Although I am going to discuss
here about Thrace within Turkey, I also would like to give a description of
the proper Thrace as described by the ancient authors. Because ancient
Thrace covers much larger area including territories covered by today's
Balkan and Mediterranean countries, such as Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and
Borders of Thrace
Thrace, in broad sense, roughly
covers the area from Black Sea in the east to the river Vardar in the west
and from the river Danube in the north to the Aegean Sea in the south.
Thrace is bound by Pontus Euxinus (Black Sea), Bosporos Thrakios (Bosphorus
Strait), the Propontis (Marmara Sea), in the east, and by the rivers
Istros (Danube) and Axios (Vardar river) in the north and west, by the
Aegeus (Aegean Sea) and Dardanelles (Hellespont Strait). Just on the
heart of this ancient region is Edirne (ancient Hadrianopolis).
Sometime, the northern border is considered to be the Haimos (Balkan
mountains) and the western border as to be the river Strymon (Struma river).
Strabon in his book Geography explains
"In the area as far as
Strymon river live Macedons, Paions and some tribes of the Thracians, beyond
this point as far as Haimos mountains except the coastal area lives the
Strabo also says "when the
Romans extended and divided the territories in Macedonia into four portions,
the western border of Thrace became the river Hebros (Maritsa=Meric)".
Later when Thrace became a province, the western border was decided to be
the river Nestos (Mesta=Karasu).
The fertile and rich area to the east of Thrace which is bound by Pontus
Euxinus in the north, by Bosporos Thrakios on the east, by the Propontis Sea
on the south and by the line stretching from the town Salmydessus on the
coast of the Pontus Euxinus to the town Perinthus on the coast of the
Propontis sea, is called the Delta. This was well explained in the book of
Anabasis (Return of the ten thousand) by Xenophon. On the southern tip of
the Peninsula was the Chersonessos Thrakios (Chersonessos of Thrace) (Callipoli=Gelibolu
Peninsula), which was surrounded by the Dardanelles and the Propontis and by
the Bay of Melas (Saros) on the west.
Thrace has mountains to the north and south and large plains in between them.
Principal heights of the region are the Haimos (Balkan) mountains on the
north and Rhodope mountains on the south. Between these mountain chains lies
the large plain of Ergene. The mountain chain that runs along the Pontus
Euxinus whose ancient name is unknown is called Istranca, and was known to
the Romans as Mount Asticus after the Thracian tribe of Asts who settled
this area. On the south, along the Propontis Sea was the Ganos mountain
which was probably known to the ancients as Hieron Oros that means Sacred
The interiors of Thrace had a very cold climate. Xenophon mentions
with all the details, in his book Anabasis, the cold day he and his army
spent under a heavy snowstorm in the plain of Thyn in the neighborhood of
the town Perinthus.
"There was deep snow, and
cold so intense that the water brought in for dinner and the wine within the
jars froze; and many of the Hellenes had their noses and ears frost-bitten.
Now they came to understand why the Thracians wear fox-skin caps on their
heads and about their ears; and why, on the same principle, they are frocked
not only about the chest and bust but so as to cover the loins and thighs as
well; and why on horseback they envelop themselves in long shawls which
reach down to the feet, instead of the ordinary short rider's cloak".
Ancient writers describe Thrace
as open to the northern winds, covered by a dense forest and not suitable
for human inhabitation. Thrace was covered by the forest on the mountains to
the north and south and by the steppes in the large flat plain.
The main river in Thrace was Istros (Danuvios=Danube) which flew from the
interiors of Europe into the Pontus Euxinus. There were many other streams
flowing in the north-south direction, pouring their waters into the Istros
river, To name these smaller rivers, from west to east, Margos (Morava),
Timacos (Timoka), Almos (Lom), Ciabros (Cibrica), Augusta (Ogosta), Oskios (Oeskos=Iskar),
Utus (Vit),Asamos (Osam),Athyris (Iteros=Jantra). Further east, Aksios
(Vardar) fed by the waters of smaller streams of Astibos (Bregalnica), and
Erigon (Cerna), east and northeast of Vardar are Strymon (Struma) and Nestos
In the south, and middle of the region ran the Hebros (Maritsa=Meric) river
to which the streams of Tonzos (Tunca), Ardeskos (Arda) and Agrianes (Ergines=Ergene)
joined. Agrianes had also smaller streams joining it, Arzos (Corlu Stream),
Tearos and Kontadestos. There were also Apsinthos (Derbent), Melas which ran
into the bay of Melas whose name came from the river, Athyra (Cekmece) which
flew into the Propontis Sea, and both rivers of Cydaris (Alibey) and
Barbyses (Kagithane) flew into the Golden Horn in Istanbul.
In the Chersonessos (Callipolis=Galliopli) region was the Aigos Potamois
stream that emptied its waters into the Dardanelles (Hellespont). Near this
Aigos Potamois was the place where the decisive naval battle between the
Athenians and Spartans took place in 405 BCE.
Thrace is not rich in lakes. There are some lakes but not of great size.
In the eastern half are Phileitinios (Delcius=Terkos) near Istanbul, and
Stentoris at the mouth of the river Hebros. In fact , Stentoris was a lagoon
formed by Hebros, and Herodotus mentions of Stentoris as a lake.