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The Thracians (//; Ancient Greek: Θρᾷκες, romanized: Thrāikes; Bulgarian: Траки; Latin: Thraci) were an Indo-European speaking people who inhabited large parts of Southeast Europe in ancient history. Thracians resided mainly in Southeast Europe in modern-day Bulgaria, Romania and northern Greece, but also in north-western Anatolia (Asia Minor) in Turkey.
The exact origin of the Thracians is unknown, but it is believed that proto-Thracians descended from a purported mixture of Proto-Indo-Europeans and Early European Farmers, arriving from the rest of Asia and Africa through Asia Minor (Anatolia). The proto-Thracian culture developed also into the Getae and the Dacians, also several other smaller Thracian tribes. Writing in the sixth century BC, Xenophanes described Thracians as "blue-eyed and red-haired".
Thracian culture was described as tribal by the Greeks and Romans. They remained largely disunited, with their first permanent state being the Odrysian kingdom in the fifth century BC. They faced subjugation by the Achaemenid Empire around the same time. Thracians experienced a short period of peace after the Persians were defeated by the Greeks in the Persian Wars. The Odrysian kingdom lost independence to Macedon in the late 4th century BC, and regained independence following Alexander the Great's death.
The Thracians faced conquest by the Romans in the mid second century BC under whom they faced internal strife. They composed major parts of rebellions against the Romans along with the Macedonians until the Third Macedonian War. The last reported use of a Thracian language was by monks in the sixth century AD.
Thracians were described as "warlike" and "barbarians" by the Greeks and Romans and were favored as mercenaries. Ancient descriptions of a vicious people are disputed and archaeology has been used since the mid-twentieth century in southern Bulgaria to identify more about them. Both Romans and Greeks called them barbarians since they were neither Romans nor Greeks, and to the perceived backwardness of their culture. The perceived primitiveness may be related to their living simple lives in open villages. Some authors noted that even after the introduction of Latin they still kept their "barbarous" ways. While the Thracians were perceived as unsophisticated by their contemporaries, they reportedly "had in fact a fairly advanced culture that was especially noted for its poetry and music."
Thracians spoke the extinct Thracian language and shared a common culture. The Thracians made cultural interaction with the people surrounding them: Greeks, Persians, Scythians and Celts, but although they were indeed influenced by each of these cultures, this influence affected only the circles of the aristocratic elite, not Thracian culture as a whole. Among their customs was tattooing, common among both males and females. They followed a polytheistic religion. The study of the Thracians is known as Thracology.