Today one could hardly recognise the muddy hills around the village of Archar, about 27 km east of Vidin, as Ulpia Ratiaria, the famed city which grew from the camp of a succession of Roman legions stationed in the 1st Century AD at this part of the Danube course.
Ratiaria (the name supposedly comes from the Latin words for either raft or river ship) appeared during the reign of Emperor Vespasian (69-79). Initially a military camp, it became a colonia in 106, attracting a number of settlers from Italy and Asia Minor. The city was abuzz with activity, flourishing from the trade along the river and the roads leading to the Bosphorus and the Aegean. Crafts flourished inside Ratiaria, and its surroundings nurtured the prosperous mansions and villas of local landlords.
The ruins of the ancient Roman city are a sorry sight
Yet the city couldn't recover from the 586 Avar attack, and was abandoned.
Ratiaria might have easily become one of most attractive Roman sites on the Bulgarian section of the Danube if it hadn't fallen in the hands of local treasure hunters. In spite of archaeologists' efforts, since the 1990s illegal digging has been a constant plague for the ruins of this ancient city.
A part of an ancient column exhibited in central Archar