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CY´ZICUS ( Κύζικος: Eth. Κυζικηνός) and CYZICUM (Plin. Nat. 5.32; Mela, 1.19), a city on the Propontis in Mysia, on the neck of a peninsula as Mela says. The peninsula, which projects into the Propontis or sea of Marmora on the south coast, is joined to the mainland by a sandy isthmus. Crossing this isthmus from the mainland, a traveller finds on his left the miserable town of Erdek, the ancient [p. 1.740]Artace. [ARTACE] The site of Cyzicus is near the isthmus on the east side, hi 40° 22′ 30″ N. lat. (Hamilton, Researches, &c. vol. ii. p. 103.) The Turks call the ruins of Cyzicus Bal Kiz, the second part of which seems to be a part of the ancient name; and Bal is probably a Turkish corruption of the Greek Παλαία. (Leake, Asia Minor, p. 271.) There is a place called Aidinjik near the isthmus, on the mainland side, where there are many marble fragments which have been brought from the neighbouring site of Cyzicus.

Strabo (p. 575) says that Cyzicus is an island in the Propontis, which is joined to the mainland by two bridges, and very fertile: it is about 500 stadia in circuit, and contains a city of the same name close to the bridges, and two closed harbours, and shiphouses (νεώσοικοι) above 200: one part of the city is on level ground, and the other is close to a hill, which they call Bear Hill (Ἄρκτων ὄρος): there is another hill that lies above the city, a single height called Dindymon, which contains a temple of Dindymene the mother of the gods, which was founded by the Argonauts. Stephanus (s. v. Κύζικος) says that the town was also called Ἄρκτων νῆσος. The junction of the island with the main is attributed to Alexander by Pliny (5.32), who does not say how the junction was made. Apollonius Rhodius, who wrote after Alexander's time, still calls it an island (Argon. 1.936), but he also speaks of an isthmus. He names one of the ports Chytus; the other was named Panormus, as the Scholiast tells us. It is said that there are no signs of the bridges. The isthmus is above a mile long, and less than half a mile broad. It seems probable that moles were pushed out some distance, and then the opposite shores were connected by bridges. The whole passage is now a sandy flat. Hamilton (Researches, &c. vol. ii. p. 98) says, “we crossed the sandy isthmus which connects Cyzicus with the mainland; near the south end, many large blocks of stone, dug up in clearing a neighbouring vineyard, had been collected into a heap.” “The east side of the isthmus is now an extensive marsh, covered with reeds, and probably marks the site of the principal port of Cyzicus, separated from the sea-shore by a low ridge of sand hills thrown up by the united efforts of the winds and waves. Near the northern extremity, a long ditch runs from E. to W. full of water, with a wall of great strength, fortified by towers along its northern bank; its opening towards the sea is choked up by drifted sand, but it seems to be the entrance through which the galleys of Cyzicus were admitted to her capacious port.” (Hamilton.)

