, THRAECIA Θρᾳκία
, Hom.; Θρηϊκίη
, Hdt. 1.168
, or Θρηΐκη
, 4.99; Attic, Θρᾴκη
: Eth. Θρῆϊξ
, Hom.; Eth. Θρήϊξ
, Hdt. 8.116
; Eth. Θράκιος
, Eth. Θρᾴκιος
, Attic Eth. Θρᾷξ
; Trag. Θρῇξ
: Eth. Thrax
, Eth. Threx
, the latter form being chiefly, if not exclusively, employed of gladiators), a country at the south-eastern extremity of Europe, and separated from Asia only by the Propontis and its two narrow channels, the Bosporus and the Hellespont.
I. NAME.--Besides its ordinary name, the country had, according to Steph. B. sub voce
(s. v.), two older appellations, Πέρκη
and Gellius (14.6
) mentions Sithon as another. Respecting the origin of these names, various conjectures have been made both in ancient and in modern times; but as none of them, with the exception to be presently mentioned, are of much value, it is not worth while to devote any space to their consideration.1
The exception alluded to is the etymology adopted by Col. Mure (Hist. of Lang. and Lit. of Anc. Greece,
i. p. 153, note), which is far more probable and satisfactory than any other that the present writer has seen, and which derives the name Thrace from the adjective τραχεῖα,
“rugged,” by the common transfer of the aspirate. Thus the name would indicate the geographical character of the various districts to which it is given; for, as we shall see, it was by no means confined to the country which is the special subject of the present notice.
II. EXTENT.--In the earliest times, the region called Thrace had no definite boundaries, but was often regarded as comprising all that part of Europe which lies to the north of Greece. Macedonia, in the south, is spoken of by Hecataeus as belonging to it (cf. Mel. 2.2, sub fin., where the Chalcidic peninsula is described under the title of Thrace); and Scythia, in the north, is included in it by Steph. B. sub voce
(s. v. Σκύθαι
: cf. Amm. 27.4.3).
This explains the fable reported by Andron (Tzetz. ad Lycophr.
894), to the effect that Oceanus had four daughters, Asia, Libya, Europa, and Thracia; thus elevating the last-named country to the rank of one of the four quarters of the known--or rather unknown--world.
But as the Greeks extended their geographical knowledge, the designation Thrace became more restricted in its application, and at length was generally given to that part of Europe which is included within the following boundaries: the Ister on the N. (Strab. ii. p.129
; Plin. Nat. 4.18
; Mel. 2.2); the Euxine and the Bosporus on the E.; the Propontis, the Hellespont, the Aegean, and the northern part of Macedonia, on the S.; the Strymon, or subsequently, i. e. in the time of Philip II. and his son Alexander the Great, the Nestus (Strab. vii. pp. 323, 330; Ptol. 3.11
), and the countries occupied by the Illyrians, on the W., where, however, the boundary was never very settled or accurately known, (Plin. and Mel. ll. cc.
) These were the limits of Thrace until the Romans subdued the country, when, in the reign of Augustus, it was divided into two parts, separated by the Haemus; the portion to the south of that mountain chain retaining the name of Thrace, while the part between the Ister and the Haemus received the appellation of Moesia, and was constituted a Roman province. [MOESIA
Vol. II. p. 367.] But even after this period both countries were sometimes included under the old name, which the Latin poets frequently used in its earliest and widest extent of meaning. (Cf. Heyne, ad Virg. Aen.
11.659; Burman, ad Val. Flacc.
4.280; Muncker, ad Hygin. Fab.
138; Tzschucke, ad Mel.
2.2. p. 63.)
As the little that is known about Moesia is stated in the article above referred to, the present will, as far as possible, be confined to Thrace proper, or south of the Haemus, corresponding pretty nearly to the modern Roumelia,
which, however, extends somewhat more to the west than ancient Thrace.
III. PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY, CLIMATE, PRODUCTIONS, &c.--Many circumstances might have led us to expect that the ancients would have transmitted to us full information respecting Thrace: its proximity to Greece; the numerous Greek colonies established in it; the fact that it was traversed by the highroad between Europe and Asia; and that the capital of the Eastern Empire was situated in it,--all these things seem calculated to attract attention to the country in an unusual degree, and to induce authors of various kinds to employ their pens in recording its natural and political history. Yet the latest and most profound historian of Greece is compelled to admit that, apart from two main roads, “scarcely anything whatever is known of [the interior of] the country.” (Grote, vol. xii. p. 34, note. For this various reasons may be assigned; but the principal one is the barbarous character, in all ages, of the occupants of the land, which has, at least until very recently, precluded the possibility of its exploration by peaceful travellers.2
Those who have [p. 2.1177]
traversed it have been almost invariably engaged in military enterprises, and too much occupied with their immediate objects to have either opportunity or inclination, even had they possessed the necessary qualifications, to observe and describe the natural features of the country. What adds to the difficulty of the writer on the classical geography of Thrace is the unfortunate loss of the whole of that portion of the seventh book of Strabo which was devoted to the subject. Strabo, in several parts of his work, treats incidentally of Thrace: but this is a poor substitute for the more systematic account of it which has perished, and of which little more than a table of contents has been preserved in the meagre epitome which alone remains of it.
In modern times, several travellers have endeavoured, with various degrees of success, to explore the country; and some of them have published the results of their investigations; but it is evident from their very frequent disagreement as to the sites of the places which they attempt to identify with those mentioned in ancient writers, that as yet the necessary data have not been obtained; and the Itineraries, instead of assisting, not seldom add to the difficulty of the task, and render its accomplishment almost hopeless. Moreover, the extent of country examined by these travellers was very limited.
The mountainous region of Rhodope, bounded on the west by the Strymon, on the north and east by the Hebrus, and on the south by the Aegean, is a terra incognita,
except the few Grecian colonies on the coast. Very few travellers have passed along or described the southern or king's road; while the region in the interior, apart from the highroad, was absolutely unexplored until the visit of M. Viquesnel in 1847. (Grote, l.c.
The results of this traveller's researches have not yet, we believe, appeared in a complete and connected form. His reports to the French minister by whom he was commissioned are published in the work already referred to; but most of them are mere outlines, written on the spot from brief notes. They contain much that is valuable and interesting; but no one except their author could make full use of them; and it is to be hoped that he may be able to employ the materials so ably collected in the composition of a work that would dispel much of the obscurity that at present rests upon the country. M. Viquesnel was engaged little more than a year in Thrace, a period evidently insufficient for its complete exploration; accordingly he seems to have devoted his principal attention to its geology, especially of the the mountain systems, above all in the district of Rhodope.
According to Ami Boué‘s chart of the geological structure of the globe, copied in Johnston's Physical Atlas,
the three principal geological formations in Thrace are: (1) the crystalline schistous, comprehending all the granitoid rocks; this occupies the W. portion of the country, and a small district on the Euxine, immediately S. of the Haemus: (2) the tertiary, extending over the basin of the Hebrus: (3) the primary stratifications, or the transition series, including the carboniferous formations; this occupies the SE. part of the country, and a region S. of the Haemus, and W. of the tertiary formation above mentioned. Near the sources of the Bourghaz,
Viquesnel found volcanic rocks (p. 213).
The surface of Thrace is, on the whole, decidedly mountainous, the vast plains spoken of by Virgil (Aen.
3.13) belonging to Moesia. From the great range of Haemus, three chains of mountains branch off towards the SE., and with their various ramifications occupy nearly the entire country.
The most westerly of these begins at the NW. extremity of the boundary line, and soon separates into two almost parallel ranges, the Pangaeus and Rhodope, which are separated from each other by the river Nestus; the former filling up the whole space between that river and the Strymon, the latter the district E. of the Nestus and SW. of the Hebrus. Both Pangaeus and Rhodope extend down to the coast of the Aegean, and the latter is continued parallel to it as far E. as the Hebrus.
The central offshoot of the Haemus branches off between the sources of the Hebrus and the Tonzus, and extends to their junction near Hadrianopolis.
The most easterly chain diverges from the Haemus about 100 miles W. of the Euxine, to the W. shore of which it is nearly parallel, though it gradually approaches nearer to it from N. to S.: it extends as far as the Bosporus, and with its lateral offshoots occupies nearly the whole country between the E. tributaries of the Hebrus and the Euxine.
The central and E. ranges appear to have had no general distinctive names; at least we are not aware that any occur in ancient writers: the modern name of the most easterly is the Strandja-Dagh.
A continuation of this range extends along the shore of the Propontis, and is now called the Tekir-Dagh.
The loftiest peaks, among these mountains, belong to Rhodope, and attain an elevation of about 8500 feet (Viquesnel, p. 325); the summits of the Strandja-Dagh,
are 2600 feet high (Id. p. 314); those of the Tekir-Dagh,
2300 (Id. p. 315); the other mountains are from 2000 to 600 feet in height (Id. pp. 314, 315). The Haemus is not more than 4000 feet high, in that portion of it which belongs to Thrace.
It is obvious from these measurements that the statements of some of the ancients that the summits of the Thracian mountains were covered with eternal snow (Θρῃκῶν ὄρεα νιφόεντα, Hom. Il. 14.227
), and that from the highest peak of the Haemus the Adriatic and the Euxine could be seen, are mere fancies. Strabo (vii. pp. 313, 317) points out the inaccuracy of this notion.
An interesting account is given by Livy (40.21
) of the ascent of Haemus by Philip V., who shared in the popular belief in question. Livy states plainly enough his conviction that Philip's labour, which was far from slight, was thrown away; but he and his attendants were prudently silent upon the subject, not wishing, says Livy, to be laughed at for their pains. Yet Florus, who alludes to the same circumstance (2.12), but makes Perseus the mountainclimber, assumes that the king's object was accomplished, and that the bird's-eye view of his dominions, obtained from the mountain top, assisted him in forming a plan for the defence of his kingdom, with reference to his meditated war with Rome. Mela too repeats the erroneous statement (2.2).
The main direction of the rivers of Thrace is from N. to S., as might be inferred from the foregoing description of its mountain system. The Strymon forms its W. boundary.
In the lower part of its course, it expands to a considerable width, and was called Lake Cercinitis, into which flowed a smaller river, the Angites (Hdt. 7.113
); next, towards the E., comes the Nestus; then, in succession, the Travus, which falls into Lake Bistonis, the Schoenus, the Hebrus, the principal river of Thrace, and lastly the Melas. All these rivers fall into the Aegean. Several small streams flow into the Hellespont and [p. 2.1178]
the Propoutis, of which we may mention Aegospotami, renowned, notwithstanding its insignificant size, the Arzus, and the Erginus.
The rivers which fall into the Euxine are all small, and few of them are distinguished by name in the geographers, though doubtless not so unhonoured by the dwellers upon their banks: among them Pliny (4.18
) mentions the Pira and the Orosines. The Hebrus drains at least one-half, probably nearer two-thirds, of the entire surface of Thrace; and on its banks, or on those of its tributaries, most of the level portions of the country are situated, as well as nearly all the inland towns. Its principal affluents are the Arda (in some maps called the Harpessus), and the Suemus on the W., the Tonzus, Artiscus, and Agrianes on the E.
