Category Archives: Places in Turkey

July 4 in USA — Lycian League — A Model for the Founding of the USA

QUICK — what was the Lycian League?  Not many of us know, but Alexander Hamilton and James Madison knew!  Yes, the “Lycian Confederation” is mentioned four times in the Federalist Papers that were produced between 1787–1788 (#9, 16, 45).  Over 2,000 years ago it met in Patara—the same place where Paul and Luke changed ships on their way to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-3).

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View of the exterior of the reconstructed Council Chamber (Bouleuterion) at Patara
January 2014 — Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

So what was the Lycian Confederation/League?  First, Lycia was/is a geopolitical region located along the Mediterranean Coast of modern Turkey, often called the Turquoise Coast­ because of its beauty! (see map below) The 23 cities that made up the Confederation/League were located along the Mediterranean coast or in the nearby rugged Taurus Mountains (but the number of cities varied from time to time).

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View of the interior of the Council House at Patara
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The Lycian Confederation is the first known republic union in history!  One of the features of this Confederation is that they committed themselves to be governed by a central assembly (Greek: synedrion) that they themselves elected.  However, in fairness, the larger cities were allotted more representatives than the smaller ones.  Large cities such as Xanthos, Patara, Myra, Pinara, Tlos, and Olympos were allotted three representatives each (the maximum allowed).

The Lycian Confederation met at Patara—almost certainly in the Bouleuterion pictured above.  It was thus here (at the out-of-the-way site of Patara) that proportional representative government first got its start.  And, it was not until the founding of the United States (2,000 years later!!) that this concept was revived in the US House of Representatives (note the semi-circular seating arrangement of its chamber)!!

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The Rugged Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Coast of Lycia
The cities of the Lycian Confederation were located along the coast or in the mountains
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The league itself may go back to around 205 B.C.  This early form of the league would have had the power to decide questions of war, peace, and alliances.   In 168 B.C., while still under Roman control, the Romans allowed these cities to still assemble together to govern themselves as a unit—but the power to decide questions of war, peace, and alliances were now Rome’s prerogative.

This body elected persons who administered the Lycian League for a year at a time.  The council elected judges.  Voted proportional taxes.  A league court decided disputes between the cities.

189_PataraMapI have posted 5 photos of this historic meeting place on my web site,
both before and after it was excavated/reconstructed.

For a great summary article on the Lycian League and Patara see the article in Saudi Aramco World 2007.

The Cave/Grotto of Paul and Thecla at Ephesus

One of the most interesting early extra–biblical stories is the one of Paul and Thecla (2nd century A.D.; Thecla is said to have been a female companion of Paul and eventually [for most of her life] a respected preacher of the Christian faith).

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From right to left: Theocleia (mother of Thecla), Paul, and Thecla
Fresco from the Grotto of Saint Paul at Ephesus
Click on Image to Enlarge

At Ephesus there is a not–too–frequently–visited cave sometimes called “The Grotto of Paul” (= Cave of Paul & Thecla).  It is located on the northern slope of Bülbül Dag, away from the normal visitors’ routes through Ephesus.  It overlooks the site of ancient Ephesus from the south.

On the western wall of the grotto a painting portrays an event from the apocryphal book called The Acts of Paul and Thecla (ca. early second century A.D.).  The painting (5th/6th century A.D.) depicts the initial event described in the book, in the city of Iconium, where Thecla is looking from a window at Paul preaching while Thecla’s mother (Theocleia) looks on.  Thecla, against the wishes of her mother and her finance Thamyris, gave up her betrothal (engagement) in order to remain a virgin and to follow Paul.

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Detail of Thecla looking down from a window at Paul preaching
Paul’s raised hand is visible on the right
Click on Image to Enlarge

Eventually Thecla was separated from Paul and became a significant preacher and witness to her faith.  Her life and impact has been much discussed during the past thirty years and this painting has figured large in the discussions.

In addition, The Acts of Paul and Thecla contains the earliest physical description of Paul:

“And he [Onesiphorus] saw Paul coming [towards Iconium], a man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.”

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Paul and Theocleia (mother of Thecla) — Note the names spelled out in Greek
Also compare the artistic representation of Paul with the literary
Click on Image to Enlarge

The facial image of Paul in the fresco seems to match this description as do iconographic representations of Paul.

The cave seems to have served as a chapel from the early Byzantine period through the early 19th century.

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Vestibule to “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla” at Ephesus

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Plan of “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla”

The grotto is 50 ft. long 6.5 ft. wide and 7.5 ft. high gallery that was expanded to the south in the form of a “presbytery.”  It was excavated by Dr. Renate Pillinger from the University of Vienna in 1995.

Not familiar with the fascinating story of Paul and Thecla?  You can get a Kindle version of the story for only $1.99 in the New Testament Apocrypha—along with 43 other stories!

To view additional images of this Grotto and Frescos Click Here.

