THE TREASURE OF LETNITSA
The treasure of Letnitsa has been found accidentally in 1963. It was covered by a bronze cauldron and at a distance of 7 or 8 m to one side of it a horse's rein was found. Under the cauldron there were 19 traditional by size and about 30 lesser applications for horse's harness along with scores of beads. The applications belong to two separate suites of decorations for horse harness that has not reached our time in their entirety.
Eight applications present the Thracian God-Horseman, clad in plated chain-mail and various scenes (in motion to the left or to the right). Their discovery proved the recognition won by the iconography of the Thracian God-Horseman (or Hero-Victor) which, by the middle of the 4th century BC, had already formed its basic subject-matters. Ivan Venedikov points to the typological connections between the Thracian horse deity and the 'Hittite Gods of Storm' but to him the Letnitsa treasure "presents for the first time the Thracian interpretation of a theogonic legend" in which part of the scenes present the intercourse between Demeter and Core with the God-Dragon, out of which liaison Dionysos-Zagreos was born.
The scenes on the applications pertain to at least three subject cycles. It seems that one group of applications presents the earliest European scenes of original 'duel of knights' between Gods/ Heroes. Four applications reflect a Thracian plot which later, after having been deeply modified, would be laid in the foundation of the Bulgarian folklore fairy tales, too. The third group of applications was made by a more skilled craftsman and (with the exception of the rather bigger application 'Bear hunting') illustrates in a zoomorphic code. Among the applications of this set impresses the appearance of heraldically set griffons rising above eagles.
Attempts made by A. and K. Boshnakov are curious as they, in the spirit of "Thracian Orphism" ascribe to this treasure an Orphic-calendar nature for a period of "eight solar years" of the "Thracian calendar", the "mystery rite in the 8-year long way of immortalizing Thracians". In so far as we are not certain that all applications have reached us, this hypothesis remains within the range of artful analyses. The same holds true for the "fourteen ritual steps" and "the end of the five-year-period" when "entering of the young dynast into the circle of Thracian aristocrats-warriors" takes place. If such a hypothesis is yet acceptable to an extent when discussing some of the royal dinner sets because of the 'closed' character of their use, the appearance of 'covert' scenes on a ceremonial horse harness is absurd: then the craftsmen who made these applications should also have been "initiated in the mysteries" and this is unthinkable exactly in view of their explicitly postulated 'closed' 'aristocratic' nature prevailing in Thrace. Generally speaking, to 'reveal' in images the secret mysteries of 'immortalization' would have been to the ancient way of thinking a greater sacrilege than to have them relate or write down by sacral text formula. According to a version, Orpheos had been struck down by a lightning exactly because he dared to initiate Thracians in the mysteries, and even Herodotos (2.51) never gave a thought of mentioning anything specific related to Thracian mystery rites.
More of the scenes on the objects from Letnitsa treasure seem to really have the nature of a calendar and, very likely, is cyclical insofar as the Deities (both of the tillers of land and for the animal breeders) must be propitiated annually and following a fixed annual festal-ritual chronology in the course of permanent (saint) and 'movable' (astronomical) dates. At the same time the scenes from Letnitsa treasure have their good parallels not in Apulei character of Lucius from Book 11 of the "Golden Jackass", the Hittite beliefs, and the Nartian epos, but in Bulgarian folklore and traditional for Thrace seasonal rites.
The style analysis made by Iv. Venedikov shows that the applications were made during the reign of King Kotys I. Venedikov's observations and some other considerations allow placing the date of making the treasure in the second half of the 4th century BC: one of the suites in the time of Kotys I (around 383 - 360 BC) and the other (illustrating a zoomorphic code), in the time of his son King Kersebleptes (360-340 BC).