Sozopol is one of the oldest towns on Bulgarian Thrace’s Black Sea coast. The first settlement on the site dates back to the Bronze Age. Undersea explorations in the region of the port reveal relics of dwellings, ceramic pottery, stone and bone tools from that era. Many anchors from the second and first millennium BC have been discovered in the town’s bay, a proof of active shipping since ancient times.
The current town was founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists from Miletus as Antheia. The name was soon changed to Apollonia, on account of a temple dedicated to Apollo in the town, containing a famous colossal statue of the god Apollo by Calamis, 30 cubits high, transported later to Rome by Lucullus and placed in the Capitol.
The coins, which begin in the fourth century BC, bear the name Apollonia and the image of Apollo; the imperial coins, which continue to the first half of the third century AD, and the Tabula Peutinger also contain the name Apollonia; but the “Periplus Ponti Euxini”, 85, and the Notitiæ episcopatuum have only the new name Sozopolis. In 1328 Cantacuzene (ed. Bonn, I, 326) speaks of it as a large and populous town. The islet on which it stood is now connected with the mainland by a narrow tongue of land. Its inhabitants, in the past mostly Greeks, lived by fishing and agriculture.
From 1948 till 1989, under the rule of the communist party the city becomes Bulgaria’s cultural, economic and academic center. Since the end of communism Sofia has been in an ongoing renovation and rejuvenation and has seen many new buildings being built and many new cultural and historical sites being opened. It is estimated that at the moment more than 1.5 million people live and work in Sofia. Many major universities, government institutions, and businesses are concentrated in Sofia. It is also a center for media and culture events, theater spectacles, sporting events, orchestra and opera performances, contemporary art and music festivals and numerous museums.
The town established itself as a trade and naval centre in the following centuries. It kept strong political and trade relations with the cities of Ancient Greece – Miletus, Athens, Corinth, Heraclea Pontica and the islands Rhodes, Chios, Lesbos, etc. Its trade influence in the Thracian territories was based on a treaty with the rulers of the Odrysian kingdom dating from the fifth century BC.
The symbol of the town – the anchor, present on all coins minted by Apollonia since the sixth century BC, is proof of the importance of its maritime trade. The rich town soon became an important cultural centre. At these times it was called Apollonia Magna.
Ruled in turn by the Byzantine, Bulgarian and Ottoman Empires, Sozopol was assigned to the newly independent Bulgaria in the 19th century. At the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence (1821) prominent local personalities were arrested and executed by the Ottoman authorities due to participation in the preparations of the struggle.
Almost all of its Greek population was exchanged with Bulgarians from Eastern Thrace in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars. In 2011 the remains of an ancient Greek settlement, part of Apollonia, were excavated in the small island of St. Kirik (Saint Cerycus) off Sozopolis.
Since 1984 Sozopol hosts the Apollonia art festivities every September, which include theatre shows, exhibitions, movies, musical and dance performances, book presentations and other cultural events.
Sozopol consists of an old part and new part of the town. The old town mainly offers romantic and traditional wooden architecture, whereas the new part of the town is full of modern buildings. The old town includes more than 180 residences and houses from the National Revival period in 18th – 19th centuries. The houses built of wood and stone with Mediterranean-style red-tiled roofs conform to the so-called Black Sea school of architecture.