Province Pirates

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The Roman province of Cilicia, as well as Judea, played a pivotal role in the early life of the Apostle Paul. This will serve as an illustration of what has been said above, concerning the state of the Roman provinces generally; it will exemplify the mixture of Jews, Greeks, and Romans in the east of the Mediterranean, and it will be a fit introduction to what must immediately succeed. For these are the two provinces which require our attention in the early life of the Apostle Paul.

Cilicia and Judea

Both of these Roman provinces of Cilicia and Judea were once under the sceptre of the line of the Seleucids, or Greek kings of Syria; and both of them, though originally inhabited by a "barbarous" population, received more or less of the influence of Greek civilization.

If a map is consulted, it will be seen that Antioch, the capital of the Graeco-Syrian kings, is situated nearly in the angle where the coast-line of Cilicia, running eastwards, and that of Judea, extended northwards, are brought to an abrupt meeting. It will be seen also, that, more or less parallel to each of these coasts, there is a line of mountains, not far from the sea, which are brought into contact with each other in heavy and confused forms, near the same angle; the principal break in the continuity of either of them being the valley of the Orontes, which passes by Antioch.

One of these mountain lines is the range of Mount Taurus, which is so often mentioned as a great geographical boundary by the writers of Greece and Rome; and Cilicia extends partly over the Taurus itself, and partly between it and the sea.

The other range is that of Lebanon, a name made sacred by the scriptures and poetry of the Jews; and where its towering eminences subside towards the south into a land of hills and valleys and level plains, there is Judea, once the country of promise and possession to the chosen people, but a Roman province in the time of the Apostles.

Cilicia, in the sense in which the word was used under the early Roman emperors, comprehended two districts, of nearly equal extent, but of very different character. The Western portion, or Rough Cilicia, as it was called, was a collection of the branches of Mount Taurus, which come down in large masses to the sea, and form that projection of the coast which divides the Bay of Issus from that of Pamphylia.

Attack by Pirates
Attack by Pirates
Arnold Bocklin


The inhabitants of the rough Cilicia district were notorious for their robberies. The northern portion, under the name of Isauria, providing innumerable strongholds for marauders by land; and the southern, with its excellent timber, its cliffs, and small harbors, being a natural home for pirates. The Isaurians maintained their independence with such determined obstinacy, that in a later period of the Empire, the Romans were willing to resign all appearance of subduing them, and were content to surround them with a cordon of forts.

The natives of the coast of Rough Cilicia began to extend their piracies as the strength of the kings of Syria and Egypt declined. They found in the progress of the Roman power, for some time, an encouragement rather than a hindrance; for they were actively engaged in an extensive and abominable slave-trade, of which the island of Delos was the great market; and the opulent families of Rome were in need of slaves, and were not more scrupulous than some Christian nations of modern times about the means of obtaining them.

But the expeditions of these buccaneers of the Mediterranean became at last quite intolerable; their fleets seemed innumerable; their connections were extended far beyond their own coasts; all commerce was paralyzed; and they began to arouse that attention at Rome. A vast expedition was fitted out under the command of Pompey the Great and thousands of pirate vessels were burnt on the coast of Cilicia, and the inhabitants dispersed.

A perpetual service was thus done by the Roman Empire to the cause of civilization, and the Mediterranean was made safe for the voyages of merchants and Apostles. The town of Soli, on the borders of the two divisions of Cilicia, received the name of Pompeiopolis, in honor of the great conqueror, and the splendid remains of a colonnade which led from the harbor to the city may be considered a monument of this signal destruction of the enemies of order and peace.

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