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Amasra is a small Black Sea port town in the Bartın Province, Turkey, formerly known as Amastris. Pliny has also mentioned it as Sesamon. [1]


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The Amasra town today is much appreciated for its beaches and natural setting, which has made tourism the most important activity for its inhabitants. Amasra has two islands: the bigger one is called Büyük ada ('Great Island'), the smaller one Tavşan adası ('Rabbit Island'). It was annexed by the Ottoman Empire after the Siege of Amasra.


Situated in the ancient region of Paphlagonia, the original city seems to have been called Sesamus (Greek: Σήσαμος), and it is mentioned by Homer[2] in conjunction with Cytorus. Stephanus[3] says that it was originally called Cromna (Ancient Greek: Κρῶμνα); but in another place,[4] where he repeats the statement, he adds, as it is said; but some say that Cromna is a small place in the territory of Amastris, which is the true account. The place derived its name Amastris from Amastris, the niece of the last Persian king Darius III, who was the wife of Dionysius, tyrant of Heraclea, and after his death the wife of Lysimachus. Four small Ionian colonies, Sesamus, Cytorus, Cromna, also mentioned in the Iliad,[5] and Tium, were combined by Amastris, after her separation from Lysimachus,[6] to form the new community of Amastris, placed on a small river of the same name and occupying a peninsula.[7] According to Strabo, Tium soon detached itself from the community, but the rest kept together, and Sesamus was the acropolis of Amastris. From this it appears that Amastris was really a confederation or union of three places, and that Sesamus was the name of the city on the peninsula. This may explain the fact that Mela[8] mentions Sesamus and Cromna as cities of Paphlagonia, while omitting Amastris.[9]

The territory of Amastris produced a great quantity of boxwood, which grew on the nearby Mount Cytorus. Its tyrant Eumenes presented the city of Amastris to Ariobarzanes of Pontus in c. 265–260 BC rather than submit it to domination by Heraclea, and it remained in the Pontic kingdom until its capture by Lucius Lucullus in 70 BC in the second Mithridatic War.[10] The younger Pliny, when he was governor of Bithynia and Pontus, describes Amastris, in a letter to Trajan,[11] as a handsome city, with a very long open place (platea), on one side of which extended what was called a river, but in fact was a filthy, pestilent, open drain. Pliny obtained the emperor's permission to cover over this sewer. On a coin of the time of Trajan, Amastris has the title Metropolis. It continued to be a town of some note to the seventh century of our era. From Amasra got its name an important place of Constantinople, the Amastrianum. Arrian writes that the Amastris was a Greek city, which had a port for ships. He also adds that it was 90 stadia from the river Parthenius and 60 stadia from the Erythini[12]

The city was not abandoned in the Byzantine Era, when the acropolis was transformed into a fortress and the still surviving church was built. It was sacked by the Rus during the First Russo-Byzantine War in the 830s. Speros Vryonis states that in the 9th century a "combination of local industry, trade, and the produce of its soil made Amastris one of the more prosperous towns on the Black Sea."[13] In the 13th century Amastris exchanged hands several times, first becoming a possession of the Empire of Trebizond in 1204,[14] then at some point in the next ten years being captured by the Seljuk Turks, until finally in 1261, in her bid to monopolize the Black Sea trade, the town came under the control of the Republic of Genoa. Genoese domination ended when the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered the whole Anatolian shores of the Black Sea.[15]

The ancient Greek writer Myronianus (Ancient Greek: Μυρωνιανὸς), was from the Amastris.[16]

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[17] mentions....Beyond this river begins the nation of Paphlagonia1, by some writers called Pylæmenia2; it is closed in behind by the country of Galatia. In it are Mastya3, a town founded by the Milesians, and then Cromna4, at which spot Cornelius Nepos also places the Heneti5, from whom he would have us believe that the Veneti of Italy, who have a similar name, are descended. The city also of Sesamon, now called Amastris6, Mount Cytorus7, distant sixty-three miles from Tium, the towns of Cimolis8 and Stephane9, and the river Parthenius.10

1 Paphlagonia was bounded by Bithynia on the west, and by Pontus on the east, being separated from the last by the river Halys; on the south it was divided by the chain of Mount Olympus from Phrygia in the earlier times, from Galatia at a later period; and on the north it bordered on the Euxine.

2 In the Homeric catalogue we find Pylæmenes leading the Paphlagonians as allies of the Trojans; from this Pylæmenes the later princes of Paphlagonia claimed their descent, and the country was sometimes from them called Pylæmenia.

3 Suspected by Hardouin to have been the same as the Moson or Moston mentioned by Ptolemy as in Galatia.

4 It is mentioned by Homer, Il. ii. 855, as situate on the coast of Paphlagonia.

5 Strabo also, in B. xii., says that these people afterwards established themselves in Thrace, and that gradually moving to the west, they finally settled in the Italian Venetia, which from them took its name. But in his Fourth Book he says that the Veneti of Italy owe their origin to the Gallic Veneti, who came from the neighbourhood known as the modern Vannes.

6 This city, ninety stadia east of the river Parthenius, occupied a peninsula, and on each side of the isthmus was a harbour. The original city, as here mentioned, seems to have had the name of Sesamus or Sesamum, and it is spoken of by that name in Homer, Il. ii. 853, in conjunction with Cytorus. The territory of Amastris was famous for its growth of the best box-wood, which grew on Mount Cytorus. The present Amasra or Hanasserall occupies its site.

7 See the last Note.

8 Otherwise called "Cinolis." There is a place called Kinla or Kinoglu in the maps, about half-way between Kerempeh and Sinope, which is the Kinuli of Abulfeda, and probably the Cirolis or Cimolis of the Greek geographers.

9 The modern Estefan or Stefanos.

10 Now known by the name of Bartin, a corruption of its ancient appellation.


  2. Homer, Iliad, ii. 853
  3. Stephanus, Ethnica, s.v. "Amastris"
  4. Stephanus, Ethnica, s.v. "Cromna"
  5. Homer, ii. 855
  6. Memnon, History of Heraclea, 5, 9
  7. Strabo, Geography, xii. 3
  8. Pomponius Mela, De chorographia, i. 93
  9. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, vi. 2
  10. Appian, The Foreign Wars, "The Mithridatic Wars", 82
  11. Pliny the Younger, Letters, x. 99
  12. Arrian, Periplus of the Euxine Sea, § 20
  13. Vryonis, The decline of medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor: and the process of Islamization from the eleventh through the fifteenth century, (Berkeley: University of California, 1971), p. 14
  14. Anthony Bryer, "David Komnenos and Saint Eleutherios", Archeion Pontou, 42 (1988-1989), p. 179
  15. Franz Babinger dates the conquest to autumn of 1460, although Halil İnalcık would date its capture to A.H. 863 (AD 1458/1459). Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and his Time (Princeton: University Press, 1978), p. 181 and note.
  16. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, §4.14; Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, §5.36
  17. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 2

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