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Sozopol’s History Unearthed

Discover the rich history of Sozopol, a city of salvation that has undergone significant transformation and been shaped by various influences, from its ancient Greek origins to its Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

GuideBG Glimpse

The Sozopol Historical Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s storied past, showcasing artifacts from prehistory, antiquity, and the Middle Ages that reveal the region’s involvement in ancient metallurgy, agriculture, shipping, trade, and craftsmanship. With over 100 amphorae on display and the infamous “Vampire of Sozopol” discovered in 2012, the museum explores the city’s historical roots.

Early Settlements

Around the 5th millennium BC, a prehistoric community thrived near the harbor and St. Cyric and Iulita island. Rising sea levels later submerged this area. By the 2nd-1st millennium BC, the Thracian Skyrmians, adept at ore mining, settled nearby.

Arrival of Greek Colonists

In 620-610 BC, settlers from the ancient Greek city of Miletus arrived. They named their new settlement Apollonia, honoring Apollo. Initially, fishing sustained them. Over time, they formed trading partnerships with the local Thracian leader Skyrmians. This collaboration spurred Apollonia’s growth.

Archaeological Discoveries

Recent excavations in Mesarite have unveiled Apollonia of Pontius’ remnants. These include buildings, cemeteries, ceremonial hearths, and a well-crafted road from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. These discoveries highlight the colony’s historical significance and architectural ingenuity.

Apollonia Pontika Times

Apollonia Pontika, or Apollonia Magna, emerged as a significant trade and port center, commissioning a costly statue of Apollo created by the renowned sculptor Calamis. By the 5th century BC, the city faced competition from neighboring polises such as Messambria (Nessebar) and established Anchialo (Pomorie) as a fortress.

In 72 BC, Romans under Marcus Lucullus burned and sacked Apollonia due to its alliance with Mithridates in the battle against Roman invasion. The city began a centuries-long decline, overshadowed by Anchialo and Deultum, which enjoyed Roman favor.

Adoption of Christianity

In the 4th century AD, the city embraced Christianity. This significant shift led to the transformation of pagan temples into churches, chapels, and monasteries. Sozopol emerged as an episcopal center, marking its importance as a spiritual beacon in the region.

Name Change to Sozopolis

The city shed its old name, Apollonia, in favor of Sozopolis, erasing ties to the pagan god Apollo. “City of salvation” is the new Greek name’s meaning. Interpretations vary; some view it as a nod to Apollo’s saving grace, while others see it as a reference to the shelter it offered to storm-battered ships.

Byzantine Era Prosperity

By 395 AD, Sozopol fell under Byzantine control. Its proximity to Constantinople bolstered trade, especially in essentials like food and building materials. Under Emperor Anastasius’ reign (491-518 AD), a formidable fortress wall was erected, remnants of which still exist.

Bulgarian and Byzantine Tug-of-War

In 812, Khan Krum’s forces captured Sozopol, integrating it into the Bulgarian state. Despite frequent control shifts between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire, Sozopol retained its regional and episcopal significance. The Ottoman Empire’s capture in 1453 brought about hardships, including pirate attacks and Turkish dominance. In 1629, Turks destroyed the city’s religious buildings.

Architectural Renaissance

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the construction of Sozopol’s distinctive wooden houses, defining its architectural character. After Bulgaria’s liberation, the city was mainly Greek-speaking, reflecting its diverse cultural heritage.

Recent Dynamics

In 1906, there was an increase in tensions between Bulgarians and Greeks in Bulgaria caused by political propaganda from Greece in Macedonia. This led to many Greeks from Sozopol emigrating to Thessaly, Greece. In the 1930s, another wave of migration was when the emigrants established a new city called Sozopoli in the Halkidiki peninsula.

Sozopol transformed into a large fishing center in the 1920s, establishing a fishing school on the island of “Kirik and Iulita.” However, the school’s operation was short-lived, as it later became a naval school and the island a military base.

More History

More on Sozopol’s History

Essential details

Can be seen on:
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