The Thracian coast of the Aegean is extremely irregular in its outline, being broken up by bays which enter far into the land, yet appear to be of comparatively little depth. Most of them, indeed, are at the mouths of rivers, and have probably been filled up by alluvial deposits.
It was perhaps for this reason that several of them were called lakes,
as if they had been regarded as belonging to the land rather than to the sea; e. g. Lake Cercinitis, already mentioned, which seems, indeed, to have been little more than a marsh, and in Kiepert's map its site is so represented; Lake Bistonis, east of Abdera; and Stentoris Lacus, at the mouth of the Hebrus.
The gulf of Melas, formed by the northern shore, of the Chersonesus and the opposite coast of what may he called the mainland, is an exception to this description of the Thracian bays.
The coasts on the Propontis and the Euxine are comparatively unbroken, the only gulf of any extent being Portus Hellodos, near Anchialus, which is known in modern times, by the name of the bay of Bonrghaz,
as one of the best harbours in the Euxine, the Thracian shore of which was regarded by the ancients as extremely dangerous. [SALMYDESSUS
The principal promontories were, Ismarum, Serrheum, Sarpedonium, and Mastusium, on the southern coast; Thynias and Haemi Extrema, on the eastern.
For an account of one of the most remarkable parts of Thrace, see CHERSONESUS
Vol. I. p. 608.
Off the southern coast are situated the islands of Thasos, Samothrace, and Imbros; the first is separated from the mainland by a channel about 5 miles wide; the other two are considerably more distant from the shore.
The climate of Thrace is always spoken of by the ancients as being extremely cold and rigorous: thus Athenaeus (viii. p. 351) describes the year at Aenus as consisting of eight months of cold and four months of winter; but such statements are not to be taken literally, since many of them are mere poetical exaggerations, and are applied to Thrace as the representative of the north in general. The Haemus was regarded as the abode of the north wind, and the countries beyond it were believed to enjoy a beautifully mild climate. (See Niebuhr, Ethnog. and Geog.
i. p. 16, Eng. trans.; Soph. Antig.
985; Eur. Rh. 440
; Theophr. de Cans.
5.17; Verg. G. 3.350
seq.; Ov. Pont. 4.10
41, ib. 7. 8; Trist.
3.10; &c.). Even after making full allowance for the undoubted effect of vast forests, undrained marshes, and very partial cultivation, in lowering the average temperature of a country, it is difficult to believe that a land, the northern boundary of which (i. e. of Thrace Proper) is in the same parallel of latitude as Tuscany and the Pyrenees, and the highest mountains of which are less than 9000 feet above the level of the sea, can have had a very severe climate.
That the winter was often extremely cold, there can be no doubt. The Hebrus was sometimes frozen over: not to dwell upon the “Hebrus nivali compede vinctus” of Horace (Hor. Ep. 1.3. 3
; cf. Verg. A. 12.331
, and the epigram, attributed by some to Caesar, beginning, “Thrax puer adstricto glacie dum ludit in Hebro” ), Florus (3.4
) relates that, in the campaign of Minucius in southern Thrace, a number of horsemen in his army were drowned while trying to cross that river on the ice. Xenophon states that the winter which he passed in Thrace, in the mountainous district of the Thyni, was so cold that even wine was frozen in the vessels, and that many Greek soldiers had their noses and ears frostbitten; the snow also lay deep upon the ground. And that this was not an exceptional season may be inferred from Xenophon's remarks on the dress of the Thracians, which seemed to him to have been devised with special reference to the climate, and to prevent such mishaps as those which befel the Greeks (Anab.
7.4. § § 3, 4). Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.51
) assigns the early and severe winter of Mount Haemus among the causes which prevented Poppaeus Sabinus (A.D. 26) from following up his first success over the rebellious Thracians.3
) says that the vines about Aenus were often injured by frosts, after the Hebrus was brought nearer to that city; the allusion probably being to the formation of the western mouth of the river, nearly opposite to Aenus, the floating ice and the cold water brought down by which would have some effect in lowering the temperature of the neighbourhood. Mela (2.2, init.) describes Thrace generally as agreeable neither in climate nor in soil, being, except in the parts near the sea, barren, cold, and very ill adapted for agriculture and fruit-trees of all kinds, except the vine, while the fruit even of that required to be protected from the cold by a covering of the leaves, in order to ripen.
This last remark throws some doubt upon the accuracy of the writer; for the shading of the grapes from the direct rays of the sun is obviously more likely to prevent than to promote their arrival at maturity; and hence, as is well known, it is the practice in many parts of Europe to remove
the leaves with a view to this object.
However. this may be, it is certain that Thrace did produce wine, some kinds of which were famous from very early times. Homer, who bestows upon Thrace the epithet ἐριβῶλαξ
), represents Nestor reminding Agamemnon that the Grecian ships bring to him cargoes of wine from that country every day (Ib.
9.76); and the poet celebrates the excellence of the produce of the Maroneian vineyards. (Od. 9.197
, seq.) Pliny (14.6
) states that this wine still maintained its reputation, and describes it as black, perfumed, and growing rich with age; a description which agrees with Homer's (l.c.
). Paul Lucas says that he found the Thracian wine excellent. (Voy. dans la Turgqie,
i. p. 25; see also, Athen. 1.31
.) Thrace was fertile in corn (Plin. Nat. 17.3
), and its wheat is placed by Pliny high in the scale of excellence as estimated by weight.
It has, he says (18.12), a stalk consisting of several coats (tunticae
), [p. 2.1179]
to protect it, as he supposes, from the severity of the climate; by which also he accounts for the cultivation, in some parts of the country, of the triticum trimestre
so called because those varieties were reaped in the third and second month respectively after they were sown. Corn was exported from Thrace, and especially from the Chersonesus to Athens (Theoph. de Plantis,
8.4; Lys. in Diogit.
p. 902), and to Rome (Plin. l.c.
). Millet was cultivated in some parts of Thrace; for Xenophon (Xen. Anab. 7.5.12
) states that on the march to Salmydessus, Seuthes and his allies traversed the country of the “millet-eating Thracians” (cf. Strab. vii. p.315
The less important vegetable productions of Thrace may be briefly mentioned: a species of water-chestnut (tribulus
) grew in the Strymon, the leaves of which were used by the people who lived on its banks to fatten their horses, while of its nuts they made a very sweet kind of bread. (Plin. Nat. 21.58
.) Roses (Rosa centifolia
) grew wild on the Pangaeus, and were successfully transplanted by the natives (Id. 21.10).
The mountains, in general, abounded in wild-thyme and a species of mint (Id. 19.55).
A sort of morel or truffle (iton
) was found in Thrace (Id. 19.12; Athen. 2.62
), and a styptic plant (ischaemon
), which was said to stop bleeding from even divided blood-vessels. (Theoph. de Plant.
9.15; Plin. Nat. 25.45
.) Several varieties of ivy grew in the country, and were sacred to Dionysus. (Theoph. de Pltat.
3.16; Plin. Nat. 16.62
.) Herodotus (4.74
) states that the Scythians had hemp both wild and cultivated; and as he proceeds to say that the Thracians made clothing of it, we may fairly infer that it grew in Thrace also. “The Athenians imported their timber chiefly from the country about the Strymon, for the Thracian hills abounded in oak and fir-trees.” (Niebuhr, Lect. Anc. Hist.
i. p. 292, Eng. trans.). M. Viquesnel states that the Strandjadagh
is covered with forests of oak (p. 314), and that in some parts of the district of Rhodope tobacco is now cultivated (p. 320).
Among the animals of Thrace, white horses are repeatedly mentioned.
The famous steeds of Rhesus were “whiter than snow.” (Hem. Il. 10.437
; Eur. Rh. 304
.) When Xerxes reached the banks of the Strymon in his onward march, the magi sacrificed white horses (Hdt. 7.113
), which were probably Thracian, for the same reason, whatever that was, that the human victims spoken of in the next chapter were the children of natives. Xenophon states that, during a banquet given by Seuthes, a Thracian entered, leading a white horse, which he presented to his prince, with an encomium on its fleetness (Anab.
7.3.26). Virgil speaks of Thracian horses with white spots (Aen
5.565, 9.49). Horses were no doubt plentiful in Thrace: Homer (Hom. Il. 14.227
) calls the Thracians ἱπποπόλοι;
and cavalry always formed a large part of their armies. Thus Thucydides (2.98
) estimates the number of horsemen in the army with which Sitalces invaded Macedonia at about 50,000. One of the twelve labours of Hercules was to bring to Mycenae the savage mares of Diomedes, king of the Bistones in Thrace, who fed them with human flesh. (Ov. Met. 9.194
) Herodotus (7.126
) states that lions were found throughout the country bounded on the W. by the Achelous and on the E. by the Nestus; a statement which is repeated by Aristotle (H. A.
6.31, 8.28); so that the part of Thrace between the Strymon and the Nestus must have been infested, at least in early times, by those formidable animals. Herodotus says that they attacked the baggage-camels of Xerxes during the march of his army from Acanthus to Therme (7.125). Cattle, both great and small, were abundant, and seem to have constituted the chief wealth of a people who, like most barbarians, considered agriculture a base occupation. (Hdt. 5.6
The fertile valleys were well adapted for oxen, and the thyme-covered hills for sheep; and it is clear, from several passages in Xenophon, that even the wildest Thracian tribes were rich in this kind of wealth. (Anab.
7.3.48, 7.53.) Aristotle informs us that the Thracians had a peculiar method of fattening swine (H. A.
He attributes the smallness of their asses to the coldness of the climate (lb.
28). Cranes are often mentioned as belonging to Thrace. (Verg. G. 1.120
; Ov. A. A.
3.182; Juv. 13.167
.) Aristotle says that an aquatic bird of the pelican kind (πελεκᾶνες
) migrates from the Strymon to the Ister (H. A.
8.11); and that the people in some marshy districts of Thrace were assisted in catching water-fowl by hawks; which do not seem to have been trained for the purpose, but, though wild, to have been induced by a share of the game, to second the proceedings of their human associates (lb.
9.36). Eels were caught at certain seasons in the Strymon (Ib.
8.2, ad fin.).
The tunny fishery was a source of great wealth to Byzantium. (Strab. vii. p.320
Tile principal mineral productions of Thrace were, gold and silver, most of which came from the mountainous district between the Strymon and the Nestus.
There, at the southern extremity of the Pangaeus, was situated Crenides, founded by the Thasians, and afterwards called Philippi, in a hill near which, named the hill of Dionysus (Appian, App. BC 4.106
), were the most productive gold mines of Thrace, to get possession of which was Philip's principal object in annexing the district in question to his dominions.
He is said to have derived from the mines an annual income of 1000 talents. (Diod. 16.8
; cf. Strab. vii. p.323
Strabo (xiv. p.680
) says that the wealth of Cadmus came from the mines of the Pangaeus; and Pliny refers to the same tradition when he states (7.57) that according to some authorities, the Pangaeus was the place where Cadmus first discovered gold-mines, and the art of melting their produce (conflatura
). Herodotus (7.112
) mentions silver, as well as gold, mines in the Pangaeus, which in his time were in the possession of the native tribes called Pieres, Odomanti, and Satrae.
