Category Archives: Places in Greece

Cenchreae — a very unusual find

In a previous post I shared some images of the harbor at Cenchreae and related the site to the Apostle Paul and Phoebe.

Although the site has not been excavated, FIFTY (yes, 50) wooden crates containing glass panels that portray the harbor of Cenchreae were discovered in the harbor.

The panels were never put into place – but they apparently depict the harbor. They evidently were being stored in the Temple of Isis when the earthquake destroyed the harbor in A.D. 375. These panels probably depict the harbor as of A.D. 370. They are labeled as opus sectile panels that are composed of colored glass! I am not sure where they were intended to be placed. On floors? On walls? Or?

The following are a few of the panels that are on display in the nearby museum at Isthmia. I think they will be best viewed if you click on, and enlarge, the image.

Harbor, buildings, fisherman, boat, etc. Please Click on Image to Enlarge for Viewing.

Note the standing fisherman on the right side of the image. of center.  Just to the left and below him the white “lighthouse” that stood on the southern mole is depicted.  To the left of the lighthouse are three windows (filled with yellow light) and to the left of them, a building with six columns is depicted. Also on the left side of the image, from top to bottom note a sailboat and on the extreme left a squid.

The Harbor or Cenchreae—ca. A.D. 370. Please Click on Image to Enlarge for Viewing.

Note the standing fisherman just left of center. Just to the left and below him the white “lighthouse” that stood on the southern mole is depicted. Above him and to the right the “lighthouse” of the northern mole is visible. Note the semi-circular columned wharf that connects the two lighthouses.

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Cenchrea — a port of Corinth

Cenchrea was Corinth’s port that was located about 6.5mi. [9 km.] east on the Saronic Gulf.  It was Corinth’s life-line to Athens, to Asia Minor, and to additional ports in the eastern Mediterranean.

Having stayed at Corinth for 18 months, Paul set sail for Jerusalem (via Ephesus and Caesarea) from here at the end of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18).  Just prior to his departure he cut his hair in Cenchrea—in fulfillment of a vow (18:18)

Later, writing to the church at Rome while staying at Corinth on his third journey, Paul commends Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea to the church at Rome (Romans 16:1-2).

A picture looking north at the north mole that stretches from left (land) to right, out into the sea. The port area is between where this picture was taken and the mole. It has subsided because of earthquakes. On the seaside point of the mole are the remains of a Roman Tower.

View looking south across the harbor at the remains of the southern mole which extends out into the water.
View looking east from the shore at the remnants of the southern mole of the port of Cenchreae.

Due to seismic activity, the harbor of Cenchreae has sunk about 7.5 ft [2.3 m.] from the New Testament era. In Paul’s day this basilica shaped structure may have been a temple for the deity Isis. Later it may have been turned into a church dedicated to Phoebe.

Why Corinth?

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See the full size image below!

At the time of Paul’s visits to Corinth it was a thriving commercial city of over 200,000 people.

Corinth was situated in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese — very near the narrow land bridge (isthmus) that connected the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece. Its strategic location was enhanced due to its proximity to the diolkos — the stone-paved roadway that connected the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. By using this overland passageway, passengers and cargo avoided the difficult and time-consuming trip around the southern end of the Peloponnese.

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The Isthmus of Corinth from the air. For comments on this image, see above. To Enlarge and/or Download Click on Image.

The Greek city of Corinth had been (partly) destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C., but the rebuilding process, as a Roman city, had begun by 44 B.C.  For a long time it had been famous for its immorality (think prostitutes associated with the Temple of Aphrodite) and its commercial character. Its two harbors were Lechaion (Gulf of Corinth) and Cenchreae (Saronic Gulf). Every two years important games were held at nearby Isthmia.

Paul spent 18 months here on his second journey and maybe three months on his third. The letters of first and second Corinthians were written to the church here, and Paul probably wrote first and second Thessalonians and Romans while in Corinth.


To view important artifacts from Corinth, including the Erastus inscription, a menorah, and others, Click Here.

Excavations have been conducted at Corinth for over 100 years. Major finds have helped us understand the history and culture of the city that Paul spent so long ministering in. See the images included in this section and John McRay’s Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991.  To view for purchase Click Here.

Suggestion:  You may also be interested in the images of the Corinth Canal, the diolkos, the port of Cenchreae, and the Acrocorinth.

Samos — Another “Hezekiah’s Tunnel”?

Some of the readers of this blog are familiar with the 1,760 ft. long “Hezekiah’s Tunnel” that brought water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.  At the southern end of this tunnel, a Hebrew Inscription was found on which it describes how the two gangs of workmen began at each end and worked towards the center.  The tunnel was built in the late 8th century B.C.

