This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. –Acts 19:10
How many people were in Asia Minor?
Unfortunately, I can’t find any estimates for the population of Asia Minor in the 1st century. However, Asia Minor is one of 5 provinces in the area of Anatolia and there are plenty of estimates from historians on the population for Anatolia. It appears as though the population for Anatolia in 14AD is estimated to be 8.2 million people and in 164AD it is estimated to be 9.2 million people. Paul’s ministry in Ephesus falls between those two dates, so let’s estimate that the population was around 8.5 million people.
My own calculations…
So how do we calculate the actual population in Asia Minor? The best I can do is make an educated estimate based on what historians have already figured out. But from what I can find, the population density of Asia Minor was significantly higher than the rest of Anatolia (see the cartographic picture of population densities). So let’s say that ~30% of the population of Anatolia lived in Asia Minor. That would mean that there were 2.55 million people in Asia Minor. My calculations are not perfect, but I feel comfortable saying that there were about 2.5 million (or even 2-3 million) people in Asia Minor.
2.5 million an incredible amount of people that the Lord reached during Paul’s ministry time in Ephesus! This is a great verse for casting vision for what God can do. I particularly like this verse because I live in a metro area with around 1.5 million lost people, so it gives me confidence that God can reach all of those people!
A Note on Sources:
I wanted to find a credible textbook source for this explanation and I found it in a demographic section of The Cambridge Ancient History Vol. XI on pages 811-812 which I photographed and posted with this. It appears as though a 19th-century historian named Karl Beloch made the most widely accepted estimates for the Roman Empire population. His work got tweaked by a guy named Bruce Frier and Frier’s estimates are what I refer to and what I took a picture of.
Below is a picture of the Roman Empire scaled to show population densities of the respective provinces.
It also looks like the Wikipedia page “Demography of Rome” more or less copied and pasted tables from textbooks, and so that page is also helpful. It is HERE.