İznik- the ancient Byzantine Nikaia

İznik- the ancient Byzantine Nikaia

On the way from Bursa towards Eskesehir we had made a short stopover on the D 200 near Inegöl for lunch in one of the many restaurants along the road.

Anyone who drives the route should know that Inegöl also stands for a nationally known dish, the so-called Inegöl Kofte, small rolls of minced meat, which are delicious and not too spicy, grilled over charcoal and served with fresh salad and bread. And as expected, we can only recommend these extraordinary heads, very tasty when freshly prepared, as in the restaurant we have chosen.

A little later we arrived at the intersection of the D200 and the D595 and spontaneously we drove in the direction of Iznik, which had been on our list of places to visit for a while due to its Roman past. Even today it can only be a short visit due to the advanced time, but it was only a good 45 kilometers to the former Roman imperial residence Nicomedia in Nikaia.

nizaea 2In the early days, the city, not far from Constantinople in Bithynia, was also called Elikore or Ankore, far too little has been researched into the history of the city. With the ruler Antigonos I Monophthalmos there was some movement in the development of the city, because he established the colony Antigoneia here. At that time it was customary to regard new areas as settlement colonies and to settle them with immigrants. Around 301 BC The ruler Lysimachus refounded the city and named it after his first wife Nikaia or Nicaea. Some time later, it was written in the year 282|281 BC. BC, Nikaia came to the kingdom of Bithynia and was from 74 BC. Roman when the kingdom became a Roman province.

Nicaia rose to great importance in late antiquity, for some of the ecumenical councils that were to be considered essential in the history of Christianity were held here.

First Council of Nicaea

konzil von niceaThe First Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325 to settle the dispute that had broken out in Alexandria over Arianism (a Christian theological doctrine named after one of its early proponents, Arius). Participants were between 200 and 318 bishops, almost all of whom came from the east of the empire, so that the dispute about the nature of Jesus and the Trinity could be ended, since Constantine intended to use Christianity as a stabilizing factor in his empire. The council ended with the provisional victory of the opponents of Arianism and the formulation of the Nicene Creed, although the Arian bishops were in the majority. But when the emperor ended the discussion by saying that "the son is of one essence with the father," all the dissenting bishops yielded to the word of the emperor, who called himself "the bishop of bishops."

No minutes were taken at the council itself, even if some alleged minutes later surfaced. However, there are contemporary documents and reports about it, so that the essential events at the Council are historically undisputed today:

  • The twenty canons, the Confession of Nicaea and the official decree of the Council have survived as official records.
  • Reports have been preserved from three participants in the council who belonged to different schools, namely Eustathios of Antioch (anti-Arians), who may have been one of the presiding officers, Eusebius of Caesarea (Arians) and Athanasius (anti-Arians).
  • There are also several letters about the Council of Alexander of Alexandria and Emperor Constantine I.
  • There are reports from the late fourth and fifth centuries by the church historians Rufinus of Aquileia, Theodoret, Socrates Scholastikos and Sozomenos.

Nikaia was subsequently the capital of the subject of Opsikion, which was first mentioned in 680.

The Second Council of Nicaea

nicaea 3The Second Council of Nicaea was convened by Empress Irina of Athens as Byzantine Empress in 787 in the city of Nicaea. After Leo's death in 780, Konstantin became child emperor and Irene co-ruler until he came of age and then together with him. Irene blinded her son Constantine, which brought her, after his death in 797, as Basilissa to the Byzantine throne. Thus she was the first woman to rule alone in the Byzantine Empire. Irina's reign fell in the middle of the Byzantine Icon Controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries.

The Second Council of Nicaea allowed the veneration of icons in the so-called icon controversy, but not the veneration, although the veneration only under certain conditions. It essentially followed the arguments of John of Damascus. The iconoclastic Council of Hiereia of 754 was declared invalid and a "pseudo-synod".

However, her position as empress gave rise to other problems with far-reaching consequences: Under Roman law, no woman could have the supreme command of the army. As the Emperor held this position ex officio, legally she could only be Empress. Therefore, according to some sources, Pope Leo III. the Roman imperial throne as vacant and crowned Charlemagne as Roman Emperor in 800. This act officially eliminated the Eastern Roman Empire for the western world and restored the Western Roman Empire.

In 1077, Nicaea was conquered by the Rum Seljuks, who subsequently established their first capital here. However, after a siege by the crusaders of the First Crusade in 1097, the city reverted to the Byzantine Empire, which was able to persuade the Turkish garrison to surrender in order to avoid the city being plundered by the crusaders. The crusaders perceived this behaviour of the Byzantine emperor as a betrayal.

nizaea 1In 1204, after the conquest of Constantinople by the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade, Nicaea was used as a provisional capital by the Byzantines driven out of Constantinople under Emperor Theodore I Laskaris. But Nicaea remained the seat of the exiled Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople. The empire of Nicaea continued the Byzantine tradition until the reconquest of Constantinople in 1261.

Under the Ottomans, Nicaea, which was then renamed İznik, developed alongside Kütahya into a preeminent centre of ceramics production (İznik ware). In Persia and Asia Minor, when the Seljuks took power, ceramic production began to flourish again, but due to the brisk building activity of the patrons, the focus was on the manufacture of tiles; Crockery and figurative ceramics only played a secondary role. Numerous new techniques for manufacturing and glazing the goods were also developed. This development could be continued under the Ottomans.

A little later we were able to see the ancient city wall with its gates, some of which were well preserved, some churches and the Roman theatre. It must have been a magnificent city that is worth exploring further. Probably the oldest building in the city is the church of Hagia Sophia from the 4th century. Here in the building the seventh ecumenical council was held.

Orhan I converted the church, also known as Hagia Sophia in Isnik, into a mosque. The mosque had been unused for a long period of time and was almost in ruins until it was turned into a museum after the founding of modern Turkey.

On the initiative of Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister - and member of the Islamic ruling party AKP - Bülent Arınç, the Hagia Sophia Museum has been used as a mosque again since November 2011, despite strong protests from the local city administration.

Homemade Inegöl Kofte - A recipe for 4 people

nizaea 4Ingredients

1 kilo streaky ground beef (streaky)
6 pinches of baking soda
1 level teaspoon of salt
1 medium onion


The met should be mixed with the baking soda one day before preparing the Inegöl Köfte and then left to rest overnight.

The following day, the onions are chopped as finely as possible with a blender or knife and rinsed under running water using a sieve.

Now onions and salt are thoroughly mixed with the ground pork.

The kofta are formed into balls about the size of a walnut and rolled out with light pressure and then grilled on the charcoal grill.

Freshly baked bread and a mixed salad are also eaten, sometimes with a portion of rice.

Please read as well:

Pilgrims – Islamic Hajj, Christian routes and Jewish pilgrimage

Skopje - Excursion through the capital of Macedonia


Life | Outdoors