Bithynia (/bɪˈθɪniə/; Koine Greek: Βιθυνία, Bithynía) was
an ancient region, kingdom and
Roman province in the northwest of Asia
Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the
Bosporus and the Euxine
Sea. It bordered
Mysia to the southwest,
Paphlagonia to the northeast
along the Pontic coast, and
Phrygia to the southeast towards the
interior of Asia Minor.
Bithynia was an independent kingdom from the
4th century BC. Its capital
Nicomedia was rebuilt on the site of
ancient Astacus in 264 BC by Nicomedes I of Bithynia.
bequeathed to the
Roman Republic in 74 BC, and became united with the
Pontus region as the province of
Bithynia et Pontus, in the 7th
century incorporated into the Byzantine
Opsikion theme. It became a
border region to the
Seljuk Empire in the 13th century, and was
eventually conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the between 1325 and
2.1 Iron Age
2.2 Kingdom of Bithynia
2.3 Roman province
2.4 Byzantine province
3 Notable people
4 See also
7 Further reading
Several major cities sat on the fertile shores of the Propontis (which
is now known as Sea of Marmara): Nicomedia, Chalcedon,
Bithynia also contained Nicaea, noted for being the birthplace
of the Nicene Creed.
According to Strabo,
Bithynia was bounded on the east by the river
Sangarius (modern Sakarya river), but the more commonly received
division extended it to the Parthenius, which river separated it from
Paphlagonia, thus comprising the district inhabited by the Mariandyni.
On the west and southwest it was separated from
Mysia by the river
Rhyndacus and on the south it adjoined
Phrygia and Galatia.
It is occupied by mountains and forests, but has valleys and coastal
districts of great fertility. The most important mountain range is the
(so-called) "Mysian" Olympus (8000 ft., 2500 m), which towers
above Bursa and is clearly visible as far away as
Istanbul (70 miles,
113 km). Its summits are covered with snow for a great part of
East of this the range extends for more than 100 miles (160 km),
from the Sakarya to Paphlagonia. Both of these ranges are part of the
border of mountains which bound the great tableland of Anatolia,
Turkey. The broad tract which projects towards the west as far as the
shores of the Bosporus, though hilly and covered with forests — the
Turkish Ağaç Denizi, or "The Ocean of Trees" — is not traversed by
any mountain chain. The west coast is indented by two deep inlets, the
Gulf of İzmit
Gulf of İzmit (ancient Gulf of Astacus),
penetrating between 40 and 50 miles (65–80 km) into the
interior as far as
İzmit (ancient Nicomedia), separated by an isthmus
of only about 25 miles (40 km) from the Black Sea; and the Gulf
of Mudanya or
Gemlik (Gulf of Cius), about 25 miles (40 km) long.
At its extremity is situated the small town of
Gemlik (ancient Cius)
at the mouth of a valley, communicating with the lake of Iznik, on
which was situated Nicaea.
The principal rivers are the Sangarios which traverses the province
from down to north; the Rhyndacus, which separated it from Mysia; and
Billaeus (Filyos), which rises in the Aladağ, about 50 miles
(80 km) from the sea, and after flowing by modern
Bithynion-Claudiopolis) falls into the Euxine, close to the ruins of
the ancient Tium, about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Heraclea
Pontica (the modern Karadeniz Ereğli), having a course of more than
100 miles (160 km). The Parthenius (modern Bartın), the eastern
boundary of the province, is a much less considerable stream.
The valleys towards the
Black Sea abound in fruit trees of all kinds,
such as oranges, while the valley of the Sangarius and the plains near
Bursa and Iznik (Nicaea) are fertile and well cultivated. Extensive
plantations of mulberry trees supply the silk for which Bursa has long
been celebrated, and which is manufactured there on a large scale.
Bithynia and Pontus
Bithynia and Pontus as a province of the Roman Empire, 125 AD
Photo of a 15th-century map showing Bithynia.
Bithynia is named for the
Thracian tribe of the Bithyni, mentioned by
Herodotus (VII.75) alongside the Thyni. The "Thraco-Phrygian"
migration from the Balkans to
Asia Minor would have taken place at
some point following the
Bronze Age collapse
Bronze Age collapse or during the early Iron
Bithyni appear to have settled simultaneously in
the adjoining parts of Asia, where they expelled or subdued the
Caucones and other minor tribes, the
themselves in the northeast.
Herodotus mentions the
Thyni and Bithyni
as settling side by side. No trace of their original language has
been preserved, but
Herodotus describes them as related to the tribes
Thracian extraction like the
Phrygians and Armenians, whose
languages form part of the Paleo-Balkan group.
Later the Greeks established on the coast the colonies of
Chalcedon (modern Kadıköy), at the entrance of the
Bosporus, nearly opposite
Byzantium (modern Istanbul) and Heraclea
Pontica (modern Karadeniz Ereğli), on the Euxine, about 120 miles
(190 km) east of the Bosporus.
The Bithynians were incorporated by king
Croesus within the Lydian
monarchy, with which they fell under the dominion of Persia (546 BC),
and were included in the satrapy of Phrygia, which comprised all the
countries up to the Hellespont and Bosporus.
