The Isaurians

Nov 2016
78
Užice, Serbia
Anything on them? Absolutely no information on them online.

Basically everything I know about them is that they were a warrior people from Anatolia that were frequently involved in Byzantine armies and politics, and were regarded as barbarian by the Romans. Some notable Isaurians were the Roman emperors Zeno and Leo III and his entire dynasty.
Zeno.png
Zeno (emperor) - Wikipedia
Byzantine Empire under the Isaurian dynasty - Wikipedia

However, we know nothing of the Isaurians as a people group; who they were related to, what language they spoke, their pre-Christian religion, their ancestry and descendants remain a complete mystery to us today. What I ask of you is some reading material on these people, and, if that's not possible, info on some Isaurian individuals.

Thanks in advance!
 
Oct 2018
1,856
Sydney
Here is an intense story about a notorious Isaurian bandit named Lydius who fought Roman authorities during the reign of Probus (r. 276-282). It's my understanding that Isaurians were stereotyped as bandits. Zosimus 1.69-70:

[1.69.1] The wars upon the Rhine being thus terminated, a circumstance happened in Isauria which should not be omitted. There was an Isaurian named Lydius, who had been a robber from his youth, and with a gang like himself had committed depredations throughout Pamphylia and Lycia. This gang being attacked by the soldiers, Lydius, not being able to oppose the whole Roman army, retreated to a place in Lycia called Cremna, which stands on a precipice, and is secured on one side by large and deep ditches.

[1.69.2] Finding many who had fled there for refuge, and observing that the Romans were very intent on the siege, and that they bore the fatigue of it with great resolution, he pulled down the houses, and making the ground fit for tillage, sowed corn for the maintenance of those that were in the town. But the number being so great that they were in need of much more provisions, he turned out of the place all that were of no service, both male and female. The enemy, perceiving his design, forced them back again, on which Lydius threw them headlong into the trenches that surrounded the walls, where they died.

[1.69.3] Having done this, he constructed a mine, from the town beyond the enemies camp; through which he sent persons to steal cattle and other provisions. By these means he provided for the besieged a considerable time, until the affair was discovered to the enemy by a woman.

[1.69.4] Lydius, however, still did not desponm; but gradually retrenched his men in their wine, and gave them a smaller allowance of corn. But this not answering the end, he was at length driven to such streights that he killed all that were in the town, except a few of his adherents, sufficient as he thought to defend it, and some women, whom he ordered to be in common among them all.

[1.70.1] But when he had resolved to persevere against all dangers, there happened at length this accident. There was with him in the town a man who was expert in making engines, and in using them with such dexterity, that when Lydius ordered him to shoot a dart at any of the enemy, he never missed his aim.

[1.70.2] It happened that Lydius had ordered him to hit a particular person, whom either accidently or on purpose he missed, for which he stripped and scourged him severely, and, moreover, threatened him with death. The man was so exasperated on account of the blows he had received, and so affrighted at the menaces, that he took an opportunity to steal out of the town;

[1.70.3] and falling in with some soldiers to whom he gave an account of his actions and sufferings, he shewed them an aperture in the wall, through which Lydius used to inspect all that was done in their camp, and promised them to shoot him as he was looking through it in his usual manner.

[1.70.4] The commander of the expedition on this took the man into favor; who, having planted his engine, and placed some men before him that he might not be discovered by the enemy, took aim at Lydius as he looked through the aperture, and with a dart shot him and gave him a mortal wound.

[1.70.5] He had no sooner received this wound, than he became still more strict with some of his own men. Having enjoined them upon oath never to surrender the place, he expired with much struggling.
 
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Nov 2016
78
Užice, Serbia
Maybe they were Assyrians based on the similarities between the two names.
As strange as that notion is there might be something to it. For example, the Isaurian dynasty is sometimes coined as the "Syrian dynasty", which might further link it to Assyria. We also know the Assyrians migrated all over Anatolia after the collapse of their empire and they were a war-driven society. I can't say for sure that they're Assyrians but it makes a lot of sense, never even came to my mind until you mentioned it.
 
Mar 2012
1,211
Magdeburg
The similarity of Isauria and Assyria seems to belong to a vocabulary-vagueness originating from a Byzantine document most possibly on the basis of similarity of words.
Judging from the location of Isauria (which is north of Taurus mountains range in southern/central Turkey) the connection to Assyrians seems to be a bit far-fetched. There have been quite many events and turmoils happening over Assyrians for milennia thus they have possibly ended mixing with other mesopotomians and/or to Iranian people following. My interpretation is that Isaurians were either bunch of multi-national thugs that have been united or just some local Anatolians (possibly one of the latest) that have noot been assimilated or hellenized.
Zeno's real name is possibly an isolate IE language.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,903
Blachernai
Anything on them? Absolutely no information on them online.

However, we know nothing of the Isaurians as a people group; who they were related to, what language they spoke, their pre-Christian religion, their ancestry and descendants remain a complete mystery to us today. What I ask of you is some reading material on these people, and, if that's not possible, info on some Isaurian individuals.
You might be interested in looking for some of the work of Hugh Elton, who studies (amongst other things) late antique Isauria.

As strange as that notion is there might be something to it. For example, the Isaurian dynasty is sometimes coined as the "Syrian dynasty", which might further link it to Assyria. We also know the Assyrians migrated all over Anatolia after the collapse of their empire and they were a war-driven society. I can't say for sure that they're Assyrians but it makes a lot of sense, never even came to my mind until you mentioned it.
The similarity of Isauria and Assyria seems to belong to a vocabulary-vagueness originating from a Byzantine document most possibly on the basis of similarity of words.
This is almost impossible to untangle, because our sources are closely related but in different languages, and some editorial practices have messed things up. The Syriac Chronicle of Zuqnin extolls the character of Leo III: he was wise, brave, and warlike, with some implication that these traits are because he was from the border and was of Syrian background. But there's only one manuscript, and the editor changed it from ܣܘܪܝܝܐ (soryaya= Syrian) to ܐܝܣܘܪܝܐ (awsuriyah = Isaurian). He did this based upon what the Byzantine historian Theophanes Confessor said in Greek; needless to say correcting manuscripts in this manner is not exactly good editorial practice any more. However, if Leo was from Germanikeia as seems possible then he'd be considered Syrian. Theophanes may be mistaken and mixed up Leo III’s Syrian origins with the fellow usurper Leontios’s Isaurian homeland. Leontios had the regnal name of Leon and was also once strategos of the Anatolikon. Since Theophanes was writing more than a century later (and this is precisely the point where he switches sources, possible from a Syriac original to a text that was definitely in Greek but is now lost) the confusion is understandable: Constance Head, “Who was the real “Leo the Isaurian”,” Byzantion 41 (1971), 105-108.

Some later Byzantine texts follow the Syrian line: the tenth-century Patria calls him Συρογενοῦς (Syrian-born) on multiple occasions.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,149
Canary Islands-Spain
To begin with, they spoke an Anatolian language, which can be traced back to Luwian. This is probably the last Anatolian language spoken in the world.