In 2005 archaeologist Ivan Hristov started excavations of a fortress, not far from the town of Hissar in the Sredna Gora mountain range. It is located on a steep hill at an altitude of 1361 m above sea level. There, around an ancient Thracian sanctuary from the Early Iron Age (10th-6th century B.C.), a powerful mainstay had taken shape over the ages. The mainstay was surrounded by a stone wall and occupied an area of 1 ha.
The finds and the coins uncovered testify to particularly intensive habitation during the 5th-1st centuries B.C., during the eventful existence of the kingdom of the Odryssae. It was the most significant Thracian state. The first known ruler had been Teres I (490-464 B.C.). His successor became Sitalkes, under whose reign the Odryssae extended their territories and took part in the Peloponnesian War, which shook the Greek poleis. The active policy continued under Seuthes I, to reach its apogee under Kotys I (383-359 B.C.). He took control of the cities along the Aegean Sea and of numerous lands in the Balkan Peninsula. His successor Kersebleptes fought heavy battles against Philip II of Macedon, while Seuthes III continued the battles against Lysimachus, the Macedonian proxy in Thrace. In the 3rd-1st century B.C., the might of the Kingdom of the Odryssae was already a distant memory. In AD 45, the formal independence of the Odryssae from the Romans had been completely abolished and Thrace became a Roman province.
But the major finding turned out to be several hundred metres below the fortress in the Kozi Gramadi [Goats’ Heights] locality. Archaeologists have uncovered the residence of the kings of the Odryssae itself. A silver Thracian coin of the late 6th-early 5th century B.C. has helped the dating of the building of the palace compound. It was later to be understood that it had existed over a relatively short period-until 342-341 B.C., when it hadbeen reduced to ashes during the campaigns of Philip II of Macedon.
The compound is surrounded by a fortress wall 2.8m thick, and it has a trapezoid plan. The wall has two faces of well chiselled out stone blocks, among which some filling had been stuffed. The overall area has been calculated to around 0.45 ha. On the surface there are traces of buildings connected with the lifestyle of the Thracian ruler.
The main premises have proved to be a rectangular building sized 13 by 9 m and a floor space of 104 sq m. The walls was built out of stone blocks, superbly shaped. The entrance is from southeast and two rectangular profiled foundations of columns have been preserved on the site. Then follows the threshold with holes for an iron mechanism of a one-wing gate. To the other side of the spacious premise, scholars have come across two short symmetrical staircases, leading to a kind of a tribune. It is separated from the interior of the room by a wall, in which a wide window has been opened. There is no doubt that this was the hall for receptions and feasts. Standing on the platform was the throne of the ruler, from where he proposed toasts to the nobles seated at the tables.
In archaeology, buildings have always been uncovered with finds dated to the last moment of their existence. Coins of the Thracian ruler Teres II (351-342/341 B.C.), as well as of the conqueror Philip II have been found on the floor of the hall. At the same time, fragments of imported Greek and local Thracian pottery, an iron double axe (labris), and a part of a gold breast piece have come to light. In the residence as well as on the slopes of the hill there is ample evidence of a fierce battle – tips of spears and arrows, a Thracian Mahaira, and thousands of lead weights for slings. One of them was in the hall itself and bore initials in Old Hellenic. This shows that it belonged to an elite sling-thrower-sniper man from the terrible Macedonian phalanx.
The hypothesis put forward by scientists has been that the residence below the Kozi Gramadi hill was built by Amatokos I, or Metok (407-386 BC). He was called “the upper king of the Odryssae”, to set him apart from the “lower” at the Sea of Marmara, where their original lands had been. He built himself a refuge at a distance of a 12-day journey from the Dardanelles and the measure of distance had fully matched the fortified residence uncovered.