Category Archives: Places in Turkey

Have you ever seen a Human Sacrifice?

On our trips Following in the Footsteps of Paul on one of the days, we visit Alexandrian Troas—its agora, harbor, and one of the quarries.  After lunch, we visit Troy, which is our last antiquity site we visit in Turkey, before crossing into Greece on the next day.

This year at Troy, the new museum was finally open.

The entrance to the New Museum near Troy.

The museum was opened in October 2018.  In the museum displays include sculpture, sarcophagus, inscription, altar, milestone, ax and cutting tools, terracotta ceramics, metal pots, golds, guns, coins, bone objects and tools, glass bracelets, ornaments, figurines, glass and terracotta scent bottles, etc.

Some of the precious objects from Troy that were previously on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara have been returned to Troy.

The interior of the Museum at Troy. Bookstore and coffee shop.

Objects from Assos, Alexandria Troas, the Smintheion, etc. are also on display.  Below is a sample of what the displays look like.

The Polyxena Sarcophagus.

This sarcophagus was discovered in 1994.  It is dated to 500-490 B.C.  On one of the long sides the sacrifice of Polyxena, the younger daughter of the Trojan King Priam and Queen Hecuba is depicted.

The sacrifice of Polyxena, the younger daughter of the Trojan King Priam and Queen Hecuba. Click on image to enlarge and/or download.

Note the detail on how the human is being carried and the positioning of the knife as it is inserted into the throat.  This is not the “mere” execution of a prisoner, but a purposeful sacrifice of a beloved child in order to propitiate a deity!

Compare, on the Greek side of the Trojan war the fresco from Pompeii.


Compare from the Bible:

1Kings 16:34  In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

2Kings 3:27 Then he [King of Moab] took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.

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A New Discovery at Perga — Turkey

Perga is mentioned twice in the New Testament in connection with Paul’s First Missionary Journey.  I like to visit the site for many additional reasons for it is a place where one can get a real feel for what a large Greco-Roman city was like—without all of the crowds, think of the crowds typically visiting Ephesus.

One of the famous people of Perga was Plancia Magna, who lived after the days of Paul and who was a great benefactress of the city.  The guide books said that her tomb was located just south of the south city wall.  During my visits to the city, I had never really spotted anything that looked like her tomb.

When we visited the site in May of 2019, new excavations were underway in that area and the foundation of the Tomb of Plancia Magna was on full display!

View looking northeast at the front of the Tomb of Plancia Magna.

Note the finely chiseled four-tiered base (crepidoma) that the “tomb” stands on.   On top of this, between the two projecting walls (antae) are three additional stairs that lead up to where the tomb itself stood.  The “tomb” almost looks like a small temple.  It stands to the south of the southern gate complex of Perga.

Plancia Magna was the daughter of the proconsul of Bithynia. She dedicated her life and her wealth to the beautification of the city [of Perge], undertaking large remodeling projects during Hadrian’s reign [A.D. 117-138]. She was “elevated to the rank of tutelary divinity of the city.”

View looking southwest at the front of the Tomb of Plancia Magna.

Note the four-tiered base (crepidoma) that the “tomb” stands on.   On top of this, the well-chiseled base of the tomb stands upon.  The “tomb” almost looks like a small temple.  It stands to the south of the southern gate complex of Perga.

I am not certain why there is still “dirt” on one of the crepidoma.  The rough stones on the top of the platform were probably covered with marble—that has been since stripped off.

View of a statue of Plancia Magna in marble that was found at Perge. It is 6.6 ft. tall.

`Plancia Magna was the daughter of the proconsul of Bithynia. She dedicated her life and her wealth to the beautification of the city [of Perge], undertaking large remodeling projects during Hadrian’s reign [A.D. 117-138]. She was “elevated to the rank of tutelary divinity of the city.”

Note that she is wearing TWO garments.  Below her knees and partially covering her feet, the vertical folds of her inner chiton are visible.  The chiton was the most common Greek/Roman garments.  The outer garment, that is wrapped around her head, shoulders, and arms, and that hangs down to her knees, is a himation. On the top of her head are the remains of a priestly diadem – indicating that she functioned as a priestess of the imperial cult!


Perga is located 8 mi. [13 km.] north of the Mediterranean coast of Turkey — about 10.6 mi. [17 km.] northeast of Antalya. It is situated on the large fertile plain of Pamphylia just west of the Cestrus river (modern Aksu river). In New Testament times ships were able to sail up the Cestrus to a point near Perge.

On Paul’s first missionary journey, Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark sailed 175 mi. [280 km.] from Paphos on Cyprus to Perge. Here John Mark left the “team” while Paul and Barnabas walked 155 miles [246 km.] inland through the Taurus mountains to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13–14). After having completed their work in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, Paul and Barnabas returned to Perge, where they preached (14:25), before departing from nearby Attalia (Antalya) for Antioch on the Orontes.

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.

Thyatira, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation — An Upgrade!

When Christian travelers visit Turkey they often like to visit the “seven churches” mentioned in Revelation 1–3.  But because of logistical (travel) difficulties, oftentimes Thyatira is omitted.

The archaeological part of Thyatira from above.

To be frank, up until recently, there has not been too much to see in Thyatira.  The major remains are in downtown Akhisar and were not very impressive.

Columns and stone fragments scattered about in the archaeological park of Thyatira.

The remains have consisted of a few columns and remnants of arches scattered in the fenced-off area in Akhisar.

