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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
The careful reader of Acts 16:12, the only place in the NT where the term ‘colony’ (κολωνία, a mere transliteration of the Latin original) occurs, sees at once that a Roman colony must have been very different from what we understand by the word ‘colony.’ Colonia (from colonus, ‘settler,’ ‘husbandman,’ from colere, ‘to cultivate’) was a word applied by the Romans to a body (usually 300) of their citizen-soldiers (in earlier days the two terms were convertible), transferred from the city of Rome itself to some outlying part of Italy or (later) to some other land. These men remained Roman citizens after transference, and were collectively, in fact, a portion of Rome itself planted amidst a community not itself possessed of Roman citizenship. The object of the earliest colonies was the holding in subjection to Rome of the particular country in which they were planted. It was not usually a fresh city that was thus founded. The rule was that a community was already resident there, and the body of Roman soldiers was stationed there, thus making the place into a garrison city. The coloniœ were connected by military roads, beginning at Rome, and troops could be marched along those roads to relieve the coloniae in the shortest possible time, supposing a rising (tumultus) should occur, too powerful to be quelled by the local garrison. (A good example is the case of the Lombardy Plain and the Campaigns of Marius.) A Roman colony, then, means a garrison city, and implies the presence of Roman soldier-citizens.
This was the Roman colonia in origin and purpose. We find, however, that, after danger from the enemy had ceased, coloniae continued to be planted during the Empire in peaceful districts. This new style of colonia continued to mean a body of Roman citizens, but the military aspect was lost sight of. It was an honour for a provincial city to be made into a colonia, because this was a proof that it was of special importance, specially dear to the Emperor, and worthy to be the residence of Roman citizens, who were the aristocracy of the provincial towns in which they lived.* [Note: The British coloniae were Colchester, Gloucester, York, and Lincoln.] (It was not till a.d. 212, the time of Caracalla, that all the subjects of the Roman Empire received the Roman citizenship.)
A number of towns mentioned in the NT were coloniœ at the time the events narrated there took place: Corinth (since 44-43 b.c.), Puteoli (since 194 b.c.), Philippi (42 b.c.), Pisidian Antioch (before 27 b.c.), Syracuse (21 b.c.), Troas (between 27 and 12 b.c.), Lystra (after 12 b.c.),† [Note: Not Iconium till the time of Hadrian.] Ptolemais (before a.d. 47). All these places are mentioned by the writer of Acts, and yet to one only does he attach the epithet ‘colony,’ namely Philippi. The whole manner in which he refers to his place shows personal pride in it, and it is hard to refrain from believing that he had a special connexion with it.
The comparatively large proportion of places holding the dignity of colony, which were visited by St. Paul, illustrates very forcibly the plan of his evangelization. He aimed at planting the gospel in the leading centres, knowing that it would spread best from these.
Literature.-Kornemann, article ‘Coloniae’ in Pauly-Wissowa [Note: auly-Wissowa Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyklopädie.] . (Kornemann’s statement that there is no up-to-date comprehensive work on coloniae outside Italy appears to be still true.) On Philippi as colonia see W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, London, 1895, p. 206ff.; Iconium not a colonia till Hadrian, see W. M. Ramsay, Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, do. 1899, pp. 123, 218f., and later works.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Colony'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/c/colony.html. 1906-1918.