Category Archives: Places in Turkey

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!

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Paul: From Asia Minor to Europe — From the Port of Alexandria Troas

One of my favorites follows:

Acts 16:11  ¶  From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.

It was at Alexandria Troas (see map below), on Paul’s second missionary journey, that in a vision he received a call to proceed to Macedonia (Acts 16:8–11). Because of the use of “us” it seems that Luke joined Paul and Silas on this portion of the journey.

Troas is a site that is not often visited by visitors to Turkey—yet it is huge — about 1,000(!) acres [405 ha.] in size. It is situated 31.2 mi. [50 km.] northwest of Assos — via the ancient road system. It is 15.5 mi. [25 km.] south of Troy and is largely unexcavated.

There are three parts to the harbor of Troas—from which Paul set sail—the breakwater/quay?, Outer Harbor, and Inner Harbor (see below for pictures of all).

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Breakwater/Quay of Troas — It is very probable that Paul and his companions set sail for Samothrace/Neapolis (Europe) from this point (Acts 16:11) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Protruding into the Aegean Sea are the remains of a Breakwater or Quay that protected the entrance of the harbor.

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Sagalassos — Upper Agora

Of the many archaeological remains at the Turkish site of Sagalassos a good number of them are located around the Upper Agora.  An agora is a Greek term for the large open space in a typical Greek polis.

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The Upper Agora at Sagalassos
See the image below to locate structures
Click on Image to Enlarge

During the Roman period the Latin term forum is often used to refer to this space.  In both the Greek and the Roman worlds people would meet here, goods and services were offered for sale, and on their perimeters temples to a variety of deities (and often emperors), law courts (Acts 16:19), council houses (Bouleuterion), monumental water fountains (nymphaeum) and honorific monuments (touting leading citizens of a polis) were common.

SagUpperAgora03The Upper Agora at Sagalassos is no exception.  It, and surrounding structures, have been excavated and partially reconstructed—thus allowing visitors to the site to easily enter into the life of the ancient city.

It was in agoras and forums around the Roman World that philosophers would teach their students and it would have been there that the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:17), Barnabas, Silas, Phoebe, etc. would have had the opportunity to share their faith.  The term agora is used 11 times in the New Testament (9 of the uses in the Gospels).

Our Turkish friends in front of the reconstructed Nymphaeum at Sagalassos.

Click on the city names to view agoras at: Perge, Athens, Thessaloniki, Smyrna, Corinth, and Philippi.

Sagalassos — Fountain House

People often will ask me “what is your favorite site in Turkey (or Israel, or Greece, or . . . .)?”  I have so many favorites that it is a difficult question to answer, but in Turkey, Sagalassos is one of my top  picks.

Sagalassos is a magnificent ancient city located about 80 mi. [130 km.] north of Antalya.  It was one of the largest cities of the region/district of Pisidia.  Although located in a very remote territory it was conquered by Alexander the Great and it was near one of the ancient roads that ran from Attalia (mod. Antalya)/Perge to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25).

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The well–preserved Hellenistic “Fountain House” on the north slope of Sagalassos.
Fountain Houses usually were built at the site of a spring
but were not as elaborate as Nymphaea
This Doric structure is partly reconstructed and actually is functional today!
Click on image to Enlarge

Among the many well–preserved remains is a partly reconstructed “Fountain House” from which the inhabitants of Sagalassos could draw water.

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Mountains in the region of Sagalassos
Click on image to Enlarge

Fountain Houses were common in ancient Greco- Roman Cities.  For example compare the ones at ancient Corinth: the “Upper Peirene Spring” on the Acrocorinth; the Peirene Fountain and the Glauke Fountain in lower Corinth; and the Lerna Spring at the Asclepion at Corinth.

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Sagalassos has been under excavation since 1990 by a Belgian team led by Mark Waelkens of the Catholic University of Leuven.  Because of its remoteness it is very well-preserved and Waelkens’ team has made some outstanding discoveries and has been very diligent in the preservation and restoration of the site.

