I. THE COUNTRY 1. Position and Boundaries
2. General Description
4. Rivers, Lakes and Plains
6. Climate and Products
II. HISTORY 1. The Hittites
2. Phrygian and Bithynian Immigrations
3. Lydians, Greeks and Persians
4. Alexander and his Successors
5. The Galatians
6. The Romans in Asia Minor
III. ASIA MINOR IN THE 1ST CENTURY AD 1. The Population
2. The Native Social System
4. The Hellenistic System
5. Roman "Coloniae"
IV. CHRISTIANITY IN ASIA MINOR, etc.
Technically, it is only on sufferance that an account of "Asia Minor" can find a place in a Biblical encyclopedia, for the country to which this name applies in modern times was never so called inor times. The term first appears in Orosius, a writer of the 5th century AD, and it is now applied in most European languages to the peninsula forming the western part of Asiatic Turkey.
The justification for the inclusion in this work of a summary account of Asia Minor as a whole, its geography, history, and the social and political condition of its people in New Testament times, is to be found in the following sentence of Gibbon: "The rich provinces that extend from the Euphrates to the Ionian Sea were the principal theater on which the Apostle to the Gentiles displayed his zeal and piety"; and no region outside the city of Rome has preserved to modern times so many records of the growth and character of its primitive Christianity.
I. The Country.
1. Position and Boundaries:
Asia Minor (as the country was called to distinguish it from the continent of Asia), or Anatolia, is the name given to the peninsula which reaches out between the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) on the North and the Mediterranean on the South, forming an elevated land-bridge between central Asia and southeastern Europe. On the Northwest corner, the peninsula is separated from Europe by the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmora and the hellespont. On the West the peninsula borders on the Aegean Sea, whose numerous islands tempted the timid mariner of ancient times on toward Greece. The West coast, with its alternation of mountain and river-valley, is deeply indented: there is a total coast line of four times the length of a line drawn from North to South The numerous land-locked bays and harbors of this coast have made it the happy hunting-ground of Mediterranean traders in all ages. On the East it is usual to delimit Asia Minor by a line drawn from Alexandretta to Samsun, but for the purposes of New Testament history it must be remembered that part of Cilicia, Cappadocia and Pontus (Galatia) lie to the East of this line (Longitude 26 degrees to 36 degrees East; latitude 36 degrees to 42 degrees North).
2. General Description:
There are two distinct countries, implying distinct historical development, in the Anatolian peninsula, the country of the coast, and the country of the central plateau. The latter takes its shape from that of the great mountain ranges which bound it on the West, East and North. The high central tableland is tilted down toward the North and West; the mountain ranges on these sides are not so lofty as the Taurus chain on the South and Southeast. This chain, except at its Southeast corner, rises sharply from the South coast, whose undulations it determines. On the North, the mountains of Pontus (no distinctive name), a continuation of the Armenian range, give the coast-line a similar character. On the inhospitable North coast, there is only one good harbor, that of Sinope, and no plain of any extent. The South coast can boast of the plains of Pamphylia and Cilicia, both highly fertile, the harbors of Makri and Marmariki, and the sheltered bays of Adalia and Alexandretta. On the West, the ascent from the littoral to the plateau is more gradual. A distance of over 100 miles separates the Phrygian mountains where the oriental plateau begins, from the West seaboard with its inlets and trading cities. These hundred miles are composed of river valleys, divided off by mountain ranges, and forming the channels of communication between the interior and the coast. While these two regions form part of a single country it is obvious that--in all that gives individuality to a country, their flora, fauna, climate, conditions of life and history--the one region is sharply marked off from the other. For the plateau naturally connects itself with the East In its vegetation and climate, its contrasts of temperature, its dry soil and air, it forms part of the region extending eastward to central Asia. The coast land recalls the scenery and general character of the Greek mainland and islands. It naturally looked to, it influenced and was influenced by, the populations on the other side of the Aegean Sea. At Smyrna, the traveler in all ages recognizes the bright, active life of southern Europe; at Iconium he feels the immobile and lethargic calm of the East. Asia Minor in its geographical structure as well as in its population, has been throughout history the meeting-place, whether for peaceful intermixture or for the clash in war, of the eternally contrasted systems of East and West.
