Konya, ancient Iconium, is one of the oldest urban centers in the world. Excavations in the city indicate a settlement dating from at least the 3rd Millennium BC. According to a Phrygian legend of the great flood, Konya was the first city to rise after the deluge that destroyed humanity. Still another legend ascribes its ancient name to the Eikon ( image ), or the Gorgon's Head, with which Perseus vanquished the native population before founding the Greek city.
After the collapse of the Hittite Empire, the Phrygians established a large settlement there. It was Hellenized gradually from the 3rd Century BC and became a self-governing city, largely Greek in language, education, and culture. Some of the citizens, however, retained their Phrygian culture, and it was probably among them that the Jewish community stirred up opposition to the Apostle Paul on his first visit in AD 47 or 48; he returned in 50 and 53. Iconium, included in the Roman province of Galatia by 25 BC, was raised to the status of a colony by the emperor Hadrian in AD 130 and became the capital of the province of Lycaonia in about 372.
Iconium was taken from the Byzantine Empire by the emerging Seljuk Turks in 1072, and became the capital of the Seljuk Empire. Renamed Konya, it reached its greatest prosperity under Seljuk rule and was accounted as one of the world's most brilliant cities of that period. Its enlightened rulers were great builders and patrons of art who endowed the city with many buildings, including some of the finest existing examples of Seljuk architecture.
Konya later became known as the world's most important center of Islamic Mysticism, following the tradition of the world-famous philosopher Mevlana ( known as "Rumi" in the West ), who lived and preached in this city. Konya is also famous for its whirling dervishes, who follow the teachings of Rumi.