« Ash Wednesday Asia Minor in the Apostolic Time Asinarii »

Asia Minor in the Apostolic Time

ASIA MINOR IN THE APOSTOLIC TIME.

I. The Name.

II. The Province of Asia.

III. The Imperial Cult.

IV. Cities.

V. The Islands of the Ægean Sea.

VI. The Province Pontus-Bithynia.

VII. The Province Galatia.

VIII. The Province Lycia-Pamphylia.

IX. The Province Cilicia.

X. Cyprus.

XI. The Province Cappadocia.

I. The Name.

The term “Asia Minor” is not found is the New Testament; it is said to occur first in Orosius, i, 2 (400 A.D.). In the apostolic period “Asia” denoted the continent, Asia Minor, and the Roman province of Asia. Paul no doubt understood by Asia, the Roman province (I Cor. xvi, 19; II Cor. i, 8; II Tim. i, l5). The Apocalypse includes also the Phrygian Laodicea; and the provincial district is doubtless meant in I Pet. i, 1, where Asia stands after Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia and before Bithynia, though it is uncertain whether the author was informed of the political character of these designations. How far the Roman provincial demarcations had become familiar to the people it is difficult to tell. There are passages in the New Testament in which the term Asia is used 315in a narrower sense. In the time of Paul the country was still in a stage of development.

II. The Province of Asia.

When Attalus III of Pergamos in 133 B.C. willed his country to the Romans, it was declared a province, though the real organization was not effected until 129. The main parts were the maritime districts Mysia, Lydia, and Caria. With these Cicero (Pro Flacco, xxvii, 65) mentions Phrygia, which belonged to the province after 116. Under the emperors Asia was a senatorial province ruled by a proconsul, whose seat was at Ephesus. The diet of the province, to which representatives (Gk. asiarchai; cf. Acts xix, 31) were sent, met annually in different cities. Its powers and duties culminated in the imperial cult; and hence it was presided over by the sacerdos provinciæ or, Greek, archiereus tēs Asias, who offered the sacrifices and pronounced the vow for the emperor and his house. This office changed annually and the years were dated accordingly.

III. The Imperial Cult.

The empire as the guaranty of peace and the source of all blessings of culture appeared to the people as a divine power. From his point of view the author of the Apocalypse (xiii, 3-8) describes this worship of the empire by the world. He is convinced that the empire owes its success to a supernatural power, but not to the God of heaven—rather to the devil. The Jews as a rule enjoyed religious liberty throughout the empire, and were not required to take part in the imperial cult. What Cæsar had granted to them was confirmed by Augustus and Claudius. The sufferings of the Christians of Asia Minor, mentioned in the First Epistle of Peter, were not caused by their refusal to take part in this worship (cf. ii, 13 sqq.). It is true that the populace hated and persecuted the Christians, but not because they refused to honor the emperor; the name of this new superstitio was distrusted and outlawed as at Rome in the time of Nero (Tacitus, Annales, xv, 44).

IV. Cities.

The number of free cities was steadily reduced under the emperors; and immunity from taxation was granted in place of autonomy. An edict of Antoninus Pius divided the cities into three classes according to size and importance. Pliny (Hist. nat., V, xxix, 105 sqq.) mentions nine cities which possessed a court of justice, viz.: Laodicea ad Lycum, Synnada, Apamea, Alabanda, Sardis, Smyrna, Ephesus, Adramyttium, and Pergamos. Ephesus, at the mouth of the Cayster, often called on inscriptions “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia,” was the seat of the proconsul. Another title of the city is “temple-keeper” (i.e., of Diana; cf. Acts xix, 35, R. V.; the Greek is neÅkoros, the usual word for the custodian of a temple). A college of virgin priestesses ministered to Diana, presided over by a eunuch called Megabysos. It was no exaggeration of Demetrius when he said that the Ephesian Artemis was worshiped not only by all Asia, but by the whole world (Acts xix, 27); for through Ephesus flowed the commerce between the East and the West. Among the strangers residing there were many Jews, who had a synagogue (Acts xviii,19, 26, xix, 8) and enjoyed special privileges, especially those who were Roman citizens, as may be seen from documents contained in Josephus and Philo. Ephesus was a member of the confederation of the thirteen Ionian cities, of which Miletus was the head.