The Armenian mountains reach westward, and fork, close to the line we have chosen as the East boundary of Asia Minor, into two ranges, the Taurus Mountains on the South, and the mountains of Pontus on the North Mount Argaeus (over 12,000 ft.) stands in the angle formed by these ranges, nearer to Taurus than to the northern system. Taurus is pierced on the northern side of the Cilician plain by the pass, easy to traverse and still more easy to defend, of the Cilician Gates, while another natural route leads from central Cappadocia to Amisus on the Black Sea. These mountain ranges (average height of Taurus 7,000 to 10,000 ft.; the North range is much lower) enfold the central Galatian and Lycaonian plains, which are bounded on the West by the Sultan Dagh and the Phrygian mountains. From the latter to the west coast extend three mountain ranges, delimiting the valleys of the Caicus, Hermus and Meander. These valleys lie East and West, naturally conducting traffic in those directions.
4. Rivers, Lakes and Plains:
The great plains of the interior, covering parts of Galatia, Lycaonia and Cappadocia, lie at an altitude of from 3,000 to 4,000 ft. Rivers enter them from the adjoining mountains, to be swallowed up in modern times in salt lakes and swamps. In ancient times much of this water was used for irrigation. Regions which now support only a few wretched villages were covered in the Roman period by numerous large cities, implying a high degree of cultivation of the naturally fertile soil. The remaining rivers cut their way through rocky gorges in the fringe of mountains around the plateau; on the West side of the peninsula their courses open into broad valleys, among which those of the Caieus, Hermus and Meander are among the most fertile in the world. Down those western valleys, and that of the Sangarius on the Northwest, ran the great highways from the interior to the seaboard. In those valleys sprang up the greatest and most prosperous of the Hellenistic and Greek-Roman cities, from which Greek education and Christianity radiated over the whole country. The longest river in Asia Minor is the Halys, which rises in Pontus, and after an enormous bend south-westward flows into the Black Sea. This, and the Iris, East of Amisus, are the only rivers of note on the North coast. The rivers on the South coast, with the exception of the Sarus and the Pyramus which rise in Cappadocia and water the Cilician plain, are mere mountain torrents, flowing immediately into the sea. A remarkable feature of Asia Minor is its duden, rivers disappearing underground in the limestone rock, to reappear as springs and heads of rivers many miles away. Mineral and thermal springs abound all over the country, and are especially numerous in the Meander valley. There are several salt lakes, the largest being Lake Tatta in Lycaonia. Fresh-water lakes, such as Karalis and the Limuae, abound in the mountains in the Southwest.
The road-system of Asia Minor is marked out by Nature, and traffic has followed the same lines since the dawn of history. The traveler from the Euphrates or from Syria enters by way of Melitene and Caesarea, or by the Cilician Gates. From Caesarea he can reach the Black Sea by Zela and Amisus. If he continues westward, he must enter the Aegean area by one of the routes marked out, as indicated above, by the valleys of the Meander, Hermus or Caicus. If his destination is the Bosporus, he travels down the valley of the Sangarius. Other roads lead from the bay of Adalia to Antioch in Pisidia or to Apameia, or to Laodicea on the Lycus and thence down the Meander to Ephesus. The position of the Hittite capital at Pteria fixed the route North of the central plain in general usage for travelers from East to West, and this was the route followed by the Persian Royal Road. Later, traffic from the East took the route passing along the South side of the Axylon, North of Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch to the Lycus, Meander and Ephesus. This route coincides with that from the Cilician Gates, from a point Northeast of Iconium. The need to control the Pisidian tribes in the reign of Augustus led to the building of a series of roads in Pisidia, radiating from Antioch; one of these roads led from Antioch to Lystra, and it was the one traversed by Paul on his journey from Antioch to Iconium (Ac 13:51).
