Ahtopol (Bulgarian: Ахтопол) is a town and seaside resort on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. It is located on a headland in the south eastern part of Burgas Province in the Tsarevo Municipality and is close to the border with European Turkey. It is the southernmost town on the Bulgarian coast. Ahtopol lies within Strandzha Nature Park.
The town lies on the site of an ancient Thracian settlement, with the earliest traces of human settlement dating to the Neolithic. It was probably colonized by the Ancient Greeksaround 430 BC. The Romans called itPeronticus, while the Byzantine leader Agathon reconstructed the town after barbarian invasions and possibly gave it his own name, Agathopolis (Greek: Αγαθόπολις). According to other sources, it was named thus as early as 323 BC.
In the Middle Ages, the town frequently changed hands between the Byzantine Empire and theBulgarian Empire. Medieval sources mention Ahtopol as a lively merchant port where many Byzantine, Italian and other ships arrived. With the invasion of the Ottoman troops at the end of the 14th century, the town was called Ahtenbolu. The town ultimately fell under Ottoman rule as late as 1453. An Ottoman tax register of 1498 lists 158 Christian families in Ahtopol, most of which have Greek names but others evidently Slavic (Bulgarian). In 1898, Ahtopol was a town of 410 houses, of which 300 Greek and 110 Bulgarian. In the 19th century, it was still a thriving centre of fishery and overseas trade, with many locals owning their own ships and selling goods all around the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Viticulture was also well-developed.
Ahtopol was burnt down and devastated by sea pirates (often the Caucasian Lazi) many times, with the most recent fire being in 1918, when the town was almost destroyed. Remains of the town’s fortress (reaching up to 8 m in height and 3.5 m in width), the 12th-century monastery of St Yani and a fountain with a carved horseman are the only traces left from ancient times. Another landmark is the Church of the Ascension from 1796. Ahtopol was a kaza centre in Kırkkilise sanjak of Edirne Vilayet between 1878-1912 as “Ahtabolu” (Ahtopol was referred as Agathoupolis in reference page). Also, Evliya Çelebi passed from here in 1663 and referred as “Ahtabolu” in 6th volume (English of “6. Cilt”) of Seyahatname.
After the Balkan Wars, when the area was ceded to Bulgaria by the Ottoman Empire, the town’s predominantly Greek population gradually moved to Greece and was replaced by Bulgarian refugees, mostly from Eastern Thrace, specifically Bunarhisar (150 families). TheGreek name of the town was Achtòpolis, Αχτοπολις or Agathùpolis, Αγαθουπολις.
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Image by: Nenko Lazarov
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