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The regional location of the Bessi, in the mountains and North-West of the Dii tribe. OdrysianKingdom.jpg
The regional location of the Bessi, in the mountains and North-West of the Dii tribe.

The Bessi ( /ˈbɛs/ ; Ancient Greek : Βῆσσοι or Βέσσοι) were an independent Thracian tribe who lived in a territory ranging from Moesia to Mount Rhodope in southern Thrace, but are often mentioned as dwelling about Haemus, the mountain range that separates Moesia from Thrace and from Mount Rhodope to the northern part of Hebrus. [1] Herodotus [2] described them as a sort of priestly-caste among the Satrae, the Bessi being interpreters of the prophetic utterances given by a priestess in an oracular shrine of Dionysus located on a mountain-top.

Thracians ancient Indo-European people that lived in eastern parts of Europe

The Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting a large area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family. The study of Thracians and Thracian culture is known as Thracology.

Moesia historical region of the Balkans

Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Central Serbia, Kosovo and the northern parts of the modern North Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria and Romanian Dobrudja.

Thrace A region in Southeast Europe

Thrace is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the east. It comprises southeastern Bulgaria, northeastern Greece and the European part of Turkey.


In 72 BC, the proconsul of Macedonia Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus defeated the Bessi in Thrace. Later Strabo, provides a record in which the Bessi [3] are described as the fiercest [4] of the independent Thracian tribes, dwelling on and around the Haemus range, and possessing the greater part of the area around that mountain chain. He calls them brigands among brigands and that they were addicted to plunder. [5]

Proconsul governor of a province in the Roman republic

A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome who acted on behalf of a consul. A proconsul was typically a former consul. The term is also used in recent history for officials with delegated authority.

Macedonia (Roman province) Roman province

The Roman province of Macedonia was officially established in 146 BC, after the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon, the last self-styled King of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia in 148 BC, and after the four client republics established by Rome in the region were dissolved. The province incorporated ancient Macedonia, with the addition of Epirus, Thessaly, and parts of Illyria, Paeonia and Thrace. This created a much larger administrative area, to which the name of 'Macedonia' was still applied. The Dardanians, to the north of the Paeonians, were not included, because they had supported the Romans in their conquest of Macedonia.

Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, younger brother of the more famous Lucius Licinius Lucullus, was a supporter of Lucius Cornelius Sulla and consul of ancient Rome in 73 BC. As proconsul of Macedonia in 72 BC, he defeated the Bessi in Thrace and advanced to the Danube and the west coast of the Black Sea. In addition, he was marginally involved in the Third Servile War.

Mommsen says the capital of the Bessi was Uscudama (now Edirne) in modern Turkey [6] but the real place seems to have been Bessapara, today Sinitovo near Pazardzhik, Bulgaria.

Mommsen is a surname, and may refer to one of a family of German historians, see Mommsen family:

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, located in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous strait and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city, but more central Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 per cent of the population.

Sinitevo is a village in Pazardzhik Municipality, Pazardzhik Province, western Bulgaria. As of 2005 the population was 2160. It is located at an altitude of 200 metres (660 ft) in a fertile agricultural region near the Maritsa river. The main products grown in the area include wheat, maize, peppers, while the most spread domestic animal is the sheep.

The Diobesi are thought to be a union of sorts between the Besai and the Dii. [7] Pliny the Elder reveals that there were several divisions of the Bessi. [8]

Diobesi is the name of a Thracian tribe. They are mentioned by Pliny the Elder.

Dii Thracian ethnic group

The Dii were an independent Thracian tribe, swordsmen, who lived among the foothills of Mount Rhodope in Thrace, and particularly in the east bank of Nestos, from the springs to the Nestos gorge. They often joined the ranks of organized armies as mercenaries or volunteers. Thucydides declared that they were the most warlike infantry in Sitalkes' army.

Pliny the Elder Roman military commander and writer

Pliny the Elder was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian.

Appian writes that they fearfully surrendered to Augustus. [9]

Augustus First emperor of the Roman Empire

Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who was the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

Towards the end of the 4th century, Nicetas the Bishop of Dacia brought the gospel to "those mountain wolves", the Bessi. Reportedly his mission was successful, and the worship of Dionysus and other Thracian gods was eventually replaced by Christianity.

Saint Nicetas was Bishop of Remesiana, present-day Bela Palanka in the Pirot District of modern Serbia, which was then in the Roman province of Dacia Mediterranea.

Dacia Ancient kingdom

In ancient geography, especially in Roman sources, Dacia was the land inhabited by the Dacians. The Greeks referred to them as the Getae and the Romans called them Daci.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures of Judaism, called Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.

A Thracian personal name Bessus (attested in Northern Montenegro along with other Thracian names such as Teres) is considered to have the same etymon as Bessi (Wilkes, 1982).

In the 11th century Strategikon text, Cecaumenos the Byzantine historian described the Vlachs from Thessaly (i.,e. the Aromanians of Great Wallachia) as being descendants of ancient Dacians and Bessi who invaded Greece from the area on the Danube, supposedly seeking revenge for the defeat inflicted to their ancestors by Trajan during the Dacian Wars.

