Derbe was a small Lycaonian town on the extreme boundary of the Roman
province of Galatia, about 30 miles southeast of Lystra.

map showing relative location of derbe

Little specific history is known about Derbe. It must have been somewhat Hellenized (Greek-ized), but like the residents of Lystra, the people of Derbe spoke the native language of Lycaonia. It was thought to have had a large Jewish population. Like Derbe it was part of the Roman province of Galatia at the time of Paul. But later in
the 1st century AD, it was temporarily given the name Claudio-Derbe in honor of the Roman emperor Claudius. Although Derbe was inhabited from the Iron Age through the Hellenistic and Roman periods, apparently it was entirely abandoned and forgotten in medieval times.


In the footsteps of Paul Derbe

The townsite (below) is a medium-sized mound called Kerti Hüyük set in the
middle of a plain at the foot of the extinct volcano Kara Dagi, about 3 miles
north of modern Karaman.

mound of Derbe

A pair of inscriptions helped identify the mound as Derbe. One, below, dating from
157 AD, mentions "the gods of Derbe" as well as the council and people of the
town. The inscription is now in the museum at Konya (ancient Iconium), Turkey.

inscription mentioning Derbe

Another inscription on a tombstone dating from the 4th century AD mentions
Michael, bishop of Derbe.

Gaius, one of Paul's traveling companions on his third missionary journey, was
from Derbe (Acts 20:4).

Below, view from the Derbe mound.

view from derbe mound


Paul preaches the Gospel in Derbe

Acts is very brief in describing the two apostles' stay in Derbe:

"The next day [Paul] and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good
news in that city and won a large number of disciples" (Acts 14:20-21). 

At this point Paul and Barnabas must have decided to return home. But, rather
than continuing east on the road from Derbe and crossing the Taurus mountains through the Cilician Gates to Tarsus (an easier and shorter journey), they chose instead to retrace their steps to Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch.

In his second letter to Timothy Paul mentions the persecutions and sufferings "in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, but he says nothing about  Derbe (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Paul (with Silas) returned to Derbe in the early stage of his second missionary
journey (see Acts 16:1).


Continue to the end of the 1st Missionary Journey