Amasra

Amasra (from Greek Amastris Ἄμαστρις, gen. Ἀμάστριδος) is a small Black Sea port town in the Bartın Province, Turkey and the site of Ancient city and multiple former (arch)bishopric Amastris, now a Latin Catholic titular see.

The town is today much appreciated for its beaches and natural setting, which has made tourism the most important activity for its inhabitants. In 2010 the population was 6,500. Amasra has two islands: the bigger one is called Büyük ada (‘Great Island’), the smaller one Tavşan adası (‘Rabbit Island’).

Situated in the ancient region of Paphlagonia, the original city seems to have been called Sesamus (Greek: Σήσαμος), and it is mentioned by Homer in conjunction with Cytorus. Stephanus says that it was originally called Cromna; but in another place, 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, and Tium, were combined by Amastris, after her separation from Lysimachus, to form the new community of Amastris, placed on a small river of the same name and occupying a peninsula. 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 mentions Sesamus and Cromna as cities of Paphlagonia, while omitting Amastris.

The territory of Amastris produced a great quantity of boxwood, which grew on 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. The younger Pliny, when he was governor of Bithynia and Pontus, describes Amastris, in a letter to Trajan, 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.

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.” In the 13th century Amasra exchanged hands several times, first becoming a possession of the Empire of Trebizond in 1204, 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.