Written by Strabo circa 7 BC
Bithynia is bounded on the east by the Paphlagonians, Mariandyni, and by some tribes of the Epicteti; on the north by the line of the sea-coast of the Euxine, extending from the mouth of the Sangarius to the straits at Byzantium and Chalcedon; on the west by the Propontis; on the south by Mysia and Phrygia Epictetus, as it is called, which has the name also of Hellespontic Phrygia.
Here, at the mouth of the Pontus, is situated Chalcedon, founded by the Megarians, and the village Chrysopolis, and the Chalcedonian temple. In the country a little above the sea-coast is a fountain, Azaritia, which breeds small crocodiles. Next follows the coast of the Chalcedonians, the bay of Astacus, as it is called, which is a part of the Propontis. Here Nicomedia is situated, bearing the name of one of the Bithynian kings by whom it was founded. Many kings however have taken the same name, as the Ptolemies, on account of the fame of the first person who bore it. On the same bay was Astacus a city founded by Megarians and Athenians; it was afterwards again colonized by Dœdalsus. The bay had its name from the city. It was razed by Lysimachus. The founder of Nicomedia transferred its inhabitants to the latter city.
There is another bay continuous with that of Astacus, which advances further towards the east, and where is situated Prusias, formerly called Cius. Philip, the son of Demetrius, and father of Perseus, gave it to Prusias, son of Zelas, who had assisted him in destroying both this and Myrleia, a neighboring city, and also situated near Prusa. He rebuilt them from their ruins, and called the city Cius Prusias, after his own name, and Myrleia he called Apameia, after that of his wife. This is the Prusias who received Hannibal, (who took refuge with him hither after the defeat of Antiochus,) and retired from Phrygia on the Hellespont, according to agreement with the Attalici. This country was formerly called Lesser Phrygia, but by the Attalici Phrygia Epictetus. Above Prusias is a mountain which is called Arganthonius. Here is the scene of the fable of Hylas, one of the companions of Hercules in the ship Argo, who, having disembarked in order to obtain water for the vessel, was carried away by nymphs. Cius, as the story goes, was a friend and companion of Hercules; on his return from Colchis, he settled there and founded the city which bears his name. At the present time a festival called Oreibasia, is celebrated by the Prusienses, who wander about the mountains and woods, a rebel rout, calling on Hylas by name, as though in search of him. The Prusienses having shown a friendly disposition towards the Romans in their administration of public affairs, obtained their freedom. But the Apamies were obliged to admit a Roman colony. Prusa, situated below the Mysian Olympus, on the borders of the Phrygians and the Mysians, is a well-governed city; it was founded by Cyrus, who made war against Crœsus.
It is difficult to define the boundaries of the Bithynians, Mysians, Phrygians, of the Doliones about Cyzicus, and of the Mygdones and Troes; it is generally admitted that each of these tribes ought to be placed apart from the other. A proverbial saying is applied to the Phrygians and Mysians, “The boundaries of the Mysi and Phryges are apart from one another,” but it is difficult to define them respectively. The reason is this; strangers who came into the country were soldiers and barbarians; they had no fixed settlement in the country of which they obtained possession, but were, for the most part, wanderers, expelling others from their territory, and being expelled themselves. All these nations might be supposed to be Thracians, because Thracians occupy the country on the other side, and because they do not differ much from one another.
But as far as we are able to conjecture, we may place Mysia between Bithynia and the mouth of the Æsepus, contiguous to the sea, and nearly along the whole of Olympus. Around it, in the interior, is the Epictetus, nowhere reaching the sea, and extending as far as the eastern parts of the Ascanian lake and district, for both bear the same name. Part of this territory was Phrygian, and part Mysian; the Phrygian was further distant from Troy; and so we must understand the words of the poet, when he says, “Phorcys, and the godlike Ascanius, were the leaders of the Phryges far from Ascania,” that is, the Phrygian Ascania; for the other, the Mysian Ascania, was nearer to the present Nicæa, which he mentions, when he says, “Palmys, Ascanius, and Morys, sons of Hippotion, the leader of the Mysi, fighting in close combat, who came from the fertile soil of Ascania, as auxiliaries.” It is not then surprising that he should speak of an Ascanius, a leader of the Phrygians, who came from Ascania, and of an Ascanius, a leader of the Mysians, coming also from Ascania, for there is much repetition of names derived from rivers, lakes, and places.