The ruins of Cyzicus are among cherry orchards and vineyards. There is a heap of ruins covered with brushwood, where there are many subterraneous passages, some of which may be explored to the length of more than a hundred feet. These passages are connected with each other, and appear to be the substructions of some large buildings. Cyzicus in Strabo's time had many large public buildings (Strab. p. 575), and it maintained three architects to look after them and the machinery (ὄργανα). It possessed three store-houses, one for arms, one for the machinery or engines, and one for corn. “The masonry of these substructions is chiefly Hellenic, but in some places the walls are only cased with blocks of stone: in the roof of one of the vaults is a small square opening, regularly formed with a keystone, all belonging to the original construction.” (Hamilton.) If these substructions are not those of the public granary, they may belong, as Hamilton suggests, to the great temple described by Aristides in his oration on Cyzicus (vol. i. p. 237, ed. Jebb); but the extravagant bombast of this wordy rhetorician diminishes our confidence in what he says. The Agora, he says, contained a most magnificent temple, and he speaks of the parts below ground being worthy of admiration. Xiphilinus (Dio Cass. vol. ii. p. 1173, ed. Reimarus) says that the great temple of Cyzicus was destroyed by an earthquake in the time of Antoninus Pius; but this must be a mistake, and he means to speak of the great earthquake that destroyed Smyrna and other cities in the time of Marcus, the successor of Pius. Aristides wrote a letter on the calamity of the city of Smyrna, addressed to Aurelius and Commodus. This temple is described by Xiphilinus as of extraordinary dimensions: the columns were fifty cubits high, and of one stone. The Cyziceni used the white marble of Proconnesus for building. (Strab. p. 588.) “About a mile NE. by N. from these substructions are the remains of an amphitheatre, built in a wooded valley to the north of the plain, where are the principal ruins of the city. Many of the pilasters and massive buttresses have yielded to the influence of time, but seven or eight are still standing on the west side of the valley, by which the circular form of the building may be distinctly traced.” (Hamilton.) A small stream flows through the middle of the arena; which circumstance, and the character of the masonry at the upper end of the building, led Hamilton to suppose that the place was also used as a Naumachia. On a wooded hill to the east of the city, situated above the ruins, and near the apex of the city walls, there are “only blocks of marble and broken columns built into the walls of the cottages.” The site of the theatre, which faces the SW., is almost overgrown with luxuriant vegetation. It is very large, and appears to be of Greek construction, but it is in a very ruined state. Some parts of the substructions can be traced, but there is not a block of marble to be seen, nor a single seat remaining in its place. There are vestiges of the city walls in various parts, but it does not appear easy to trace their whole extent. Hamilton in one place speaks of “heaps of ruins, long walls, and indistinct foundations, but so overgrown with vegetation that it was impossible to make them out.” He only found one inscription, a Greek one, of the Roman period. “On the whole,” says Hamilton, “I must say that the loose and rubbly character of the buildings of Cyzicus little accords with the celebrity of its architects; and although some appear to have been cased with marble, none of them give an idea of the solid grandeur of the genuine Greek style.” It seems likely that the larger blocks of marble have been carried away, though there is no large modern town near Cyzicus; but the materials of many ancient towns near the sea have doubtless been carried off to remote places. There are quarries of fine marble on the hills about Cyzicus, and near Aidinjik on the mainland; but granite was much used in the buildings of Cyzicus, and it is of a kind which is rapidly decomposed. The consequence is, that a rich vegetation has grown up, which itself destroys buildings and buries them. The sea-sand also that has been blown up on both sides of the isthmus may have covered the basements at least of many buildings. It seems likely, then, that excavations would bring to light many remains of a rich city, of which Strabo says, that in his time “it rivals the first cities of Asia in magnitude, [p. 1.741]beauty, and its excellent institutions, both civil and military, and it appears to be embellished in like fashion with the city of the Rhodii, the Massaliotae, and the Carthaginians of old” (p. 575).

The origin of this town seems unknown. A people called Doliones or Dolieis (Steph. s. v. Δολίονες) once lived about Cyzicus, but Strabo says that it was difficult to fix their limits. Conon (Narrat. 41, apud Phot.) has a story of Cyzicus being settled by Pelasgi from Thessaly, who were driven from Thessaly by Aeolians. Their king and leader was Cyzicus, a son of Apollo, who gave his name to the peninsula which he occupied; for it may be observed that it seems somewhat doubtful, if we look at all the authorities, whether Cyzicus was considered by the Greeks to have been originally an island or a peninsula. If it was originally a peninsula, we must suppose that a canal was cut across it, and afterwards was bridged. This king Cyzicus was killed by Jason on the voyage to Colchis, and after the death of Cyzicus, perhaps some time after according to the legend, Tyrrheni seized the place, who were driven out by Milesians. Cyzicus was reckoned among the settlements of Miletus by Anaximenes of Lampsacus, and also Artace on the same island or peninsula. (Strabo, p. 635.) Cyzicus is not mentioned in the Iliad.

The Cyziceni are said to have surrendered to the Persians after the conquest of Miletus. (Hdt. 6.33.) The place afterwards became a dependency on Athens; for it revolted from the Athenians, who recovered it after the battle of Cynossema (B.C. 411),--at which time it was unwalled, as Thucydides observes (8.107). These scanty notices of Cyzicus, and the fact of its having no fortifications near the close of the Peloponnesian War, seem to show that it was still an inconsiderable city. The Athenians, on getting the place again, laid a contribution on the people. The next year (B.C. 410) the Cyziceni had the same ill luck. Mindarus the Spartan admiral was there with his ships, and Pharnabazus the Persian with his troops. Alcibiades defeated Mindarus, and the Cyziceni, being deserted by the Peloponnesians and Pharnabazus, again received the Athenians, and again had to part with their money. We learn from the notice of this affair in Xenophon (Xenoph. Hell. 1.1.16) that Cyzicus had a port at this time. After the defeat of the Athenians at Aegospotami, Cyzicus seems to have come again under the Lacedaemonians; but as the peace of Antalcidas (B.C. 387) gave all the cities in Asia to the Persian king, Cyzicus was among them.

