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Madara Horseman Bulgaria
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Madara Horseman
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Madara Horseman

The Madara Rider is a rock-cut bas-relief

The Madar Horseman is a rock-cut bas-relief located 23 meters from its base. Its dimensions are 3.1 meters wide and 2.6 meters high. It is located next to the village of Madara, about 20 km away. from the city of Shumen. This remarkable monument consists of three figures - a horseman, a dog and a lion. The central figure, the horseman, is represented in life size and is placed highest. He is dressed in a knee-length garment, stands on a high-backed saddle, and has his right (visible) leg tucked into a stirrup. Below the front legs of the horse is a reclining lion, and behind the horse is depicted a running dog aiming at the lion.
Due to the erosion of the rock and the poor condition of the figures, the remaining elements of the composition are controversial and ambiguous. There are three assumptions about the object the horseman holds in his left hand: a jug of wine, a hunting horn, or the horse's reins. With regard to the right hand, some suppose that with it the horseman throws a spear at the downed lion, while others suppose that it holds the bridle of the horse. Opinions have been expressed that the rider is cloaked or with a quiver of arrows. Most researchers believe that the lion was pierced by the spear, but there are those who claim that it did not stick into him. Some scholars even find more figures in the composition such as an eagle and a snake.
There are three inscriptions in Greek carved into the rock around it, referring to events in Bulgarian history from the beginning of the 8th century to the first half of the 9th century. The oldest inscription is from the reign of Khan Tervel and tells about the help that the ruler gave to the Byzantine emperor Justinian II the Decapitated in his return to the throne in Constantinople. The uncles of Kana, inhabiting the area around Thessaloniki, are also mentioned. This is what the inscription itself reads: "...to the Bulgarians...to Tervel he came. My uncles in Thessalonica did not believe the emperor who had his nose cut off and went to the Kyssian (settlements)...his edich...by treaty Tervel the archon gave the emperor...5 thousand...(the emperor) together with me won well...."
The monument was first described in 1872 by Felix Kanitz. Its dating, as well as the identity of the horseman, are still disputed. At its foot, a cave with artifacts from the Thracian era, a Bulgarian pagan sanctuary with a stone inscription of the god Tangra, and a small church were discovered. These facts clearly indicate that the area around the monument is an old cult center used in different eras by representatives of different religious beliefs, which makes the dating of the monument even more complicated. Based on the stylistic analysis, the inscriptions around the images and the petrological data of the relief, interesting conclusions are drawn.
Some scholars associate the bas-relief with Thracian culture and believe that it depicts the Thracian horseman, particularly popular among the local population in Antiquity. Citing the aging of the stone, other researchers suggest that the lion in the relief was carved earlier than the dog, and the horse was redone over time. According to them, the composition was changed during Tervel's reign, turned into a hunting scene, and then the inscriptions and the hunting dog, which is typical of such a plot, were added. There are even opinions that the horseman depicts the Persian ruler Darius or the ancient Iranian god Mithras.

Landscape from the Madar Horseman The most popular hypothesis, however, is that of the Bulgarian origin of the rock bas-relief. Based on stylistic characteristics and the information from the inscriptions, most scientists are convinced that one of the Bulgarian khans - Tervel, Krum or Omurtag - was immortalized near Madara. Some of them find similarities with Turkic artistic traditions and storylines, while others argue with the similarities of similar images characteristic of Persian art. Their colleagues, supporting the theory of the Bulgarian origin of the monument, suggest that the rider may not be a specific khan, but a collective image of the Bulgarian triumphant ruler or the heroic horseman from the mythology of the steppe peoples, and perhaps even the god Tangra.
So far, the opinion that the horseman represents Khan Tervel or a generalized image of the rulers of Pliska finds the most supporters. In this line of thought, it is perceived as a symbol of Bulgarian state power and a demonstration of the self-confidence of its rulers from the pagan period.
This remarkable rock relief from the Early Middle Ages is the only one of its kind in Europe. In 1979, it entered the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage, and three decades later, it was declared a global Bulgarian symbol by the conducted national survey.
One of the symbols of Bulgaria is the famous Madar horseman. A priceless heritage of the distant past and unique in all of Europe. It is an amazing and well-preserved bas-relief of a horseman marching to the right, followed by his hunting dog. Under the front legs of the horse lies a pierced lion, and an eagle circles around. The bas-relief is surrounded by numerous inscriptions in Greek and symbolizes the victory over the enemy. It is believed to have been cut in the 7th century, and today it continues to rise at a height of 23 m in the rocks above the village of Madara, Shumensko.
The dimensions of the figure are approximately real - the height is 2.60 m, and the width is 3.1 m. The person on it wears a garment to the knees, in his left hand he holds the horse's reins, and with his right hand he has grasped the spear that pierces the lion. His right leg is tucked into the stirrup. He is leaning on a high back of the saddle and on his back is a case with a bow.
There are many different versions of the appearance of the rider, the most common being that the image is of the Bulgarian ruler from the past, Khan Tervel (701 - 721). The inscriptions around it provide information about events that took place in the period of the 8th century. - 9th century, happened between Bulgaria and Byzantium during the Tervel, Krum and Omurtag khans. They only directly mention the supreme proto-Bulgarian god Tangra, minted at the time of Omurtag.
On the terrace below the rocks, a pagan cult center was founded by Khan Omurtag, and the Madar horseman bas-relief is believed to be associated with it. It consisted of a sanctuary and adjoining temples, residential buildings and other structures. In one of the caves - the "Cave of the Nymphs" prehistoric objects were found, from which we conclude that it was used as a cult area. The name of the dungeon from ancient Greek tiles with the images of the Three Nymphs, Zeus, Heracles, Dionysus and other mythological characters.
The surrounding area is extremely beautiful. On summer days, you can cool off under the thick shadows formed by the crowns of the trees in improvised natural gazebos. In one of the caves there is a small chapel where you can light a candle. The area is favorable for hiking. An eco-path has been designated, passing along a beautiful route for hikers.