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International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia - Asia



(a'-shi-a) (Asia): A Roman province embracing the greater part of western Asia Minor, including the older countries of Mysia, Lydia, Caria, and a part of Phrygia, also several of the independent coast cities, the Troad, and apparently the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Patmos, Cos and others near the Asia Minor coast (Acts 16:6; 19:10,27). It is exceedingly difficult to determine the exact boundaries of the several countries which later constituted the Roman province, for they seem to have been somewhat vague to the ancients themselves, and were constantly shifting; it is therefore impossible to trace the exact borders of the province of Asia. Its history previous to 133 BC coincides with that of Asia Minor of which it was a part. However, in that year, Attalus III (Philometer), king of Pergamos, bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman Empire. It was not until 129 BC that the province of Asia was really formed by Rome. Its first capital was Pergamos, the old capital of Mysia, but in the time of Augustus, when Asia had become the most wealthy province of the Empire, the seat of the government was transferred to Ephesus. Smyrna was also an important rival of Ephesus. The governor of Asia was a pro-consul, chosen by lot by the Roman senate from among the former consuls who had been out of office for at least five years, and he seldom continued in office for more than a single year. The diet of the province, composed of representatives from its various districts, met each year in the different cities. Over it presided the asiarch, whose duty it was, among other things, to offer sacrifices for the welfare of the emperor and his family.

In 285 AD the province was reduced in size, as Caria, Lydia, Mysia and Phrygia were separated from it, and apart from the cities of the coast little remained. The history of Asia consists almost entirely of the history of its important cities, which were Adramyttium, Assos, Cnidus, Ephesus, Laodicea, Miletus, Pergamos, Philadelphia, Sardis, Smyrna, Thyatira, Troas, etc.



(a'-shi-a mi'ner):

Introductory: Technically, it is only on sufferance that an account of "Asia Minor" can find a place in a Biblical encyclopaedia, for the country to which this name applies in modern times was never so called in Old Testament or New Testament times. The term first appears in Orosius, a writer of the 5 th 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 theatre 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.-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.

1. Position and Boundaries: 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.

3. Mountains: 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 Maeander. 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 Maeander 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 Maeander 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.

5. Roads

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 Maeander, 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 Maeander 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, Maeander 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 (Acts 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 (Rev 1-3).

II. History.-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 14 th 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 3 rd 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 Phr

NOTE: This text has been truncated to the maximum allowable by copyright.

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia



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