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ISAU´RIA (Η῾ Ισαυρία), a district in Asia Minor, bordering in the east on Lycaonia, in the north on Phrygia, in the west on Pisidia, and in the south on Cilicia and Pamphylia. Its inhabitants, living in a wild and rugged mountainous country, were little known to the civilised nations of antiquity. The country contained but few towns, which existed especially in the northern part, which was less; [p. 2.66]mountainous, though the capital, IsaurA, was in the south. Strabo, in a somewhat obscure passage (xii. p. 568), seems to distinguish between Ἰσαυρία the northern part, and Ἰσαυρική the southern and less known part, which he regards as belonging to Lycaonia. Later writers, too, designate by the name Isauria only the northern part of the country, and take no notice of the south, which was to them almost a terra incognita. The inhabitants of that secluded mountainous region of Asia, the Isauri or Isaurica gens, appear to have been a kindred race of the Pisidians. Their principal means of living were derived from plunder and rapine; from their mountain fastnesses they used to descend into the plains, and to ravage and plunder wherever they could overcome the inhabitants of the valleys in Cilicia, Phrygia, and Pisidia. These marauding habits rendered the Isaurians, who also took part in the piracy of the Cilicians, so dangerous to the neighbouring countries that, in B.C. 78, the Romans sent against them an army under P. Servilius, who, after several dangerous campaigns, sueceeded in conquering most of their strongholds and reducing them to submission, in consequence of which he received the surname of Isauricus. (Strab. l.c.; Diod. 18.22; Zosim. 5.25; Mela, 1.2; Plin. Nat. 5.23; Eutrop. 6.3; Liv. Epit. 93; D. C. 45.16; Flor. 3.6; Ptol. 5.4.12; Oros. 5.23; Amm. Marc. 14.2, 25.9.) The Isaurians after this were quite distinct from the Lycaonians, for Cicero (Cic. Att. 5.21; comp. ad Fain. 15.2) distinguishes between the Forum Lycaonium and the Isauricum. But notwithstanding the severe measures, of Servilius, who had destroyed their strongholds, and even their capital of Isaura, they subsequently continued to infest their neighbours, which induced the tetrarch Amyntas to. attempt their extirpation; but he did not succeed, and lost his life in the attempt. Although the glorious victory of Pompey over the pirates had put an end to such practices at sea, the Isaurians, who in the midst of the possessions of Rome maintained their independence, continued their predatory excursions, and defied the power of Rome; and the Romans, unable to protect their subjects against the bold mountaineers in any other way, endeavoured to check them by surrounding their country with a ring of fortresses. (Treb. Poll. XXX. Tyr. 25.) In this, however, the Romans succeeded but imperfectly, for the Isaurians. frequently broke through the surrounding line of fortifications; and their successes emboldened them so much that, in the third century of our aera, they united themselves with their kinsmen, the Cilicians, into one nation. From that time the inhabitants of the highlands of Cilicia also are comprised under the name of Isauri, and the two, united, undertook expeditions on a, very large scale. The strongest and most flourishing cities were attacked and plundered by them, and they remained the terror of the. surrounding nations. In the third century, Trebellianus, a chief of the Cilician Isaurians, even assumed the title and dignity of Roman emperor. The Romans, indeed, conquered and put him to death; but were unable, to reduce the Isaurians. The emperor Probus, for a time, succeeded in, reducing, them to submission; but they soon shook off the yoke. (Vopisc. Prob. 16; Zosim. 1.69, 70.) To the Greek emperors they were particularly formidable, for whole armies are said to have been cut to, pieces and destroyed by them. (Suid. s. v. Βρύχιος and Ἠράκλειος; Philostorg. Hist. Eccles. 11.8.) Once the Isaurians even had the honour of giving an emperor to the East in the person of Zeno, surnamed the Isaurian; but they were subsequently much reduced by the emperor Anastasius, so that in the time of Justinian they had ceased to be formidable. (Comp. Gibbon, Hist. of the Decline, &c., chap. xl.) The Isaurians are described as an ugly race, of low stature, and badly armed; in the open field they were bad soldiers, but as hardened mountaineers they were irresistible in what is called guerilla warfare. Their country, though for the most part consisting of rugged mountains, was not altogether barren, and the vine was cultivated to a considerable extent. (Amm. Marc. 14.8.) Traditions originating in the favourite pursuits of the ancient Isaurians are still current among the present inhabitants of the country, and an interesting specimen is related in Hamilton's Researches, vol. ii. p. 331.


hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.21
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.23
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 14.2
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 14.8
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 25.9
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 18.22
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