From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


Derbe was one of ‘the cities of Lycaonia’ into which Paul and Barnabas fled when driven from Iconium ( Acts 14:6). Strabo says it was ‘on the flanks of the Isaurian region, adhering (ἐπιπεφυκός) to Cappadocia’ (xii. vi. 3). It belonged to that part of Lycaonia which, in the 1st cent. b.c., the Romans added, as an ‘eleventh Strategia,’ to the territory of the kings of Cappadocia (xii. i. 4). From them it was seized, along with the more important town of Laranda, by Antipater the robber (called ὁ Δερβήτης), who is otherwise known as a friend of Cicero ( ad Fam . xiii. 73). Antipater was attacked and slain by Amyntas of Galatia (circa, about29 b.c.), who added Laranda and Derbe to the extensive territories which he ruled as a Roman subject-king. On the death of Amyntas in 25 b.c. his kingdom was formed into the Roman province of Galatia. But the ‘eleventh Strategia’ again received special treatment. After changing hands more than once, it was ultimately added-as the inscriptions on coins indicate-to the kingdom of Antiochus iv., and therefore called ‘Strategia Antiochiane’ (Ptolemy, v. 6), an arrangement which lasted from a.d. 41 to the death of Antiochus in 72. Derbe, however, being required as a fortress city on the Roman frontier, was detached from the Strategia and included in the province of Galatia, after which it received a new constitution, and was named Claudio-Derbe, which was equivalent to Imperial Derbe.

Ethnically and geographically Lycaonian, the city was now politically Galatian. As in Lystra, the educated natives were no doubt bilingual, speaking Lycaonian (Λυκαονιστί,  Acts 14:11) among themselves, but using Greek as the language of commerce and culture. Derbe lay on the great trade-route between Ephesus and Syrian Antioch. All the cities on that line had been hellenized by the Seleucids, whose task the Romans now continued. St. Paul’s first visit to Derbe was very successful; he ‘made many disciples’ ( Acts 14:21), and the city is not mentioned as one of the places in which he was persecuted ( 2 Timothy 3:11). It is a striking fact that he made Derbe the last stage of his missionary progress, instead of going on to the neighbouring and greater city of Laranda. His action appears to be prompted by a motive which the historian does not formally state. Because Derbe was the limit of Roman territory, he made it the limit of his mission. He followed the lines of Empire. In his second journey he evidently crossed the Taurus by the Cilician Gates, passed through the kingdom of Antiochus, and so ‘came to Derbe and Lystra’ ( Acts 15:41;  Acts 16:1). A third visit is probably implied by the statement that ‘he went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, stablishing all the disciples’ ( Acts 18:23). On the Southern Galatian theory, the Christians of Derbe formed one of the ‘churches of Galatia’ ( 1 Corinthians 16:1,  Galatians 1:2), and they were among the ἀνόητοι Γαλάται ( Galatians 3:1) whom he exhorted to stand fast in their Christian liberty ( Galatians 5:1). Imperial Derbe stood in closer relations with the Roman colonies of Antioch and Lystra than with the non-Roman Lycaones of the kingdom of Antiochus.

Sterrett ( Wolfe Expedition , 1888, p. 23) placed Derbe between the villages of Zosta and Bossola on the road from Konia to Laranda. In both of these places there are numerous ancient cut stones and inscriptions, but it is doubtful if they are in situ , and W. M. Ramsay thinks that the position of the ancient city is indicated by a large deserted mound, called by the Turks Gudelissin , about 3 miles W.N.W. from Zosta. It still waits to be explored.

Literature.-W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire , 1893, pp. 54-56, The Cities of St. Paul , 1907, p. 385ff., Hist. Com. on Gal. , 1899, pp. 228-234; W. Smith. DGRG [Note: GRG Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography.]i. [1856] 770.

James Strahan.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

DERBE . A city in the ethnic district Lycaonia, and in the region Lycaonia-Galatica of the Roman province Galatia, on the main road from Iconium (or Lystra) S.E. to Laranda. The modern villages Losta and Gudelissin are built on the ruins of the city or its territory. Amyntas, king of Galatia, had conquered it, and in b.c. 25 it passed with the rest of his territory into the hands of the Romans. From a.d. 41 to 72 it was the frontier city of the province, and was honoured with the prefix Claudio . It was in this period that St. Paul visited it (  Acts 14:6 ), and then retraced his steps to Lystra, etc. On his second journey, coming from Cilicia, he reached it first and then went on to Lystra, as he did also on the third journey. Gaius of Derbe was one of the representatives of Galatia in the deputation which carried the collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem (  Acts 20:4 ). Derbe was on the whole one of the least important places visited by St. Paul, and appears little in history.

