The Thracians were a mysterious group of tribes who occupied the southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The Thracians spoke an Indo-European language, but numerous theories about their appearance on the European cultural map and later extinction/assimilation exist. One theory indicates that the Thracians were the original inhabitants of this area, another relates them to the tribes in West Asia and still others claim that the Thracians formed through the mixing of the original population in southeastern Europe and migrant tribes from Asia. One thing is for certain – the Thracians left a deep mark on the cultural development of the European civilization. They influenced both the Greek and Roman cultures and it is even believed that a great share of the Greek and Roman gods and mythology is impacted by the Thracian beliefs and rituals.
The etymology of the name “Thracians” is related to the name of one of the numerous tribes – the Travcians. Later the Greeks used “Thracians” to denote wild, uneducated, barbarian people. The Thracians built such an image of themselves because of the endless wars they waged among the different tribes and also with their neighbours. The Thracians were skillful warriors and for that reason they were highly sought after mercenaries.
Homer provides the first written account of the Thracians in “The Iliad” where they are depicted as powerful soldiers fighting on the side of Troy. The ancient historian Herodot describes the Thracians as the most populous people along with the Indians and claims that if not for their constant fighting, the Thracians would be invincible when united.