Sozopol is a town in Southeast Bulgaria, located on the Bulgarian Black sea coast, in the southern part of the bay of Burgas, 30 km south of Burgas. The town is subdivided in the Old and New town, with the Sea Garden in between. The water area of the bay of Sozopol includes the Island of St Joan and next to it, there is a small island – includes the Island of St Peter. The population of Sozopol is 4317, it falls under the District of Burgas and it is the administrative center of Sozopol Municipality.
Tourism is a key factor of the economic features of the modern history of Sozopol. The town and the municipality are the main destination on the southern Bulgarian Black sea coast. In the immediate vicinity of the town there are several camping sites: Gradina, Zlatna Ribka, Kavatsi, Vesselie, and Smokinya.
The coastline is remarkable for its greatly segmented shapes and the larger sand beaches are to be found within the boundaries of the town – the Central or Northern Beach and the beach of Harmanite. Almost one third of the beach of Harmanite is occupied by sand dunes. The peninsulas between bays have cape that are difficult to access and many underwater and surface rocks.
Sozopol is the most ancient town on Bulgarian Black sea coast. The earliest settlement in the area was established at the end of the 5th century B.C.
The first name of the town given to it by Greek colonists when first established was Anthea, in the year 620 B.C. It was later changed to Apolonia, celebrating the Greek god Apollo, the protector of exiles, and revered as a healer. Since late antiquity, Apolonia is known as Sozopolis / translated as the town of salvation, deliverance or healing/.
The trade influence of Apolonia in Thrace was based on alliance with the the rulers of the Odrysaean kingdom, made in the 5th c.B.C. The Polis used to maintain active relations with the major centers in Greece, such as Miletus, Athens, Corinth, Heraclea Pontica and the islands Rhodes, Chios, Lesbos, and Egypt .
From the end of the 6th c. B.C., Apolonia started coining its own money. The importance of active trade by sea and seafaring was the reason to adopt anchor as the emblem of the Polis, and the anchor sign was to be seen on its coins, as well.
Apolonia managed to maintain its independent state also during the period of military campaigns of Phillip II of Macedonia (year 342-339 B.C.) and Alexander of Macedonia (year 335 B.C.)
The rich town became the center of highly developed arts. There was a shrine of the God Apollo . Its exact location is unknown, it was probably the St Kirik Island, and as it goes, there was a 12-meter statue of Apollo made by the Athenian sculptor Kalamides.
In the year 72 B.C., the Roman commander proconsul Marcus Lucullus conquered the city and took away with him the statue of Apollo from the sanctuary and placed it on the Capitol in Rome.
After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, the region of today’s Sozopol became part of the Eastern Roman Empire. At the time of Emperor Anastasius (491-518) the city walls were built around and they were used for centuries, in many places they have been reconstructed and rebuilt. The city is situated on the coastal route of Via Pontica.
In 812 A.D., during the reign of the Bulgarian Khan Krum, Sozopol was included in the boundaries of Bulgaria, although like the rest of the Black sea towns, it was frequently held by Byzantines , and the last invader was Theodor Svetoslav. Of great importance for its consolidation as one of the most important centers of Christianity on the western Black sea coast, were the monasteries (St Joan Prodrome, St.St. Kirik and Julita , and St.Anasthasia on the islands with identical names; St. Nikolas near the modern town of Chernomorets, and the monasteries in the town: St. Jioan, St. Apostles , and St. Mary).
In1366, when Count Amadeus VI of Savoy marched to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast (1366-1367) , the town was captured and sold to Byzantium. In 1453, after a long siege, and despite the support of Venetian and Genoese ships, the town fell in the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
Preserved are all churches and many houses made of timber and stone that create the architectural appearance of today’s Sozopol. Ancient icons and wooden iconostases are the best achievements of artistic crafts of that time.
In 1974, the ancient town became architectural and archeological reserve named Ancient Sozopol.
The start of archeological studies of the area of modern Sozopol is 1904, when a French team lead by the French consul in Plovdiv, Mr. Degarnd, headed for Sozopol , where, as it was assumed , was the place of the antiquity town of Apolonia Pontica. The antique artefacts discovered by the French archeologists were handed over to the fund of the Louvre in Paris. Among those there were painted antique vases of the Rhodes –Ionian type of the 17th -19th c. B.C., a guided wreath of a Thracian ruler, exquisite limestone bust of a woman from Apollonia of the 3rd c.B.C.
Since 2010, extensive archeological diggings have been in progress and these have resulted in the uncovering and restoration of the eastern and the southern fortress walls, the southern fort date, a medieval customs point, ceramic and metallurgical furnaces,металургични пещи, foundries. A single apse charge, a basilica and an ancient Christianity necropolis were found at the southern fort wall. Since 2012, diggings have been made jointly with French experts.
Further, in 2010, Relics of St. John the Baptist were found on the St.Joan Island near Sozopol. This relic was uncovered during excavation among the ruins of the medieval monastery of St. Joan the Precursor. It has been assumed that the bones have been transferred in the 4th c. AD to the monastery on the island near Sozopol, from the Patriarchy of Constantinople. Now, the relics are kept at the church of St.St. Cyril and Methodius in Sozopol and these are displayed for worshiping every Sunday.
This finding has an extreme importance for both the whole Bulgaria and the Christian world. It has high scientific value that was proven through studies conducted in Oxford and promoted via a film of the National Geographic Channel, which was shown on many other ТV channels worldwide. Dozens of thousands of tourists from Bulgaria and all over the world are visiting Sozopol to worship the relics, which made the town one of the most desired destinations for cultural and historical tourism in Bulgaria.