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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

The great victory at Trajan's Gate

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

Dear friends, I will try to tell very briefly about the events that took place here in the year mentioned on the memorial tablet.

Stenos fortress, Trajan's Gate passage

The Byzantine Emperor Basil II set off for Bulgaria at the head of a huge army of thirty thousand with the aim of capturing Sredets (present-day Sofia).

The siege of the city lasted twenty days, but without success.

Left without provisions and realizing that he would not succeed, the emperor began to withdraw his troops.

On August 17, 986, in the passage of the Trajan's Gate near Stipone (today's Ikhtiman), the Bulgarians, led by King Romanus, his first general and future king Samuel and his brother Aaron, inflicted a huge defeat on Basil II, later called the Bulgarian Killer, similar to that , which Emperor Nicephorus I Genikus suffered from Khan Krum in 811.

Ако да беше дори слънцето слязло от своето място, аз все пак не бих помислил, че стрелите мизийски ще бъдат по-силни от копията авзонски.

Повалете се, дървета, грозни планини, провалете се, мрачни скали!

Тук лъвът се изплаши да излезе срещу елените.

Когато ти, Фаетоне, спуснеш под земята златобляскавата си колесница, кажи на великата душа на кесаря ето какво: Истъра грабна венеца на Рим; улови се по-скоро за оръжие. Стрелите на мизийците надвиха над копията на авзоните.

In this way, the Byzantine poet Ioan Geometer describes the events that took place in this place in his work "On the defeat of the Romans in the Bulgarian gorge".

An Arab chronicler born in Egypt in the early 70s of the 10th century, named Yahya, ibn-Saida, ibn-Yahana, called the Antiochian, wrote:

...императорът се обърнал на бяг и цялата му войска във вторник на 17 август. И преследвайки ги, българите разграбили неговия обоз и хазната и загинало голямо множество от войската му, и това станало в десетата година от царуването му.

Its description is essential because it indicates the specific date of this important event for us Bulgarians - August 17, summer 986.

The emperor himself somehow survived, but his tent fell into the hands of the Bulgarians.

The memory of the great victory is a reason for incomparable pride, shared even in the Bitola inscription of Tsar Ivan Vladislav.

The greatest credit for this memorable victory goes to the "Unsurpassed in strength and unsurpassed in bravery" future Bulgarian king Samuil (reigned in the period 997 ÷ 1014).

The progenitor of the Samuil family is the great Boyle Comite Nicholas. His sons - the Komitopuli - rose to the position of governors of the state, probably also due to their kinship with the Krum dynasty.

Apart from Samuel, his brothers - the eldest David, Moses and Aaron - were active until their death.

David was killed by wandering Vlachs in the period after the uprising in 976 in the area "Hubavi Dubove" between Prespa and Kostur.

Almost at the same time, the second brother Moses also died while besieging the fortress of Siar (Seres, Greece).

The third brother Aaron, along with his entire family, was killed on June 14, 987 in the area of Razmetanitsa on the personal orders of Samuel, because he was a supporter, as they say, of the Romans, or because he sought to seize power for himself (Ioan Skilitsa) .

Samuel's son Gavril Radomir managed to beg for mercy only for his cousin Ivan Vladislav (future Bulgarian ruler in the period 1015 ÷ 1018), with whom they grew up together and are close friends.

Years later, ironically, the rescuer Gavril Radomir was killed by the rescued Ivan Vladislav.

How do you get here?

Pass Trajanovi vrata, is a saddle connecting the Ikhtiman valley with the Upper Thracian lowland.

The Stenos fortress is located next to the Trakia highway, about 17 kilometers from the city of Ihtiman, about 15 kilometers from the city of Kostenets, about 60 kilometers from the capital and about 72 kilometers from the city of Plovdiv.

If you are traveling on the highway, stop at the village of Mirovo, heading along the old Tsarigradski road.

The road winds along the southern slopes of the Eledzhik mountain range and offers a wonderful view of the mountain peaks of Sštinska Sredna Gora, Rila and Rhodopes.

The currently restored Stenos fortress was officially opened for visits on August 16, 2015.

The fort is open for visits every day from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

In front of the information center there is a wide and shaded parking lot where you can leave your car.

A nominal entrance fee is required.

Allow between 30 and 60 minutes to explore it, if you will also be taking photos.

Before I wish you a “Pleasant Visit!” I would like to be sure that as you walk through more of the impressive antiquity, you will be well informed of what great events it has witnessed.

Dear Bulgarians, there are glamorous and glorious moments in our history that we should be proud of, and this is one of them!

I also express my sincere thanks to the information guide who met me late on Sunday and after the end of his working day, although he was visibly tired, he was kind enough to tell me all that I am sharing with you today.

Thank you very much!

Access to the fortress today is possible for all persons of all ages!

Wheelchair access is also provided!

I wish you an exceptional and impressive walk!

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