Kingdom of Bithynia
Further information: List of rulers of Bithynia
Even before the conquest by Alexander the Bithynians appear to have
asserted their independence, and successfully maintained it under two
native princes, Bas and Zipoites, the latter of whom assumed the title
of king (basileus) in 297 BC.
His son and successor, Nicomedes I, founded Nicomedia, which soon rose
to great prosperity, and during his long reign (c. 278 –
c. 255 BC), as well as those of his successors, Prusias I, Prusias
II and Nicomedes II (149 – 91 BC), the kingdom of
a considerable standing and influence among the minor monarchies of
Anatolia. But the last king, Nicomedes IV, was unable to maintain
himself in power against Mithridates VI of Pontus. After being
restored to his throne by the Roman Senate, he bequeathed his kingdom
through his will to the Roman republic (74 BC).
The coinage of these kings show their regal portraits, which tend to
be engraved in an extremely accomplished Hellenistic style.
Bithynia et Pontus
As a Roman province, the boundaries of
Bithynia changed frequently.
During this period,
Bithynia was commonly united for administrative
purposes with the province of Pontus. This was the situation at the
time of Emperor Trajan, when
Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger was appointed governor
of the combined provinces (109/110 – 111/112), a circumstance
which has provided historians with valuable information concerning the
Roman provincial administration at that time.
Under the Byzantine Empire,
Bithynia was again divided into two
provinces, separated by the Sangarius. Only the area to the west of
the river retained the name of Bithynia.
Bithynia attracted much attention because of its roads and its
strategic position between the frontiers of the
Danube in the north
Euphrates in the south-east. To secure communications with the
eastern provinces, the monumental bridge across the river Sangarius
was constructed around 562 AD. Troops frequently wintered at
During this time, the most important cities in
Nicomedia, founded by Nicomedes, and Nicaea. The two had a long
rivalry with each other over which city held the rank of capital.
Hipparchus (2nd century BC) Greek astronomer, discovered precession
and discovered how to predict the timing of eclipses
Theodosius (2nd century BC) Greek astronomer and mathematician
Antinous (2nd century)
Catamite of the
Roman Emperor Hadrian
Cassius Dio (2nd-3rd centuries) Roman historian, senator, and consul
Arrian (Lucius Flavius Arrianus) Historian, c. 86-160
Helena (empress), Saint and mother of Constantine the Great
c. 250 – c. 330
Asia Minor Slavs
Ancient regions of Anatolia
^ a b c d e f g Chisholm 1911, p. 12.
^ a b c Chisholm 1911, p. 13.
Asia Minor Coins - regal Bithynian coins
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bithynia".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Storey, Stanley Jonathon (1999) . Bithynia: history and
administration to the time of
Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger (PDF). Ottawa:
National Library of Canada. ISBN 0-612-34324-3. Retrieved
T. Bekker-Nielsen, Urban Life and Local Politics in Roman Bithynia:
The Small World of Dion Chrysostomos, 2008.
Historical regions of Anatolia
Provinces of the early
Roman Empire (117 AD)
Bithynia and Pontus
Corsica and Sardinia
Crete and Cyrenaica
Lycia et Pamphylia
† Italy was never constituted as a province, instead retaining a
special juridical status until Diocletian's reforms.
Roman provinces (4th–7th centuries AD)
As found in the Notitia Dignitatum. Provincial administration reformed
and dioceses established by Diocletian, c. 293. Permanent
praetorian prefectures established after the death of Constantine I.
Empire permanently partitioned after 395. Exarchates of Ravenna and
Africa established after 584. After massive territorial losses in the
7th century, the remaining provinces were superseded by the theme
system in c. 640–660, although in
Asia Minor and parts of
Greece they survived under the themes until the early 9th century.
Western Empire (395–476)
Diocese of Gaul
Alpes Poeninae et Graiae
Diocese of Vienne1
Diocese of Spain
Diocese of the Britains
Diocese of Suburbicarian Italy
Apulia et Calabria
Lucania et Bruttii
Tuscia et Umbria
Diocese of Annonarian Italy
Liguria et Aemilia
Venetia et Istria
Diocese of Africa2
Africa proconsularis (Zeugitana)
Diocese of Pannonia3
Eastern Empire (395–c. 640)
Diocese of Dacia
Diocese of Macedonia
Macedonia II Salutaris
of the East
Diocese of Thrace5
Diocese of Asia5
Diocese of Pontus5
Armenia III (536)
Armenia IV (536)
Galatia II Salutaris5
Diocese of the East5
Palaestina III Salutaris
Phoenice II Libanensis
Syria II Salutaris
Diocese of Egypt5
Quaestura exercitus (536)
1 Later the Septem Provinciae
2 Re-established after reconquest by the Eastern Empire in 534 as
the separate Prefecture of Africa
3 Later the Diocese of Illyricum
4 Placed under the
Quaestura exercitus in 536
5 Affected (i.e. boundaries modified, abolished or renamed) by
Justinian I's administrative reorganization in 534–536
Ancient Kingdoms of Anatolia
Hittites (Atuna, Carchemish, Gurgum, Hilakku, Kammanu, Kummuh,
Coordinates: 40°30′N 31°00′E / 40.5°N 31.0°E