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PAMPHYLIA (păm-fĭl'ĭ-a, Gr. Pamphylia). At the time of Paul, Pamphylia was a small Roman province of southern Asia Minor, extending 75 miles (125 km.) along the Mediterranean coast and 30 miles (50 km.) inland to the Taurus Mountains. It was surrounded by Pisidia on the north, Cilicia to the east, and Lycia to the SW. It never became an important province, and its boundaries were often changed by sudden and arbitrary political decisions. The Emperor Claudius brought it into the Roman provincial system in the first century a.d.

The tiny country is first mentioned in the NT in Acts.2.10, where it is said that some people at Pentecost were from Phrygia and Pamphylia. Paul visited the territory on his first missionary journey when he preached at Perga, its chief city (Acts.13.13; Acts.14.24). It was at this point that John Mark left the party and returned to Jerusalem (Acts.13.13; Acts.15.38). Later, when Paul as a prisoner sailed near Pamphylia (Acts.27.5), he evidently crossed the Pamphylian Gulf. It is said that most of the inhabitants of Pamphylia were backward and illiterate. Christianity never flourished there as in other places of Asia Minor.

PAMPHYLIA păm fĭl’ ĭ ə (Παμφυλία, G4103). Situated halfway along the S coast of Asia Minor, this lowland district is only one of two locations on this seaboard where the mountains do not plunge steeply to the sea (eastern Cilicia is the other plain). At the time of the Apostle Paul, Pamphylia was a small Rom. province, extending seventy-five m. along the coast and thirty m. inland, following the lower course of the valley of the Cestrus to the Taurus mountains in the interior. It was surrounded by Cilicia to the E, Lycia to the SW and Pisidia to the N. The region was subject to numerous invasions of peoples, commencing with the Dorian conquest. It was subject successively to Lydia, Persia, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, Pergamum, and Rome. Long the haunt of pirates, the Romans established about 102 b.c. in the province of “Cilicia,” a small series of posts on the Pamphylian coast to check piracy. In 36 b.c., Antony gave Pamphylia to Amyntas of Galatia. About a.d. 43, it was detached from Galatia, and the Lycian territory was added to it. Under Nero the Lycians were freed, and in a.d. 69, Pamphylia and Galatia were put under one governor. Further territorial changes were made, and again in a.d. 76, the Rom. province of Pamphylia was extended into the mountainous interior—into Pisidia.

This province is first mentioned in the NT in Acts 2:10, where it is said that some of the pilgrims in Jerusalem at Pentecost were from here. Later, Paul visited the territory on his first missionary journey when he preached at Perga, the chief center of the territory (Acts 13:13; 14:24). Here John Mark left the party and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13; 15:38). Christianity appears to have been slow in becoming established here, in an area characterized by its amalgam of ethnic groups. The church founded at Perga is the only one mentioned in the 1st cent., but there were twelve or more founded at the time of the “Diocletian persecution” of a.d. 304. Besides Perga, the chief cities of Pamphylia were Attalia (c. twelve m. SW of the chief city), Side (over thirty m. to the SE) founded by Aeolian settlers, Aspendus—a Pers. naval base, and Attaleia, founded by Athenian colonists about 189 b.c. It was prob. at Attaleia where the Apostle Paul began his journey through the province.


A. H. M. Jones, Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces (1937), 124ff.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A country lying along the southern coast of Asia Minor, bounded on the North by Pisidia, on the East by Isauria, on the South by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the West by Lycia (Ac 2:10; 27:5).

1. Physical Features:

In the earliest time, Pamphylia was but a narrow strip of low-lying land between the base of the mountains and the sea, scarcely more than 20 miles long and half as wide. A high and imposing range of the Taurus Mountains practically surrounds it upon three sides, and, jutting out into the sea, isolates it from the rest of Asia Minor. Its two rivers, the Cestrus and the Cataractes, are said by ancient writers to have been navigable for several miles inland, but now the greater part of their water is diverted to the fields for irrigating purposes, and the general surface of the country has been constantly changed by the many rapid mountain streams. The level fertile coast land is therefore well watered, and the moist air, which is excessively hot and enervating, has always been laden with fever. Several roads leading from the coast up the steep mountain to the interior existed in ancient times; one of them, called the Kimax or the Ladder, with its broad stair-like steps 2,000 ft. high, may still be seen. Beyond the steps is the high land which was once called "Pisidia," but which the Romans, in 70 AD, made a part of Pamphylia.

2. Importance:

Pamphylia, unless in pre-historic times, was never an independent kingdom; it was subject successively to Lydia, Persia, Macedonia, Pergamos and Rome. Because of its comparatively isolated position, civilization there was less developed than in the neighboring countries, and the Asiatic influence was at most times stronger than the Greek As early as the 5th century BC a Greek colony settled there, but the Greek language which was spoken in some of its cities soon became corrupt; the Greek inscriptions, appearing upon the coins of that age, were written in a peculiar character, and before the time of Alexander the Great, Greek ceased to be spoken. Perga then became an important city and the center of the Asiatic religion, of which the Artemis of Perga, locally known as Leto, was the goddess. Coins were struck also in that city. Somewhat later the Greek city of Attalia, which was rounded by Attalus III Philadelphus (159-138 BC), rose to importance, and until recent years has been the chief port of entry on the southern coast of Asia Minor. About the beginning of our era, Side became the chief city, and issued a long and beautiful series of coins, possibly to facilitate trade with the pirates who found there a favorable market for their booty. Pamphylia is mentioned as one of the recipients of the "letters" of 1 Macc 15:23.

3. Introduction of Christianity:

Christianity was first introduced to Pamphylia by Paul and Barnabas (Ac 13:13; 14:24), but because their stay in the country was brief, or because of the difficulty of communication with the neighboring countries, or because of the Asiatic character of the population, it was slow in being established.

See also ATTALIA; PERGA; SIDE, the chief cities of Pamphylia.