Cultures > Bithynia
Bithynia is bounded on the east by the Paphlagonians and Mariandyni and some of the Epicteti; on the north by the Pontic Sea, from the outlets of the Sangarius River to the mouth of the sea at Byzantium and Chalcedon; on the west by the Propontis; and towards the south by Mysia and by Phrygia "Epictetus," as it is called, though the same is also called "Hellespontiac" Phrygia.
In this last country, at the mouth of the Pontus, are situated Chalcedon, founded by the Megarians, and Chrysopolis, a village, and the Chalcedonian temple; and slightly above the sea the country has a spring called Azaritia, which breeds little crocodiles. Then the Chalcedonian shore is followed by the Astacene Gulf, as it is called, a part of the Propontis; and it was on this gulf that Nicomedeia was founded, being named after one of the Bithynian kings, who founded it.1 But many kings, for example the Ptolemies, were, on account of the fame of the first, given the same name. And on the gulf itself there was also a city Astacus, founded by the Megarians and Athenians and afterwards by Doedalsus; and it was after the city Astacus that the gulf was named. It was rased to the ground by Lysimachus, and its inhabitants were transferred to Nicomedeia by the friend of the latter.
Continuous with the Astacene Gulf is another gulf, which runs more nearly towards the rising sun than the former does; and on this gulf is Prusias, formerly called Cius. Cius was rased to the ground by Philip, the son of Demetrius and father of Perseus, and given by him to Prusias the son of Zelas, who had helped him rase both this city and Myrleia, which latter is a neighbouring city and also is near Prusa. And Prusias restored them from their ruins 564 and named the city Cius "Prusias" after himself and Myrleia "Apameia" after his wife. This is the Prusias who welcomed Hannibal, when the latter withdrew thither after the defeat of Antiochus, and who retired from Phrygia on the Hellespont in accordance with an agreement made with the Attalici.
This country was in earlier times called Lesser Phrygia, but the Attalici called it Phrygia Epictetus. Above Prusias lies a mountain called Arganthonium. And here is the scene of the myth of Hylas, one of the companions of Herakles who sailed with him on the Argo, and who, when he was going out to get water, was carried off by the nymphs. And when Cius, who was also a companion of Herakles and with him on the voyage, returned from Colchis, he stayed here and founded the city which was named after him.
And still to this day a kind of festival is celebrated among the Prusians, a mountain-ranging festival, in which they march in procession and call Hylas, as though making their exodus to the forests in quest of him. And having shown a friendly disposition towards the Romans in the conduct of their government, the Prusians obtained freedom. Prusa is situated on the Mysian Olympus; it is a well-governed city, borders on the Phrygians and the Mysians, and was founded by the Prusias who made war against Croesus.
It is difficult to mark the boundaries between the Bithynians and the Phrygians and Mysians, or even those between the Doliones around Cyzicus and the Mygdonians and the Trojans. And it is agreed that each tribe is "apart" from the others (in the case of the Phrygians and Mysians, at least, there is a proverb, "Apart are the boundaries of the Mysians and Phrygians"), but that it is difficult to mark the boundaries between them. The cause of this is that the foreigners who went there, being barbarians and soldiers, did not hold the conquered territory firmly, but for the most part were wanderers, driving people out and being driven out. One might conjecture that all these tribes were Thracian because the Thracians occupy the other side5 and because the people on either side do not differ much from one another.
But still, as far as one is able to conjecture, one might put down Mysia as situated between Bithynia and the outlet of the Aesepus River, as touching upon the sea, and as extending as far as Olympus, along almost the whole of it; and Epictetus as lying in the interior round Mysia, but nowhere touching upon the sea, and as extending to the eastern parts of the Ascanian Lake and territory; for the territory was called by the same name as lake. And a part of this territory was Phrygian and a part Mysian, but the Phrygian part was farther away from Troy.
And in fact one should thus interpret the words of the poet when he says, "And Phorcys and godlike Ascanius led the Phrygians from afar, from Ascania," that is, the Phrygian Ascania, since his words imply that another Ascania, the Mysian, near the present Nicaea, is nearer Troy, that is, the Ascania to which the poet refers when he says, "and Palmys, and Ascanius, and Morys, son of Hippotion (Morys being leader of the Mysians, hand-to‑hand fighters), who had come from deep-soiled Ascania to relieve their fellows." And it is not remarkable if he speaks of one Ascanius as a leader of the Phrygians and as having come from Ascania and also of another Ascanius as a leader of the Mysians and as having come from Ascania, for in Homer identity of names is of frequent occurrence, as also the surnaming of people after rivers and lakes and places.