He states also (6.46) that the Thasians had gold mines at Scapte Hyle, near Abdera, from which they derived an (annual) revenue of about 80 talents; and that a part of the revenues of Peisistratus came from the Strymon, by which the mines on its banks are probably meant (1.64). (See also, 9.75; Eur. Rh. 921
; Strabo (or rather his epitomiser), vii. p. 331.)
According to Pliny (33.21
) gold was found in the sands of the Hebrus; and this is confirmed by Paul Lucas (l.c.
), and by Viquesnel, who states (p. 204) that in rainy years the affluents of that river are frequented by gold-finders, who wash the sands which contain gold in grains (en paillettes
). Thucydides was interested in gold mines and works near Amphipolis, as he himself informs us (4.105). Of the other minerals of Thrace we may mention the [p. 2.1180]
opal (paederos, Plin. Nat. 37.46
); the Thaecia gemma,
one variety of which seems to resemble the bloodstone (ib. 68); a stone which burnt in water (Id. 33.30); and nitre, which was found near Philippi (Id. 31.46).
In addition to these, M. Viquesnel mentions fine marble, which is quarried from the mountains of Lidja
(p. 200); excellent iron, manufactured at Samakor
(p. 209); alum, produced at Chaphanê
(p. 213); and potter's clay, in the district of Rhodope, used by the Turks in the fabrication of earthenware (p. 319).
He states also that Rhodope abounds in mineral waters (ib.), and that there are warm springs at Lidja
A few miscellaneous notes will conclude this part of our subject.
The narrow portion of Thrace between the Euxine, Bosporus and Propontis, is sometimes called the Delta (τὸ Δέλτα, Xen. Anab. 7.1. 33
Reference is several times made to violent natural convulsions, which destroyed various Thracian cities. Thus Strabo (1.59) says that it appeared that some cities were swallowed up by a flood in Lake Bistonis; and he (vii. p. 319), Pliny (4.18
), and Mela (2.2) speak of the destruction of Bizone, on the Euxine, by earthquakes.
) describes the region between Maedica and the Haemus as without inhabitants (solitudines
) speaks of a lake near Pistyrus (on the coast N. of Abdera), about 30 stadia in circumference, abounding in fish, and extremely salt.
Thrace possessed two highroads, “both starting from Byzantium; the one (called the King's road, from having been in part the march of Xerxes in his invasion of Greece, Liv. 39.27
; Hdt. 7.115
), crossing the Hebrus and the Nestus, touching the northern coast of the Aegean sea at Neapolis, a little south of Philippi, then crossing the Strymon at Amphipolis, and stretching through Pella across Inner Macedonia and Illyria to Dyrrhachium.
The other road took a more northerly course, passing along the upper valley of the Hebrus from Adrianople to Philippopolis, then through Sardica (Sophia
) and Naissus (Nisch
), to the Danube near Belgrade, being the highroad now followed from Constantinople to Belgrade.” (Grote, vol. xii. p. 34, note.) Herodotus (l.c.
) remarks, with evident surprise, that the King's road had not, up to his time, been destroyed by the Thracians, a circumstance which he seems to attribute to the almost religious respect with which they regarded the “great king.” It may be safely inferred that people who were considered to have done something wonderful in abstaining from breaking up a road, were not great makers or maintainers of highways; and it is clear from Livy's account of the march of Manlius (38.40, 41) along this very road (afterwards called by the Romans, Via Egnatia, q. v.
), that, although it was the principal line of communication between Europe and Asia, it was at that time (B.C. 188) in a very bad condition. From this some conception may be formed of the deplorable state in which the roads of the interior and mountainous districts must have been, and in which, indeed, they still remain. (Viquesnel, p. 312.) The Thracians no doubt were well aware that their independence would soon be lost, if there were an easy access for disciplined armies to every part of their country. Such paths as they possessed were sufficient for their own purposes of depredation, of ambush, and, when overpowered, of flight.
IV. ETHNOLOGY, MANNERS, RELIGION, ETC.--The first point to be determined here is, whether the Thracians mentioned in the ancient writers as extending over many parts of Greece, as far south as Attica, were ethnologically identical with those who in historical times occupied the country which is the subject of the present article. And before discussing the topic, it will be convenient to lay before the reader some of the principal passages in the classics which bear upon it.
It is Strabo who makes the most distinct statements on the point.
He says (vii. p. 321), “Hecataeus the Milesian states that, before the Hellenes, barbarians inhabited Peloponnesus.
But in fact nearly all Greece was originally the abode of barbarians, as may be inferred from the traditions. Pelops brought a people with him into the country, to which he gave his name, and Danaus came to the same region with followers from Egypt, at a time when the Dryopes, Caucones, Pelasgi, Leleges, and other similar races had settlements within the Isthmus; and indeed without it too, for the Thracians who accompanied Eumolpus had Attica and Tereus possessed Daulis in Phocis; the Phoenician companions of Cadmus occupied Cadmeia, the Aones, Temmices, and Hyantes Boeotia.” Strabo subsequently (9.401) repeats this statement respecting Boeotia, and adds that the descendants of Cadmus and his followers, being driven out of Thebes by the Thracians and Pelasgians, retired into Thessaly. They afterwards returned, and, having joined the Minyans of Orchomenos, expelled in their turn the Pelasgians and Thracians.
The former went to Athens, where they settled at the foot of Hymettus, and gave the name of Pelasgicum to a part of the city (cf. Hdt. 6.137
): the Thracians, on the other hand, were driven to Parnassus. Again (ix. p. 410) he says, speaking of Helicon: “The temple of the Muses, and Hippocrene, and the cave of the Leibethridan nymphs are there; from which one would conjecture that those who consecrated Helicon to the Muses were Thracians; for they dedicated Pieris, and Leibethrum, and Pimpleia to the same goddesses. These Thracians were called Pierians (Πίερες
); but their power having declined, the Macedonians now occupy these (last named) places.” This account is afterwards (x. p. 471) repeated, with the addition that “the cultivators of ancient music, Orpheus, Musaeus, Thamyris, and Eumolpus, were Thracians.”
The difficulty that presents itself in these passages,--and they are in general agreement with the whole body of Greek literature,--arising from the confounding under a common name of the precursors of Grecian poetry and art with a race of men designated as barbarous, is well stated by K. O. Müller (Hist. of Greek Liter.
p. 26, seq.): “It is utterly inconceivable that, in the later historic times, when the Thracians were contemned as a barbarian race, a notion should have sprung up that the first civilisation of Greece was due to them; consequently we cannot doubt that this was a tradition handed down from a very early period. Now, if we are to understand it to mean that Eumolpus, Orpheus, Musaeus, and Thamyris were the fellow-countrymen of those Edonians, Odrysians, and Odomantians, who in the historical age occupied the Thracian territory, and who spoke a barbarian language, that is, one unintelligible to the Greeks, we must despair of being able to comprehend these accounts of the ancient Thracian minstrels, and of assigning them a place in the history of Grecian civilisation; since it is [p. 2.1181]
manifest that at this early period, when there was scarcely any intercourse between different nations, or knowledge of foreign tongues, poets who sang in an unintelligible language could not have had more influence on the mental development of the people than the twittering of birds.”
Müller therefore concludes that the Thracians of the ante-historical era, and those of subsequent times, belonged to distinct races. “When we come to trace more precisely the country of these Thracian bards, we find that the traditions refer to Pieria, the district to the east of the Olympus range, to the north of Thessaly, and the south of Emathia or Macedonia: in Pieria likewise was Leibethra, where the Muses are said to have sung the lament over the tomb of Orpheus: the ancient poets, moreover, always make Pieria, not Thrace, the native place of the Muses, which last Homer clearly distinguishes from Pieria. (Il. 14.226
It was not until the Pierians were pressed in their own territory by the early Macedonian princes that some of them crossed the Strymon into Thrace Proper, where Herodotus (7.112
) mentions the castles of the Pierians at the time of the expedition of Xerxes.
It is, however, quite conceivable that in early times, either on account of their close vicinity, or because all the north was comprehended under one name, the Pierians might, in Southern Greece, have been called Thracians. These Pierians, from the intellectual relations which they maintained with the Greeks, appear to be a Grecian race; which supposition is also confirmed by the Greek names of their places, rivers, fountains, &c., although it is probable that, situated on the limits of the Greek nation, they may have borrowed largely from neighbouring tribes. (See Müller's Dorians,
vol. i. pp. 472, 488, 501.)” After referring to the accounts of the Thracians in Southern Greece, Müller adds: “From what has been said, it appears sufficiently clear that these Pierians or Thracians, dwelling about Helicon and Parnassus in the vicinity of Attica, are chiefly signified when a Thracian origin is ascribed to the mythical bards of Attica.”
Colonel Mure, after referring to the foregoing view, which he designates as “plausible,” goes on as follows: “But the case admits of another, and perhaps more satisfactory explanation.
It is certain that, in the mythical geography, a tract of country on the frontiers of Boeotia and Phocis, comprehending Mount Parnassus and Helicon, bore the name of Thrace. [See the etymology, ante.
] In this region the popular mythology also lays the scene of several of the most celebrated adventures, the heroes of which are called Thracians.” The author then applies this explanation to the stories of Tereus and Procne, and of Lycurgus, “king of Thrace;” and proceeds thus: “Pausanias makes the ‘Thracian’ bard Thamyris virtually a Phocian.
He assigns him for mother a nymph of Parnassus called Argiope. His father, Philammon, is described as a native of the same region, son of Apollo, by the nymph Chione, and brother of Autolycus, its celebrated robber chieftain.
The divine grandsire is obviously here but a figure of his own sacred region; the grandmother Chione, as her name bears, of its snow. Others call the latter heroine Leuconoë The names of these heroines are all so many varied modes of typifying the same ‘snow-white’ Parnassus.
This view of the ‘Thracian’ character of these sages becomes the more plausible, if it be remembered that the region of Central Greece, in which the Hellenic Thrace was situated, is that from which first or chiefly, the seeds of elementary culture were propagated throughout the nation. Here tradition places the first introduction of the alphabet. Here were also the principal seats of Apollo and the Muses.
In the heart of the same region was situated the Minyean Orchomenos, the temple of the Graces, rivalling Thebes herself in the splendour of her princes and zeal for the promotion of art. Among the early masters of poetry or music, not vulgarly styled Thracians, the most illustrious, Amphion and Linus, are Boeotians. Nor was this region of Central Greece less favoured in respect of its religious institutions.
It was not only the favourite seat of Apollo, the Muses, and the Graces, but the native country of the Dionysiac rites, zeal for the propagation of which is a characteristic of the Thracian sages.” (Hist. of Lang. and Lit. of Ant. Greece,
i. pp. 150--153; cf. Niebuhr, Lect. on Ethnog. and Geog.
i. p. 287.)
