Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

Where Was The Largest Altar in the Ancient World?

View looking southeast at the huge altar that was constructed by Hieron II in the third century B.C. at Syracuse, Sicily!  Click on images to Enlarge and/or Download.

This altar is 643 feet long and 75 feet wide!  Most of what is visible in the picture is carved out of “living rock.” There was a superstructure but most of the stones have been carted off and reused in other buildings in Syracuse. It had been covered with plaster. Many think it was dedicated to Zeus Eleutherios (Zeus the Liberator) and that at its dedication 450 bulls were sacrificed!  Hiero II was the ruler of Syracuse from 270 to 215 B.C.

View looking southeast at the huge altar that was constructed by Hieron II in the third century B.C.

Syracuse was a Greek and Roman city on the southern portion of the east coast of Sicily. Paul spent three days here when the ship that carried him from Malta to Puteoli docked here. (Acts 28:12).

Acts 28:11    After three months [on Malta] we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

This probably happened in the spring of A.D. 60.  This altar was 300 years old by the time that the Apostle Paul passed through Syracuse—as a prisoner—on his way to Rome.

Syracuse was founded in 734 B.C. and reached its zenith in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The Athenians laid siege to it (415–413 B.C.) but were seriously defeated and this defeat helped lead to the decline of the Golden Age of Athens. Syracuse, along with the whole of Sicily, was fought over by the Romans and the Carthaginians.

In 212 B.C. Rome conquered the city. It carried off many Greek captives and many pieces of Greek artwork to Rome. This influx led to the Romans turning their cultural “tastes” towards things Greek. Unfortunately, the great mathematician and inventor, Archimedes, was killed by a Roman soldier, in spite of the order that he was to be spared.

Additional images can be viewed Here.

 

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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.

NT Inscriptions — Gallio Proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12)

Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia while Paul was in Corinth (Acts 18:12).

Acts 18:12     While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court.  13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

Acts 18:14     Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you.  15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.”  16 So he had them ejected from the court.  17 Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever. (NIV)

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View of the “Gallio Inscription” found at Delphi. In the fourth line from the top, the Greek form of “Gallio” is clearly visible. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The inscription is written in Greek and is a copy, carved in stone, of a decree of the Roman Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41–54) who commanded L. Iunius Gallio, the governor, to assist in settling additional elite persons in Delphi—in an effort to revitalize it.

The inscription dates between April and July A.D., 52, and from it, it can be deduced that Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia in the previous year.  Thus Paul’s eighteenth month stay in Corinth (Acts 18:1–18) included the year 51.  This inscription is critical in helping to establish the Chronology of Paul as presented in the book of Acts.

To view all nine pieces of the inscription Click Here.

To view the “bema” in Corinth, before which Paul appeared in the presence of Gallio, Click Here.

For a brief description of Delphi Click Here.

Syracuse, Sicily — Acts 28:12

Syracuse was a Greek and Roman city on the southern portion of the east coast of Sicily. Paul spent three days here when the ship that carried him from Malta to Puteoli docked here. (Acts 28:12).

Acts 28:11    After three months [on Malta] we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

This probably happened in the spring of A.D. 60.  All of the structures shown below were over 100 years old by the time that the Apostle Paul passed through Syracuse—as a prisoner—on his way to Rome.

The Theater of Syracuse originally built in the fifth century BC. The blue in the distance is part of the harbor of ancient Syracuse—where Paul’s ship probably landed.

Syracuse was founded in 734 B.C. and reached its zenith in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The Athenians laid siege to it (415–413 B.C.) but were seriously defeated and this defeat helped lead to the decline of the Golden Age of Athens. Syracuse, along with the whole of Sicily, was fought over by the Romans and the Carthaginians.

View of the huge altar that was constructed by Hieron II, ruler of Syracuse, in the third century B.C. It is the largest known altar from antiquity.

In 212 B.C. Rome conquered the city. It carried off many Greek captives and many pieces of Greek artwork to Rome. This influx led to the Romans turning their cultural “tastes” towards things Greek. Unfortunately, the great mathematician and inventor, Archimedes, was killed by a Roman soldier, in spite of the order that he was to be spared.

View of the Amphitheater of Syracuse. It was constructed in the late first century BC—and was about 100 years old when Paul passed through Syracuse.

Archaeological remains of the Roman city include an altar, theater, an amphitheater, etc.

Additional images can be viewed Here.

Would YOU like to follow Paul from Shipwreck on Malta to Martyrdom in Rome?  We are doing just that in June, 2019!  Check out the link above or see Here.

Puteoli Italy — Paul stayed here for a week on his way to Rome

Puteoli is where Paul, as a prisoner,  landed on his way to Rome.  He spent a week here with “brothers” before beginning his land journey to Rome (Acts 28:13–14). The modern name for ancient Puteoli is Pozzuoli and it is located west of Naples. It was a very important harbor in Roman Times.

The small boat harbor at Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli). Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

Most of the ancient travelers to Rome would land at Puteoli and then follow the Via Appia into the city—as Paul did. The large Roman grain ships, bringing grain from Alexandria Egypt, also docked here.  Because in Paul’s day (ca. A.D. 60) Ostia, the main port of Rome, could not yet handle the very large Alexandrian grain ships, these ships often would dock at Puteoli and offload their grain on to smaller vessels that in turn would carry the grain to Ostia.  Later, the port of Ostia was enlarged and could accommodate the large Alexandrian grain ships.

View looking north at the Market Place of ancient Puteoli (= macellum).

Shops outline the square market.  In the center of the market is a round structure called a tholos.  At the far end is a temple for the Imperial Cult (aka Emperor worship).  A statue of the Egyptian deity Serapis was found here and thus this area is sometimes called the Temple of Serapis.  The market dates to the first and second centuries A.D. and was restored in the third century.

