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Eth. BESSI (Βησσοί), a Thracian tribe occupying the country about the rivers Axius, Strymon, and Nestus. They appear to have been a very numerous people, and at different times to have occupied a more or less extensive country. According to Herodotus (7.111), they belonged to the Satrae, a free Thracian people, and had the management of an oracle of Dionysus situated in the highest part of the mountains. In the time of Strabo (vii. p.318) the Bessi dwelt all along the southern slope of Mount Haemus, from the Euxine to the frontiers of the Dardanians in the west. In the second century of our era their territory might seem to have been greatly reduced, as Ptolemy (3.11.9) mentions the Βεσσική among the smaller στρατηνίαι of Thrace; but his statement evidently refers only to the western portion of the Bessi, occupying the country between the Axius and Strymon, and Pliny (4.11. 18) speaks of Bessi living about the Nestus and Mount Rhodope. Looking at the country they occupied, and the character given them by Herodotus, there can be no doubt that they were the chief people of Thrace; they were warlike and independent, and were probably never subdued by the Macedonians; the Romans succeeded in conquering them only in their repeated wars against the Thracians. It would seem that the whole nation of the Bessi was divided into four cantons (Steph. Byz. s. v. Τετραχωπῖται), of which the Diobessi mentioned by Pliny may have been one. In the time of Strabo the Bessi are said to have been the greatest robbers among the Thracians, who were themselves notorious as λησταί. That they were not, however, wholly uncivilised, is clear from the fact that they inhabited towns, the chief of which was called Uscudama (Entrop. 6.10). Another town, Bessapara, is mentioned by Procopius and others. (Comp. D. C. 54.34, and Baehr on Herodotus, l.c.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.111
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.11
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.11
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