6. Climate and Products:
The winter on the central plateau is long and severe, the summer is short and hot: but a cool breeze from the North (the inbat) tempers the hot afternoons. The south coast in summer is hot and malarious; in winter its climate is mild. Much snow fails in the regions adjacent to the Black Sea. The climate of the west coast resembles that of southern Europe. The country contains vast mineral wealth; many of the mines were worked by the ancients. There are forests of pine, oak and fir in the mountains of the North and South. The central plateau has always been famous for its vast flocks of sheep. King Amyntas of Galatia owned enormous flocks which pastured on the Lycaonian plain. Carpets and rugs and other textile products have always been characteristic of Asia Minor. The wealth of the cities in the province of Asia depended largely on textile and dyeing industries (Re 1-3).
It follows from what has been said above that the clue to the history of Asia Minor more almost than in the case of any other country, lies in its geographical position and structure. "Planted like a bridge between Asia and Europe," it has been throughout human history the meeting-place and the battle ground of the peoples of the East and those of the West. From the earliest period to which our records reach, we find it inhabited by an amalgam of races, religions and social systems, none of which has ever quite died out. And throughout history new races, religions and social systems, alike imperishable in many of their features, have poured into the peninsula to find a home there.
1. The Hittites:
At the dawn of history, Asia Minor was ruled by a non-Aryan people, the Hatti or Hittites about which knowledge is at present accumulating so fast that no final account of them can be given. See Hittites. Asia Minor is now recognized to have been the center of their civilization, as against the older view that they were a Mesopotamian people. Sculptures and hieroglyphs belonging to this people have long been known over the whole country from Smyrna to the Euphrates, and it is almost unanimously assumed that their capital was at Boghaz Keui (across the Halys from Ancyra). This site has been identified with much probability with the Pteria of Herodotus, which Croesus captured when he marched against the Persians, the inference being that the portion of the Hittite land which lay East of the Halys was at that time a satrapy of the Persian Empire. Excavations in the extensive ancient city at Boghaz Keui have recently been carried out by Winckler and Puchstcin, who have discovered remains of the royal archives. These records are written on clay tablets in cuneiform script; they are couched partly in Babylonian, partly (presumably) in the still undeciphered native language. The documents in the Babylonian tongue prove that close political relations existed between the Hatti and the eastern monarchy. In the 14th century BC the Hittites appear to have conquered a large part of Syria, and to have established themselves at Carchemish. Thenceforth, they were in close touch with Mesopotamia. From about the beginning of the first millennium, the Hittites "were in constant relations, hostile or neutral, with the Ninevites, and thenceforward their art shows such marked Assyrian characteristics that it hardly retains its individuality."
2. Phrygian and Bithynian Immigrations:
The date of the Phrygian and Bithynian immigrations. from southeastern Europe cannot be fixed with certainty, but they had taken place by the beginning of the first millennium BC. These immigrations coincide in time with the decline of the Hittite power. After many wanderings, the Phrygians found a home at the western side of the plateau, and no power exercised such an influence on the early development of Asia Minor as the Phrygian, principally in the sphere of religion. The kings of Phrygia "bulked more impressively in the Greek mind than any other non-Gr monarchy; their language was the original language and the speech of the goddess herself; their country was the land of great fortified cities, and their kings were the associates of the gods themselves." The material remains of the "Phrygian country"--the tomb of Midas with the fortified acropolis above it, and the many other rock-tombs around--are the most impressive in Asia Minor Inscriptions in a script like the early Ionian are cut on some of the tombs. The Phrygian language, an Indo-Germanic speech with resemblances to both Greek and the Italian languages, is proved by some seventy inscriptions (a score of them still unpublished) to have been in common use well into the Christian period. Two recently found inscriptions show that it was spoken even in Iconium, "the furthermost city of Phrygia," on the Lycaonian side, until the 3rd century of our era. Those inscriptions mention the names of Ma (Cybele) and Attis, whose cult exercised a profound influence on the religions of Greece and Rome.
