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Isauria

Isauria, in ancient geography, a district in the interior of South Asia Minor, of very different extent at different periods. The permanent nucleus of it was that north of the Taurus[?] range which lies directly to south of Iconium[?] and Lystra. Lycaon 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 Kale).

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 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, 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.

In the 4th century BC, Isauria ended as it began by being just 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, and the Isaurians set the place alight and let it perish in flames rather than submit to capture.

The Isaurians were brought partially under control (7675 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 fastnesses, 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 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.

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 region had not been completely subdued until the arrival in the 11th century of the Seljuk Turks whose decendents have now coalesced with the local population and formed a settled element.

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 has disappeared, but numerous inscriptions and many sculpture stelae, built into the houses of Doria[?], prove the site. It was the latter, and not the former town, that Servilius reduced by cutting off the water supply. J. S. Sterrett explored in the highland of Isauria in 1885 but it was not exhaustive. The site was identified by W. I. Ramsay in 1901.



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