1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Isauria

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24142101911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 14 — IsauriaDavid George Hogarth

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 Kalé). 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.C.). 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.)