🔼The name Lycaonia: Summary
- Lukka Lands
- Possibly from a Hittite term.
- From the noun λυκαινα (lukiana), the feminine version of λυκος (lukos), wolf.
🔼The name Lycaonia in the Bible
The name Lycaonia belongs to a region in central Anatolia (modern Turkey), bordered in the north by Galatia, on the east by Cappadocia, on the west by Phrygia and Pisidia and on the south by the Taurus Mountains. Its borders shifted on occasion, but in Biblical times its most prominent towns were Derbe and Lystra. The city of Iconium appears to have been situated on its border.
Lycaonia is mentioned by name only once or twice in the Bible. After Paul and Barnabas caused some stir in Iconium, they traveled to the cities of Lycaonia, namely Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:6). In Lystra Paul healed a lame man, which caused the people of Lystra to take him for Hermes and Barnabas for Zeus, exclaiming in the Lycaonian (Λυκαονιστι) language that the gods had come down to them (Acts 14:11).
🔼Etymology of the name Lycaonia
The name Lycaonia is very old. So old even that its true etymology is formally lost, but the chances are excellent that it has to do with the Lukka Lands, which are mentioned often in Hittite texts from the second millennium BC. Where the Lukka people had their name from is no longer clear, but the preservation of their name probably owes much to its similarity with the Greek word λυκαινα (lukiana), meaning she-wolf, the feminine version of the noun λυκος (lukos), meaning wolf:
The noun λυκος (lukos), meaning wolf, served as a label of insult, signifying cowardice and a preying on the weak and defenseless. Since natural evolution allows the weak to unite and create symbiotic ecosystems that the autonomous super-fit could never compete with, these alpha-wolves, though dominant today, were also seen as tomorrow's great losers.
Greek mythology tells of a man named Lycaon, who decided to test whether Zeus was truly omniscient by offering him human flesh guised as a regular meal. Most versions of this story have an enraged Zeus transform Lycaon into a wolf.
To Greek ears, the name Lycaonia doubtlessly sounded like She-Wolf-Land. A significant detail is that the Lycaonian's main industry was wool production, and when Jesus warned his hearers to watch out for the false prophets who come in sheep's clothes but are inwardly ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15), some of his Greek hearers might have thought of the Lycaonians.