The territory of Bulgaria has been inhabited since antiquity, as the country’s many ancient settlements and burial mounds attest. Present-day Bulgaria was a cradle of some of the earliest civilizations in Europe – the oldest gold ornament ever discovered is evidence of that. From the age of Ancient Thrace we have inherited valuable cultural monuments, including tombs (such as the Kazanlak tomb, the Aleksandrovska tomb, and the Sveshtarska tomb); treasures (the Panagyursko, Rogozensko, and Valchitransko teasures, among others); and sanctuaries and temples (at Perperikon, Starosel, Kozi Gramadi, Begliktash, and elsewhere).
The cultural interaction between the Thracians and the Hellenistic civilization were particularly dynamic. Many cities and towns heavily influenced by Greek culture were established between 6th-2nd century BC. In the middle of the 1st century AD, all Bulgarian lands became a part of the Roman Empire. Many architectural and archaeological monuments have been preserved from this period, such as the Ancient Theater and the Roman Stadium in Plovdiv, and remains of the Roman cities Ulpia Escus, Nove, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Nikopolis ad Nestum, Augusta Trayana, and Abritus.
After the dissolution of the Roman Empire, the present Bulgarian lands came under the control of the East Roman Empire, later called Byzantium by historians. In the second half of the 7th century, the proto-Bulgarians settled in what is now Northeast Bulgaria. They united with the Slavs to form the Bulgarian state, recognized by Byzantium in 681.
In 864, during the reign of Prince Boris I (852-889), Bulgarians adopted Christianity as its official religion, which makes Bulgaria one of the oldest Christian states in Europe.
At the end of the 9th century, the brothers Cyril and Methodius created and disseminated the Slavonic alphabet. To the present day, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Macedonia and Belarus still use the Cyrillic alphabet, with rules of orthography established by the students of Cyril and Methodius and their followers in the Bulgarian capital Preslav.
In 1018, after protracted warfare, Bulgaria was conquered by Byzantium. In 1186, the uprising freed Bulgaria from Byzantine rule, establishing the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, with Tarnovo as its capital.
The former might of Bulgaria was restored and during the reign of Tsar Ivan Asen the Second (1218-1241), the Second Bulgarian Kingdom reached its zenith, achieving political hegemony in Southeast Europe. It expanded its borders to the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea, and greatly developed its economy and culture. Some of the most important monuments preserved from that time are the wall paintings in the Boyana church, the churches in Veliko Tarnovo, the Zemenski Monastery, the Ivanovski Rock Churches, the miniatures that illuminate the London Gospel, and the Manasiy Chronicle.
At the end of the 14th century, the country was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
The Bulgarian Revival began at the beginning of the 18th century, when the Bulgarian church, educational institutions, and culture were re-established.
In 1878, with the Russian defeat of Turkey, the Bulgarian state was restored.