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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Pamphylia

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(Gr. Παμφυλαί, of every race), a province in the southern part of Asia Minor, having the Mediterranean on the south, Cilicia on the east, Pisidia on the north, and Lycia on the west. It was nearly opposite the island of Cyprus; and the sea between the coast and the island is called in Acts 27:5 the sea of Pamphylia. The chief cities of this province were Perga and Attalia. It seems in early times to have been less considerable than either of the contigous districts; for in the Persian war, while Cilicia contributed a hundred ships and Lycia fifty, Pamphylia sent only thirty (Herod. 7:91, 92). The name probably then embraced little more than the crescent of comparatively level ground between Taurus and the sea To the norths along the heights of Taurus itself, was the region of Pisidia. The Roman organization of the country, however, gave a wider range to the term Pamphylia. In St. Paul's time it was not only a regular province, but the emperor Claudius had united Lycia with it (Dio Cass. 40,17), and probably also a good part of Pisidia. However, in the N.T. the three terms are used as distinct. The greater part of it was wild and mountainous, but intersected by beautiful vales. It presented a great variety of soil and climate, ranging from the perpetual snow region on the summits of Taurus, down to the orange-groves that to this day encircle the town of Adalia. The southern aspect and sheltered situation of the coast give it a temperature higher than that of most parts of Palestine. Among the most interesting natural curiosities of Pamphylia may be reckoned the river Catarrhactes, which, taking its rise in the lake Teogitis, a little to the south of Antioch in Pisidia, rolls its calcareous waters down to the sea near Attaleia, where they pour over the cliffs into the Levant; from this circumstance the river takes its name. Its bed, or rather its beds, near the termination of its course, are continually changing, so that it becomes difficult to identify the position of any ancient sites in the vicinity of this river. The view from the sea of these waterfalls is very striking, and is not unlike that of the falls at Hierapolis in Phrygia. The valleys are rich and fertile, but towards the sea unhealthy; it is however probable that their climate has deteriorated in modern times, like that of the whole sea-coast from Ephesus eastwards. At the mouth of the rivers respectively were situated the important cities of Attaleia, Perga, Aspendus, and Side; so that Pamphylia, though one of the smallest of the provinces into which Asia Minor was divided, was by no means the least in consequence.

It was in Pamphylia that St. Paul first entered Asia Minor, after preaching the Gospel in Cyprus. He and Barnabas sailed up the river Cestrus to Perga (Acts 13:13). Here they were abandoned by their subordinate companion John-Mark; a circumstance which is alluded to again with much feeling, and with a pointed mention of the place where the separation occurred (Acts 15:38). It might be the pain of this separation which induced Paul and Barnabas to leave Perga without delay. They did however preach the Gospel there on their return from. the interior (Acts 14:24-25). We may conclude, from Acts 2:10, that there were many Jews in the province; and possibly Perga had a synagogue. The two missionaries finally left Pamphylia by its chief seaport, Attalia. We do not know that St. Paul was ever in this district again; but many years afterwards he sailed near its coast, passing through "the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia" on his way to a town of Lycia (Acts 27:5). We notice here the accurate order of these geographical terms, as in the above-mentioned land-journey we observe how Pisidia andt Pamphylia occur in true relations, both in going and returning (εἰς Πέργην τῆς Παμφυλίας .. ἀπὸ τῆς Πέργης εἰς Ἀντιοχείαν τῆς Πισιδαίς, Acts 13:13-14; διελθόντες τὴν Πισιδίαν ηλθον εἰς Παμφυλίαν, Acts 14:24). Pamphylia was then a flourishing commercial province; the rivers, now silted up, or rendered useless for ships by the formation of bars across their mouths, were then navigable to a considerable extent. Cimon sailed up the river Eurymedon with his army as far as Aspendus, and the Cestrus was navigable in the time of Strabo up to Perga for ships of heavy burden. The whole province is remarkable for its natural beauties, its fauna and flora are varied and abundant, and the researches of Tchiatcheff (Asie Mineure [Paris, 1853], vol. 3) show that in these respects it was surpassed by no province of Asia Minor. The climate, like that of Lycia and Cilicia, is highly favorable to this result; the mean temperature is higher than that of any other countries under the same parallels of latitude, and the summers approach those of the tropics: that portion of Europe which most nearly resembles it is the valley of the Guadalquivir. The inhabitants, like a portion of those in the neighboring provinces Lycia and Cilicia were mild and courteous in manners, and greatly addicted to commerce, to which indeed they were led by the peculiarly favorable situation of the country. Attalus built Attaleia in order to command the trade of Syria and Egypt, and the result fully answered his expectations. At the same time this commendation of the race inhabiting these provinces must be restricted within narrow limits. The Pisidians were famous robbers; the higher regions of Cilicia were infested by predatory tribes, and piracy was the profession of great numbers on the sea-coast. Even the Pamphylians themselves were not free from the like imputation, in proportion as they receded towards the mountains. St. Paul could not cross Mount Taurus without being "in peril of robbers." Compared, however, with the Cappadocians, the Lycaonians, and the Pisidians, the inhabitants of Pamphylia may be regarded as a civilized and inoffensive race. Various accounts have been given of the origin of the Pamphylians. Some say they were a mixed race, composed of a number of amalgamated tribes, and hence their name Παμφυλοι ("mingled tribes"). This appears to be the opinion of Herodotus (8:91) and Pausanias (7:3). Others maintain that they sprung from a Dorian chief called Pamphylus (Rawlinson's Herod. 3:276, note); others from Pamphyle, the daughter of Rhacius (Steph. Byz. s.v.). The truth seems to be that there was an ancient tribe of this name, speaking a language of its own, and which in more recent times partly amalgamated with the Greeks who overran Asia Minor. It is this language to which Luke refers in Acts 2:10. It was probably a barbarous patois, known only to the residents in the little province of Pamphylia (comp. Arrian, Anab. 1:26); and hence the astonishment of those who heard the apostles speak it.

The greater part of Pamphylia is now thinly populated, and its soil uncultivated. There are still a few little towns and villages near the coast, surrounded by fruitful fields and luxuriant orchards. Some of these occupy ancient sites, and contain the remains of former grandeur. See Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 1:242; Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. s.v. (See ASIA MINOR).

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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pamphylia'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/p/pamphylia.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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