Apollonia Pontica/ Sozopol

1. Introduction

Apollonia in Thrace, today Sozopol in Bulgaria, is situated on the western Black Sea coast, on the present day Skamanij peninsula. The modern city covers entirely the ancient urban structures. The present day Kirik Island, once linked to the continent, was part of Apollonia.

1.1. Sources

Apollonia is recorded in a fair number of literary sources from Herodotus to the 8th c. A.D. Ravennatis Cosmographia.1 The inscriptions recording the city are collected in the G. Mihailov’s editions of IGB.2 Coins struck in the Hellenistic and Roman periods mention the town and depict some of its famous monuments.

1.2. Name and position

As many Apollonias in the Greek world, the Pontic Apollonia bears the name of the God-patron of the town, Apollo, to whom the inhabitants dedicated monuments and statues. Among many literary sources which record the town there are some that specify its geographical location and role.

Pomponius Mela places the city "in the gulf where Pontus ends its second bent through an angle" and names it the "big Apollonia" (magna Apollonia).3 Strabo records the distance between Callatis and Apollonia, namely 1300 stadia (240.50 km) and states that "from Apollonia to Cyaneae there are about 1500 stadia (277.50 km), an interval in which Thynias lies, a land of Apolloniates, a deserted and rocky sea shore, without ports".4

Tabula Peutingeriana records the town at 44.40 km from Anchialos,5 while the Antonine Itinerary does not mention it. Ravennatis Cosmographia also records the town as having two ports, whence its once flourishing commercial life.6

2. History

2.1. Prehistoric period

Underwater research in the harbours of Sozopol revealed traces of Chalcolitic and Early Bronze Age settlements. The huge, so-called "Demetrios head", found at the Ropotamo River mouth, dates from the Late Bronze Age.7 A Thracian settlement must have been in existence on the promontory in the 10th -7th c. B.C.8

2.2. Archaic period

A Rhodian emporion seems to have been in existence on the very place of the future colony, as Apollonia was sometimes named Antheia or Anthia.9 Officially, the town was founded by colonists from Miletus, possibly in 609 B.C.10 Occasional excavations in the modern town yielded traces of the Archaic period.11
Herodotus mentions Apollonia in the route of the Persian army during Darius' expedition against the Scythians (514 B.C.).12

2.3. Classical period

In the mid-5th c. B.C., Apollonia joined the Delian league, functioning as an important base for the Athenian fleet in its way to Taurian Chersonesus.13 The excavations in the necropolis and town area show that Apollonia reached its momentum in the interval between the Persian wars and the first half of the 4th c.14 A new defence wall was built. Aineias Taktikos offers interesting details on the 4th c. fortification and alarm system. The number of population reached at that time c. 3,000 free citizens, dependents and free producers.15 In the second half of the 5th c., Apollonia struck silver coins with the head of Apollo, on the obverse, and the anchor and crab on the reverse, as specific symbols.16 Trade with Athens and other Ionian and continental Greek centres appears to flourish in the 5th c. B.C.17 The town maintained good relations with the neighbouring Thracian Odrysan Kingdom.18 A Thracian community is well documented at Apollonia.

As a consequence of its economic and demographic development, Apollonia founded Anchialos (Pomorje), in the 5th c.19 in a major strategic position. The latter, though, brought it in constant conflict with Messembria, the neighbouring Doric colony.

The demographic boom in Apollonia led to internal political clashes between the Milesian and non-Milesian colonists.20

Apollonia and Odessos concluded a treaty of alliance with Philip II of Macedonia, both receiving freedom and protection. By 339 B.C., the Scythian king Atheas used Apollonia as an intermediary to ask for military assistance from Philip II in his war against the Getae and a certain rex Histrianorum.21

2.4. The Hellenistic period

The freedom of Apollonia was suppressed by Lysimachus. There is no clear indication that Apollonia participated in the revolt of the Pontic towns against the Macedonian king in 313 B.C. By the mid-3rd c.22 Apollonia was in good relations with the Thracian king Cotys, who sent his son as hostage to confirm an alliance treaty.23

In the first half or in the mid-3rd c. Apollonia was threatened by an important danger, most likely the Tylis-based Celts. In the virtue of the traditional friendship, contractual engagement, and alliance with Histria, the latter sent an expeditionary force led by Callicrates to defend Apollonia against the Celts from Tylis.24 The allied forces won the war.

