Abydos (Hellespont)

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Ἄβυδος (in Ancient Greek)
Abydos (Hellespont) is located in Turkey
Abydos (Hellespont)
Shown within Turkey
Location Çanakkale, Çanakkale Province, Turkey
Region Mysia
Coordinates 40°11′43″N 26°24′18″E / 40.19528°N 26.40500°E / 40.19528; 26.40500Coordinates: 40°11′43″N 26°24′18″E / 40.19528°N 26.40500°E / 40.19528; 26.40500
Type Settlement

Abydos (Ancient Greek: Ἄβυδος) or Abydus, was an ancient city in Mysia in northwestern Asia Minor, near the modern city of Çanakkale (Turkey). It is located on the Nara Burnu promontory, on the Asian coast of the Hellespont. As a result, the city was historically one of the main crossing points of the straits to Europe, until its abandonment following the Turkish conquest in the 14th century.

In Greek mythology, Abydos is presented in the myth of Hero and Leander as the home of Leander.[1] The city is also mentioned in Rodanthe and Dosikles, a novel written by Theodore Prodromos, a 12th-century Byzantine writer, in which Dosikles kidnaps Rodanthe at Abydos.[2]


Classical period[edit]

Abydos is mentioned in the Iliad as a Trojan ally,[3] and, according to Strabo, was occupied by Thracians after the Trojan War.[4] Abydos was settled by Milesian colonists contemporaneously with the foundation of the cities of Priapos and Prokonnesos in c. 670 BC.[5] Strabo related that Gyges, King of Lydia, granted his consent to the Milesians to settle Abydos.[4] Abydos was ruled by Daphnis, a pro-Persian tyrant, in the 520s BC,[6] but was occupied by the Persian Empire in 514.[3] The Persian ruler Darius I destroyed the city following his Scythian campaign in 512.[6] In 480, at the onset of the Second Persian invasion of Greece, Xerxes I and the Persian army passed through Abydos on their march to Greece.[3]

The environs of Abydos in Antiquity

After the failed Persian invasion, Abydos became a member of the Athenian-led Delian League,[3] and was part of the Hellespontine district.[6] Ostensibly an ally, Abydos was hostile to Athens throughout this time.[4] During the Second Peloponnesian War, a Spartan expedition led by Dercylidas arrived at Abydos in early May 411 BC and successfully convinced the city to defect from the Delian League and fight against Athens,[7] at which time he was made harmost (commander/governor) of Abydos.[8] Abydos was attacked by the Athenians in the winter of 409/408 BC, but was repelled by a Persian force led by Pharnabazus, satrap (governor) of Hellespontine Phrygia.[9] Dercylidas held the office of harmost of Abydos until at least c. 407.[8]

According to Aristotle, Abydos had an oligarchic constitution at this time.[6] At the beginning of the Corinthian War in 394 BC, Agesilaus II, King of Sparta, passed through Abydos into Thrace.[10] Abydos remained an ally of Sparta throughout the war and Dercylidas served as harmost of the city from 394 until he was replaced by Anaxibius in c. 390. The latter was killed in an ambush near Abydos by the Athenian general Iphicrates in c. 389/388.[10] At the conclusion of the Corinthian War, under the terms of the Peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC, Abydos was annexed to the Persian Empire.[4]

In c. 360 BC, the city came under the control of the tyrant Iphiades.[6] Abydos remained under Persian control until it was seized by a Macedonian army led by Parmenion, a general of Alexander the Great, in the spring of 336 BC.[11] In 335, whilst Parmenion besieged the city of Pitane, Abydos was besieged by a Persian army led by Memnon of Rhodes, forcing Parmenion to abandon his siege of Pitane and march north to relieve Abydos.[12] Alexander ferried across from Sestos to Abydos in 334 and travelled south to the city of Troy, after which he returned to Abydos.[11] The following day, Alexander left Abydos and led his army north to Percote.[11] Alexander later established a royal mint at Abydos, as well as at other cities in Asia Minor.[13]