Not so well-known is the very similar Tunnel of Eupalinos that brought water to the ancient city of Samos (now called Pythagorio).  This tunnel was about 3,280 ft. [1,000 m.] long and was carved into solid rock by two groups of workmen—one group beginning at each end and meeting near the middle.  It was completed during the rule of Polycrates around 524 B.C.

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Interior of the 3,280 ft. long Tunnel of Eupalinos on the Island of Samos
The woman in the image is 5′ 2″ tall
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The image above is the interior of the Tunnel of Eupalinos that brought water to the ancient city of Samos (now called Pythagorio).   The outline of the rock-hewn tunnel is very clear in this image.  The woman in the picture is 5′ 2″ [1.57 m.] tall.

The area in which she is standing was actually a “service area” that was used by workmen to maintain the tunnel.  The metal grating behind her, on the left side of the image, covers the deep channel in which the water actually flowed—in clay pipes.

For additional images of the Island of Samos Click Here.

Special Diolkos Remains Near Corinth

Long Section of the Diolkos located on a Greek Army Base north of the Corinthian Canal

On one of our visits to the area of Corinth we had a chance to explore a seldom-visited portion of the ancient diolkos that is located on the isthmus that connects the Greek mainland with the Peloponnese.  This portion has been excavated and is very well preserved.

Map of the Peloponnese and Location of Corinth and the Diolkos

The Diolkos [Greek meaning “haul across”] was a paved “road” that connected the Corinthian and Saronic Gulfs before the Corinthian Canal was dug.  It was built because sailing around the southern tip of the Peloponnese was very treacherous.  Strabo, for example, writes ‘But when you sail around Cape Malea, forget your home” (= “you’ll never return!”; viii 6, 20).  The ancients offloaded their cargo, dragged it on wheeled carts across the isthmus from one gulf to the other to the other side of the isthmus, and then loaded it on to another ship.  Small to medium size ships could be transported from gulf to gulf by this method also.

Detail of the Tracks/Ruts that guided the path of the wheels of the vehicles that carried ships and cargo from one gulf to another.

The Diolkos was constructed during the sixth century B.C.  and was in use for over 1,000 years!  It was made of large paving stones and was about 11 to 20 ft. [3.4 to 6 m.] wide. It followed a circuitous route, avoiding high ground if possible, from one side of the isthmus to another.

It is probable that some of the wealth of the nearby Corinth was derived from tolls, tariffs, and servicing the personnel associated with the shipping industry and servicing and maintaining the “road.”

To view additional photos of the diolkos plus additional commentary and a detailed map of its route — Click Here.

Athens: The Acropolis Museum Online

In my opinion, the most beautiful museum in Athens is The New Acropolis Museum” which is “world-class” not only in its design and presentation but also in its contents.  It contains over 4,250 objects that were found on or near the acropolis.  A good number of these are so famous that they appear in almost all western Art History books.

Looking down, from the top of the Acropolis, on to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens

Visitors to Athens have a limited time to spend in its museums.  How much of can you absorb in a museum such as this one in say a 2-hour visit?

Well, the Greeks have come to the rescue!  The New Acropolis Museum in Athens has launched a new sophisticated online platform featuring artifacts from its permanent collection as well as information about its temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and more.  This digital collection includes over 2,156 artifacts with extensive descriptions, photographs, bibliographies, etc.

On its home page, it features 60 “highlights!” — some of the most famous objects in the collection.  Included under each there are several clear photographs and authoritative descriptions of the object.

The “Calf-Bearer”—or Moscophors found on the acropolis. 5 ft. 5 in high.

Among them, for example, is the famous “Calf-Bearer” (image above while in the old museum).  It is a statue depicting someone (Rhombos?) bringing a lamb as a sacrifice to the goddess Athena—dated to 570 BC!  [maybe we should not think of many, somewhat similar statues from the Christian era as “Good Shepherd” statues?]  Click here to view and read the museum commentary on this object.

IMHO — there is much to learn from this website.  Enjoy!

Personal “New Year’s Resolution” — to avoid “indigestion,” I have bookmarked the museum website and plan on reading about one object each day until I get through the 60!


How did they move the precious objects from the top of the acropolis down to the new museum?  Using three Tower-Cranes, of course!

Two of the three Tower-Cranes used to move the precious artifacts from the top of the acropolis down to the New Acropolis Museum.  January 2009.

This is a view looking west-northwest at two of the three tower-cranes that were used to move objects from the Old Acropolis Museum to the New Acropolis Museum. The old museum was located on the summit of the acropolis in the area just behind where the white crane is located. The new museum is located off the lower left side of the image but is not visible in the photograph (see image above).

The white tower-crane fetched objects from the top of the acropolis, pivoted, and then they were transferred to the second, orange, tower-crane. The orange tower-crane, in the middle of the image, pivoted and transferred the objects to the third crane, not visible, which was off the left side of the image. The third tower-crane pivoted and the objects were deposited into the new museum. The distance covered was approximately 310 yards—using the three tower-cranes.