A great road led from Ephesus to Magnesia, where was another temple of Artemis which Strabo places on a par with the Ephesian. Christianity came to Magnesia from Ephesus; among the epistles of Ignatius, that to the Magnesians immediately follows that to the Ephesians. After Magnesia, Strabo mentions Tralles (also mentioned by Ignatius), once a wealthy city, called Cæsarea under Augustus. Jews also dwelt there; and it is possible that the Gospel was brought thither from Ephesus (Acts xix, 10). It seems that special missionary attention was devoted to the cities along the Meander-Lykos road; for one meets with the three closely connected Phrygian congregations Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossæ, of which Laodicea was the most important and is alone mentioned in the Apocalypse. The Christian community seems to have shared in the wealth of the city (Rev. iii, 17). Laodicea never had an emperor’s temple. Polycrates of Ephesus mentions among the “great lights” of Asia a bishop and martyr with the Phrygian name Lagaris as buried at Laodicea (Eusebius, Hist. eccl., IV, xxiv, 5). In 185 there was “great strife concerning the Passover there” (ib. IV, xxvi, 3). Colossæ, an important city of Phrygia, was long the seat of a bishop. More important than Colossæ was Hierapolis, the native place of the philosopher Epictetus, and the place in which the apostle Philip lived and died. Papias was bishop of Hierapolis, as was also Claudius Apollinaris. Apamea was founded by Antiochus Soter and was the seat of a conventus juridicus. That many Jews lived here is known from Cicero (Pro Flacco, xxviii); they had their own constitution, a “law of the Jews.”

The Lydian Philadelphia was sparsely populated on account of the frequent earthquakes. The Gospel was brought thither from Ephesus. Philadelphia is one of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Apocalypse (iii, 7-13); among its inhabitants Jews are mentioned (iii, 9). Ignatius addressed an epistle to the Philadelphians; and Eusebius (Hist. eccl., V, xvii, 3) mentions a prophetess Ammia of Philadelphia. Sardis was the ancient city of the Lydian kings. Jews lived there, having their own jurisdiction. The Church at Sardis, one of the seven mentioned in the Apocalypse (iii, 1-6), was the episcopal see of Melito in the time of Antoninus Pius. Two famous roads led from Sardis: one to Pergamos by way of Thyatira, the other to Smyrna. All three cities are mentioned among the seven Churches of the Apocalypse. Thyatira was known especially for its gild of dyers. The Lydia mentioned in Acts xvi, 14, called a “seller of purple,” had probably come to Philippi with wool which had been dyed at home. Thyatira plays an important part in the history of Montanism (Epiphanius, Hær., li, 33). Taking a western road from Thyatira one comes to Smyrna, where in 195 B.C. a temple was built in honor of the dea Roma. Tiberius allowed a temple to be erected 316here to himself, his mother, and the senate. Politically Smyrna was not as important as Ephesus; but it had the reputation of being the most beautiful city of Asia. Jews in Smyrna are mentioned in Rev. ii, 9 and in the Martyrium Polycarpi, xii, 2, and both times as enemies of the Christians. Paul does not seem to have done missionary work there; but that the congregation was founded by John is not a necessary inference. By the “angel of the church in Smyrna” (Rev. ii, 8) Polycarp might be meant, had not the epistles to the seven churches originated in a much earlier period than the final redaction of the Apocalypse. From Smyrna the road leads by way of Cyme, Myrina, and Elæa to Pergamos, where it meets the road to Thyatira. Pergamos, the ancient royal city of the Attalides, was still famous under the Roman empire. In the time of Augustus (29 B.C.) the first provincial temple was erected here, and by the side of Ephesus Pergamos seems to have been the most prominent city in Asia. It was famous for the cult of Æsculapius. Although the Jews had influence, they were not the cause of the animosities mentioned in Rev. ii, 12–17. Though they are called in the Apocalypse a “synagogue of Satan” (ii, 9), it is most unlikely that they are meant by the words: “ I know . . . where thou dwellest, where Satan’s seat is” (ii, 13); the language points to a more concrete phenomenon, which might be thought of as an embodiment of Satan, and no doubt refers to the worship of Æsculapius. This “savior,” whose symbol was the serpent, and who, according to Justin (Apologia, i, 21, 22), looked much like Christ, could easily appear as a devilish caricature of the Son of God. The words “hast not denied my faith” imply that in the days of Antipas the population made an effort to force the worship of Æculapius upon others.

