Here you will find a short historical description of Sozopol, some interesting details on the latest history of the town and local names
Sozopol is the oldest town on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. The earliest settlement in the area was established at the end of 5th century BC. The Greek colonists who established the town initially called it Anthea. It was later changed to Apollonia in honour of the Greek god Apollo, protector of re-settlers, also worshiped as a healer. In order to distinguish it from the other towns with the name Apollonia that existed at the time (such as Apollonia of Illirya or Apollonia of Midroniorum) the town was also known by its explanatory name Pontica, i.e. Black Sea (in ancient Greek Ἀπολλωνία Ποντική) or Magna (Great). Since the late part of this ancient era, Apollonia has been known as Sozopolis (written in Greek as Σωζόπολις, which translates as Town of Salvation, Deliverance or Recuperation). Genoese records and sea maps made after the 13th century identify it by the names Sixopoli, Sizopoli, Sinopolis, Sunopolis, Susopori, Suxopori, Gisopoli, Gixopoli and Grisopoli. During the Ottoman period, the name was modified to the Turkish Sizebolu or Sizeboli. After Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule, the usage of the Bulgarian version Sozopol became predominantl. During the Middle Ages, the town came into the possession of the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria. Irrespective of the country that owned it, it kept its status of a regional and Episcopalian town. The monasteries (Sv. Yoan Prodrom, Sv. Sv. Kirik i Yulita and Sv. Anastasiya (St. Anastasia) on the islands of the same names; Sv. Nikola (St. Nicholas) in today’s town of Chernomorets; and the monasteries in the town: Sv. Yoan (St. Joan), Sv. Apostoli (Holy Apostles) and Sv. Bogoroditsa (St. Mary)) played a big part in its acceptance as one of the most important Christian centres on the West Black Sea Coast. The fortification walls built around the town in the 5th and 6th centuries turned it into an important trade hub on Via Pontica, the road along the sea going to Constantinople. In 1453, after a long siege and in spite of the help of Venetian and Genoese ships, the town was occupied by Ottoman Turks. In the 17th century, Sozopol was frequently raided by pirates (mostly by Zaporozhian Cossacks). In 1629, all monasteries and churches in the town were burned and destroyed by the Turks. As a result of the devastation, Sozopol lost its leading role in the region.
After Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule, the town became a big fishing centre on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and a Fishing School was established, which taught student modern fishing methods using ships and prepared cadets for the navy.
The old town, known as Ancient Sozopol, was declared an architectural and archaeological reserve. There are many historical monuments in Sozopol: Thracian fortresses in Medni rid, Thracian burial mounds (some of which are yet to be studied by archaeologists), antique necropolises and fortress walls.
In 2010, during archaeological excavations in the ruins of Sveti Yoan Predtecha (John the Baptist), a monastery from the Middle Ages on the island of St. Ivan near Sozopol, a small stone sarcophagus (reliquary) was found. Fragments of human bones had been ritually laid inside – fragments of facial bones, part of a right-hand finger and a tooth. When they were discovered, it was suggested that they are the bones of John the Baptist. The scientific studies conducted – isotopic analysis in Oxford and DNA analysis in Copenhagen – proved, to a high degree of certainty, that the bone fragments belonged to one and the same person – a man, vegetarian, 30-40 years of age, who lived between 5 years BC and 75 years AD. These and other coincidences made the scientists conclude that these remains are of the historical figure who baptised Jesus Christ himself.
This discovery is incredibly important, and not only to the entire Christian world. The story was presented in detail in the National Geographic Channel documentary “Search for the Head of John the Baptist“. The documentary was bought by a number of other world television companies, thereby spreading the word of the discovery.
The remains are being kept and displayed for worship at the Sozopol church “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”.
Another Sozopol church – Sveti Georgi (St. George) – keeps the following relics: part of the Holy Cross and the remains of Sveti Andrey (St. Andrew).
The name Budzhak originates from the Turkish word “bucak”, which is translated as “corner”, “nook” or “quiet place”. In fact, this name is more famous as the old name of Bessarabia – a region in today’s Ukraine and Moldova – a quiet area, geographically enclosed by the Black Sea, Danube, Prut and the hilly parts to the north.
When we look at Budhzaka on the map and see the landscape, keeping in mind the abovementioned meaning of the word in Turkish, we can easily understand why this area south of Sozopol is known by this name.