Évros, Meriç
The source valley of the Maritsa river in the Rila Mountains with Marichini Lakes
Native name
Physical characteristics
 • locationRila Mountains, Bulgaria
 • elevation2,378 m (7,802 ft)
 • location
Aegean Sea, 14.5 km (9.0 mi) east of Alexandroupoli
 • coordinates
40°43′50″N 26°2′6″E / 40.73056°N 26.03500°E / 40.73056; 26.03500
Length480 km (300 mi)
Basin size53,000 km2 (20,000 sq mi)[1]
 • averagefor mouth 234 m3/s (8,300 cu ft/s)[2]
Map of the river

Maritsa or Maritza (Bulgarian: Марица [mɐˈrit͡sɐ]), also known as Evros (Greek: Έβρος [ˈevros]) and Meriç (Turkish: Meriç [meɾit͡ʃ]), is a river that runs through the Balkans in Southeast Europe. With a length of 480 km (300 mi),[3] it is the longest river that runs solely in the interior of the Balkan peninsula, and one of the largest in Europe by discharge. It flows through Bulgaria in its upper and middle reaches, while its lower course forms much of the border between Greece and Turkey. Its drainage area is about 53,000 km2 (20,000 sq mi), of which 66.2% is in Bulgaria, 27.5% in Turkey, and 6.3% in Greece.[1] It is the main river of the historical region of Thrace, most of which lies in its drainage basin.

It has its origin in the Rila Mountains in Western Bulgaria, its source being the Marichini Lakes. The Maritsa flows east-southeast between the Balkan and Rhodope Mountains, past Plovdiv and Dimitrovgrad in Bulgaria to Edirne in Turkey. East of Svilengrad, Bulgaria, the river flows eastwards, forming the border between Bulgaria (on the north bank) and Greece (on the south bank), and then between Turkey and Greece. At Edirne, the river meets it two chief tributaries Tundzha and Arda, and flows through Turkish territory on both banks. It then turns towards the south and forms the border between Greece on the west bank and Turkey on the east bank all the way to the Aegean Sea, which it enters near Enez, forming a river delta. The upper Maritsa valley is a principal east–west route in Bulgaria. The unnavigable river is used for hydroelectric power generation and irrigation.


The earliest known name of the river is Εύρος (Euros, Alcman, 7th–6th century BC).[4] Proto-Indo-European *h₁wérus and Ancient Greek εὐρύς meant "wide".[4] The Proto-Indo-European consonant cluster *-wr- shifted in Thracian to -br-, creating the Thracian name Ebros.[4] Thereafter, the river began to be known as Ἕβρος (Hébros) in Greek and Hebrus in Latin.[5] Rather than an origin as 'wide river', an alternative hypothesis is that is borrowed from Thracian ebros meaning 'splasher'.[6]

While the name Ἕβρος (Hébros) was used in Ancient Greek, the name Μαρίτσα (Maritsa) had become standard before the ancient form Ἕβρος was restituted in Modern Greek as Έβρος (now: Évros).[7] The name Maritsa may derive from a mountain near the mouth of the river known in antiquity as Μηρισός or Μήριζος, Latinized as Merit(h)us.[4][unreliable source?]


In 1371, the river was the site of the Battle of Maritsa, also known as the battle of Chernomen, an Ottoman victory over the Serbian rulers Vukašin Mrnjavčević and Jovan Uglješa, who died in the battle.

After 1923, the river gained political significance as the modern border between Greece and Turkey. This was further bolstered by Greece joining the European Union in 1981 (and then the Schengen area), marking the river as an external boundary of the EU.

Since the 1990s, the river, as a natural barrier on the border between Turkey and Greece, has become a major route for migrants from a variety of countries attempting to enter the EU irregularly.[8] Between 2000 and 2019, 398 bodies were found on the Greek side of the Maritsa/Evros river. Up until that time, drowning in the river was the leading cause of death among migrants trying to enter Greece.[9]

In February 2020, Turkey unilaterally opened its borders to Greece to allow refugees and migrants seeking refuge to reach the European Union, leading to the 2020 Greek–Turkish border crisis.[10][11] In May 2020, news emerged that Turkish forces occupied 16 acres (6.5 ha) of Greek territory, Melissokomeio, as shown on maps of 1923, following a change in the flow of the river.[12] These crises passed following the improvement in Greek-Turkish relations in 2023, however, illegal migration is still a major issue.


The middle course of the Maritsa River at Nova Nadezhda, Bulgaria
The Meriç River at Edirne

Starting from the river's source, significant tributaries of Maritsa include:


March-2005 Maritsa river floods, Greek side, close to Lavara village.
Satellite image of floods along the river in 2006.

The lower course of the river Maritsa, where it forms the border between Greece and Turkey, is very vulnerable to flooding. For about 4 months every year, the low lands around the river are flooded. This causes significant economic damage (loss of agricultural production and damage to infrastructure), which is estimated at several hundreds million Euro.[13]

Recent large floods have taken place in 2006, 2007, 2014, with the largest flood taking place in 2021. Several causes have been proposed, including more rainfall due to climate change, deforestation in the Bulgarian part of the catchment area, increased land use in the flood plains and difficult communication between the three countries.[13]


Maritsa Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Maritsa River.

La Maritza is also a 1968 song written by Jean Renard and Pierre Delanoë and interpreted by Sylvie Vartan.

Hebrus Valles on Mars is named after this river.

The Bulgarian Maritsa motorway, which roughly follows the course of the river from Chirpan (where it branches out of the Trakia motorway) to the Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo, is also named in honour of the river.



  1. ^ a b "Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment" (in Greek). Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change. p. 90. Archived from the original on 15 February 2020.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Statistical Yearbook 2017, National Statistical Institute (Bulgaria), p. 17
  4. ^ a b c d Georgiev, Vladimir Ivanov Georgiev (1981). Introduction to the History of the Indo-European Languages (1981, p. 351). Publishing House of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. ISBN 9789535172611.
  5. ^ Florov, Nicholas; Florov, Irina (2001). Three-thousand-year-old Hat. Michigan University. ISBN 9780968848708.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ Duridanov, Ivan (1985). Die Sprache der Thraker. Neuried: Hieronymus Verlag. ISBN 978-3-88893-031-7. OCLC 18925921.
  7. ^ Schramm, Gottfried (1981): Eroberer und Eingesessene. Geographische Lehnnamen als Zeugen der Geschichte Südosteuropas im ersten Jahrtausend n. Chr. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, pp.290f. Referenced in Carsten Peust, How Old Are the River Names of Europe?, Linguistik Online, 2015
  8. ^ Evros: The immigrants' gateway., May 16, 2011.
  9. ^ Pavlidis, Pavlos; Karakasi, Maria-Valeria (2019). "Greek land borders and migration fatalities - Humanitarian disaster described from the standpoint of Evros". Forensic Science International. 302: 109875. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2019.109875. ISSN 1872-6283. PMID 31378400. S2CID 199438113.
  10. ^ Turkish police bolster Greek border to stop migrants' return. 6 March 2020.
  11. ^ Greece Defends Borders as Erdogan Opens the Gates: Live Updates. 1 March 2020.
  12. ^ "Athens lodges demarche with Ankara over Evros dispute". 22 May 2020.
  13. ^ a b Environmental management of big riverine floods: the case of Evros River in Greece, Z. Nivolianitou, B. Synodinou


Further reading