Paul in the Cities — Where Did They Eat?

The Apostle Paul resided in many cities of the Roman Empire including Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Rome.  As I lead tours to these ancient cities, we often wonder what life was like in them in the first century A.D.  One of the interesting “institutions” are the thermopolia—”fast food establishments” that were found in every large city.  For example, eighty–three thermopolia have been discovered at Pompeii, and more have been discovered at nearby Herculaneum and at Ostia—the port of Rome.  (be sure and see the final two paragraphs of this blog)

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View of a Fast Food establishment (thermopolium, popina, taberna) at Pompeii. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus (aka T. of Asellina) that is located on the lower floor of his house in Pompeii (Italy).  It is situated on the main street of Pompeii, the via dell’ Abbondanza.  Food and drink were sold and consumed here.  Note the large storage jars that are built into the masonry and marble counters.

On the back wall is a well–preserved lararium—a shrine dedicated to the household gods.   Among others Mercury, the god of trade, and Dionysus, the god of wine are depicted (maybe assisted sales?!).  A hoard of 6.6 lbs. of worthless coins were found in one of the jars.  It was evidently left behind when the owner fled Pompeii as ash rained down from the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius (picture below).  In the back of the shop, not visible, was a slightly more private eating area.  A staircase led to guest rooms on the second floor—a brothel?  These thermopolia were situated street side on the ground floor of apartment buildings and even elite houses.

The thermopolia were visited primarily by the lower classes as the upper classes would dine in the luxurious surroundings of their own homes.  The houses of lower classes of people rarely had kitchens, thus they would eat at an establishment such as this, or they would “carry out” the food to take back home.

Since many (most?) of the early Christians were from the lower classes, they probably frequented places like the local thermopolium.  And, it is very probable that Paul and other leaders of the Early Church did so as well in the cities that they resided in!  Is it not possible that in establishments like this that the Early Christians shared their belief in “Jesus is Lord”—rather than “Caesar is Lord?”

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A Thermopolium from nearby Herculaneum—also destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

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Mount Vesuvius that erupted in August of A.D. 79 covering Pompeii with ash and Herculaneum with a pyroclastic flow.

For use or publication of any of these images please see this link.

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Paul in the Cities: Where did They Meet? 2 (Ask Eutychus! Acts 20:9)

Alexandria Troas — Paul on His Return to Jerusalem
on His Third Journey

Acts 20:7     On the first day of the week . . . Paul spoke to the people . . . and kept on talking until midnight.  8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.

What kind of building was this group of believers meeting in?  Probably an “apartment building” (insula).  After 2,000 years do any still exist?  Yes!

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High Density Roman Housing at Ostia — the Port of Rome  View of a street on which the Casa di Diana is located. On the left side of the image note the high–density housing (insulae). There were at least three floors, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard where there was a communal fountain.  The upper stories were probably made of perishable materials such as wood.

The term insula refers to a multi–story housing block, that was subdivided into apartments for rent with shops on the ground floor.  Windows and balconies were the principal light sources for the tenants.  The insulae were probably first built of wood and thus susceptible to destruction by fire—a big problem!  (I am not aware of the preservation of any wooden insula)  Often times they were constructed of baked Roman bricks—like this example at Ostia.

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View of a street lined with apartment buildings (insulae) near the via Della Fontana at Ostia. The staircase on the left led up to the upper floors of the building—at least 3 stories high.  This large structure was probably owned by one person who rented apartments, shops, and workplaces to tenants.

The ground floor of insulae were usually shops and stores.  The best apartments were on the lower floors and sometimes were decorated with simple paintings and mosaics.  The upper apartments (on floors 2 and 3) were smaller, more difficult to reach, and dangerous (fire!)—because they were built out of wood!  The upper storeys were typically without heat, running water, and toilets.  The poor, who lived there, would sometimes dump trash and human excrement out of the windows into the street below!  Most of the people, poor and “middle class,” would live in these structures.

New Testament Importance:
Since Acts 20:9 mentions Eutychus falling from a third floor, the group of Christians that Paul was speaking to must have been meeting in a cramped, lower class apartment such as the above.  But to date, no such insulae have been found at Alexandrian Troas, but they were probably built of wood and have perished over the last 2,000 years!

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

One of my favorites follows:

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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Dome of the Prophet

The Haram esh-Sharif (aka “Temple Mount”) seems to always be in the news!   Once, when visiting the site I saw, a person actually praying in the “Dome of the Prophet” (Qubbat al–Nabi).

