Iconium

ICONIUM (ī-cō'nĭ-ŭm, Gr. Ikonion). A city of Asia Minor that Paul and Barnabas visited on Paul’s first missionary journey after they had been expelled from Antioch in Pisidia, which lay to the west. They revisited the city on their return journey to Antioch (Acts.13.51ff.). On his second missionary journey Paul with Silas stopped off at Iconium to read the letter sent out by the Jerusalem Council on the Judaizing question, and at nearby Lystra he took young Timothy with him as his associate (Acts.16.1-Acts.16.5). In 2Tim.3.11 Paul alludes to persecutions endured by him at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.

In the first century it was one of the chief cities in the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia. It was a city of immemorial antiquity and was situated near the western end of a vast, level plain, with mountains a few miles toward the west, from which streams flowed that made it a veritable oasis. Two important trade routes passed through it, and it was on the road leading to Ephesus and Rome. Its geographical position makes it the natural capital of Lycaonia. Archaeological inscriptions found there in a.d. 1910 show that the Phrygian language was spoken there for two centuries after the time of Paul, though at neighboring Lystra the natives spoke “the Lycaonian language” (Acts.14.11). Hadrian made the city a Roman colony. The city has had a continuing history and is now known as Konia, still the main trading center of the Lycaonian plain.


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The first impact of Christianity on Iconium provoked bitter opposition. The 2nd cent. story of Paul and Thekla, fiction though it is, contains as its core of truth the tribulations of the apostle and his first converts. Writing from Rome to Timothy, during his last imprisonment twenty years later, Paul still remembered his ordeal in the Phrygian city. Paul’s foundation, however, stood firm, and the church in Iconium, whose continued presence and activity is signified by numerous Christian inscrs. from the 3rd cent. onward, appears to have triumphed over the attempts of its Judaistic wing to corrupt the simplicity of its doctrine, the assault that occasioned the epistle to the Galatians.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Iconium was visited by Paul on his first and on his second missionary journey (Ac 13:51 ff; 16:2 ), and

the "South Galatian theory" be correct, probably also on his third journey. His sufferings there are referred to in 2Ti 3:11.

1. Topographical Position:

The topographical position of Iconium is clearly indicated in Acts, and the evidence of Ac has been confirmed by recent research. Was Iconium in Phrygia or in Lycaonia, and in what sense can it be said to have belonged to one ethnical division or the other? The majority of our ancient authorities (e.g. Cicero, Strabo, Pliny), writing from the point of view of Roman provincial administration, give Iconium to Lycaonia, of which geography makes it the natural capital. But Xenophon, who marched with Cyrus’ expedition through Phrygia into Lycaonia, calls Iconium the last city of Phrygia. The writer of Ac 14:6 makes the same statement when he represents Paul and Barnabas as fleeing from Iconium to the cities of Lycaonia--implying that the border of Phrygia and Lycaonia passed between Iconium and Lystra, 18 miles to the South. Other ancient authorities who knew the local conditions well speak of Iconium as Phrygian until far into the Roman imperial period. At the neighboring city of Lystra (Ac 14:11), the natives used the "speech of Lycaonia." Two inscriptions in the Phrygian language found at Iconium in 1910 prove that the Phrygian language was in use there for 2 centuries after Paul’s visits, and afford confirmation of the interesting topographical detail in Ac (see Jour. Hell. Stud., 1911, 189).

2. In Apostolic Period:

In the apostolic period, Iconium was one of the chief cities in the southern part of the Roman province Galatia, and it probably belonged to the "Phrygian region" mentioned in Ac 16:6. The emperor Claudius conferred on it the title Claudiconium, which appears on coins of the city and on inscriptions, and was formerly taken as a proof that Claudius raised the city to the rank of a Roman colonia. It was Hadrian who raised the city to colonial rank; this is proved by its new title, Colonia Aelia Hadriana Iconiensium, and by a recently discovered inscription, which belongs to the reign of Hadrian, and which mentions the first duumvir who was appointed in the new colonia. Iconium was still a Hellenic city, but with a strong pro-Roman bias (as proved by its title "Claudian") when Paul visited it.

3. Later History:

About 295 AD, an enlarged province, Pisidia, was formed, with Antioch as capital, and Iconium as a "sort of secondary metropolis." The Byzantine arrangement, familiar to us in the Notitiae Episcopatuum, under which Iconium was the capital of a province Lycaonia, dates from about 372 AD. Iconium, the modern Konia, has always been the main trading center of the Lycaonian Plain. Trade attracted Jews to the ancient Phrygio-Hellenic city (Ac 14:1), as it attracts Greeks and Armenians to the modern Turkish town.

4. Thekla:

Paul’s experiences at Iconium form part of theme of the semi-historical legend of Thekla, on which see Professor Ramsay’s Church in the Roman Empire, 380 ff.

LITERATURE.

Ramsay Historical Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, 214 ff; Cities of Paul, 317 ff. To the literature referred to in the notes to the latter book (pp. 448 ff) add Ath. Mitth., 1905, 324 ff; Revue de Philologie, 1912, 48 ff; Journal Hellenic Studies, 1911, 188 ff.