3. Lydians, Greeks and Persians:
The next monarchy to rise in Asia Minor is that of Lydia, whose origin is obscure. The Phrygian empire had fallen before an invasion of the Cimmerii in the 9th or 8th century BC; Alyattes of Lydia, which lay between Phrygia and the Aegean, repelled a second invasion of the Cimmerii in 617 BC. Croesus, king of Lydia (both names afterward proverbial for wealth), was lord of all the country to the Halys, as well as of the Greek colonies on the coast. Those colonies--founded from hellas--had reached their zenith by the 8th century, and studded all three coasts of Asia Minor. Their inability to combine in a common cause placed them at the mercy of Croesus, and later of his conquerors, the Persians (546 BC). The Persians divided Asia Minor into satrapies, but the Greek towns were placed under Greek dynasts, who owned the suzerainty of Persia, and several of the inland races continued under the rule of their native princes. The defeat of Xerxes by Hellas set the Greek cities in Asia Minor free, and they continued free during the period of Athenian greatness. In 386 BC they were restored to the king of Persia by the selfish diplomacy of Sparta.
4. Alexander and His Successors:
5. The Galatians:
In their manner of entering and settling in the country, in the way in which they both came under the influence of the Asiatic environment, and impressed the stamp of their vigorous individuality on the culture and the history of the land, the Galatae, a Celtic nation who crossed from Europe in 278-277 BC, to establish themselves ultimately on the East of ancient Phrygia and on both sides of the Halys, recall the essential features of the Phrygian immigration of a thousand years earlier. "The region of Galatia, at a remote period the chief seat of the oriental rule over anterior Asia, and preserving in the famed rock-sculptures of the modern Boghaz Keui, formerly the royal town of Pteria, reminiscences of an almost forgotten glory, had in the course of centuries become in language and manners a Celtic island amidst the waves of eastern peoples, and remained so in internal organization even under the (Roman) empire."
But these Gauls came under strong oriental influence; they modified to some extent, the organization of the local religion, which they adopted; but they adopted it so completely that only one deity with a Celtic name has so far appeared on the numerous cult- inscriptions of Galatia (Anderson in Journal of Hellenistic Studies, 1910, 163 ff). Nor has a single inscription in the Galatian language been found in the country, although we know that that language was spoken by the lower classes at least as late as the 4th century AD. The Galatian appears to have superseded the Phrygian tongue in the part of Galatia which was formerly Phrygian; no Phrygian inscriptions have been found in Galatia, although they are common in the district bordering on its southern and western boundaries. But Galatian was unable to compete with Greek as the language of the educated classes, and even such among the humbler orders as could write, wrote in Greek, and Greek-Roman city-organization replaced the Celtic tribal system much earlier and much more completely in Galatia than Roman municipal organization did in Gaul. Still, the Galatians stood out in strong contrast both to the Greeks and to the Orientals. Roman diplomacy recognized and encouraged this sense of isolation, and in her struggle against the Orientals and the Greeks under Mithridates, Rome found trusty allies in the Galatians. In the Imperial period, the Galatians were considered the best soldiers in Asia Minor. See Galatia.
6. The Romans in Asia Minor:
The Romans exercised an effective control over the affairs of Asia Minor after their defeat of Antiochus the Great in 189 BC, but it was only in 133 BC, when Attalus of Pergamus bequeathed his kingdom of "Asia" to the Roman state, that the Roman occupation began. This kingdom formed the province Asia; a second inheritance which fell to Rome at the death of Nicomedes III in 74 BC became the province Bithynia, to which Pontus was afterward added. Cilicia, the province which gave Paul to the empire and the church, was annexed in 100 BC, and reorganized by Pompey in 66 BC.
