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O´DRYSAE (Ὀδρύσαι), a people seated on both banks of the Artiscus, a river of Thrace, which discharges itself into the Hebrus. (Hdt. 4.92.) Their territory, however, must undoubtedly have extended considerably to the W. of the Artiscus; since Pliny (4.18) informs us that the Hebrus had its source in their country ; a fact that is corroborated by Ammianus Marcellinus (27.4, 10). They appear to have belonged to that northern swarm of barbarians which invaded Thrace after the Trojan War ; and their names are often found interwoven in the ancient myths. Thus the Thracian singer Thamyris is said to have been an Odrysian (Paus. 4.33.4); and Orpheus is represented as their king. (Conon, ap. Phot. p. 140.)

A rude and barbarous people like the Odrysians [p. 2.464]cannot be expected to have had many towns ; and in fact we find none mentioned either by Thucydides or Xenophon. The first of their towns recorded is Philippopolis, founded by Philip II. of Macedonia, as there will be occasion to relate in the sequel; and it may be presumed that all their towns of any importance were built after they had lost their independence.

The name of the Odrysae first occurs in history in connection with the expedition of Dareius Hystaspis against the Scythians. (Herod. l.c.) Whilst the Persians oppressed the southern parts of Thrace, the Odrysians, protected by their mountains, retained their independence; and the strength which they thus acquired enabled Teres to incorporate many Thracian tribes with his subjects. He extended his kingdom to the Euxine in spite of a signal defeat which he sustained in that quarter from the Thyni (Xen. Anab. 7.2. 22); and the dominion of his son Sitalces embraced the greater part of Thrace; having been bounded on the N. by the Danube, and extending from Abdera on the W. to the Euxine on the E. (Thuc. 2.96-98.) Indeed, so powerful was this monarch that his alliance was eagerly courted both by the Athenians and Lacedaemonians at the breaking out of the Peloponnesian War. (Thuc. 2.29; Hdt. 7.137 ; Aristoph. Ach. 136-150.) The expedition which he undertook in B.C. 429, at the instance of the Athenians, and of Amyntas; pretender to the throne of Macedonia, against Perdiccas II., the reigning sovereign of that country, is also a striking proof of the power of the Odrysians at that period; as the army which Sitalces assembled on that occasion amounted, on the lowest estimate, to 150,000 men, of which one-third were cavalry. (Thuc. 2.98; Diod. 12.50.) For the latter force, indeed, the Odrysians were renowned, and the extensive plains of the Hebrus afforded pasture for an excellent breed of horses. (Thuc. l.c.; Plb. 24.6; Liv. 44.42.) With this army Sitalces overran Chalcidice, Anthemus, Crestonia, and Mygdonia; but the non-appearance of the Athenian contingent, coupled with the approach of winter, obliged him hastily to retire after a month's campaign. In B.C. 424 Sitalces fell in an engagement with the Triballi, and was succeeded by his nephew Seuthes I. Under his reign the Odrysians attained the highest pitch of their power and prosperity. Their yearly revenue amounted to 400 talents, besides an equal sum in the shape of presents and contributions. (Thuc: 2.97, 4.101.) But from this period the power of the Odrysians began sensibly to wane. After the death of Seuthes we find his dominions divided among three sovereigns. Medocus, or Amadocus, who was most probably his son, ruled the ancient seat of the monarchy ; Maesades, brother of Medocus, reigned over the Thyni, Melanditae, and Tranipsae; whilst the region above Byzantium called the Delta was governed by Teres. (Xen. Anab. 7.2. 