What Happened in a Hippodrome/Circus — Part 1

On a recent trip to France, we visited the archaeological museum in Lyon, France (ancient Lugdunum).  Among the many wonderful archaeological objects on display in that modern, wonderful, museum was a mosaic from the second century A.D.

The Large Chariot Race mosaic from the second century A.D.  The central porton of the mosaic depicts nine chariots, each being pulled by four horses, running a race in a counterclockwise direction around the “spina.” Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The second-century Roman Mosaic was discovered in Lugdunum (modern Lyon) in 1806. On it, the details of a chariot race in the circus, or hippodrome, of Lugdunum is depicted. It is 16 feet long and 9 feet wide.

The mosaic is surrounded by a floral design, inside of which is a guilloche pattern, and inside of that the arena of the circus where 9 chariots are racing. No seating of the circus is represented and indeed the circus of Lugdunum originally had wooden seats that were destroyed by fire.

On the left side of the image the starting stalls are represented. The central porton of the mosaic depicts nine chariots, each being pulled by four horses, running a race in a counterclockwise direction around the “spina.” The spina is composed of two rectangular pools in which there was water.  In the lower left and upper right of the mosaic two chariot crashes are represented!

View of the eight (maybe nine?) starting stalls that are on the left side of the mosaic.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Above the center “stall” are thee sponsors of the games. The chief sponsor, in the middle, can be seen dropping a cloth to start the race.  To the left of the three officials—from our perspective—is a man dressed in blue manipulating a lever that will open (at the same time) the gates to the eight stalls from which the chariots, pulled by their four horses, emerged.

Below the three sponsors is a man, standing erect and again in blue, who seems to be supervising the contest.  Above the three sponsors is a large vase from which the plants that surround the mosaic spring forth.

More on the mosaic in the next post.

Hippodromes/Circuses Part 1

In the Late Roman Period through the Early Byzantine (Christian) Era chariot racing was one of the most popular events of the public.  “Hippodrome” comes from two Greek words: hippos (meaning horse) and dromos (meaning “course”).  In Greek times they were used for horse races and chariot races.

The Latin equivalent to a Hippodrome was a “Circus,” meaning “circle,” that took over the functions of the Hippodromes and was also used for other events.  The most famous, and largest, of the Circuses, is the Circus Maximus in Rome.

One end of the Circus Maximus in Rome.

The Circus Maximus was over 2,000 feet long and could accommodate over 150,000 people!  It was used for Chariot Racing, Religious Festivals, and Political and Military Processionals.

In Rome the Flavian Amphitheater, aka. the Colosseum, was used for Gladiatorial contest and other public spectacles: mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, etc.

The Flavian Amphitheater in Rome could seat 65,000+ spectators.

For those readers of this blog, many of you have visited Caesarea Maritima.  The west, or seaside, Hippodrome/Circus, evidently dates to the days of Herod the Great (r. 37 t0 4 B.C.).

View looking north from the Promontory Palace where the governor of Caesarea Maritima resided.

This Hippodrome/Circus was 950 [290 m.] feet long and 165 feet [50 m.] wide. The prominent position of this Palace, from which this picture was taken overlooking the circus, was a reminder to those attending the chariot and foot races that Rome (the Emperor as represented through the governor) was the great benefactor of the games and of the political order.

In the second century A.D., a much larger (30,000-capacity) hippodrome was constructed in another section of Caesarea and the southern third of the Circus was converted to an Amphitheater that was used for gladiatorial contests.

View looking south along the length of the 1,476 ft. [450 m.] long hippodrome.

On both the right (west) and left (east) side of the image, the slopes outlining the hippodrome are visible. This is where the seating for 30,000 people was located.

The re-erected obelisk is clearly visible and beyond the hippodrome are three smokestacks from the electrical power plant at Hadera.  The hippodrome is now either used for agricultural purposes—note the stubble of the harvested crop.

In addition, some of you have visited Istanbul/Constantinople and the outline of the large Hippodrome in the Sultanahmet district.

The Hippodrome in Constantinople was 440 yards. 480 m.] long and 107 yrds. [117 m.] wide.  Some believe it could hold 100,000 spectators.