A. Souter.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

Near Lystra, E. of the upland plain of Lycaonia, stretching eastwards along the N. of the Taurus range. Probably near the pass ("the Cilician gates") from the plain of Cilicia up to the table land of the interior. Paul fled there from Iconium and Lystra ( Acts 14:6;  Acts 14:20-21;  Acts 16:1). In enumerating places ( 2 Timothy 3:11) he mentions Lystra but not Derbe, though in the independent history they are mentioned together: a delicate instance of accuracy, for he is here enumerating only those places where he suffered persecution. Gaius or Caius belonged to Derbe, Paul's companion in travel ( Acts 20:4). Identified by Hamilton (Researches in Asia Minor, 2:313) with Dirle, near the roots of Taurus near lake Ak-gol.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

Originally Derbe was part of the ancient kingdom of Lycaonia, but when Rome redivided Asia Minor, Derbe became part of the Roman province of Galatia ( Acts 14:6; see Galatia ; Lycaonia ). Paul and Barnabas established a church in Derbe on their first missionary journey ( Acts 14:20-21), and Paul visited the church on his second and third journeys ( Acts 16:1;  Acts 18:23). It was one of the churches that Paul wrote to in his letter to the Galatians.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Der'be.  Acts 14:20-21;  Acts 16:1;  Acts 20:4. The exact position of this town has not yet been ascertained, but its general situation is undoubted. It was in the eastern part of the great upland plain of Lycaonia, which stretched from Iconium, eastward along the north side of the chain of Taurus. (Rev. L. H. Adams, a missionary, identifies it with the modern Divle , a town of about 4500 inhabitants, on the ancient road between Tarsus and Lystra. - Editor).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

A small town of Lycaonia, in Asia Minor, to which Paul and Barnabas fled from Lystra, A. D. 41,  Acts 14:20 . It lay at the foot of the Taurus mountains on the north, sixteen or twenty miles east of Lystra. The two missionaries gained many disciples here, and among them perhaps Gaius, who afterwards labored with Paul,  Acts 14:20;  20:4 .

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Derbe ( Der'Be ). A city of Lycaonia,  Acts 14:6;  Acts 14:20;  Acts 16:1, about 20 miles from Lystra. Kiepert places it near Lake Ak-Ghieul, but some modern missionaries place it at Divlé, several miles farther south.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]

City of Lycaonia, in Asia Minor, visited by Paul and Barnabas.  Acts 14:6,20;  Acts 16:1;  Acts 20:4 . It is twice mentioned with Lystra, and is placed on the maps to the east of that city. It has recently been identified with Ambarrarasi, west of Eregli.

Holman Bible Dictionary [9]

 Acts 14:6 Acts 14:20-21 Acts 16:1 Acts 18:23 Acts 20:4

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Acts 16:1 2 Timothy 3:11

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

dûr´bē̇ ( Δέρβη , Dérbē ,  Acts 14:20 ,  Acts 14:21;  Acts 16:1; Δερβαῖος , Derbaı́os ,  Acts 20:4; Δερβήτης , Derbḗtēs , Strabo, Cicero): A city in the extreme Southeast corner of the Lycaonian plain is mentioned twice as having been visited by Paul (on his first and second missionary journeys respectively), and it may now be regarded as highly probable that he passed through it on his third journey (to the churches of Galatia). The view that these churches were in South Galatia is now accepted by the majority of English and American scholars, and a traveler passing through the Cilician Gates to Southern Galatia must have traversed the territory of Derbe.

