Variants of name
Although Pisidia is close to the Mediterranean Sea, the warm climate of the south cannot pass the height of the Taurus Mountains. The climate is too dry for timberland, but crop plants grow in areas provided with water from the mountains, whose annual average rainfall is c. 1000 mm on the peaks and 500 mm on the slopes. This water feeds the plateau. The Pisidian cities, mostly founded on the slopes, benefited from this fertility. The irrigated soil is very suitable for growing fruit and for husbandry.
The area of Pisidia has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age, with some settlements known from historical times ranging in age from the eighth to third millennium BC. The ancestors of the classical Pisidians were likely present in the region before the 14th century BC, when Hittite records refer to a mountain site of Salawassa, identified with the later site of Sagalassos. At that time, Pisidia appears to have been part of the region the Hittites called Arzawa. The Pisidian language is poorly known, but is assumed to be a member of the Anatolian branch of Indo-European languages.
Herodotus mentioned the Pisidic people in the text which they were called "Lakuna" but this was one of the names given to Pisidic tribes, which occupied a little mountainous region north to the Antalya Bay. Pisidians are known to be among the nations which helped the Persians in their war against Greece.
There can be little doubt that the Pisidians and Pamphylians were the same people, but a distinction between the two seems to have been established at an early period. Herodotus, who does not mention the Pisidians, enumerates the Pamphylians among the nations of Asia Minor, while Ephorus mentions them both, correctly including the one among the nations on the interior, the other among those of the coast. Pamphylia early received colonies from Greece and other lands, and from this cause, combined with the greater fertility of their territory, became more civilized than its neighbor in the interior. Pisidia remained a wild, mountainous region, and one of the most difficult for outside powers to rule.
As far back as the Hittite period, Pisidia was host to independent communities not under the Hittite yoke. Known for its warlike factions, it remained largely independent of the Lydians, and even the Persians, who conquered Anatolia in the 6th century BC, and divided the area into satrapies for greater control, were unable to cope with constant uprisings and turmoil.
Hellenistic period: Alexander the Great had a somewhat better fortune, conquering Sagalassos on his way to Persia, though the city of Termessos defied him. After Alexander died, the region became part of territories of Antigonus Monophthalmus, and possibly Lysimachus of Thrace, after which Seleucus I Nicator, founder of the Seleucid Dynasty of Syria, took control of Pisidia. Under the Seleucids, Greek colonies were founded at strategically important places and the local people Hellenised. Even so, the Hellenistic kings were never in complete control, in part because Anatolia was contested between the Seleucids, the Attalids of Pergamon, and the Galatians, invading Celts from Europe. The cities in Pisidia were among the last in western Anatolia to fully adopt Greek culture and to coin their own money.
Pisidia officially passed from the Seleucids to the Attalids as a result of the Treaty of Apamea, forced on Antiochos III of Syria by the Romans in 188 BC. After Attalos III, the last king of Pergamon, bequeathed his kingdom to Rome in 133 BC as the province of Asia, Pisidia was given to the Kingdom of Cappadocia, which proved unable to govern it. The Pisidians cast their lot with pirate-dominated Cilicia and Pamphylia until the Roman rule was restored in 102 BC.
In 39 BC Marcus Antonius entrusted Pisidia to the Galatian client king Amyntas and charged him with suppressing a people of the Taurus Mountains known as the Homonadesians, who sometimes controlled the roads connecting Pisidia to Pamphylia.
During the Roman period Pisidia was colonized with veterans of its legions to maintain control. For the colonists, who came from poorer parts of Italy, agriculture must have been the area’s main attraction. Under Augustus, eight such colonies were established in Pisidia, and Antioch and Sagalassos became the most important cities. The province was gradually Latinised. Latin remained the formal language of the area until the end of the 3rd century.
Pisidia became an important early Christian centre. Paul the Apostle preached in Antioch on his first journey. He also visited the area in his second and third journeys. After the Emperor Constantine's legalization of Christianity in 311, Antioch in Pisidia (which has various namesakes, including the Patriarchate in Syria) played an important role as the Christian metropolitan see as well as being the capital of the civil province of Pisidia. Most Pisidian cities were heavily fortified at that time due to civil wars and foreign invasions.
The area was devastated by an earthquake in 518, a plague around 541–543, and another earthquake and Arab raids in the middle of the 7th century. After the Muslim conquest of Syria disrupted the trade routes, the area declined in importance. In the 8th century the raids increased. In the 11th century the Seljuk Turks captured the area and founded the Seljuk Sultanate in Central Anatolia. Pisidia frequently changed hands between the Byzantine Empire and the Turks until 1176, when Sultan Kılıçarslan defeated Manuel Komnenos in the Battle of Myriocephalon (thousand heads), which ended Byzantine rule and cemented Turkish rule of the area.
