Category Archives: Places in Turkey

Cornerstone

One of our favorite places to visit in Turkey is the Temple of Apollo at Didyma.

Didyma is an ancient religious site located near Yenihisar in western Turkey. It is situated about 39 mi. [62 km.] south of Ephesus (as the crow flies).

It was the site of a world famous oracle of Apollo (compare Delphi! in Greece). The oldest temple at Didyma was completed about 560 B.C. but destroyed in 494 B.C. by Darius I, the Persian. About 300 B.C. Seleucus I Nicator began building the well-preserved Hellenistic Temple that still stands today. For the next 500(!) years it was under construction. It went out of use during the fourth century A.D. as Christianity grew stronger in this region.

People from all over the world would come to Didyma to consult the prophetess here. In addition, every fourth year a festival — including music, oratory, drama, and athletic events — was held here. Technically, Didyma was not a city, but a religious site.

View looking south along the northwest portion of the platform (crepidoma) upon which the Temple of Apollo stood. The visible “cornerstone” is in the lower right portion of the image.

Note, that if the cornerstone is “off,” so the foundation will be “off.”  But when the cornerstone is properly aligned then the foundation can be as well.  See the folowing.

In the book of Ephesians Paul compares the Church to the building of a Temple:

Eph. 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Of course, it is probable that those living in Ephesus would have thought about the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, that was located there.

View looking north at the area where the Temple of Artemis was located.

Not much remains of this once great temple. The water in the foreground, and the two (rebuilt) columns mark the spot where this temple once stood.

In the distance the walls on the horizon mark the site of the Ayasuluk Citadel and the large building below it is the Isa Bey Mosque. Below and to the right of the large tree on the horizon, barely visible, are the remains of the St. John Basilica.

In its day, the Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. At its height it had 127 columns

A coin of the city of Ephesus, showing the Temple of Artemis, from the reign of the Roman Emperor Maximus (A.D. 235–38).  On display in the British Museum.

Note the gabled pediment, the staircase leading up to the temple, the eight columns supporting the roof, and the statue of Artemis! Below the staircase is the name Ephesus spelled out in Greek.

View of a model at Miniatürk (Istanbul) of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The Ephesians began to construct this version of the temple in 356 BC after a man named Herostratus had burned down the former temple. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world until the Goths sacked it in A.D. 263.

Advertisements

Household gods and Christian Converts

One of the places that we like to visit on our In the Footsteps of Paul: Turkey and Greece trips are the “Terrace Houses” at Ephesus.  In studying these well–preserved houses (domus) it is possible to get an idea of how the “elite” lived in the late Roman Period.

Ephesus: This aedicula/Lararium is the small structure in the center of the image embedded in the wall with two columns in front of it. Evidently here, the household gods were worshiped.

One of the features of these types of houses are small shrines (aedicule) called Lares domestici (see Hurtado pp. 46, 56 below).   It is well–known that the Romans worshiped many “high” deities such as Jupiter/Zeus, Baccus/Dionysus, etc. . . .  but not as much attention is given to the worship of the “lesser” deities such as lares.

. . . Lares functioned as guardians over various settings.  The most common were domestic Lares of each household (Latin: Lares domestici), which represented spirits of family dead who had been elevated to a special kind of spiritual existence on account of their goodness and/or importance.  These spirits protected the family, and all members of the household were expected to reverence them daily in offerings and prayers at the Lararium, a small altar typically placed in the Roman house. . . . In comparison to the more well–known gods, the Lares . . . figured much more frequently in the day–to–day ritual life of people.

. . . . members of Roman households, the family and their slaves too, gathered daily to reverence the household Lares.  (Hurtado pp. 46–47).

Question: is this common practice of worshiping the Lares reflected in the New Testament?

One of the well–preserved Lararium at Pompeii—including the “household deities” that were worshiped here.

Because of the sudden destruction of Pompeii in August A.D. 79 when the volcano Vesuvius erupted a good number of Lararium have been preserved there.

Detail of the above Lararium at Pompeii.

From the New Testament, we realize that believers in Jesus included people from all social classes, ethnic backgrounds, occupations, males and females, etc.

