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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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Lycaonia, the country of the Lycaones, who spoke Λυκαονιστί (‘in the speech of Lycaonia, Acts 14:11), was a vast elevated plain, often called ‘The Treeless’ (τὸ ἄζυλον), in the centre of Asia Minor. It was bounded on the N. and E. by Galatia and Cappadocia, on the W. and S. by Phrygia, Pisidia, and Isauria; but its limits were very uncertain and liable to change, especially in the N. and S. Its physical character is described by Strabo (xii vi. 1):

‘The places around the mountainous plane of Lycaonia are cold and bare, affording pasture only for wild asses; there is a great scarcity of water, and wherever it is found the wells are very deep … Although the country is ill supplied with water, it is suprisingly well adapted for feeding sheep.… Some persons have acquired great wealth by these flocks alone. Amyntas had above 300 flocks of sheep in these parts.’

Having no opportunity and perhaps little capacity for self-government, the Lycaonians had no history of their own. Driven eastward by the Phrygians, they were always, under the away of some stronger power, which cut and carved their territory without ever asking their leave. In the 3rd cent. Lycaonia belonged to the empire of the Seleucids, who more or less hellenized its larger towns, such as Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. After the Roman victory over Antiochus the Great at Magnesia (190 b.c.), it was given to the Attalids of Pergamos; but as they never effectively occupied it, the northern part of it was claimed by the Galatians, while the eastern was added to Cappadocia. When Pompey re-organized Asia Minor after the defeat of Mithridates (64 b.c.), he left northern Lycaonia (somewhat curtailed) to the Galatians, and eastern Lycaonia (also diminished) to Cappadocia, while he attached southwestern Lycaonia (considerably increased) to the province of Cilicia. Mark Antony gave the last part, including Iconium and Lystra, to Polemon in 39 b.c., but transferred it in 36 to King Amyntas of Pisidia, who at the same time became king of all Galatia. Soon afterwards this brilliant soldier-the most interesting of Asiatic Gaels-overthrew Antipater of Derbe, with the result that the whole of Lycaonia, except the so-called Eleventh Strategia (which about this time was given to King Antiochus of Commagene, to be henceforth called Lycaonia Antiochiana) was now included in the Galatian realm. After the untimely death of Amyntas in 25 b.c., his kingdom was converted into the Roman province of Galatia. This arrangement lasted for nearly a century, except that Claudius apparently presented the S.E. corner of Lycaonia, Including the important city of Laranda, to the king of Commagene.

When St. Paul brought Christianity to Lycaonia, he confined his mission to that part of it which was in the province of Galatia. On reaching the frontier city of Derbe, he retraced his steps. Laranda, in Antiochian Lycaonia, was beyond his sphere. If the S. Galatian theory is to be accepted, he passed through Galatic Lycaonia four times (Acts 14:6; Acts 21; Acts 16:1; Acts 18:23); he addressed the mixed population of its cities-Lycaonians, Greeks, and Jews-as all alike ‘Galatians’; and the Christians of Lycaonian and Phrygian Galatia, not the inhabitants of Galatia proper, are the ‘foolish Galatians’ (Galatians 3:1) about whom he was so ‘perplexed’ (Galatians 4:20). But see Galatians.

Nothing remains of the Lycaonian language except some place-names; but the Christian inscriptions found in Lycaonia are very numerous, and show how widely diffused the new religion was in the 3rd cent. throughout this country which was evangelized by St. Paul in the 1st.

Literature.-W. M. Ramsay, Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, 1890, also Hist. Com. on Galatians, 1899; J. R. S. Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition in Asia Minor, 1888; C. Wilson, in Murray’s Handbook to Asia Minor, 1895.

James Strahan.

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