Category Archives: Places in Turkey

Temple A at Laodicea (turned into a “library”?) — Part 1 of 2 Parts

Rev. 3:14–17 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: . . . 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (NIV)

When we first visited the site of Laodicea in 1999 for all practical purposes the site had not been excavated and information about it was “sketchy.”  Since 2003 very large scale excavations have been taking place under the direction of Professor Celal Şimşek.

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Celal Şimşek (center, excavator of Laodicea), Tulu Gokkadar (left, guide), Carl Rasmussen (right, content provider to http://www.HolyLandPhotos.org) in front of Temple A.

One, of the many(!), outstanding finds is “Temple A.”

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View looking north at the reconstructed entrance to Temple A at Laodicea. Notice the steps leading up to the entrance, the four spiral columns on plinth, and the composite capitals (a combination of the Ionic and Corinthian orders)—all signs that this is a Late Roman phase of the Temple) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

According to the excavator, Celal Şimşek (on site verbal communication 2014; but see below), Temple A was established in the first century A.D. and was dedicated to Apollo (not to Zeus as some previously speculated). Soon the sister of Apollo, Artemis, was worshiped here and eventually Imperial Cult worship was also added (very early fourth century A.D.—during the reign of Diocletian).

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View (2008) of the vaulted substructure of Temple A not too long after its excavation. Note the arch and the springs of the arch (on both sides of the image) of the vaulting (typically Roman construction) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Previously there was some speculation that Temple A was dedicated to Zeus partially because of analogies with the Temple of Zeus at Aizanoi.

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The temple of Zeus at Aizanoi has a special subterranean temple below the main temple, as does Temple A at Laodicea — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

At Aizanoi Zeus was worshiped at the above ground temple while Cybele (mother goddess) was worshiped in the subterranean chamber (above).

More next time on some evidence as to the Apollo and Artemis connections at Laodicea.


According to an undated glossy brochure distributed at the site, Temple A was:

“. . . built in the Antonine period (second century CE) . . . [and] was heavily renovated in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (284–305 CE)”

“[The] Temple was used as [a] religious archive of the Ladoicea Church when Christianity was accepted as [the] official religion in the 4th century CE . . . and [the] temple was destroyed after the earthquake in 494 CE”

Steven Fine has noted that the Church at Laodicea was evidently anti-Jewish—as evidenced by the anti-Jewish Council of Laodicea that was held at Laodicea soon after the death of Julian the Apostate in A.D. 363.  See a previous post on a menorah and cross.

Paul: From Asia Minor to Europe — From the Port of Alexandria Troas

Acts 16:11  ¶  From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.

It was at Alexandria Troas (see map below), on Paul’s second missionary journey, that in a vision he received a call to proceed to Macedonia (Acts 16:8–11). Because of the use of “us” it seems that Luke joined Paul and Silas on this portion of the journey.

Troas is a site that is not often visited by visitors to Turkey—yet it is huge — about 1,000(!) acres [405 ha.] in size. It is situated 31.2 mi. [50 km.] northwest of Assos — via the ancient road system. It is 15.5 mi. [25 km.] south of Troy and is largely unexcavated.

There are three parts to the harbor of Troas—from which Paul set sail—the breakwater/quay?, Outer Harbor, and Inner Harbor (see below for pictures of all).

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Breakwater/Quay of Troas — It is very probable that Paul and his companions set sail for Samothrace/Neapolis (Europe) from this point (Acts 16:11) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Protruding into the Aegean Sea are the remains of a Breakwater or Quay that protected the entrance of the harbor.

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View looking west at the entrance to the Outer and Inner Harbors of Alexandria Troas. Part of the “Outer Harbor” is visible on the left side of the image. The entrance to the “Outer Harbor” is silted up with sand. The white waves outline where the sea breakwater, or possibly a quay was located.  On the right side of the images the tops of columns that were ready for shipment are poking up out of the water.

For the few who visit the harbor area of Troas they usually stop where a few discarded columns tops protrude from the Aegean Sea.  But if they were to walk 100 yards farther south they would be able to see the stones of the breakwater/quay that protected the entrance to the two bays of the harbor.

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View looking west at the relatively well-preserved line of hewn stones that were once part of the quay or breakwater of Troas. The line runs from lower left up to the upper middle portion of the image. The white breaking waves indicate the now-underwater continuation of this quay/breakwater out into the Aegean Sea. Note how it “hooks” to the right, protecting the entrance to the harbor.

To the left of the line of hewn stones note the numerous small stones that were evidently part of the superstructure of the quay.  Note the “bosses” and the “margins” on the hewn stones.

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Looking west at the “Outer Harbor” of Troas (filled with water) with the Aegean Sea in the Background — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View looking south at the large "Inner Harbor" of Troas — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Downlaod

View looking south at the large “Inner Harbor” of Troas — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Downlaod

 For additional high resolution images of Troas (including harbor, temple, and bath)  Click Here.

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Astounding Neolithic Site — Göbekli Tepe

Ferrell Jenkins has an extended blog on the untimely death of the excavator of Göblekli Tepe, Klaus Schmidt, at the age of 61.

