Asia, Roman Province of
ASIA, ROMAN PROVINCE OF
The Roman province of Asia, a region comprising the western section of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), constituted a Roman province in the late 2nd century b.c. During the Apostolic period it included the territory from galatia to the sea, with the offshore islands of Ionia, and was bounded on the north by Bithynia and on the south by Lycia. A senatorial province, it was governed by a proconsul who resided at Ephesus. It was a rich agricultural and pastoral land, famous for the fabrication of colorful woolen cloth and was much subject to the exploitation of Roman capitalists. Its ports connected the hinterland of Asia Minor and the East with Greece and Rome through the opulent Hermus and Maeander valleys. Besides Ephesus the most important ports were Cos, Miletus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Troas, while farther inland, along the valley routes, were Thyatira, sardis, Philadelphia on the Hermus, and Laodicea, Colossae, and Hierapolis on the Maeander.
st. paul first passed through Asia on his second missionary journey when he traveled through Mysia and set sail from Troas for Neopolis in the Roman Province of macedonia (Acts 16.6–10). He spent most of his third missionary journey in Ephesus (Acts 19.1–20.1), where his disciples evangelized the hinterland and where he could have easy access to his churches in the Roman Province of Achaia. He gave his pastoral sermon to the elders of the Church of Ephesus at Miletus on his last trip to Jerusalem with the collection for the poor from the Greek communities (Acts 20.17–38). Two of his socalled captivity epistles were sent to the churches of Asia to combat the incipient heresies that were taking root there. (see colossians, epistle to the; ephesians, epistle to the.) That such heresies were commonplace in this region at the crossroads of the Eastern and Western worlds is clear also from the letters sent by John, the author of the book of Apocalypse, to the seven churches of Asia from his exile on the island of Patmos (Rv 1.9–3.22).
In the books of the maccabees the term Asia (e.g., 1 Mc 8.6) refers to the empire of the seleucid dynasty, which included, at the time of its greatest expansion, the modern countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. By the Maccabean period, however, the Seleucids had forfeited Asia Minor to the Romans at the battle of Magnesia, near Ephesus, a fact that led them to concentrate their military efforts on holding their eastern territories (1 Mc 6.1–5).
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek, 152. f. dÖlger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 6:327–329. g. bardy, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 4:966–989.
[p. p. saydon]