Category Archives: Places in Greece

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.

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

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An exact copy of the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”
The original is in the Louvre — the above in the museum on Samothrace
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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 18 images, with commentary, of Samothrace Click Here.

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Foundations of a mysterious Cult Building on Samothrace

The Transfiguration — A Fresco — Is the Apostle Peter “Flipping Out?”

Normally when tour groups visit Berea they visit the “bema” that commemorates Paul’s preaching in the city (Acts 17:10–15).  However a few years ago we had the chance to visit one of the 50 Byzantine Churches in the city—The Church of the Resurrection of Christ in which there are some well–preserved frescoes from the 14th century.

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A view of the Transfiguration of Jesus.   Below Jesus are three frightened disciples—from left to right, one recoiling in fear, and the center one prostrate facing away from Jesus, and on the right one doing a back flip(!) with his mouth covered! Could this be Peter who was “embarrassed” by what he had just said?  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A detailed view of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the center of the image above the roundels on the south wall of the 14th century Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Berea/Verroia.  Below Jesus are three frightened disciples—from left to right, one recoiling in fear, and the center one prostrate facing away from Jesus, and on the lower right one doing a back flip(!) with his mouth covered! Could this be Peter who was in awe and “embarrassed” by what he had just said?

 Matt 17:4 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”  6 And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were much afraid.

Mark 9: 5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.

Luke 9:33 And it came about, as these were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not realizing what he was saying

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The Church of the Resurrection of the Christ in Verria/Verroia.

There are over 50 Byzantine Churches in Verria/Verroia.  In the Church of the Resurrection of Christ there are some very well preserved frescoes by George Kaliergis, one of the great painters of the 14th century.

In the church there is also a very unusual is the fresco of Jesus climbing a ladder to be crucified on the cross!

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A detailed view of the very unusual depiction of Jesus climbing a ladder ON TO the cross! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Usually, when a ladder appears with the cross it depicts the removal of Jesus’ body from the cross with Adam’s skull below the cross—as here.  To the right of this image is Jesus being placed in a sarcophagus (tomb).

To view 6 free images of frescoes in this church Click Here.

Ancient Picture of the Trojan Horse!

In light of the 2005 movie Troy many people are interested in the events surrounding the Trojan War—especially the “Trojan Horse” that was used by the Greeks to gain access to Troy and eventually to capture and destroy the city—ca. 1200 B.C.

As surprising as it may seem, we actually have a graphic representation of the Trojan Horse from around 670 B.C.!

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The “neck” of a burial jar on which there is a clear depiction of what the potter/artist thought the Trojan Horse looked like—670 B.C.
Click on Image to see Details—And the Commentary Below

This representation is from a huge burial jar (pithos) that was found on Mykonos in 1961.  It dates to around 670 B.C. and is about 5 ft. [1.5 m.] tall!  In this close up of the Trojan Horse on the pithos  note the detail of  the head, ears, eye, nose, mane, body, tail, and four legs of the horse are clearly visible.  In the seven windows are the heads of Greek soldiers hiding in the horse and there are weapons in the arms of several of them.  Note also the four wheels by the four hoofs of the horse.  In addition there are four standing warriors with spears and shields (I assume from Troy).

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One of the panels of a battle scene from the Trojan War
Warrior on the left, woman on the right, and a child being killed by a large sword!
Click on Image to Enlarge

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The 5 ft. tall burial jar on which there are representations of the battle for Troy
Including a depiction of the Trojan Horse used by the Greeks
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

To view more images of Mykonos Click Here.

NT Inscriptions — Gallio Proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12)

Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia while Paul was in Corinth (Acts 18:12).

Acts 18:12     While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court.  13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

Acts 18:14     Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you.  15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.”  16 So he had them ejected from the court.  17 Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever. (NIV)

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View of the “Gallio Inscription” found at Delphi. In the fourth line from the top, the Greek form of “Gallio” is clearly visible. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The inscription is written in Greek and is a copy, carved in stone, of a decree of the Roman Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41–54) who commanded L. Iunius Gallio, the governor, to assist in settling additional elite persons in Delphi—in an effort to revitalize it.

The inscription dates between April and July A.D., 52, and from it, it can be deduced that Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia in the previous year.  Thus Paul’s eighteenth month stay in Corinth (Acts 18:1–18) included the year 51.  This inscription is critical in helping to establish the Chronology of Paul as presented in the book of Acts.

To view all nine pieces of the inscription Click Here.

To view the “bema” in Corinth, before which Paul appeared in the presence of Gallio, Click Here.

For a brief description of Delphi Click Here.

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).

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

For an extensive discussion of this 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 or  purchase Click Here.

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

Politarchs (Acts 17:6, 8): Luke gets it right—as usual!

Acts 17 describes the arrival of Paul and Silas in Thessalonica, on Paul’s Second Journey, and how that after preaching in the synagogue on three Sabbath days that

4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

Acts 17:5     But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.  6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials [politarchs], shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here,  7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”  8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials [politarchs] were thrown into turmoil.  9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (NIV)

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This inscription, dated to the second century A.D., lists six Politarchs (“Rulers of the Citizens”) among other officials. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This term, “politarch,” is used (correctly!) by Luke in Acts 17:6, 8 of officials in Thessalonica.

These “ruler of the citizens” were the chief magistrates of the city and were appointed annually.  “They performed administrative and executive functions, as well as exercising judicial authority . . . of the more than sixty known inscriptions that mention politarchs, three–fourths of them are from the Macedonian area of Greece, with approximately half being from Thessalonica itself.”

The inscription is from an old Roman arch that was part of the old Vardar Gate that was torn down in 1876.  The inscription was given to the British Consulate and eventually presented to the British Museum.

Explanatory information from Fant, Clyde E., and Mitchell G. Reddish, “Politarch Inscription at Thessalonica,” pp. 366–70.   Lost Treasures of the Bible — Understanding the Bible Through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.  They also have provided a translation of the inscription on page 367.

To view/download 12 high resolution photos of Thessalonica Click Here.