Monastery of Barnabas at Salamis, Cyprus

October 2, 2015

On the 1st Missionary Journey, the Apostle Paul accompanied by Barnabas first preached in Salamis on the island of Cyprus: “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper” (Acts 13:4,5).

Our photo shows the “Monastery of St. Barnabas,” at Salamis, Cyprus. While the monastery itself is not a “biblical site” its presence bears testimony to the fact that Barnabas was indeed here.

Salamis, Cyprus. Monastery of St. Barnabas. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Salamis, Cyprus. Monastery of St. Barnabas. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Biblical Archaeological Society has this information:

This monastery dedicated to St. Barnabas at Salamis, Cyprus, marks the first stop on Paul’s initial missionary journey. The earliest buildings of the monastery date to 477 C.E.

Perhaps Paul and Barnabas went first to Cyrus because it was Barnabas’s homeland (Acts 4:36), perhaps also because the island is large and strategically located. Cyprus served as a stepping stone on the trade routes that crossed the eastern Mediterranean. Archaeological remains from as early as the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium B.C.E.) show it to have been a cultural meeting ground and “melting pot” for the successive cultures that flourished on all sides of it.

Salamis was the main port and principal city of the island in the Roman age. Located about five miles north of modern Famagusta, on its great bay, the city has yielded extensive Roman remains, including a theater, gymnasium, baths and a forum.

Paul’s visit to Salamis established a pattern for his missionary strategy that would continue through the rest of his travels. Heading for the major city of the region, Paul went immediately to proclaim the new “word of God” in the Jewish synagogues (Acts 13:5). We know from literary accounts that Jews settled in Salamis at least as early as the 3rd century B.C.E., and at such a flourishing city there undoubtedly would have been several synagogue communities. (BAS Biblical World in Pictures, 2003).

See our previous article on the theater in Salamis here.

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The Goddess Hera and Samos

August 26, 2015

In our post yesterday we mentioned the tradition that the goddess Hera was born or at least brought up in Samos. (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol. 3, p. 702).

The island of Samos is of interest to Bible students because of its mention in Acts 20:15, in the context of Paul’s return on his 3rd Missionary Journey, making his way back to Jerusalem.

Acts 20:14-15. Only biblical mention of Samos.

Acts 20:14-15. Only biblical mention of Samos.

Samos is a

Place-name meaning “height.” Small island (only 27 miles long) located in the Aegean Sea about a mile off the coast of Asia Minor near the peninsula of Trogyllium. In the strait between Samos and the mainland, the Greeks defeated the Persian fleet about 479 B.C. and turned the tide of power in the ancient Near East. Traveling from Jerusalem to Rome, Paul’s ship either put in at Samos or anchored just offshore (Acts 20:15). (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p.1438).

The rendering of the ESV on Acts 20:15 is: “And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched [emp. mine, L.M.] at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus.” They could have just stayed overnight in the ship in the harbor, departing the next morning, or they could have deboarded the ship to actually be on the island itself (briefly of course). The text does not say.

Though the biblical text only mentions Samos this once (Acts 20:15), I welcome the opportunity to visit such sites, and to be able to share photos and use such in teaching.

I had occasion to make a brief visit to Samos in 2006, along with friend Ferrell Jenkins, when we were en route to Kuşadasi. See his article here. Samos is just off the western coast of Asia Minor. There are impressive remains of a temple devoted to the goddess Hera at Samos (see Fant & Reddish, pp. 118-125), but our limited time at Samos that day did not permit our seeing this.

Location of Samos. Map by BibleAtlas.Org.

Location of Samos. Map by BibleAtlas.Org.

Samos, at modern harbor. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Samos, at modern harbor. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mountains of Samos as seen from the Aegean Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mountains of Samos as seen from the Aegean Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

On that trip we had flown from Athens, Greece to Samos, then we took the ferry from Samos to Kuşadasi, Turkey, which would serve as our “base” while we visited nearby Ephesus and other biblical sites.

