views updated May 23 2018


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]