The poet himself assigns the Æsepus as the boundary of the Mysians, for after having described the country above Ilium, and lying along the foot of the mountains subject to Æneas, and which he calls Dardania, he places next towards the north Lycia, which was subject to Pandarus, and where Zeleia was situated; he says, “They who inhabited Zeleia, at the very foot of Ida, Aphneii Trojans, who drink of the dark stream of Æsepus;” below Zeleia, towards the sea, on this side of Æsepus, lies the plain of Adrasteia, and Tereia, Pitya, and in general the present district of Cyzicene near Priapus, which he afterwards describes. He then returns again to the parts towards the east, and to those lying above, by which he shows that he considered the country as far as the Æsepus the northern and eastern boundary of the Troad. Next to the Troad are Mysia and Olympus. Ancient tradition then suggests some such disposition of these nations. But the present changes have produced many differences in consequence of the continual succession of governors of the country, who confounded together people and districts, and separated others. The Phrygians and Mysians were masters of the country after the capture of Troy; afterwards the Lydians; then the Æolians and Ionians; next, the Persians and Macedonians; lastly, the Romans, under whose government most of the tribes have lost even their languages and names, in consequence of a new partition of the country having been made. It will be proper to take this into consideration when we describe its present state, at the same time showing a due regard to antiquity.
In the inland parts of Bithynia is Bithynium, situated above Tieium, and to which belongs the country about Salon, affording the best pasturage for cattle, whence comes the cheese of Salon. Nicæa, the capital of Bithynia, is situated on the Ascanian lake. It is surrounded by a very large and very fertile plain, which in the summer is not very healthy. Its first founder was Antigonus, the son of Philip, who called it Antigonia. It was then rebuilt by Lysimachus, who changed its name to that of his wife Nicæa. She was the daughter of Antipater. The city is situated in a plain. Its shape is quadrangular, eleven stadia in circuit. It has four gates. Its streets are divided at right angles, so that the four gates may be seen from a single stone, set up in the middle of the Gymnasium. A little above the Ascanian lake is Otrœa, a small town situated just on the borders of Bithynia towards the east. It is conjectured that Otrœa was so called from Otreus.
That Bithynia was a colony of the Mysians, first Scylax of Caryanda will testify, who says that Phrygians and Mysians dwell around the Ascanian lake. The next witness is Dionysius, who composed a work on “the foundation of cities.” He says that the straits at Chalcedon, and Byzantium, which are now called the Thracian, were formerly called the Mysian Bosporus. Some person might allege this as a proof that the Mysians were Thracians; and Euphorio says, “by the waters of the Mysian Ascanius;” and thus also Alexander the Ætolian, “who have their dwellings near the Ascanian waters, on the margin of the Ascanian lake, where Dolion dwelt, the son of Silenus and of Melia.” These authors testify the same thing, because the Ascanian lake is found in no other situation but this.
Men distinguished for their learning, natives of Bithynia, were Xenocrates the philosopher, Dionysius the dialectician, Hipparchus, Theodosius and his sons the mathematicians, Cleophanes the rhetorician of Myrleia, and Asclepiades the physician of Prusa.
To the south of the Bithynians are the Mysians about Olympus (whom some writers call Bithyni Olympeni, and others Hellespontii) and Phrygia upon the Hellespont. To the south of the Paphlagonians are the Galatians, and still further to the south of both these nations are the Greater Phrygia, and Lycaonia, extending as far as the Cilician and Pisidian Taurus. But since the parts continuous with Paphlagonia adjoin Pontus, Cappadocia, and the nations which we have just described, it may be proper first to give an account of the parts in the neighborhood of these nations, and then proceed to a description of the places next in order.