LYCAONIA meant originally the country inhabited by the Lycaones, a central tribe of Asia Minor. It is for the most part a level plain, which is merged on the north and east in the plains of Galatia and Cappadocia, and is bounded on the west and south by hills. It was and is an excellent country for pasturage. Its exact boundaries varied at different times. At some uncertain date a part of Lycaonia, containing fourteen cities, of which Iconium was one, was transferred to Galatia. (See Iconium.) Lycaonia was part of the Seleucid Empire until b.c. 190. Later the whole or part of it belonged successively to the Pergamenian kings, the Galatians, Cappadocia, and Pontus. At the settlement of b.c. 64 by Pompey, the north part was added to Galatia, the south-east to Cappadocia, and the west was added to the Roman Empire, to be administered by the governor of the Roman province Cilicia. In b.c. 39 Mark Antony gave the western part (including Lystra and Iconium) to Polemon, but in b.c. 36 it was transferred to Amyntas along with Galatia proper. (See Galatia.) Amyntas conquered Derbe and Laranda, which were incorporated in the Roman Empire when Amyntas' kingdom was made into the province Galatia in b.c. 25. In a.d. 37 Eastern Lycaonia, which up to that time had continued under the weak Cappadocian rule, was placed under Antiochus of Commagene, along with most of Cilicia Tracheia, and got the name Lycaonia Antiochiana.
Under Claudius and Nero, when St. Paul visited the churches of South Galatia, Lycaonia included the two parts, the Roman and Antiochian. The former part included Lystra and Derbe and a number of smaller places, and it is correctly described in Ac 14:6. The Apostles, when persecuted at Iconium in Phrygia (or the Phrygian district of the vast province Galatia), crossed into Lycaonia (another district of the same province). In Ac 16:1-4 this territory is not explicitly named, but its two cities are mentioned by name. In Ac 18:23 the same cities are included in the expression used.
Both parts of Lycaonia were comprised in the united province of Galatia-Cappadocia under Vespasian and his sons (a.d. 70 onwards). They were again divided by Trajan in 106. About a.d. 137 'the triple eparchy' was formed, consisting of Cilicia, Lycaonia, and Isauria.
The name of the Lycaonins is not mentioned in the Bible, but their language is in Ac 14:11 : it was no doubt prevalent in the villages and smaller towns.
A collection of Christian inscriptions (of 3rd cent. a.d. and later) has been discovered in Lycaonia, which for numbers cannot be matched in any other Eastern province. They show the wide diffusion of Christianity in this district evangelized by St. Paul.