In May of 2019, we were pleasantly surprised upon arriving (BTW we always visit ALL seven churches) at Thyatira that a major upgrade was underway.  It was a “fun” moment for we were able to witness the reconstruction of parts of the monumental arches of the ancient city—something I had not seen before.

The reconstruction of the arches at the archaeological site of Thyatira in modern Akhisar.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The metal framework supporting the arch is called “centering.” This type of framework was also used in ancient times—only constructed of wood—to build arches. In ancient times, arches were not of course constructed at ground level but on tops of columns. Thus the centering was much more elaborate and wooden scaffolding was used for the workmen to stand on. In ancient times they also used cranes (see below) that were powered by people, with ropes and pulleys!

Lowering the “keystone” into place at the reconstruction of the arches at the archaeological site of Thyatira in modern Akhisar.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download

The lowering of a modern block into place to complete the reconstruction of the arches at the site of Thyatira.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download

Note how much ancient material has been used—supplemented by some modern stonework. This reconstruction technique, using mainly ancient remains, is called anastylosis.  BTW, the man in the green hat, with his arms raised, is in charge of the reconstruction project.  He is actually that one who is also in charge of all the reconstruction of the site of Laodicea!

Thyatira is mentioned in Revelation 1:11 and 2:18–19.    It was of course, the home of Lydia—the seller of purple dye that was converted at Philippi (Acts 16:14).  For additional pictures of Thyatira click here.

 


A 1:10 scale model of the type of crane used in Greco–Roman building projects. On display at the Parthenon exhibit in Nashville, TN (USA).  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download

The original crane was 90 feet high with a base 25 ft. side and 35 ft. long.  It was placed on rails and rollers which made it moveable.  It was mainly made up of cypress, oak, ash, and beech.  The only metal parts were the side pieces of the pulleys.  It would have taken 12-14 men to operate the crane to move a block into place.  Ten men were needed just to crank the take-up reel.  To prevent the crane from tipping over while a block was being lifted, two rejected column drums were stacked on the rear of the base. (adapted from the display description)

Lifting Heavy Stones!

Over the years I have seen various diagrams illustrating how the ancient Greeks and Romans—not to mention Herod the Great—lifted heavy stones into place as they constructed the walls of temples and erected columns.  But the first time that I heard about a Lewis Bolt was watching a fascinating DVD put out by The Great Courses entitled Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From the Catapult to the Pantheon.

In traveling to Greece and Turkey the use of iron and lead to secure columns and other architectural elements was very evident.

The Three Part "Lewis Bolt" — Note shape of the cavity that is carved into the stone that is to be lifted — The three parts of the bolt are inserted into the cavity and as lifting takes place the bolt becomes more firmly embedded!

The Three Part “Lewis Bolt” — Note that the shape of the cavity that is carved into the stone that is to be lifted is wider at the bottom than at the top — The three parts of the bolt are inserted into the cavity and as lifting takes place the bolt becomes more firmly embedded!

In the diagram above a rope or chain was attached to the loop to lift the stone.

I found that the use of Lewis Bolts was actually very common.  So on a recent trip to Turkey and Greece I began to look more carefully at the carvings into column and architectural pieces that might exhibit where Lewis Bolts may have been used.

The two square indentations were for iron pegs that secured this piece to its mate — note the grooves that lead to the square holes, for lead to cover the iron to avoid rust — The RECTANGULAR opening is for the Lewis Bolt that was used to lift this large piece (see diagram above)

The two square indentations were for iron pegs that secured this piece to its mate — note the grooves that lead to the square holes, for lead to cover the iron to avoid rust — The RECTANGULAR opening is for the Lewis Bolt that was used to lift this large piece (see diagram above)

At Alexandria Troas we were able to examine close up a number of archectural pieces, some of which exhibited the use of a Lewis Bolt to lift them (see above).  The Lewis Bolt indentations are difficult to photograph, but trust me, if you know what to look for you will find them—just stick your finger into the holes and find out how they are shaped!

The diagram above is from “Lewis (lifting appliance)” — Wikipedia

Anastylosis — Or, why is part of this photo colored blue?

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Coffers, Roof & Capitals of the Nymphaeum in the
Upper Agora at Sagalassos
ALL BUT the blue pieces (I have shaded them blue) are original pieces that were found at the foot of the Nymphaeum and were used in the reconstruction (anastylosis)

The Turkish site of Sagalassos is situated on a remote mountain slope and because of this, building stones from the site have not been carted off by locals nor were very much reused in antiquity.

Thus, when Professor Marc Waelkens and his team were excavating the Nymphaeum in the Upper Agora at Sagalassos they found over 3,500 pieces of the structure and by carefully matching them together they were able to form 400 blocks and columns.

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The Upper Agora Nymphaeum after excavation as the process of reconstruction begins. Over 3,500 pieces of the superstructure were found at its base and were carefully reassembled into 400 blocks and columns.

By using these reconstructed blocks and columns, and supplementing these originals with carefully crafted modern pieces, Waelkens and his team have been able to recreate the stunning Nymphaeum, the Heroon, and other structures at Sagalassos.

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The Nymphaeum (from the same angle as the above photo)
AFTER reconstruction (anastylosis)
Click on Image to Enlarge

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Sag-Before-Anastylosis

To view the reconstructed Nymphaeum, with water in it(!!), Click Here.

The famous “Library” at Ephesus was similarly reconstructed.

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The “Library” at Ephesus after reconstruction (anastylosis)
Click on Image to Enlarge

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!