In the 3rd c. B.C. Apollonia offered help to Mesembria and played an important role in the liberation of the territory of Callatis from an unspecified enemy intrusion.25 An unknown Apolloniate citizen was honoured at Histria.26 Sometime between 180-150 B.C. another unknown citizen from Apollonia accomplished a mission at Histria, as mediator in the social fights.27

In 179 B.C. Apollonia was endangered by the Bastarnians.28 A 2nd c. B.C. decree found at Histria relates to the war waged by Apollonia against Mesembria for the control of the Anchialos stronghold.29 "It happened that the stronghold from over there [was occupied by enemies?] during an undeclared war started against us by the Messambrians[…]". The decree honoured the people of Histria and its admiral Hegesagoras, Monimos’ son, who helped the allied city. The Histrians are called "friends", "relatives", and "allies".30 Apollonia awarded Hegesagoras a golden wreath during the feasts honouring Dionysus, a bronze statue, a prow of a ship to be set in the temple of Apollo Iatros, and a decree carved on marble.

In the first half of the 1st c. B.C. Apollonia required and billeted a garrison of Mithridates VI Eupator, the king of Pontus. It was the headquarters of the Pontic military forces on the western Black Sea shore.31

In late 70s of the 1st c. B.C., after a long siege, Apollonia was destroyed by the Roman general Varro Lucullus.32

Apollonia seems to have entered under the control of Burebista, king of the Getae , as inferred by Dion Chrysostomos.33 By the late 1st c. B.C. Apollonia was included into the Thracian strategy of Astike.34

2.5. The Early and Late Roman period

The evergrowing importance of Anchialos and Deultum shadowed Apollonia’s former prominent position. The city's importance was undermined during the Roman Empire, although it was several times mentioned as a polis/ civitas.35 The defence wall was rebuilt or repaired several times between the 2nd and the late 5th c. The Anonymus "Periplum Ponti Euxini" calls the town Sozopolis,36 a name common in Late Roman and early Byzantine period, whence the modern Sozopol. In the 4th c., Ammianus Marcellinus records the town among the most prominent ones (celebriora) of the province of Thrace.37 In late 5th or early 6th c. the defended area was drastically reduced. A much smaller enclosure wall, on the part of the town called nowadays "Horizont", was built at that date.38 The reconstruction of some parts of this new area occurred during Justinian’s reign. A surface of c. 15 ha remained as an opened, unfortified area. By the early 7th century, the defences were destroyed by the Slavs’ invasions, although the habitable area was never abandoned.39

3. Economy

3.1. The town economy

A huge quantity of 6th -2nd c. B. C. pottery of different types (Attic-Beotian red figured, black slipped, and common grey and red ware), terracotta with human and zoomorphic representations were found in the inhumation burials of the town necropolis. They reveal an intense and steady trade with Attica, the eastern coast of Asia Minor and the Thracian surroundings.40
Apollonia struck coins in the late Classical and the Hellenistic period. It struck Tetrobols and Diobols in the second half of the 4th c. B.C. A part of a silver hoard found in the town show intense economic relations with Parion and Thracian Chersonesus. Coins of Alexander type continued to circulate until the early 2nd century B. C., while those featuring, Gods like Dionysus, Herakles, Demeter and Dioscuri were common. Pieces were struck during the period of autonomy (c. 150 B.C.).41 The town struck coins under Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus. An inscription dated during Severus' reign mentions Ἀπολλωνιητ[έων?] ἐν Πόν[τῳ], a sign that the town was still of certain importance.42

3.2. Economy in the chora

Apollonia had an extended chora towards the south and inland. Of some importance was the harbour installation and settlement identified at the present Chaika Cape at the mouth of the Ropotamo River. Other settlements were identified at Demetrios Cape and at Maslen nos (Cape), where another harbour installation was found.43 Ahtopol, an emporium of Apollonia was in existence since Archaic times, while at Sinemorec a settlement dominated by Thracian population was investigated.44 The strategic point at Thynias Cape (today Iğneada burun) belonged to Apollonia in the 1st c. B.C., as Strabo informs us,45 although in the 2nd c. B.C. the area was dominated by the powerful Thracian tribe of Asti. In the 5th c. B.C. the Apolloniates founded Anchialos, a key strategically and economically position, close to the saline and salty lakes which it defended.

