French illustration of Nicomedia, 1882
Nicomedia ( // ; Greek : Νικομήδεια, Nikomedeia; modern İzmit) was an ancient Greek city located in what is now Turkey. In 286 Nicomedia became the eastern and most senior capital city of the Roman Empire (chosen by Diocletian who assumed the title Augustus of the East), a status which the city maintained during the Tetrarchy system (293–324).
The Tetrarchy ended with the Battle of Chrysopolis (Üsküdar) in 324, when Constantine defeated Licinius and became the sole emperor. In 330 Constantine chose for himself the nearby Byzantium (which was renamed Constantinople, modern Istanbul) as the new capital of the Roman Empire.
The city was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire with the victory of Sultan Orhan Gazi against the Eastern Roman Empire.
It was founded in 712/11 BC as a Megarian colony and was originally known as Astacus ( // ; Ancient Greek: Ἀστακός, "lobster"). After being destroyed by Lysimachus, it was rebuilt by Nicomedes I of Bithynia in 264 BC under the name of Nicomedia, and has ever since been one of the most important cities in northwestern Asia Minor. The great military commander Hannibal Barca came to Nicomedia in his final years and committed suicide in nearby Libyssa (Diliskelesi, Gebze). The historian Arrian was born there.
Nicomedia was the metropolis and capital of the Roman province of Bithynia under the Roman Empire. It is referenced repeatedly in Pliny the Younger's Epistles to Trajan during his tenure as governor of Bithynia.Pliny, in his letters, mentions several public buildings of the city such as a senate-house, an aqueduct, a forum, a temple of Cybele, and others, and speaks of a great fire, during which the place suffered much. Diocletian made it the eastern capital city of the Roman Empire in 286 when he introduced the Tetrarchy system.
Nicomedia was at the center of the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians which occurred under Diocletian and his Caesar Galerius. On 23 February 303 AD, the pagan festival of the Terminalia, Diocletian ordered that the newly built church at Nicomedia be razed, its scriptures burnt, and its precious stones seized.The next day he issued his "First Edict Against the Christians," which ordered similar measures to be taken at churches across the Empire.
The destruction of the Nicomedia church incited panic in the city, and at the end of the month a fire destroyed part of Diocletian's palace, followed 16 days later by another fire.Although an investigation was made into the cause of the fires, no party was officially charged, but Galerius placed the blame on the Christians. He oversaw the execution of two palace eunuchs, who he claimed conspired with the Christians to start the fire, followed by six more executions through the end of April 303. Soon after Galerius declared Nicomedia to be unsafe and ostentatiously departed the city for Rome, followed soon after by Diocletian.
Nicomedia remained as the eastern (and most senior) capital of the Roman Empire until co-emperor Licinius was defeated by Constantine the Great at the Battle of Chrysopolis (Üsküdar) in 324. Constantine mainly resided in Nicomedia as his interim capital city for the next six years, until in 330 he declared the nearby Byzantium (which was renamed Constantinople) the new capital. Constantine died in a royal villa in the vicinity of Nicomedia in 337. Owing to its position at the convergence of the Asiatic roads leading to the new capital, Nicomedia retained its importance even after the foundation of Constantinople.
A major earthquake, however, on 24 August 358, caused extensive devastation to Nicomedia, and was followed by a fire which completed the catastrophe. Nicomedia was rebuilt, but on a smaller scale.In the sixth century under Emperor Justinian I the city was extended with new public buildings. Situated on the roads leading to the capital, the city remained a major military center, playing an important role in the Byzantine campaigns against the Caliphate. From inscriptions we learn that in the later period of the empire Nicomedia enjoyed the honour of a Roman colony.
In 451, the local bishopric was promoted to a Metropolitan see under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.The metropolis of Nicomedia was ranked 7th in the Notitiae Episcopatuum among the metropolises of the patriarchate. In the eighth century the Emperor Constantine V established his court there for a time, when plague broke out in Constantinople and drove him from his capital in 746–47. From the 840s on, Nicomedia was the capital of the thema of the Optimatoi . By that time, most of the old, seawards city had been abandoned and is described by the Persian geographer Ibn Khurdadhbih as lying in ruins, with settlement restricted to the hilltop citadel. In the 1080s, the city served as the main military base for Alexios I Komnenos in his campaigns against the Seljuk Turks, and the First and Second Crusades both encamped there.
