Bulgaria: Remarkable Roman Villa Discovered Near Dolna Kremena Village
Excavations of the Roman villa near the village of Dolna Kremena (Mezdra region) began in 1972, as a statue with two faces (the so-called Hermi– after the god Hermes) was discovered here. It is established that this is a classic-style villa with a rectangular plan and three wings, located around a large courtyard with a total area of 1340 sq.m.
This is the earliest type of Roman villas discovered in Bulgaria. The villa was studied in 1974-1981 by archaeologist from the Vratsa Museum, Spas Mashov. It was located on arable land and is therefore is badly destroyed. The stones have been plucked out for years, and the locals have been taking bricks and tiles from here.
The villa is located near a water source, on a south-facing hill. Nearby there are fertile farmlands and a large settlement center (the Roman city under modern Mezdra). Perhaps the villa was also located on a central Roman road, which passed by Mezdra and led to the big Roman city of Escus (at the mouth of the Iskar River, the present-day village of Gigen).
This is evidenced by two milestones (road signs), one found at Mezdra and the other at the village of Bodenets - only 3 km away from the villa.
The villa is a rectangular building with rooms located around a central courtyard. From the north and west, the premises were opened to the yard through covered corridors with colonnade (the so-called portico with peristyle).
During the excavation, parts of the remarkable architectural decoration of the colonnade were discovered. The columns were decorated with embossed ornaments. A whole basrelief featuring Aphrodite with a dolphin is preserved. Columns tops were decorated with with Corinthian-ordercapitols with Acanthus leaves. Partition plates were probably placed between the columns, as their framed fragments were also found. The most interesting elements are several Hermi discovered.
Their name originates from the Greek word Ερμίς and is associated with the god of roads and travelers, Hermes. The two faces of the deity are oriented in different directions and were initially placed at crossroads. Later, they began to be used as an architectural decoration. Either way, this is further proof that the villa was located on or near a central Roman road.
According to Spas Mashov, the peristyle led to the representative part of the villa located in the central wing. The fact that a small sculpture depicting Dionysus and Herakles was found in room No 10 gives grounds for such assumption. The sculpture is of remarkable artistic value.
The depicted scene is even more interesting - Heracles, visibly drunk, is supported by the god of wine and entertainment Dionysus. Such a plot is not known from any of the ancient monuments found in Bulgaria. It is evident that the sculpture adorned a feast hall and showed that even characters like Heracles may succumb to wine and feasting.
In the region of Northwestern Bulgaria, the villa at Dolna Kremena is the earliest. During the excavation, coins of Emperor Caracalla (211-218) were found. This is also the latest time of the building‘s life, i.e. it was demolished or abandoned in the first decade of the 3rd century.
The villa at Dolna Kremena is a remarkable architectural monument from the Roman period. Unfortunately, it has not been studied extensively and probably has many more interesting finds and discoveries to offer.
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