1. History

Derbe is first mentioned as the seat of Antipater, who entertained Cicero, the Roman orator and governor of Cilicia. When the kingdom of Amyntas passed, at his death in 25 bc, to the Romans, it was made into a province and called Galatia (see Galatia ). This province included Laranda as well as Derbe on the extreme. Southeast, and for a time Laranda was the frontier city looking toward Cappadocia and Cilicia and Syria via the Cilician Gates. But between 37 and 41 ad Laranda was transferred to the "protected" kingdom of Antiochus, and Derbe became the frontier city. It was the last city on distinctively Roman territory, on the road leading from Southern Galatia to the East; it was here that commerce entering the province had to pay the customs dues. Strabo records this fact when he calls Derbe a limēn or "customs station." It owed its importance (and consequently its visit from Paul on his first journey) to this fact, and to its position on a great Roman road leading from Antioch, the capital of Southern Galatia, to Iconium, Laranda, Heracleia-Cybistra, and the Cilician Gates. Roman milestones have been found along the line of this road, one at a point 15 miles Northwest of Derbe. It was one of those Lycaonian cities honored with the title "Claudian" by the emperor Claudius; its coins bear the legend "Claudio-Derbe." This implied considerable importance and prosperity as well as strong pro-Roman feeling; yet we do not find Derbe standing aloof, like the Roman colonies Iconium and Lystra, from the Common Council of Lycaonian cities ( Koinon Lykaonias ).

Derbe remained in the province Galatia till about 135 ad, when it passed to the jurisdiction of the triple province Cilicia-Isauria-Lycaonia. It continued in this division till 295 ad, and was then included in the newly formed province Isauria. This arrangement lasted till about 372 ad, when Lycaonia, including Derbe, was formed into a separate province. The statement of Stephanus of Byzantium that Derbe was "a fortress of Isauria" originated in the arrangement which existed from 295 to 372 ad. Coins of the city represent Heracles, Fortuna and a winged Victory writing on a shield (after the pattern of the Venus of Melos, in the Louvre, Paris). Derbe is mentioned several times in the records of the church councils. A bishop, Daphnus of Derbe, was present at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

2. Situation

The site of Derbe was approximately fixed by the American explorer Sterrett, and more accurately by Sir W. M. Ramsay, who, after carefully examining all the ruins in the neighborhood, placed it at Gudelisin. Up to 1911, certain epigraphic evidence fixing the site had not been found, but Ramsay's identification meets all the conditions, and cannot be far wrong. On the East, Derbe was conterminous with Laranda, on the Northeast with Barata in the Kara Dagh. It bordered on the territory of Iconium on the Northwest, and on Isauria on the West. Its territory touched the foothills of Taurus on the South, and the site commands a fine view of the great mountain called Hadji Baba or the Pilgrim Father. The Greeks of the district say that the name is a reminiscence of Paul, "over whose travels" the mountain "stood as a silent witness."

The remains are mostly of the late Roman and Byzantine periods, but pottery of an earlier date has been found on the site. An inscription of a village on the territory of Derbe records the erection of a building by two architects from Lystra. A line of boundary stones, separating the territory of Derbe from that of Barata, is still standing. It probably belongs to an early delimitation of the territory of the frontier town of Galatia (Ramsay).

3. Paul at Derbe

In  Acts 14:20 ,  Acts 14:21 , it is narrated that Paul and Barnabas, after being driven out of Lystra, departed to Derbe, where they "preached the gospel ... and made many disciples." But they did not further. Paul's mission included only the centers of Greco-Roman civilization; it was no part of his plan to pass over the frontier of the province into non-Roman territory. This aspect of his purpose is illustrated by the reference to Derbe on his second journey ( Acts 16:1 ). Paul started from Antioch and "went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches" ( Acts 15:41 ). "Then he came to Derbe and Lystra" ( Acts 16:1 the King James Version). The unwarned reader might forget that in going from Cilicia to Derbe, Paul must have, passed through a considerable part of Antiochus' territory, and visited the important cities of Heracleia-Cybistra and Laranda. But his work ends with the Roman Cilicia and begins again with the Roman Galatia; to him, the intervening country is a blank. Concentration of effort, and utilization only of the most fully prepared material were the characteristics of Paul's missionary journeys in Asia Minor. That Paul was successful in Derbe may be gathered (as Ramsay points out) from the fact that he does not mention Derbe among the places where he had suffered persecution (  2 Timothy 3:11 ). Gaius of Derbe (among others) accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, in charge of the donations of the churches to the poor in that city ( Acts 20:4 ).


