1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nish

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NISH (also written Nisch and Niš, the capital of the Nish department of Servia, lying in a plain among the southern mountains, on the left shore of the Nishava, a tributary of the Morava. Pop. (1900) 24,451. Among Servian cities, Nish is only surpassed by Belgrade in commercial and strategic importance; for it lies at the point where several of the chief Balkan highroads converge, and where the branch railway to Salonica leaves the main line between Belgrade and Constantinople. The administration of the Servian railways has its factory for repairing engines and principal store of materials in the city, which also possesses an iron foundry. The king and the government reside for at least three months in the year in Nish, where also the national assembly, before the constitution of 1901, was regularly held. It is the see of a bishop, the seat of the district prefecture and a tribunal, and the headquarters of the territorial militia corps, having besides a large number of regular troops in garrison. There is a small obsolete fortress on the right bank of the Nishava, believed to have been erected on the site of the Roman Naissus. The surrounding hills (Vinik, Goritsa, Kamenitsa) were, after 1886, fortified by modern earthworks.

After the Turks were driven from the city in 1878, it was in many respects modernized; but something of its former character is preserved in the ancient Turkish palace, mosque and fountain, the maze of winding alleys and picturesque houses in the older quarters, and, on market days, by the medley of peasant costumes—Bulgarian, Albanian and Rumanian, as well as Servian.

The ancient Roman city Naissus was mentioned as an important place by Ptolemy of Alexandria. Under its walls was fought in A.D. 269 the great battle in which Emperor Claudius destroyed the army of the Goths. It was at Naissus that Constantine the Great was born in A.D. 274. Though the emperor Julian improved its defences, the town was destroyed by the Huns under Attila, in the 5th century, but Justinian did his best to restore it. In the 9th century the Bulgarians became masters of Naissus, but had to cede it to the Hungarians in the 11th century, from whom the Byzantine emperor Manuel I. reconquered it in 1173. Towards the end of the 12th century the town was in the hands of the Servian prince Stephen Nemanya, who there received hospitably the German emperor Frederic Barbarossa and his Crusaders. In 1375 the Turks captured Naissus for the first time from the Servians. In 1443 the allied armies of the Hungarians under Hunyady and the Servians under George Brankovich, retook it from the Turks, but in 1456 it again came under Turkish dominion, and remained for more than 300 years the most important Turkish military station on the road between Hungary and Constantinople. In the frequent wars between Austria and Turkey during the 17th and 18th centuries the Austrians captured Naissus twice (in 1689 and 1737), but were not able to retain it long. The Servians having, in the beginning of the 10th century, successfully cleared Servia of Turks, were emboldened to attack Nish in 1809, but were repulsed with great loss. The Turks raised as a monument of their victory a high tower composed entirely of the heads of the Servians slain in the battle of Nish. The remnants of this monument are still kept up. It stands half a mile to the east from Nish, and is called to this day by the Turkish name “ 'I'yele-Koula,” “ the Tower of Skulls.” In the Russo-Turkish War the Servian army, under the personal command of King Milan, besieged Nish, and forced it to capitulate on the 10th January 1878. The Berlin congress decided that it should remain with Servia.  (C. Mi.)