The city was briefly held by the Latin Empire following the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade in 1204: in late 1206 the seneschal Thierry de Loos made it his base, converting the church of Saint Sophia into a fortress; however, the Crusader stronghold was subjected to constant raids by the Emperor of Nicaea Theodore I Laskaris, during which de Loos was captured by Nicaean soldiers; by the summer of 1207 Emperor Henry of Flanders agreed to evacuate Nicomedia in exchange for de Loos and other prisoners Emperor Theodore held.The city remained in Byzantine control for over a century after that, but following the Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Bapheus in 1302, it was threatened by the rising Ottoman beylik. The city was twice sieged and blockaded by the Ottomans (in 1304 and 1330) before finally succumbing in 1337.
During the Empire, Nicomedia was a cosmopolitan and commercially prosperous city which received all the amenities appropriate for a major Roman city. Nicomedia was well known for having a bountiful water supply from two to three aqueducts,one of which was built in Hellenistic times. Pliny the Younger complains in his Epistulae to Trajan, written in 110 AD, that the Nicomedians wasted 3,518,000 sesterces on an unfinished aqueduct which twice ran into engineering troubles. Trajan instructs him to take steps to complete the aqueduct, and to investigate possible official corruption behind the large waste of money. Under Trajan, there was also a large Roman garrison. Other public amenities included a theatre, a colonnaded street typical of Hellenistic cities and a forum.
The major religious shrine was a temple of Demeter, which stood in a sacred precinct on a hill above the harbor.The city adopted official cults of Rome avidly, there were temples dedicated to the Emperor Commodus, a sacred precinct of the city dedicated to Octavian, and a temple of Roma dedicated during the late-Republic.
The city was sacked in AD 253 by the Goths, but when Diocletian made the city his capital in 283 AD he undertook grand restorations and built an enormous palace, an armory, mint and new shipyards.
The ruins of Nicomedia are buried beneath the densely populated modern city of İzmit, which has largely obstructed comprehensive excavation. Before the urbanization of the 20th century occurred, select ruins of the Roman-era city could be seen, most prominently sections of the Roman defensive walls which surrounded the city and multiple aqueducts which once supplied Nicomedia's water. Other monuments include the foundations of a 2nd-century AD marble nymphaeum on İstanbul street, a large cistern in the city's Jewish cemetery, and parts of the harbor wall.
The 1999 İzmit earthquake, which seriously damaged most of the city, also led to major discoveries of ancient Nicomedia during the subsequent debris clearing. A wealth of ancient statuary was uncovered, including statues of Hercules, Athena, Diocletian and Constantine.
In the years after the earthquake, the Izmit Provincial Cultural Directorate appropriated small areas for excavation, including the site identified as Diocletian's Palace and a nearby Roman theatre. In April 2016 a more extensive excavation of the palace was begun under the supervision of the Kocaeli Museum, which estimated that the site covers 60,000 square meters (196,850 square feet).
Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great, was a Roman emperor from 306 to 337. Born in Naissus, Dacia Mediterranea, he was the son of Flavius Constantius, an Illyrian army officer who became one of the four emperors of the Tetrarchy. His mother, Helena, was Greek and of low birth. Constantine served with distinction under emperors Diocletian and Galerius campaigning in the eastern provinces against barbarians and the Persians, before being recalled west in 305 to fight under his father in Britain. After his father's death in 306, Constantine was acclaimed as emperor by the army at Eboracum (York). He emerged victorious in the civil wars against emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of the Roman Empire by 324.
Diocletian was a Roman emperor from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become a cavalry commander of the Emperor Carus's army. After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor. The title was also claimed by Carus's surviving son, Carinus, but Diocletian defeated him in the Battle of the Margus.
The Tetrarchy is the term adopted to describe the system of government of the ancient Roman Empire instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire. The government of the empire was divided between the two senior emperors, the augusti, and their juniors and designated successors, the caesares.
The 300s decade ran from January 1, 300, to December 31, 309.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient Rome:
Theodore I Laskaris or Lascaris was the first Emperor of Nicaea—a successor state of the Byzantine Empire—from 1205 to his death. Although he was born to an obscure Byzantine aristocratic family, his mother was related to the imperial Komnenos clan. He married a younger daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos in 1200. He received the title of despot before 1203, demonstrating his right to succeed his father-in-law on the throne.
