A territory in NW Asia Minor. Although much of the land is mountainous and covered with forest, the river Sangarius with its tributaries and the valleys that run back from the Propontis form fertile plains and provide easy communications. It was one of the richest regions of Asia Minor, possessing fine marble quarries and good harbours, and crossed by the main roads to the Anatolian plateau and to Pontus.
In 75/4 King Nicomedes IV bequeathed Bithynia to Rome. In organizing the province of Pontus and Bithynia in 63 Pompey divided the land between eleven cities for convenience in maintaining order and collecting taxes. Despite heavy exploitation by the publicani in the 1st cent. bc, which led to much land being transferred to Italian owners, the region became very prosperous under the Roman empire. Pontus and Bithynia was at first governed by proconsuls, but the importance of the highways to the eastern frontiers and to Syria and of the maritime connections in the Black (Euxine) Sea led imperial procurators to assume greater responsibilities than usual under the Julio‐Claudian emperors; and special imperial legates replaced proconsuls under Trajan and Hadrian. The conditions of city life in Bithynia in the early 2nd cent. ad are unusually well documented, with the correspondence of Pliny the Younger and Trajan c.ad 110 and the speeches of Dio Cocceianus revealing peculation by magistrates, unwise and extravagant building, and bitter rivalries between the cities. Foremost rivals were Nicomedia, the chief city, and Nicaea.
Subjects: Classical Studies — History.