The Thracian lands during the Antiquity
The description of the climate and the rich variety of plant and animal species found in Thracian lands is particularly interesting.
For the Greeks living in the southern regions and their warm climate, Thrace was a cold, inhospitable territory, the kingdom of the dreaded north wind of Boreas. The severe frost episodes were characteristic of the northern parts of the Thracian land: Northern Bulgaria and Dobrudzha. The garments worn by the Thracians in winter, like the fox fur hats, long chitons covering the chest and thighs, and cloaks reaching the thighs were intended to protect them from the cold weather in winter. The ancient authors describe the cold and ice that paralyzed the Danube River, even the waters close to the sea, which allowed carts to cross the frozen water. Other writers speak of the terrifying power of the northern wind, which brought roofs down and destroyed tall towers.
From the descriptions of the ancient authors, it can be concluded that the climate during the Thracian times was like today - with hot summers and cold winters, while milder in the coastal regions, but with strong winds.
The vegetation in the Thracian lands was very rich. The mountains and most of the fields were covered with centuries-old forests, like a sea of tall and slender trees. Such woodlands were found in the Hemus (the Balkan range) and in the Rhodopes. They were filled with abundant game and fresh water rivers flowed through it. Some of the vegetation has disappeared with time, while some of it has changed.
The coniferous forests, high in the mountains, contained various types of pine, fir or juniper while the lower mountainous forests contained broad-leaved types of trees like the oak, beech, elm, and cherry dogwood. The green myrtle and laurel that was the pride of Stranzha, by the Sea of Marmara, is still growing today. There were many fruit trees and some of the fruits of the so-called water chestnut were used to make bread. The rich forests provided quality timber for shipbuilding.
Herbs were also abundant. Some were useful and curative, others poisonous. The variety of herbs was huge. Whole mountains covered with thyme are mentioned. There is also a reference to the yellow bluestem, which was very potent and antihemorrhagic. Wormwood, wild species of roses and different varieties of mushrooms were also common.
A wide variety of game also roamed these lands. Lions and panthers were even encountered in the swamps around the Aegean Sea. It is mentioned that they roamed the lands around Mount Pangaea, which was part of the Thracian territory. The account of the Thracian king Kotys also depicts how he gave a lion to one of his subordinates after receiving himself a panther as a gift.
The wild bull was widespread in those regions. A species of bison settled between the valley of the Struma and Vardar rivers, which became later known to the Byzantines under the Slavic name “zhubr”. It was called bolintos or volintos. It looked like to the domesticated bull, except that it was more muscular and had a mane on its shoulders like a horse. Thracian warriors and men often hunted many varieties of wild bulls. They made drinking cups from the horns of the bulls, which were silver-plated or gilded. Those animals were found in Dardania, Medica and Thrace. Various domestic animals, like sheep, goats and cows were raised. Pigs were also an agricultural staple, most of them being bred in the woods and mountains. Horse breeding was an important part of the local culture and the Thracians were famous for their cavalry. The Aegean and Black seas were teeming with different species of fish, which had their place of honour at the Thracian table.
Thrace was a land rich in metal deposits, which attracted a large amount of settlers towards the Aegean South. The gold and silver mines in the Pangaea Mountain and the island of Thassos were famous. Numerous wars were fought to control them. Native gold, sometimes in large nuggets, were found in the land of Paeonia. There were also rivers, like the Maritza and its tributaries, where gold dust was found mixed with the sand, from which up to this time the precious raw material was extracted.
Copper and iron were also extensively mined in the Thracian lands. It was mainly taking place in the Rhodopes, the Balkans and Strandzha.
The ancient Thracians inhabited bountiful and majestic lands. It was no coincidence that various enemies tried to conquer them throughout the long history of the Antiquity, which has turned the Thracians into the most experienced warriors of the time, defending the riches of their homeland with sword and spirit.