A country or region in central Asia Minor. The geographical boundaries of Phrygia fluctuated greatly over the years, so it is difficult to define the area encompassed unless one refers to a specific period. In the first century “Phrygia” was an inland area in the Roman provinces of Galatia and Asia, covering the plateau country N of the Taurus range, from the Halys River one the E to the upper valleys of the Hermus and Meander Rivers on the W. It was an agricultural and pastoral area of oil and wine and also exported wool and marble. The apostle Paul traveled through portions of Phrygia on at least two of his trips.—Acts 16:6; 18:23; 19:1.
It is commonly believed that the Phrygians spread S from Greece toward the close of the second millennium B.C.E. and gained control of much of central and western Asia Minor N of the Taurus Mountains, from the Halys River to the Aegean Sea. Archaeological evidence points to Gordion as their capital and King Midas as one of their prominent rulers. A noteworthy aspect of the religion of the people of early Phrygia is the worship of a mother-goddess (Rhea Cybele).
The western part of Phrygia came under the control of the Attalid kings of Pergamum. This kingdom became the Roman province of Asia, but the SE portion is often referred to as Asian Phrygia. (See ASIA.) The king of Galatia ruled the more easterly section of Phrygia and it eventually formed a part of the Roman province of Galatia. This eastern section is sometimes termed Galatian Phrygia; it was N of Pisidia and NW of Lycaonia. Depending on the point of view of the writer and the time period involved, Antioch and Iconium might be called Phrygian cities, though often Antioch is connected with Pisidia, and Iconium with Lycaonia.—Acts 13:14; see ANTIOCH No. 2; ICONIUM.
The population of Phrygia included many Jews, their presence having been encouraged by the Seleucid rulers in Syria. According to Josephus, Antiochus III (223-187 B.C.E.) transported “two thousand families of Jews, with their effects, out of Mesopotamia and Babylon” to Lydia and Phrygia in order to stabilize conditions among the seditious people there. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XII, chap. III, pars. 1, 4) And Jews evidently continued numerous in Asia Minor under the Romans. On Pentecost 33 C.E. there were present in Jerusalem Jews from “the district of Asia, and Phrygia and Pamphylia.”—Acts 2:9, 10.
On his second missionary tour Paul and his companions, coming NW through Cilicia and Lycaonia, “went through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, because they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the district of Asia.” (Acts 15:41; 16:1-6) So they had entered the eastern part of old Phrygia (this by Paul’s time being Galatian Phrygia), but instead of continuing W through the province of Asia (containing Asian Phrygia) they went N toward the province of Bithynia and then W to Troas.
Paul’s third tour took him through Galatian Phrygia and Asian Phrygia. He left Antioch in Pisidia and “went from place to place through the country of Galatia and Phrygia.” (Acts 18:23) The account also says that he “went through the inland parts and came down to Ephesus” on the Aegean coast. (Acts 19:1) It seems that he did not travel the main road to Ephesus, passing down the Lycus River valley and by the Phrygian cities of Laodicea, Colossae and Hierapolis (Col. 2:1; 4:13), but, instead, took a more direct route somewhat to the N.—See COLOSSAE.