1902 Encyclopedia > Bithynia


BITHYNIA (_____), a province in the N.W. of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosphorus, and the Euxine. According to Strabo it was bounded on 0 the east by the River Sangarius; but the more commonly received division extended it as far as the Parthenius, which separated it from Paphlagonia, ^thus comprising the district on the sea-coast between these two rivers, which was inhabited by the Mariandyni. Towards the west and south-west it was limited by the River Rhyndacus, which separated it from Mysia; and on the south it adjoined the portion of Phrygia called Phrygia Epictetus, and a part of Galatia. The territory thus defined is in great part occupied by mountains and forests, but has valleys and districts near the sea-coast of great fertility. The most important of the mountain ranges is that known as the Mysian Olympus—from it3 proximity to that province, though properly included within the limits of Bithynia— which rises to a height of about 6400 feet. It towers in a commanding manner above the city of Broussa, while it

a distance of 70 miles. Its summits are covered with snow for a great part of the year. Eastward of this the range now called Ala-Dagh extends for above 100 miles from the River Sangarius to the confines of Paphlagonia. It adjoins throughout its course the frontiers of Phrygia and Galatia, and rises to a height of from 6000 to 7000 feet. Both of these ranges belong to that border of mountains which bounds the great table-land of Asia Minor through a great part of its extent. The country between them and the sea-coast is for the most part occupied by subordinate mountain chains, which may be regarded as underfalls or offshoots of the more lofty mountain ranges of the interior. These constitute a very rugged and broken country, covered with extensive forests, and traversed by very few lines of route, so that it is still very imperfectly known. But the broad tract which projects towards the west as far as the shores of the Bosphorus, though hilly and covered with forests, so as to be termed by the Turks Aghatch Denizi, or " The Ocean of Trees," is not traversed by anything like a mountain chain.

The western coast of Bithynia, where it adjoins the Propontis or Sea of Marmora, is indented by two deep gulfs or inlets—the northernmost, now called the Gulf of Ismid, anciently known as the Gulf of Astacus, penetrat-ing to a distance of between 40 and 50 miles into the interior, as far as the town of Ismid, the ancient Nico-media, which is separated by an isthmus of only about 25 miles from the Black Sea. The next, known in ancient times as the Gulf of Cius, now called the Gulf of Mou-dania or Gemlik, extends to about 25 miles. At its ex-tremity is situated the small town of Gemlik, on the site of the ancient Cius, at the mouth of a valley, through which it communicated with the inland lake of Isnik, on which was situated the flourishing city of Nicsea.

According to the general testimony of ancient authors (Herodotus, Xenophon, Strabo, &c), the Bithynians were a tribe of Thracian origin who had migrated into Asia by crossing the Bosphorus. The existence of a tribe called Thyni in Thrace is well attested, and the two cognate tribes of the Thyni and Bithyni appear to have settled simultaneously in the adjoining parts of Asia, where they expelled or subdued the previously existing races of the Mysians, Caucones, and other petty tribes, the Mariandyni alone maintaining themselves in the north-eastern part of the country. Herodotus mentions the two tribes, the Thyni and Bithyni, as existing side by side; but ultimately the latter people must have become the more important, so as to give name to the whole country. They were first subdued by Crcesus, and incorporated with the Lydian monarchy, together with which they soon after fell under the dominion of Persia (546 B.C.) During the Persian empire they were included in the satrapy of Phrygia, which comprised all the countries up to the Hellespont and Bosphorus. But even before the conquest by Alex-ander some obscure native chiefs appear to have asserted their independence in the mountains of Bithynia, and successfully maintained it under two native princes named Bas and Zipostes, the last of whom transmitted his power to his son Nicomedes L, who was the first to assume the title of king. He became the founder of the city of Nico-media, which soon rose to great prosperity and opulence; and during his long reign (278-250 B.C.), as well as those of his successors, Prusias L, Prusias II., and Nicomedes II. (149-91 B.C.), the kingdom of Bithynia held a con-siderable place among the minor monarchies of Asia. But the last king, Nicomedes III., was unable to maintain himself against the increasing power of his neighbour Mithridates, king of Pontus; and although restored to his throne by the interposition of the Boman Senate, at his death, in 74 B.C., he bequeathed his kingdom by will to the Romans. Bithynia was now reduced into the form of a Roman province; but its limits were frequently varied, and it was commonly united for administrative purposes with the neighbouring province of Pontus, extending along the southern shore of the Black Sea as far as Trapezus or Trebizond. This was the state of things in the time of Trajan, when the younger Pliny was appointed governor of the combined provinces (103-105 A.D.), a circumstance to which we are indebted for much valuable information concerning the Boman provincial administration. Under the Byzantine empire Bithynia was again divided into two provinces, separated by the River Sangarius, to the western-most of which the name of Bithynia was restricted.

The most important cities of Bithynia in ancient times were Nicomedia and Nicaea, which disputed with one another the rank of its capital. Both of these were founded after the time of Alexander the Great; but at a much earlier period the Greeks had established on the coast the colonies of Cius (afterwards named Prusias), on the site of the modern Gemlik; Chalcedon, at the entrance of the Bosphorus, nearly opposite Constantinople; and Heraclea, surnamed Pontica, on the coast of the Euxine, about 120 miles east of the Bosphorus. AH these rose to be flourishing and important places of trade. Prusa, at the foot of Mount Ofyinpus, which was founded by Prusias, was also a considerable town under the Roman empire, but did not attain in ancient times to anything like the importance enjoyed by the modern city of Broussa, which became the capital of the Ottoman Turks before the con-quest of Constantinople, and is still (after Smyrna) the second city of Asia Minor. The only other places of im-portance at the present day are Ismid (Nicomedia) and Scutari, which, from its position on the Bosphorus, may be considered as a mere suburb of Constantinople.

The natural resources of Bithynia are still very imper-fectly developed. Its mountains are covered with vast forests, which would furnish an almost inexhaustible supply of timber, if rendered accessible by roads. Coal also is known to exist in the neighbourhood of Erekli (Heraclea), but is not worked to any extent. The valleys which open towards the Black Sea abound in fruit trees of all kinds, while the valley of the Sangarius and the plains near Broussa and Isnik (Nicaja) are fertile and well culti-vated. Extensive plantations of mulberry trees supply the silk for which Broussa has long been celebrated, and which is manufactured there on a large scale.

The principal rivers of Bithynia are the Sangarius, still called the Sakaria, which traverses the province from S. to N.; the Rhyndacus, which forms the boundary that separated it from Mysia; the Billaeus (Filyas), which rises in the chain of the Ala-Dagh, about 150 miles from the sea, and after flowing by the town of Boli (the ancient Claudiopolis) falls into the Euxine, close to the ruins of the ancient Tium, about 40 miles N.E. of Heraclea. It has a course of more than 100 miles. The Parthenius (now called the Bartan), which forms the boundary of the province towards the E., is a much less considerable stream. (E. H, B.)

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