Travel in Bible Times–Tomb of Merchant Flavius Zeuxis

June 26, 2014

The necropolis of Hierapolis is one of  the largest ancient burial sites in Turkey. Tombs there date from 2nd century BC through 3rd century AD. One of the more interesting is that of T. Flavius Zeuxis and his sons (1st century AD).

Tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, merchant of Hierapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, merchant of Hierapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Dr. Carl Rasmussen observes: “Note the finely carved doorway with doorposts and lintel, the carved base, the slightly protruding stones of the corners (pilasters) of the tomb, the upper molding, and the Doric frieze composed of triglyphs and metopes filled with rosettes!” Click here.

The inscription above the tomb entrance is translated, “Flavius Zeuxis, merchant, who sailed seventy-two trips around Cape Malea to Italy, built this.”

Tomb Inscription above door. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Tomb Inscription above door. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This inscription is helpful on several counts. Cape Malea is the southern tip of Greece’s Peloponnesus peninsula. It is famous for its treacherous weather and seas. William Barclay wrote:

It was a dangerous cape, and to round Cape Malea had in ancient days much the same sound and implications as to round Cape Horn had in later times. The Greeks had two sayings which showed what they thought of the voyage round Malea-“Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,” and, “Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.” (The Letters to the Corinthians, p.1).

Obviously it would have been considered quite an accomplishment to have made 72 trips around the Cape. This would mean a total of 36 round trips this merchant had made from Hierapolis of Asia Minor to Italy and back! Some have suggested that Zeuxis would have made two or three trips per year from Hierapolis to sell his goods in Italy.

This has implications for several biblical texts. For example, when Paul (as a prisoner under house arrest) was writing the NT letter of Colossians from Rome, Epaphras of Colossae was with him (Col. 1:7). Paul went on to referenced the tri-cities of Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea as he spoke of Epaphras’ work among them:

Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. (Col. 2:12-13, NKJV).

The Zeuxis inscription shows it would not be unusual for residents of the Lycus River Valley, such as Epaphras, to make the voyage to Rome and back.

The travel of merchants such as Zeuxis also helps us relate to Paul’s journeys recorded in Acts, many of which were by sea. Further, it is not without significance that Paul mentioned the dangers he faced, including those on the sea:

 I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers (2 Cor. 11:26, NET).

But notwithstanding the potential dangers faced, travel by sea in the 1st century was common!

Also we might think of Rev. 18:11-13, with its extensive list of trade good that merchants (like our Flavius Zeuxis) from various locations in the Empire, brought to Rome. Contextually this passage speaks of the mourning that will come as a result of the fall of Rome:

And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.

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Laodicea, a Wealthy City — a Poor Church

June 18, 2014

There is some beautiful scenery as you make the drive from the Mediterranean coast at Antalya (biblical Attalia) north and west to Laodicea.

En Route NW to Laodicea from Med. coast. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

En Route NW to Laodicea from Med. coast. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Laodicea was known to be a wealthy city. It was a banking center, had a medical school specializing in ophthalmology, and manufactured clothing, especially known for its black wool market.

It is always a danger that God’s people become like the world around them. Jesus addressed the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-21) and rebuked them for their self-satisfied, complacent attitude:

Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see (vv.16-18).

Excavations have shown numerous indications of Laodicea’s wealth.

Columns lining street in Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Columns lining street in Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

W.M. Ramsay wrote:

It is characteristic of a city devoted to commercial interests and the material side of life, that the Church of Laodicea is entirely self-satisfied. It says, as the city said in A.D. 60, when it recovered its prosperity after the great earthquake without any of that help which the Imperial government was generally ready to bestow, and which the greatest cities of Asia had always been ready to accept, “I have grown rich, and have need of nothing.” It has never seen its real condition: it is poor and blind and naked (Letters to the Seven Churches, p.428).

Their complacency led to lukewarmness, and this nauseated the Lord (v.16). This is the only church of the seven addressed in Rev. 2-3 about which nothing good is said.

We have made several other posts on Laodicea. Use search box at upper right for more articles & photos.

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Farewell to a Friend: Eliemelech (Elie) Ben Meir

June 10, 2014

Ferrell Jenkins (May 31) wrote a very fitting tribute to Eliemelech Ben Meira guide he has used in Israel for two decades. Elie died May 23, following a stroke.  Also Barry Britnell (who is currently leading a tour in Israel) made a nice post here.

I also wanted to share a few memories of Elie, whom I first met in 1999. I began taking groups to Israel in 2009. I never considered asking for any guide except Elie. He and driver Fawzi were close friends. Elie always wanted to be sure I put in a request for Fawzi to be our driver.

At Natana, Israel. Fawzi, driver at left, and Elie, center. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

At Natanya, Israel. Fawzi, driver at left, and Elie, center. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I selected a few photos from this past Oct. 2013, that are from a variety of places.

At Dan, the northern most city in ancient Israel, and the site of Jeroboam’s shrine, which was condemned by faithful prophets.

Elie at Dan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Elie at Dan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In Jerusalem our group saw the “wailing wall.” At our approach to the site Elie was giving info and instructions.

Elie instructing our group as we neared Wailing Wall. Photo by Gary Kerr, ©Leon Mauldin.

Elie instructing our group as we neared Wailing Wall. Photo by Gary Kerr, ©Leon Mauldin.

At the Jordan River, at the traditional site of the Jesus baptism, there is a high water mark for Jan. 1, 2013. Though the Jordan does not flood as it did in biblical times (see here), it still gets well out of its banks at times as this photo shows. (click to enlarge photo; see info on board upper left).

Upper left shows high water mark reached Jan 2013. Elie is seated; tour member Keith Crews is at right. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Upper left shows high water mark reached Jan 2013. Elie is seated; tour member Keith Crews is at right. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Of course Masada has tremendous historical significance.

Elie instructing our group at Masada. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Elie instructing our group at Masada. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

At Masada in particular Elie would remind everyone to bring their water.

This sampling also represents somewhat of the tremendous variety within the land of Israel itself. Elie was versatile and well equipped to help us very literally “from Dan to Beersheba.” I hate to say goodbye to old friends. He will be missed.