Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is a contemporary of Troy and Mycenae, and older than Rome, Carthage or Constantinople; one can find remnants of Thracian, Greek and Romanian civilizations.
Plovdiv was given various names throughout its long history. It was originally a Thracian settlement by the name of Eumolpias. Philip II of Macedon conquered the area in 342-341 BC and renamed the city Philippoupolis (Greek: Φιλιππούπολις). The later Thracian name for the city, Pulpu-deva, is a translation of Greek Philippou-polis. After the Romans took control of the area, the city was named Latin: Trimontium, meaning the Three Hills.
Plovdiv is among the nation's primary literary centres, there worked for five years Ivan Vazov , (1850-1921), poet, novelist, and playwright, the first professional man of letters in Bulgaria. His work was inspired by the political upheavals of the period from 1890 to 1920 and by indignation over the sufferings of his countrymen before their liberation from Turkish rule. Under Our Heaven (1900), Songs of Macedonia (1914), and It Will Not Perish (1920) contain some of his best poetry. His novel Under the Yoke (1893, tr. 1893) is internationally famous. Vagabonds (1894) is his best-known play.
While passing through Bulgaria in 1838, the great French poet Alphonse de Lamartine spent only three days in the house of Georgi Mavridi but that was quite enough for the house to be called more often after Lamartine's name rather than its real owner's. And also Moni Ovadia – singer, musician, leading figure in Italian theatre, was born in 1946 in Plovdiv, to a Jewish family.
IVAN VAZOV (1850 - 1921)
Hail, Italy, happy earth,
celestial earth of poems and sounds,
earth of genius and songs,
hail, earth of every beauty!
Earth of eternal poets, eternal
earth of Tasso, Petrarch, Dante,
You, of sonnet fragrant earth
hail, Italy, earth of love!
Hail, Italy! Far anchor
is your happy and glorious shore,
towards you already flies the eager soul,
alas, the going of the ship is slow!
I fly to your mounts, to the Appennines,
to your smoking Vesuvio, to your
vague continents, the seas, lakes,
I fly to your ruins, to your castles!
I of the Balkans free son
with rush of eagle long to reach
the celestial vaults, to your sky,
of air I am drunk, of freedom.
Towards you I flight, I greet you
port of our azure horizons,
of the snowy summits of mounts
of the divine valley of roses.
To you the greetings of Bulgaria.
On her May stretches the mantle,
like you also she shines,
in the hope, in the songs and flowers.
Sail, ship, bring me there,
where the lemons mature of gold,
where the songs and sounds are eternal,
under the beneficial gifts of the sky!
"O reckless and foolish one! Wherefore art
thou ashamed to call thyself Bulgarian?...
Or did not the Bulgars possess a kingdom and
state? Be thou not deluded, Bulgarian, but
know thine own origin and tongue..." Paissy (1762)
A hundred and twenty years1 back... Deep shadow!
There, where the Mount of Athos narrows,
A refuge hidden from worldly deceit,
For prayer and rest a placid retreat,
Where only is heard the Aegean roaring,
The whispering gorse and the seabird soaring,
Or the solemn tolling of a vesper bell,
In a humbly furnished, slumbering sell
That a spluttering lamp was dimly lighting,
An obscure, pale-faced monk was writing.
Plovdiv, 1882 Translated by Peter Tempest.
1 The time interval between the writing of Paissy's History (1762) and Vazov's poem (1882).