This project investigated the history of early Christianity in the Kalykadnos valley and adjacent areas. To fulfill this task a cross-disciplinary approach has been chosen. A variety of sources – ranging from literary to epigraphic and archaeological material – was taken into account.


Philipp Pilhofer examined early Christianity in Rough Cilicia and Isauria. This rugged and remote country is told to be a long-lasting pagan stronghold, due to its unruly and rebellious inhabitants.

However, a closer look shows that the “Cilician pirates” as well as the “Isaurian bandits” for the most part are created by the bias of the sources, the late antique province of Isauria was by no means extraterritorial terrain of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, it becomes clear that this region can look back on a long history of Christianisation.

Christianity spread early, most likely starting with the activities of Paul especially in the many Jewish congregations. Barnabas allegedly evangelised the Isaurian coast including some islands. Many small local martyr cults do show the steadfastness of the Christians in times of persecution. More than 1000 inscriptions testify to the Christian life in late antiquity. Especially in the 5th century Cilicia saw astounding construction activity, specifically regarding churches. The walls of some of these churches are still standing today – several meters high.

With the sanctuary of Thekla, one of the most important early Christian pilgrimage sites outside Palestine can be found in this region. Another important Saint from this region was Konon of Bidana. He was venerated across all this area, due to his fame his home village was even promoted to a city. His martyrdom was edited and translated as part of this project. It is the first modern translation of this text.

Grasping the complex history of Christianity in this particular region, Philipp Pilhofer interweaved the interpretation of Christian and non-Christian texts from several centuries with latest results of archaeology and epigraphy, as well as recent research on late antiquity.

This Ph.D. thesis was written within the programme “Ancient Languages and Texts” (ALT) at the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS) and was successfully completed in 2017.

Related Publication

Philipp Pilhofer, Das frühe Christentum im kilikisch-isaurischen Bergland. Die Christen der Kalykadnos-Region in den ersten fünf Jahrhunderten, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2018

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