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Gordium: Sangarius


The river Sangarios and the citadel of Gordium. Photo Jona Lendering.
The Sangarius and the citadel of Gordium.
Sangarius (Greek Σαγγάριος): river in Phrygia and Bithynia, modern Sakarya.

According to the ancient geographer Strabo of Amasia, the river Sangarius had its source at 150 stades (about 26 kilometers) from Pessinus (Geography, 12.3.7); he also suggests that the river was important by referring to the fact that Homer already referred to it (Iliad, 3.187, 16.719). While the second statement is correct, the first is not: the river's source is in fact almost 100 kilometers southwest of Pessinus, near modern Afyon.

The Roman historian Livy tells that the source was near a mountain called Adoreus, knows that it is later joined by the Tymbrius (modern Kemer Suyu), and informs us that the double river empties itself into the Sea of Marmara. He adds that it is not a particularly big river, but that it is famous for its large quantities of fish (History of Rome since its Foundation, 38.18.8).

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Map of Pliny's canals. Design Jona Lendering.
Pliny's canals

Because there are several irregular mountain ranges in western Anatolia, the course of the river is unusually curved. It initally flows to the northwest, turns to the northeast and southeast, passes south of Pessinus, turns sharply to the north, and passes along the Phrygian capital Gordium. Continuing to the west, and after a wide curve, it flows to the northnortheast and passes along Nicaea, until it reaches, some 520 kilometers from its source, the Black Sea.

Livy's remark that it emptied itself into the Sea of Marmara may refer to another branch, which, in the time he is writing about (early second century BCE), reached a big lake east of the city of Nicomedia, and continued to the Gulf of İzmit. This course dried out, at some time, but was reopened by the Roman governor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger ( Letter 10.41).
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2010
Revision: 28 May 2010
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