4. Burrials and cults

4.1. Necropolis

Partial excavations were carried out in the necropolis (at a site called “Calphata”), and within the town area (St. George church, Morski skali and Vjatarna melnica Streets).

The necropolis appeared in the mid -6th century B.C. Three types of inhumation have been identified: 1)simple rectangular, 2) hatched tiles and roof pits with stone plaques on lateral sides (4th c. B.C) and 3) pits entirely riveted in stone, occasionally with wooden coffins (6th -5th c). The cremation burials attributed to the Thracian population clarify the ethnic relations with the Greek colonists.46

4.2. Deities

A 6th c. B. C. votive relief of Cybele represented in a seated position and sided by two lying lions, her companions, is a unique piece in the Pontic basin. A famous representation found at Apollonia is a 3rd c. B.C. fragmentary terracotta showing the Goddess Cybele riding a lion.47 The Cybele cult was very popular at Apollonia, from the very beginning, as it was in the entire Pontic basin where representations of the Goddess are significant in number.

In the mid 5th c., the famous Boeotian sculptor, Kalamis, moulded a bronze statue of Apollo Iatros, 13. 20m high, estimated to ca. 500 talents.48 The deity was venerated also at Histria, Olbia and Pantikapaion. A representation of the statue appears on the reverse of a 3rd century silver tetradrachm.49 The statue was sent to Rome in 71. B. C., after the town was destroyed by Varus Lucullus, and set on the Capitol.50

5. Monuments and finds

A late 6th c. B.C. tomb and a head of a young boy were found on the present-day Kirik island.51 The stele of Deines, Anaximander’s son (490 B.C.),52 and early 6th c. pottery imports from Attica and Asia Minor are outstanding finds of the archaic period. Famous is also a mid 5th century wooden small statue of a young boy.

A 2nd c. B.C. gravestone is a unique representation. It features a personage holding two lances in the left and reaching his right hand to a young boy head, set on the top of an altar, who seems to point to the deceased. A young slave appears in the right corner of the stone. The deceased must have fallen in battle for the defence of the town or other reasons. This is substantiated by the fragmentary inscription beneath containing the formula "the People", which is likely to have thanked him for his services.

Artefacts of Thracian inspiration were also found. A late 5th c. B.C. clay drinking horn, reproduces the pieces of the same type found in Thrace proper.

6. History of archaeological investigation

Partial excavations were carried out occasionally on some streets areas overlapping ancient structures. The necropolis was excavated between 1946 and 1949. In the territory of the ancient town, places like the Ropotamo River mouth, the Demetrios, Chaika, Maslen Capes, or settlements from Ahtopol, Kiten, Malko kale or Meden rid yielded important archaeological evidence for the economy of the town’s chora.

Beside Anchialos, Malko kale was a fortress in the territory of Apollonia.which held a key strategic position.53 Its partial investigation shows traces of occupation since late 4th c. B.C. The general opinion is that the fort played an important role during the Varro Lucullus long siege of Apollonia, being one of the places which put a firm stand to the Roman army in 72-71 B.C. A place of economic importance in the territory of the town was the area north of Apollonia, between the Atija Cape and the site called Rosen, where the surveys and archaeological excavations identified a handicraft complex with workshops for metal processing, dated in the 2nd to 1st c. B.C.54

Recent investigations established that to the north and west the territory of Apollonia in the Roman period neighboured the Deultum administrative boundary, while to the south the Veleka River described the frontier line with the chora of the town of Bizye.55 Investigations in the Ahtopol area revealed that some of the old Apollonia’s harbours continued to function in the Roman period.

