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A few years after the death of Alexander the Great, Macedonian king Antigonus rebuilt the town, and called it, after himself, Antigoneia. Several other of Alexander's generals later conspired to remove Antigonus, and after defeating him the area was given to Thessalian general Lysimachus (circa 355 BC-281 BC) in 301 BC as his share of the lands. He renamed it Nicaea in tribute to his wife Nicaea, a daughter of Antipater. The town was built with great regularity, in the form of a square, measuring 16 stadia in circumference; it had four gates, and all its streets intersected one another at right angles, so that from a monument in the center all the four gates could be seen. The city was built on an important crossroads between Galatia and Phrygia, and thus saw steady trade. Soon after the time of Lysimachus, Nicaea became a city of great importance, and the kings of Bithynia, whose era begins in 288 BC with Zipoetes, often resided at Nicaea. It has already been mentioned that in the time of Strabo it is called the metropolis of Bithynia, an honor which is also assigned to it on some coins. The younger Pliny makes frequent mention of Nicaea and its public buildings, which he undertook to restore when governor of Bithynia. It was the birthplace of the astronomer Hipparchus (ca. 194 BC), the mathematician and astronomer Sporus (ca. 240) and the historian Dio Cassius (ca. 165). It was the death-place of the comedian Philistion . The numerous coins of Nicaea which still exist attest the interest taken in the city by the emperors, as well as its attachment to the rulers; many of them commemorate great festivals celebrated there in honor of gods and emperors. Throughout the imperial period, Nicaea remained an important town; for its situation was particularly favorable, being only 40 km (25 mi) distant from Prusa, and 70 km (43 mi) from Constantinople. When Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Empire, Nicaea did not lose in importance; for its present walls, which were erected during the last period of the Empire, enclose a much greater space than that ascribed to the place in the time of Strabo. Much of the existing architecture and defensive works date to this time, early 300s. Nicaea suffered much from earthquakes in 358, 362 and 368; after the last of which, it was restored by the emperor Valens. During the Middle Ages it was for a long time a strong bulwark of the Byzantine emperors against the Turks. In the reign of Constantine, 325, the celebrated First Council of Nicaea was held there against the Arian heresy, and the prelates there defined more clearly the concept of the Trinity and drew up the Nicene Creed. The doctrine of the Trinity was finalized at the Council of Constantinople in 381 which expressly included the Holy Ghost as equal to the Father and the Son. The first Nicene Council was probably held in what would become the now ruined mosque of Orchan. The church of Hagia Sophia was built by Justinian I in the middle of the city in the 6th century and it was there that the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787 to discuss the issues of iconography. The city saw a long period of peace under Byzantine rule, which lasted until the rise of the Seljuk Turks. In 1077 they took the city, which changed hands several times in the next year until it was firmly in their control by 1078. Here they formed their capital. This event was instrumental in starting the First Crusade at Byzantium's request in 1095, and armies from Europe along with smaller units from Byzantium converged on the city in 1097. After the European armies laid siege to the city and penetrated the walls, they were surprised to awake the next morning to see the Greek flags of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos flying over the city. Robbed of their chance to plunder the city, the crusaders and Byzantines were soon at odds. In the peace which was afterwards concluded the city was ceded to the Byzantines. The twelfth century saw a period of relative stability and prosperity at Nicaea. The Komnenian emperors Alexios, John and Manuel campaigned extensively to strengthen the Byzantine presence in Asia Minor. Major fortifications were constructed across the region, especially by John and Manuel, which helped to protect the city and its fertile hinterland. Constantinople later fell in 1204 to the European armies in the Fourth Crusade, who set up the Latin Empire of Constantinople. They had poor control over the area, and a number of Byzantine successor states sprang up as well, including Epirus and Trebizond. However it was Nicaea that formed the core of the successor Byzantine Empire after Theodore Lascaris founded the Empire of Nicaea there. Building on the strong military infrastructure built up in the area over the last century, Theodore I and his successors slowly expanded their domains, and in 1259 Michael VIII Palaeologus usurped the throne. He captured Constantinople from the Latins in 1261, and restored the Byzantine Empire. In 1331, the city was conquered and incorporated into the Ottoman Empire by Orhan I. Many of its public buildings were destroyed, and the materials were used by the Ottomans in erecting their mosques and other edifices. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the town lost its importance, but later became a major center with the creation of a local faïence pottery-making industry in the 17th century. İznik tiles were used to decorate many of the mosques in Istanbul designed by Sinan. However, this industry also moved to Istanbul, and İznik became a mainly agricultural minor town in the area when a major railway bypassed it in the 19th century. Currently the style of pottery referred to as the İznik Çini is to some extent produced locally, but mainly in Kütahya, where the quality – which was in decline – has been restored to its former glory.
Since I was there the museum has been reconstructed, Ayasofya Muzesi.
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