si-lish'-i-a (he Kilikia): An important province at the Southeast angle of Asia Minor, corresponding nearly with the modern Turkish vilayet of Adana; enfolded between the Taurus mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, with the Amanus range on the East and Pamphylia on the West; chief rivers, the Pyramus, Sarus, Cydnus and Calycadnus. The character of Cilician history has been largely determined by the physical features of the province. It is divided by nature into a mountainous part to the West, called Tracheia, and a broad, alluvial plain, hot and fertile, toward the East, termed Campestris or Pedias. Cilicia has always been isolated from its neighbors by land by its encircling mountains, save for its two famous mountain passes, the "Syrian Gates," which offer an easy road to Antioch and the South, and the wonderful "Cilician Gates," which open a road to central and western Asia Minor. Through these passes the armies and the pilgrims, the trade and the travel of the centuries have made their way. Alexander was one of the most renowned leaders of such expeditions, and at Issus he met and shattered the power of the Persian empire.
The early settlers of Cilicia are held to have been Semitic Syrians and Phoenicians, but in the still earlier days the inhabitants must have been Hittites. While few Hittite remains have been brought to light in Cilicia proper, the province was so surrounded by Hittites, and such important works of Hittite art and industry remain on the outskirts of the province, as at Ivriz, Marash, Sinjirli and Sakche Geuzi, that the intervening territory could hardly fail to be overspread with the same civilization and imperial power. See Professor John Garstang's The Land of the Hittites.
Cilicia appears as independent under Syennesis, a contemporary of Alyattes of Lydia, 610 BC. Later it passed under the Persian sway, but retained its separate line of kings. After Alexander the Seleucid rulers governed Cilicia from Antioch. The disturbances of the times enabled the pirates so to multiply and establish themselves in their home base, in Cilicia, Tracheia, that they became the scourge of the Mediterranean until their power was broken by Pompey (67-66 BC). Cilicia was by degrees incorporated in the Roman administration, and Cicero, the orator, was governor (51-50 BC).
The foremost citizen of the province was Saul of Tarsus (Ac 21:39; 22:3; 23:34). Students or pilgrims from Cilicia like himself disputed with Stephen (Ac 6:9). Some of the earliest labors of the great apostle were near his home, in Syria and Cilicia (Ga 1:21; Ac 15:23,11). On his voyage to Rome he sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia (Ac 27:5). Constantinople and Antioch may be regarded as the front and back door of Asia Minor, and as the former was not founded till the 4th century, Asia Minor may be regarded as fronting during apostolic days on Antioch. Cilicia was intimately connected with its neighbor province on the South. The first Christian apostles and evangelists followed the great highways, through the famous mountain passes, and carried the religion of Jesus to Asia Minor from Antioch as a base.
Armenians migrating from the North founded kingdom in Cilicia under Roupen which was terminated by the overthrow of King Levon, or Leo, by the conquering Turks in 1393. A remnant of this kingdom survives in the separate Armenian catholicate of Sis, which has jurisdiction over few bishoprics, and Armenians are among the most virile of the present inhabitants of the province.
G. E. White