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Thrace(thrās), region, 3,310 sq mi (8,575 sq km), SE Europe, occupying the southeastern tip of the Balkan Peninsula and comprising NE Greece, S Bulgaria, and European Turkey. Its boundaries have varied in different periods. It is washed by the Black Sea in the northeast and by the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea in the south.
Land and Economy
The Rhodope Mts. separate Greek from Bulgarian Thrace, and the Maritsa River (called the Évros in Greece) separates Greek from Turkish Thrace. The chief cities are İstanbul, Edirne (formerly Adrianople), and Gallipoli (all in Turkey); İstanbul (Constantinople) is generally considered a separate entity. With the exception of the mountainous Bulgarian section, Thrace is mainly agricultural, producing tobacco, corn, rice, wheat, silk, cotton, olive oil, and fruit. Natural gas has been discovered in the region.
Ancient and Medieval History
At the dawn of history the ancient Thracians—a group of tribes speaking an Indo-European language—extended as far west as the Adriatic Sea, but they were pushed eastward (c.1300 B.C.) by the Illyrians, and in the 5th cent. B.C. they lost their land west of the Struma (Strimón) River to Macedon. In the north, however, Thrace at that period still extended to the Danube. Unlike the Macedonians, the Thracians did not absorb Greek culture, and their tribes formed separate petty kingdoms.
The Thracian Bronze Age was similar to that of Mycenaean Greece, and the Thracians had developed high forms of music and poetry, but their savage warfare led the Greeks to consider them barbarians. Many Greek colonies—e.g., Byzantium on the Hellespont and Tomi (modern Constanţa) on the Black Sea—were founded in Thrace by c.600 B.C. The Greeks exploited Thracian gold and silver mines, and they recruited Thracians for their infantry. Thrace was reduced to vassalage by Persia from c.512 B.C. to 479 B.C., and Persian customs were introduced.
Thrace was united as a kingdom under the chieftain Sitalces, who aided Athens during the Peloponnesian War, but after his death (428 B.C.) the state again broke up. By 342 B.C. all Thrace was held by Philip II of Macedon, and after 323 B.C. most of the country was in the hands of Lysimachus. It fell apart once more after Lysimachus' death (281 B.C.), and it was conquered by the Romans late in the 1st cent. B.C. Emperor Claudius created (A.D. 46) the province of Thrace, comprising the territory south of the Balkans; the remainder was incorporated into Moesia. The chief centers of Roman Thrace were Sardica (modern Sofia), Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and Adrianople (Edirne).
The region benefited greatly from Roman rule, but from the barbarian invasions of the 3d cent. A.D. until modern times it was almost continuously a battleground. The northern section passed (7th cent.) to the Bulgarians; the southern section remained in the Byzantine Empire, but it was largely conquered (13th cent.) by the second Bulgarian empire after a brief period under the Latin Empire of Constantinople. In 1361 the Ottoman Turks took Adrianople, and in 1453, after the fall of Constantinople, all of Thrace fell to the Turks.
In 1878, N Thrace was made into the province of Eastern RumeliaRumelia
, region of S Bulgaria, between the Balkan and Rhodope mts. Historically, Rumelia denoted the Balkan possessions (particularly Thrace and Macedonia, and excluding Bosnia) of the Ottoman Empire.
..... Click the link for more information. ; after the annexation (1885) of Eastern Rumelia by Bulgaria (which had gained independence in 1878), the political meaning of the term Thrace became restricted to its southernmost part, which was still in Turkish hands. The terms Eastern Thrace and Western Thrace were used for the territories east and west of the Maritsa River. In the first of the Balkan WarsBalkan Wars,
1912–13, two short wars, fought for the possession of the European territories of the Ottoman Empire. The outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War for the possession of Tripoli (1911) encouraged the Balkan states to increase their territory at Turkish expense.
..... Click the link for more information. (1912–13) Turkey ceded to Bulgaria all Western Thrace and the inland half of Eastern Thrace, including Adrianople, but after its defeat in the Second Balkan War (1913), Bulgaria retroceded all Thrace east of the Maritsa to Turkey.
After World War I, Bulgaria ceded the southern part of its share of Thrace to Greece by the Treaty of Neuilly (1919), thus losing its only outlet to the Aegean. By the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) Greece also obtained most of Eastern Thrace except the zone of the Straits and Constantinople; the treaty, however, was superseded by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which restored to Turkey all Thrace E of the Maritsa. As a result of subsequent population movements, the ethnic composition of the various parts of Thrace now corresponds largely to the national divisions. The Greek-Bulgarian frontier of 1919 and the Turkish-Greek frontier of 1923 were left unchanged after World War II, during which Bulgaria had occupied (1941–44) Greek Thrace.
a historical region in the eastern Balkan Peninsula, bounded by the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, and the Sea of Marmara.
The region was settled by Thracian tribes in antiquity. It became a Roman province in A.D. 46 and part of the Byzantine Empire in 395. In the sixth century it was settled by Slavs, and part of its territory was subsequently absorbed by the First Bulgarian Kingdom (680–1018). In 1204, Thrace became part of the Holy Roman Empire for a brief period; in the 15th century it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks.
The Congress of Berlin (1878) included the northern part of Thrace in Eastern Rumelia, which was united with the Bulgarian Principality in 1885. The Treaty of London (1913), which fixed the borders in the Balkans after the First Balkan War of 1912–13, awarded nearly all Thrace to Bulgaria. By the Treaty of Bucharest (1913), which concluded the Second Balkan War of 1913, Bulgaria ceded part of Western Thrace to Greece. Under the Bulgarian-Turkish Treaty of Constantinople of the same year, Bulgaria ceded to Turkey Eastern Thrace, including the cities of Lozengrad (Kirklareli), Lüleburgaz, and Adrianople (Edirne), and retained part of Western Thrace, including the settlements of Dedeagach (Alexandroupolis) and Porto Lagos.
After World War I, Bulgaria ceded part of Western Thrace to Greece in 1920. Under the Treaty of Sevres (1920), Greece was also awarded Eastern Thrace, including Adrianople; a narrow zone along the straits, however, was retained by Turkey. Under the Lausanne Treaty (1923), Adrianople and Eastern Thrace as far as the Maritsa River reverted to Turkey; Western Thrace, excluding Karaagac (Canakkale), was retained by Greece; and part of interior Thrace was retained by Bulgaria. These boundaries remained in effect after World War II.
S. A. NIKITIN
a region in northeastern Greece, on the coast of the Aegean Sea. Thrace includes the basin of the lower Maritsa River; the Xanthi-Komotini lowland, which faces the sea; and the southern slopes of the eastern Rhodope Mountains. It comprises the nomes of Evros, Xanthi, and Rhodope. Area, 8,600 sq km. Population, 329,600 (1971).
Thrace is an important agricultural region. Crops grown throughout the area include cereals, tobacco (including high-grade varieties near Xanthi and Komotini), cotton, rice, and sesame. Truck farming and fruit growing are important occupations, as is the raising of livestock (chiefly sheep and goats). The region leads the country in sericulture.
Complex ores are mined near Komotini, and brown coal near Alexandroupolis. Industry includes the manufacture of textiles and of food, tobacco, and wood products. Alexandroupolis is Thrace’s chief port and site of its main airfield.