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Home 29 March 2020
Culture Archaeology Archaeological Sights Settlements Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture of Evros Municipality of Pheres

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Ancient Doriscus

Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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A rocky elevation rises on the low Saraya hill, at the coast near the Evros delta, overseeing the valley around the delta. On this strategic position, the ancient city of Doriscus is situated, just on the main land artery that links Asia with Europe as well as the Aegean coast with the Thracian hinterland through the western ford of Evros river. Herodotus mentions Doriscus as “seashore” and “great field” of Thrace. According to his writings, the ancient city served as a military camp and a supply centre of the army of Xerxes in 480 BC. During this time, the Persian Mascames was set in charge of the city and remained here long after the Persian wars, receiving gifts and honours by Xerxes for the services he provided to the king. In addition, Doriscus was an important fortified position for the Persians who gathered military forces in this site on a permanent basis, during the campaign of Darius against the Scythes (519-511 BC).

In later times, following the liberation of the coastal Thracian cities from the Persian rule, Doriscus developed into a trading station, participated in the Athenian League and became the meeting point between Athens and the hinterland cities of Thrace.

During the times of Philip II, the fact that the ancient city of Doriscus and the surrounding area remained under the Macedonian rule signified a great loss for the Athenians. Later on, the city became one of the military bases of Alexander the Great during his campaign to Asia. For a short period after that, it was under the rule of the Ptolemies. Several sources record that the city persisted until the Roman times. However, from that time on, information regarding the city and its religious administration during the Byzantine times is scarce. It seems that it gradually fell in decline and thus abandoned, especially after the foundation of the neighbouring city of Traianoupolis.

In the 1950’s, Gregory Euthymiou carried out small-scale research in the area of Doriscus and revealed tumuli and pottery sherds from different periods. He was the first to point out the archaeological importance of the site and published several relative articles with observations concerning the area.

The investigations carried out later in the 1960’s by George Bakalakis confirmed Euthymiou. In fact, this important archaeological site on the low Saraya hill, east of the modern village of Doriskos and south of Feres, could finally be identified as the ancient city of Doriscus. The archaeological excavations uncovered numerous finds dating from the Prehistoric until the late Hellenistic times, which bears witness to the existence of a continuous and stable population on the hillock of Doriscus. Finds comprise pottery, stamped amphorae handles from the neighbouring areas of Ainos, Thasos and Samothrace, Classical and Hellenistic coins, clay figurines, loom weights, architectural members and a great number of minor clay and metal items. An inscription of a 3rd/2nd century BC decree was also found in the area recording that a “festival” took place annually in honour of the god Asclepius and of Roites, a Thracian river deity.

There are also important archaeological finds and construction material from the ancient buildings. In 1971, a small-scale research carried out by Diamantis Triantaphyllos revealed part of the enceinte, sections of the 4th century BC circuit walls in isodomic masonry of tufa stones, a paved court of the 4th century BC and a plundered cist grave with tufa slabs. Another important find is a Hellenistic marble “katalepteras” (architectural part) from a small building, probably a heroon.

Strabo refers to a small city of the Samotracian peraia, called Charakoma that is believed to be located in the wider area of Doriscus. Close to the modern village of Doriskos is a well-preserved stretch of the Via Egnatia route (late 2nd century BC).