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The ubiquitous Thracians settled Plovdiv around 5000 BC. Their fortress, at Nebet Tepe in the old town, was called Eumolpias. Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) extended the settlement, humbly naming it Philipopolis in 342 BC. He re-fortified the existing Thracian fortress, making Philipopolis an important military centre. However, the city whose ruins remain today was only created after AD 46, when the Romans arrived, building streets, towers and aqueducts for the new city, Trimontium. Unfortunately, Goths and Huns plundered and destroyed it in the mid-3rd century and in AD 447 respectively, and Trimontium languished. The proto-Bulgar Khan Krum seized it in 815 and renamed it Pupulden, making it an important strategic outpost of the First Bulgarian Empire (681–1018).

Pupulden, or Philipopolis as the Byzantines called it, was controlled by Constantinople, Bulgars and even Latin Crusaders over the following centuries. The Ottomans conquered in 1365, rebuilding and renaming the city Filibe (a bastardisation of the Greek name, Philipopolis). The city thrived during Turkish rule and its merchants grew wealthy. Some of Bulgaria’s finest and most lavish townhouses were built here during the Bulgarian National Revival period. In 1855, Hristo Danov founded Bulgaria’s first publishing house in Plovdiv.

Shockingly, the 1878 Congress of Berlin that followed the Russo-Turkish War decreed that Plovdiv would remain Ottoman, as capital of the Eastern Rumelia province, while most of Bulgaria was freed. Only in 1885 did Plovdiv join the state – missing its likely ­opportunity to become Bulgaria’s capital.

Plovdiv today is a centre of business and regional transport, with its international trade fairs (held since the late 19th century) being among the Balkans’ biggest.