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Isauria (Greek: Ισαυρία), in ancient geography, is a rugged isolated district in the interior of South Asia Minor, of very different extent at different periods, but generally covering much of what is now Konya/Bozkir province of Turkey, or the core of the Taurus Mountains. It derives its name from the contentious Isaurian tribe and twin settlements Isaura Palaea (Ίσαυρα Παλαιά, Latin: Isaura Vetus, "Old Isaura") and Isaura Nea (Ίσαυρα Νέα, Latin: Isaura Nova, "New Isaura"). Isaurian marauders were fiercely independent mountain people who created havoc in neighboring districts under Macedonian and Roman occupations.

The permanent nucleus of Isauria was north of the Taurus range which lies directly to south of Iconium and Lystra. Lycaonia had all the Iconian plain; but Isauria began as soon as the foothills were reached. Its two original towns, Isaura Nea and Isaura Palaea, lay, one among these foothills (Doria) and the other on the watershed (Zengibar Kalesi).

In the 4th century BC, Isauria began as it would end, and became the wild district about Isaura Palaea and the heads of the Calycadnus. When the capital, Isaura (also known as Isaura Vetus or Isaura Palaea), a strongly fortified city at the foot of Mt. Taurus, was besieged by Perdiccas, the Macedonian regent after Alexander the Great's death, the Isaurians set the place alight and let it perish in flames rather than submit to capture.

Roman domination

When the Romans first encountered the Isaurians (early in the 1st century BC), they regarded Cilicia Trachea as part of Isauria, which thus extended to the Mediterranean Sea; and this extension of the name continued to be in common use for two centuries. The whole basin of the Calycadnus was reckoned Isaurian, and the cities in the valley of its southern branch formed what was known as the Isaurian Decapolis.

The Isaurians were brought partially under control (76–75 BC) by the Romans. During the war of the Cilician and other pirates against Rome, the Isaurians took so active a part that the proconsul P. Servilius deemed it necessary to follow them into their rugged strongholds, and compel the whole people to submission, an exploit for which he received the title of Isauricus (75 BC). The Isaurians were afterwards placed for a time under the rule of Amyntas, king of Galatia; but it is evident that they continued to retain their predatory habits and virtual independence. In the 3rd century they sheltered the rebel emperor Trebonianus Gallus.

In the early 4th century all Cilicia was detached by order of Diocletian for administrative purposes from the northern slope of Taurus, and we find a province called at first Isauria-Lycaonia, and later Isauria alone, extending up to the limits of Galatia, but not passing Taurus on the south. Pisidia, part of which had hitherto been included in one province with Isauria, was also detached, and made to include Iconium. In compensation Isauria received the eastern part of Pamphylia.

In the 4th century they were still described by Ammianus Marcellinus as the scourge of the neighbouring provinces of Asia Minor but they were said to have been effectually subdued in the reign of Justinian I.

This comparatively obscure people produced two Byzantine emperors, Zeno, whose native name was Traskalisseus Rousoumbladeotes, and Leo III, who ascended the throne of Constantinople in 718, reigned until 741, and became the founder of a dynasty of three generations. The empire used Isaurians as soldiers, generals and at one point they even formed part of the emperor's personal guard, the Excubitores.

Later history

Ramsay discovered there more than fifty Greek inscriptions, the greater number Christian, as well as magnificent tombs.[1] These monuments date from the third, fourth, and fifth centuries C.E. Epitaphs have been found of three bishops, Theophilus, Sisamoas, and Mamas, who lived between the years 250 and 400. Three other bishops are also known, Hilarius, 381; Callistratus, somewhat later; Aetius, 451.[2] The last named bishop also bears the title of Isauropolis, the name of a city which also figures in the "Hieroclis Synecdemus".[3] As no "Notitiae episcopatuum" makes mention of Isaura, or Isauropolis, Ramsay supposes that the Diocese of Isaura Nova was early joined with that of Leontopolis, the more recent name of Isaura Palaea which is mentioned in all the "Notitiae".

