Sozopol is an ancient town and seaside resort located 15 km south of Burgas on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, in Bulgaria. Today the town is mostly a seaside resort known for the Apollonia art and film festival (which takes place in early September) and is named after one of Sozopol’s ancient names. The busiest times of the year are the summer months, ranging from May to September as tourists from around the world come to enjoy the weather, sandy beaches, history and culture, fusion cuisine (Bulgarian, Greek, Turkish), and atmosphere of the colourful resort. The increasing popularity of the town has led to it being dubbed the Bulgarian St. Tropez, seeing stars like Ralph Fiennes, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Goldfrapp exploring its beauty and charm. Part of Burgas Province, as of September 2005 Sozopol has a population of 4,641. One of the most active and popular mayors had been Nikola Kaloyanov, who initiated numerous infrastructure changes to modernize the town in the 70s.
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 town, at first called Antheia, was colonized in Thrace on the shore of the Pontus Euxinus, principally on a little island, by Anaximander (born 610-609 BC) at the head of Milesian colonists. 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. At various times, Apollonia was known as Apollonia Pontica (that is, Apollonia on the Black Sea, the ancient Pontus Euxinus) and Apollonia Magna (Great Apollonia). 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. Sozopolis, in Greek Sozòpolis (Σωζωπολις, meaning the “preserve” city), in Turkish Sizebolu, in Bulgarian Sozopol, is in Burgas Province, Bulgaria. Its inhabitants, in the past mostly Greeks, lived by fishing and agriculture. 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. Almost all of its Greek population was exchanged with Bulgarians from Eastern Thrace in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars.