History

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Ceramic lamps from Philipoppolis from the 3-4th centuries, Plovdiv Archaeological MuseumCeramic lamps from Philipoppolis from the 3-4th centuries, Plovdiv Archaeological Museum

Diocletian's rule is a the turning point in the history of the empire and of Philippopolis. He imposed general land and per capita taxes, and a new administrative division. Philippopolis became the capital of the new province of Thrace, but was subordinated to the governor of the Thrace diocese, who was residing in Byzantium. City autonomy was restricted, with the emperor taking care for its defenses. In 303-305, state persecution against Christians peaked, and Philippopolis saw 37 of its citizens martyred for their faith.

Diocletian stepped down in 305, an action that sparkled an internal war between the six pretenders to the throne. Constantine I (306-337) prevailed and brought about new changes. In 330, Byzantium became the capital under the name of Constantinople, and for the first time in his history Philippopolis saw itself close to the heart of a great empire. More was to come. As cities were becoming increasingly poor, Constantine obliged the city counsellors and the artisans to pass their positions and professions to their children. Society was further segregated with the shaping of the upper class, the honestiores, who held governance, administration and the big businesses. The lower class was called humiliores. In the Eastern Roman Empire, this division was to survive well into the 7th Century. The League of the Thracian cities continued, although it now morphed from a religious entity into an administrative one, and slowly became the mediator between city and emperor.

The foundations of feudal society were laid, and Antiquity entered its sunset days.

The relative peace which this part of the empire enjoyed in the 4th Century, ended in 376, when the Visigoths, the Alans, the Sarmatians and others stormed the Balkans. In 378, dangerously close to Philippopolis, Emperor Valens (364-378) was defeated and killed by the Goths in the Battle of Adrianople. Tumult returned. Under Emperor Theodosius I (379-395) Christianity became the state religion and the empire was forever divided into a western part, with the capital in Rome, and an eastern part headed by Constantinople. Philippopolis, understandably, went into the latter.

How insecure the people of Philippopolis felt then can be seen by a telling piece of evidence - a pot with 8 kilograms of copper coins, which was buried at the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th centuries.

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