In the book of Acts we read of Paul’s route from Caesarea, Israel, to Rome, as a prisoner, with the trip’s various stops along the way. As they journeyed in the Mediterranean there was a shipwreck which resulted in their staying for the winter at the island of Malta. Then Luke, who was on that journey with Paul continues, “After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days” (Acts 28:11-12).
Syracuse is mentioned in the NT only as having been a harbour where St. Paul lay at anchor for three days on his voyage from Malta to Rome. The shipwrecked crew and passengers, after spending three months in Malta, set sail on the Dioscuri, evidently one of the Alexandrian fleet of imperial transports carrying grain from Egypt to maintain the food supply in Rome.† They started, evidently, very early in the year, probably in February, before the settled weather and the customary season for navigation (mare clausum 11 Nov. to 5 March) had begun. That implies that a suitable and seemingly steady wind was blowing, which tempted them to embark, and carried them straight to Syracuse, a distance of about 100 miles. On the voyage from Malta to Rome as a whole, see RHEGIUM.
Nothing is said with regard to any preaching by St. Paul in Syracuse, nor could any be expected to occur. The ship was certainly waiting for a suitable wind to carry it north to the straits of Messina; and under such circumstances no prisoner was likely to be allowed leave of absence, as the ship must be ready to take instant advantage of the wind (Ramsay, W. M. (1911–1912). SYRACUSE. In J. Hastings, J. A. Selbie, A. B. Davidson, S. R. Driver, & H. B. Swete (Eds.), A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents Including the Biblical Theology (Vol. 4, p. 645). New York; Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons; T. & T. Clark.)
Sicily is noted for its rich history (Greek, Roman and more), culture, theater & amphitheater, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. But my special interest in it has to do with its being included among biblical sites!
At Greek Theater at Syracuse. Greg Picogna (r) with his father Carlo (now deceased). Photo taken in 1998.
Also at Syracuse you can view the Fountain of Diana.
At Syracuse, Fountain of Diana, goddess of the hunt. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.
Giulio Moschetti (1847-1909) created this fountain in Syracuse; it portrays Diana, the mythical goddess of the hunt, in all of her calm and pride.
Another famous site in Syracuse is the “Ear of Dionysus” (Italian Orecchio di Dionisio). It was most likely formed out of an old limestone quarry. It is 75.5 feet high and extends 213 feet back into the cliff. Because of its shape this unusual formation has extremely good acoustics, making even a small sound reverberate throughout the cave.
Ear of Dionysius at Syracuse. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.
I’m looking forward to seeing these sites at Syracuse, along with other locations in Sicily and Italy, with my tour group coming up in March.