Ephesus — The Commercial Agora

Ephesus was the major city of Asia Minor during the New Testament era. It was a major port – now silted up – located at the end of the Spice and Silk Road that ran west from Arabia and Asia to Ephesus on the Aegean Sea.

Paul visited the city on his second and third missionary journeys – staying there for about 3 years on his third journey. Ephesus is also one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation (1:11; 2:1–7). It is mentioned 18 times in the New Testament.

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View of the large square Commercial Agora. It was here that shops lined the four sides of the 360×360 ft. space. It is very possible that here Demetrius and other silver smiths sold their wares to pilgrims who were to visit the Temple of Artemis—one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is even possible that Paul, and Pricilla and Aquilla, had a leather working shop in the area. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or download. BTW the “white” structure in the distance on the far left is the famous “Library of Celsus” (not in existence in Paul’s day).

During his three year stay Paul was evidently so successful in preaching the Gospel that the sale of silver statues of the goddess Artemis fell off significantly.  This led Demetrius and other silversmiths to instigate a riot protesting the ministry of Paul and his companions.  This lead to a gathering of the ecclesia in the great theater where a riot was in the making (Acts 19:23–28).

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View looking north down at the Commercial Agora (lower left). The large theater where the riot took place is in the upper right of the image and the “marble street” leads from the bottom of the photo to it. the Library of Clesus is the columned structure in the lower left of the image. Click on Image to Enlarge.

View looking south from the top northern edge of the theater. Right and above center, the open area with trees is the commercial agora. Probably Paul worked here, as did the artisans who made the silver images of Artemis. So it is no wonder that when the riot of the silversmiths, led by Demetrius, began (in the Commercial Agora?) that the crowd moved into the near by theater.

View looking south from the top northern edge of the theater. Right and above center, the open area with trees is the commercial agora. Probably Paul worked here, as did the artisans who made the silver images of Artemis. So it is no wonder that when the riot of the silversmiths, led by Demetrius, began (in the Commercial Agora?) that the crowd moved into the near by theater.

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 For terms of image usage (Personal, Commercial, Web, etc.) please Check Here.

For additional high resolution images of Ephesus Click on the Following:  General Images, Artifacts, Terrace Houses, Cave of Paul and Thecla, and Ships.

The Gates of Hell — The Plutonium at Hierapolis

In a previous post I shared some images of the recently discovered “Plutonium” at Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) in Turkey.

Artistic reconstruction of the Plutonium from “seeker.com.”

In a recent issue of Science, there is an interesting article based upon the investigation of Dr. Hardy Pfanza of the University of Duisburg-Essen in German—”This Roman ‘gate to hell’ killed its victims with a cloud of deadly carbon dioxide.”

Is it possible to walk through the gates of hell and live? The Romans thought so, and they staged elaborate sacrifices at what they believed were entrances to the underworld scattered across the ancient Mediterranean. The sacrifices—healthy bulls led down to the gates of hell—died quickly without human intervention, but the castrated priests who accompanied them returned unharmed. Now, a new study of one ancient site suggests that these “miracles” may have a simple geological explanation.

You are invited to check out the article (4-minute read) for the interesting details.  There is a very small image of the reconstruction of the image in the article.

Spoiler alert: it has to do with the time of day, and the density of Carbon Dioxide—and it helps to be over 18 inches tall!


View looking southeast at the recent excavations of the “New” Plutonium — January 2017.

Comments on above image: Note the doorway on the lower left, and the reflections on the water partially visible in the center of the image. There are apparently five long stairs to the left of the water. Evidently, people could watch rites associated with the Plutonium from these stairs.  According to ancient authors, poisonous vapors were emitted from the opening.

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 (see previous post) and the associated “Well of St. Paul“).  However, there is a very 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 to 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 to the kids get in?”  Well, the answer was, “there is a ladder around the back!”  So, we climbed the latter 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.