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MY´SIA (Μυσία: Eth. Μυσός, Eth. Mysus), the name [p. 2.389]of a province in the north-west of Asia Minor, which according to Strabo (xii. p.572) was derived from the many beech-trees which grew about Mount Olympus, and were called by the Lydians μυσοί. Others more plausibly connect the name with the Celtic moese, a marsh or swamp, according to which Mysia would signify a marshy country. This supposition is supported by the notion prevalent among the ancients that the Mysians had immigrated into Asia Minor from the marshy countries about the Lower Danube, called Moesia, whence Mysia and Moesia would be only dialectic varieties of the same name. Hence, also, the Mysians are sometimes mentioned with the distinctive attribute of the “Asiatic,” to distinguish them from the European Mysians, or Moesians. (Eustath. ad Dion. Per. 809; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. 1.1115.)

The Asiatic province of Mysia was bounded in the north by the Propontis and the Hellespont, in the west by the Aegean, and in the south by Mount Temnus and Lydia. In the east the limits are not accurately defined by the ancients, though it was bounded by Bithynia and Phrygia, and we may assume the river Rhyndacus and Mount Olympus to have, on the whole, formed the boundary line. (Strab. xii. pp. 564, &c., 571.) The whole extent of country bearing the name of Mysia, was divided into five parts :--1. MYSIA MINOR (Μυσία μικρἂ, that is, the northern coast-district on the Hellespont and Propontis, as far as Mount Olympus; it also bore the name of Mysia Hellespontiaca, or simply Hellespontus, and its inhabitants were called Hellespontii (Ptol. 5.2. §§ 2, 3, 14; Xenoph. Ages. 1.14) ; or, from Mount Olympus, Mysia Olympene (Μυσία Ὀλυμπηνή (Strab. xii. p.571). This Lesser Mysia embraced the districts of MORENE, ABRETTENE and the Apian plain (Ἀπίας πεδίον; Strab. xii. pp. 574, 576.) 2. MYSIA MAJOR (Μυσία ῾η μεγάλη), forming the southern part of the interior of the country, including a tract of country extending between Troas and Aeolis as far as the bay of Adramyttium. The principal city of this part was Pergamum, from which the country is also called Mysia Pergamene (Μυσία Περγαμηνή; Strab. l.c.; Ptol. 5.2. §§ 5, 14.) 3. TROAS ( Τρωάς), the territory of ancient Troy, that is, the northern part of the western coast, from Sigeium to the bay of Adramyttium. 4. AEOLIS the southern part of the coast, especially that between the rivers Caicus and Hermus. 5. TEUTHRANIA ( Τενθρανία), or the district on the southern frontier, where in ancient times Teuthras is said to have formed a Mysian kingdom. (Strab. xii. p.551.)

These names and divisions, however, were not the same at all times. Under the Persian dominion, when Mysia formed a part of the second satrapy (Hdt. 3.90), the name Mysia was applied only to the north-eastern part of the country, that is, to Mysia Minor; while the western part of the coast of the Hellespont bore the name of Lesser Phrygia, and the district to the south of the latter that of Troas. (Scylax, p. 35.) In the latest times of the Roman Empire, that is, under the Christian emperors, the greater part of Mysia was contained in the province bearing the name of Hellespontus, while the southern districts as far as Troas belonged to the province of Asia. (Hierocl. p. 658.)

The greater part of Mysia is a mountainous country, being traversed by the north-western branches of Mount Taurus, which gradually slope down towards the Aegean, the main branches being Mount IDA and Mount TEMNUS The country is also rich in rivers, though most of them are small, and not navigable; but, notwithstanding its abundant supply of water in rivers and lakes, the country was in ancient times less productive than other provinces of Asia Minor, and many parts of it were covered with marshes and forests. Besides the ordinary products of Asia Minor, and the excellent wheat of Assus (Strab. xv. p.725), Mysia was celebrated for a kind of stone called lapis assius (σαρκοφάγος), which had the power of quickly consuming the human body, whence it was used for coffins (sarcophagi), and partly powdered and strewed over dead bodies. (Dioscorid. 5.141 ; Plin. Nat. 2.98, 36.27; Steph. B. sub voce Ἄσσος.) Near the coasts of the Hellespont there were excellent oyster beds. (Plin. Nat. 32.21; Catull. 18.4; Verg. G. 1.207; Lucan 9.959; comp. Theophrast. Hist. Plant. 1.6. 13.)

The country of Mysia was inhabited by several tribes, as Phrygians, Trojans, Aeolians, and Mysians;. but we must here confine ourselves to the Mysians, from whom the country derived its name. Mysians are mentioned in the Iliad (2.858, 10.430, 13.5), and seem to be conceived by the poet as dwelling on the Hellespont in that part afterwards called Mysia Minor. Thence they seem, during the period subsequent to the Trojan, War, to have extended themselves both westward and southward. (Strab. xii. p.665.) Herodotus (7.74) describes them as belonging to the same stock as the Lydians, with whom they were always stationed together in the Persian armies (Hdt. 1.171), and who probably spoke a language akin to theirs. Strabo (vii. pp. 295, 303, xii. pp. 542, 564, &c.) regards them as a tribe that had immigrated into Asia from Europe. It is difficult to see how these two statements are to be reconciled, or to decide which of them is more entitled to belief. As no traces of the Mysian language have come down to us, we cannot pronounce a positive opinion, though the evidence, so far as it can be gathered, seems to be in favour of Strabo's view, especially if we bear in mind the alleged identity of Moesians and Mysians. It is, moreover, not quite certain as to whether the Mysians in Homer are to be conceived as Asiatics or as Europeans. If this view be correct, the Mysians must have crossed over into Asia either before, or soon after the Trojan War. Being afterwards pressed by other immigrants, they advanced farther into the country, extending in the south-west as far as Pergamum, and in the east as far as Catacecaumene. About the time of the Aeolian migration, they founded, under Teuthras, the kingdom of Teuthrania, which was soon destroyed, but gave the district in which it had existed its permanent name. The people which most pressed upon them in the north and east seem to have been the Bithynians.

In regard to their history, the Mysians shared the fate of all the nations in the west of Asia Minor. In B.C. 190, when Antiochus was driven from Western Asia, they became incorporated with the kingdom of Pergamus; and when this was made over to Rome, they formed a part of the province of Asia. Respecting their national character and institutions we possess scarcely any information; but if we may apply to them that which Posidonius (in Strab. vii. p. 296) states of the European Moesians, they were a pious and peaceable nomadic people, who lived in a very simple manner on the produce of their flocks, and had not made great advances in [p. 2.390]civilisation. Their language was, according to Strabo (xii. p.572), a mixture of Lydian and Phrygian, that is, perhaps, a dialect akin to both of them. Their comparatively low state of civilisation seems also to be indicated by the armour attributed to them by Herodotus (7.74), which consisted of a common helmet, a small shield, and a javelin, the point of which was hardened by fire. At a later time, the influence of the Greeks by whom they were surrounded seems to have done away with everything that was peculiar to them as a nation, and to have draw n them into the sphere of Greek civilisation. (Comp. Forbiger, Handbuch der alten Geographie, vol. ii. p. 110, &c.; Cramer, Asia Minor, i. p. 30, &c.; Niebuhr, Lect. on Anc. Hist. vol. i. p. 83, &c.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.90
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.171
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.74
    • Homer, Iliad, 13.5
    • Homer, Iliad, 10.430
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.858
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.207
    • Lucan, Civil War, 9.959
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 2.98
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 32.21
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.27
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