Sunset at Kuşadasi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Sunset at Kuşadasi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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The Greek Goddess Hera

August 25, 2015

While taking a group to Italy (2012) I had the occasion to visit the Vatican Museum in Rome, where among other many artifacts, I photographed a statue of the Greek goddess Hera.

Hera, Vatican Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hera, Vatican Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

There is a replica of the temple of Hera in central Alabama:

Hera Temple at Wetumpka, AL. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hera Temple at Wetumpka, AL. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jasmine hill gardens and outdoor museum, “Alabama’s little corner of Greece,” now features over 20 acres of year-round floral beauty and classical sculpture, including new statuary honoring Olympic heroes.

The Olympian center welcomes visitors with a video presentation of jasmine hill’s history and a display of Olympic memorabilia from the games of past years. a tour of jasmine hill, now completely accessible to visitors with disabilities, offers spectacular and ever-changing views, including our full-scale replica of the temple of Hera ruins as found in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic flame.


Hera is the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow, lion and the peacock were considered sacred to her. Hera’s mother is Rhea and her father Cronus.

Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy. Scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert writes in Greek Religion, “Nevertheless, there are memories of an earlier aniconic representation, as a pillar in Argos and as a plank in Samos.” Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature against Zeus’s lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris also earned Hera’s hatred by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess.

Bust of the Greek goddess Hera at temple site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Bust of the Greek goddess Hera at temple site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

SA′MIA (Σαμία), a daughter of the river-god Maeander, and wife of Ancaeus, by whom she became the mother of Samos. (Paus. vii. 4. § 2.) Samia also occurs as a surname of Hera, which is derived from her temple and worship in the island of Samos. (Herod. iii. 60; Paus. vii. 4. § 4; Tacit. Ann. iv. 14; comp. HERA.) There was also a tradition that Hera was born or at least brought up in Samos. (Paus. l. c.; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 187.) (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol. 3, p. 702).

There are the ancient remains of a temple devoted to Hera at Agrigento, a city on the southern coast of Sicily. (That location is included in my planned itinerary for Sicily/Italy March 2016.)

Temple of Hera, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo by Jose Luiz.

Temple of Hera, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo by Jose Luiz.

Personal note: We have not been posting much for the last several weeks due to some family sickness and deaths, and the priority which that rightly requires. We hope to be posting more regularly now in the near future. Thank you for your patience.

Neapolis, Greece, Port City to Philippi

May 9, 2015

During the 2nd Missionary Journey, a milestone was reached when Paul left Troas (of Asia Minor) to sail across the Aegean to preach on European soil. The text reads, “So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis” (Acts 16:11).

We had the occasion recently to visit Neapolis, modern Kavala. Neapolis was colonized by the Athenians in the 5th Century BC.  It was taken by Philip of Macedon in the 4th century BC. Neapolis served as the port to Philippi, where Paul first preached on European soil, and it continues to serve as an important port today.

One impressive site is the aqueduct of  Suleiman the Magnificent, AD 16th century built. This landmark was built on the remains of the previous Roman aqueduct.

Aqueduct of Suleiman the Magnificent at Neapolis.

Aqueduct of Suleiman the Magnificent at Neapolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is a view of the harbor of Neapolis/Kavala. It is thrilling to know that Paul used this port city in his travels.

Neapolis Harbor. The site mentioned in Paul's travels in Acts 16:11. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Neapolis Harbor. The site mentioned in Paul’s travels in Acts 16:11. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

A portion of the acropolis may be seen in background at left.

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The Cult of the Mother Goddess Cybele

May 4, 2015

In pagan mythology, Cybele was a nature goddess in Asia Minor, the great “mother of the gods,” the patroness of nature and fertility, and came to the western world from Phrygia. In the Ephesus Museum there is a display devoted to the cult.

Cult of Cybele. Ephesus Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Cult of Cybele. Ephesus Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

On our recent trip to Greece at Delphi we saw the remains of a site devoted to the worship of Cybele.

