Caesarea — No Longer Visible Rooms and Passages

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Part of the Labyrinth under the Peristyle Courtyard. Note the stone arch as well as fresco on the walls. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

In a visit to Caesarea Maritima almost all groups will visit the “Promontory Palace” that was evidently constructed by Herod the Great and used by his successors and Roman governors.  A portion of the Palace was built on a promontory that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea and features a rectangular pool that was surrounded by a portico.

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View looking northwest at the “Peristyle Courtyard. The rectangular courtyard is outlined by the columns. In the center the green shrubs cover the underground labyrinth. The “Promontory Palace” is not visible but is off the left side of the image.

To the east of the Promontory Palace is a connected Peristyle Courtyard (photo above) in which a copy of the famous “Pilate Inscription” is currently displayed.  To the north of the courtyard are administrative offices and an “audience hall.”   The “audience hall” may indeed have been the place where the Apostle Paul appeared before the governors Felix and Festus and King Herod Agrippa II ca. A.D. 58 (Acts 23–26).

What few people realize is that under the “garden” of the Peristyle Courtyard there is a labyrinth of passage ways and arches.  Below are two additional images of this substructure.  One wonders what these substructures were used for.  Storage?  Servants quarters?  Housing of prisoners?

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Building the Ephesus Ships

Previously I posted images of the modern construction of a Roman Warship and a Roman Cargo Ship that are housed in/near the Aegean at Ephesus.  Expert guide Özcan Kacar alerted me to an 8 minute video that features the construction of these two ships.

The whole video is in Turkish but if you begin viewing at 3:25 it is easy to visually follow the construction and transport of these two ships.  From what I can see, it looks like they used Roman era type tools and construction techniques.

Gortyna and Paul’s Fourth Journey

GortynaGortyna was the capital of a Roman province and the seat of the first Christian bishop of Crete.  During the Roman period it was the chief city of Crete—its population may have reached 100,000 people.  The site is huge—its city walls are about 6 mi. long!

Many believe that Paul made a Fourth Journey (not recorded in scripture) after his first Roman imprisonment and in the process visited Crete.  According to Titus 1:5 Paul left Titus on Crete to deal with some church affairs that were still outstanding.

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The Basilica of St. Titus at Gortyna
View of the Nave and the Apse of the Basilica
According to tradition St. Titus was martyred here
Click on Image to Enlarge

The Basilica of St. Titus at Gortyna preserves the memory of Titus’ ministry on the island (Titus 1:5).

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Details of the Fifth Century B.C. Law Code at Gortyna
It is read from “right to left” and then “left to right” — as an ox plows a field (boustrophedon)
Click on Image to View Details

At Gortyna there is also a famous well-preserved Greek law code called “The Twelve Tablets” that dates to the fifth century B.C.  It is written in “boustrophedon” style—(“as the ox plows”) namely from “right to left” and then “left to right.”

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Outer Corridor of the Odeon at Gortyna that uses stones from the Fifth Century B.C. Law Code for its walls!
Click on Image to Enlarge

Many of the original stones are now reused in a wall of the second century Odeon at Gortyna.  At the times of Paul’s and Titus’ visits the code would have been in its original format.

To view additional images of Gortyna Click Here.

For introductory information on Paul’s Fourth Journey see the map and commentary by 1 Timothy 2 in The NIV Study Bible and the Introduction to Titus.

First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?

In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began.  Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.

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The Interior of the First Century Synagogue at Magdala
Note the benches around the side, the frescoed columns, and especially the unique stone box in the center of the image
Click to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls.  There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50.  A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.

If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!

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The “Stone Box” in-situ
Note the representation of a Seven Branch Menorah (on a tripod) that is flanked by two vases and clusters of columns
Click on Image to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

This solid “stone box” is totally unique.  Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).

For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land

The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).

It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT.  It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).

The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.

Dust Storms in Israel (Hamsin, Sirocco, Sharav)

Since Israel has been experiencing sharav conditions recently I thought the following might be of interest to readers.

In the lands the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea the period from early–May to mid–June is a transitional season from the wet winter months to the dry summer ones. At times the wind blows in from the desert (from the east), and not from the Mediterranean Sea (from the west—which is normal). At those times the humidity drops drastically and a fine dust that permeates everything fills the air. These dry dusty events are called a hamsin, a sirocco, or a sharav.

Jerusalem — Hamsin/Dust Storm — 10:30 AM 11 May 2007

Under these conditions the green grass rapidly turns brown and the wild flowers die.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:7–8 (NIV)

The positive effect of these winds is that the hot dry weather aids the ripening of the grains by “setting” them before the harvest. It is during this season that first the barley and then the wheat harvest take place.
The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, pp. 30–31

Jerusalem — “Normal Conditions” — 10:30 AM 14 May 2007

All the camera settings and filters were the same.

