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Sofia is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Bulgaria, with a population of 1,246,791, and some 1,377,761 in the metropolitan area, the Capital Municipality. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of the mountain massif Vitosha, and is the administrative, cultural, and industrial centre of the country.
One of the oldest capital cities in Europe, the history of Sofia dates back to the 8th century BC, when Thracians established a settlement there. Sofia has had several names in the different periods of its existence, and remnants of the city's millenary history can still be seen today alongside modern landmarks.
Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica, named after the Thracian tribe Serdi. Around 500 BC another tribe settled in the region, the Odrysi, known as an ethnos with their own kingdom. For a short period during the 4th century BC, the city was possessed by Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.
Around AD 29, Sofia was conquered by the Romans and renamed Ulpia Serdica. It became a municipium, or centre of an administrative region, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117). The first written mention of Serdica was made by Ptolemy (around 100 AD). The city expanded, as turrets, protective walls, public baths, administrative and cult buildings, a civic basilica and a large amphitheatre called Bouleutherion, were built. When Emperor Diocletian divided the province of Dacia into Dacia Ripensis (on the banks of the Danube) and Dacia Mediterranea, Serdica became the capital of Dacia Mediterranea. The city subsequently expanded for a century and a half, which caused Constantine the Great to call it "my Rome".
Serdica was of moderate size, but magnificent as an urban concept of planning and architecture, with abundant amusements and an active social life. It flourished during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, when it was surrounded with great fortress walls whose remnants can still be seen today.
The city was destroyed by the Huns in 447 but was rebuilt by Justinian and renamed Triaditsa.
Sofia was liberated by Russian forces in 1878, during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, and became the capital of the autonomous Principality of Bulgaria in 1879, which became Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1908.
During World War II, Sofia was bombed by Allied aircraft in late 1943 and early 1944, as well as later occupied by the Soviet Union. Bulgaria's regime which allied the country with Nazi Germany was overthrown and Sofia became capital of the Communist-ruled People's Republic of Bulgaria (1944–1989).
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