This city was built by that Prusias, king of Bithynia, who waged war with Croesus and Cyrus.
Richard Pococke - A Description of the East and Some Other Countries - 1745
Bursa, the ancient Prusia ad Olympium is located in the north-western corner of the Anatolian tableland. The Latin reference to Olympium is due to a nearby high mountain (8300 ft), today known as Uludag (Great Mountain) and which the Greeks called Olympos as they did with other high mountains. It was founded by Prusias I, King of Bithynia and it was named after him. According to Roman historians it was designed by Hannibal, who sought refuge at the court of Prusias.
View of the Old City and of its reconstructed southern walls; to the far right Ulu Camii (Great Mosque) and in the background modern Bursa
Boursa is most pleasantly situated on the foot of
mount Olympus over a plain, which is about four leagues long, and a
league wide. (..) The city and suburbs are about six miles in circumference (..)
on heights on each side of the castle, but chiefly to the east, there being a very small part of
the city on the plain to the north. It is said they have three hundred parishes and mosques in the
city, and many little mosques arched over with one dome, and the
great ones with several, as well as the kanes and bezestans, all which are
covered with lead; these and the agreeable mixture of trees, together with
the fine plain beneath, cultivated with mulberry-trees, altogether makes
the prospect from the mountain most delightful. Pococke
King Prusias was an ally of the kings of Macedonia and Syria in their wars with Rome; he tried to expand his territories at the expense of King Eumenes II of Pergamum, who supported the Romans. The following passage by Livy explains why Prusias helped Hannibal and why he eventually betrayed him.
|Prusias had for some time fallen under suspicion in Rome, partly owing to his having sheltered Hannibal after the flight of Antiochus and partly because he had started a war with Eumenes. T. Quinctius Flamininus was accordingly sent on a special mission to him. He charged Prusias, amongst other things, with admitting to his court the man who of all men living was the most deadly foe to the People of Rome, who had instigated first his own countrymen and then, when their power was broken, King Antiochus to levy war on Rome. Either owing to the menacing language of Flamininus or because he wished to ingratiate himself with Flamininus and the Romans, he formed the design of either putting Hannibal to death or delivering him up to them. In any case, immediately after his first interview with Flamininus he sent soldiers to guard the house in which Hannibal was living. Hannibal had always looked forward to such a fate as this; he fully realised the implacable hatred which the Romans felt towards him, and he put no trust whatever in the good faith of monarchs. He had already had experience of Prusias' fickleness of temper and he had dreaded the arrival of Flamininus as certain to prove fatal to himself. In face of the dangers confronting him on all sides he tried to keep open some one avenue of escape. With this view he had constructed seven exits from his house, some of them concealed, so that they might not be blocked by the guard. But the tyranny of kings leaves nothing hidden which they want to explore. The guards surrounded the house so closely that no one could slip out of it. When Hannibal was informed that the king's soldiers were in the vestibule, he tried to escape through a postern gate which afforded the most secret means of exit. He found that this too was closely watched and that guards were posted all round the place. Finally he called for the poison which he had long kept in readiness for such an emergency. "Let us," he said, "relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experienced, since they think it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man's death. The victory which Flamininus will win over a defenceless fugitive will be neither great nor memorable; this day will show how vastly the moral of the Roman People has changed. Their fathers warned Pyrrhus, when he had an army in Italy, to beware of poison, and now they have sent a man of consular rank to persuade Prusias to murder his guest." Then, invoking curses on Prusias and his realm and appealing to the gods who guard the rights of hospitality to punish his broken faith, he drained the cup. Such was the close of Hannibal's life.
Livy - The History of Rome - Book 39.51. Translation by Rev. Canon Roberts.
(left) Gokdere River; (right) Irgandi Koprusu, a covered bridge over the same stream (rebuilt in 2002); it was commissioned by a wealthy merchant in 1442 and it had thirty shops. Bursa does not have a proper river, but several small streams coming from the Uludag
The town is divided from the eastern suburb by a deep channel or vale, over which there are several bridges; one of them with shops on each side, is ninety paces long and sixteen broad; the vale being planted with mulberry trees, makes the situation of the houses that are on it very delightful; a small stream runs through it, which swells to a torrent after rains. (..) The great number of springs that rise all over the city make it a very pleasant place, some flow in large streams, and one in particular comes out of the mountain at the castle like a small rivulet, where the Turks sit in the shade, and where every thing is sold which they delight in. Pococke
(left) A section of reconstructed Byzantine walls (southern section, near Fetih Kapi, the Conqueror's Gate); (right) Sultanat Kapi (reconstructed)
The castle of
Boursa is on the highest part; it is walled round, the rocky cliffs below it being almost perpendicular, and beautifully adorned with the
trees that grow on them. (..) The castle, as I observed,
is walled round, which I take to be the antient city Prusa; it is near a
mile in circumference. I saw also an inscription, which mentions that the
emperor Theodorus Comenes Laskares built one of the towers of the
Prusia was protected by deep ravines on three sides, but its defence on the southern side (towards the mountain) was rather difficult because the enemy had the advantage of a higher position. At the end of the IIIrd century AD Prusia was surrounded by walls. Later on (probably in the IXth century) these walls were strengthened by a second curtain (they look very similar to those of Constantinople). This additional protection did not prevent the Seljuk Turks from seizing Prusia in 1075; however a few years later the Crusaders forced the Seljuks out of Prusia. The city returned to Byzantine hands and the walls were strengthened by Theodore I Lascaris, the first emperor of Nicaea..