Bessian monks in the Sinai

In 570, Antoninus Placentius said that in the valleys of Mount Sinai there was a monastery in which the monks spoke Greek, Latin, Syriac, Egyptian and Bessian.

The origin of the monasteries is explained in a mediaeval hagiography written by Simeon Metaphrastes, in Vita Sancti Theodosii Coenobiarchae in which he wrote that Saint Theodosius founded on the shore of the Dead Sea a monastery with four churches, in each being spoken a different language, among which Bessan was found. The place where the monasteries were founded was called "Cutila", which may be a Thracian name.

Further fate

Further fate of Thracians is a matter of dispute. Some authors like Schramm derived the Albanians from the Christian Bessi, or Bessians, an early Thracian people who were pushed westwards into Albania, [10] while mainstream of historians support Illyrian-Albanian [11] [12] [13] [14] continuity.

See also

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  1. Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898),"(Bessoi). A people of Thrace dwelling in a district known as Bessica, between Mount Rhodopé and the northern part of the river Hebrus."
  2. Herodotus, The Histories,7.111.1,"CXI. The Satrae, as far as we know, have never yet been subject to any man; they alone of the Thracians have continued living in freedom to this day; they dwell on high mountains covered with forests of all kinds and snow, and they are excellent warriors. [2] It is they who possess the place of divination sacred to Dionysus. This place is in their highest mountains; the Bessi, a clan of the Satrae, are the prophets of the shrine; there is a priestess who utters the oracle, as at Delphi; it is no more complicated here than there.1 ,Hdt. appears to mean that the method of divination is the “usual” one, as at Delphi; perhaps there were exaggerated accounts of the mysterious rites of the Bessi."
  3. Plin. Nat. 4.18,"Thrace now follows, divided into fifty strategies1, and to be reckoned among the most powerful nations of Europe. Among its peoples whom we ought not to omit to name are the Denseletæ and the Medi, dwelling upon the right bank of the Strymon, and joining up to the Bisaltæ above2 mentioned; on the left there are the Digerri and a number of tribes of the Bessi"
  4. The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms) by Christopher Webber and Angus McBride, ISBN   1-84176-329-2, 2001, page 15: "... of the Emperor Augustus) who returned the favour, defeating the Bessi when they attacked Macedonia. This tribe must have impressed the Romans, as they took to calling all Thracians `Bessi'; they wrote it down as the tribe of origin ..."
  5. Strabo, Geography,Strab. 7.5,"Then come the peoples who live in the neighborhood of the Haemus Mountain and those who live at its base and extend as far as the Pontus—I mean the Coralli, the Bessi, and some of the Medi92 and Dantheletae. Now these tribes are very brigandish themselves, but the Bessi, who inhabit the greater part of the Haemus Mountain, are called brigands even by the brigands. The Bessi live in huts and lead a wretched life; and their country borders on Mount Rhodope, on the country of the Paeonians, and on that of two Illyrian peoples—the Autariatae, and the Dardanians."
  6. The History of Rome, Volume 4 by Theodor Mommsen , 2009, page 53: "... defeated the Bessi in their mountains, took their capital Uscudama (Adrianople), and compelled them to submit to the Roman supremacy
  7. The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 2: The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries BC by John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, E. Sollberger, and N. G. L. Hammond , ISBN   0-521-22717-8,1992,page 607: "The existence of a tribe called Diobessi (Plin.Loc.Cit.) links together ethnically the Bessi and the Dii"
  8. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History,4.18,"Thrace now follows, divided into fifty strategies1, and to be reckoned among the most powerful nations of Europe. Among its peoples whom we ought not to omit to name are the Denseletæ and the Medi, dwelling upon the right bank of the Strymon, and joining up to the Bisaltæ above2 mentioned; on the left there are the Digerri and a number of tribes of the Bessi3, with various names, as far as the river Mestus4, which winds around the foot of Mount Pan- gæum5, passing among the Elethi, the Diobessi6, the Carbilesi; and then the Brysæ, the Sapæi, and the Odomanti."
  9. Appian, Illyrian Wars,Horace White, Ed.,App. Ill. 4," From these tribes he exacted the tributes they had been failing to pay. When these were conquered, the Hippasini and the Bessi, neighboring tribes, were overcome by fear and surrendered themselves to him"
  10. 1994 Gottfried Schramm: A New Approach to Albanian History
  11. Indo-European language and culture: an introduction By Benjamin W. Fortson Edition: 5, illustrated Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2004 ISBN   1-4051-0316-7, ISBN   978-1-4051-0316-9
  12. Stipčević, Alexander. Iliri (2nd edition). Zagreb, 1989 (also published in Italian as "Gli Illiri")
  13. NGL Hammond The Relations of Illyrian Albania with the Greeks and the Romans. In Perspectives on Albania, edited by Tom Winnifrith, St. Martin’s Press, New York 1992
  14. "Johann Thunmann: On the History and Language of the Albanians and Vlachs"