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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Pisidia was a rugged and mountainous country in the south of Asia Minor, bounded on the N. by Phrygia, on the S. by the coast-land of Pamphylia, on the W. by Lycia, and on the E. by Isauria. Its length from W. to E. was about 120 miles, and its breadth 50 miles. It was a land of beautiful lakes-Limnai, Caralis, Ascania, and others-and of torrents growing into rivers-the Cestrus, the Eurymedon, and the Melas-which discharged themselves into the Pamphylian Sea. The semi-savage Pisidians, wholly untouched by the Hellenizing influences which were gradually affecting the other Anatolian races, had their homes in the upper valleys and strong fastnesses of this secluded region. Strabo (XII. vii. 1-3) gives details which enable us to realize their life. ‘Among the summits of Taurus is a very fertile tract capable of maintaining many thousand inhabitants. Many spots produce the olive and excellent vines, and afford abundant pasture for animals of all kinds. Above and all around are forests containing trees of various sorts.’ The mountaineers were ‘governed by hereditary chieftains,’ and followed ‘a predatory mode of life,’ carrying on a continual warfare with the kings to the N. and the S. of their territories.

The task of subjugating them was at first entrusted by the Romans to Amyntas, a brave and capable Galatian officer whom Mark Antony made king of Galatia in 36 b.c. His work was advancing towards success, when he lost his life in an expedition against the Homonades, to the W. of Lycaonia (25 b.c.). The Romans themselves were then obliged to complete the task of reducing the refractory highlanders. About 6 b.c. Augustus established a series of garrison towns on the flanks of Pisidia and Isauria. Supplying Antioch with veterans and re-organizing it in Roman fashion, he built one military road to connect it with the coloniae which he planted in Olbasa, Comama, and Cremna for the control of the western region, and another to join it with Parlais and Lystra, which were intended to hold the eastern tribes in check.

‘The newly-founded towns remained indeed unimportant, but still notably restricted the field of the free inhabitants of the mountains, and general peace must at length have made its triumphal entrance also here’ (T. Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire2, Eng. tr._, 1909, i. 337).

In St. Paul’s time Pisidia formed part of the province of Galatia. In his first missionary journey he traversed this wildly picturesque region (Acts 13:14), then comparatively settled, but still by no means free from ‘perils of robbers’ (see 2 Corinthians 11:26). His route through it can only be conjectured. Conybeare and Howson (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, new ed., 1877, i. 204) think that he chose the steep pass leading from Attalia to Lake Ascania (Buldur Göl). W. M. Ramsay (The Church in the Roman Empire, 1893, p. 19) holds that ‘the natural, easy, and direct course is along one of the eastern tributaries of the Cestrus to Adada.’ On the return journey St. Paul and Barnabas ‘passed through Pisidia’ (διελθὀντες τὴν Πισιδίαν, Acts 14:24), a phrase which, according to Ramsay, implies that some missionary work was attempted on the way. But it must have been difficult to get into touch with mountain tribes who did not know the Greek language, and apparently no church was founded in this part of Roman Galatia till a much later date. Yet a trace of the journey seems to be found in the name of Kara Bavlo-the modern equivalent of ‘Paul’-which is borne by the ruins of Adada. It is impossible to decide whether the name is based upon a genuine tradition or is merely a conjecture hazarded after the town was Christianized, but the latter supposition is perhaps the more likely. In a forest about 1 mile S. of Adada stand the ruins of a church of early date. The modern town, 5 miles S. of the ancient site, is also called Bavlo.

In a.d. 74 Vespasian transferred a great part of Pisidia to the new double province of Lycia-Pamphylia. The name Pisidia was gradually extended northward till it included most of Southern Phrygia. Thus Antioch, which in St. Paul’s time was not strictly ‘Pisidian’ (though St. Luke so describes it in Acts 13:14) but only ‘Antioch towards Pisidia’ (Ἀντιόχεια, ἡ πρὸς Πισιδίᾳ [Strabo, XII. viii. 14]), was at a later time correctly designated ‘Antioch of Pisidia’ (τῆς Πισιδίας; so the TR_ of Acts 13:14, following the Codex Bezae, which reflects the usage of the 2nd century).

The mountainous parts of the country are today inhabited by Karamanians who are as wild and rapacious as the Pisidians of two thousand years ago.

Literature.-C. Lanckoronski, Les Villes de la Pamphylie et de la Pisidie, 1890; W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire5, 1897, p. 18 ff.

James Strahan.


See Abyss.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Pisidia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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