The Romans were people of invention and have left us a number of novelties: the arch, the modern calendar, the prototype of the newspaper. Also motels. At regular intervals the Roman roads were dotted with the so-called road stations, which provided shelter and food to the weary traveller.
The standard and more widespread Roman "motel" was the mutatio. It was small, arranged a quick change of horses, and ensured the basics for a short travel break. The mansio was larger, with spacious yards, warehouses and rooms for the staff, and offered food and accommodation to travellers, postmen, soldiers and whoever else could afford them. Some of these were quite luxurious, with pleasantries like baths and gardens.
Road stations declined after the 4th Century. Located next to crucial routes and lacking any defences, they were vulnerable to the mounting Barbarian attacks. In the 5th Century they either disappeared or became fortified settlements.
One such place was Sostra, near Troyan. It was the sixth station on the road from Oescus to Philippopolis and was even featured on the Tabula Peutingeriana map. Sostra's guests enjoyed comfortable, luxurious baths. They were wealthy people, as is evident from the coins and expensive objects like the bronze mask they lost there.
In a way Sostra was not an ordinary road station. After 142 the camp of an auxiliary military unit was pitched next to it, and the two formed a complex. Founded by Emperor Antoninus Pius, the fortified camp was the home of about 1,000 soldiers. A civic settlement was nearby.
The complex survived two Gothic attacks, in 249 and 378. The latter prompted the military to leave the fortress for good, and civilian population took over. But at the end of the 5th Century the Barbarians got the upper hand, Sostra was abandoned, and the location was silent until the 19th Century, when the remains of the ancient road station became the foundations of a... roadside inn.
In the 20th Century, a railway line was constructed right across the fortress. It is still there, a reminder that people might come and go but roads never die, channelling generations of human traffic.