1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pisidia

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PISIDIA, in ancient geography, the name given to a country in the south of Asia Minor, immediately north of Pamphylia by which it was separated from the Mediterranean, while it was bounded on the N. by Phrygia, on the E. by Lycaonia, Isauria and Cilicia, and on the W. and S W. by Lycia and a part of Phrygia. It was a rugged and mountainous district, comprising some of the loftiest portions of the great range of Mt Taurus, together with the offshoots of the same chain towards the central table-land of Phrygia. Such a region was naturally occupied from a very early period by wild and lawless races of mountaineers, who were very imperfectly reduced to subjection by the powers that successively established their dominion in Asia Minor. The Pisidians are not mentioned by Herodotus, either among the nations that were subdued by Croesus, or among those that furnished contingents to the army of Xerxes, and the first mention of them in history occurs in the Anabasis of Xenophon, when they furnished a pretext to the younger Cyrus for levying the army with which he designed to subvert his brother's throne, while he pretended only to put down the Pisidians who were continually harassing the neighbouring nations by their lawless forays (Anab. i. 1, 11, ii. 1, 4, &c.). They are afterwards mentioned frequently by later writers among the inland nations of Asia Minor, and assume a more prominent part in the history of Alexander the Great, to whose march through their country they opposed a determined resistance. In Strabo’s time they had passed under the Roman dominion, though still governed by their own petty chiefs and retaining to a considerable extent their predatory habits (giving rise to such wars as that carried on by Quirinius, about 8–6 B.C.).

The boundaries of Pisidia, like those of most of the inland provinces or regions of Asia Minor, were not clearly defined, and appear to have fluctuated at different times. This was especially the case on the side of Lycia, where the upland district of Milyas was sometimes included in Pisidia, at other times assigned to Lycia. Some writers, indeed, considered the Pisidians as the same people with the Milyans, while others regarded them as descendants of the Solymi, but Strabo speaks of the language of the Pisidians as distinct from that of the Solymi, as well as from that of the Lydians. The whole of Pisidia is an elevated region of table-lands or upland valleys in the midst of the ranges of Mt Taurus which descends abruptly on the side of Pamphylia. It contains several small lakes, and two of large size, Bey-Sheher Lake, the ancient Karalis, and the double lake now called the Egerdir Geul, of which the ancient name was Limnai. The latter is a fresh-water lake of about 30 m. in length, situated in the north of Pisidia on the frontier of Phrygia, at an elevation of 3007 ft. Karalis is a larger body, also of fresh water, and at a distinctly higher level above the sea. The only rivers of importance are the Cestrus and the Eurymedon, both of which take their rise in the highest ranges of Mt Taurus, and flow down through deep and narrow valleys to the plain of Pamphylia, which they traverse on their way to the sea.

Notwithstanding its rugged and mountainous character, Pisidia contained in ancient times several considerable towns, the ruins of which have been brought to light by the researches of recent travellers (Arundell, Hamilton, Daniell, G. Hirschfeld, Radet, Sterrett, Lanckoronski, Ramsay, &c.), and show them to have attained under the Roman Empire to a degree of opulence and prosperity far beyond what we should have looked for in a country of predatory mountaineers. The most important of them are Termessus, near the frontier of Lycia, a strong fortress in a position of great natural strength and commanding one of the principal passes into Pamphylia; Cremna, another mountain fortress, north of the preceding, impending over the valley of the Cestrus; Sagalassus, a little farther north, a large town in a strong position, the ruins of which are among the most remarkable in Asia Minor; Selge, on the right bank of the Eurymedon, surrounded by rugged mountains, notwithstanding which it was in Strabo’s time a large and opulent city; and Antioch, known for distinction’s sake as Antioch of Pisidia, and celebrated for the visit of St Paul. This was situated in the extreme north-east of the district immediately on the frontier of Phrygia, between Lake Egerdir and the range of the Sultan Dagh and was reckoned in the Greek and earlier Roman period, e.g. by Strabo, as a city of Phrygia.

Besides these there were situated in the rugged mountain tract west of the Cestrus Cretopolis, Olbasa, Pogla, Isinda, Etenna and Comama. Pednelissus was in the upper valley of the Eurymedon above Selge. The only place in the district at the present day deserving to be called a town is Isbarta, the residence of a pasha; it stands at the northern foot of the main mass of Mt Taurus, looking over a wide and fertile plain which extends up to the northern chain of Taurus. North of this and immediately on the borders of Phrygia stood Apollonia, called also Mordiaeum. Large estates in Pisidia and the adjoining parts of Phrygia belonged to the Roman emperors; and their administration has been investigated by Ramsay and others.

We have no clue to the ethnic character and relations of the Pisidians, except that we learn from Strabo that they were distinct from the neighbouring Solymi, who were probably a Semitic race, but we find mention at an early period in these mountain districts of various other tribes, as the Cabali, Milyans, &c, of all which, as well as the neighbouring Isaurians and Lycaonians, the origin is wholly unknown, and the absence of monuments of their languages must remain so. A few short Pisidian inscriptions have been published by Ramsay in Revue des études anciennes (1895, pp. 353–362). No inscriptions in these other languages are known.  (W. M. Ra.)