In 302, during the Fourth War of the Diadochi, Lysimachus, King of Thrace, crossed over into Asia Minor and invaded the kingdom of Antigonus I.[14] Unlike the neighbouring cities of Parium and Lampsacus which surrendered, Abydos resisted Lysimachus and was besieged.[14] Lysimachus was forced to abandon the siege, however, after the arrival of a relief force sent by Demetrius, son of King Antigonus I.[14]

Hellenistic tetradrachm of Abydos, with the legend ΑΒΥΔΗΝΩΝ ("of the Abydenes")

During the Second Macedonian War, Abydos was besieged by Philip V, King of Macedonia, in 200 BC,[15] during which many of its citizens chose to commit suicide rather than surrender.[16] Ultimately, the city was forced to surrender to Philip V due to a lack of reinforcements.[15] The Macedonian occupation ended after the Peace of Flamininus at the end of the war in 196 BC.[15] At this time, Abydos was substantially depopulated and partially ruined as a result of the Macedonian occupation.[17] In the spring of 196 BC, Abydos was seized by Antiochus III, Megas Basileus of the Seleucid Empire,[18] who refortified the city in 192/191 BC.[10]

Under the Eastern Roman Empire, the city was administered by an komes ton Stenon (count of the Straits) or an archon, and was the centre for customs collection at the southern entrance of the Sea of Marmara.[19] In the 6th century AD, Emperor Justinian I introduced the office of komes with responsibility for collecting customs duty in Abydos.[19]

Medieval period[edit]

As a result of the administrative reforms of the 7th century, Abydos came to be administered as part of the theme of Opsikion.[20] The office of kommerkiarios of Abydos is first attested in the mid-7th century, and was later sometimes combined with the office of paraphylax, the military governor of the fort, introduced in the 8th century, at which time the office of komes ton stenon is last mentioned.[21]

After the 7th century AD, Abydos became a major seaport.[22] Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik, during his campaign against Constantinople, crossed over into Thrace at Abydos in July 717.[23] In 801, Empress Irene reduced commercial tariffs collected at Abydos.[19] Emperor Nikephoros I, Irene's successor, introduced a tax on slaves purchased beyond the city.[24] The city later also became part of the theme of the Aegean Sea and was the seat of a tourmarches.[21] In the early 11th century, Abydos became the seat of a separate command and the office of strategos (governor) of Abydos is first mentioned in 1004 with authority over the northern shore of the Hellespont and the islands of the Sea of Marmara.[21]

Abydos was sacked by an Arab fleet led by Leo of Tripoli in 904 AD whilst en route to Constantinople.[25] The great revolt of Bardas Phokas was defeated by Emperor Basil II at the Abydos in 989 AD.[26] In 992, the Venetians were granted reduced commercial tariffs at Abydos as a special privilege.[19] In 1024, a Rus' raid led by a certain Chrysocheir defeated the local commander at Abydos and proceeded to travel south through the Hellespont.[27] Following the Battle of Manzikert, Abydos was seized by the Seljuk Turks, but was recovered in 1086 AD.[28] In 1092/1093, the city was attacked by Tzachas, a Turkish pirate.[29] Emperor Manuel I Komnenos repaired Abydos' fortifications in the late 12th century.[21]

By the 13th century AD, the crossing from Lampsacus to Kallipolis had become more common and largely replaced the crossing from Abydos to Sestos.[30] During the Fourth Crusade, in 1204, the Venetians seized Abydos,[19] and, following the Sack of Constantinople and the formation of the Latin Empire later that year, Emperor Baldwin granted the land between Abydos to Adramyttium to his brother Henry of Flanders.[31] Henry of Flanders passed through Abydos on 11 November 1204 and continued his march to Adramyttium.[32] Abydos was seized by the Empire of Nicaea, a successor state of the Eastern Roman Empire, during its offensive in 1206-1207, but was reconquered by the Latin Empire in 1212-1213.[33] The city was later recovered by Emperor John III Vatatzes.[19] Abydos fell to the Ottoman Turks in the early 14th century.[21]

