The Erkesia Wall: Bulgaria’s Own Game of Thrones


erkesia fortification Bulgaria

Although George R. R. Martin, creator of the hit-series, ‘Game of Thrones,’ says he modeled his infamous ‘Wall’ on Hadrian’s wall in the UK, yet, he may well have imagined something even more impressive had he known of Bulgaria’s Erkesia Wall.

Bigger, longer, more intimidating- the medieval Erkesia  wall was constructed during the ninth-century by the First Bulgarian Empire to keep the bordering Byzantine forces out.

Stretching from Debelt near Burgas in the east, past the north side of Sakar to the Maritza river several kilometres  north of Harmanli in the west, the 130 km ridge marked and protected the border between Bulgaria and Byzantium over 1,200 years ago.



Erkesia, meaning ‘cutting in the earth,’ in Turkish, was called, ‘The Great Dyke’ by the Byzantines. The wall runs along the great plain between the Maritza and the Black Sea, effectively blocking the land corridor to the Byzantines.

In his book, ‘Great Walls and Linear Barriers,’ Peter Spring says, “although the Eriskia is often linked to the treaty of 816, parts of it were started rather earlier and it is quite complex, being composed of several sections of different dates.  The frontier set out in the treaty of 816, was similar to that of 716, which first established the southern borders of Greater Bulgaria, and the Erkesia was probably started in the intervening period.”

“The barrier was build of two parallel lines of six-metre high stakes filled with compacted earth from the ditch. There was an important gateway at Debelt about 20 kilometres inland by the coastal city of Burgas, on the road from Pliska [the old capital] to Constantinople. Here a customs post dated to 816 has been recently excavated where for nearly two centuries the Byzantines paid an annual tribute to the Bulgarians.”

Spring believes the wall was constructed in three distinct sections:

The Western Erkesia: Running from Tenevo on the Tundzha river to Simeonovgrad on the Maritza this section is likely the oldest dating to around 716.

Little Erkesia: Running from Debelt to Burgas and dated around 816.

Eastern Erkesia: From Debelt to Tenevo.

Visiting Erkesia: Although much of the barrier has now been lost under agricultural land and construction, there are still significant sections remaining. Some of the best areas to visit are around Debelt in Burgas and in Tundzha Municipality- just south of Yambol.