In thus entirely disconnecting these early “Thracians,” from those of later times, we have the authority of Thucydides (2.29
), who, in speaking of Teres, the father of Sitalces, remarks: “This Teres had no connection whatever with Tereus, who married Procne, daughter of Pandion of Athens; they did not even belong to the same Thrace. Tereus dwelt at Daulia, a city of the country now called Phocis, and which was then occupied by the Thracians.” And he proceeds to show that it was not likely that Pandion would form an alliance with any one who lived so far from Athens as the country of the Odrysae.5
The consideration of the ethnological relations of the early Thracians hardly falls within the scope of this article; but since identity of name has often caused them to be confounded with the historical inhabitants of Thrace, it may be desirable briefly to discuss the subject in this place.
The view which seems to the present writer to be best supported by the evidence, and to explain most satisfactorily the ancient authors, is that which regards the mythical Thracians as members of the widely extended race to which the name of Pelasgians is usually given.
It is clear from Homer that a close connection existed between the people of Southern Thrace and the Trojans, who were probably Pelasgians, and who are at the same time represented by him as agreeing, in language, religion, and other important respects, with the Greeks. Again, Homer mentions among the auxiliaries of Priam, the Caucones, who are named along with the Pelasgians (Il. 10.429
), and the Cicones (Il. 2.846
These two names bear so close a resemblance to each other as to suggest the probability of the cognate origin of the tribes so designated. Now the Cicones were undoubtedly Thracians (Odys.
9.39, seqq.); while as to the Caucones, Strabo (xii. p.542
) informs us that they occupied part of the coast of Bithynia, and were regarded by some as Scythians, by others as Macedonians, by others again as Pelasgians.
It will be remembered that Caucones are mentioned by him (vii. p. 321) among the earliest inhabitants of Peloponnesus. Another noticeable fact is, that in the passage of Strabo already quoted (ix. p. 401), he represents the Thracians and Pelasgians as acting in [p. 2.1182]
The same author (xiii. p. 590) points out the similarity of many Thracian names of places to those existing in the Trojan territory. Finally, the names of the places mentioned by Strabo (vii. p.321
) as common to Pieria and the southern Thracians, are evidently Greek (see Müller's Dorians,
i. p. 501); and, as we have seen, the name Thrace itself is in all probability a significant Greek word.
These considerations appear to us to lead to the conclusion already stated, namely, that the mythical Thracians, as well as those spoken of by Homer, were Pelasgians; and hence that that race once occupied the northern as well as the other shores of the Aegean, until, at a comparatively late period, its continuity was broken by the irruption of the historical Thracians from the north into the country between the Strymon and the Euxine.
The circumstance that the Greeks designated these barbarians by the name which had been borne by those whom they supplanted, admits of easy explanation, and history abounds in instances of a similar kind.
But it may be doubted whether the Thracians had any general designation in their own language: they probably called themselves Edones, Denseletae, Thyni, Satrae, and so on; but we have no evidence that they really were all branches of a common stock. Under these circumstances, it was inevitable that the Greeks should bestow upon them the name of the earlier possessors of the country; and those Thracians who were brought in contact with the more civilised race would probably adopt it. (On the foregoing question, see Niebuhr, Lect. on Anc. Hist.
i. pp. 142, 212; Lect. on Ethnog. and Geog.
i. p. 287; Wachsmuth, Hist. Ant.
i. p. 44, seqq.)
Respecting the historical Thracians we have tolerably full information, but not of that kind which will enable us to arrive at any very definite conclusions as to their ethnological relations.
That they belonged to an extensively diffused race, whose early abodes were in the far northern regions, may be regarded as sufficiently proved by the concurrent testimony of the ancient writers. Herodotus, in a well-known passage (5.3), says that the Thracian nation is the greatest in the world, after the Indians, and that its subdivisions, of which the Getae are one, have many names, according to the countries which they severally occupy. Strabo too (vii. p. 295) states that the Getae and the Mysi were Thracians (as to the Mysi, see also i. p. 6), who extended north of the Danube (vii. p. 296).
In confirmation of his assertion that the Getae were ethnologically akin to the Thracians, he adduces the identity of their language (vii. p. 303).
He adds (vii. p. 305) that the Daci also spoke this language. From his remark (vii. p. 315) about the Iapodes, it would seem that he regarded the Illyrians also as nearly allied to, if not actually a branch of, the Thracians.
In another passage (x. p. 471) he says that the Phrygians were colonists of the Thracians; to which race also the Saraparae, a nation still farther towards the east, north of Armenia, were reported to belong (xi. p. 531). “The Bithyni, previously called Mysi, were so named, as is admitted by most authorities, from the Thracian Bithyni and Thyni, who emigrated to that country (i. e. Asia Minor; cf. Hdt. 7.75
). And I conjecture that the Bebryces, who settled in Mysia before the Bithyni and Mysi, were also Thracians. The Mysians themselves are said to be colonists of those Thracians who are now called Mysi.
As the Mariandyni are in all respects like the Bithyni, they too are probably Thracians.” (Strab. xii. pp. 541, 542.) Justin couples the Thracians with the Illyrians and Dardani (11.1).
In the west and south-west it is impossible to define the Thracian boundary: we have seen that Mela describes the whole of the Chalcidic peninsula as part of Thrace (cf. Thuc. 2.79
); and there is no doubt that they extended as far south as Olympus, though mixed up with Macedonians, who were the preponderating race in that quarter.
In later times the intrusive and undoubtedly distinct races which were mingled with the Thracians near the Danube, were sometimes confounded with them. Thus Floras (3.4) calls the Scordisci the most savage of all the Thracians.
Of the language of the Thracians scarcely a trace exists. They were too barbarous to have any literary or artistic memorials, so that the principal guides of the ethnologist are wanting. Strabo (vii. p.319
) states that bria,
which occurs as the termination of several names of Thracian towns, signified “city” or “town.” This and a few proper names constitute all that remains of their language.
The following is the account which Herodotus gives of the customs of the Thracians. They sell their children into foreign slavery.
The women while unmarried enjoy perfect freedom in their intercourse with men; but after marriage they are strictly guarded.
The men pay large sums of money for their wives to the parents of the latter. To be tattooed is considered an indispensable mark of noble birth. (Cf. Strab. vii. p.315
.) Idleness is most honourable; the cultivator of the soil is regarded as the meanest of men; to live by war and plundering is most noble.
The only gods they worship are Ares, Dionysus, and Artemis.
But their kings differ in this respect from their subjects; for they worship Hermes especially, and swear by him alone, from whom they say that they are descended. When a wealthy man dies, his corpse lies in state for three days: his friends then make a great feast, at which, after bewailing the departed, they slaughter victims of every kind: the body is then buried, having sometimes been previously burnt.
A mound is raised above the grave, upon which athletic games are celebrated (5.6--8; cf. Xen. Hell. 3.2. 5
). Besides these customs, which were common to all the Thracians, Herodotus mentions some which were peculiar to certain tribes; as, for instance, that which prevailed among the people to the north of the Crestonians. “Among them, each man has many wives. When any man dies, a great contest arises among his widows on the question as to which of them was most beloved by their husband; and in this their relations take a very active part.
She in whose favour the point is decided, receives the congratulations of both men and women, and is then slain upon her husband's grave by her nearest male relation.
The other widows regard themselves as extremely unfortunate, for they are considered to be disgraced.” (lb.
5.) Herodotus here seems to speak of polygamy as confined to a certain tribe of Thracians; but Strabo (vii. p.297
) represents this custom as general among them.
In a note upon this passage, Casaubon quotes from Heracleides Ponticus to the effect that Thracians often had as many as thirty wives, whom they employed as servants, a practice still common in many eastern countries. Xenophon furnishes us with an illustration of the Thracian custom of purchasing wives.
He states that at his first interview with Seuthes, the Thracian prince proposed to give his daughter in marriage to Xenophon; and if the Greek himself had a [p. 2.1183]
daughter, offered to buy her as a wife. (Anab.
7.2.38; cf. Mela, 2.2.)
The want of union among the Thracians is mentioned by Herodotus (5.3
) as the only cause of their weakness. Their tribes, like the Highland clans, seem to have been constantly engaged in petty Warfare with one another, and to have been incapable of co-operating even against foreign foes, except for very brief periods, and rarely with any higher object than plunder. Until a late period (Flor. 4.12.17
) they appear to have been destitute of discipline, and this, of course, rendered their bravery of comparatively little avail. Thus we learn from Thucydides (2.96
) that, although Sitalces was the most powerful Thracian king that had ever reigned--(he seems indeed to have been subsequently regarded as a kind of national hero; Xen. Anab. 6.1. 6
),--yet a large part of the army with which he invaded Macedonia consisted of mere volunteers, formidable chiefly for their numbers, and attracted to his standard by his offers of pay, or by their hope of plunder. Any one, in fact, who held out these inducements, could easily raise an army in Thrace. Thus Clearchus no sooner received supplies of money from Cyrus the Younger, than he collected a force in the Chersonesus, which, although in great part undoubtedly Thracian, was employed by him in making war upon other Thracians, until he was required to join Cyrus in Asia Minor (Ib.
1.1.9, 2.9, &c.). So when Seuthes undertook the expedition against his so-called revolted subjects, his army was soon tripled by volunteers, who hastened from other parts of Thrace to serve him, as soon as they heard of his enterprise (lb.
7.4.21). Such soldiers could not, of course, be depended upon for one moment after a reverse.
A considerable number of Thracian mercenaries in the army of Cyrus took the earliest opportunity to desert to Artaxerxes after the battle of Cunaxa (lb.
Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.46
) informs us that the principal cause of the insurrection (A.D. 26) of the Thracians who dwelt in the elevated mountain districts (probably of Rhodope), was their dislike of the conscription, which, it would appear, the Romans had introduced into Thrace.
This was a yoke to which they could not submit; they were not accustomed to obey even their own rulers, except when it pleased them; and when they sent troops to the assistance of their princes, they used to appoint their own commanders, and to war against the neighbouring tribes only. (Cf. Liv. 42.51
; Xen. Anab. 7.4. 24
Thracian troops were chiefly light-armed infantry and irregular horse. (Xen. Anab. 1.2. 9
3.9.2; Curt. 3.9
The bravest of the foot-soldiers in the army of Sitalces were the free mountaineers of Rhodope, who were armed with short swords (μαχαιροφόροι; Thuc. 2.98
The equipment of the Asiatic Thracians is described by Herodotus (7.75
), and as this description agrees with what Xenophon states respecting Seuthes' forces (Anab.
7.4.4), it is no doubt substantially true of the Thracians generally. They wore caps covering their ears, made of fox-skins, cloaks, and party-coloured mantles (ζειραί,
? == plaids); their boots, which came high up the leg, were made of deer-skin; their arms were shields, javelins, and daggers (cf. Thuc. 7.27
). The Thracians in the army of Philip V. were armed with very long rhomphaeae,
a word which some translate javelins,
; Plut. Paul. Aemil.
17.) Thracian soldiers fought with impetuosity and with no lack of bravery; but they, like all barbarian and undisciplined troops were incapable of sustained efforts. Livy (42.59
) describes them as rushing to the attack like wild beasts long confined in cages: they hamstrung the horses of their adversaries, or stabbed them in the belly. When the victory was gained on this occasion (the first encounter in the war between the Romans and Perseus), they returned to their camp, singing loud songs of triumph, and carrying the heads of the slain on the tops of their weapons (lb.
