Iatrus Fortress Krivina

Roman military fort of Iatrus is situated on the the right bank of the lower Danube, and was defence stronghold on the northern border of the Roman Empire in the province of Moesia Secunda. Founded at the beginning of the 4th century, the fort was several times destroyed and then rebuilt over the 300 years of its existence until it was finally abandoned in 600 AD. Roman military fortification of Iatrus was built east of Novae military camp, on a rise protected from flooding near the strategically important river mouth of the Yantra (ancient name Iatrus) present-day Bulgaria, 30 km east of Svishtov. This is the wide river valley of the Danube and the Yantra river running from the Balkan range through the hilly north Bulgarian lowlands. The history of the Roman limes in this section of the Danube begins with the foundation of the province of Moesia in 44 AD and the dislocation of the legio VIII Augusta in Novae. Military garrisons were permanently dislocated along the Danube in the eastern part of Moesia after the Dacian wars of Emperor Trajan (102-106). The eastern Balkans were of crucial importance in the late Roman period since the new imperial capital Constantinople was situated not more than 500 km south-east of the Danube.

The military fort of Iatrus was established at the beginning of the 4th century AD to protect the Roman border on the present day site about 3 km upstream from the Yantra river’s junction with the Danube. Iatrus Fortress occupied an unusually favorable location at an important strategic point on the Danube frontier and featured clear, structured design which follows the standard plan adopted by forts of the Roman Principate. The site of Iatrus, on the southern bank of the Danube, has been examined by a joint German–Bulgarian programme of excavation for more than 40 years. This dating for Iatrus is assured by the coin series which, after more than twenty seasons of excavation, has produced 146 coins minted in the first quarter of the 4th century. In the center of the Iastrus fort there was the principia – headquarters which is typical for this kind of the building in the late Roman period. There was also a commanding officer’s house /praetorium/ and behind the principia there were the remains of buildings which look like barracks. Approximately 500 cavalrymen belonging to the legio I Italica were stationed here, and there were numerous workshops for iron-working and potter’s workshops. In the second half of the 4th century AD substantial changes to the Iatrus fort architecture were made, when few large buildings were erected, the first Christian basilica and storehouses which probably went hand in hand with a changing garrison. In the first half of the 5th century all free areas between existing buildings and in the ruins of horrea I and VII were filled with dwelling houses. In addition there are the tombs dating from the fourth to 3rd century BC, remains of settlements dating to the 3rd century AD and a fortress dating from the first half of the 4th century to the 6th century AD, with walls, gates, towers, roads, stables, barracks, three early Christian basilicas and a thermal bath.

After the total destruction of the border Iatrus fort by the Hunic invasions in the forties of the 5th century A D it was re-erected only around 500 A D. Iatrus and the other remaining fortresses and settlements were totally abandoned by the Huns in the mid 4th century. By contract the Romans had to give up the limes fortifications and a territory with width of three day’s journeys south of the Danube. Another rebuild of the Iatrus fort took place under the reign of Emperor Iustinian (527-565). In the first years of the 7th century A D the limes at the lower Danube and accordingly Iatrus fortress were finally abandoned. Later, a Slavic-Bulgarian settlement was built on the ruins of the Iatrus fort, but since the late 10th century the former area of the fort has never been re-occupied. Iatrus Fort was several times destroyed and then rebuilt over the 300 years of its existence until it was finally abandoned AD 600. The latest historical reference to Iatrus Fortification is made by Theophylact Simocatta (Hist. 7. 13) in his description of the invasion of the Avars in 600.

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