And the poet himself gives the Aesepus as a boundary of the Mysians, for after naming the foothills of Troy above Ilium that were subject to Aeneas, which he calls Dardania, he puts down Lycia as next towards the north, the country that was subject to Pandarus, in which Zeleia was situated; and he says, "and they dwelt in Zeleia 'neath the nethermost foot of Mt. Ida, wealthy men, Trojans, who drink the dark water of the Aesepus." Below Zeleia, near the sea, and on this side of the Aesepus, are the plain of Adrasteia, Mt. Tereia, and Pitya (that is, speaking generally, the present Cyzicenê near Priapus), which the poet names next after Zeleia; and then he returns to the parts towards the east and those on the far side of the Aesepus, by which he indicates that he regards the country as far as the Aesepus as the northerly and easterly limit of the p463Troad.
Assuredly, however, Mysia and Olympus come after the Troad. Now ancient tradition suggests some such position of the tribes as this, but the present differences are the result of numerous changes, since different rulers have been in control at different times, and have confounded together some tribes and sundered others. For both the Phrygians and the Mysians had the mastery after the capture of Troy; and then later the Lydians; and with them the Aeolians and the Ionians; and then the Persians and the Macedonians; and lastly the Romans, under whose reign most of the peoples have already lost both their dialects and their names, since a different partition of the country has been made. But it is better for me to consider this matter when I describe the conditions as they now are, at the same time giving proper attention to conditions as they were in antiquity.
In the interior of Bithynia are, not only Bithynium, which is situated above Tieium and holds the territory round Salon, where is the best pasturage for cattle and whence comes the Salonian cheese, but also Nicaea, the metropolis of Bithynia, situated on the Ascanian Lake, which is surrounded by a plain that is large and very fertile but not at all healthful in summer. Nicaea was first founded by Antigonus the son of Philip, who called it Antigonia, and then by Lysimachus, who changed its name to that of Nicaea his wife.
She was the daughter of Antipater. The city is sixteen stadia in circuit and is quadrangular in shape; it is situated in a plain, and has four gates; and its streets are cut at right angles, so that the four gates can be seen from one stone which is set up in the middle of the gymnasium. Slightly above the Ascanian Lake is the town Otroea, situated just on the borders of Bithynia towards the east. It is surmised that Otroea was so named after Otroeus.
That Bithynia was a settlement of the Mysians will first be testified by Scylax the Caryandian, who says that Phrygians and Mysians lived round the Ascanian Lake; and next by the Dionysius who wrote on "The Foundings" of cities, who says that the strait at Chalcedon and Byzantium, now called the Thracian Bosporus, was in earlier times called the Mysian Bosporus. And this might also be set down as an evidence that the Mysians were Thracians. Further, when Euphorion says, "besides the waters of the Mysian Ascanius," and when Alexander the Aetolian says, "who have their homes on the Ascanian streams, on the lips of the Ascanian Lake, where dwelt Dolion the son of Silenus and Melia,"17 they bear witness to the same thing, since the Ascanian Lake is nowhere to be found but here alone.
Bithynia has produced men notable for their learning: Xenocrates the philosopher, Dionysius the dialectician, Hippocrates, Theodosius and his sons the mathematicians, and also Cleochares the rhetorician of Myrleia, and Asclepiades19 the physician of Prusa.
To the south of the Bithynians are the Mysians round Olympus (who by some are called the Olympeni and by others the Hellespontii) and the Hellespontian Phrygia; and to the south of the Paphlagonians are the Galatae; and still to the south of these two is Greater Phrygia, as also Lycaonia, extending as far as the Cilician and the Pisidian Taurus. But since the region continuous with Paphlagonia is adjacent to Pontus and Cappadocia and the tribes which I have already described, it might be appropriate for me first to give an account of the parts in the neighbourhood of these and then set forth a description of the places that come next thereafter.