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Bithynia (bĬthĬn´ēə), ancient country of NW Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey. The original inhabitants were Thracians who established themselves as independent and were given some autonomy after Cyrus the Great incorporated Bithynia into the Persian Empire. After the death of Alexander the Great, the Bithynians took advantage of the wars of the Diadochi to secure freedom from the Seleucids (297 BC). They established a dynasty under the leadership of Zipoetes who was succeeded (c.280 BC) by Nicomedes I, who founded Nicomedia as the capital of his flourishing state. During his time and the following reigns of Prusias I, Prusias II, and Nicomedes II, wars continued with the Seleucids and with Pergamum. In the 1st cent. BC, Mithradates VI of Pontus had designs on Bithynia, which was ruled by Nicomedes IV (sometimes confused with Nicomedes III), a client of Rome. When Nicomedes died (74 BC) he willed Bithynia to Rome. The last of the wars with Mithradates resulted. Bithynia was an important province of Rome. For some time after Pompey's rearrangement of the empire it was combined with western Pontus as a single province. Pliny the Younger (see under Pliny the Elder) was governor of the province (c.AD 110) under the emperor Trajan. The reign of Hadrian soon after seems to have marked the end of Bithynian prosperity. It was invaded briefly by the Goths (AD 298).

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BITHYNIA , district of Asia Minor identified in the Talmud with the biblical Tubal (Yoma 10a). There is information, dated from 139 b.c.e., of a Jewish settlement in Amysos which was included in the territory of Bithynia during the period of its expansion (Sampsames in i Macc. 15:23 being identified by Schuerer and others with Amysos in Pontos). Philo, too, testifies to the existence of a Jewish settlement there (De Legatione ad Gaium, 281). A Jewish tombstone with a Greek inscription found near the Bosporus marks the burial place of a Jew called Shabbetai who served as elder, scribe, and leader to a Jewish community which is called παλαιοι ("The Ancients," rej, 23 (1893), 167–71). Talmudic sources (Av. Zar. 2:4; Tosef., Av. Zar. 4:13; Tosef., Shev. 5:9) frequently mention cheeses from Bet-Unyaki which were forbidden "because the majority of calves of that place are offered as sacrifices to idols" (Av. Zar. 34b). This Bet-Unyaki is identified with Bithynia, whose excellent cheeses are also attested to by Pliny (Natural History 11:241). The spread of Christianity in Bithynia at the beginning of the second century so alarmed its governor, Pliny the younger (c. 112), that he applied to Trajan for instructions on how to deal with it. The detailed answer given by Trajan exerted a decisive influence for some generations on Rome's policy toward Christianity.


Epstein, Mishnah, 1104–05; Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 23; Frey, Corpus, 2 (1952), 50–52; Neubauer, Géogr, 262–3.

[Abraham Schalit]