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Nesebar existed for at least three thousand years. The island of
the coast of modern Bulgaria first settled by the Thracians as
early as 12th century BC. They called their settlement Menebria. Ancient historian Strabo explained that "Mena" was the
name of the famous Thracian king and "brias" means "city" in
Thracian. Thus the original name could be translated as "city of
Mena". It could mean that either the ruler of Thracians founded
the city or his subjects dedicated the city to his memory.
Nesebar in Antiquity
In the 6th century Greeks Dorians from the Attica city of Megara
settled here in the 6th century BC and renamed their settlement Mesembria (Μεσήμβρια).
It is one of the few Dorian Greek (South Greece) colonies along
Western Black Sea Coast. Most other colonies were established
Ionian Greeks from modern day Western Turkey. Greek actively traded with the local tribes that surrounded
their colony. Additionally it served as an advertisement for the
Greek civilization and its achievements. Temple of Apollo,
acropolis, agora and other regions of the ancient city must have
been very impressive for the people that lived in small huts.
Nesebar was a multicultural metropolis with many
nations from various parts of the Mediterranean have settled and
co- existed peacefully for several centuries. It was part of the Delian League headed by city- state of Athens
against coalition under rule of Sparta in a conflict that became
known as Peloponnesian War (5th century BC). It ended with
defeat of Athens, but the city didn't suffer much in the end of
the war. Citizens of Nesebar minted their own bronze and gold
coins that was an important privilege in the Ancient times. In
72 BC Roman army capture Nesebar without significant military
action. Residents of the city gained certain degree of autonomy
in their internal matters. They were even allowed to mint their
own coins, an important privilege in the Republic.
Christianity in Nesebar
Christianity in Nesebar appeared fairly early in
European history. We don't know the extent of the Christian
community that existed here, but in the late 1st century AD.
Christian medieval documents state that Saint Irene of Macedon
visited Mesembria. She herself was converted to Christianity by
the Apostle Timothy. One of the original apostles told Irene to
go and preach the word of God to pagan population of the Roman
Empire. Irene followed his word and started her sermons thus
converting many people to a new fate. The same source also
states that Roman officials of Nesebar ordered her arrest and
execution when they realized the influence of a new religion
might cause unnecessary commotion in the city. Irene was caught
and executed, but an angel sent by God resurrected her and
helped her escape the city to Asia Minor, where she was
eventually captured and killed.
fall of the Western Roman Empire Nesebar became part of the
Byzantine Empire. Ancient baths, old bishopric, basilica of Holy
Mother of God, military fortifications and other sites are among
the structures that were build by the Byzantine rulers.
Bulgarian Khan Krum conquered Nesebar in 812 adding new possession to his
ever-growing First Bulgarian Empire. Bulgarians called their
city Mesebar or Nesebar as it became known today. Knyaz or
Prince Boris I ceded Nesebar to the Byzantium in 864 AD, the
same year he was baptized by the Byzantine Greek priest.
Apparently it was part of the deal that involved
Christianization of the Bulgaria, but Boris' son Tsar Simeon the
Great re- conquered the city shortly after taking the throne.
In 1098 peasants around the city started a rebellion under
religious pretext. Many local started following a Christian sect
of bogomilism found by priest Bogomil ("dear to God"). It was a
political and religious movement that rejected the
ecclesiastical hierarchy accepted in the Eastern Orthodox
Church. Additionally they refused materialism of society and
considered Church too corrupt and too rich for its own good.
Their views and beliefs were similar to Cathars in South France.
However unlike Cathars, bogomils did not mind spilling blood and
start wars with the secular as well as religious authorities.
Just like their French Gnostic counterparts Bogomils were wiped
out by the soldiers of the royal army sent from Nesebar against
1237 Nesebar was taken by the troops of Venice after a siege. They didn't keep
the city, but stole many valuables and caused great damage to
the city. The city grew in size and splendour especially under
rule of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Alexander (1331- 71) that speared no
expanses to increase Bulgarian presence on the border with
volatile border with the Byzantines. Many of the buildings
however were looted and destroyed by the Western European
Crusaders that besieged and captured the city under leadership
of Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy in 1366.
Eventually the invaders were forced out from the
region, but new threat in a face of Ottoman Turks quickly spread
through the region in the 15th century. Byzantine Empire and
Bulgarian Empire fell pray to this new force from the East.
Nesebar start its political and economical decline. Only old
fountain and Turkish baths remain today from the time period.
Additionally Ottoman Turks who followed Islam closed all the
Orthodox Christian churches in Nesebar and prohibited their attendance and
reconstruction. This explains why of the churches date either to
the time before the arrival of the Ottoman rule or right after
its defeat in the second half of the 19th century.
In the 19th century many young Bulgarians (including those from
Greek War of Independence (1821) against the Turks and many
fought under famous Alexandros Ypsilantis. After Russian Empire
finally defeated the Turks and gained independence for Bulgaria
(on March 3 1878) Nesebar became part of Bulgaria in 1885. By that time
was a mere shadow of itself. Nesebar was merely a small city of
fisherman and vine growers. In the 20th century the new part of
the city was added, while the Old part of the city was preserved
and kept in its original condition. It is one of the few
Bulgarian sea side town that kept its unique charm and kept its
historic legacy. Nesebar has 44 churches in different state of
preservation, although the original number was probably over