The Shrine of Asclepius near the town of Slivnitsa

The Shrine of Asclepius near the town of Slivnitsa

Ivan Valchev


Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski"                                                                DOI                                                 
Archaeology Department 20 June 2020  
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Abstract: The shrine of Asclepius near Slivnitsa is located on a hill above the Aldomirov marsh. The complex consists of a small temple with an altar in front of it and a rock wreath with carved niches. The shrine emerged around the middle or the second half of the 2nd c. AD. The latest coins date from the time of Theodosius II, but it is not certain that the worship site was still in function in the first half of the 5th c. AD.   

Key words: Shrine, Asclepius, Pagan Religion

The shrine of Asclepius is located about 7 km northwest of Slivnitsa, in a hot pring vortex at the height of Meka Tsrav near the Aldomirov marsh.[1] There are no local settlements in the immediate vicinity of the worship site and similarly to the shrine of Asclepius in Batkun is independent of any settlement network.

The excavations revealed the foundations of a rectangular temple with external dimensions of 7.10 x 6.60 m. The entrace is located on the northwest side, facing a rock crown, in which niches are formed for placing votive tablets. The building is made of carved stones and bricks welded with mortar. Isolated fragments of the decorations of the temple have been preserved – a base, a column, a capital, but they do not provide us with enough information about the layout of the façade. Probably a monumental altar was built in front of the entrance, as evidenced by the large stone blocks with sockets for fastening with metal brackets.[2]

Slivnitsa Obr 1


Fig. 1. The Schrine near the town of Slivnits, plan (Ботева 1985)

All the dedications found in the shrine were made to Asclepius, who bears the Thracian epithet Λιμηνος (IGBulg V, 5700–5701, 5703–5705, 5708–5715). Apart from this the god-healer is defined also as θεός, god (IGBulg V, 5700, 5703, 5704, 5719), θεὸς ἐπήκοος, god listening to the prayers (IGBulg V, 5700) and κύριος, lord (IGBulg V, 5701, 5702, 5722–5726, 5729). The same is observed in Slivnitsa as in other extra-urban shrines of Asclepius, the same is observed in  Slivnitsa, the fact that the Greek epithet σωτήρ, savior, is used only once (IGBulg V, 5708).[3]

The votive monuments of the shrine are very fragmented. However, it is clear that the ones that prevail bear the image of the Thracian horseman whose images are more, compared to those of other health deities. There have not been observed any specific distinctions in the iconographic designs.

The preserved names of the devotees are very diverse, there are many Thracian names as well as Greek and Roman ones.The information about the social background of the followers of Asclepius Limenos is limited. There are indications of a counsillor (βουλευτής)  (IGBulg V, 5700), a philarch (IGBulg V, 5701) a toparch (IGBulg. V, 5706). Along with them, we have information on people who pursued military career:  one or two soldiers (IGBulg V, 5704, 5745?), two or three beneficiarii (IGBulg V, 5717, 5729?, 5740) and one provost (prepositus) (IGBulg V, 5703). Some of the devotees names may refer to people with military careers, probably veterans, but it is also possible that they are descendants of veterans.

The remains of the shrine have been impaired greatly because of modern interventions. Due to this, the stratigraphy is very damaged and precise observations during the excavations were impossible to be made. In the first publication, the construction of the temple dates back to the 2nd c. AD, the time of Antoninus Pius, where the earliest coins are dated[4], but it is also possible to date the construction of the site later than that[5]. At the beginning of the 4th c. AD the shrine was repaired or rebuilt – the last documented construction period is dated according to a coin of Maximian.[6]

During the excavations 599 copper and silver coins were found, 59.5% of which (about 357 pieces) belong to the 4th c. AD.[7] This considerable quantity of coins indisputably testifies that the shrine continued to function throughout the 4th C. AD. It should also be noted that the number of coins from the period 364–376 is the largest one. Considerable is also the number of findings from the time of Theodosius I, Arcadius, Honorius and even Theodosius II (a total of 53 examples). Researchers believe that the shrine was forcibly destroyed during or shortly after 391, when all sacrifices were banned by an imperial edict[8], However it seems possible to me that the worship center continued to exist until the first decades of the 5th c. AD. The shrine itself is located near the diagonal road, but is aside to it and there is no direct visual connection, a fact, which may have helped to its longer preservation. Of course, the possibilty that the latest coins were left on the ruins by secret adherents of old religion cannot  be exluded.


[1] Ботева 1985, 23; Тачева 1999, 152.

[2] Ботева 1985, 25–26.

[3] Тачева 1999, 153–154.

[4] Ботева 1985, 28.

[5] Boteva 2011, 93, note 48.

[6] Гетов & Рабаджиев 1985, 143.   

[7] Колев 1985, 93, 169.

[8] Ботева 1985, 29.


IGBulg V = Mihailov, G. (1997) Inscriptiones Graecae in Bulgaria repertae. Vol. V. Inscriptiones novae, addenda et corrigenda (Serdicae).

Secondary Sources

Ботева, Д. (1985) „Тракийското светилище на Асклепий Лименос край Сливница,“ Историко-археологически и етнографски изследвания в Софийски окръг. І. Студентски проучвания VII-1 (София), 23–36/ (Boteva, D. (1985) Trakiyskoto svetilishte na Asklepiy Limenos kray Slivnitsa,” Istoriko-arheologicheski i etnografski izsledvania v Sofiyski okrag. I. Studentski prouchvania VII-1 (Sofia), 23–36).

Гетов, Л & Рабаджиев, К. (1985) „Археологическо проучване на тракийското светилище в м. „Гърлин въртоп” край Сливница,“ Археологически открития и разкопки през 1984 г. (Сливен), 143/ (Getov, L. & Rabadzhiev, K. (1985) “Arheologichesko prouchvane na trakiyskoto svetilishte v m. “Garlin Vartop” kray Slivnitsa,” Arheologicheski otkritiya i razkopki prez 1984 g. (Sliven), 143).

Колев, В. (1985) „Монетите от светилището,“ Историко-археологически и етнографски изследвания в Софийски окръг. І. Студентски проучвания VII-1 (София), 93–185/ (Kolev, V. (1985) “Monetite ot svetilishteto,“ Istoriko-arheologicheski i etnografski izsledvania v Sofiyski okrag. I. Studentski prouchvania VII-1 (Sofia), 93–185). 

Тачева, М. (1999) „Тракийското светилище на Асклепий Лименос край град Сливница (територията на Сердика) и неговият епиграфски архив,“ Thracia antiqua 10. In memoriam prof. Georgi Mihailov (Sofia), 152–169/ (Tacheva, M. (1999) “Trakiyskoto svetilishte na Asklepiy Limenos kray grad Slivnitsa (teritoriata na Serdika) i negoviat epigrafski arhiv,” Thracia antiqua 10. In memoriam prof. Georgi Mihailov (Sofia), 152–169). 

Boteva, D. (2011) “The “Thracian Horseman” Reconsidered,” I. P. Haynes (ed.) Early Roman Thrace. New Evidence from Bulgaria [Journal of Roman Archeology. Supplementary Serries 82] (Portsmouth), 84–105. 


This page is part of the project LABedia: Еncyclopedia of Late Antique Balkans, 4th-5th c.,
financed by the National Science Fund, contract КП-06-Н30/6, 13.12.2018