203, 206, 207). Among the Greek liturgical epithets the most often used are κύριος – 23 times (IGBulg II, 514, 517, 519, 521, 523, 529, 531–535, 538, 540–544, 547–548, 550, 552 – 553, 579). Only one time this epithet is combined with that of ἐπήκοος (IGBulg II, 517) and another time with θεὸς (IGBulg II, 553). The epithet θεός is used independently only one time (IGBulg II, 526) and one more time with that of ἐπήκοος (IGBulg II, 530). On two votive tables depicting images of the Thracian horseman the deity is defined as Ἥρως (IGBulg II, 554–555).

The images of the health deities of Asclepius, Hygia and Telesphorus are characterized by their conventional iconography, from which almost no deviations are observed[3]. Asclepius is depicted alone,[4] with Telesphorus,[5] with Hygia[6] or with Hygia and Telesphorus.[7] Most of the discovered monuments depict the Thracian horseman (77 monuments out of 126 are published by V. Dobruski). The variety of iconographic designs is vast and consists many of the known types. Along with the health deities, Silvanus, Diana and Aphrodite were also worshiped in the site.

The ethnic origin of the devotees, as in other extra-urban shrines in Thrace, is very diverse. Persons with Thracian names are recorded (IGBulg II, 511, 523, 536, 538–539, 542, 555, 560). Some of the Roman citizens who visited the shrine are also of Thracian origin (IGBulg II, 532–534, 561). The persons having a Roman name (nomen) and a second name (cognomen) are also well represented(IGBulg II, 518, 520, 531, 553, 558; ILBulg 199–200, 204, 208), while those with a personal and a patronymic are  only three (IGBulg II, 513, 516–517). Moreover the number of devotees with mixed Thracian, Greek and Roman names in various combinations is not small.

The inscriptions contain significant information about the social origin of some of the devotees. Representatives of the municipal aristocracy and administration, as well as military personnel are attested. Two of the followers are city councilors, one of them is from Pautalia (IGBulg II, 511, 528), while the other four are philarchs (IGBulg II, 512, 516, 517, 544). There are also ordinary soldiers among the military personnel such as (IGBulg II 518, 521, 541; ILBulg 199, 205–206),a decurion (ILBulg 204),a horseman (ILBulg 200), a tesserarius (ILBulg 208). Five beneficiarii (IGBulg II, 513?, 514, 515, 529, 553), and one veteran (ILBulg 207).

The exact time of the shrine’s foundation is not entirely clear. Among the coinss that are found, several come from the pre-Roman era. The earliest Roman coins date back to the time of Antoninus Pius. According to the researcher V. Dobruski, the Hellenistic coins were discovered in a layer from the 2nd-4th c. and they cannot be used to date the early phase of  the shrine’s existence.[8] According to Z. Gocheva, the landscape of the area justifies the expectation of an earlier worship site, which continues to be developed during the Roman era due to the syncretism, which was dominant in that period.[9]

The discovered coins of the 4th c. AD are not as numerous as in other big considerable of Asclepius in Thrace, such as those of Batkun, Slivnitsa and Pernik. The emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Licinius II, Constantine I, are depicted in coins commemorating the city of Constantinople (2 coins) , Constans (2 coins) and Constantius II (5 coins).On the basis of the numismatic material, we can place the time of decay of the shrine in the middle of the 4th c. and particularly in the time of Constantius II. In support of such a hypothesis it can be used the fact that a significant number of votive tablets are preserved fully, while entire monuments are found separated in the shrines, where the coins reach the very end of the 4th C. and the beginning of the 5th c. AD.   


[1] Добруски 1907, 3–4.

[2] Добруски 1907, 5–10.

[3] Колева 2018, 409–412.

[4] Добруски 1907, №№ 1–3, 6.

[5] Добруски 1907, № 4.

[6] Добруски 1907, №№ 16, 26.

[7] Добруски 1907, №№ 7–17, 20, 24.

[8] Добруски 1907, 32.

[9] Гочева 2002, 112.



IGBulg II = Mihailov, G. (1958) Inscriptiones graecae in Bulgaria repertae II. Inscriptiones inter Danubium et Haemum repertae (Serdicae).

ILBulg = Gerov, B. (1989) Inscriptiones latinae in Bulgaria repertae. Inscriptiones inter Oescum et Iatrum repertae (Serdicae).

Secondory Sources

Гочева, З. (2002) „Светилището при Глава Панега и проблемът за романизацията на Долна Мизия,“ Jubilaeus V. Сборник в чест на проф. Маргарита Тачева (София), 111–118 /(Gocheva, Z. (2002) “Svetilishteto pri Glava Panega i problemat za romanizatsiata na Dolna Mizia,” Jubilaeus V. Sbornik v chest na prof. Margarita Tacheva (Sofia), 111–118).

Добруски, В. (1907) „Тракийско светилище на Асклепия до Глава Панега,“ Археологически известия на Народния музей I, 3–86/ (Dobruski, V. (1907) “Trakiysko svetilishte na Asklepia do Glava Panega,” Arheologicheski izvestia na Narodnia muzei I, 3–86).

Колева, М. (2018) „Към въпроса за рецепцията на копирането на скулптурата,“ Stephanos archaeologicos ad 80 annum professoris Ludmili Getov [Studia Archaeologica Universitatis Serdicensis, Suppl. VI] (София), 407–414 /(Koleva, M. (2018) “Kam vaprosa za retseptsiata na kopiraneto na skulpturata,” Stephanos archaeologicos ad 80 annum professoris Ludmili Getov [Studia Archaeologica Universitatis Serdicensis, Suppl. VI] (Sofia), 407–414).





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financed by the National Science Fund, contract КП-06-Н30/6, 13.12.2018