Temple of Cybele at center.  In behind you can see ruins of temple of Apollo. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Cybele at center. Ruins of temple of Apollo in behind. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

At first this cult was not very popular in Rome, since it was accompanied by ecstatic excesses. By the beginning of the imperial era, however, its influence increased, especially when the emperor Claudius extended his patronage to it. From that time Roman citizens could become priests of Cybele. (The New Testament Milieu).

The worship of Artemis and Cybele in the process of time morphed into one.

Two remarkable aspects of Hellenistic religion are syncretism and the role of the mystery religions. When, as a result of Alexander the Great’s conquests, the city-state disappeared from Greece and the national borders were blurred, the frontiers between the domains of the various deities were also effaced. In Alexander’s world empire and in the large Hellenistic kingdoms of his successors, an enormous cultural and religious commingling gradually occurred. People came to know one another’s gods and accepted them as their own, because they no longer regarded them as alien forces. They were simply worshipped under other names and with different rites in the various countries. So the Greek goddess Artemis and Cybele of Asia Minor were equated: they were no longer regarded as two different goddesses, but as one and the same divinity with various names. (ibid.)

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Monastery of Rousanou, Meteora, Greece

April 9, 2015

We recently referenced Kalambaka, Meteora in a previous post. In our Greece/Turkey trip, Kalambaka served as  a logistically good overnight stay after leaving Athens, and en route to Thessaloniki. When we left Kalambaka early morning, there was eerie mist and fog as we drove past the stupendous rock formations, many of which are crowned with monasteries.

Our photo here shows the Monastery of Rousanou.

Roussanou Monastery at Mereora, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Rousanou Monastery at Mereora, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

History of Rousanou Monastery

Rousanou (Ρουσανου) Monastery was founded around 1545 by Maximos and Ioasaph of Ioannina. The reason for the monastery’s name is not known – it is actually dedicated to St. Barbara – but may reflect the name of a hermit who occupied the rock. It soon declined and became subject to Varlaam Monastery by 1614.

The monastery once again fell into disrepair for the two centuries prior to the 1940s, when it was damaged in World War II then plundered by the Germans. It was later repaired by the regional archaeological service and since 1988 it has been occupied by a small community of 13 nuns.

What to See at Rousanou Monastery

Rousanou Monastery stands on a low rock and is easily accessible by a bridge built of wood in 1868 and replaced by more solid material in 1930. Despite this, its situation is still quite dramatic, with the rock dropping off sharply on all sides.

The monastery covers the entire surface of the rock and consists of three levels: the church and cells occupy the ground floor, while the two upper floors house the guest quarters, reception halls, an exhibition room, and more cells.

The frescoes in Rousanou’s Church of the Transfiguration of Christ, which is essentially a smaller version of Varlaam’s church, date from 1560. The narthex is decorated primarily with gruesome scenes of martyrdom, as at other Meteora monasteries. (

At Amphipolis, the Strymon River

April 6, 2015

Our recent Greece/Turkey tour included Amphipolis, briefly mentioned in Acts 17:1: “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.” This biblical reference takes up where Paul and his companions left Philippi and were on their way to Thessalonica, 2nd Missionary Journey.

Fant and Reddish observe:

The modern, small village of Amphipolis belies the importance of the ancient city whose name it bears. Located strategically along the Strymon River and on the Via Egnatia, Amphipolis was one of the most important cities of Macedonia in antiquity. The site of ancient Amphipolis is located between Thessaloniki and Kavala, about 65 miles east of Thessaloniki. From highway E90 there are signs that point the way to Amphipolis. The ancient city sits on a bend on the east bank of the Strymon River, surrounded by the river on three sides. This geographical feature gave rise to the name of the city, since Amphipolis means “around the city.”

Here is a view of the Strymon River.

Strymon River at Amphipolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Strymon River at Amphipolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In addition to our above Acts 17:1 reference which specifically mentions Amphipolis, Todd Bolen in his notes in his excellent Pictorial Library collection quotes Acts 20:1-3, 6a (KJV) “And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, and there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia…And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread.” Then Bolen notes: “Although no details are given of the stops Paul made during his 3rd missionary journey in this region, it is probable that he passed through Amphipolis, both on his way into and out of Macedonia as he left via Philippi.”

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