God Fearers in the Synagogue and Early Church — Evidence from Miletus

MiletusMap3In the New Testament the book of Acts 13-28 describes the spread of Christianity primarily through the efforts of Paul and his companions.  As they traveled throughout Asia Minor and Greece some Jews and many Gentiles adopted the new faith.  Some of these Gentiles where already interested in the God of the Jews and involved in synagogue worship.  This group is mentioned several times in the book of Acts (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

Clear evidence for the presence of a Jewish population living at Miletus, which Paul stopped at on the return leg of his Third Journey (Acts 20:15ff), is evidenced by an inscription that is located on the fifth row of seats on the southeast side of the large theater at Miletus (see below).

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Greek Theater Inscription
τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον”the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers” or
“the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers”
Click on image to enlarge/download

τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον

This inscription seems to mark “reserved seating” for Jews and possibly related “God–worshipers.” There are other “reserved seat” markings in this, and other, theaters.  As it stands the inscription reads “the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers.”

But some have suggested that whom ever wrote the inscription may have inverted the “τῶν καὶ.” If this is the case, then the inscription could refer to two groups of people, Jews and Gentile God–worshipers (= “the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers”). Compare the same categories found in the book of Acts, although not quite the same terminology (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

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The Theater at Miletus
The “God-Fearer” inscription is located where the two people are sitting near the center of the image
Click on image to enlarge and/or download

To View More Images of Miletus Click Here.

Aizanoi (Turkey) — A Monumental Site — Visited by Paul?

Aizanoi (Aezani, modern Çavdarhisar) is a site that is located 170 mi. southwest of Ankara (as “the crow flies”).

Temple of Zeus at Aizanoi

One of the best-preserved temples of the ancient world is located there as are the impressive remains of a stadium, theater, bathhouse, meat market, etc.

View looking east inside of the huge subterranean cellar that runs under the whole temple.

Some have suggested that the female mother deity, Cybele, was worshiped here. Others suggest that this arched cellar was used for storage. In any case, it is well–preserved!

View looking north down the length of the stadium toward the theater. Note the raised area on the right and left of the image—the seating area of the stadium. The outside wall of the theater can be seen in the distance!

This arrangement of stadium plus theater combination is almost totally unique to Aizanoi—the only other combination known to this author is found at New Testament Jericho in Israel/Palestine (built by Herod the Great 37–4 B.C.).

Theater with the connecting Stadium beyond.

Aizanoi is a very large Roman site located on the banks of the Penkalas (today Kocaçay) river, a tributary to the Rhyndakos.

Dr. Mark Wilson states that “Paul probably passed through the Greco–Roman city of Aizanoi while passing through Mysa on his second journey to Troas (Acts 16:8)” Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, p. 161.

For additional High Resolution image of Aizanoi Click Here.

Adada and Paul’s First Journey

AdadaAdada is a well–preserved Roman city located 40 mi. north of Perge on the road that led from Perge to Pisidian Antioch.  It is probable that Paul and Barnabas passed through the city as they traveled south, descending from Pisidian Antioch to Attalia (see below).

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This well preserved temple at Adada was dedicated to the Roman Emperors
Three temples dedicated to the Emperors have been found at Adada
Click on Image to Enlarge

The city minted its own coins in the first century BC and it was very prosperous during the rules of the Roman Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius (ca. AD 98–160).

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Remains of the Roman Forum — The massive “staircase” is more probably a seating area where the council of Adada could meet.
Click on Image to Enlarge

The remains at Adada include a Forum, a theater, and temples to Roman Emperors!

AdadaMapTHYDr. Mark Wilson notes that there were two routes that connected the Pamphilian Plain (Perge and Attalia) with Pisidian Antioch.  He suggested that Paul and Barnabas took the western route, the via Sebastia, from Perge to Pisidian Antioch but followed the quicker, but steeper central route on their return journey south to Perga (Acts 14:25)—thus passing through Adada on their return journey.

Wilson, Mark. Biblical Turkey — a Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor. Istanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2010, p. 106.

To view 24 high resolution images of Adada, along with commentary, Click Here.

Eflatunpinar — Did Paul Stop Here Four (!) Times?

The Hittites are mentioned 61! times in the Hebrew Bible.  Eflatunpinar (map below) is a mysterious, out-of-the-way Hittite site that is located about 50 mi. [80 km.] due west of Konya (classical and biblical Iconium; Acts 13:51; 14; 16:2; 2 Tim 3:11).

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Hittite Monument — Spring — Pool

At Eflatunpinar (Eflaltun Pinar) there is a spring and a very well–preserved Hittite monument that dates to the second half of the thirteenth century B.C.—to the reign of the Hittite king Tudhaliya IV (ca. 1259–1229 B.C.)—biblically, about the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan.

It is actually very possible that the Apostle Paul stopped at this wonderful spring twice as he traveled from Pisidian Antioch to Iconium and back on his first journey (Acts 13:5; 14:21), and as he probably traveled from Iconium to Pisidian Antioch on his second (Acts 16:4-6) and third journeys (Acts 18:22-23).

The monument is a “spring head” that feeds a pool that measures 110 ft. x 100 ft. (34 m. x 30 m.).  Eflatun Pinar means “lavender-colored spring.”

