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Archaeologist Ivan Hristov displays the Jacuzzi heater

Ancient Luxury Outpost with Heated Jacuzzi served Roman Emperor in Bulgaria

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A highway outpost with a heated jacuzzi and swimming pool, plus a meeting place for VIPs, sits on a highway servicing a major world power.  It sounds like a modern resort or hotel complex, but it was a 1 st to 5 th century AD Roman road station unearthed near a fortress in Bulgaria.

The road station, under excavation since spring 2014, was on the Via Trajana, a highway named after the Emperor Trajan, who stayed at the complex. It is being described as a luxury motel or resort.

“It was visited by the administration servicing the Roman state post and probably by the Emperor’s family when they traveled,” archaeologist Ivan Hristov told Archaeology in Bulgaria. “This place was inhabited actively as of about 100 AD. There has been no reconstruction after Sostra stopped functioning in the 5 th century AD. That is why everything is preserved, and has a great potential for tourism development. It is not the coins and artifacts which we have found here that are precious. Such [items] can be seen in many places. What’s precious is the preserved architecture.”

Trajan ruled the Roman Empire from 98 to 117 AD.  He is known to have traveled on the Via Trajana, hence the name of the route. Trajan’s Balkan Road, as it is known, is different than the Via Traiana in Italy, another highway named after him.

A stretch of the Via Trajana in Italy, which is in a different location than Trajan’s Balkan Road but of the same type.

A stretch of the Via Trajana in Italy, which is in a different location than Trajan’s Balkan Road but of the same type. (Steve Jay/Wikimedia Commons)

Recently Hristov and his team excavated a heater for the jacuzzi. The furnace heated air which was then directed to a shallow pool, according to The Jacuzzi is next to an indoor swimming pool. “Technically, the Bulgarian archaeologists excavating the Roman road station at the Sostra Fortress have already uncovered entire Ancient Roman thermae,” reports Archaeology in Bulgaria. A thermae is a large Roman bath and place for socializing.

Additionally, the researchers are calling it a praetorium or meeting place for dignitaries and very important people. The word praetorium also had the meaning of a general’s tent or a governor’s official residence.

The discoveries at the Roman fortress Sostra may help it be designated as an archaeological preserve. The Bulgaria National Museum of History intends to seek National Monument of Culture status for the site and do restorations.

In addition to the road station and fort, there is a large early Christian basilica and several other buildings. The site is easy to get to because it is near a major modern road over the Troyan Pass in the Balkan Mountains. The modern route is parallel the Via Trajana. The ancient site is near the confluence of the Lomeshka and Osam rivers. Tourists will be allowed to walk the labyrinth of the ancient buildings.

Sostra Fortress, Bulgaria

Sostra Fortress, Bulgaria (Photo by Elena Chochkova/Wikimedia Commons)

“Via Trajana, which runs through the Troyan Pass of the Balkan Mountains, was vital in Roman Emperor Trajan’s wars for conquering the Dacians, the resisting Thracian tribes north of the Lower Danube, in today’s Romania,” reports Archaeology in Bulgaria. “It linked the Ancient Roman city of Philipopolis (today’s Plovdiv in Southern Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thrace, with two major Roman outposts on the Lower Danube frontier, the so called limes – Ulpia Oescus near today’s town of Gigen and Novae near today’s town Svishtov, in the Roman province of Moesia”.

Featured image: Archaeologist Ivan Hristov displays the Jacuzzi heater ( Photo:

By Mark Miller

Mark Miller's picture


Mark Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a former newspaper and magazine writer and copy editor who's long been interested in anthropology, mythology and ancient history. His hobbies are writing and drawing.

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