Occasional archaeological excavations were carried out at the late Roman and early Byzantine defence wall and at two late 5th –early 6th c. churches, found on the Ribarska and another tracked down on the Sveti Kiril i Metodij Streets, where parts of the late defence wall are visible. Excavations identified remains of the early Byzantine fortifications in the present day Kirik island,56 once linked to the continent through a narrow strip of land.

1. Her. 4. 93; Arist. Polit. 8(5) 2. 11; 5-7; Scyl. Kar. Peripl. 67; Ps. Scymn. Perieg. 728-731; Aen. Tact. Poliorcet. 20. 4; Diod. Sic. Bibl. Hist. 20. 112. 2; Strab. Geogr. 7. 6. 1; XII 3. 3; Trog. Pomp. Hist. Philip. 9. 2. 1; Pomp. Mela 2.  22; Plin. N.H. 4. 11. 45; 12. 78; 24. 7. 39; Dion Chrysost. Or. 36. 4; Ptol. Geogr. 3.11. 10; App. Illyr. 30. 85; Arr. Peripl. Pont. Eux. 36; Anonym. Peripl. Pont. Eux. (GGM I 421. 85); Ael. Varia Hist. 3. 17; Diog. Laert. 2. 2; Tab. Peut. 8. 4; Rav. Cosmogr. 4. 6. 4-6; Eutrop. Brev. 6. 10; Ruf. Fest. Brev. 9; Amm. Marc. 22. 8. 43; Chron. Pasch. 2. 64. 3-6; Iord. Rom. 221; Steph. Byz. s. v. Apollonia nr. 2. 

2. IGBR I2, 387bis- 473; ISM I, 23, 30, 64, 112.

3. Pomp. Mela  2. 22.

4. Strab. Geogr. 7. 6. 1.

5. Tab. Peut. 8. 4.

6. Rav. Cosmogr.  4. 6. 4-6.

7. Leshtakov, K., “The detachment of the Early Bronze Age ceramics along the south Bulgarian Black Sea coast”, Thracia Pontica 5 (1994) p. 23-38.

8. Zaneva, M., “Die Thraker und Apollonia nach den Forschungen der Hügelgrabmäler”, Thracia Pontica 3 (1985) p. 166-173.                           

9. Plin. N.H. 4. 11. 45; Steph. Byz. s.v.

10. Scyl. Peripl. 67. 731: “fifty years before the Cyrus’ reign” (i. e. 609 B. C.).

11. Mikov, V., “Fouilles de Sozopol”, (in Bulg.) Izvestia na balgarskata Arheologicheski Instititut 3 (1925) p. 236-241; Reho, M., “Ceramica di tipo Greco-orientale ad Apollonia”, Thracia Pontica 3 (1985) p. 216-220.   

12. Her. 4. 93.

13. IG I2, 63, 261-262: [Ἡρ]ακλειῶτα[ι] Ἀ[πολ]λωνία.

14. Venedikov, I., Gerasimov, T., Dremsizova, C., Ivanov, T., Mladenova, J., Velkov, V., Apolonia. Razkopki v nekropola na Apolonia prez 1947-1949 (Sofia 1963); Venedikov, I., Aperçu general des fouilles, in Apollonia. Les fouilles dans la nécropole d’Apollonia en 1947-1949, (in Bulg.) (Sofia 1962-1963) p. 341-347; 364-371; 388-395; Ivanov, T., “La céramique antique de la nécropole d’Apollonia”, (in Bulg.) Izvestia na Arheologicheski Instititut, Sofia 32 (1970) p. 255-275. 

15. Aen. Tact. Poliorcet.  20.  4.

16. Tacchella, D., “Monnaies autonomes d’Apollonia de Thrace”, Revue Nummismatique (1898) p. 210-218; Pick, B., “Observations sur les monnaies autonomes d’Apollonia en Thrace”, Revue Nummismatique (1898) p. 219-230; Gerasimov, T., “Les monnaies de la nécropole d’Apollonia du littoral de la Mer Noire”, (in Bulg.) Sbornik Apollonia (Sofia 1963) p. 331-340; Hind, J. G. F., “Anchors, crayfish and facing heads: silver coins of Apollonia on the Euxine sea”, Thracia Pontica 2 (1982) p. 89-104; Stephanova, A., “Observations sur le monnayage de bronze d’Apollonie du Pont”, Thracia Pontica 2 (1982) p. 272-282. 

