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Map of the Roman Empire - Nicaea
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Ancient Nicaea An important Graeco-Roman city in Bithynia (Asia) situated on the eastern shore of Lake Ascania. Nicaea is famous in church history as the site of the great Ecumenical Council of A.D. 325. The council was created by Constantine in order to define more clearly the concept of the Trinity, because the Arian heresy had spread throughout the Roman Empire. The scholars decided that the Scriptures clearly taught that the Holy Spirit was equal to the Father and the Son and the Couincil drew up the Nicene Creed. The modern name of Nicaea is Isnik.
Nicaea A celebrated city of Asia, situated on the eastern side of Lake Ascania (Isnik) in Bithynia, built (about B.C. 300) by Antigonus, king of Asia, and originally called Antigonea; but Lysimachus soon after changed the name into Nicaea, in honour of his wife. Under the kings of Bithynia it was often the royal residence; and under the Romans it continued to be one of the chief cities of Asia; and at the time of the Byzantine emperors it was a great military outpost of Constantinople against the Turks. It fell in A.D. 1330, being taken by the Turk Orchan, the son of Ottoman. The great double walls of the ancient city still exist, and there are ruins of an aqueduct, a theatre, a gymnasium, and the two moles of the ancient harbour. It is famous in ecclesiastical history as the seat of the great Ecumenical Council which Constantine convoked in A.D. 325, chiefly for the decision of the Arian controversy, and which drew up the Nicene Creed. The modern name is Isnik. - Harry Thurston Peck. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.
Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.
NICAEA, I. In Asia. lshnik), one of the most important towns of Bithynia, of which Strabo (xii. p.565) even calls it the metropolis, was situated on the eastern shore of lake Ascania or Ascanius, in a wide and fertile plain, which, however, was somewhat unhealthy in summer. The place is said to have been colonised by Bottiaeans, and to have originally borne the name of Ancore (Steph. B. sub voce or Helicore (Geogr. Min. p. 40, ed. Hudson); but it was subsequently destroyed by the Mysians. A few years after the death of Alexander the Great, Antigonus, probably after his victory over Eumenes, in B.C. 316, rebuilt the town, and called it, after himself, Antigoneia. (Steph. B. sub voce l.c.; Eustath. ad Hom. Il. 2.863). Not long after Lysimachus, having made himself master of a great part of Asia Minor, changed the name of Antigoneia into Nicaea, in honour of his wife Nicaea, a daughter of Antipater. (Steph. B. sub voce Eustath., Strab., ll. cc.) [2.423] According to another account (Memnon, ap. Phot. Cod. 224. p. 233, ed. Bekker), Nicaea was founded by men from Nicaea near Thermopylae, who had served in the army of Alexander the Great. The town was built with great regularity, in the form of a square, measuring 16 stadia in circumference; it had four gates, and all its streets intersected one another at right angles, so that from a monument in the centre all the four gates could be seen. (Strab. xii. pp. 565. &c.) This monument stood in the gymnasium, which was destroyed by fire, but was restored with increased magnificence by the younger Pliny (Plin. Ep. 10.48), when he was governor of Bithynia.
Soon after the time of Lysimachus, Nicaea became a city of great importance, and the kings of Bithynia, whose era begins in B.C. 288 with Zipoetes, often resided at Nicaea. It has already been mentioned that in the time of Strabo it is called the metropolis of Bithynia; an honour which is also assigned to it on some coins, though in later times it was enjoyed by Nicomedeia. The two cities, in fact, kept up a long and vehement dispute about the precedence, and the 38th oration of Dion Chrysostomus was expressly composed to settle the dispute. From this oration, it appears that Nicomedeia alone had a right to the title of metropolis, but both were the first cities of the country. The younger Pliny makes frequent mention of Nicaea and its public buildings, which he undertook to restore when governor of Bithynia. (Epist. 10.40, 48, &c.) It was the birthplace of the astronomer Hipparchus and the historian Dio Cassius. (Suid. s. v. ?ppa????.) The numerous coins of Nicaea which still exist attest the interest taken in the city by the emperors, as well as its attachment to the rulers; many of them commemorate great festivals celebrated there in honour of gods and emperors, as Olympia, Isthmia, Dionysia, Pythia, Commodia, Severia, Philadelphia, &c. Throughout the imperial period, Nicaea remained an important place; for its situation was particularly favourable, being only 25 miles distant from Prusa (Plin. Nat. 5.32), and 44 from Constantinople. (It. Ant. p. 141.) When the last mentioned city became the capital of the Eastern Empire, Nicaea did not lose in importance; for its present walls, which were erected during the last period of the Empire, enclose a much greater space than that ascribed to the place in the time of Strabo. In the reign of Constantine, A.D. 325, the celebrated Council of Nicaea was held there against the Arian heresy, and the prelates there assembled drew up the creed called the Nicene. Some travellers have believed that the council was held in a church still existing; but it has been shown by Prokesch (Erinneirungen, iii. p. 234) that that church was built at a later period, and that the council was probably held in the now ruined mosque of Orchan. In the course of the same century, Nicaea suffered much from an earthquake; but it was restored in A.D. 368 by the emperor Valens. During the middle ages it was for a long time a strong bulwark of the Greek emperors against the Turks, who did not conquer it until the year 1078. During the first crusade, in 1097, it was recovered from them by the Christians, but in the peace which was afterwards concluded it was ceded to the Turks. In the 13th century, when Constantinople was the capital of the Latin empire, Theodore Lascaris made Nicaea the capital of Western Asia; in the end, however, it was finally conquered and incorporated with the Ottoman empire by Orchan. Many of its public buildings were then destroyed, and the materials used by the conquerors in erecting their mosques and other edifices. The modern Isnik is a very poor place, of scarcely more than 100 houses, while in Pococke's time, there still existed about 300. The ancient walls, with their towers and gates, are in tolerably good preservation their circumference is 14,800 feet, being at the base from 15 to 20 feet in thickness, and from 30 to 40 feet in height; they contain four large and two small gates. In most places they are formed of alternate courses of Roman tiles and large square stones, joined by a cement of great thickness. In some places have been inserted columns and other architectural fragments, the ruins of more ancient edifices. These walls seem, like those of Constantinople, to have been built in the fourth century of our era. Some of the towers have Greek inscriptions. The ruins of mosques, baths, and houses, dispersed among the gardens and cornfields, which now occupy a great part of the space within the Greek fortifications, show that the Turkish town, though now so inconsiderable, was once a place of importance; but it never was so large as the Greek city, and it seems to have been almost entirely constructed of the remains of the Greek Nicaea, the walls of the ruined mosques and baths being full of the fragments of Greek temples and churches. On the north-western parts of the town, two moles extend into the lake and form a harbour; but the lake in this part has much retreated, and left a marshy plain. Outside the walls remnants of an ancient aqueduct are seen. - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) William Smith, LLD, Ed.
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