Roman Provinces
in the New Testament

Cappadocia - Cilicia - Lycia

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Roman Provinces of Cilicia, Lycia and Cappadocia


The Roman Province of Cappadocia is written about only twice in Scripture (Acts 2:9, 1Peter 1:1). It was established in 17 A.D. and was the most eastern part of Rome's empire. The region known as Lycaonia (Acts 14:6, 11) crosses both the Cappadocia and Galatian provincial boundaries. The Bible does not record any cities within this provincial area.

Regarding the political history of this area of the Roman Empire, a classic book on Apostle Paul's life states the following.

"Crossing the country southwards from the birthplace of Aquila towards that of Apostle Paul, we traverse the wide and varied region which formed the province of Cappadocia, intermediate between Pontus and Cilicia. The period of its provincial existence began in the reign of Tiberius. Its last king was Archelaus, the contemporary of the Jewish tetrarch of the same name (Matthew 2:22). Extending from the frontier of Galatia to the river Euphrates, and bounded on the south by the chain of Taurus, it was the largest province of Asia Minor." (Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul by Conybeare and Howson, Chapter 8).

Cappadocia was a mountainous province whose excellent pastures provided grazing for horses and mules.

"Cappadocia was a rough and generally sterile mountain region, bordered by the chains of the Paryadres on the north, the Scydisses on the east, and the Taurus on the south, and intersected by that of the Anti-Taurus, on the side of whose central mountain, Argeus, stood the capital Mazaca, afterward Caesarea Ad Argaeum. Its chief rivers were the Halys and the Melas. Its fine pastures supported (an) abundance of good horses and mules" (A New Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology and Geography by William Smith, page 171)

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Cilicia is referenced a total of eight times in the Bible (Acts 6:9, 15:23, 41, 21:39, 22:3, 23:34, 27:5, Galatians 1:21). It became a province of the Empire in 64 B.C. and in 58 B.C. had the island of Cyprus added to it. New Testament cities within this Roman provincial area include Tarsus (hometown of the Apostle Paul - Acts 21:39) and the island cities of Salamis (Acts 13:5) and Paphos (verse 6).

Not only was Cilicia rich in agriculture it was also strategically important to the Roman Empire.

"The Eastern, or Flat Cilicia, was a rich and extensive plain. Its prolific vegetation is praised both by the earlier and later classical writers . . .

"From this circumstance, and still more from its peculiar physical configuration, it was a possession of great political importance. Walled off from the neighboring countries by a high barrier of mountains, which sweep irregularly round it from Pompeiopolis and Rough Cilicia to the Syrian coast on the North of Antioch, - with one pass leading up into the interior of Asia Minor, and another giving access to the valley of the Orontes, - it was naturally the high road both of trading caravans and of military expeditions." (Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul by Conybeare and Howson, Chapter 1).

Tarsus, the capital of the province and the place Paul boasted was "no insignificant city" (Acts 21:39), was indeed worthy of a certain amount of praise.

"Tarsus did indeed seem to some a worthy object of 1st century civic pride in respect of its political, economic and intellectual prominence. An inscription proclaims 'Tarsus, the first and greatest and most beautiful metropolis'" (The Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody by Brian Rapske, Chapter 4).

Unfortunately, the people of the province, as a whole, were not looked upon kindly by others.

"The people bore a low character among the Greeks and Romans. The Carians, Cappadocians, and Cilicians were called the three bad K's." (A New Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology and Geography by William Smith, page 204)

Lycia and Pamphylia

In 74 A.D. the province of Lycia and Pamphylia was created from the existing provincial area of Lycia (formed in 43 A.D. by Emperor Claudius) and Pamphylia. Lycia is directly referenced once (Acts 27:5) while Pamphylia is found five times in the KJV (Acts 2:10, 13:13, 14:24, 15:38 and 27:5). New Testament cities within this Roman area include Perga (Acts 13:13 - 14, 14:25), Myra (27:5), Patara (21:1) and Attalia (14:25).

William Smith, regarding the beauty and abundance of the Lycian part of the province, states the following.

"The valleys of these (large rivers in this area) and the smaller rivers, and the terraces above the sea in the south of the country, were fertile in corn, wine, oil, and fruits, and the mountain slopes were clothed with splendid cedars, firs, and plane-trees: saffron also was one chief product of the land" (ibid., page 454)

The apostle Paul visited this general area of Asia Minor during his first, third and fourth evangelistic travels. Perga is noteworthy as the city where Mark, the gospel writer who accompanied Paul and Barnabas to the city, abruptly left the team and headed back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). This incident would later be the catalyst for Paul and Barnabas angrily splitting up (15:36 - 41).

Additional Study Materials
Paul's road to a prison in Rome
New Testament Timeline
Rise and Fall of Rome's Empire

Roman Provinces in
the New Testament
Asia - Bithynia - Galatia
Cappadocia - Cilicia - Lycia
GreeceJudea - Syria

Series Primary Sources

A New Classical Dictionary of Greek and
Roman Biography, Mythology and Geography

Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody
Book of Acts in Its Graeco-Roman Setting
The church in the Roman empire before A.D. 170
Holy Bible a Faithful Version (HBFV)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul

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