17. Panaiotova, K., “Apollonia Pontica: recent  discoveries in the necropolis”, in R. Gocha Tsetskhladze (ed.), The Greek colonisation of the Black Sea. Historical interpretation of archaeology (Stuttgart 1988) p. 97 - 113.

18. IGBR I2, 389; Porozhanov, K. “Les relations entre les colonie grecques et les etats thraces du littoral occidental de la Mer noire VIIe- Ve av. n. è.”, Thracia Pontica 3 (1985) p. 158-164; Zaneva, M., “Die Thraker und Apolonia nach den Vorschungen der Hügelgrabmäler”, Thracia Pontica 3 (1985) p. 170-173.

19. LGRC 4 (1998) col. 485-487, s.v. Anchialos (M. Zahariade); M. Lazarov, V. Giuzelev, E. Grozdanova, V. Tonev (eds) Istoria na Pomorie I. Anhialo ot drevnostta do ozvobozhdenie (Burgas 2000). 

20. Arist. Polit. 8(5) 2. 11; 5-7.

21. Trog. Pomp. Hist. Philip 9. 2. 1.

22. Diod. Sic. 19. 73. 2 speaks vaguely enough about an alliance between Callatis and Histria “and other neighbouring towns in order to fight united against Lysimachos”.

23. IGBR I2, 389.

24. ISM  I, 12 = IGBR I2, 389.

25. IGBR I2, 388.

26. ISM I, 23=SEG 19, 465.

27. ISM I, 30.

28. Tit. Liv Ab. Urb. Cond. 40. 58. 8.

29. ISM I, 64.

30. The wording in the Histrian inscription is suggestive: φίλοι και συγγενεῖς και σύμμαχοι.

31. IGBR I2, 392.

32. Strab.Geogr. 7. 6. 1;  Plin. N.H. 34. 1. 39.

33. Dion Chrysost. Or. 36.  4.

34. Ptol. Geogr. 3.11. 10.

35. Arr. Peripl. Pont. Eux. 36; Menip. Pergamen. Peripl. 156.

36. Anon. Peripl. Pont. Eux. 14.

37. Amm. Marc. 22. 8. 43.

38. Panaiotova, K.,  Drazheva, C., “Apollonia Pontica-Sozopol”, R. Ivanov (ed.), Roman and Early Byzantine Settlements in Bulgaria 2 (Sofia 2003) p. 215-250.

39. Oppermann, M., Thraker, Griechen und Römer an der Westküste des Schwarzen Meeres, Sonderbände der Antiken Welt (Mainz 2007) p. 115-116.

40. Ivanov, T., “La céramique de la nécropole d’Apollonia”, (in Bulg) Razkopki i prouchvania 2 (1949) p. 31-50; Galabov, I., “Contributions à l’archéologie d’Apollonia”, (in Bulg.) Izvestia na Arheologicheski Institut 18 (1952) p. 93-118 ; Ivanov, T., “La céramique antique de la nécropole d’Apollonia”, (in Bulg.) Sbornik Apollonia (Sofia 1963) p. 65-73; Galabov, I., “La céramique pre-romaine d’ Apollonia”, (in Bulg.) Izvestia narodnia Muzei Burgas 2 (1965) p. 11-48; Reho-Bumbalova, M., “Diffusione della ceramica attica a figure nere e rose nella « Tracia Bulgaria »”, Thracia Pontica 2 (1982) p. 215-242.

41. Tachella, D., “Monnaies d’argent autonomes d’Apollonia de Thrace”, Revue Nummismatique (1903) p.40-42; Gerasimov, T., “Un trésor  de monnaies d’Apollonie Pontique”, (in Bulg.) Razkopki i Prouchvania 1 (1948) p. 134-149; Gerasimov, T., “Les monnaies  de la nécropole d’Apollonia du littoral de la Mer Noire”, (in Bulg.) Sbornik Apollonia (1963) p. 331-340.   

