LYSTRA (lĭs'tra, Gr. Lystra). A Roman colony founded by Augustus. It had an aristocratic core of citizens with franchise, a group likely to honor the similar status of Paul. The community at large was not culturally advanced. In Lystra W. M. Ramsay discovered an inscription dedicating a statue to Zeus and Hermes, two deities who were linked in a local cult explained by Ovid.
Philemon and Baucis, the legend ran, entertained the two gods unawares with hospitality the rest of the community churlishly withheld. Hence the identification of Paul and Barnabas with the same two deities (Latinized by Vulgate and kjv into ). At Isauria, not far away, an inscription has been found to “Zeus before the gate,” hence it was probably the location of the proposed ceremony mentioned in
LYSTRA lĭs’ trə (ἡ Λύστρα τὰ Λύστρα). A town in the central region of S Asia Minor (
Lystra is an ancient village of the district of Lycaonia which was c. twenty-four m. S of Iconium, a Phrygian village. Lystra was built upon a small hill suddenly rising c. 100-150 ft. above the surrounding plain located on the E of the mountain ranges which form the Pisidian triangle. It was not located on any significant road or trade route; in fact, it was located c. eight to ten m. from the great trade route. It is probable that the territory of Lystra was bounded in the N by Iconium, in the W by the mountains, and in the S by Isauria Vetus. The borders of the territory of Lycaonia are difficult to determine, esp. in the E, because of the absence of towns in the area. It is thought that the territory of Lycaonia was not any larger than 100 square m. The plain surrounding Lystra was fertile, with two small rivers passing by the village’s mound.
In becoming a Rom. colony, Lystra sent (in the 2nd cent.) a statute of concord to its sister colony of Antioch in Pisidia. When Lystra had become a colony she acquired some Rom. settlers, most of whom were veterans. Also, under the Rom. influence roads were built during Augustus’ rule, whereby a road went from Iconium through Lystra and then on to Derbe and Laranda and finally into Cilicia.
Regarding Lystra’s inhabitants, first, the Rom. element was a small group of the local aristocracy of soldiers. They were the ruling class. Second, there were the Gr.-educated residents who were called the Hellenes. The Hellenes were not a racial group but an educated and generally well-to-do segment of the population. Timothy, whose father was a Hellene and his mother a Jewess (
The Rom. aristocracy spoke Lat., the educated were able to speak Gr., and the Lycaonians spoke in their own vernacular (cf.
On the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas arrived at Lystra (c. a.d. 49), having fled the hostility of the Jews at Iconium (
On his second missionary journey Paul traveled through Syria and Cilicia and revisited the churches and Derbe and Lystra (c. a.d. 50) (
W. M. Ramsay, The Historical Geography of Asia Minor (1890), passim; W. M. Ramsay, The Church in thebefore A.D. 170, 5th ed. (1897), 47-54, passim; W. M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (1899), 223-227; W. M. Ramsay, “Lystra,” HDB (1900), 178-180; W. M. Ramsay, The Cities of St. Paul (1907), 407-418; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, 15th ed., enlarged (1925), passim; W. M. Ramsay, The Social Basis of Roman Power in Asia Minor (1941), 180-199, passim; D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950) I, 462-464; II, 1324-1327; F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts (1954), ad loc.; E. Lerle, “Die Predigt in Lystra,” NTS, VII (1960), 46-55; M. J. Mellink, “Lystra,” IDB, III (1962), 194, 195; E. M. Blaiklock, Cities of the (1965), 31-34; B. Levick, Roman Colonies in Southern Asia Minor (1967), 51-53, 195-197, passim; A. H. M. Jones, The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces, 2nd ed. (1971), 134, 135.
M. A symbol used by the NT scholar B. H. Streeter in his Four-Document hypothesis to designate one of the supposed sources of the gospel of Matthew, standing for matter peculiar to this gospel.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
lis’-tra: The forms Lustran, and Lustrois, occur. Such variation in the gender of Anatolian city-names is common (see Harnack, Apostelgeschichte, 86; Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 128). Lystra was visited by Paul 4 times (
1. Character and Site:
Lystra owed its importance, and the attention which Paul paid to it, to the fact that it had been made a Roman colonia by Augustus (see Antioch), and was therefore, in the time of Paul, a center of education and enlightenment. Nothing is known of its earlier, and little of its later, history. The site of Lystra was placed by Leake (1820) at a hill near Khatyn Serai, 18 miles South-Southwest from Iconium; this identification was proved correct by an inscription found by Sterrett in 1885. The boundary between Phrygia and Lycaonia passed between Iconium and Lystra. (
The population of Lystra consisted of the local aristocracy of Roman soldiers who formed the garrison of the colonia, of Greeks and Jews (
2. Worship of Paul and Barnabas:
After Paul had healed a life-long cripple at Lystra, the native population (the "multitude" of
(1) "Kakkan and Maramoas and Iman Licinius priests of Zeus";
(2) "Toues Macrinus also called Abascantus and Batasis son of Bretasis having made in accordance with a vow at their own expense (a statue of) Hermes Most Great along with a sun-dial dedicated it to Zeus the sun-god."
Now it is evident from the narrative in Ac that the people who were prepared to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods were not Greeks or Romans, but native Lycaonians. This is conclusively brought out by the use of the phrase "in the speech of Lycaonia" (
Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 407 ff. On the new inscriptions, see Calder, The Expositor, 1910, 1 ff, 148 ff; id, Classical Review, 1910, 67 ff. Inscriptions of Lystra are published in Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition, and in Jour. Hell. Stud., 1904 (Cronin).