The only complete account of Derbe is that given in Sir W. M. Ramsay's Cities of St. Paul , 385-404. On Paul's mission there, see the same author's St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen , 119, 178. Many inscriptions of the later Roman period are collected in Sterrett, Wolfe Expedition to Asia Minor , Numbers 18-52. The principal ancient authorities, besides Acts, are Cicero Ad Fam . xiii.73; Strabo xxx.569; Ptolemeus, v.6, 17; Steph. Byz., Hierocl ., 675; Notit. Episcop ., I, 404, and the Acta Conciliorum .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

( Δέρβη ,  Acts 14:20-21;  Acts 16:1; adject. Δερβαῖος ,  Acts 20:4), a small town situated in the eastern part of the great upland plain of Lycaonia, which stretches from Iconium (q.v.) eastward along the north side of the chain of Taurus (Smith's Dict. Of Class. Geogr. s.v.). It must have been somewhere near the place where the pass called the Cilician Gates opened a way from the low plain of Cilicia to the tableland of the interior; and probably it was a stage upon the great road which passed this way. It appears that Cicero went through Derbe on his route from Cilicia to Iconium (ad Fam. 13:73). Such was Paul's route on his second missionary journey ( Acts 15:41;  Acts 16:1-2), and probably also on the third (18:23; 19:1). In his first journey (14:20, 21) he approached from the other side, viz. from Iconium, in consequence of persecution in that place and at Lystra (q.v.). No incidents are recorded as having happened at Darbe. In harmony with this, it is not mentioned in the enumeration of places in  2 Timothy 3:11. In the apostolic history Lystra and Derbe are commonly mentioned together: in the quotation from the epistle, Lystra is mentioned and not Derbe. The distinction is accurate, for St. Paul is here enumerating his persecutions" (Paley, Iforae Paulinae, in loc.). It is uncertain whether Lystra or Derbe was the birthplace of Timothy; the former seems to be the more likely from  Acts 16:1-2. Derbe was the home of another of Paul's favored companions, Gains ( Acts 20:4). Strabo places Derbe at the edge of Isauria ( Geogr. xi, p. 392, ed. Casaubon; comp. Ptolemy, v. 6, 17); but in the Synecdemus of Hierocles (Wesseling, p. 675, where the word is Δέρβει ) it is placed, as in the Acts of the Apostles, in Lycaonia. The boundaries of these districts were not very exactly defined. The whole neighborhood, to the sea-coast of Cilicia (q. v), was notorious for robbery and piracy. Antipater, the friend of Cicero ( Ad Fam . 13:73) was the bandit chieftain of Lycaonia. Amyntas, king of Galatia (successor of Deiotarus II), murdered Antipater, and incorporated his dominions with his own. Under the Roman provincial government, Derbe was at first placed in a corner of Cappadocia (q.v.); but other changes were subsequently made. See GALATIA. Derbe does not seem to be mentioned in the Byzantine writers. Leake says (Asia Minor , p. 102) that its bishop was a suffragan of the metropolitan of Iconium. A full account of the surrounding country is given in Conybeare and Howson's Life of St. Paul, 1:211, 296 sq. Consult also Hamilton in the Journal of the Geog. Society.

Three sites have been assigned to Derbe.

(1.) By Colonel Leake (Asia Minor , p. 101) it was supposed to be at Bin bir-Kilisseh, at the foot of the Karadagh, a remarkable volcanic mountain which rises from the Lycaonian plain; but this is almost certainly the site of Lystra.

(2.) In Kiepert's Map Derbe is marked farther to the east, at a spot where there are ruins, and which is in the line of a Roman road.

(3.) Hamilton ( Researches In Asia Minor , 2:313) and Texier ( Asie Lineure , 2:129, 130) are disposed to place it at Divle, a little to the S.W. of the last position, and nearer to the roots of Taurus. In favor of this view there is the important fact that Steph. Byz. says that the place was sometimes called Δελβεία , which in the Lycaonian language (see  Acts 14:11) meant a "juniper-tree" Moreover, he speaks of a Λιμήν (harbor) here, which (as Leake and the French translators of Strabo suggest) ought probably to be Λίμνη (lake); and, if this is correct, the requisite condition is satisfied by the proximity of the Lake Ak Gol . Wieseler ( Chronol. Der Apost . Zeitalter, p. 24) takes the same view, though he makes too much of the possibility that Paul, on his second journey, traveled by a minor pass to the W. of the Ciliciar Gates. On the other hand, this location seems too far from the ancient road (compare Cellar. Notit. 2:202 sq.). (See Lycaonia).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Der´be, a small town of Lycaonia, in Asia Minor, at the foot of the Taurian mountains, 60 miles south by east from Iconium, and 18 miles east of Lystra. It was the birthplace of Gaius, the friend and fellow-traveler of Paul and it was to this place that Paul and Barnabas fled when expelled from Iconium, A.D. 41 .