SOZOPOL – “Apollonia Magna” (Great Apollonia)
On this beautiful peninsular piece of land time has brought together present, past, traditions, art, the sea and plenty of romance …
Apollonia (Απολλωνία) is the ancient Greek name of present-day Sozopol – the oldest Bulgarian town, locat-ed 30 km away from Burgas, Bulgaria’s second largest port city. emains of ancient settlements, pottery and tools have been discovered here. It is estimated that a Thracian settlement existed in this place as early as the 4th-3rd centuries BC.
In 610 BC Greek Milesians settled on this peninsular where Thracians before them had built their homes and sanctuaries. Thus the Hellenic colony of Apollonia Pontica (Απολλωνία η Ποντική), named after Apollo, the an-cient Greek god of the sun and light and patron of the arts, was established. The chroniclers of the time point out that the founder of the polis (city state) is the famous Hellenic natural philosopher and prose writer Anaximander. From the very first centuries of its existence the polis started to flourish — it cut its own coins and controlled a vast territory along the Black sea coast, from Anhialo – (present day Pomorie) to the north to Tiniada (present day Ineada, Turkey) to the south. The anchor was the ever present symbol on the coins of Apollonia from the 5th till the 2nd century BC.
Apollonia quickly turned into an important port and a commercial center that traded with the biggest trading hubs of Hellenes such as Corinth, Athens, the islands of Lesbos, Rhodes etc. It owed its riches to the many ore deposits of the Strandzha mountain, the salt deposits of Anhialo and its naturally protected harbours
During antiquity Apollonia was a well-developed urban center with monumental public buildings and strong fortification walls. Chroniclers also mention the existence of the temple of Apollo the Healer which impressed with a colossal 13-meter high bronze statue of Apollo made by the famous ancient Greek sculptor Calamis. During that period the polis came to be known as Apollonia Magna or Great Apollonia which testifies to its great-ness and power at the time.
The Roman expansion put and end to the political and economic prowess of Apollonia. In 72 BC the city was conquered, raided and reduced to ashes by the Roman legions. The conquerors took the statue of Apollo to Rome as a precious war trophy and put it on Capitoline Hill. After Christianity was proclaimed the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century the city was re-named to Sozopolis (City of Salvation).
It finally became part of the Bulgarian territory in 812 when it was conquered by the army of the Bulgarian ruler Krum.
From the 11th till the 14th centuries the city’s im-portance as a commercial, religious and cultural center increased. Byzantine chroniclers mention Sozopol as a rich and densely populated city. Many churches and monasteries were built at that time including the Holy Apostles Monastery located just a few minutes away by foot from the Doctor’s House.
During the five-century long Ottoman rule (from 1396 till 1878) the city’s Christian population was subjected to severe religious, economic and cultural oppression. Many exquisite churches and public buildings were destroyed. The city experienced economic and demographic decline. Sozopol turns into a small fishing village.
” The Sea is for Real and Happiness Exists! ”
Today the old part of Sozopol enchants guests with its well-preserved houses of stone and wood dating back to the Bulgarian Revival period (18th-19th C), with its ancient icons and intricate woodcarvings on the iconostases of its many chapels and churches, with its excavations that are visible both in the heart of the city and on the periphery as well as with its restored medieval fortification wall. The Northern tower (3rd C), located right next to the Doctor’s House, was also part of the city’s medieval defences, providing protection for the outport between the St. Ivan and St. Kirik islands.
The annual Festival of Arts which has been taking place in Sozopol at the end of summer for almost 40 years now, also bears the name of Apollonia and showcases the best annual theatrical and musical performances as well as literary premieres.
Walking up the steep cobbled streets of this enchanting peninsular town, its guests and visitors cannot but delve into the city’s millennial history, become captivated by its marine beauty and remain forever bewitched by its authentic spirit…