42. IGBR I2.

43. IGBR I2.

44. Oppermann, M., Thraker, Griechen und Römer an der Westküste des Schwarzen Meeres, Sonderbände der Antiken Welt (Mainz 2007) p. 66.

45. Strab.Geogr. 7. 6. 1; Boshnakov, C., “Strabo VII 6, 1”, Thracia Pontica 5 (1994) p. 87 - 94.

46. See note 14.

47. Velkov, V., “Stèles funairaires de la nécropole d’Apollonia”, (in Bulg.) Sbornik Apollonia (1963) p. 325-329; Oppermann, M., Thraker, Griechen und Römer an der Westküste des Schwarzen Meeres, Sonderbände der Antiken Welt (Mainz 2007) p.16. 

48. Strab. Geogr. 7. 6. 1.

49. Gerasimov, T., “La statue d’Apollon de Calamis à Apollonia sur la Mer Noire”, (in Bulg.) Izvestia na narodnia muzei Burgas  2 (1965) p. 1-9; Oppermann, M., Thraker, Griechen und Römer an der Westküste des Schwarzen Meeres, Sonderbänden der Antike Welt (Mainz 2007) p. 33.

50. Strab. Geogr. 7. 6. 1;  App. Illyr. 30; Plin. N.H. 34. 39; Eutrop. Brev. 6. 10; Ruf. Fest. Brev. 9; Oros. Adv. Pag. 5. 13-14.

51. Mansova, L., “Novi prouchvania varhu mramorat glavichka ot Apolonia”,  Izvestia na Arheologicheski Institut 33 (1972) p. 86-90; Oppermann, M., op. cit., p. 15 fig. 9.

52. Dimitrov, D. P., “Novi nabliudenia varhu nadgrobnata plocha na Anaxander ot Apolonia” Godishnik Sofijskata Universitet Filologicheski Fakultet (1942) p. 3-16; Mansova, L., “Novi prouchvania varhu plocha na Anaksander ot Apolonia” Izvestia na Arheologicheski Institut 32 (1970) p. 255-275; Oppermann, M., op. cit., p. 16-17 fig. 12.

53. Galabov, I., “Contributions à l’archéologie d’ Apollonia”, (in Bulg.) Izvestia na Arheologicheski Institut 18 (1952) p. 93-118; Domaradzki, M., Karaiotov, I., Gotzev, A., “L’habitat du premier âge du fer de Malkoto kalé”, Thracia Pontica  4 (1991) p. 119-132; Domaradzki, M., “Razkopkite na trakiiskata krepost « Malkoto kalé » krai Sozopol”, Strndhansko-Sakarski sbornik 1 (1984) p. 221-223; Oppermann, M., op.cit., 56. Galabov, I., “Contributions à l’archéologie d’ Apollonia” (in Bulg.) Izvestia na Arheologicheski Institut 18 (1952) p. 93-118; Domaradzki, M., Karaiotov, I., Gotzev, A., “L’habitat du premier âge du fer de Malkoto kalé”, Thracia Pontica  4 (1991) p. 119-132; Domaradzki, M., “Razkopkite na trakiiskata krepost « Malkoto kalé » krai Sozopol”, Strndhansko-Sakarski sbornik 1 (1984) p. 221-223; Oppermann, M., p. 36.

54. Oppermann, M., Thraker, Griechen und Römer an der Westküste des Schwarzen Meeres, Sonderbände der Antiken Welt (Mainz 2007) p. 36.

55. Balabanov, P., Petrova, S., “Dovelt-Deultum-Debelt”, in: T. Ivanov (ed), Roman and Early Byzantine Cities in Bulgaria I (2002) p. 237-250.

56. Panaiotova, K., “Apollonia Pontica: recent  discoveries in the necropolis”, in R Gocha  Tsetskhladze (ed.), The Greek colonisation of the Black Sea. Historical interpretation of archaeology (Stuttgart 1988) p.225-231.