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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Perga

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(Πέργη)

Perga was an ancient important city of Pamphylia, on the plateau between the rivers Catarrhactes and Cestrus. Reckoned by Ptolemy among the inland cities of the country (Παμφυλίας μεσόγειοι [V. v. 7]), it had a river-harbour 5 miles eastward on the navigable Cestrus, about 8 miles from the sea (Strabo, XIV. iv. 2). It differed essentially from its rival Attalia, 12 miles to the S.W., in being a centre not of Hellenic culture, but of native Anatolian feeling. It was celebrated for the worship of the Queen of Perga, who came to be identified with the Greek Artemis, but who was really, like the Artemis of the Ephesians, a nature-goddess. On coins she is figured sometimes as a fair Diana of the chase, sometimes as a rude cultus-image. Her temple, the Artemisium, stood on the Acropolis, overlooking the city and expressing its faith. Perga was occupied by Alexander on his march eastward. A much-frequented northward route led over the Taurus into Phrygia and the Menander Valley.

Paul and Barnabas were twice at Perga in their first missionary tour. In their outward journey they landed at the river-harbour and went up to the city (Acts 13:13). Ramsay thinks that they intended to begin a missionary campaign there, but altered their plans on account of a serious illness-perhaps malarial fever-which compelled St. Paul to leave the enervating atmosphere of Pamphylia and seek health in the Phrygian uplands (St. Paul, p. 89 ff.). Conybeare and Howson suggest that, in any case, ‘if St. Paul was at Perga in May, he would find the inhabitants deserting its hot and silent streets,’ moving to their summer quarters ‘in the direction of his own intended journey. He would be under no temptation to stay’ (St. Paul, i. 199 f.). Before the apostles left Perga, a painful incident occurred. ‘John departed from them and returned to Jerusalem’ (Acts 13:13), either because he was displeased (as Ramsay surmises) at the sudden change in the plan of campaign, or simply because the snows of Taurus sent a chill to his heart and made him long for his Judaea n home. At any rate ‘he withdrew from them from Pamphylia,’ without good cause, St. Paul then and afterwards maintained, ‘and went not with them to the work’ (Acts 15:38; see Mark [John]). On the return journey Paul and Barnabas attempted some missionary work in Perga (Acts 14:25), but apparently it was brief and without marked results. Long the ‘metropolis’ of Western Pamphylia, Perga was overshadowed in the Byzantine period by Attalia. Under the name of Murtana it has extensive ruins, but the site of the ancient temple has not yet been discovered.

Literature.-Conybeare-Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, new ed., 1877, i. 193 ff.; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, 1895, p. 89 ff., Hist. Geography of Asia Minor, 1890, p. 415 f.; C. Lanckoronski, Villes de la Pamphylie et de la Pisidie, i. [1890]; Murray’s Handbook to Asia Minor, 1895.

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Perga'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/p/perga.html. 1906-1918.

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