From the seaport Adramyttium, where there was a conventus juridicus, following the north coast of the Adramyttian bay the road leads to Assos, where Paul seems to have been active (Acts xx, 13–14). It was the birthplace of Cleanthes the Stoic. Troas, or rather Alexandria, became famous under Roman sway. Augustus made it a colony. It was the seaport from which Paul went to Macedonia (Acts xvi, 11). It is perhaps characteristic of the Roman citizen, that, besides Ephesus, Troas is the only city of the province of Asia where Paul labored in person (Acts xx, 5–7; II Cor. ii, 12; II Tim. iv, 13). The Church of Troas is not mentioned in the Apocalypse, but is referred to by Ignatius in his epistles to the Philadelphians (xi, 2) and Smyrnæans (xii, 2). Abydus, Lampsacus, and Cyzicus were not included in Paul’s mission.

V. The Islands of the Ægean Sea.

The Islands of the Ægean Sea belonged in great part to the province of Asia. Tenedos was opposite Alexandria Troas; Lesbos, with the capital Mytilene, or as the later form reads in Acts xx, 14, Mitylene, was the first station on the passage from Assos. Thence Paul sailed (Acts xx, 15) to Chios, opposite the Ionic peninsula. On the following day he reached Samos. According to the reading of Codex D, he seems not to have tarried on the island itself in the city of Samos, but in the town of Trogyllium on a little isle of like name before the cape, mentioned by Strabo. South of Samos lay the small island of Patmos. Following the route of Paul (Acts xxi, 1) one comes to Coos and Rhodes. During the last decades before Christ, Rhodes was a center of culture; it was the native place of the Stoic Panætius, whose work “On Duty” Cicero used in his De officiis; in Rhodes, too, labored his pupil Posidonius (about 90–50 B.C.); the rhetorician Apollonius Molon, the teacher of Cicero and Cæsar; and Theodore of Gadara, the teacher of Tiberius.

VI. The Province Pontus-Bithynia.

When King Nicomedes III, Philopator, of Bithynia bequeathed in 74 B.C. his country to the Romans, the governor of Asia made it a province, and it was extended toward the east in 64 B.C. by annexing north Paphlagonia and Pontus. After the separation of Pontus Galaticus, which was joined to Galatia, the new province with the double name Pontus (and) Bithynia comprised the entire coast region east of the Rhyndacus, north of Mt. Olympus, extending beyond the Halys to the city of Amisus. As a senatorial province it was ruled by proconsuls with a legate, a questor, and six lictors. Pliny the Younger was an extraordinary governor, who was sent to the province (111–112 A.D.) to regulate its finances. The domestic conditions in Bithynia are described not only in the correspondence of Pliny the Younger with Trajan, but also in the speeches of the sophist Dio Chrysostomus of Prusa, which have much of interest to the investigator of early Christianity (ed. H. von Arnim, 2 vols., Berlin, 1893–96; cf. also idem, Dio von Prusa, ib. 1898). The most noteworthy of the cities of Pontus and Bithynia were Apames, Chalcedon, Byzantium, and Pruss. A court of judgment was also at Nicæa (see Nicæa, Councils of), where there was a temple of the dea Roma and of the divus Julius, whereas the provincial temple was at Nicomedia. In Pontus were Amastris, Sinope, Amisus, Abonuteichus, and Comana. Concerning the Jews in Pontus and Bithynia cf. Acts ii, 9, xviii, 2. The spread of Christianity in Pontus is attested by Pliny (Epist., xcvi, 9).