Arrian writes....Some of the Macedonians who served in Alexander's army had married just before he undertook the expedition. He thought that he ought not to treat these men with neglect, and therefore sent them back from Caria to spend the winter in Macedonia with their wives. He placed them under the command of Ptolemy, son of Seleucus, one of the royal body-guards, and of the two generals Coenus, son of Polemocrates, and Meleager, son of Neoptolemus, because they were also newly married. He gave these officers instructions to levy as many horse and foot soldiers as they could from the country, when they returned to him and brought back the men who had been sent away with them. By this act more than by any other Alexander acquired popularity among the Macedonians. He also sent Cleander, son of Polemocrates, to levy soldiers in Peloponnesus, and Parmenio to Sardis, giving him the command of a regiment of the Cavalry Companions, the Thessalian cavalry, and the rest of the Grecian allies. He ordered him to take the wagons to Sardis and to advance from that place into Phrygia.
He himself marched towards Lycia and Pamphylia, in order to gain command of the coast-land, and by that means render the enemy's fleet useless. The first place on his route was Hyparna, a strong position, having a garrison of Grecian mercenaries; but he took it at the first assault, and allowed the Greeks to depart from the citadel under a truce. Then he invaded Lycia and brought over the Telmissians by capitulation; and crossing the river Xanthus, the cities of Pinara, Xanthus, Patara, and about thirty other smaller towns were surrendered to him. Having accomplished this, though it was now the very depth of winter, he invaded the land called Milyas, which is a part of Great Phrygia, but at that time paid tribute to Lycia, according to an arrangement made by the Great King. Hither came envoys from the Phaselites, to treat for his friendship, and to crown him with a golden crown; and the majority of the maritime Lycians also sent heralds to him as ambassadors to treat for the same object. He ordered the Phaselites and Lycians to surrender their cities to those who were despatched by him to receive them; and they were all surrendered. He soon afterwards arrived himself at Phaselis, and helped the men of that city to capture a strong fort which had been constructed by the Pisidians to overawe the country; and sallying forth from which those barbarians used to inflict much damage upon the Phaselites who tilled the land.
1. See Arrian, ii. 20 infra.
2. The Marmarians alone defended their city with desperate valour. They finally set fire to it, and escaped through the Macedonian camp to the mountains. See Diodorus (xvii. 28). As to Xanthus the river, see Homer (Iliad, ii. 877; vi. 172); Horace (Carm., iv. 6, 26).
5. He also crowned with garlands the statue of Theodectes the rhetorician, which the people of Phaselis, his native city, had erected to his memory. This man was a friend and pupil of Aristotle, the tutor of Alexander. See Plutarch (Life of Alex., 17); Aristotle (Nicom. Ethics, vii. 7).
Arrian writes.... The greater part of Aspendus had been built upon a strong and precipitous rock, at the very foot of which flows the river Eurymedon; but round the rock, on the low ground, were many of the citizens' houses, surrounded by a small wall. As soon as they ascertained that Alexander was approaching, the inhabitants deserted the wall and the houses situated on the low ground, which they thought they were unable to protect; and they fled in a body to the rock. When he arrived with his forces, he passed within the deserted wall and took up his quarters in the houses which had been abandoned by the Aspendians. When these saw that Alexander himself had come, contrary to their expectation, and that his camp was encircling them on all sides, they sent envoys to him, entreating him to form an agreement with them on the former terms. Alexander, considering the strength of the place, and how unprepared he was to undertake a long siege, entered into an agreement with them, though not on the same terms as before. For he ordered them to give him their most influential men as hostages, to hand over the horses which they had formerly agreed to give him, to pay 100 talents instead of fifty, to obey the viceroy appointed by him, and to pay an annual tribute to the Macedonians. Moreover he directed an inquiry to be held about the land which they were accused of holding by force, though it belonged of right to their neighbours.
When all these concessions had been made to him, he marched away to Perga, and thence set out for Phrygia, his route leading him past the city of Termessus. The people of this city are foreigners, of the Pisidian race, inhabiting a very lofty place, precipitous on every side; so that the road to the city is a difficult one. For a mountain stretches from the city as far as the road, where it suddenly stops short; and over against it rises another mountain, no less precipitous. These mountains form gates, as it were, upon the road; and it is possible for those who occupy these eminences even with a small guard to render the passage impracticable. On this occasion the Termissians had come out in a body, and were occupying both the mountains; seeing which, Alexander ordered the Macedonians to encamp there, armed as they were, imagining that the Termissians would not remain in a body when they saw them bivouacking, but that most of them would withdraw into their city, which was near, leaving upon the mountains only sufficient men to form a guard. And it turned out just as he conjectured; for most of them retired, and only a guard remained. He forthwith took the archers, the regiments of javelin-throwers, and the lighter hoplites, and led them against those who were guarding the pass. When these were attacked with missiles, they did not stand their ground, but abandoned the position. Alexander then passed through the defile, and encamped near the city.
- asiaminorcoins.com - ancient cities and coins of Pisidia
- Acts 13:13–52 and 14:21–23
- Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/1b, Ch.24
- Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/1b, Ch.27