Iconium (Konya)

(Acts 14:1-7)  

In the central plateau of the Lycaonian District, Iconium was a city set amidst a very large fertile plain that stretched to the north and east. Well watered and surrounded by an unusually productive and stoneless alluvial soil, the farms of the region are still some of modern Turkey’s finest for grains, orchards of plums and apricots. Ramsey noted that the historian Strabo was struck by the difference between the barren fields of the Lycaonian plains, and the lush area around Iconium. He concluded that the intelligent use of irrigation probably made the difference, since they were both subject to similar weather patterns.  

The actual founding of the city is uncertain, but it is clear that the city was proud of its Greek heritage. By 25 BCE, Iconium was brought under the Roman province of Galatia. Holding on to their Greek heritage, Dr. Luke assigns the name “Hellenes” to this people in his writing.  

The city was connected by a roadway to Pisidian Antioch some eighty miles to the northwest and had good lines of trade and communication. It was a Greek minded community with a significant but not dominant Jewish community. As a more democratic and Greek metropolis, resistance against Paul and Barnabas was not swift and decisive as in places with dominant leadership structures. In this city some of this community stirred up mobs against Paul’s message, but Paul was evidently able to manage the unrest for a period. The team remained in place, and saw considerable success in their preaching. After a spell of success, another mob began to stir. Unlike Pisidian Antioch, where the aristocrats expelled Paul and his companion, the mob of the Hellenes was stirred and eventually threatened to stone them. Barnabas and Paul fled the city south to Lystra and Derbe.  

In addition to Paul’s first visit to Iconium, he returned on the Second Journey and possibly on the third (Acts 16:1-4; 18:23). Certain of the Jewish community followed Paul from Iconium and harassed him again in Lystra, pushing the crowd to stone him (Acts 14:19). Paul recalls the problems he had in Galatia in his late writings (2 Tim. 3:11). Paul’s concerns over the perversion to the Gospel message were directed at this and the surrounding communities in the Epistle to the Galatians. In addition, Peter’s first Epistle was likely written to this city, along with Lystra, Derbe and Antioch of Pisidia (1 Pet. 1:1).