Galerius was Roman emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign he campaigned, aided by Diocletian, against the Sassanid Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 299. He also campaigned across the Danube against the Carpi, defeating them in 297 and 300. Although he was a staunch opponent of Christianity, Galerius ended the Diocletianic Persecution when he issued an Edict of Toleration in Serdica in 311.
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, and the Black Sea. It bordered Mysia to the southwest, Paphlagonia to the northeast along the Pontic coast, and Phrygia to the southeast towards the interior of Asia Minor.
Nicaea or Nicea was an ancient Greek city in northwestern Anatolia and is primarily known as the site of the First and Second Councils of Nicaea, the Nicene Creed, and as the capital city of the Empire of Nicaea following the Fourth Crusade in 1204, until the recapture of Constantinople by the Byzantines in 1261.
The Latin Empire, also referred to as the Latin Empire of Constantinople, was a feudal Crusader state founded by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantine Empire. The Latin Empire was intended to replace the Byzantine Empire as the Western-recognized Roman Empire in the east, with a Catholic emperor enthroned in place of the Eastern Orthodox Roman emperors.
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period. The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becoming "emperor" in English, it reflects his taking of the title Augustus or Caesar. Another title often used was imperator, originally a military honorific. Early emperors also used the title Princeps Civitatis. Emperors frequently amassed republican titles, notably princeps senatus, consul and pontifex maximus.
The Empire of Nicaea or the Nicene Empire is the conventional historiographic name for the largest of the three Byzantine Greek rump states founded by the aristocracy of the Byzantine Empire that fled after Constantinople was occupied by Western European and Venetian forces during the Fourth Crusade. Like the Empire of Trebizond and the Empire of Thessalonica, it claimed to be the continuation of the Roman Empire.
Gulf of İzmit, also referred to as Izmit Bay, is a bay at the easternmost edge of the Sea of Marmara, in Kocaeli Province, Turkey. Its ancient names were Gulf of Astacus, Sinus Astacenus, Olbianus Sinus and Gulf of Nicomedia.
Helenopolis or Drepana (Δρέπανα) or Drepanon (Δρέπανον) was an ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine town and bishopric in Bithynia, Asia Minor, on the southern side of the Gulf of Astacus. It has been identified with the modern village of Hersek, in the district of Altınova, Yalova Province. It is traditionally considered as the birthplace of Saint Helena.
Germanicopolis was an ancient town in Bithynia, also known as Caesarea in Bythinia (not to be confused with Caesarea Germanica, as such a former bishopric and present Latin Catholic titular see.
Byzantium under the Constantinian and Valentinianic dynasties was the earliest period of the Byzantine history that saw a shift in government from Rome in the west to Constantinople in the East within the Roman Empire under emperor Constantine the Great and his successors. Constantinople, formally named Nova Roma, was founded in the city of Byzantium, which is the origin of the historiographical name for the Eastern Empire, which self-identified simply as the "Roman Empire".
Astacus is an ancient city in Bithynia; it was also called Olbia. Stephanus of Byzantium records an aetiological myth that it was founded by Astacus, son of Poseidon and the nymph Olbia.
The Metropolis of Nicomedia was an ecclesiastical territory (metropolis) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in northwestern Asia Minor, modern Turkey. Christianity spread in Nicomedia already in the 1st century AD. Following the capture of the city by the Ottoman Turks in the early 14th century, the metropolitan see remained for a period vacant. The metropolis was re-established during the 15th century and remained active until the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1922–1923.
İzmit, known as Nicomedia in antiquity, is a district and the capital of Kocaeli province, Turkey. It is located at the Gulf of İzmit in the Sea of Marmara, about 100 km (62 mi) east of Istanbul, on the northwestern part of Anatolia. The city center has a population of 300,611. The population of the province is 1,459,772. Unlike other provinces in Turkey, apart from Istanbul, the whole province is included within the municipality of the metropolitan center.
The Metropolis of Nicaea, was an ecclesiastical province of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the city of Nicaea in the province of Bithynia. A prestigious see due to its proximity to the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, and the location of two Ecumenical Councils in 325 and 787, the metropolitan see of Nicaea remained important until its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1331. The Christian element in the diocese diminished rapidly after that, with the flight of the Greek population and the Islamization of the remainder. As a result, the seat of the diocese was moved to Cius. The metropolis remained active until the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the early 1920s. It remains a titular see of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as well as being, since the mid-15th century, a titular archbishopric of the Roman Catholic Church.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Smith, William, ed. (1854–1857). "Nicomedeia". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography . London: John Murray.