These provinces had already been organized; in other words the Roman form of government had been definitely established in them at the foundation of the empire, and, in accordance with the principle that all territory which had been thoroughly "pacified" should remain under the administration of the senate, while the emperor directly governed regions in which soldiers in numbers were still required, the above-mentioned provinces, with the exception of Cilicia, fell to the senate. But all territory subsequently annexed in Asia Minor remained in the emperor’s hands. Several territories over which Rome had exercised a protectorate were now organized into provinces, under direct imperial rule. Such were: Galatia, to which under its last king Amyntas, part of Phrygia, Lycaonia, Pisidia and Pamphylia had been added, and which was made a Roman province at his death in 25 BC (the extension of Galatia under Amyntas to include Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe and the consequent incorporation of these cities in the province Galatia, forms the ultimate historical basis of the "South Galatian Theory"); Paphlagonia, annexed in 7 BC; Cappadocia, in 17 AD; Lycia, in 43 AD, and in 63 AD the part of Pontus lying between the Iris and Armenia. This formed the Roman Asia Minor of Paul’s time. See Asia; Bithynia, etc.
III. Asia Minor in the First Century AD.
1. The Population:
The partition of Asia Minor into Roman provinces did not correspond to its ethnological divisions, and even those divisions were not always clearly marked. As is clear from the brief historical sketch given above, the population of Asia Minor was composed of many overlying strata of races, which tended in part to lose their individuality and sink into the original Anatolian type. Answering roughly to the above-mentioned separation of Asia Minor into two countries, and to its characterization as the meeting-place of East and West, we can detach from among a medley of races and institutions two main coexistent social systems, which we may call the native system, and the hellenistic system. These systems (especially as the result of Roman government) overlap and blend with each other, but they correspond in a general way to the distinction (observed in the country by Strabo) between city-organization and life on the village system. A deep gulf separated these forms of society.
2. The Native Social System:
3. Emperor Worship:
Theocratic government received a new direction and a new meaning from the institution of emperor-worship; obedience to the god now coincided with loyalty to the emperor. The Seleucid kings and later the Roman emperors, according to a highly probable view, became heirs to the property of the dispossessed priests (a case is attested at Pisidian Antioch); and it was out of the territory originally belonging to the temples that grants of land to the new Seleucid and Roman foundations were made. On those portions of an estate not gifted to a polis or colonia, theocratic government lasted on; but alongside of the Anatolian god there now appeared the figure of the god-emperor.
In many places the cult of the emperor was established in the most important shrine of the neighborhood; the god-emperor succeeded to or shared the sanctity of the older god, Grecized as Zeus, Apollo, etc.; inscriptions record dedications made to the god and to the emperor jointly. Elsewhere, and especially in the cities, new temples were founded for the worship of the emperor. Asia Minor was the home of emperor-worship, and nowhere did the new institution fit so well into the existing religious system. Inscriptions have recently thrown much light on a society of Xenoi Tekmoreioi ("Guest-Friends of the Secret Sign") who lived on an estate which had belonged to Men Askaenos beside Asiarch), and it was chiefly those societies that set the machinery of the Roman law in operation against the Christians in the great persecutions. In the course of time the people on the imperial estates tended to pass into a condition of serfdom; but occasionally an emperor raised the whole or part of an estate to the rank of a city.
4. The Hellenistic System:
Much of inner Asia Minor must originally have been governed on theocratic system; but the Greek city-state gradually encroached on the territory and privileges of the ancient temple. Several of these cities were "founded" by the Seleucids and Attalids; this sometimes meant a new foundation, more often the establishment of Greek city-government in an older city, with an addition of new inhabitants. These inhabitants were often Jews whom the Seleucids found trusty colonists: the Jews of Antioch in Pisidia (Ac 13:14 ff) probably belong to this class. The conscious aim of those foundations was the Hellenization of the country, and their example influenced the neighboring cities. With the oriental absolutism of the native system, the organization of the Greek and Roman cities was in sharp contrast. In the earlier centuries of the Roman Empire these cities enjoyed a liberal measure of self- government. Magistracies were elective; rich men in the same city vied with each other, and city vied with city, in erecting magnificent public buildings, in founding schools and promoting education, in furthering all that western nations mean by civilization. With the Greek cities came the Greek Pantheon, but the gods of Hellas did little more than add their names to those of the gods of the country. Wherever we have any detailed information concerning a cult in inner Anatolia, we recognize under a Greek (or Roman) disguise the essential features of the old Anatolian god.
