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Pisidian Antioch

 

Pisidian Antioch (also called Antioch-of-Pisidia) was a major Roman colony that was visited by St. Paul on his First Missionary Journey. Pisidian Antioch marked an important turning point in Paul's ministry, as the city became the first to have a fully Gentile Christian community.

The ruins of Pisidian Antioch lie about a mile north of the modern town of Yalvaç, which is 110 miles west of Konya. The highlights of a visit here are the substantial archaeological site and the Yalvaç Archaeological Museum.

 

In the Bible

 

According to Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas came to Pisidian Antioch early in their first missionary journey. They arrived from Cyprus via Perga, so would have taken the Via Sebaste into Antioch. On the sabbath, they went to the local synagogue and were invited to speak to the congregation. Their message was received with great interest, and on the following sabbath "almost the whole city gathered" to hear them. Some converts were made, but some of the Jews stirred up opposition against them and they were driven out of the city. Paul and Barnabas then went to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. On their return journey, they stopped by Antioch and encouraged the Christian converts.

Pisidian Antioch is not mentioned as part of Paul's second missionary journey, but Acts does say that Paul "went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia" (16:6), which may imply a return visit. Similarly, Acts 18:23 mentions Paul visiting Galatia and Phrygia on this third missionary journey. The only other direct biblical reference to Pisidian Antioch is in 2 Timothy 3:11, where the author mentions the unpleasant experience in the city. Pisidian Antioch may be the hometown of a convert Paul met in Cyprus, the proconsul Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:4-12). See below for an interesting inscription that mentions his name.

 

What to See

 

A tour of the archaeological site begins at the Triple Gate, which dates from 212 AD. About 26 feet wide, this monumental gate was decorated with reliefs of kneeling captive soldiers, floral motifs, weapons and winged features on pedestals holding garlands. Near the top on the front and back were inscriptions in bronze letters, once a dedicatory inscription to Emperor Hadrian, the other an identification of the person who paid for the gate.

Inside the city walls, the site centers around two main Roman streets: the Cardo and the Decumanus, positioned at right angles. The Decumanus Maximus leads from the Triple Gate to the intersection with the east-west Cardo. Along the way, on the visitor's left (north) is the remains of what was probably a second agora followed by the theater.

The theater was built by the Greeks and enlarged by the Romans to a seating capacity of 15,000; it may be the site of St. Thekla's martyrdom. Its construction is unique in containing a tunnel on its southern side through which the Decumanus Maximus passed. Thus part of the seating of the expanded theater was built right over the street.

 

The Cardo Maximus street ran north-to-south through the city. Behind the colonnades along the street were small shops, bars and restaurants. Several game boards can be seen ethced into the paving stones for playing various games of dice. (The other Antioch left a mosaic portrait of this pasttime.) The Cardo terminated at the 1st-century AD nymphaeum, a fountain from which water was distributed to the whole city. Behind it, a 1st-century aqueduct brings water down from the hills to the city. To the northwest of the nymphaeum is the palaestra (exercise area) and adjoining Roman bath. A large part of the bathouse has survived and is still being excavated.

On the east side of the Cardo not far from its intersection with the Decumanus was the most important structure in the city: the imperial sanctuary with its temple to Augustus. Built on the highest point of the city, the temple was a approached by a wide, colonnaded walkway (the Tiberia Plateia or Square of Tiberius).

 

Crossing the Square of Tiberius, visitors would then pass through a three-arched propylon or triumphal gateway. Built in the early 1st century AD, the gate bore an bronze dedicatory inscription to Augustus and was decorated with sculptures and reliefs celebrating his victories. Attached to the propylon was a Latin copy of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (a record of the emperor's accomplishments), fragments of which were discovered at the site. [More Info]