Bessi



The Besses are an ancient Thracian tribe of the Balkans.

In antiquity, its territory stretched from the high basin of the Evros Rhodopes. Herodotus also locates them “in the mountains of the northwestern Kingdom of Odrysia,” adding that they practiced divination and interpreted the prophecies of the priestess of the oracle of Dionysus at Satrae. Strabo calls them “brigands among robbers” and looters. But Theodor Mommsen locates their capital, Uscudama, further down the Evros, on the site of the future Adrianople while archaeologists identify it in Bessapara, now Sinitovo near Pazardzhik, Bulgaria.

In 72 BC, the Besses were defeated by Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, the proconsul of Macedonia, and integrated into the Roman Empire. Towards the end of the century, Nicetas de Remesiana, bishop of Aurelian Dacia, uses the name “Besses” to designate the mountain pagans, yet to be converted. After the Romanization of the Thracians, the name of the Besses is used by the Byzantine chroniclers to distinguish the Roman-speaking populations of the Balkans from the Ῥωμαίοι – Rhômaíoi or Romées, the “Romans” in Greek (ie the citizens of the Βασιλεία των Ῥωμαίων – Basileía tôn Rhômaíôn: ” empire of the Romans “in Greek). Thus, in 570, the pilgrim Antoninus de Plaisance visiting the monastery of St. Catherine of Sinai describes the languages ​​most spoken by the monks: “Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic and Besse”. To the name of “Valaques” begins to supplant that of “Besses”: in its Strategikon, Kékauménos specifies that the Romanophones of Thessaly descend from the old Thracians and Dacians and that they are called Besses or Vlachs.

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