60). When defeated, they fled with rapidity, throwing their shields upon their backs, to protect them from the missiles of the pursuers. (Xen. Anab. 7.4. 17
About the time of the Peloponnesian War, Thrace began to be to the countries around the Aegean what Switzerland has long, to its disgrace, been to the despotic powers of modern Europe, a land where men might be procured to fight for any one who could hold out sufficient inducements in the shape of pay or plunder. (Thuc. 7.27
, et alibi; Xen. Anab.
i. pass.; Just. 11.1
The chief causes of this, apart from the character of its people, appear to have been the want of any central government, and the difficult nature of the country, which rendered its savage independence tolerably secure; so that there was nothing to restrain those who might wish to seek their fortune in foreign warfare. Daring the period of Macedonian supremacy, and after its close, under the Roman power, Thracians are often mentioned as auxiliaries in Macedonian and Roman armies; but few of these, it is probable, were volunteers. (Liv. 31.39
, et al.; Caes. B.C.
3.4; Veil. Pat. 2.112; Tac. Hist. 1.68
, &c.) Cicero (de Prov. Cons.
4) seems to imply that Thracians were sometimes hired to assassinate like the modern Italian bravos; these were perhaps gladiators, of whom great numbers were Thracians. Caligula gave the command of his German bodyguard to Thracians. (Suet. Calig.
Another point in which the Thracians remind us of the natives of India, is mentioned by Thucydides (2.97
) in these words: “The tribute of the barbarians and of the Greek cities received by Seuthes, the successor of Sitalces, might be reckoned at 400 talents of silver, reckoning gold and silver together.
The presents in gold and silver amounted to as much more. And these presents were made not only to the king, but also to the most influential and distinguished of the Odrysae. For these people, like those of Thrace generally, differ in this respect from the Persians, that they would rather receive than give; and among them it is more shameful not to give when you are asked, than to be refused when you ask.
It is true that abuses arise from this custom; for nothing can be done without presents.” (Cf. Liv. 42.19
; Tac. Germ.
15.) Xenophon (Xen. Anab. 7.3
) gives some amusing illustrations of this practice among the Thracians.
Mention is often made of the singing and dancing of the Thracians, especially of a martial kind. Xenophon (Xen. Anab. 6.1.5
, seq.) gives an account of a dance and combat performed by some Thracians, to celebrate the conclusion of a peace between the remnant of the 10,000 Greeks and the Paphlagonians: they danced fully armed to the music of the flute, jumping up nimbly to a considerable height, and fencing with their swords: at last, one man struck another, to all appearance mortally and he fell as if [p. 2.1184]
dead, though in reality not in the least injured, His antagonist then stripped off his armour, and went out singing the praises of Sitalces, while the other man was carried out like a corpse by his comrades (cf. Ib.
7.3.32, seq.; Tac. Ann. 4.47
Their music was rude and noisy. Strabo (x. p.471
) compares it to that of the Phrygians, whom, indeed, he regards as descended from the Thracians. Xenophon, in the passage last referred to, says that they played on horns and on trumpets made of raw ox-hide. Their worship of Dionysus and Cotytto was celebrated on mountain tops with loud instruments of music, shouting, and noises like the bellowing of cattle. (Strab. x. p.470
Their barbarity and ferocity became proverbial. Herodotus (8.116
) tells a story of a king of the Bisaltae, who punished his six sons for disobeying him by putting out their eyes. Seuthes, with his own hand, transfixed some of the Thyni who had been taken prisoners (Xen. Anab. 7.4. 6
). Rhascuporis invited his nephew to a banquet, plied him with wine, then loaded him with fetters, and afterwards put him to death. (Tac. Ann. 2.64
, seqq.) Thucydides (7.27
, seq.) gives an instance of the ferocity of the Thracians in their massacre of the inhabitants of Mycalessus.
A truly barbarian trait in the character of the Thracians was their faithlessness, even to one another.
This is especially shown in their disregard of their obligations towards the hostages whom they gave as securities for their observance of their engagements with others. Seuthes had received from the Thyni a number of old men as hostages; yet the Thyni, seeing a favourable opportunity, as they supposed, for renewing hostilities, at once seized it, apparently without a thought of the but too probable consequences of such conduct to their helpless countrymen. (Xen. Anab. 7.4. 21
; cf. Liv. 40.22
). Some of the tribes inhabiting the Thracian coast of the Euxine were systematic wreckers SALMYDESSUS
Robbery, as we have seen, was considered honourable by them; and plunder was their chief inducement to engage in war. (Strab. vii. p.318
; Cic. Pis. 34
; Liv. 26.25
, seq.) Strabo (iii. pp. 164, 165), Mela (2.2), and Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.51
) bear witness to the bravery of the Thracian women.
The deity most worshipped by the Thracians was Dionysus, whom they, as well as the Phrygians, called Sabazius. (Schol. Aristoph. Vesp.
The mythical stories respecting Orpheus and Lycurgus are closely connected with the worship of this god, who had an oracle on Rhodope, in the country of the Satrae, but under the direction of the Bessi [SATRAE
]. Herodotus (7.111
) states that the mode of delivering the answers of this oracle resembled that which prevailed at Delphi.
He compares also the worship of Artemis (whose Thracian name was Bendis or Cotytto), as he had seen it celebrated by Thracian and Paeonian women, with some of the ceremonies at Delos (4.33).
These resemblances may be accounted for on the supposition that the Thracian rites were derived from the original Pelasgian population, remnants of which may have maintained themselves amid the mountain fastnesses; as Niebuhr holds (Ethnog. and Geog.
i. p. 287) was the case with the Paeonians, who are mentioned by Herodotus in the passage last referred to. (On the Thracian divinities, see Strabo, x. pp. 470, 471; Soph. Antig.
955, seq.; Plin. Nat. 16.62
; and the articles BENDIS, COTYS, and RHEA, in the Dict. Biog. and Myth.
It has sometimes been asserted that the Thracians were accustomed to sacrifice human victims to their divinities; but this appears to be either an incorrect generalisation, or a confounding of them with other races; for we find no reference to such a custom in any of the ancient accounts of their manners. Herodotus, it is true, states (9.119) that when the Persian Oeobazus fell into the hands of the Apsinthii, after the taking of Sestus by the Athenians, they sacrificed him to their local god, Pleistorus; but from the next words (τρόπῳ τῷ σφετέρῳ
) it is clear that he regarded the practice as characteristic of the Apsinthii, and not as one common to all Thracians: nor is it conceivable that he would have omitted to mention so striking a circumstance, in his general description of Thracian manners, which has been already quoted (5.3, seqq); for tile practice of slaying the favourite wife on the tomb of her deceased husband cannot with any propriety be called a sacrifice.
Whether indulgence in wine was regarded as a part of the homage due to Dionysus, or simply as a means of sensual gratification, certain it is that it was prevalent in Thrace, and frequently attended with violent and sanguinary quarrels: “Natis in usum laetitiae scyphis pugnare Thracum est,” says Horace, and evidence is not wanting in support of the accusation. Ammianus (27.4.9) describes the Odrysae as so fond of bloodshed that in their banquets, after eating and drinking to satiety, they used to fall to blows with one another. Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.48
) relates that the Thracians serving with Poppaeus Sabinus against their fellow-countrymen, indulged to such a degree in feasting and drinking that they kept no guard at night, so that their camp was stormed by their exasperated brethren, who slew great numbers of them. Xenophon tells us that at his first interview with Seuthes, they drank horns of wine to each other's health, according to the Thracian custom (Anab.
At the banquet which Seuthes afterwards gave to Xenophon and some other important persons the drinking seems to have been deep. Xenophon admits that he had indulged freely; and he was evidently astonished that when Seuthes rose from the table, he manifested no signs of intoxication. (Ib.
3.26, seqq.) The Thracians are said to have had a custom, which prevailed in England as late as the last century, of compelling all the guests to drink the same quantity. (Callim. ap. Athen. 10.442
.) The Odrysian auxiliaries of Dercyllidas poured great quantities of wine upon the graves of their slain comrades. (Xen. Hell. 3.2. 5
) It would appear from Mela (2.2), that some of the Thracians were unacquainted with wine, but practised another mode of producing intoxication: while feasting, they threw into the fires around which they were seated certain seeds, the fumes of which caused a cheerful kind of drunkenness.
It is possible that these may have been the seeds of hemp, which, as we have seen, probably grew in Thrace, and contains, as is well known, a narcotic principle.
The Thracians against whom Seuthes led his forces lived in villages (lb.
§ 43), the houses being fenced round with large stakes, within the inclosure formed by which their sheep were secured (lb.
4.14; cf. Tac. Ann. 4.49
) states that the Thracians had a custom of marking their happy or unhappy days, by placing a white or a black stone in a vessel at the close of each day. On any one's death, the vessel [p. 2.1185]
belonging to him was emptied, the stones were separately counted, and his life pronounced to have been happy or the reverse, as the white or the black were more numerous.
V. HISTORY.--Thrace is one of those countries whose people, not being sufficiently civilised to establish a national government or to possess a national literature, cannot have histories of their own. We become acquainted with the Thracians at second hand, as it were, through the narrations of foreigners, who necessarily make them subordinate to their own countrymen; and therefore it is only in connection with foreign states that their history has been recorded. Hence it is fragmentary, and, consequently, often obscure; nor would its importance, indeed, repay the labour that might be employed in elucidating it, even if we possessed the requisite materials. Destitute of union, the Thracians, notwithstanding their numbers, their wide diffusion, their powers of endurance, and their contempt of death, exerted no perceptible influence upon the general course of history; but were reduced, in spite of their wild love of independence, to assist, as humble allies or subjects, in the aggrandisement of the more civilised or politic races with which they came in contact.
These were the Greeks, the Persians, the Macedonians, and the Romans, with the successors of the last in the Eastern Empire. We shall now briefly state the leading points of their history, as connected with that of the nations just mentioned; referring the reader for details, especially as to the little that known of their purely internal affairs, to the articles in this work which relate to the BESSI, ODRYSAE, and other prominent Thracian tribes.
We pass over the alleged conquest of Thrace by Sesostris (Herod, 2.103; Diod. i, 53), and that said to have been effected by the Teucri and Mysi before the Trojan War (Hdt. 7.20
; cf. Eur. Rh. 406
, seq.), and come at once to the strictly historical periods.
The first connection of the Greeks with Thrace was through colonies planted upon its various coasts, the original object of which seems generally to have been of a commercial kind. Only an approximation to the date of most of these can be made, since the majority were established long before the commencement of authentic history. Byzantium and Selymbria, colonies of Megara, belong to the seventh century B.C., the year 675 B.C. being assigned for the foundation of the former. In 651 B.C. an unsuccessful attempt is said to have been made by settlers from Clazomenae to establish themselves at Abdera (Solin. 10.10
); but that city was not actually founded till 560 B.C., and then by emigrants from Teos. (Hdt. 1.168
.) Mesembria, on the Euxine, Was a colony of the Byzantians and Chalcedonians, who abandoned their cities on the approach of the Phoenician fleet, B.C. 493. (Id. 6.33). When Dicaea, Maronea, and Aenus, all on the south coast, were established, is not known; which is the case also with Cardia and Sestus in the Chersonesus.
