Byzas

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Coinage with idealized depiction of Byzas, founder of Byzantium. Struck in Byzantium, Thrace, around the time of Marcus Aurelius (161–180 CE).

In Greek mythology, Byzas (Greek: Βύζας) was the eponymous founder of Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον), the city later known as Constantinople and Istanbul.

Byzas Founder of Byzantium[edit]

Byzantion was an ancient Greek colony, on the ruins of which the city of Constantinople was built. The founder of Byzantion, Byzas, was son of king Nisos of Megara. According to the Greek mythology, Byzas was son of Poseidon and his mother Keroessa was daughter of Io and Zeus. During the 7th century the Greek city-states were expanding, establishing new colonies. Part of this endeavor, the Dorian city-state of Megara, located near Athens, was also searching for sites to set up yet another colony. After asking the oracle of Delphi, the Megarean king Nisos sent his son Byzas in search of "the land opposite the city of the blind". When Byzas arrived at the point where the sea of Marmaras meets the sea of Bosporos, on the border of Europe and Asia, he realized the meaning of the oracle. On the Asiatic shore opposite to where he was, a colony named Chalcedon had already been established. Byzas decided that the city of Chalcedon was the prophesied 'city of the blind' as they had not taken advantage of the European shore. To build his own city, in 667 BC, Byzas chose wisely. He selected the European shore of the south end of Bosporos and gave the new city his name, Byzantion. Later on, Byzas married Fidalea, daughter of king Varvizos (or Varvisios) of Thrace. The inhabitants of ancient Byzantion considered Byzas as their founder and according to ancient sources, to honor him they had raised a statue of Byzas and his wife Fidalea at a noticeable spot of their city. The ancients had a very good understanding of the advantages Byzantion had over Chalcedon, as the colony of Byzantion was commanding the entrance to two seas, the entrance to the Black Sea through Bosporos and to the Aegean Sea through the sea of Marmaras or Propondis, as is its ancient name. Apart from the story of the Pythian oracle of Appolonian Delfi, as described by the Greek geographer and historian Strabo (63 BC - 23 AD), as well as by the Latin historian Tacitus (1st century AD), there are other versions of the maxim referring to the “blind people”. The Greek historian Herodotos (5th century BC) wrote that when the Persian general Megabazos arrived at Byzantium he called the people of Chalcedon blind because although they had a choice of sites they chose the worse.

References[edit]

A.A.Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire, Univ. Of Wisconsin Press, Vol.I, p.57, 58

Afrodite Kamaras, EHW, 2008, Byzas (URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=10948>)

Alexander Kazhdan, The Oxford Dictionary Of Byzantium, Oxford Un.Press, print publication 1991, online version 2005, Vol.I, entry "Byzantion"

Herodotos, Ιστορίαι, Histories, Book D, 6.33

Strabo, Γεωγραφικά, Geography, 7.6

Procopios, Περί Κτισμάτων, De aedificiis, Α.5

References[edit]