32, 7.5.1.) It was in the reign of Medocus that Xenophon and the Ten Thousand passed through Thrace on their return from the Persian expedition, and helped to restore Seuthes, son of the exiled Maesades, to his dominions. We gather from this writer that Seuthes exercised only a subordinate power under Medocus, with the title of Archon, or governor, of the Coast (7.3.16). Subsequently, however, he appears to have asserted his claim to an independent sovereignty, and to have waged open war with Medocus; till they were reconciled and gained over to the Athenian alliance by Thrasybulus. (Xen. Hell. 4.8. 25; Diod. 14.94.) When we next hear of the Odrysians, we find them engaged in hostilities with the Athenians respecting the Thracian Chersonese. This was under their king Cotys I., who reigned from B.C. 382 to 353. It was in the reign of the same monarch (B.C. 376) that the Triballi invaded their territories, and penetrated as far as Abdera. (Diod. 15.36.) When Cersobleptes, the son and successor of Cotys, ascended the throne, the Odrysians appear to have still retained possession of the country as far as the coast of the Euxine. But a civil war soon broke out between that monarch and Berisades and Amadocus, who were probably his brothers, and to whom Cotys had left some portions of his kingdom. The Athenians availed themselves of these dissensions to gain possession of the Chersonese, which appears to have been finally ceded to them in B.C. 357. (Diod. 16.34.) But a much more fatal blow to the power of the Odrysians was struck by Philip II. of Macedon. After nine or ten years of warfare, Philip at last succeeded (B.C. 343) in conquering them, and reducing them to the condition of tributaries. (Diod. 16.71; Dem. de Chers. p. 105.) The exact nature of their relations with Philip cannot be ascertained; but that their subjugation must have been complete appears from the fact of his having founded colonies in their territory, especially Philippopolis, on the right bank of the Hebrus, and in the very heart of their ancient seat. Their subjection is further shown by the circumstance of their cavalry being mentioned as serving in the army of Alexander under Agathon, son of Tyrimmas. (Arrian, 3.12.4.) But a still more decisive proof is, that after Alexander's lieutenant Zophyrio had been defeated by the Getae, the Odrysians were incited by their king, Seuthes III., to rebel against the Macedonians. (Curt. 10.1.45; Justin, xii. l.) After the death of Alexander, Seuthes took the field against Lysimachus, to whom Thrace had devolved, with an army of 20,000 foot and 8000 horse,--a sad falling off from the forces formerly arrayed by Sitalces. (Diod. 18.14; Paus. 1.9.6.) The struggle with Lysimachus was carried on with varied success. Under Philip V. of Macedon, the Odrysians were still in a state of revolt. In B.C. 211 that monarch assembled an army with the ostensible design of marching to the relief of Byzantium, but in reality to overawe the malcontent chieftains of Thrace. (Liv. 39.35.) In 183 we find Philip undertaking an expedition against the Odrysians, Dentheletae, and Bessi. He succeeded in taking Philippopolis, which the inhabitants deserted at his approach, and where he established a garrison, which was expelled shortly after his departure. (Liv. 39.53; Polyb. Ex. Leg. xlviii.) It may be assumed from Livy that on this occasion the Odrysians were supported in their revolt by the Romans (42.19, 45.42). After the fall of the Macedonian kingdom, the Odrysians appear to have been treated with consideration by the Romans, who employed them as useful allies against the newly-conquered districts, as well as against the other Thracian tribes; amongst whom the Bessi had now raised themselves to some importance. After this period the history of the Odrysians is for some time involved in obscurity, though they were doubtless gradually falling more and more under the Roman dominion. In the year [p. 2.465]B.C. 42 their king Sadăles, who had no children, bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans, and possession was taken of it by Brutus. (Caes. B.C. 3.4; D. C. 47.25; Lucan 5.54.)