The most significant feature of the Roman household (familia) was that its power was concentrated in the hands of the male head, the paterfamilias.  The members of the household were those persons over whom the paterfamilias had power.  . . .The Roman household normally was composed of husband, wife, unmarried children, slaves, freedmen, and clients . . . . (Jeffers p. 238)

Given that the worship at the Lararium occurred daily, and that all in the household were expected to participate, how would individual converts to Christianity deal with this?

If the paterfamilias—to whom all in the household owed their allegience—converted to Christianity, would he abandon the worship of the Lares?  If so, how would his non-Christian wife, sons, daughters, spouses, even slaves have reacted to this abandonment of such a well-entrenched custom?  Would he even be shunned by his “non–Christian clients” who had owed their allegiance to him?  Would the paterfamilias “force” (because of his status) his household to follow his new found faith?

What if the wife of the paterfamilias converted, but her husband did not?  Would she disrespect her husband and his ancestors by refusing to participate in this daily ritual?  What would be the consequences of such an action?  What about individual children who converted but now would not participate in this worship?

And what about the servants or slaves that were part of the household who worshiped only Jesus?  I would guess that they would be severely punished because of showing disrespect to the paterfamilias.

Another Lararium from Pompeii.  Notice the snake and altar below the shrine.

“The snake, associated with the land’s fertility and thus prosperity, approaches a low laden altar.” (Wikipedia “Lares”)

I am surprised that this “problem” does not seem to be addressed in the pages of the New Testament.


Hurtado, Larry W.  Destroyer of the gods — Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World.   Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2016.

Jeffers, James S.  The Greco–Roman World of the New Testament — Exploring the Background of Early Christianity.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Back Seat of the Plane — Aerial Views of Istanbul

On airline flights I can typically put up with any seat assignment for 1 to 4 hours.  However, when I found out that on our one hour flight from Istanbul to Denizli (Turkey) that my wife and I were assigned seats in the second row from the back of the plane (window/center), near the lavatory, I was less than happy.

But, as we settled in, I noticed that the sky was clear, the window was relatively clean, and that there was no wing to block my view of the ground!  “Heh Mary, hand me my camera!”  Now all I needed was for the pilot to take the “right” flight path out of Istanbul on our way to Denizli.  Well, he/she did!  And we flew just west, then north, and then east of the Bosporus—and I was on the “right” side of the plane to see/photograph everything!  My dreams had come true!!  Here are a few images that I took on that flight.

View looking south southeast over Istanbul.

In the upper right of the image is the Sea of Marmara. The landmass in the lower portion of the image is European Istanbul. The land mass in the upper left is Asian Istanbul. The Bosphorous/Bosporus Strait separates these two continents.

The meandering “river” in the lower center of the image is the “Golden Horn” (river) that “flows” into the Bosporus. There are four bridges over the Bosporus—faintly visible.

View looking south over part of Istanbul where the Golden Horn enters the Bosporus.

In the upper portion of the image is the Sea of Marmara. The water on the left (east) side of the image is the Bosporus Strait. The “Golden Horn” (river) “flows” from right to left in the center of the image—entering the Bosporus. Note the three bridges that span the Golden Horn.

The landmass in the image is European Istanbul.

To view additonal images Click Here.

Only in Turkey: Food + Antiquities = Bliss!

Well, two of my favorite things to do are to eat and to visit antiquity sites.  We recently were on a “Tutku–Mark Wilson” tour visiting the Turkish city of Bodrum.  This is ancient Halicarnassus where the Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was located.

The local Super Market that we stopped at.

Snacks and Ice Cream are on the way.  I can hardly wait!

Wait a minute!!  What is this in the back of the store???

Yup, a tomb from the 3rd century B.C.

This tomb had 6 burial chambers and although it was robbed in antiquity, some human bones, amphora, and other pots were found when it was excavated!

Really now, does it get any better than this?  Food + Antiquities = Bliss!

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!

itoscb07

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.

itoscb05

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!

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).

TWNAAT20

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.

ATQuay01

Continue reading

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.

TXCSGUA03

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.