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THRACIA thrā she ə (Θρακία). Ancient Thrace, to use the more common term, was the eastern half of the Balkan peninsula. This at least was the case in historic times, though there is evidence that the Thracian tribes were pushed back before 1300 b.c. from the Adriatic to the Axius. After 480 b.c. they lost all territory W of the Strymon to the intruding Macedonians. Thrace was a rugged land, including the wooded mountain region of Haemus, the fertile territory of the Hebrus valley, and the steppe country of the Dobrudja. The language was Indo-European, the social structure a conglomerate of monarchical tribes, each with a feudal aristocracy and a serf-like peasantry. The Thracians had the elements of culture—some poetry and music. They worshiped Dionysus, the vegetation god. For the rest, they bore a somber reputation in the civilized Hellenic world for sheer savagery, human sacrifice, barbaric tattooing, and heavy drinking.

There were Gr. colonies on the southern and eastern coasts of Thrace from 700 b.c. onward, and Greeks worked the Thracian gold and silver mines of Pangaeus. Thracians fought in Gr. armies as light-armed mercenaries. They found brief unity against Persia, which controlled them briefly at the end of the 5th cent., fell again into tribal disunity after 400 b.c., and in 342 lost their southern territories to Philip II of Macedon. The tribesmen of this area provided Alexander with some valuable light infantry. Lysimachus controlled Thrace from 323 to 281 b.c., and the period saw some Gr. penetration, succeeded by a return to dissension. Rome did not subdue the region systematically, until M. Crassus undertook the task in 28 b.c. and L. Piso in 12 b.c. Claudius, however, half a cent. later, was still finding the tribes troublesome, and he divided the area to make southern and central Thrace one province, attaching the N to Moesia. Rough terrain and surviving barbarism under a hostile northern frontier, combined to keep Thrace a military province.


S. Casson, Macedonia, Thrace and Illyria (1926); A. H. M. Jones, The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces (1937).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

thra’-shi-a, thra’-shan (Thrakia): The name given to the country lying between the rivers Strymon and Danube. Mention is made of a Thracian horseman in 2 Macc 12:35. The cavalry of this fierce people were in demand as mercenaries in all countries. In 46 AD Thrace became the name of a Roman province. Some have sought a connection between Thracia and the TIRAS (which see) of Ge 10:2, but the identification is conjectural.

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