VII. The Province Galatia.

The Province Galatia has a complicated history. Its boundaries were often changed. It derived its name from the Celtic tribes which migrated to Asia Minor in the third century B.C., and, according to Strabo, occupied the eastern part of Phrygia. Without going into details, it can be assumed that in the New Testament “Galatia” means not the seat of the three Celtic tribes, but the Roman province including Pisidia and Lycaonia, therefore the territory of the first Pauline missionary journey. The question is of interest whether by “the Churches of Galatia” (Gal. i, 2) Paul understood only those of the first missionary journey. He shows an inclination to address his Church according to provinces, following the Roman provincial divisions. When he addresses a Church with reference to its special needs, he naturally speaks to Corinthians, Thessalonians, Philippians; but where he overlooks his missionary territory as a whole, he uses the provincial names. There is no reason to believe that “the Churches of Galatia” means anything else than the Churches 317of the Roman province. Since the Epistle to the Galatians was not addressed to one Church, but to a number of Churches, Paul had to select a name expressive of all; and the designation ” Churches of Galatia” was quite natural and appropriate for the Roman citizen, to whom the political divisions of the empire, were no fortuitous arrangement, but a moral good. In the time of Paul there were no Galatians in the old sense; and the name means subjects of the Roman emperor belonging to the province of Galatia. Similarly Tychicus and the Ephesian Trophimus (Acts xxi, 29) are said to be of Asia (xx, 4); and Gaius and Aristarchus are called Macedonians (xix, 29, xxvii, 2; cf. II Cor. ix, 2, 4), although Gaius was certainly no Macedonian by birth. Of the Galatian cities Ancyra was the seat of the governor, having the provincial temple of Augustus and of the dea Roma, on the walls of which the deeds of Augustus were inscribed (the so-called monumentum Ancyranum). From Ancyra the road leads eastward to Tavium, the ancient capital of the Trocmæ. The capital of the Tolistobogi was Pessinus, famous for the rich temple dedicated to Cybele, whom the natives called Agdistis. North of Pessinus was Germa, a colony founded by Augustus (Julia Augusta Fida Germæ). For military purposes a direct connection must have existed with Antioch in Pisidia (Acts xiii, 14), where Augustus had established a military colony under the name of Cæsarea, not mentioned in the New Testament. It was the center of a system of military settlements which the emperor established to protect the province against the mountain tribes of Pisidia and Isaurica. It is possible that Paul went to Iconium by way of Antioch. According to Strabo, Iconium belonged to Lycaonia; but in Acts xiv, 6 it seems not to be reckoned among the Lycaonian cities; the population was Phrygian. The Jews had a synagogue and in the Acts of Paul and Thecla a proconsul is erroneously mentioned in Iconium. Another city was Lystra, which was a Roman colony and had a temple of Jupiter. Another colony was Derbe at the south end of the province.

VIII. The Province Lycia-Pamphylia.

The Province Lycia-Pamphylia was organized by Claudius in 43 A.D. and again under Vespasian. Till 135 it was governed by the emperor; afterward, by the senate. Among the six larger cities of Lycia which are mentioned by Strabo are the two maritime towns Patara and Myra, through which Paul passed on his journeys (Acts xxi, 1-2, xxvii, 5-6). Phaselis, with three ports, did not belong to the Lycian confederacy in the time of Strabo, but was independent. The Jews in Phaselis are mentioned in I Macc. xv, 23. Of the Pamphylian cities Attalia is of special interest, because Paul on returning from his first missionary journey went thither to sail to Antioch (Acts xiv, 25-26). Ramsay suggests that the same vessel which brought the apostle from Paphos took him to Perga also.

IX. The Province Cilicia.

The Province Cilicia varied in extent at different times. Under Cicero’s administration (51-50 B.C.), besides Cilicia, Pamphylia, Pisidia, Isaurica, and Lycaonia, the districts of Laodicea, Apamea, Synnada, and Cyprus, afterward joined with Asia, belonged to it. Through the organization of the provinces of Galatia (25 B.C.), Pamphylia (43 A.D.), and Cyprus (22 B.C.), the territory of the province was reduced to Cilicia proper. The western part of it, Cilicia Aspera, was given by Augustus to Archelaus of Cappadocia (25 B.C.), with Elaiussa-Sebaste as capital; and Caligula gave it to Antiochus IV of Commagene. Under Vespasian it was restored to the province of Cilicia. Considering the small extent which the province had under the first emperors, it no doubt was under the jurisdiction of the procurator of Syria. Under Hadrian Cilicia Campestris and Aspera became one imperial province. Under Domitian the seat of government was Antioch, otherwise Tarsus was the metropolis. From the time of Antony it was an urbs libera, densely populated and wealthy; it was the home of the Stoic philosopher Athenodorus, son of Sandon, the honored teacher of Augustus, perhaps also of Strabo. According to Cicero (Ad Atticum, XVI, xi, 4, xiv, 4), he helped him in the preparation of the De officiis. A rival of Tarsus was Anazarbus, called also Cæsarea, native city of the physician and author Dioscorides, who lived under Nero, and whose work, De materia medica (ed. C. Sprengel, Leipsic, 1829), Luke is said to have perused (cf. P. de Lagarde, Psalterium juxta Hebræos Hieronymi, Leipsic, 1874, pp. 165 sqq.; W. K. Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke, Dublin. 1882; Zahn, Einleitung, ii, 384, 435). From Tarsus the highroad leads over the Cilician Taurus to Cappadocia. On the road from Tarsus to Issus and Alexandria was Mopsuestia, the episcopal see of Theodore.

