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LYCAONIA (lĭk'ā-ō'nĭ-a, Gr. Lykaonia). A district in the central plain of Asia north of the Taurus range, in early Roman days a division (or conuentus) of the province of Cilicia. Trajan transferred it to Galatia, but it reverted largely to Cilicia under the boundary adjustments of Antoninus Pius. Iconium, an ancient city rich in history, was the administrative capital. The province generally was backward, the inhabitants still speaking a vernacular language in the first century a.d. In Acts.14.6 it is implied that one crossed a frontier in passing from Iconium to Lystra, an implication once set down as an error of the historian. W. M. Ramsay demonstrated the accuracy of the passage from local inscriptions.

LYCAONIA lĭk ā ō’nĭ ə (Gr. Λυκαονία, G3377). A satrapy in southern Asia Minor.

The borders of the region called Lycaonia are not well defined, but it had Galatia to the N, Cappadocia to the E, Cilicia to the S., and Pisidia to the W. It consisted for the most part of a high, treeless plateau, the land being fertile enough and productive where there was water, but good mainly for raising sheep and goats (Xenophon, Anabasis, IV. 2. 23). The people who inhabited the region have been described as warlike and energetic. They emerge in about the 6th cent. b.c., already speaking a language of their own, and during the long rule of Persia in Asia Minor, maintained themselves free from Pers. domination. After the fall of Persia and the death of Alexander the Great, the region fell under control of the Seleucids and so remained until 190 b.c. when the Romans handed Lycaonia over to Pergamum. When King Attalus died in 133 b.c. and the Pergamene kingdom was dissolved, the region was administered by the Romans as part of their settlement in Asia, and from 25 b.c. onward became part of Galatia or Galatia-Cappadocia.

The leading cities of Lycaonia were Lystra and Derbe. Iconium was evidently a Phrygian city, for when the Jews stirred up trouble for Paul and Barnabas there, they fled to the Lycaonian cities for safety (Acts 14:5, 6). As everywhere else in the Seleucid realm the process of Hellenization went on, but slowly in Lycaonia, for the people are described as being backward. Greek was no doubt understood in the cities, but the people still retained their own language, responding to the miracle Paul worked upon the cripple in Lystra by shouting out in the Lycaonian tongue (Acts 14:11). They then proceeded to get ready to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas as though they were gods, an act from which Paul barely restrained them. This whole incident indicates the strong hold of pagan religion upon the populace of the region.

The Book of Acts speaks of aggressive groups of Jews both in Pisidian Antioch and in Iconium (chs. 13 and 14), but says little about any such groups in Lystra and Derbe. In fact, it was Jews from Antioch and Iconium who came and stirred up the people at Lystra against Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:19, 20). There must have been some Jews living in the Lycaonian cities, for Timothy came from Lystra, and his mother was a Jewess. Indeed, Paul decided to circumcise Timothy because of the Jewish element in the place (Acts 16:1-3).

In all, Paul made three visits to Lycaonia. The first was on his first missionary journey, accompanied by Barnabas, and they preached there with some success (Acts 14:21f.). On his second journey, Paul returned to the region with Silas, found Timothy at Lystra and added him to the company, and ministered to the Christians in the cities there (Acts 16:1-5). When he set out from Syrian Antioch on his third journey, he again went through the region, encouraging and strengthening the churches (Acts 18:23).


Pauly-Wissova, Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, XIII2, 2253-2265; Oxford Classical Dictionary; A. H. M. Jones, Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces (1937), ch. 5.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

lik-a-o’-ni-a, li-ka-o’-ni-a (Lukaonia (Ac 14:6), Lukaonisti, (Ac 14:11, "in the speech of Lycaonia"); Lycaonia is meant, according to the South Galatian view, by the expression ten Galatiken choran, in Ac 18:23, and the incidents in Ac 16:1-4 belong to Lycaonia): Was a country in the central and southern part of Asia Minor whose boundaries and extent varied at different periods. In the time of Paul, it was bounded on the North by Galatia proper (but lay in the Roman province Galatia), on the East by Cappadocia, on the South by Cilicia Tracheia, and on the West by Pisidia and Phrygia. The boundary of Phrygia and Lycaonia passed between Iconium and Lystra (see Iconium). Lycaonia consists of a level plain, waterless and treeless, rising at its southern fringe for some distance into the foothills of Taurus, and broken on its eastern side by the volcanic mass of Kara-Dagh and by many smaller hills. Strabo informs us that King Amyntas of Galatia fed many flocks of sheep on the Lycaonian plain. Much of the northern portion of Lycaonia has been proved by recent discovery to have belonged to the Roman emperors, who inherited the crown lands of Amyntas.

In Ac 14:6 Lycaonia is summed up as consisting of the cities of Lystra and Derbe and the district (including many villages) lying around them. This description refers to a particular division of Lycaonia, which alone is mentioned in the Bible. In the time of Paul, Lycaonia consisted of two parts, a western and an eastern. The western part was a "region" or subdivision of the Roman province Galatia; the eastern was called Lycaonia Antiochiana, after Antiochus of Commagene under whom it had been placed in 37 AD. This non-Roman portion was traversed by Paul; but nothing is recorded of his journey through it (see Derbe). It included the important city of Laranda; and when Lycaonia is described as consisting of the cities of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding district, the writer is clearly thinking only of the western portion of Lycaonia, which lay in, and formed a "region" of, the province Galatia. This is the tract of country which is meant in Ac 18:23, where it is called the "region" of Galatia, and placed side by side with Phrygia, another region of Galatia. The province Galatia was divided into districts technically known as "regions," and Roman Lycaonia is called the "region of Galatia" in implied contrast with Antiochian Lycaonia, which lay outside the Roman province. Of the language of Lycaonia. (see Lystra) nothing survives except some personal and place names, which are discussed in Kretschmar’s Einleitung in die Gesch. der griech. Sprache.


Ramsay, Historical Commentary on Galatians (Introduction); Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition (inscriptions).