The site contains ruins of the town and its fortifications. The ruins of Isaura Palaea are mainly remarkable for their fine situation, fortifications and tombs. Those of Isaura Nea have disappeared, but numerous inscriptions and many sculpture stelae, built into the houses of Dorla, prove the site. It was the latter, and not the former town, that Servilius reduced by cutting off the water supply. J. R. S. Sterrett explored in the highland of Isauria in 1885 but it was not exhaustive. The site was identified by W. M. Ramsay in 1901.

References

  1. ^ Ramsay, Studies in the History and Art of the Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire (Aberdeen, 1906), 25-58
  2. ^ Lequien, "Oriens christ.", I, 1085
  3. ^ ed. Parthey, 675, 12
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ISAURIA, in ancient geography, a district in the interior of Asia Minor, of very different extent at different periods. The permanent nucleus of it was that section of the Taurus which lies directly to south of Iconium and Lystra. Lycaonia had all the Iconian plain; but Isauria began as soon as the foothills were reached. Its two original towns, Isaura Nea and Isaura Palaea, lay, one among these foothills (Dorla) and the other on the watershed (Zengibar Kale). When the Romans first encountered the Isaurians (early in the 1st century B.C.), they regarded Cilicia Trachea as part of Isauria, which thus extended to the sea; and this extension of the name continued to be in common use for two centuries. The whole basin of the Calycadnus was reckoned Isaurian, and the cities in the valley of its southern branch formed what was known as the Isaurian Decapolis. Towards the end of the 3rd century A.D., however, all Cilicia was detached for administrative purposes from the northern slope of Taurus, and we find a province called at first Isauria-Lycaonia, and later Isauria alone, extending up to the limits of Galatia, but not passing Taurus on the south. Pisidia, part of which had hitherto been included in one province with Isauria, was also detached, and made to include Iconium. In compensation Isauria received the eastern part of Pamphylia. Restricted again in the 4th century, Isauria ended as it began by being just the wild district about Isaura Palaea and the heads of the Calycadnus. Isaura Palaea was besieged by Perdiccas, the Macedonian regent after Alexander's death; and to avoid capture its citizens set the place alight and perished in the flames. During the war of the Cilician and other pirates against Rome, the Isaurians took so active a part that the proconsul P. Servilius deemed it necessary to follow them into their fastnesses, and compel the whole people to submission, an exploit for which he received the title of Isauricus (75 B.e.). The Isaurians were afterwards placed for a time under the rule of Amyntas, king of Galatia; but it is evident that they continued to retain their predatory habits and virtual independence. In the 3rd century they sheltered the rebel emperor, Trebellianus. In the 4th century they are still described by Ammianus Marcellinus as the scourge of the neighbouring provinces of Asia Minor; but they are said to have been effectually subdued in the reign of Justinian. In common with all the eastern Taurus, Isauria passed into the hands of Turcomans and Yuruks with the Seljuk conquest. Many of these have now coalesced with the aboriginal population and form a settled element: but the district is still lawless.

This comparatively obscure people had the honour of producing two Byzantine emperors, Zeno, whose native name was Traskalisseus Rousoumbladeotes, and Leo III., who ascended the throne of Constantinople in 718, reigned till 741, and became the founder of a dynasty of three generations. The ruins of Isaura Palaea are mainly remarkable for their fine situation and their fortifications and tombs. Those of Isaura Nea have disappeared, but numerous inscriptions and many sculptured stelae, built into the houses of Dorla, prove the site. It was the latter, and not the former town, that Servilius reduced by cutting off the water supply. The site was identified by W. M.

Ramsay in 1901. The only modern exploration of highland Isauria was that made by J. S. Sterrett in 1885; but it was not exhaustive.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

W. M. Ramsay, Historical Geography of Asia Minor (1890), and article "Nova Isaura" in Journ. Hell. Studies (1905); A. M. Ramsay, ibid. (1904); J. R. S. Sterrett, "Wolfe Expedition to Asia Minor," Papers Amer. Inst. of Arch. iii. (1888); C. Ritter, Erdkunde, xix. (1859); E. J. Davis, Life in As. Turkey (1879). (D. G. H.)


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