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History

Еarly written sources indicate that Odessos / Varna of nowadays / was established as a colony of Millet, a city in Greek Asia Minor, in the second quarter of 6-th century BC. This was the period of the so called Great Greek Collonisation. The name of the city / Odessos – a settlement on water, “Watertown” / is not Greek, it comes from an earlier linguistic layer indicating the existence of an earlier settlement in the area. The city developed as a classical polis type. At a certain time Odessos became one of the most significant ports and trade centres in the Black Sea area. Imported ceramics found on the territory of the ancient town show the main directions of trade relations at the time. In the first decades ties were maintained with the mother city of Millet and the territories nearby, on the Western cost of Asia Minor, but starting with the beginning of the 5-th c. BC, the priority was taken over by Athens.

For a few decades Varna was within the territory of the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great /336-323 BC/, but after the death of his deputy in Tracie, Lizimah /281 BC/, the town regained its independence as the largest trade centre on the Western Black Sea coast. Indicative of its economic growth and significance was the fact that it started issuing its own coins, silver and bronze at the beginning, but also gold statters from the second half of the 3-rd c. BC on. Odessos became one of the important producers of terracotta statuettes. At that period the spiritual life of the town witnessed an important move, the Thracian god Darzalis rose to became supreme deity in the town’s pantheon. This was due to the increased presence of Thracian population in the ancient town.

Since 15 AD, with the creation of the Roman province of Misia, Odessos had been included in the territory of the Roman Empire. It did not however lose its previous significance as a harbour, trace, crafts and culture centre. The bronze scales, weights and other findings speak about the scope of the trade going on. The cultural and sports life of the town are represented by the lamps, theatre masques, a silver statuette of an actor and the sports accessories found. At the end of the 2-nd c. about 7,000 sq.m. of therms /baths/ were built, the largest on the Balkan Peninsular. The baths became centre of the public life of the town. Odessos witnessed a new economic upheaval at the end of the 4-th c., a new town development plan was designed, new therms and a town wall were built, the latter encircling the town’s grown territory. Trade was thriving and Oddessos started attracting more and more settlers from Asia Minor, Syria and the Aegean Islands. The constant invasions of tribes, coming across the Danube in the North in the late antiquity, brought about ethnic changes in the ancient Thracian lands, hence a vast cultural change in the population.

From the 4-th c. on, the indigenous Thracian population intermingled with groups of the tribes, coming from the North as a result of the so called barbarian invasions. In the 6-th c. large Slavonic masses took part in this process, settling permanently on Thracian land. In 681 the Proto-Bulgarians, lead by Khan Asparuh reached Varna, close to Odessos. This was the first time the new name of Varna was mentioned, but it was to become the established name of the settlement that was to be built on the place of the ancient Odessos.

After long wars, in 1018, the Bulgarian troops were defeated and Bulgarian lands were conquered by the Byzantine Empire, which put an end to the first Bulgarian kingdom. In the first half on the 9-th c., a new town and castle were built on the place of the ancient Odessos, bearing the Proto-Bulgarian name of Varna. During the Byzantine reign, Varna became an important port and trade centre. Proofs of this are the golden amphorae and the decorated table pottery brought over from Constantinople.

In 1201 the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan ultimately integrated the town in his country. The last decades of the 13-th c. marked a peak in the economic development of the town. This was connected with the prevalence of Venice and Genoa in the trade with the Black Sea lands. In 1366, Varna was conceded by the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Aleksandar to Dobrudzha Despot Dobrotitsa, who made it his capital. Varna was a orthodox church centre. Churches with a peculiar ceramoplastic decoration were built there. Remnants of three of them have been found – St. Atanas, St. Georgi and St. Theodor.

Varna was conquered by the Turkish invaders in 1389. But the town did not lose its previous transport and trade significance for the lands north of the Balkan Mountains. Bulgarian National Revival started in the 17-th c. and in the 19-th c. Varna already enjoyed a rich cultural life through its popular culture centre /tchitalishte/ – readings of books, performances, various religious and popular celebrations. After the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878, Varna became on the cultural centres of Bulgaria – the Medical Society was established there, a museum collection was created, bookshops and publishing houses were opened, artists from abroad came over on tours.

From the 4-th c. on, the indigenous Thracian population intermingled with groups of the tribes, coming from the North as a result of the so called barbarian invasions. In the 6-th c. large Slavonic masses took part in this process, settling permanently on Thracian land. In 681 the Proto-Bulgarians, lead by Khan Asparuh reached Varna, close to Odessos. This was the first time the new name of Varna was mentioned, but it was to become the established name of the settlement that was to be built on the place of the ancient Odessos.