Because Pozzuoli sits on top of the caldera of a volcano, the market has risen and sunk through the ages.  At times 19.5 feet of the columns were under water—due to sinking!  Between 1982 and 1994 the land rose 5.6 feet!  In 2017, when the above picture was taken, very little of the Macellum was under water.

View of the Bay of Puteoli looking east northeast—with the Island of Nisida in the distance.

Puteoli was a Roman Colony and many elite Romans had villas here—and at nearby Baia. The Roman naval base was at nearby Misenum. The city was/is located directly over the caldera of a volcano and thus there were/are many thermal baths here as well.

View of the underground excavations of Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli).

Note the detail of the Roman brickwork. The structures date to the Roman Period.

Map of Puteoli and nearby Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.

To view additional images of Puteoli Click Here.

Beating the Air — 1 Corinthians 9:26

The Greeks were especially fond of “competition” and engaged in a contest known as pancratium (a combination of boxing and wrestling that allowed such tactics as kicking and strangling).

The Apostle Paul uses athletic imagery in 4 different places in his writings.  And in 1 Corinthians 9 he wrote:

1 Cor. 9:26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

View of the “Terme Boxer” (Pugile delle Terme). This contestant participated in pancratium (a combination of boxing and wrestling that allowed such tactics as kicking and strangling). Click on images to Enlarge and/or Download.

This bronze statue of a boxer, a pugilist, is signed by Apollonius. He is seated, weary, and battered. The realism of this statute is characteristic of the Hellenistic period. It was found in Rome. It is a first century A.D. copy of a third or second century B.C. original.

This statue was cast in several pieces: the head and left leg were welded to the bust, as are the arms at the armpits, while the right leg was cast in one piece together with the torso.  The forearms also originate from separate castings, as do the genitals and middle toes.  The metal is 80% copper, 10 % tin, and 10% lead.

The leather gloves that the boxers wore—sometimes with metal bands, as in this case—are clearly visible.

He is wearing elaborate leather gloves to protect his hands and forearms.  They consist of thick leather straps that bind four fingers, leaving the thumb free. Some believe it to be a representation of Amycus, king of the Bebryes, who had been in a fight with the divine Pollus, a super boxer!

Blows received during a match wounded his face, ears, and nose but there are no wounds on his body since the face was the main target. The reddish color of the lips, nipples, wounds and details of the gloves result from the intentional use of a specific copper alloy.  Inside the head, under the eye sockets, two hooks are still in place (not visible) to fasten the now lost eye balls, that were of either ivory, stone or glass paste.

The artist was inspired by the style of the Greek sculptor Lysippus, and many consider this piece to be an original Greek bronze of the first century B.C.

This piece was discovered in the March of 1885.  It had been purposefully buried upright and covered with sifted dirt in antiquity.  It is not known where it was originally placed although some believe that it may have decorated the Baths of Constantine (ca. A.D. 315).

Paul’s Trip from Chios to Miletus — A Second Thought

In a previous blog post (reproduced below) I cited Mark Wilson’s article that argued that the ship that Paul was on traveling from Chios to Miletus sailed on the east side of Samos—contrary to my mapping, in my Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, where I placed the route to the west of Samos (as do many other atlases).

Acts 20:15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus.

I find it interesting that

“Archaeologists in Greece have discovered at least 58 shipwrecks, many laden with antiquities, in what they say may be the largest concentration of ancient wrecks ever found in the Aegean and possibly the whole of the Mediterranean”
(as per the article “Ancient shipwrecks found in Greek waters tell tale of trade routes“)

These 58 wrecks were found in the Greek Fournoi archipelago that is located to the southwest of Samos.

It seems to me that in light of the above that

  1. This route was fraught with danger—as Wilson argued in his article.
  2. This north–south route west of Samos was frequently used by ancient mariners—dispite the potential danger invoved.

Thus, in light of #2, it seems very possible that the ship that Paul was on, that was sailing from Chios to Miletus, may very well have used this more direct route to the west of Samos (as I mapped in my Atlas)—rather than the longer interior route suggested by Wilson.


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The Strait of Mycale Looking Southwest
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download
Also, See Map Below

View looking west southwest at the Strait of Mycale.  On the left (east) side of the image is Mount Mycale which is in Turkey.  On the right (west) is the Greek Island of Samos.  The open water between them is the “Strait of Mycale”—only 1 mi. [1.6 km] wide!

The Apostle Paul probably passed this way as he sailed from Chios to Samos to Miletus—towards the end of his Third Journey.

Acts 20: 15 says: “And sailing from there [Mitylene], we [Paul and traveling companions on board a ship] arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus.” (NASB)

SamosStrait

Map of the Strait of Mycale
Click on Image to Enlarge and Better Clarity

The route that Paul’s vessel took from Chios to Miletus is carefully examined by Dr. Mark Wilson at the beginning of his important article “The Ephesian elders come to Miletus: An Annaliste reading of Acts 20:15-18a.” He argues that the vessel that Paul was on sailed through the narrow straight between Samos and Turkey—the “Mycale Strait”— and possibly landed at the chief city of Samos—Pythagoras or at Troglilum closer to the (present) Turkish mainland.

For additional images of the Strait of Mycale and Samos Click Here.

The  map above is from: Eric Gaba, Wikimedia Commons user Sting [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Here are the “bibliographic details” of Wilson’s article, BUT to Download Your Copy Click Here:  WILSON, M.. The Ephesian elders come to Miletus: An Annaliste reading of Acts 20:15–18a. Verbum et Ecclesia, North America, 34, sep. 2013. Available at: <http://www.ve.org.za/index.php/VE/article/view/744/1751>. Date accessed: 18 Oct. 2013.