ICONIUM (mod. Konia), a city of Asia Minor, the last of the Phrygian land towards Lycaonia, was commonly reckoned to Lycaonia in the Roman time, but retained its old Phrygian connexion and population to a comparatively late date. Its natural surroundings must have made it an important town from the beginning of organized society in this region. It lies in an excellently fertile plain, 6 m. from the Pisidian mountains on the west, with mountains more distant on the north and south, while to the east the dead level plain stretches away for hundreds of miles, though the distant view is interrupted by island-like mountains. Streams from the Pisidian mountains make the land on the south-west and south of the city a garden; but on the east and north-east a great part of the naturally fertile soil is uncultivated. Trees grow nowhere except in the gardens near the city. Irrigation is necessary for productiveness, and the water-supply is now deficient. A much greater supply was available for agriculture in ancient times and might be reintroduced.
Originally a Phrygian city, as almost every authority who has come into contact with the population calls it, and as is implied in Acts xiv. 6, it was in a political sense the chief city of the Lycaonian tetrarchy added to the Galatian country about 165 B.C., and it was part of the Roman province Galatia from 25 B.C. to about A.D. 295. Then it was included in the province Pisidia (as Ammianus Marcellinus describes it) till 372, after which it formed part of the new province Lycaonia so long as the provincial division lasted. Later it was a principal city of the theme of Anatolia. It suffered much from the Arab raids in the three centuries following A.D. 660; its capture in 708 is mentioned, but it never was held as a city of the caliphs. In later Roman and Byzantine times it must have been a large and wealthy city. It was a metropolis and an archbishopric, and one of the earliest councils of the church was held there in A.D. 235. The ecclesiastical organization of Lycaonia and the country round Iconium on all sides was complete in the early 4th century, and monuments of later 3rd and 4th century Christianity are extremely numerous. The history of Christian Iconium is utterly obscure. The city was thrice visited by St Paul, probably in A.D. 47, 50 and 53; and it is the principal scene of the tale of Paul and Thecla (which though apocryphal has certainly some historical basis; see Thecla). There was a distinct Roman element in Iconium, arising doubtless from the presence of Roman traders. This was recognized by Claudius, who granted the honorary title Claudiconium, and by Hadrian, who elevated the city to the rank of a Roman colony about A.D. 130 under the name Colonia Aelia Hadriana Augusta Iconiensium. The period of its greatest splendour was after the conquest by the Seljuk Turks about 1072–1074. It soon became the capital of the Seljuk state, and one of the most brilliant cities of the world. The palace of the sultans and the mosque of Ala ed-dīn Kaikobād formerly covered great part of the Acropolis hill in the northern part of the city. Farther south there is still the great complex of buildings which form the chief seat of the Mevlevi dervishes, a sect widely spread over Anatolia. Many other splendid mosques and royal tombs adorned the city, and justified the Turkish proverb, “See all the world; but see Konia.” The walls, about 2 m. in circumference, consisted of a core of rubble and concrete, coated with ancient stones, inscriptions, sculptures and architectural marbles, forming a striking sight, which no traveller ever examined in detail. Beyond the walls extended the gardens and villas of a prosperous Oriental population, especially on the south-west towards the suburb of Meram.
When the Seljuk state broke up, and the Osmanli or Ottoman sovereignty arose, Konia decayed, its population dwindled and the splendid early Turkish buildings were suffered to go to ruin. As trade and intercourse diminished Konia grew poorer and more ruinous. The walls and the palace, still perfect in the beginning of the 19th century, were gradually pulled down for building material, and in 1882 there remained only a small part of the walls, from which all the outer stones had been removed, while the palace was a ruin. At that time and for some years later a large part of Konia was like a city of the dead. But about 1895 the advent of the Anatolian railway began to restore its prosperity. A good supply of drinking water was brought to the city by Ferid Pasha, who governed the vilayet ably for several years, till in 1903 he was appointed Grand Vizier. The sacred buildings, mosques, &c., were patched up (except a few which were quite ruinous) and the walls wholly removed, but an unsightly fragment of a palace-tower still remained in 1906. In 1904–1905 the first two sections of the Bagdad railway, 117 m., to Karaman and Eregli, were built. In the city there is a branch of the Ottoman bank, a government technical school, a French Catholic mission and a school, an Armenian Protestant school for boys, an American mission school for girls, mainly Armenian, and other educational establishments.
The founder of the Mevlevi dancing dervishes, the poet Mahommed Jelal-ed-Din (Rumi), in 1307, though tempted to assume the inheritance along with the empire of the Seljuk sultan Ala ed-dīn Kaikobad III., who died without heirs, preferred to pass on the power to Osman, son of Ertogrul, and with his own hands invested Osman and girt him with the sword: this investiture was the legitimate beginning of the Osmanli authority. The heirs of Jelal-ed-Din (Rumi) were favoured by the Osmanli sultans until 1516, when Selim was on the point of destroying the Mevlevi establishment as hostile to the Osmanli and the faith; and though he did not do so the Mevlevi and their chiefs were deprived of influence and dignity. In 1829 Mahmud II. restored their dignity in part, and in 1889 Abd-ul-Hamid II. confirmed their exemption from military duty. The head of the Mevlevi dervishes (Aziz-Effendi, Hazreti-Mevlana, Mollah-Unkiar, commonly styled simply Chelebi-Effendi) has the right to gird on the sultan’s sword at his investiture, and is master of the considerable revenues of the greatest religious establishment in the empire. He has also the privilege of corresponding direct with the caliph; but otherwise is regarded as rather opposed to the Osmanli administration, and has no real power.
Iconium is distant by rail 466 m. from the Bosporus at Haidar-Pasha, and 389 from Smyrna by way of Afium-Kara-Hissar. It has recently become the seat of a considerable manufacture of carpets, owing to the cheapness of labour. The population was estimated at 44,000 in 1890, and is now probably over 50,000. Mercury mines have begun to be worked; other minerals are known to exist. (W. M. Ra.)