In modern times all the ancient gates were pulled down for traffic reasons. In recent years a gate (Sultanat Kapi) was entirely rebuilt together with some stretches of the walls. The image used as background for this page shows Sultanat Kapi in an 1845 engraving.
The sultan of Bursa is Orkhan Bek, son of Othman. He is the greatest of the Turkmen kings and the richest in wealth, lands, and military forces. (..) He fights with the infidels and besieges them.
H. A. R. Gibb - Selection from the Travels of Ibn Battuta in 1325-1354
I saw one part of the wall remaining, built after the antient manner, with one tier of stone laid flat, and another set up an end, alternately. (..) It was taken in thirteen hundred twenty-six by Orhan son of Ottoman, the second emperor of the Turks, who made it the capital of his empire. (..) Over the north brow of the hill are ruins of the grand signior's seraglio, which was burnt down some years ago; this being, one of the royal cities which have been the residence of their monarchs. Pococke
Orhan Gazi (Gazi = Warrior for the Faith/Victorious), the leader of the Ottomans who conquered Prusia in 1326 renamed it Bursa and made it the capital of his state; he can be regarded as the true founder of the Ottoman Empire (which is named after his father Osman). He strengthened his power by conquering Nicaea in 1331 and by marrying Theodora, a Byzantine princess, and by helping her father to usurp the throne of Constantinople and to become Emperor John VI Cantacuzenus.
(left) A section of the inner southern walls; (right) the site of a former gate (Kaplica Kapi, the Gate leading to the hot springs)
Orhan Gazi took advantage of the continuous fights between Genoese and Venetians and with the help of the former he established the first Ottoman European foothold at Gallipoli. His successor Murad I continued the expansion of the Ottomans in Europe by conquering in 1365 Adrianople, which was renamed Edirne and became the new capital of the empire. He was the first to use the title of sultan (high ruler).
(left) Yer Kapi Camii; (centre) cemetery near the mosque; (right) Byzantine floor inside Orhan Gazi Turbe
Orhan, who took this place, and his children, are buried in an old church in the
castle, which is cased with fine marbles, and paved with Mosaic work; to the west of it there is a sepulchre covered with a cupola, where, they say, sultan Osman is buried. Pococke
We first inspected the turbeh, or mausoleum, of Sultan Orhan. (..) It exhibits a good specimen of the architecture of the lower Greek empire. The pillars are of verd antique and porphery; and some of the pannels of the side walls are but slightly mutilated; the floor of mosaic, or small tessellated pieces, is alternately of squares and circles of jaune antique and porphery.
James Dallaway - Constantinople Ancient and Modern with Excursions to the Shores of the Islands of the Archipelago and to the Troas - 1797.
Within the walls there are some small mosques (Camii) and the tombs (Turbe) of Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi: due to an 1855 earthquake these tombs collapsed and they were rebuilt in XIXth century fashion, but one of them retains its Byzantine floor which brings to mind those of some Roman churches, e.g. S. Maria in Cosmedin.
Sultan Murad II who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1421 to 1451 built on a hill to the west of the walls a complex of buildings which was named after him.
View of Muradiye from Kaplica Kapi
The complex consists of a mosque, twelve tombs, a medrese (school), a hammam (baths) and an imaret (a soup kitchen for the poor). Old guides describing Bursa often make reference to it as "Green Bursa" because of its parks and gardens located across its urban landscape. Unfortunately this is not entirely true any longer.
The mosque of Muradiye was built in 1425-1426 and it shows the typical design of Bursa's largest mosques. Its plan is usually referred to as a "T" because the fašade/porch is larger than the rest of the building which mainly consists of two circular halls on a vertical line. The domes of these halls are almost identical and this explains the title of this page.
Muradiye Camii: details of the main entrance
The mosque main entrance and parts of its interior are decorated with tiles having different tones of blue. They were added in the XVIth century after Sultan Selim I brought a group of artisans skilled in the manufacturing of ceramics from Tabriz in Persian Azerbaijan to Nicaea. In 1514 they started the production of the blue-greenish tiles which decorate most Ottoman mosques.
The tombs have almost the same size, although they vary in shape: square, hexagonal and octagonal: there is consistency also in their construction technique which is based on layers of bricks and ashlars (square stones).
The only sultan buried in the cemetery is Murad II; this title was given also to some sons of sultans who never ruled. For example the title was given to Prince Cem, who died in Naples in 1495 and whose body was returned to his country. Some tombs are dedicated to Hatun, wives (and mothers) of sultans.
Sultan Murad II Turbe: detail of the eaves
Muslims are buried in the ground and therefore the actual tombs inside the buildings are made of four low marble panels filled with earth. The simplicity of this arrangement is in stark contrast to the elaborate decoration of some details of the buildings.
Details of (left) Sultan Murad II Turbe and (right) Sultan Cem Turbe
Columns and capitals of ancient Prusia were employed to support the ceilings of the tombs; the walls of the interior are usually decorated with blue tiles and paintings.
(left) Muradiye Hammam (under restoration); (right) Muradiye Cesme (the only remaining original fountain)