Ecclesiastical history[edit]

The bishopric of Abydus in the Roman province of Hellespontus appears in all the Notitiae Episcopatuum of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the mid-7th century until the time of Andronikos III Palaiologos (1341), first as a suffragan of Cyzicus and then from 1084 as a metropolitan see without suffragans. The earliest bishop mentioned in extant documents is Marcian, who signed the joint letter of the bishops of Hellespontus to Emperor Leo I the Thracian in 458, protesting about the murder of Proterius of Alexandria. A letter of Peter the Fuller (471–488) mentions a bishop of Abydus called Pamphilus. Ammonius signed the decretal letter of the Council of Constantinople in 518 against Severus of Antioch and others. Isidore was at the Third Council of Constantinople (680–681), John at the Trullan Council (692), Theodore at the Second Council of Nicaea (787). An unnamed bishop of Abydus was a counsellor of Emperor Nikephoros II in 969.[34][35] Abydos remained a metropolitan see until the city fell to the Turks in the 14th century.[21] The diocese remains a titular see of the Patriarchate of Constantinople today; since 2008, its holder is Kyrillos Katerelos.

In c. 1220, during the Latin occupation, the dioceses of Abydos and Madytos were united and placed under direct Papal authority.[36] No longer a residential bishopric, Abydus is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[37]


  1. ^ Hopkinson (2012)
  2. ^ Kazhdan & Wharton (1985), p. 202
  3. ^ a b c d Mitchell (2005)
  4. ^ a b c d Bean (1976), p. 5
  5. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (2004), p. 993
  6. ^ a b c d e Hansen & Nielsen (2004), p. 1003
  7. ^ Kagan (2013), p. 102
  8. ^ a b Hodkinson (2005)
  9. ^ Kagan (2013), p. 276
  10. ^ a b c Phang et al. (2016), p. 57
  11. ^ a b c Ashley (2004), p. 187
  12. ^ Freely (2010), pp. 55-56
  13. ^ Dmitriev (2011), p. 429
  14. ^ a b c Magie (2015), p. 89
  15. ^ a b c Jaques (2007), p. 4
  16. ^ Magie (2015), pp. 15-16
  17. ^ Grainger (2002), p. 70
  18. ^ Magie (2015), p. 17
  19. ^ a b c d e f ODB, "Abydos" (C. Foss), pp. 8–9
  20. ^ Lampakis (2008)
  21. ^ a b c d e f Nesbitt & Oikonomides (1996), pp. 73-74
  22. ^ ODB, "Ports" (A. Kazhdan), pp. 1706–1707
  23. ^ Venning & Harris (2006), p. 196
  24. ^ ODB, "Nikephoros I" (P. A. Hollingsworth), pp. 1476–1477
  25. ^ ODB, "Leo of Tripoli" (A. Kazhdan), p. 1216
  26. ^ Evans & Wixom (1997), p. 19
  27. ^ Wortley (2010), p. 347
  28. ^ Haldon & Davis (2002), p. 95
  29. ^ ODB, "Tzachas" (Ch. M. Brand), p. 2134
  30. ^ ODB, "Kallipolis" (A. Kazhdan), pp. 1094–1095
  31. ^ Van Tricht (2011), p. 106
  32. ^ Korobeinikov (2014), p. 54
  33. ^ Van Tricht (2011), pp. 109-110
  34. ^ Michel Lequien. Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus. Paris. 1740, Vol. I, coll. 773-776.
  35. ^ Sophrone Pétridès. v. Abydus, in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. I. Paris. 1909. coll. 209-210.
  36. ^ Van Tricht (2011), p. 328
  37. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2013. ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 821.