One of my favorite places to visit is Assos, in northwestern Turkey on the Aegean Sea (Acts 20:13-14). Often times our groups have stayed at a hotel that is part of the fishing harbor there. When we visit the acropolis, with the magnificent remains of a Temple to Athena, I take time to read a “decree” that the citizens of Assos made, and sent to Emperor Caligula—pledging their loyalty to him!
By this point in our trips, we have often discussed the importance and pervasiveness of the Imperial Cult and the conflict between the grand Kingdom of the Roman Emperors and Paul’s preaching of the “Kingdom of God” (Acts 8:1-2; 14:22; 19:9; 28:23, 28).
I had tried, in vain, to track down the location of this tablet. For some reason, I thought it was in a museum in Boston! Well, when walking through the remodeled Archaeology Section of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, I walked around the wall of a display, and there, right in the center of the opening into the next room, was this large (I am guessing that it measures 1.5 x 2. 5 feet), glistening, bronze “tablet” in front of me. What was it? Looking at the very brief description I realized that this was the “Assos Tablet” that I had been quoting all of these years! Yes, I was very excited!
This bronze tablet was found in 1881 at Assos in which inhabitants of Assos swore to emperor Gaius [Caligula] when he gained power.
In the following translation from Elwell and Yarbough, note the bold faced words and compare how similar they sound to the gospel message that Paul was preaching.
Under the consulship of Gnaeus Acerronious Proclus and Gaius Pontius Petronis Nigrinus [A.D. 37].
Decrees of the Assians by the Vote of the People
Since the announcement of the coronation of Gaius Caesar Germanicus Augustus (Caligula), which all mankind had longed and prayed for, the world has found no measure for its joy, but every city and people has eagerly hastened to view the god, as if the happiest age of mankind [the Golden Age] had now arrived:
It seemed good to the Council, and to the Roman businessmen here among us, and to the people of Assos, to appoint a delegation made up of the noblest and most eminent of the Romans and also of the Greeks, to visit him and offer their best wishes and to implore him to remember the city and take care of it, even as he promised our city upon his first visit to the province in the company of his father Germanicus.
We swear by Zeus the Savior and the god Caesar Augustus [Octavian] and the holy Virgin of our city [Athena Polias] that we are loyally disposed to Gaius Caesar Augustus and his whole house, and look upon as our friends whomever he favors, and as our enemies whomever he denounces. If we observe this oath, may all go well with us; if not, may the opposite befall.
Translation and commentary from Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough eds. Readings From the First–Century World: Primary Sources for New Testament Study. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998 pp. 136-37.