Bithynia

BITHYNIA (bĭ-thĭn'ĭ-a, Gr. Bithynia). A region along the northern edge of Asia Minor fronting on the Black Sea, the Bosphorus, and the Sea of Marmara. Paul and his companions desired to enter Bithynia with the gospel (Acts.16.6-Acts.16.10), but the Holy Spirit was leading toward Europe, and so they could not enter. However, there were Christians there in the first century (1Pet.1.1). The Roman governor Pliny the Younger complained to Trajan concerning the Christians and at the beginning of the second century asked how to deal with them.

Bithynia was settled very early, and its known history goes back past the sixth century b.c. when Croesus made it a part of his kingdom. A king of Bithynia in the third century b.c. invited the Gauls into Asia, so originating “Galatia.” From the thirteenth century on, it has been Turkish, or at least ruled by the Turks.


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BITHYNIA bĭ thĭn’ ĭə. Bithynia lay in NW Asia Minor, a mountainous, well-watered territory, endowed with fertile valley plains, good timber, building stone, fruit and grain together with excellent harbor facilities. Bithynia fronted the Black Sea on the N, the Bosporus and Propontis (Sea of Marmara) on the W. On the S it was bounded by Phrygia and Galatia, and on the E by Paphlagonia.

The Bithynians were Thracian in origin, a vigorous stock which entered history in the 6th cent. b.c. Thanks to their cohesion and isolation, the Bithynians maintained a measure of independence even under the Pers. regime and their Seleucid successors. In 297 b.c. a dynasty was founded which endured for two centuries, until the last of the Thracian royal line bequeathed his kingdom to Rome in 74 b.c.

Progress had been real under the kings. Cities, commerce, and a measure of Hel. culture marked the land. Pompey united Bithynia with Pontus when he sought to organize the bequeathed territory in 64 b.c. as part of his settlement of the E. In early imperial days Bithynia was a senatorial province, but was early a sphere of personal control by the emperor. The financial difficulties of the cities, perhaps too prominent in Pompey’s organization, and the strategic significance of the region with its important harbors and road communications, account for this imperial interest. Under Marcus Aurelius the area formally became an imperial province.

One of the imperial legates who governed Bithynia was nodetitle, who functioned as governor from a.d. 110 to 112. The governorship of Pliny is notable for the surviving vol. of correspondence with Trajan (vol. 10 of Pliny’s Letters) in which there is information on Bithynia, its problems and administration, together with an account of the Christian minority and the problems the enforcement of anti-Christian legislation involved (Pliny, Letters 10. 96, 97). It is unknown how Christianity was established in Bithynia. Paul was prevented from visiting the area (Acts 16:7), but Peter (1 Pet 1:1) knew of a church there, and in Pliny’s day it was a powerful group.

Bibliography

CAH, XI, ch. XIV (1936); H. A. M. Jones, Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces, ch. VI (1937); E. M. Blaiklock, The Christian in Pagan Society (1951); M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire, 2 vols. 2nd ed. (1957).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A coast province in northwestern Asia Minor on the Propontis and the Euxine. Its narrowest compass included the districts on both sides of the Sangarius, its one large river, but in prosperous times its boundaries reached from the Rhyndacus on the west to and beyond the Parthenius on the east. The Mysian Olympus rose in grandeur to a height of 6,400 ft. in the southwest, and in general the face of Nature was wrinkled with rugged mountains and seamed with fertile valleys sloping toward the Black Sea.

Hittites may have occupied Bithynia in the remote past, for Priam of Troy found some of his stoutest enemies among the Amazons on the upper Sangarius in Phrygia, and these may have been Hittite, and may easily have settled along the river to its mouth. The earliest discernible Bithynians, however, were Thracian immigrants from the European side of the Reliespont. The country was overcome by Croesus, and passed with Lydia under Persian control, 546 BC. After Alexander the Great, Bithynia became independent, and Nicomedes I, Prusias I and II, and Nicomedes II and III, ruled from 278 to 74 BC. The last king, weary of the incessant strife among the peoples of Asia Minor, especially as provoked by the aggressive Mithridates, bequeathed his country to Rome. Nicomedia and Prusa, or Brousa, were founded by kings whose names they bear; the other chief cities, Nicea and Chalcedon, had been built by Greek enterprise earlier. There were highways leading from Nicomedia and Nicea to Dorylaeum and to Angora (see Ramsay , Historical Geography of Asia Minor, and The Church in the nodetitle before A. D. 170). Under Rome the Black Sea littoral as far as Amisus was more or less closely joined with Bithynia in administration.

Paul and Silas essayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not (Ac 16:7). Other evangelists, however, must have labored there early and with marked success. Bithynia is one of the provinces addressed in 1Pe 1:1.

Internal difficulties and disorders led to the sending of Pliny, the lawyer and literary man, as governor, 111 to 113 AD. He found Christians under his jurisdiction in such numbers that the heathen temples were almost deserted, and the trade in sacrificial animals languished. A memorable correspondence followed between the Roman governor and the emperor Trajan, in which the moral character of the Christians was completely vindicated, and the repressive measures required of officials were interpreted with leniency (see E. G. Hardy, Pliny’s Correspondence with Trajan, and Christianity and the Roman Government). Under this Roman policy Christianity was confirmed in strength and in public position. Subsequently the first Ecumenical Council of the church was held in Nicea, and two later councils convened in Chalcedon, a suburb of what is now Constantinople. The emperor Diocletian had fixed his residence and the seat of government for the eastern Roman Empire in Nicomedia.

Bithynia was for a thousand years part of the Byzantine Empire, and shared the fortunes and misfortunes of that state. On the advent of the Turks its territory was quickly overrun, and Orchan, sultan in 1326, selected Brousa as his capital, since which time this has been one .of the chief Ottoman cities.