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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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Derbe was one of ‘the cities of Lycaonia’ into which Paul and Barnabas fled when driven from Iconium (Acts 14:6). Strabo says it was ‘on the flanks of the Isaurian region, adhering (ἐπιπεφυκός) to Cappadocia’ (xii. vi. 3). It belonged to that part of Lycaonia which, in the 1st cent. b.c., the Romans added, as an ‘eleventh Strategia,’ to the territory of the kings of Cappadocia (xii. i. 4). From them it was seized, along with the more important town of Laranda, by Antipater the robber (called ὁ Δερβήτης), who is otherwise known as a friend of Cicero (ad Fam. xiii. 73). Antipater was attacked and slain by Amyntas of Galatia (circa, about 29 b.c.), who added Laranda and Derbe to the extensive territories which he ruled as a Roman subject-king. On the death of Amyntas in 25 b.c. his kingdom was formed into the Roman province of Galatia. But the ‘eleventh Strategia’ again received special treatment. After changing hands more than once, it was ultimately added-as the inscriptions on coins indicate-to the kingdom of Antiochus iv., and therefore called ‘Strategia Antiochiane’ (Ptolemy, v. 6), an arrangement which lasted from a.d. 41 to the death of Antiochus in 72. Derbe, however, being required as a fortress city on the Roman frontier, was detached from the Strategia and included in the province of Galatia, after which it received a new constitution, and was named Claudio-Derbe, which was equivalent to Imperial Derbe.

Ethnically and geographically Lycaonian, the city was now politically Galatian. As in Lystra, the educated natives were no doubt bilingual, speaking Lycaonian (Λυκαονιστί, Acts 14:11) among themselves, but using Greek as the language of commerce and culture. Derbe lay on the great trade-route between Ephesus and Syrian Antioch. All the cities on that line had been hellenized by the Seleucids, whose task the Romans now continued. St. Paul’s first visit to Derbe was very successful; he ‘made many disciples’ (Acts 14:21), and the city is not mentioned as one of the places in which he was persecuted (2 Timothy 3:11). It is a striking fact that he made Derbe the last stage of his missionary progress, instead of going on to the neighbouring and greater city of Laranda. His action appears to be prompted by a motive which the historian does not formally state. Because Derbe was the limit of Roman territory, he made it the limit of his mission. He followed the lines of Empire. In his second journey he evidently crossed the Taurus by the Cilician Gates, passed through the kingdom of Antiochus, and so ‘came to Derbe and Lystra’ (Acts 15:41; Acts 16:1). A third visit is probably implied by the statement that ‘he went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, stablishing all the disciples’ (Acts 18:23). On the Southern Galatian theory, the Christians of Derbe formed one of the ‘churches of Galatia’ (1 Corinthians 16:1, Galatians 1:2), and they were among the ἀνόητοι Γαλάται (Galatians 3:1) whom he exhorted to stand fast in their Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1). Imperial Derbe stood in closer relations with the Roman colonies of Antioch and Lystra than with the non-Roman Lycaones of the kingdom of Antiochus.

Sterrett (Wolfe Expedition, 1888, p. 23) placed Derbe between the villages of Zosta and Bossola on the road from Konia to Laranda. In both of these places there are numerous ancient cut stones and inscriptions, but it is doubtful if they are in situ, and W. M. Ramsay thinks that the position of the ancient city is indicated by a large deserted mound, called by the Turks Gudelissin, about 3 miles W.N.W. from Zosta. It still waits to be explored.

Literature.-W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, 1893, pp. 54-56, The Cities of St. Paul, 1907, p. 385ff., Hist. Com. on Gal., 1899, pp. 228-234; W. Smith. DGRG [Note: GRG Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography.] i. [1856] 770.

James Strahan.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Derbe'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​d/derbe.html. 1906-1918.
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