That these settlements were generally exposed to the hostility of their Thracian neighbours, there can be no doubt, though corded as in the instance of Amphipolis. The Athenians sent no less than 10,000 men (B.C. 465) to found a colony there; and they succeeded in driving off the Edonians who occupied the country; but having advanced into the interior, they were defeated at Drabescus by the natives, and compelled to abandon the country. About thirty years afterwards, however, the Athenians returned, and this time overcame all resistance. Sometimes the relation between the Greeks and the Thracians was of a more friendly description. Thus, in the time of Peisistratus, the Dolonci, who dwelt in the Chersonesus, invited Miltiades (the elder) to rule over them, as they were unable to cope with their neighbours the Apsinthii; and this led to the Athenians obtaining a firm footing in that most important and valuable district. (Hdt. 6.34
By these various means, the Greeks had obtained possession of nearly the whole coast of Thrace, a considerable period before the commencement of the great contest between themselves and the Persian empire. Of the interior they appear to have known scarcely anything whatever; and although in some cases the surrounding barbarians may have been brought into subjection (Byzantium is said to have reduced the Bithynian Thracians to the condition of tributary perioeci), yet this was rarely the case. On the contrary, it is clear from Thucydides (2.97
), that the Greeks sometimes paid tribute to the native kings. The Greeks, even when dwelling among hostile strangers, showed their tendency to separation rather than to union; and hence their settlements on the Thracian coast never gained the strength which union would have conferred upon them. Each city had a government, and to a great extent a history of its own; and we must therefore refer the reader is for information respecting those states to the separate articles in this work devoted to them.
The first Persian expedition to Thrace was that of Darius, who crossed the Bosporus with his army about B.C. 513 (or 508, as some authorities hold).
As the principal object of Darius was to chastise the Scythians for their invasion of Asia in the reign of Cyaxares, he took the shortest route through Thrace; where he met with no opposition. The Greeks whom he found there were required to follow in his train to the Danube: among them was the younger Miltiades, the destined hero of Marathon, who then ruled over the Chersonesus, as his uncle had formerly done, and who had married the daughter of a Thracian king. (Hdt. 6.39
On returning from the north, Darius directed his march to the Hellespont, and before crossing from Sestus into Asia, erected a fort at Doriscus, near the mouth of the Hebrus. (Hdt. 4.89
.) Megabazus was left with 80,000 men to subdue the whole of Thrace, a task which he began by besieging Perinthus, which, though previously weakened by the attacks of the Paeonians, made a brave but fruitless resistance.
After this, Megabazus reduced the country into subjection, though perhaps only the districts near the sea. (Hdt. 5.1
That his conquests extended as far as the Strymon appears from Darius's grant of a district upon that river to Histiaeus, who founded there the town of Mvrcinus. (Hdt. 5.11
.) Megabazus soon returned to Asia; and it seems probable that he took with him the greater part of his army; for if the Persians had maintained [p. 2.1186]
a powerful force in Thrace, the Paeonians could hardly have succeeded in making their escape from Phrygia back to the Strymon (Id. 5.98), nor could the revolted Ionians (B.C. 498) have taken Byzantium and all the other cities in that country. (Id. 5.103.)
It is to this period that we must refer the invasion of the Scythians, who are said to have advanced as far as the Chersonesus, thus occasioning the temporary flight of Miltiades, who, they were aware, had assisted Darius in his attack upon their country. (Id. 6.40.)
After the suppression of the Ionian revolt (B.C. 493), the Phoenician fleet sailed to the Hellespont, and again brought the country under the Persian dominion, Cardia being the only city which they were unable to take. (Id. 6.33.) Miltiades made his escape from the Chersonesus to Athens, on hearing of the approach of the hostile fleet. (Ib.
Next year Mardonius led an army across the Hellespont, and advanced as far as Macedonia; but his fleet having been wrecked off Mount Athos, and his land forces having suffered considerably in a war with the Thracians, who then occupied the country W. of the Strymon, he retraced his steps, and transported his shattered army into Asia (Id. 6.43, seqq.).
It was not till B.C. 480 that the vast army under the command of Xerxes crossed the Hellespont by the famous bridges which spanned the strait from Abydos to Sestus. Of his march through Thrace, Herodotus gives an interesting account (7.108--115); but, as he met with no opposition, we need not dwell upon these circumstances.
After the disastrous battle of Salamis, Xerxes, with an escort of 60,000 men, hastened back by the same road which he had so recently trod in all the overweening confidence of despotic power: in Thrace, his miserable troops, suffered greatly from hunger and consequent disease, but do not appear to have been openly attacked. (Hdt. 8.115
Next year (B.C. 479) was fought the battle of Plataeae in which Thracians formed part of the motley host arrayed against Greek freedom (Id. 9.32). Artabazus led the 40,000 men, who alone remained of the Persian army, by forced marches through Thessaly, Macedonia, and Thrace.
He struck through the interior of the latter country, probably for fear of the Greek cities on the coast; but he encountered enemies as much to be dreaded, and lost a great part of his army by hunger, fatigue, and the attacks of the Thracians, before he reached Byzantium.
It was now the turn of the victorious Greeks to assail their foes in their own territories. Thrace, with the exception of Doriscus, was soon cleared of the Persians.
After the battle of Mycale, their fleet sailed to the Hellespont, where the Athenians laid siege to Sestus, which was taken early in the following year (B.C. 478) [SESTUS
]. Eion, at the mouth of the Strymon, made a desperate resistance; but at length (B.C. 476) fell into the hands of Cimon and the Athenians, after its Persian governor had put to death all his family, and finally himself. (Hdt. 7.107
; cf. Thuc. 1.98
). Byzantium had been taken by Pausanias the year before. Thus the Persians were driven out of Europe, and the Greek settlements in Thrace resumed their internal freedom of action, though most of them, it is probable, were under the supremacy of Athens, as the chosen head of the great Greek confederacy.
During the administration of Pericles, 1000 Athenian citizens were settled in the Thracian Chersonesus, which was always the chief stronghold of Athens in that quarter. Under the auspices of the same statesman, in B.C. 437, the Athenians succeeded in founding Amphipolis, the contests for the possession of which occupy a very prominent place in the subsequent history of Greece. [AMPHIPOLIS
Vol. I. p. 126.]
About this time flourished the most powerful Thracian kingdom that ever existed, that of the Odrysae, for the history of which see ODRYSAE
Vol. II, pp. 463--465.
At the commencement of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 431), the Athenians entered into an alliance with Sitalces, the king of the Odrysae (Thuc. 2.29
), who, they hoped, would enable them to subdue all opposition to their supremacy in the Chalcidic peninsula.
In consequence of this alliance, Sitalces led (B.C. 429) a vast host into Macedonia, the ruler of which supported the enemies of Athens: he encountered no opposition, yet was compelled by want of supplies to return to Thrace, about a month after he had left it (Ib.
But although Sitalces was an ally of Athens, this did not prevent Brasidas from having great numbers of light-armed Thracians in his armies, while commanding the Spartan forces in the neighbourhood of Amphipolis (B.C. 422).
It would occupy too much space to relate minutely the various turns of fortune which occurred in Thrace during the Peloponnesian War.
The principal struggle in this quarter was for the command of the Bosporus and Hellespont, so important, especially to the Athenians, on account of the corn trade with the Euxine, from which Athens drew a large part of her supplies. Hence many of the most important naval battles were fought in the Hellespont; and the possession of Byzantium and Sestus was the prize of many a victory.
The battle of Aegospotami, which terminated the long contest for supremacy, took place to the S. of Sestus, B.C. 405.
By the peace concluded next year, Athens gave up all her foreign possessions; and those in the east of Thrace fell into the hands of the Spartans and Persians. [See BYZANTIUM, SESTUS, &c.]
When the remnant of the 10,000 Greeks returned (B.C. 400) to Europe, they were engaged by Seuthes, an Odrysian prince, to assist him in recovering the dominions which had belonged to his father, in the south eastern part of Thrace. (Xen. Anab.
vii. pass.) Having thus been reinstated in his principality, he showed his gratitude to the Greeks, by sending auxiliaries to Dercyllidas, who commanded the Spartan forces against the Persians, with whom they were now (B.C. 399) at war (Xen. Hell. 3.2
). Next year Dercyllidas crossed over into the Chersonesus, and erected a wall across its northern extremity, as a protection to the Greek inhabitants, who were exposed to constant attacks from their barbarous neighbours (Ib.
2. § § 8--10).
The same general successfully defended Sestus from the combined forces of Conon and Pharnabazus (B.C. 394: Ib.
But in B.C. 390 Thrasybulus restored Athenian influence in Thrace, by forming an alliance with two native princes, and by establishing democracy at Byzantium (Ib.
§ 25, seqq.); and his success was confirmed by the victory of Iphicrates over Anaxibius the next year (ib. § 34).
The peace of Antalcidas, however, released all the Greek states from their connection with Athens, and virtually gave the supremacy to Sparta (B.C. 387).
Nothing of any importance happened in Thrace after this event till the accession of Philip II. to the throne of Macedonia (B.C. 359).
This able but unscrupulous [p. 2.1187]
scrupulous monarch at once began his career of aggrandisement towards the east.
He contrived to get possession of Amphipolis (B.C. 358), and thus obtained a secure footing from which he might extend his dominions in Thrace as opportunity offered.
At this time there were three native Thracian princes, probably brothers, who seem to have ruled over most of the country.
According to Justin (8.3
), Berisades and Amadocus, two of them, chose Philip as judge of their disputes; of which position he treacherously availed himself to seize upon their dominions. Though this statement is not supported, we believe, by any other ancient author, yet it is probably true; for such conduct is highly characteristic of the Macedonian monarch; and the almost entire disappearance from history of these Thracian princes soon after Philip's accession, would thus be accounted for. Cersobleptes, the third brother, who seems to have had the E. portion of Thrace, maintained a long struggle against his ambitious neighbour. In B.C. 357 he ceded the Chersonesus to the Athenians, who sent a colony to occupy it four years afterwards. [See CERSOBLEPTES, Dict. Biog.
Vol. I. p. 674: SESTUS
] Philip at various times marched into Thrace, and repeatedly defeated Cersobleptes, whom he at length (B.C. 343) completely subdued and rendered tributary. Next year he established colonies in the eastern part of Thrace, and acts of hostility occurred between him and Diopeithes, the Athenian commander in that quarter. Philip was occupied the next three years in Thrace, and laid siege to Perinthus and Byzantium, which were in alliance with Athens, whose forces, commanded by Phocion, compelled Philip to abandon the sieges; and he soon afterwards left Thrace, to advance towards the south against the confederate Greeks. On his departure Phocion recovered several of the cities in which Macedonian garrisons had been placed.
Notwithstanding these checks, Philip had brought under his command a great part of Thrace, especially on the south coast: he had, above all, completely incorporated with his kingdom the district between the Strymon and the Nestus, and from the mines of the Pangaeus, which he seized in B.C. 356, he obtained abundant supplies of the precious metals.