The Greeks had always despised the excesses of the Asiatic religion, and the more advanced education of the Anatolian Greeks could not reconcile itself to a degraded cult, which sought to perpetuate the social institutions under which it had arisen, only under their ugliest and most degraded aspects. "In the country generally a higher type of society was maintained; whereas at the great temples the primitive social system was kept up as a religious duty incumbent on the class called Hieroi during their regular periods of service at the temple. .... The chasm that divided the religion from the educated life of the country became steadily wider and deeper. In this state of things Paul entered the country; and wherever education had already been diffused, he found converts ready and eager." This accounts for "the marvelous and electrical effect that is attributed in Ac to the preaching of the Apostle in Galatia" (Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, 96).
5. Roman "Coloniae":
Under the Roman Empire, we can trace a gradual evolution in the organization of the Greek cities toward the Roman municipal type. One of the main factors in this process was the foundation over inner Asia Minor of Roman colonies, which were "bits of Rome" set down in the provinces. These colonies were organized entirely on the Roman model, and were usually garrisons of veterans, who kept unruly parts of the country in order. Such in New Testament time were Antioch and Lystra (Iconium, which used to be regarded as a colony of Claudius, is now recognized to have been raised to that rank by Hadrian). In the 1st century Latin was the official language in the colonies; it never ousted Greek in general usage, and Greek soon replaced it in official documents. Education was at its highest level in the Greek towns and in the Roman colonies, and it was to those exclusively that Paul addressed the gospel.
IV. Christianity in Asia Minor.
Already in Paul’s lifetime, Christianity had established itself firmly in many of the greater centers of Greek-Roman culture in Asia and Galatia. The evangelization of Ephesus, the capital of the province Asia, and the terminus of one of the great routes leading along the peninsula, contributed largely to the spread of Christianity in the inland parts of the province, and especially in Phrygia. Christianity, in accordance with the program of Paul, first took root in the cities, from which it spread over the country districts. Christian Inscriptions, etc.:
The Christian inscriptions begin earliest in Phrygia, where we find many documents dating from the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd centuries AD. The main characteristic of those early inscriptions--a feature which makes them difficult to recognize--is their suppression as a rule of anything that looked overtly Christian, with the object of avoiding the notice of persons who might induce the Roman officials to take measures against their dedicators. The Lycaonian inscriptions begin almost a century later, not, we must suppose, because Christianity spread less rapidly from Iconium, Lystra, etc., than it did from the Asian cities, but because Greek education took longer to permeate the sparsely populated plains of the central plateau than the rich townships of Asia. The new religion is proved by Pliny’s correspondence with Trajan (111-13 AD) to have been firmly established in Bithynia early in the 2nd century.
Farther east, where the great temples still had much influence, the expansion of Christianity was slower, but in the 4th century Cappadocia produced such men as Basil and the Gregories. The great persecutions, as is proved by literary evidence and by many inscriptions, raged with especial severity in Asia Minor. The influence of the church on Asia Minor in the early centuries of the Empire may be judged from the fact that scarcely a trace of the Mithraic religion, the principal competitor of Christianity, has been found in the whole country. From the date of the Nicene Council (325 AD) the history of Christianity in Asia Minor was that of the Byzantine Empire. Ruins of churches belonging to the Byzantine period are found all over the peninsula; they are especially numerous in the central and eastern districts. A detailed study of a Byzantine Christian town of Lycaonia, containing an exceptionally large number of churches, has been published by Sir W. M. Ramsay and Miss G. L. Bell: The Thousand and One Churches. Greek- speaking Christian villages in many parts of Asia Minor continue an unbroken connection with the Roman Empire till the present day.
LITERATURE. Ramsay’s numerous works on Asia Minor, especially Paul the Traveler, etc., The Church in the Roman Empire, The Cities of Paul, The Letters to the
W. M. Calder