Cyzicus appears to have obtained its independence after the time of Alexander, but the notices of it are very scanty. Attalus I. of Pergamum, the father of Eumenes, married a woman of Cyzicus, named Apollonias, who was distinguished for her good sense (Plb. 23.18); and we read of the Cyziceni sending twenty ships to join the fleet of Athenaeus, the brother of Attalus II., King of Pergamum. (Plb. 33.11.) We know nothing of the fortunate circumstances which gave this town the wealth that it had, when Mithridates attempted to take it B.C. 74. It is probable that it had become one of the outlets for the products of the interior of the Asiatic peninsula, and it is said to have been well administered. The Cyziceni sustained a great loss in a fight with Mithridates at Chalcedon, and soon after the king attacked Cyzicus. He posted his troops on the mainland opposite to the city, at the foot of the mountain range of Adrasteia; and with his ships he blockaded the narrow passage that separated the city from the main. The strength of the walls, which had been built in the interval since the Peloponnesian war, and the abundant stores of the citizens enabled them to hold out against the enemy. The Roman commander L. Lucullus was in the neighbourhood off Cyzicus, and he cut off the supplies of Mithridates, whose army suffered from famine, and was at last obliged to abandon the siege with great loss. (Plut. Luc. 100.9, &c.; Appian, Mithridat. 100.72, &c.; Strab. p. 575; Cic. pro Arch 100.9) The Romans rewarded Cyzicus by making it a Libera Civitas, as it was in Strabo's time, who observes that it had a considerable territory, part of it an ancient, possession and part the gift of the Romans. He adds that they possessed on the Troad the parts beyond the Aesepus about Zeleia; and also the plain of Adrasteia, which was that part of the mainland that was opposite to Cyzicus. They had also part of the tract on the Lake Dascylitis, and a large tract bordering on the Doliones and Mygdones, as far as the Lake Miletopolitis and the Apolloniatis. Strabo (p. 587) speaks of a place at the common boundary of the territory of Priapus and Cyzicus, from which it appears that the possessions of these two towns bordered on one another, on the coast at least, in the time of Strabo. Indeed Priapus, according to some authorities, was a colony of Cyzicus. It appears that the greatest prosperity of Cyzicus dates from the time of the defeat of Mithridates. It possessed a large tract on the south side of the Propontis, and there were no other large cities on this side of the Propontis in the Roman period, except Nicomedia and Nicaea. The produce of the basin of the Rhyndacus would come down to Cyzicus. Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.36) says that Tiberius (A.D. 25) deprived Cyzicus of its privilege of a free city (D. C. 54.7, 23; Sueton. Tib. 100.37) for not paying due religious respect to the memory of Augustus, and for ill treating some Roman citizens. This shows that Strabo must have written what he says of Cyzicus being Libera before the revocation. The effect of the revocation of this privilege would be to place Cyzicus altogether and immediately under the authority of the Roman governor of Asia. Cyzicus, however, continued to be a flourishing place under the empire, though it suffered from the great earthquake which has been already mentioned. In the time of Caracalla it received the title of Metropolis. It also became a bishop's see under the later empire.

Cyzicus produced some writers, a list of whom is given in a note on Thucydides (8.107) by Wasse. (Cramer, Asia Minor, 1.47, note.) It had also some works of art, among which Cicero (Cic. Ver. 2.4. 100.60) mentions paintings of Ajax and Medea, which the dictator Caesar afterwards bought. (Plin. Nat. 8.38.) At some period in their history the Cyziceni conquered Proconnesus, and carried off from there a statue of the Meter Dindymene. It was a chryselephantine statue; but the covering of the face, instead of being plates of ivory, was made of the teeth of the hippopotamus. (Paus. 8.46.4.) Cyzicus also produced a kind of unguent or perfume that was in repute, made from a plant which Pliny calls “Cyzicena amaracus” (Plin. xiii.; Paus. 4.36.5); but Apollonius, quoted by Athenaeus (xv. p. 688), speaks of it as made from an Iris. It was also noted for its mint, which produced the gold coins or stateres called Cyziceni (Κυζικηνοί), which had a wide circulation. The Cyzicenus had on one side a female head, and [p. 1.742]on the other a lion's head. (Hesychius, s. v. Κυζικηνοί; Suidas, s. v. Κυζικηνοί στατῆρες.) The head is supposed to be that of Cybele. The value of the coin was 28 Attic drachmae. (Dem. in Phorm. p. 914.) The autonomous coins of Cyzicus are said to be rare, but there is a complete series of imperial coins. It does not appear where the Cyziceni got their gold from, but it is not improbable that it was once found on the island or on the neighbouring mainland. Pliny (36.15) says that there was in his time a temple at Cyzicus, in which the architect had placed a golden thread along all the joinings of the polished stone. The contrast between the gold and the white marble would probably produce a good effect. The passage of Pliny contains something more about Cyzicus, and the story of the “fugitivus lapis,” which was once the anchor of the Argonautae. The stone often ran away from the Prytaneum, till at last they wisely secured it with lead.



hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.33
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.46.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.36.5
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.107
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 1.1.16
    • Polybius, Histories, 23.18
    • Polybius, Histories, 33.11
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4
    • Cicero, For Archias, 9
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.36
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.15
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 8.38
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.32
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