The Hippodrome was first constructed around A.D. 200 by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus as part of his rebuilding of the city of Byzantium.  Constantine the Great and his successors later expanded it. The royal box was close to where the entrance to the Blue Mosque is now situated.

Today a park covers most of the hippodrome and it still reflects its elongated shape.  Here chariot races and other extravaganzas were held: including victory parades and coronations.  Here also the Nike riot of 532 began, and it was here that some 30,000 partisans were slaughtered.

What really happened in an ancient Hippodrome/Circus?  Well, we have the next best thing to an ancient photograph or video.

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.

Video: An Introduction to Biblical Jerusalem

Greetings!

I am pleased to announce that Zondervan has released a 13 lesson video Encountering the Holy Land: A Video Introduction to the History and Geography of the Bible.

We filmed this series on-site in the Holy Land, and Zondervan has richly enhanced the series with video footage from Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy!

You are invited to view our Introduction to Biblical Jerusalem (6 min 34 sec).

It is an on-location visual overview of the lands of the Bible designed for students, Bible study groups, adult learners, travelers to the lands of the Bible, pastors, teachers, and all lovers of the Bible.  I hope that viewers will develop a deeper appreciation for the Bible by understanding the lands and cultures in which it was written.

The first lesson introduces the “playing board” of biblical history, followed by lessons arranged historically that begin with Eden and trace the historical progression of the Old and New Testaments. The video study provides an engaging, accurate, and faithful companion to God’s Word–illuminating the text with footage filmed in the Holy Land and Egypt. This set of lessons provides an in-depth visual overview that will help viewers experience the geography and history of Scripture with unprecedented immediacy and clarity.

Throughout Encountering the Holy Land, I lead viewers through the Holy Lands to illuminate the geographical and historical context of biblical events. I hope it will become your favorite guide to biblical geography and the history of the Bible.

It is available in multiple formats including DVDs and Streaming.

Todd Bolen has published a Review of the Video that can be viewed Here.

Session Titles and Runtimes:

1 – Introduction to the Middle East (18 min)

2 – Pre-Patriarchal Period, Patriarchs, and the Egyptian Sojourn (16 min)

3 – Exodus and Conquest (22 min)

4 – Settlement in the Land of Canaan (22 min)

5 – Transition to the Monarchy: Samuel and Saul (19 min)

6 – The United Monarchy: David and Solomon (20 min)

7 – The Divided Kingdom and Judah Alone (15 min)

8 – Exile and Return (16 min)

9 – The Arrival of the Greeks, Maccabean Revolt and Hasmonean Dynasty, and Early Roman Rule in Palestine (16 min)

10 – The Life of Christ (24 min)

11 – The Expansion of the Church in Palestine and the Journeys of Paul (25 min)

12 – The Seven Churches of Revelation (13 min)

13 – Jerusalem and the Disciplines of Historical Geography (18 min)

 

Encountering the Holy Land — A New 13-Lesson Series

Greetings!

I am pleased to announce that Zondervan has released a 13 lesson video Encountering the Holy Land: A Video Introduction to the History and Geography of the Bible.

We filmed this series on-site in the Holy Land, and Zondervan has richly enhanced the series with video footage from Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy!

You are invited to view Lesson One Introduction to the Middle East that introduces the “playing board” of biblical history (18 min).

It is an on-location visual overview of the lands of the Bible designed for students, Bible study groups, adult learners, travelers to the lands of the Bible, pastors, teachers, and all lovers of the Bible.  I hope that viewers will develop a deeper appreciation for the Bible by understanding the lands and cultures in which it was written.

The first lesson introduces the “playing board” of biblical history, followed by lessons arranged historically that begin with Eden and trace the historical progression of the Old and New Testaments. The video study provides an engaging, accurate, and faithful companion to God’s Word–illuminating the text with footage filmed in the Holy Land and Egypt. This set of lessons provides an in-depth visual overview that will help viewers experience the geography and history of Scripture with unprecedented immediacy and clarity.

Throughout Encountering the Holy Land, I lead viewers through the Holy Lands to illuminate the geographical and historical context of biblical events. I hope it will become your favorite guide to biblical geography and the history of the Bible.

