FLOROV, Nicholas

The 3000-Year-Old Hat (Golden Vine $29.95)

In 1972, near the Bulgarian city of Varna on the Black Sea coast, Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed the earliest assemblage of gold artifacts ever found. More artifacts from the Varna necropolis site confirmed the discovery of the earliest class society in Europe, approximately 4500 BC, and the beginning of metalworking for mankind.

Since the collapse of Communism in early 1990s, archaeologists have been flocking to eastern Europe to learn more about ‘the first civilization in Europe.’

In September, for instance, Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard led a US/Bulgarian team, sponsored by National Geographic, to the mouths of the Provadiyska and Kamchia rivers to explore evidence that a society predating Egypt and Mesopotamia was submerged during a massive flood 7,600 years ago.

Bulgarian-born Irina and Nicholas Florov have long been collecting and assessing information about the emerging role that Thrace, Phrygia, Lydia, Macedonia, Bithnynia and other ‘unsung’ ancient cultures in the Balkans and Asia Minor have played in history.

The Vancouver couple have synthesized their research into The 3000-Year-Old Hat (Golden Vine $29.95), a self-published history emphasizing the role Thrace played in the evolution of Greek and Roman civilizations.

Specifically, in Chapter Five, the Florovs have traced how the ancient ‘Phrygian hat’ became a symbol of liberty worn by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. These painters no doubt admired the Phrygian cap adorning the bare breasted woman in Eugene Delacroix’s famous painting that symbolized the spirit of the French Revolution.

The peaked ‘Thracian hat’ or ‘Phrygian hat’ was accepted by the Romans as a symbol of freedom after Virgil had inspired an interest in ‘eastern cultures’ with his Aeneid. The Florovs suggest the pointed cap may have been a phallic symbol or an imitation of a bull’s horn. It was probably a distinguishing sign of a warrior, or male power in general.

At the regularly held international congresses on Thracology after 1972, research papers have focussed on the ancient Orphic Doctrine, the powerful cult of the Mother Goddess dominant in Thrace and Asia Minor, on the Dionysian traditions leading to the conclusions that the Thracians were the first wine makers and on the ‘liberal’ sexual practices of the Thracians that fascinated and shocked the Greeks.

Without exception, according to Herodotus, young women prostituted themselves to save money for their dowries, which enabled them to choose their husbands. According to Herodotus, the ancient non-Greek peoples of Southeast Europe and Asia Minor were once the second-most numerous race on the planet.

In a button-pushing era, when young people can get jobs even if they can’t spell and if they place question marks at the end of all their sentences, a synthesis of knowledge pertaining to the little-known Thraco-Phrygian empire, near the Black Sea, might seem too original for words. But the Florovs believe there is a global audience for their work.

Thracian studies began in 1972 after Lyudmila Zhivkova, daughter of the Bulgarian communist party secretary at the time, initiated the Institute of Thracology as part of the Bulgarian Academy of Science. An Oxford University grad, she opened Thracian treasures to the world and equated connected Thracian heritage with her own strong feelings of Bulgarian nationalism. For her efforts, she died a suspiciously early death under the communist regime.

The 3000-Year-Old-Hat is subtitled New Connections with Old Europe: The Thraco-Phyrgian World. It’s 303 pages and includes a large folded map. 0-9688487-0-2

The couple's second book is Wine Tales from the lands of Bacchus (2011), part fiction and part historical.

[BCBW 2011]