X. Cyprus.

After a temporary union with Cilicia the province of Cyprus was separated in 22 B.C. and organized as a senatorial province, ruled by a proprætor pro consule with a legate and questor. Many Jews lived in Cyprus, and Cyprian Jewish Christians brought the Gospel to Antioch (Acts xi, 20); Barnabas was from Cyprus (Acts iv, 36). In Salamis there were many synagogues. In the revolt under Trajan the Jews killed 240,000 non-Jews, and completely devastated the city of Salamis. For a punishment they were all banished from the island. The Acts of the Apostles mention the two seaports Salamis in the east, and Paphos; Soli, on the southern coast, had a sanctuary of Aphrodite and Isis; Citium was the birthplace of the Stoic Zeno.

XI. The Province Cappadocia.

In the year 17 A.D. Cappadocia, after the death of the last king Archelaus, was made a province, governed by a procurator who, as in Judea, was under the governor of the province of Syria in military matters. In the year 70 Vespasian united it with Galatia, but it was afterward again separated. Pontus Galaticus with Amasia and Pontus Polemoniacus, which had belonged to Galatia, Trajan joined to Cappadocia, to which was added Armenia Minor and Lycaonia with Iconium. Cappadocia had very few cities of importance. That Paul did no missionary work there is very intelligible; hence it is also improbable that he should have traveled through Cappadocia (Acts xviii, 23). The road would have brought him within three days from 318the Cilician gates to Tyana, the birthplace of Apollonius, a Roman colony after Caracalla; from thence perhaps to Mazaka-Eusebea, called Cæsarea, the most important and still flourishing city in Cappadocia, the metropolis of the province, the birthplace of Basil the Great. Nazianzus and Nyssa, the episcopal sees of the two Gregorys, were places of no importance.

(Johannes Weiss.)

Bibliography: The article Kleinasien in der Apostolischen Zeit, in Hauck-Herzog, RE, 3d. ed., x, 535-563, is a scholarly and comprehensive treatment of the subject, and should be consulted for further information and titles of works dealing with particular localities and special topics. Ritter, Erdkunde, xviii, xix, 2, Berlin, 1858-59, and Sievers, Asien, pp. 78-86, 556-562, Leipsic, 1893, give a general description. For the history: G. F. Hertzberg, Die Geschichte Griechenlands unter der Herrschaft der Römer, vol. ii. Halle, 1868; T. Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, vol. v, Berlin, 1904, available for the English reader in the transl. by T. T. Dickson, Provinces of the Roman Empire, i, chap. vii, New York, 1887; J. Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, i, 333-349, Leipsic, 1881. A complete collection of inscriptions from Asia Minor has been undertaken by the Vienna Academy, of which vol. i, containing the inscriptions in the Lycian language, has been issued (1900). Of great value in English are W. M. Ramsay, in Classical Review, iii (1889), 174 sqq., The Historical Geography of Asia Minor, in Supplementary Papers of the Royal Geographical Society of London, vol. iv, 1890; idem, The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170, London, 1893; idem, The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, 2 vols., ib. 1895-97; idem, St. Paul as Traveller and Roman Citizen, ib. 1899; idem, Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, ib. 1904; articles on the several cities in DB and EB. The article in Ruggiero, Dizionario Epigrafico di Antichità Romane in highly commended. On the political history of the provinces the best monograph is V. Chapot, La province romaine proconsulaire d’Asie, Paris, 1904.

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