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View looking northeast at the “Dome of the Prophet” (= Qubbat al–Nabi). Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “Dome of the Prophet” is located about 20 yards northwest of the Dome of the Rock.  This is a single person prayer area built in 1539 “to mark the site where Muhammad led the prophets in prayer before his ascension into Heaven.”

The large umbrellas in the background shaded worshipers during Friday Prayers during the month of Ramadan.

The capitals on these eight columns look very much like a capital that was on the debris pile east of the Dome of the Rock platform.

Photo: June 17, 2015.

Quote from Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer. Jerusalem — the Temple Mount — a Carta Guide Book. Jerusalem: Carta, 2015, p. 130.

Sagalassos — Upper Agora

Of the many archaeological remains at the Turkish site of Sagalassos a good number of them are located around the Upper Agora.  An agora is a Greek term for the large open space in a typical Greek polis.

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The Upper Agora at Sagalassos
See the image below to locate structures
Click on Image to Enlarge

During the Roman period the Latin term forum is often used to refer to this space.  In both the Greek and the Roman worlds people would meet here, goods and services were offered for sale, and on their perimeters temples to a variety of deities (and often emperors), law courts (Acts 16:19), council houses (Bouleuterion), monumental water fountains (nymphaeum) and honorific monuments (touting leading citizens of a polis) were common.

SagUpperAgora03The Upper Agora at Sagalassos is no exception.  It, and surrounding structures, have been excavated and partially reconstructed—thus allowing visitors to the site to easily enter into the life of the ancient city.

It was in agoras and forums around the Roman World that philosophers would teach their students and it would have been there that the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:17), Barnabas, Silas, Phoebe, etc. would have had the opportunity to share their faith.  The term agora is used 11 times in the New Testament (9 of the uses in the Gospels).

Our Turkish friends in front of the reconstructed Nymphaeum at Sagalassos.

Click on the city names to view agoras at: Perge, Athens, Thessaloniki, Smyrna, Corinth, and Philippi.

Sagalassos — Fountain House

People often will ask me “what is your favorite site in Turkey (or Israel, or Greece, or . . . .)?”  I have so many favorites that it is a difficult question to answer, but in Turkey, Sagalassos is one of my top  picks.

Sagalassos is a magnificent ancient city located about 80 mi. [130 km.] north of Antalya.  It was one of the largest cities of the region/district of Pisidia.  Although located in a very remote territory it was conquered by Alexander the Great and it was near one of the ancient roads that ran from Attalia (mod. Antalya)/Perge to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25).

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The well–preserved Hellenistic “Fountain House” on the north slope of Sagalassos.
Fountain Houses usually were built at the site of a spring
but were not as elaborate as Nymphaea
This Doric structure is partly reconstructed and actually is functional today!
Click on image to Enlarge

Among the many well–preserved remains is a partly reconstructed “Fountain House” from which the inhabitants of Sagalassos could draw water.

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Mountains in the region of Sagalassos
Click on image to Enlarge

Fountain Houses were common in ancient Greco- Roman Cities.  For example compare the ones at ancient Corinth: the “Upper Peirene Spring” on the Acrocorinth; the Peirene Fountain and the Glauke Fountain in lower Corinth; and the Lerna Spring at the Asclepion at Corinth.

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Sagalassos has been under excavation since 1990 by a Belgian team led by Mark Waelkens of the Catholic University of Leuven.  Because of its remoteness it is very well-preserved and Waelkens’ team has made some outstanding discoveries and has been very diligent in the preservation and restoration of the site.

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

The Entrance to the Garden Tomb.

This tomb was discovered in 1867, at which time it was proposed that this was the burial place of Jesus, mainly because of its nearness to what would become known as “Gordon’s Calvary“.  Since that time, some Protestant piety has encouraged this identification, although the wardens of the property (The Garden Tomb Association) stress that it is the resurrection of Jesus, not the issue of finding the exact spot of his burial, that is important.

Inside of the tomb are the partial remains of a burial bench.  Looking at “burial place” #5 (below) The date of the tomb is not certain.

A plan of the interior of the tomb.

The Modern Door into the Tomb.

The Guides at  Garden Tomb stress that it is the resurrection of Jesus, not the issue of finding the exact spot of his burial, that is important.

To visit the official site of the Garden Tomb Association Click Here.

To view, what in my opinion is the best “rolling stone tomb” in Israel Click Here.