A similar transition takes place in September/October, but this is from the dry summer months to the wet winter months.

For more free, high–resolution images of a hamsin click Click Here.

The Tumulus at Amphipolis

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Tumulus of Amphipolis

The above is a view of the tumulus that is located to the northeast of the actual site of Amphipolis.  For a recent summary of the discoveries  and a 3-D model of the tomb Click Here (19 January, 2015) and for a series of articles on the on-going excavations Click Here.

There is a great BBC article on the excavation of the Amphipolis Tomb including photos and a sketch of the tomb—very similar to the ones found at Vergina!!  The site is protected 24 hours a day by two police officers!

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In a report dated 21 August Discovery News reports that the bodies of two sphinxes, 4.8 ft. high(!) have been found in connection with this tomb (10 times larger than the spectacular tomb of Philip II at Vergina!!).  The report also states that this is the LARGEST tomb ever uncovered in Greece.

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Two Sphinxes from Large Macedonian Tomb in Northern Greece (Amphipolis), each 4.8 feet high! — Image from Discovery News

Katerina Peristeri, the archaeologist in charge of the dig hopes to “. . . fully explore the burial by the end of the month to decide who was laid to rest there.”  Speculation: high military official of Alexander the Great?  Or possibly Alexander’s wife Roxana and/or his son Alexander IV who were killed at Amphipolis in 311 B.C. on the orders of King Cassander?  FWIW – the tomb is 3 miles from the famous lion statue (picture below).


Original blog from 13 August, 2014 follows.

A tomb has been discovered near the ancient city of Amphipolis in northern Greece—ancient Macedonia from whence Alexander the Great was from.  The circular mound is about 1,630 ft in circumference.  [for samples of treasures that might be found and why I am excited about this site—see below].  According to the press release a famous marble lion is located near the burial mound and may have actually topped the mound.

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The Lion of Amphipolis — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View of the funerary monument, possibly that of Laomedon, a naval officer of Alexander the Great, that is dated to the late fourth century B.C. Although destroyed, it was rebuilt from fragments found in the area in the first half of the 20th century.   It is sited close to the large ancient city of Amphipolis — on the east bank of the Strymon River.

Amphipolis was situated on the Via Egnatia on which Paul traveled several times. This monument would have been 350 years old by the time Paul would have seen it.

For news stories on this find click Here and Here.

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View of the lower portion of the tomb — note the encircling wall — Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/AP

If this burial mound is undisturbed, it could contain magnificent treasures—like those from the tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great.

The following are samples of items found in the area of Amphipolis — who knows what this mound (tumulus) may contain?!!

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View of a Golden Oak Wreath from a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the delicate metal work and even the acorn just left of center. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a detail of a gold necklace found in a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the fine delicate craftsmanship. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a box that probably contained the ashes of the cremated person and a golden wreath above it. This type of box is called a larynx. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

 

The Ships of Ephesus — Part 2 Cargo Ship

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A modern reconstruction of Roman Cargo ship that is on display at a harbor near Ephesus — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

In addition to a Roman Warship, a reconstructed Roman Cargo ship is on display at a harbor near Ephesus.

These ships could carry all types of cargo including grain (for example from Alexandria Egypt to Rome), wine, olive oil, and other foodstuffs.  According to an ancient source the larger grain ships could be up to 180 ft. + [55 m.] long.  The trip from Roman to Alexandria‚ with the prevailing wind, took about two weeks while the return journey, with a full load, had to travel in a counter-clockwise direction from Alexandria to Rome (because they could not sail directly into the prevailing northwesterly wind)  took close to two months!  It is said that Alexandria supplied Rome with 1,700 such shiploads each year.

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Another view of the modern reconstruction of a Roman cargo ship that plied the Mediterranean Sea during the first centuries A.D.  The bow of the boat is on the right, and at the stern note the steering oar.

The Apostle Paul traveled on such a ship as he was being taken to Rome.  It is said that there were 276 people on board—along with all the cargo (Acts 27:18, 37).

Acts 27:1    When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.  2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us . . . 5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.  6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.  7 We made slow headway for many days . . . . (NIV)

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A large and small Roman sailing ships on a Sarcophagus that is in the museum of Sinope (northern Turkey)

 At Sinope there is a wonderful museum and one of its highlights is a sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  On the large ship note the steering oars at the stern, the billowing main sail, and what looks like a jib near the bow of the boat.  Even the guy-lines are visible in the image.  Compare this representation with the reconstructed ship above.

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Drawing of the Sinope Sarcophagus

Could the “dinghy” be the “lifeboat” that was cut away from the main ship, just before it crashed on to the island of Malta?

30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.  31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”  32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.  (Acts 27:30-32; NIV)

On the other hand, the small vessel, with a sail(!), may not be in tow (note its own billowing sail), but rather another sailboat that is being depicted as being in the distance—and thus is smaller than the nearer vessel.