Augustus seems to have left the Odrysians the appearance of independence, In the year B.C. 29, in return for the friendly disposition which they had shown towards the Romans, they were presented by M. Crassus with a territory hallowed by the worship of Bacchus, which he had conquered from the Bessi (D. C. 51.25). In the year B.C. 20, Rhoematalces, who was administering the kingdom as guardian of the three infant sons of the deceased monarch Cotys IV., succeeded, with the assistance of the Romans under M. Lollius, in reducing the Bessi (Id. 54.20). A few years afterwards, the Bessi again rose under their leader Vologaeses, a priest of Bacchus, and drove Rhoematalces into the Chersonese; they were, however, soon reduced to submission by Lucius Piso; Rhoematalces was restored; and it would appear, from Tacitus, that under his reign the Odrysians acquired the dominion of all Thrace (D. C. 54.34; Tac. Ann. 2.64). This apparent prosperity was, however, entirely dependent on the Romans, by whose influence they were governed. Thus, after the death of Rhoematalces, we find Augustus dividing his kingdom between his son Cotys and his brother Rhascuporis (Tac. l.c.; Vell. 2.98). Again, after the murder of Cotys by Rhascuporis, Tiberius partitioned the kingdom between the children of Cotys and Rhoematalces, son of Rhascuporis, at the same time appointing a Roman, Trebellienus Rufus, as guardian of the former, who were not of age (Tac. Ann. 2.67, 3.38). But, in spite of their subjection, the spirit of the Odrysians was not subdued. Two years after the event just recorded, they rose, in conjunction with the Coeletae, against the Romans, as well as against their own king Rhoematalces, whom they besieged in Philippopolis. This rebellion, which was undertaken by leaders of little distinction, and conducted without concert, was soon quelled by P. Velleius (Tac. Ann. 3.39). A more formidable one took place A.D. 26, which Tacitus ascribes to the unwillingness of the Thracian tribes to supply the Roman army with recruits, as well as to the native ferocity of the people. It occasioned the Romans some trouble, and Poppaeus Sabinus was rewarded with the triumphal insignia for his services in suppressing it (lb. 4.46--51). At length, under the reign of Vespasian, the Odrysians were finally deprived of their independence, and incorporated with the other provinces of the Roman empire (Suet. Vesp. 8; Eutrop. 7.19).

In the preceding sketch those circumstances only have been selected which illustrate the history of the Odrysians as a people, without entering into the personal history of their monarchs. The following is a list of the dynasty; an account of the different kings who compose it will be found in the Dict. of Biogr. and Mythol. under the respective heads. 1. Teres. 2. Sitalces. 3. Seuthes 1.4. Medocus (or Amadocus) with Maesades. 5. Seuthes 2.6. Cotys 1.7. Cersobleptes, with Amadocus and Berisades. 8. Seuthes 3.9. Cotys Il. 10. Cotys 3.11. Sadales. 12. Cotys 4.13. Rhoematalces 1.14. Cotys V. and Rhascuporis. 15. Rhoematalces 2.16. Cotys VI.

The manners of the Odrysians partook of that wildness and ferocity which was common to all the Thracian tribes, and which made their name a byword among the Greeks and Romans; but the horrible picture drawn of them by Ammianus Marcellinus (27.4.9) is probably overcharged. Like most other barbarous nations of the north, they were addicted to intoxication, and their long drinking bouts were enlivened by warlike dances performed to a wild and barbarous music. (Xen. Anab. 7.3. 32) Hence it is characteristic that it was considered a mark of the highest distinction to be a table companion of the king's; but whoever enjoyed this honour was expected not only to drink to the king, but also to make him a present (lb. 16, seq.) Among such a people,we are not surprised to find that Dionysus seems to have been the deity most worshipped. They had a custom of buying their wives from their parents, which Herodotus (5.6) represents as prevailing among all the Thracian tribes.


hide References (35 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (35):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.36
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.71
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.50
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.94
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.34
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.137
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.92
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.9.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.33.4
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.2.22
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.2.32
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.5.1
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.3.32
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 4.8.25
    • Polybius, Histories, 24.6
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 136
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 150
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.29
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.98
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.67
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.38
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.39
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.64
    • Lucan, Civil War, 5.54
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.18
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 44, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 53
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 35
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.96
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 27.10
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 27.4
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 27.4.9
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 10.1.45
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 18.14
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