(Θρᾴκη, Ion. Θρῄκη). In earlier times the name of the vast space of country bounded on the north by the Danube, on the south by the Propontis and the Aegaean, on the east by the Pontus Euxinus, and on the west by the river Strymon and the easternmost of the Illyrian tribes. It was divided into two parts by Mount Haemus (the Balkan), running from west to east, and separating the plain of the lower Danube from the rivers which fall into the Aegaean. Its plains are drained by the Hebrus, the largest river in Thrace. At a later time the name Thrace was applied to a more limited extent of country. The district between the Strymon and the Nestus was added to Macedonia by Philip, and was usually called Macedonia Adiecta. Under Augustus the part of the country north of the Haemus was made a separate Roman province under the name of Moesia (see Moesia); but the district between the Strymon and the Nestus had been previously restored to Thrace by the Romans. The Roman province of Thrace [p. 1575]
was accordingly bounded on the west by the river Nestus; on the north by Mount Haemus, which divided it from Moesia; on the east by the Euxine, and on the south by the Propontis and Aegean.
Thrace, in its widest extent, was peopled in the times of Herodotus and Thucydides by a vast number of different tribes; but their customs and characters were marked by great uniformity. Herodotus says that, next to the Indians, the Thracians were the most numerous of all races, and if united under one head would have been irresistible. He describes them as a savage, cruel, and rapacious people, delighting in blood, but brave and warlike. According to his account, which is confirmed by other writers, the Thracian chiefs sold their children for exportation to the foreign merchant; they purchased their wives from their parents; they punctured or tattooed their bodies and those of the women belonging to them, as a sign of noble birth; they despised agriculture, and considered it most honourable to live by war and robbery. Deep drinking prevailed among them extensively ( Hor. Carm.i. 27). They worshipped deities whom the Greeks assimilated to Ares, Dionysus, and Artemis: the great sanctuary and oracle of their god Dionysus was in one of the loftiest summits of Mount Rhodop. The tribes on the southern coast attained to some degree of civilization, owing to the numerous Greek colonies which were founded in their vicinity; but the tribes in the interior seem to have retained their savage habits, with little mitigation, down to the time of the Roman Empire. In earlier times, however, some of the Thracian tribes must have been distinguished by a higher degree of civilization than prevailed among them at a later period. The earliest Greek poets, Orpheus, Linus , Musaeus, and others, are all represented as coming from Thrace. Eumolpus, likewise, who founded the Eleusinian Mysteries at Attica, is said to have been a Thracian, and to have fought against Erectheus, king of Athens. We also find mention of the Thracians in other parts of southern Greece: thus they are said to have once dwelt both in Phocis and Boeotia. They were also spread over a part of Asia: the Thynians and Bithynians, and perhaps also the Mysians, were members of the great Thracian race. Even Xenophon speaks of Thrace in Asia, which extended along the Asiatic side of the Bosporus, as far as Heraclea.
The principal Greek colonies along the coast, beginning at the Strymon and going eastwards, were Amphipolis, at the mouth of the Strymon; Abdera, a little to the west of the Nestus; Dicaea or Dicaepolis, a settlement of Maronea; Maronea itself, colonized by the Chians; Strym, a colony of the Thasians; Mesembria, founded by the Samothracians; and Aenos, a Lesbian colony at the mouth of the Hebrus. The Thracian Chersonesus was probably colonized by the Greeks at an early period, but it did not contain any important Greek settlement till the migration of the first Miltiades to the country, during the reign of Pisistratus at Athens. On the Propontis the two chief Greek settlements were those of Perinthus and Selymbria; and on the Thracian Bosporus was the important town of Byzantium. There were only a few Greek settlements on the southwestern coast of the Euxine; the most important were those of Apollonia, Odessus, Callatis, Tomi, renowned as the place of Ovid's banishment, and Istria, near the southern mouth of the Danube.
The Thracians are said to have been conquered by Sesostris, king of Egypt, and subsequently to have been subdued by the Teucrians and Mysians; but the first really historical fact respecting them is their subjugation by Megabazus, the general of Darius. After the Persians had been driven out of Europe by the Greeks, the Thracians recovered their independence; and at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, almost all the Thracian tribes were united under the dominion of Sitalces, king of the Odrysae, whose kingdom extended from Abdera to the Euxine and the mouth of the Danube. In the third year of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 429), Sitalces, who had entered into an alliance with the Athenians, invaded Macedonia with a vast army of 150,000 men, but was compelled by the failure of provisions to return home, after remaining in Macedonia thirty days. Sitalces fell in battle against the Triballi in 424, and was succeeded by his nephew Seuthes, who during a long reign raised his kingdom to a height of power and prosperity which it had never previously attained, so that his regular revenues amounted to the annual sum of 400 talents, in addition to contributions of gold and silver in the form of presents, to a nearly equal amount. After the death of Seuthes, which appears to have happened a little before the close of the Peloponnesian War, we find his powerful kingdom split up into different parts; and when Xenophon, with the remains of the 10,000 Greeks, arrived on the opposite coast of Asia, another Senthes applied to him for assistance to reinstate him in his dominions. Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, reduced the greater part of Thrace; and after the death of Alexander the country fell to the share of Lysimachus. It subsequently formed a part of the Macedonian dominions, but it continued to be governed by its native princes, and was only nominally subject to the Macedonian monarchs. Even under the Romans Thrace was for a long time governed by its own chiefs; and we do not know at what period it was made into a Roman province.
See Eben, Die alten Thraker (1877); and Kalopothakes, De Thracia Provincia Romana (1893).