This picture was taken in January 2009. The whole process of transferring the objects took four months.

New Testament Inscriptions — Erastus of Corinth (Acts 19:22; Romans 16:13; 2 Timothy 4:20)

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“Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download (free).  The letters were originally filled with metal — see the image below.

Part of a pavement found near the theater of Corinth which mentions “Erastus” who was the aedile of the city.  An “aedile” was in charge of the financial matters of the city — and was very wealthy. The pavement was laid about A.D. 50.

The New Testament book of Romans was written by Paul from Corinth to the church in Rome in the spring of A.D. 57—on his third journey. In Romans 16:23 Paul says that “Erastus, the city treasurer [Ἕραστος ὸ οἰκονόμς] greets you . . . .”   It is very probable that the “Erastus” mentioned in Romans is the very same person who is mentioned in this inscription.

The two lines on the Latin inscription have been transcribed by John McRay in the following way:

ERASTVS PRO AEDILIT E
S P STRAVIT

McRay suggests that the full transcription can be translated as “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.”

From the following passages it is evident that Erastus was very involved in Paul’s ministry:

On his third journey, prior to the writing of the NT book of Romans, Paul wrote:

Acts 19:22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia [at Ephesus] a little longer.

and then in Paul’s final letter while imprisoned in Rome Paul wrote:

2Tim. 4:20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus

The image below is an example of an ancient inscription filled with metal — from the via Appia in the Italian city of Terracina.

An ancient inscription filled with metal (as the Erastus inscription originally was) on the via Appia in the Italian city of Terracina.


For an extensive discussion of the Erastus inscription and the various options that the various Latin and (NT) Greek terms suggest, see John McRay Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991: 331–33.   To examine for purchase Click Here.

For a brief description of the biblical and historical significance of Corinth and a Map of the region Click Here.

A Fortress on Patmos

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true (see Franz below).

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View looking west into the modern harbor of Patmos. The “mountain/hill” in the background is the Citadel of Patmos that is called the Kastelli. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

On the central portion of Patmos, the “Kastelli” (acropolis) towers over the main harbor at an altitude of 1,550 ft. [472 m.].

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View looking south at the west gate on the summit of Kastelli (the acropolis) of Patmos. Note the well-preserved exterior staircase.

The woman in the image is actually standing in the entrance–way.  The original line of fortifications is from the Hellenistic Period (third century B.C.), although this gate may have been rebuilt in more recent times.

fortification-towerView looking southeast at six courses of stone of one of the towers on the north slope of the acropolis of Patmos that is called the “Kastelli” (acropolis).  These fortifications date to the Hellenistic Period—that is about the third century B.C.  Compare the style of the well–preserved Hellenistic fortifications found at Priene and Assos—both in Turkey.

To view additional images of the Acropolis/Kastelli on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s web site Life and Land but without graphics.

Samothrace — Seldom Visited by Tourists, BUT Visited by Paul (Acts 16:11)

Samothrace is a Greek Island that lies 25 mi. south of the Greek mainland.  This mountainous island was the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods where famous religious ceremonies took place.

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The sacred hall called the Hieron where the mysterious sacred rites took place Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

On Paul’s Second Journey he traveled by ship from Troas (in Asia Minor) to Neapolis (in Europe).  Acts 16:11 notes that the trip took two days

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.

It is clear that the ship overnighted at Samothrace before continuing on to Neapolis—the port city of Philippi.

There is no indication that Paul ever stepped off the ship, but if he did (which I think is probable), he may have visited the “Sanctuary of the Great Gods.”  Since their rituals were practiced at night, he may have even witnessed—from afar—some of the rites.

Samothrace

It was here that the famous “Winged Victory/Nike of Samothrace” was discovered—the original is now on display in the Louvre in Paris.

The original of the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre.

On his third journey, Paul made the same trip, in the reverse direction, in 5 days (Acts 20:6)—evidently, the winds were not as favorable on that trip (in the spring of the year).

To view the Original “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” Click Here.

To view 18 images, with commentary, of Samothrace Click Here.

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Foundations of a mysterious Cult Building on Samothrace

The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.

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Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

One of the prizes at the Istmian games was a wreath, sometimes made of pine branches (see picture above) and at other times of wilted(!) celery leaves.  Thus Paul’s “They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” certainly rings true!

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The grave stela of an unnamed athlete who won games at at least 8 different venues. Inside of the crowns are the names of the games. In the upper left wreath “Olympia” is noted and in the lower right “Pergamum.” Note the variety of “wreathes.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

To view additional images of this and other stelae from Isthmia Click Here.

The terms “prize,” “victor’s wreath,” etc. are common in New Testament imagery.