It is available in multiple formats including DVDs and Streaming.

Todd Bolen has published a Review of the Video that can be viewed Here.

Session Titles and Runtimes:

1 – Introduction to the Middle East (18 min)

2 – Pre-Patriarchal Period, Patriarchs, and the Egyptian Sojourn (16 min)

3 – Exodus and Conquest (22 min)

4 – Settlement in the Land of Canaan (22 min)

5 – Transition to the Monarchy: Samuel and Saul (19 min)

6 – The United Monarchy: David and Solomon (20 min)

7 – The Divided Kingdom and Judah Alone (15 min)

8 – Exile and Return (16 min)

9 – The Arrival of the Greeks, Maccabean Revolt and Hasmonean Dynasty, and Early Roman Rule in Palestine (16 min)

10 – The Life of Christ (24 min)

11 – The Expansion of the Church in Palestine and the Journeys of Paul (25 min)

12 – The Seven Churches of Revelation (13 min)

13 – Jerusalem and the Disciplines of Historical Geography (18 min)

 

Domus Galilaeae — Near Korazin

Visitors to Israel will often stop at the Second Temple/Talmudic site of Korazin (Chorazin: Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13) where an impressive basalt synagogue has been partially reconstructed.  To the west of Korazin, on the south side of route 8277 is beautiful is a Roman Catholic retreat center known as Domus Galilaeae.  It opened in 2000 and was blessed by Pope John Paul II.  It is generally not open to visitors so I thought I would share a few of my images of the place.

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View from the patio of Domus Galilaeae of Jesus teaching his disciples
In the background is the Sea of Galilee — 3 mi. distant

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The main chapel of Domus Galilaeae

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Library Reading Area
Inside of the beautiful deep blue plexiglass reading area
Note the desk and in the center is a scroll of scripture

To view additional images of the retreat center Click Here.

Where does Grandma Live?

Here in the USA, the non-visit of Rashida Tlaib to visit the “West Bank” is much in the news.

Israel had granted her permission for a “humanitarian” visit.  One of her stops was to have been in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al–Fauqa—where her grandmother lives.

The Tlaib clan is one of three clans in Beit Ur al-Fauqa, home to some 1,000 people—home of her grandmother. The two other clans in the village are Samara and Zahran.

Residents here boasted that the village has one of the highest numbers of educated people. More than 20 village residents hold high positions in PA ministries and other Palestinian institutions in Ramallah, including banks.  (Jerusalem Post)

The bedrock foundations of the ancient Roman Road at Beit Ur al–Fauqa (Upper Beth Horon). Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Beit Ur al-Fauqa may not be on everyone’s “radar” but it has been frequently identified as the Biblical site of Upper Beth Horon.  There is also a Beit Ur al-Tahta—biblical Lower Beth Horon.

The Beth Horons of the Bible are twin towns that are located only 2 mi. apart on a ridge guarding the approach to the Hill Country from the Coastal Plain.  They are mentioned 14 times in OT: Joshua pursued the fleeing Amorites passed these towns (Josh 10:9 – 15); they were near Ephraim-Benjamin border, but were in Ephraim (Josh 21:22; 1 Chron 6:68); one, or both, was a Levitical city (Josh 21:22; 1 Chron 6:68); and Solomon rebuilt them to protect one of the approaches to Jerusalem from the W (1 Kgs 9:17; 2 Chron 8:5). (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, p. 278)

These two cities, ancient and “modern,” are situated on the most important approach from the Coastal Plain of Israel into the Hill Country where Jerusalem and Ramallah are located.  Because of this, they have been fought over and fortified in many periods of history—including the modern period.

Most recently, after the Six Days War in 1967, Israel took control of this ridge and has built Highway 443 along its southern slopes—it runs east-west below and to the south of Beit Ur al-Fauqa.

The Beth Horon ridges as it approaches the Hill Country.  Courtesy of Bill Schlegel Copyright and Contact — Satellite Bible Atlas.

Thus, Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother and extended family is from a very small, but important village that is situated on a very strategic ridge!


For information on Bill Schlege’s Satellite Bible Atlas and 70 free aerial images Click Here.