For those interested, I have posted 17 images of Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”)—a Neolithic site located about 9 mi. north of Sanliurfa in south–central Turkey before the “protective covering” was constructed over the site.  This 22 acre site was functional from roughly 9,600 BC to 8,200 BC was excavated by Klaus Schmidt.

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View of the major excavated area at Göbekli Tepe
Click on image to Enlarge

It was a religious center constructed by and used by foragers (not farmers!).  The excavated portions consist mainly of rings of well-carved standing limestone pillars—the tallest 18 ft. high.

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Detail of one of the rings of standing stones
Click on image to Enlarge

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Note the variety of animals on the carved stone
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Images of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and boars are carved on them in low bas-relief.  In posting my images I was amazed to think about how during the Neolithic Period (ca. 9,000 B.C.) these people, using only flints and stone tools(!!), were able to quarry stones that were 18 ft. high and weighed 16 tons!  How did they transported these stones to the site of Göbekli Tepe?  How did they carve and smooth the surfaces of these stones and leave images in bas-relief(!) on them??

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One of the large (almost 18 ft. tall) standing stones —note the carving on its side and base
Click on image to Enlarge

How these pillars were carved, transported, and erected—in 9,600 BC—is very mysterious!

Schmidt believes that it was a worship center for foragers, for he has not found any walls, houses, hearths, or signs of agriculture.

The finds at the site are beginning to revolutionize the understanding of the transition from Natufian culture to the Neolithic age.

The worship center is actually almost 1,600 earlier than Kathleen Kenyon’s famous Neolithic Tower at Jericho.

Lycian League — A Model for the Founding “Fathers” of the USA

QUICK — what was the Lycian League?  Not many of us know, but Alexander Hamilton and James Madison knew!  Yes, the “Lycian Confederation” is mentioned four times in the Federalist Papers that were produced between 1787–1788 (#9, 16, 45).  Over 2,000 years ago it met in Patara—the same place where Paul and Luke changed ships on their way to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-3).

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View of the exterior of the reconstructed Council Chamber (Bouleuterion) at Patara
January 2014 — Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

So what was the Lycian Confederation/League?  First, Lycia was/is a geopolitical region located along the Mediterranean Coast of modern Turkey, often called the Turquoise Coast­ because of its beauty! (see map below) The 23 cities that made up the Confederation/League were located along the Mediterranean coast or in the nearby rugged Taurus Mountains (but the number of cities varied from time to time).

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View of the interior of the Council House at Patara
See the next image for the same area prior to excavation/reconstruction
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The Lycian Confederation is the first known democratic union in history!  One of the features of this Confederation is that they committed themselves to be governed by a central assembly (Greek: synedrion) that they themselves elected.  However, in fairness, the larger cities were allotted more representatives than the smaller ones.  Large cities such as Xanthos, Patara, Myra, Pinara, Tlos, and Olympos were allotted three representatives each (the maximum allowed).

The Lycian Confederation met at Patara—almost certainly in the Bouleuterion pictured above.  It was thus here (at the out-of-the-way site of Patara) that proportional representative government first got its start.  And, it was not until the founding of the United States (2,000 years later!!) that this concept was revived in the US House of Representatives (note the semi-circular seating arrangement of its chamber)!!

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The Rugged Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Coast of Lycia
The cities of the Lycian Confederation were located along the coast or in the mountains
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The league itself may go back to around 205 B.C.  This early form of the league would have had the power to decide questions of war, peace, and alliances.   In 168 B.C., while still under Roman control, the Romans allowed these cities to still assemble together to govern themselves as a unit—but the power to decide questions of war, peace, and alliances were now Rome’s prerogative.

This body elected persons who administered the Lycian League for a year at a time.  The council elected judges.  Voted proportional taxes.  A league court decided disputes between the cities.

189_PataraMapI have posted 5 photos of this historic meeting place on my web site,
both before and after it was excavated/reconstructed.

For a great summary article on the Lycian League and Patara see the article in Saudi Aramco World 2007.

Photos of the following cities of the Confederation are available:  Patara, Xanthos, Myra, and Phaselis.

Lifting Heavy Stones!

Over the years I have seen various diagrams illustrating how the ancient Greeks and Romans—not to mention Herod the Great—lifted heavy stones into place as they constructed the walls of temples and erected columns.  But the first time that I heard about a Lewis Bolt was watching a fascinating DVD put out by The Great Courses entitled Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From the Catapult to the Pantheon.

In traveling to Greece and Turkey the use of iron and lead to secure columns and other architectural elements was very evident.

The Three Part "Lewis Bolt" — Note shape of the cavity that is carved into the stone that is to be lifted — The three parts of the bolt are inserted into the cavity and as lifting takes place the bolt becomes more firmly embedded!

The Three Part “Lewis Bolt” — Note that the shape of the cavity that is carved into the stone that is to be lifted is wider at the bottom than at the top — The three parts of the bolt are inserted into the cavity and as lifting takes place the bolt becomes more firmly embedded!