Philip was assassinated B.C. 336: next year his successor, Alexander the Great, marched across the Haemus to attack the Triballi; but his chief attention was bestowed upon the preparations for the Asiatic expedition, which he entered upon next year, crossing the Hellespont from Sestus.
On the death of Alexander (B.C. 323), Thrace was allotted to Lysimachus, who was soon involved in hostilities with Seuthes, a king of the Odrysae.
The reader is referred to the account of Lysimachus [Dict. Biog.
Vol. II. pp. 867--870] for details respecting his government of Thrace: the result of his various wars was that his sway was firmly established over all the countries south of the Danube, as far as the confines of Macedonia; the Greek cities on the Euxine were garrisoned by his troops; and though many of the native tribes, in the more inaccessible districts, no doubt retained their freedom, yet he had completely defeated all their attacks upon his power. In B.C. 309 he founded Lysimachia, near the northern extremity of the Chersonesus and made it his capital. Having engaged in a war with Seleucus, the ruler of Syria, he advanced to meet his antagonist in Asia, and was defeated and slain at Corupedion (B.C. 281), upon which Seleucus passed over into Europe and took possession of Thrace. Next year, however, he was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, who was thereupon acknowledged king; but shortly: afterwards a vast horde of Celts invaded the country, and Ptolemy was slain in a battle with them. Anarchy now prevailed for some years in the country: the Celts again advanced to the south in B.C. 279, and under Brennus penetrated as far as Delphi, on their repulse from which they retreated northwards, and some of them settled on the coast of Thrace.
For nearly fifty years after this time little mention is made of Thrace in history; it appears to have been annexed to Macedonia; but the rulers of that kingdom were too insecure, even in their central dominions, to be able to exercise much control over such a country as Thrace, inhabited now by races differing so widely as the Thracians, the Greeks, and the Celts, and offering so many temptations to the assertion of independence. [See ANTIGONUS GONATAS, DEMETRIUS II., and PYRRHUS, in Dict. Biog.
About B.C. 247, the fleet of Ptolemy Euergetes captured Lysimachia and other important cities on the coast; and they remained for nearly half a century under the kings of Egypt. (Plb. 5.34
In B.C. 220, Philip V. ascended the throne of Macedonia. Under him the Macedonian power regained something of its old prestige; and had it not been brought in collision with Rome, it might have become as extensive as in former times. But Philip unfortunately directed his ambitious views in the first instance towards the West, and thus soon encountered the jealous Republic.
It was not till B.C. 211 that Philip commenced his enterprises against Thrace: he then led an army into the country of the Maedi, who were in the habit of making incursions into Macedonia. Their lands were laid waste, and their capital, Iamphorina, compelled to surrender. Having made peace with the Romans (B.C. 205), he invaded Thrace, and took Lysimachia. In B.C. 200, he again attacked that country, both by sea and land; and it is evident that he did not anticipate much resistance, since he took with him only 2000 infantry and 200 cavalry. Yet with this insignificant force, aided by the fleet, he made himself master of the whole of the south coast, and of the Chersonesus.
He then laid siege to Abydos, and after a desperate resistance took it (Liv. 31.16
This seems to have hastened the declaration of war on the part of the Romans; a war which lasted till B.C. 196, when Philip was reduced to procure peace by surrendering all his conquests, and withdrawing his garrisons from the Greek cities (Liv. 33.30
), L. Stertinius was sent to see that these terms were complied with (ib. 35).
But scarcely had the cities been evacuated by the Macedonian garrisons, when Antiochus the Great crossed the Hellespont, and took possession of the Chersonesus, which he claimed as a conquest of Seleucus (ib. 38).
He refused to comply with the demand of the Romans, that he should withdraw his army from Europe; but left his son Seleucus to complete the restoration of Lysimachia, and to extend his influence, which seems to have been done by placing garrisons in Maroneia and Aenus.
In the war which ensued between the Romans and Antiochus (B.C. 190), Philip rendered the former good service, by providing everything necessary for their march through Thrace, and securing them from molestation by the native tribes (Liv. 37.7
). Antiochus was defeated by Scipio at Magnesia, and [p. 2.1188]
sued for peace, which was at length granted to him (B.C. 188) on condition of his abandoning all his dominions west of the Taurus (Liv. 38.38
). The Romans gave the Chersonesus and its dependencies to their ally Eumenes (ib. 39).
As indicative of the internal condition of Thrace, even along the great southern road, the account which Livy (ib. 40, seq.) gives of the march of the consul Manlius' army through the country on its return from Asia Minor, is highly interesting.
The army was loaded with booty, conveyed in a long train of baggagewaggons, which presented an irresistible temptation to the predatory tribes through whose territories its route lay. They accordingly attacked the army in a defile, and were not beaten off until they had succeeded in their object of sharing in the plunder of Asia.
The possession of the Chersonesus by Eumenes soon led to disagreements with Philip, who was charged by Eumenes (B.C. 185) with having seized upon Maroneia and Aenus, places which he coveted for himself. (Liv. 39.24
). The Romans insisted upon the withdrawal of the Macedonian garrisons (B.C. 184), and Philip, sorely against his will, was obliged to obey.
He wreaked his anger upon the defenceless citizens of Maroneia, by conniving at, if not actually commanding, the massacre of a great number of them (ib. 33, 34).
In the course of the disputes about these cities, it was stated that at the end of the war with Philip, the Roman commissioner, Q. Fabius Labeo, had fixed upon the king's road, which is described as nowhere approaching the sea, as the S. boundary of Philip's possessions in Thrace; but that Philip had afterwards formed a new road, considerably to the S., and had thus included the cities and lands of the Maronitae in his territories (ib. 27).
In the same year, Philip undertook an expedition into the interior of Thrace, where he was fettered by no engagements with the Romans.
He defeated the Thracians in a battle, and took their leader Amadocus prisoner.
Before returning to Macedonia he sent envoys to the barbarians on the Danube to invite them to make an incursion into Italy (ib. 35). Again in B.C. 183, Philip marched against the Odrysae, Dentheletae and Bessi, took Philippopolis, which its inhabitants had abandoned at his approach, and placed a garrison in it, which the Odrysae, however, soon afterwards drove out (ib. 53). In B.C. 182, Philip removed nearly all the inhabitants of the coast of Macedonia into the interior, and supplied their places by Thracians and other barbarians, on whom he thought he could more safely depend in the war with the Romans, which he now saw was inevitable (Liv. 40.3
He had done something of the same kind a few years before (Id. 39.24).
Philip's ascent of the Haemus, already referred to, took place in B.C. 181: on the summit he erected altars to Jupiter and the Sun. On his way back his army plundered the Dentheletae; and in Maedica he took a town called Petra. (Liv. 40.21
Philip died in B.C. 179, and his successor Perseus continued the preparations which his father had made for renewing the war with Rome, which did not begin, however, till B.C. 171. The Romans had formed an alliance the year before with a number of independent Thracian tribes, who had sent ambassadors to Rome for the purpose, and who were likely to be formidable foes to Perseus. The Romans took care to send valuable presents to the principal Thracians, their ambassadors having no doubt impressed upon the senate the necessity for compliance with this national custom. (Liv. 42.19
The advantage of this alliance was soon seen. Cotys, king of the Odrysae, was an ally of Perseus, and marched with him to meet the Romans in Thessaly, but with only 1000 horse and 1000 foot, a force which shows how greatly the power of the Odrysian monarchy had declined since the reign of Sitalces (ib. 51). Cotys commanded all the Thracians in Perseus's army in the first engagement with the Roman cavalry, which was defeated (ib. 57, seq.). When Perseus retreated into Macedonia a report was brought that the Thracian allies of Rome had invaded the dominions of Cotys, whom Perseus was therefore obliged to dismiss for their protection (ib. 67), and he does not seem to have personally taken any further part in the war, though he probably sent part of his forces to assist Perseus (44.42). His son Bitis fell into the hands of the Romans, after the battle of Pydna (B.C. 168), which put an end to the Macedonian kingdom. Cotys sent ambassadors to Rome to endeavour to ransom his son, and to excuse himself for having sided with Perseus.
The senate rejected his offers of money, but liberated his son, and gave a considerable sum to each of the Thracian ambassadors.
The reason it assigned for this generosity was the old friendship which had existed between Rome and Cotys and his ancestors. The Romans were evidently unwilling to engage in a war with the Thracian people at this time; and were anxious to secure friends among them for the sake of the peace of Macedonia, which, though not yet nominally made a province, was completely in their power. They sent (B.C. 167) three commissioners to conduct Bitis and the other Thracians home; and at the same time, no doubt, to make observations on the state of that country. (Liv. 45.42
After the fall of Perseus, the senate divided his dominion's into four districts (regiones
), the first of which included the territory between the Strymon and the Nestus, and all the Macedonian possessions east of the latter, except Aenus, Maroneia, and Abdera: Bisaltica and Sintice, west of the Strymon, also belonged to this district, the capital of which was Amphipolis. (Ib.
It is important to recollect that the Thrace spoken of by the Latin historians subsequently to this time does not include the territories here specified, which thenceforth constituted an integral part of Macedonia.
From the year B.C. 148, when the Romans undertook the direct government of that country, they were brought into contact with the various barbarous nations on its frontiers, and were continually at war with one or another of them. For some years, however, their chief occupation was with the Scordisci, a people of Celtic origin which had settled south of the Danube, and often made devastating incursions into the more civilised regions of the south. They are sometimes called Thracians (e. g. by Florus, 3.4
; cf. Amm. 27.4.4), which is the less surprising when we remember that great numbers of Celts had settled in Southern Thrace, and would soon be confounded under a common name with the other occupants of the country.
The history of all this period, up to the time of Augustus, is very obscure, owing to the loss of so great a part of Livy's work; enough, however, appears in other writers to show that Thrace was left almost entirely to its native rulers, the Romans rarely interfering with it except when provoked by the predatory incursions [p. 2.1189]
of its people into Macedonia: they then sometimes made retaliatory expeditions into Thrace; but seem generally to have made their way back as soon as the immediate object was accomplished.
The relation existing between the Romans and the Thracians, for more than a century after the conquest of Macedonia, thus bears a close resemblance to that which has long existed between our own countrymen and the Caffres.
During the years B.C. 110, 109, the Consul M. Minucius Rufus was engaged in hostilities with the Scordisci and Triballi; and, according to Florus (l.c.
), laid waste the whole valley of the Hebrus (cf. Eutr. 4.27). In B.C. 104, Calpurnius Piso penetrated into the district of Rhodope (Flor. l.c.