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Main Hittite Monument

The monument is composed of 19 large stone blocks that measures 23.3 x 23 ft. (7.1 x 7 m.).  This upper portion is composed of twelve figures.  The two central deities (not well-preserved) are probably the main god and goddess—the symbolism may be that of the gods “who carry the sky and connect it with the earth” (source).   These two deities support two two-winged sun disks and above them is a huge two–winged sun disk tops the monument.

On the right side two deities, one on top of the other, are clearly visible–as are their counterparts on the left (west) side of the monument.

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Five Mountain Gods

At the base of the monument are five mountain gods.  The central three are the best preserved and note how the central three have holes in them—just below their folded arms—through which water originally flowed.

To view the lower portions of these deities when they are not covered by water, Click Here.  Additional holes for the discharge of water are clearly visible as are their “skirts.”

To view additional images of Eflatunpinar Click Here.

Erecting an Obelisk

TWMRISHP11Have you ever wondered how the ancients actually set up an obelisk?  In the Late Roman/Byzantine hippodrome in Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul there is still standing the top third of an obelisk of the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III (r. 16th century B.C.).  This obelisk was brought from Egypt to Constantinople and erected by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius around A.D. 390.

One of the reliefs on its marble base depicts the erection of the obelisk with the emperor and his family watching.

TWMRISHP06For additional images of the obelisk and the hippodrome area Click Here.

Tarsus — A Very Unusual Roman Building

Very few tour groups have a chance to visit Tarsus and if they do, they typically visit only the excavations in the center of town and the associated “Well of St. Paul“).  However, there is a very massive building that is hard to locate and is situated on the edges of residential and industrial neighborhoods.  It is called the “Donuktash” (Turkish for “frozen stones”).  The foundation seems to be composed of a hardened conglomerate of medium size pebbles.

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View looking north along the eastern wall of the Donuktash. The preserved portion of this foundation reaches a height of about 15 ft. [4.6 m.]. This foundation wall is 335 ft. [102 m.] long — about the length of a football field! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This mysterious and massive structure is apparently the foundation of a large, second century A.D., Roman Temple.   The exterior core of the temple remains, as do some significant interior foundations—for the marble and stone facing have been stripped away during the centuries.

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View looking south at the current interior space of the Donuktash. It is longer than a “football field!”  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The exterior walls are visible on the right (west) and left (east) sides of the image.  In the far center is a massive foundation upon which the central building (cella) of the temple probably stood.  Even though this picture was not taken from the extreme north end of the Donuktash, it does give some perspective to its size—335 ft. [102 m.] long. The whole structure awaits excavation.

The Donuktash may have been an Imperial Temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor Commodus (A.D. 177–192).

To view additional images of the Donuktash Click Here.


When we visited the site the gate was locked (it always is) and it seemed impossible to find a way in.  I thought to myself that there was no way to keep out the local children, so I asked our guide to ask the neighbor “how do the kids get in?”  Well, the answer was, “there is a ladder around the back!”  So, we climbed the ladder to examine the interior!  (remember the walls are 15 ft. high!)

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Students checking out the “cella” of the building.

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Investigating the walls of the Donuktash.

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Exiting the Donuktash.

The REAL Saint Nicholas! December 6

On December 6 the feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated and so I thought I would bring back this oldie but goodie.

On the outskirts of the Turkish town of Demre is a church that is associated with Saint Nicholas—Father Christmas, a.k.a. in northern Europe as Santa Claus!

Saint Nicholas StatueSt. Nicholas was born in nearby Patara about A.D. 300 and served as the bishop of Myra later in his life.  A number of miracles are attributed to this revered bishop, including his providing a dowry to the three daughters of a local baker.  Thus he is associated with “gift giving!”  He was also the patron saint of sailors and was prayed to for protection at sea—note that Myra is very near the Mediterranean Sea.  He died about A.D. 345.

It is said that he was buried in this church, but that his relics (bones) were taken to Bari, Italy, about A.D. 1088, although other claims are made that the Venetians took them.

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View looking down at the altar area from the top of the synthronon
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Every 6 December, the feast day of St. Nicholas, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians celebrate the Divine Liturgy here.

To view (or download) additional images of the Church of Saint Nicholas Click Here.

The Martyrium (Memorial Chapel) of Philip at Hierapolis (Turkey)

Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament (Colossians 4:15) where Paul states that Epaphras was working there and in nearby Laodicea.

Memorial (Pilgrimage) Church Dedicated to Philip

Early Christian tradition states that Philip, along with his daughters, settled at Hierapolis.  It is probable that Philip the Apostle (= disciple of Jesus) is the actual person, although a confused tradition suggests that it was Philip the Evangelist (see his activities in the book of Acts).

Pilgrims’ Path Leading Up to the Martyrium of Philip

Tradition also states that Philip was martyred and buried here at Hierapolis.  On a hill northeast of the city a Martyrium—a memorial that was a focus of pilgrimage—was built in the fifth century AD.  In July 2011, the excavator, Francesco D’Andria announced that he had discovered the very Tomb of Philip in the vicinity.

I have posted 18 high-resolution images of the Martyrium of Philip.  Click Here to view.