Category Archives: Places in Greece

Patmos — A Temple to Aphrodite?

Rev. 1:9    I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

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

As Franz has stated (p. 115)

First-century Patmos, with its natural protective harbor . . . [was] a large administrative center, [with] outlying villages, a hippodrome (for horse racing), and at least three pagan temples made Patmos hardly an isolated and desolate place!

It has been suggested that one of the those temples, the one dedicated to Aphrodite, was located on the Kalikatous Rock that is located in the Grikos Bay.

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View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay—the boat is entering the bay.  On the right (south) side of the bay is the Kalikatous Rock (see below).  In the distance are the islands east of Patmos.  This bay has been officially included in the 2011 catalogue of “the most beautiful bays in the world” by the UNESCO Foundation.

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View looking south at the Kalikatsou Rock.

Historical sources indicate that a Temple of Aphrodite was located on the Island of Patmos and many believe that the Temple to Aphrodite was located here but no excavations have taken place.  Note the carvings on the rock.

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View looking south at carvings and stains in the Kalikatsou Rock that may have been part of the Temple of Aphrodite that was located here.

Note the rock-cut stairs and the carvings to the right of the stairs.

Thus it is very possible that the island where John was exiled (Revelation 1:9) was “populated” with not only a citadel and a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, but also with temples dedicated to Artemis (possibly where the Monastery of Saint John is located) and Apollo (possibly near the modern harbor).  For these suggestions and references please see Gordon Franz’s article cited below.


To view additional images of the Kalikatsou Roack and the Bay of Grikos 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 website Life and Land but without graphics.

The Temple of Aphrodite and the Upper Peirene Spring on the Acrocorinth at Corinth

The moral problems among the “saints” of the church of Corinth are well-known.  Writing of days prior to Paul, Strabo said that the Temple of Aphrodite owned one thousand temple–slaves and prostitutes!

Foundational Remains of the Temple of Aphrodite on the Summit of the Acrocorinth

Thus the reputation of Corinth was well–known.  It is not probable that interested persons would climb 1700 feet to the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love) to visit a prostitute, but her temple was located there.

The “Fountain House” of the Upper Peirene Spring on the Summit of the Acrocorinth

Besides the several springs (Peirene Fountain, Glauke Fountain, Lerna Spring by the Asclepion) that were located near the site of Corinth itself, there actually was a powerful, not too frequently visited,  spring on the top of the Acrocorinth call the “Upper Peirene Spring.”  The basic remains visible in the image above date to the Hellenistic Period (third to first century BC).

For additional views of the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite Click Here.

For additional views of the Upper Peirene Spring Click Here.

Patmos: The Monastery of Saint John

PatmosMapPatmos is a Greek island in the Dodecanese group, located about 40 mi. [65 km.] west of the western coast of Turkey.

It was here that John was exiled received the revelation that he wrote about in the New Testament book of Revelation (Rev 1:9).  Tradition maintains that he was exiled to Patmos during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81–96).  He was eventually released and returned to Ephesus—located about 60 mi. [100 km.] to the northeast of Patmos.

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View looking north at the Island of Patmos from Mt. Saint Elijah—the highest point on the Island of Patmos (2,900 ft.). The Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the village of Chora are in the center of the image. Double Click on Image to View and/or Download the full size Panorama.

Notice that the island is not very wide and visible on both the right (east) and left (west) side of the image a variety of near-by islands are visible—providing a “geographical context” for the Island of Patmos.

Patmos is shaped somewhat like the letter “C”—open to the east.  It is composed of three parts connected by two isthmuses.  The larger northern part is connected to the central (main) part by a narrow isthmus.  The island is about 7 mi. [11 km.] long, and up to 3 mi. [5 km.] wide.  It is 13 sq. mi. [34 sq. km] in area and has a population of about 2,750 persons.

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The Monastery of St. John the Theologian

The most famous structure on the Island of Patmos is the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.  It was built in A.D. 1091 by the “Holy” Christodoulos who had received permission from the Byzantine Emperor Alexis I to build it.  This fortress–like monastery is situated on a prominent hill about 1.5 mi. [2.4 km.] inland from the port of Skala at an elevation of about 790 ft. [240 m.].  This is one of two places that “day visitors” visit during their brief stop at Patmos.

Click Here to view 13additional images of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.

This past May we had the opportunity to explore some of the remote portions of the island and I will be sharing some pictures from that visit in future posts.

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.

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.

Connections: Istanbul and Delphi

Today we spent time in Istanbul visiting the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Archaeological Museum.

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Istanbul: from the south end of the hippodrome looking north. The obelisk of Thutmose III and in the foreground the “Serpents’ Column” from Delphi. On the right is one of the six minarets of the “Blue Mosque.”  In the distance are two minarets of the Hagia Sophia.

When visiting the Hippodrome we “ooh and ah” at the obelisk of Thutmose III and  south of it the “Serpentine Column.”

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A detailed view of the “Serpentine Column” from Delphi that is now located in the Hippodrome in Istanbul.

Constantine brought the Serpentine Column from Delphi (Greece) to his New Rome (Constantinople/Istanbul) after he had established his capital there.

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An artist’s drawing of what the original column may have looked like. Note the “tripod” on top of the three serpents’ heads.

This column/tripod had three intertwined heads (see diagram above; two heads are now missing).    It originally stood near the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Greece; see picture below).

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Delphi (Greece): view looking down on the remnants of the altar associated with the Apollo (just to the left of the two people in the lower right portion of the image). Just to the left of the altar is a square base on top of which a circular base rests. This is where the Tripod (Serpentine Column”) of the Plataeans rested.

The column and tripod were dedicated in 479 B.C.  They commemorated the victory of 31 Greek cities over the Persians in the battle at Plataea in 479 B.C.  One of its surviving heads is in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.

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One of the three Serpents’ Heads that graced the Bronze Serpent Column that originally formed the base for a “trophy” that was dedicated to the god Apollo after the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the battle of Plataea in 479 B.C.

The Archaeological Museum in Istanbul has been under renovation for over three years.  And during that time selected artifacts are on display in a narrow winding maze.  Unfortunately, most people pass by, without even noticing, the one remaining serpent’s head from the Serpentine Column.

Running the Race

In seven  passages the apostle Paul compares the Christian life to running a race.  The athletic games, that were initiated by the Greeks consisted of running, discus, jumping, javelin, boxing and fighting events.  Not to mention musical, oratory, and drama contests.

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The Stadium at Nemea in the Peloponnese of Greece — One of the four pan Hellenic Games was held here, the other places being Olympia, Isthmia (near Corinth) and Delphi — The stadium at Nemea was 161 yards long — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A variety of foot races were held but the basic one was the length of the stadium—close to 200 yards.  The length of the stadia varied from place to place.  The stadium at Nemea above is well–preserved.  Notice the starting area in the foreground and the embankments on both sides where the male spectators sat.

Paul wrote (also in other places):

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith

It is interesting that Jesus, in his Judean/Galilean context never uses the image of running the race—but Paul, in a Greco-Roman context does.

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Two bronze runners from the villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum (near Pompeii) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The races took place in the nude.  The above are first century A.D. copies of third century B.C. statues.

And the writer of Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

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A “krater” (jar used for wine) — Found at Olympia — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The above is a representation of a runner prepared for the start of the race.  the pole in front of him may represent a turning pole or a finish line at the far end of the stadium.  Between the runner and the turning pole is a strigil—a scraper that was used to remove olive oil, sand, dirt, and sweat.

To view more images of Nemea Click Here.

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.