). In B.C. 92, the Maedi defeated the praetor, C. Sentius, and then ravaged Macedonia (Cic. Pis. 34
; Liv. Epit. 70
After the breaking out of the Mithridatic War (B.C. 88), mention is made in several successive years of the incursions of the Thracians into the Roman provinces, and it is probable that they were acting in concert with Mithridates, whose general Taxiles, in B.C. 86, led a vast army through Thrace, and Macedonia to the assistance of Archelaus. (Liv. Epit. 74
). On the final defeat of Archelaus, Sulla directed his march towards Asia through, Thrace B.C. 84, and, either to punish the people for their connection with Mithridates, or because they opposed his passage, made war upon them with complete success (Id. 83). C. Scribonius Curio defeated the Dardani, and penetrated to the Danube, being the first Roman who had ventured into that part of Europe (B.C. 75; Liv. Epit. 92
; Eutr. 6.2). Curio was succeeded as governor of Macedonia by M. Lucullus (B.C. 73), who defeated the Bessi in a pitched battle on Mount Haemus, took their capital, and ravaged the whole country between the Haemus and the Danube (Liv. Epit. 97
; Eutr. 6.10). The Bessi were again conquered in B.C. 60 by Octavius, the father of Augustus (Suet. Aug. 3
; cf. lb.
94; Freinsh. Suppl.
In the years B.C. 58, 57, Piso, so well known. to us from Cicero's celebrated speech against him, was governor of Macedonia; and, if we may believe Cicero, acted in the most cruel and faithless manner towards the Bessi and other peaceable Thracian tribes. (Pis.
34, de Prov. Cons.
2, seq.). From the latter passage it appears that although Thrace was not under the government of Rome, yet the Romans claimed the right of way through it to the Hellespont; for Cicero calls the Egnatian Way “via illa nostra militaris.”
In the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, several Thracian princes furnished the latter with auxiliary forces. Why they interfered in the contest, and why they preferred Pompey to Caesar, are matters of conjecture only. Pompey had been chiefly engaged all his life in the East, Caesar in the West; and that is probably sufficient to account for the greater influence of Pompey in Thrace. (Caes. B.C.
3.4; Flor. 4.2
; D. C. 41.51
At the time of Caesar's death two brothers, Rhascuporis and Rascus [Dict. Biog.
Vol. III. p. 647] ruled over the greater part of Thrace; and when the war broke out between the triumvirs and the republican party, Rhascuporis sided with the latter, while Rascus aided the former.
By this plan they hoped to be safe, whichever party might be victorious; and it is said that their expectations were realised.
When the power of Rome was at length wielded by Augustus. without a rival, the relation of Thrace to the Roman state seems to have become in many respects like that which the native princes of India long bore to the British. The Thracian kings were generally allowed to exercise, without restraint, their authority over their own subjects, and when needful it was supported by the arms of Rome.
But all disputes among the native rulers were referred to the decision of the emperors, who disposed of the country as its acknowledged lords.
These subject princes were expected to defend Thrace from external and internal foes; to assist the Romans in the field; to allow them to enlist troops, and in other ways to exercise the rights of sovereignty. For illustrations of these statements we must refer the reader to Tacitus, especially to the following passages: Ann.
2.64--67, 3.38, 39, 4.5, 46--51.
The few Thracian coins which are extant afford a proof of the dependent character of the Thracian kings; they bear on the obverse the effigy of the reigning emperor, on the reverse that of the native prince. [See Dict. Biog.
Vol. III. p. 653.]
The interference of the Romans in the government of Thrace was not submitted to by the nation at large without several severe struggles.
The most formidable of these occurred about B.C. 14, the fullest account of which is given by Dio Cassius (lib. liv.).
The leader in this insurrection was Vologaesus, a Bessian priest of Bacchus, who availed himself of his sacerdotal character to inflame the religious feelings of his countrymen. Having thus assembled a large army, he attacked, defeated, and slew Rhascuporis, a king under Roman protection; his uncle, Rhoemetalces, was next assailed and compelled to flee: the insurgents pursued him as far as the Chersonesus, where they devastated the country and captured the fortified places. On receiving information of these proceedings, Augustus ordered L. Piso, the governor of Pamphylia, to transport his army into Thrace, where, after a three years' war and several reverses, he at length succeeded in subduing the Bessi, who had adopted Roman arms. and discipline. They soon afterwards made a second attempt to regain their independence; but were now easily crushed. (Vell. 2.98
; Tac. Ann. 6.10
; Sen. Ep.
83; Flor. 4.12
; Liv. Epit. 137
After this war, the Romans gradually absorbed all the powers of government in the country. Germanicus visited it in A.D. 18, and introduced reforms in its administration (Tac. Ann. 2.54
A system of conscription seems to have been imposed upon the Thracians about A.D. 26 (Ib.
The last native prince of whom we find any mention is Rhoemetalces II., who, in A.D. 38, was made by Caligula ruler over the whole country; and at length, in the reign of Vespasian (A.D. 69--79), Thrace was reduced into the form of a province. (Suet. Vesp.
8; Eutr. 7.19; cf. Tac. Hist. 1.11
The date of this event has been disputed on the authority of the Eusebian Chronicle, which states that it took place in A.D. 47, in the reign of Claudius; but the statement of Suetonius is express on the point.
It is possible that Rhoemetalces II. may have died about the year last mentioned; and if Claudius refused to appoint a successor to him, this would be regarded as equivalent to incorporating the country in the Roman empire, although its formal constitution as a, province was delayed; as we know was commonly the case.
It is remarkable that Moesia was made a province upwards of 50 years before Thrace Proper, its first propraetor being mentioned in A.D. 15. (Tac. Ann. 1.79
; cf. Ib.
2.66; Plin. Nat. 3.26. s. 29
.) [p. 2.1190]
Thrace now shared in the general fortunes of the Roman world, on the division of which into the Eastern and Western Empires, it was attached to the former, being governed by the Vicarius Thraciarum,
who was subordinate to the Praefectus Praetorio Orientis.
Its situation rendered it extremely liable to the inroads of barbarians, and its history, so far as it is known, is little else than a record of war and devastation. The Goths made their first appearance there in A.D. 255; the emperor Probus, about A.D. 280, established in it 100,000 Bastarnae. In A.D. 314, and again in 323, the emperor Licinius was defeated at Hadrianople by Constantine, who, in A.D. 334, settled a multitude of Sarmatians in Thrace, which, in 376, received another accession to its heterogeneous population, Valens having given permission to the Goths to reside in it.
This gave rise to innumerable wars, the details of which are recorded by Ammianus (lib. xxxi.). In 395 the devoted country was overrun by Alaric, and in 447 by the more dreadful Attila. Through all these misfortunes, however, Thrace remained in connection with the Eastern Empire, the capital of which was within its boundaries, until the year 1353, when the Turks, who had crossed over into Europe in 1341, obtained possession of the Thracian fortresses. Their leader Amurath conquered the whole country, except Constantinople, and made Hadrianople his capital.
At length, in 1453, Constantinople itself was taken, and the Turks have ever since been the undisputed lords of Thrace.
VI. TOPOGRAPHY.--Under this head we shall merely collect such names as will serve to direct the reader to articles in this work, where fuller information is given.
; cf. Mela, 2.2; Amm. 27.4) enumerates the following as the principal Thracian tribes: Denseletae, Maedi, Bisaltae, Digeri, Bessi, Elethi, Diobessi, Carbilesi, Brysae, Sapaei, Odomanti, Odrysae, Cabyleti, Pyrogeri, Drugeri, Caenici, Hypsalti, Beni, Corpilli, Bottiaei, Edoni, Selletae, Priantae, Dolonci, Thyni, Coeletae. To these we may add, the Apsinthii, Bistones, Cicones, Satrae, Dii, and Trausi.
Of the towns mentioned by Pliny (l.c.
), these belonged to Thrace Proper: 1. On the coast (i.) of the Aegean: Oesyma, Neapolis, Datum, Abdera, Tirida, Dicaea, Maronea, Zone, and Aenus; to these must be added Amphipolis, Pistyrus, Cosinthus, and Mesembria; (ii.) of the Chersonesus: Cardia, Lysimachia, Pachyta, Callipolis, Sestus, Elaeus, Coelos, Tiristasis, and Panormus; besides these there were Alopeconnesus and Agora; (iii.) of the Propontis: Bisanthe, Perinthus, and Selymbria; (iv.) of the Bosporus: Byzantium; (v.) of the Euxine: Mesembria, Anchialus, Apollonia, Thynias, Salmydessus, and Phinopolis. 2.
In the interior: Philippopolis, Philippi, Scotusa, Topiris, Doriscus, Cypsela, Apros, and Develton.
This is a very scanty list; but many of the principal inland towns were founded after Pliny's time: their names also were often changed.
The following are some of the chief towns in the interior: Hadrianopolis, Plotinopolis, Trajanopolis, Tempyra, Nicopolis, Beroea, Iamporina, and Petra.
Besides the rivers mentioned in the course of this article, the following occur: the Bathynias, Pydaras or Atyras, Bargus, Cossinites, Compsatus, and Xerogypsus.
As to the political divisions of. Thrace, Pliny (l.c.
) states that it was divided into fifty strategiae;
but he describes Moesia as part of Thrace.
According to Ptolemy (3.11.8
, seq.), its districts were Maedica, Dentheletica, Sardica, Bessica, Drosica, Bennica, Usdicesica, Selletica, Samaica, Coeletica, Sapaica, Corpiliaca, Caenica, and Astica.
) states that in the 4th century Thrace was divided into six provinces, but of these only four belonged to Thrace south of the Haemus: (i.) Thrace Proper (speciali nomine), including the W. part of the country; principal cities, Philippopolis and Beroea: (ii.) Haemimontus, i. e. the NE. district; chief towns, Hadrianopolis and Anchialus: (iii.) Europa, comprehending the SE. district; cities, Apri and Perinthus (Constantinople, being the capital of the whole Eastern Empire, was not regarded as belonging to any province): (iv.) Rhodopa, comprising the SW. region; principal cities, Maximianopolis, Maroneia, and Aenus.
The principal modern writers in whose works information will be found respecting Thrace, have been mentioned in the course of this article. Among the other authors whom the reader may consult, we may name the following: Dapper, Beschryving der Eilanden in de Archipel,
Amst. 1688, of which Latin and French translations were published at Amsterdam in 1703. Paul Lucas, Voyage dans la Turquie, l'Asie, &c.
2 vols. Amst. 1720. Choiseul, Voyage Pittoresque dans l'Empire Ottoman:
of this work the first volume was published at Paris in 1782, the first part of the second not till 1809; the author died in 1817.
A new edition, with. many corrections and additions, was published in 4 vols. 8vo. at Paris in 1842.
This work is devoted chiefly to the antiquities of the country; of which the plates contained in the illustrative Atlas which accompanies the book give many representations. Ami Boué‘s, La Turquie d'Europe,
4 vols. 8vo. Paris, 1840, is the most complete work yet written on the subject; its author, a man of great scientific acquirements, made two journeys in Turkey, in 1836, when he was accompanied by M. Viquesnel, and in 1838.
The first volume contains an elaborate account of the physical geography, geology, vegetation, fauna, and meteorology of the country; but takes little or no notice of its classical geography.
A map is prefixed to it, which was a vast improvement on all that had preceded it; but it is now in its turn superseded by that of Kiepert, who has employed in its construction the materials afforded by M. Viquesnel's reports already referred to. (Comp. Gatterer, De Herodoti ac Thucydidis Thracia,
contained in the Commentationes Soc. Reg. Gottin.
vol. iv. pp. 87--112, vol. v. pp. 57--88.