In the diagram above a rope or chain was attached to the loop to lift the stone.

I found that the use of Lewis Bolts was actually very common.  So on a recent trip to Turkey and Greece I began to look more carefully at the carvings into column and architectural pieces that might exhibit where Lewis Bolts may have been used.

The two square indentations were for iron pegs that secured this piece to its mate — note the grooves that lead to the square holes, for lead to cover the iron to avoid rust — The RECTANGULAR opening is for the Lewis Bolt that was used to lift this large piece (see diagram above)

The two square indentations were for iron pegs that secured this piece to its mate — note the grooves that lead to the square holes, for lead to cover the iron to avoid rust — The RECTANGULAR opening is for the Lewis Bolt that was used to lift this large piece (see diagram above)

At Alexandria Troas we were able to examine close up a number of archectural pieces, some of which exhibited the use of a Lewis Bolt to lift them (see above).  The Lewis Bolt indentations are difficult to photograph, but trust me, if you know what to look for you will find them—just stick your finger into the holes and find out how they are shaped!

The diagram above is from “Lewis (lifting appliance)” — Wikipedia

Worshiping the Roman Emperor

After preparing for, leading, and reflecting on some nineteen trips to Turkey and Greece that emphasize the development of the early church there, it has become more and more evident that one of the “cutting edges” of scholarship has to do with how the Early Church came into contact and conflict with the common practice of “worshiping” the Roman Emperor.

This conflict has been examined extensively in connection with the New Testament book of Revelation, but it is now more evident that Paul and others interfaced with this cult to a much greater degree than was previously emphasized.

Questions such as to whom did early Christians owe their allegiance arose?

The Roman Emperor Claudius (nude as a deity in a divine epiphany with drapery billowing above his head; A.D. 41-54) portrayed as a deity receiving homage from the earth (cornucopia on the lower left) and the sea (ship’s steering oar lower right)
Claudius is presented as a “universal saviour and divine protector”
Original from the Sebasteion (below) now in the the museum at Aphrodisias

To the Emperor?  To a crucified peasant from a far eastern Roman province—namely Jesus?   How could these “Jesus is the King” people be loyal subjects to the Kingdom of the Emperor while at the same time being loyal subjects to the Kingdom of God?

As we were visiting Turkey all of this came into focus as we visited the spectacular remains associated with the imperial cult.

Temple Dedicated to the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 B.C. to A.D. 14) in Ankara

In Ankara there is the well–preserved Temple to Augustus with a text describing his accomplishments in both Latin and Greek.

Foundations of the Temple Dedicated to Augustus at Pisidian Antioch
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At Pisidian Antioch, a Roman Colony where Paul preached a stirring sermon (Acts 13), there are the remains of another Temple to Augustus.  In addition a temple to Domitian (Ephesus),

Reconstructed Temple for the Roman Emperor Trajian (A.D. 98 to 117) at Pergamum

a temple to Trajan (Pergamum), and

Reconstruction of the “Sebasteion” at Aphrodisias in Turkey
This massive monument honored the deified family members and conquests of Roman Emperors

an extensive monument dedicated to the Imperial Family celebrating Roman conquests (at Aphrodisias) bear mute testimony to the all pervasiveness of the Roman Empire and the Imperial cult.

The early church, and many others as well, in the face of Imperial Rome were faced with the question—to whom did they owe their ultimate allegiance?

All of the above is now relatively well-known.  But has this topic of the Imperial Cult in the homeland of Jesus, and during the time of Jesus, been examined thoroughly?

A 1,181 ft. long well-preserved Roman Bridge in Southern Turkey

Ever since my undergraduate days when I majored in Physics and Mathematics I have had an interest in technology—and now, ancient technology.  Thus, on a recent trip to Turkey I couldn’t pass up visiting the “largest civil engineering structure of antiquity” in the area of the ancient city of Limyra (map below).  This Roman Bridge is 1,181 ft. long and is almost completely preserved.

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View looking east along the 1,181 ft. long road that rests upon 26 ancient arches — the paving on the road is original — note the encroachment of the orchards and the greenhouses — Carl Rasmussen

For an image of this road without the “happy explorer” Click Here.

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Two of the 26 ancient arches of the Roman Bridge near Limyra — Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

View looking south at two of the 26 arches of the Late Roman Bridge.

Since the paved surface of the bridge is original, this would imply that all of the supporting materials are original.  Notice the relatively flat double arches made up of bricks and mortar.  The supporting piers of the arches are buried in silt and debris.

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Western most arch over the Alakir Çayi river — Click on image to Enlarge and/or download (without obligation)

View looking north at the western most arch of Late Roman Bridge over the present course of the Alakir Çavi river.  Notice the relatively flat double arch made up of bricks and mortar.  The supporting piers of the arch are buried in silt and debris.

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To view additional images of the bridge (without obligation) Click Here.

For a hard-to-c0me-by description of the bridge see the Wikipedia article Bridge near Limyra.

HT: Dr. Mark Wilson of the Asia Minor Research Center — and author of Biblical Turkeywho drew my attention to the existence of the bridge.