İznik

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İznik (which derives from the former Greek name Νίκαια, Nicaea) is a city in Turkey which is primarily known as the site of the First and Second Councils of Nicaea, the first and seventh Ecumenical councils in the early history of the Christian church, the Nicene Creed, and as the capital city of the Empire of Nicaea. It served as the interim capital city of the Byzantine Empire between 1204 and 1261, following the Fourth Crusade in 1204, until the recapture of Constantinople by the Byzantines in 1261.

The city lies in a fertile basin at the eastern end of Lake İznik, bounded by ranges of hills to the north and south. It is situated with its west wall rising from the lake itself, providing both protection from siege from that direction, as well as a source of supplies which would be difficult to cut off. The lake is large enough that it cannot be blockaded from the land easily, and the city was large enough to make any attempt to reach the harbour from shore-based siege weapons very difficult.

The city is surrounded on all sides by 5 km (3 mi) of walls about 10 m (33 ft) high. These are in turn surrounded by a double ditch on the land portions, and also include over 100 towers in various locations. Large gates on the three landbound sides of the walls provide the only entrance to the city.

Today the walls are pierced in many places for roads, but much of the early work survives and as a result it is a major tourist destination. The town has a population of about 15,000. It has been a district center of Bursa Province since 1930. It was in the district of Kocaeli between 1923–1927 and was a township of Yenişehir (bounded to Bilecik before 1926) district between 1927-1930.

Contents

History

Early history, Roman and Byzantine Empires

The place is said to have been colonized by Bottiaeans, and to have originally borne the name of Ancore (Steph. B. s. v.) 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, Macedonian king Antigonus — who had taken control of much of Asia Minor upon the death of Alexander (under whom Antigonus had served as a general) — probably after his victory over Eumenes, in 316 BC, rebuilt the town, and called it, after himself, Antigoneia (Greek: Αντιγόνεια). (Steph. B. l. c.; Eustath. ad Horn. II. ii. 863) Several other of Alexander's generals (known together as the Diadochi (Latin; original Greek Διάδοχοι/Diadokhoi "successors")) later conspired to remove Antigonus, and after defeating him the area was given to Thessalian general Lysimachus (Lysimakhos) (circa 355 BC-281 BC) in 301 BC as his share of the lands. He renamed it Nicaea (Greek: Νίκαια, also transliterated as Nikaia or Nicæa; see also List of traditional Greek place names), in tribute to his wife Nicaea, a daughter of Antipater. (Steph. B., Eustath., Strab., ll. cc.) 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. (Strabo xii. pp. 565 et seq.) This monument stood in the gymnasium, which was destroyed by fire, but was restored with increased magnificence by the younger Pliny (Epist. x. 48), when he was governor of Bithynia.

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