At Rhegium, Italy, on the Way to Rome

April 3, 2017

Acts 28 narrates the Apostle Paul’s voyage to Rome, traveling as a prisoner. Having wintered at Malta due to a ship wreck, the journey continued: “We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we cast off and arrived at Rhegium, and after one day a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli” (vv.12-13).

At Rhegium, Italy, looking across Strait of Messina to Sicily. Paul’s ship made a brief stop here. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible has this information on Rhegium:

Important Italian harbor visited by Paul in his journey to Rome (Acts 28:13). From Malta, Paul’s ship traveled north to the Sicilian capital of Syracuse; then in the absence of a south wind they may have tacked into the Strait of Messina, finding good harbor at Rhegium. Another south wind carried them from Rhegium to Puteoli in the Bay of Naples—the ship’s destination, since Puteoli was southern Italy’s chief port, receiving the great Alexandrian grain vessels.

The Strait of Messina was well known to every Roman navigator. Passage here was necessary in order to gain access to Italy’s west coast; but its obstacles were numerous. Obstructions, shallows, and the narrow width (c. seven miles from Rhegium to Messina) forced ships to stay at Rhegium until an adequate south wind arose.

The name “Rhegium” (modern Reggio or Reggio di Calabria) may have come from a Greek verb, meaning “to tear” or “rend.” Sicily, it seemed, had been “torn from the mainland” and Rhegium was the nearest Italian port. (Vol. 2, p. 1857).

Rhegium, on the “toe” of the “boot” of Italy, across from the island of Sicily. BibleAtlas.org.

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Temples in Pompeii, Italy

January 27, 2017

The Roman city of Pompeii, as was generally the case in the world of the 1st century, was a city of many gods.

Pompeii–as you might expect, given its many gods–had many temples, though by no means one for every god or goddess who might intervene in the lives of its inhabitants. They came in all sizes, in varying degrees of prominence and with very different histories. Some stretched back to the earliest years of the city. The temple of Apollo next to  the Forum was established by the sixth century BCE at the latest. (The Fires of Vesuvius.281-282).

Temple of Apollo, Pompeii, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Mt. Vesuvius may been seen the the background.

Temple of Apollo, Pompeii, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Mt. Vesuvius may been seen the the background.

Most of the rest [of the temples] date to the second century BCE or later. The Small Temple of Fortuna Augusta was dedicated to an almost untranslatable combination of the goddess of Good Fortune or Success (Fortuna) and the power of the emperor (the adjective Augusta can confusingly, or conveniently, refer either to the first emperor Augustus himself, or to imperial power more generally–for subsequent emperors used “Augustus” as part of  their titles too)  (Ibid.)

Temple of Fortuna Augusta, Pompeii. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Fortuna Augusta, Pompeii. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Pompeii is a city “frozen” in time by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, AD 79. Though this is not a “biblical city” it preserves scenes from a Roman city in the AD 1st century, and thus has tremendous value to us. Thus it helps us to see the setting for the biblical world in the early New Testament era.

When contemplating the widespread idolatry of the biblical world, I often think of Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, many of whom had themselves formerly been idolaters:

we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth– as there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him. However, not everyone has this knowledge. (1 Cor. 6:4-7, HCSB).

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Syracuse, Mt. Etna, and Taromina, Sicily

March 13, 2016

Yesterday (Saturday) we visited the archaeological sites Syracuse, Sicily, and from there went on to Mt. Etna (Europe’s most active volcano), and then to Taromina. While at the Greek theater at Syracuse we took this group photo.

Group photo at Greek Theater at Syracuse, Sicily. Photo by David Deason.

Group photo at Greek Theater at Syracuse, Sicily. Photo by David Deason.

This theater was built in the 5th century BC.

The city of Syracuse was founded in 733 BC by Greek settlers from Corinth. Some names associated with Syracuse include Aeschylus, considered the father of the Greek tragedy. The philosopher Plato was in Syracuse. Syracuse was the birthplace of Archimedes, the famous mathematician and most influential scientist of the ancient world.

But actually none of those names brought us to this ancient site; rather it was its biblical mention in connection with Paul’s journey (as a prisoner) to Rome. Of that point in the journey Luke writes, “And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days” (Acts 28:12).


Monreale and Mondello Beach, Palerma, Sicily

March 9, 2016

Our trip concluded today with a view looking out from Mondello Beach.

Looking out from Mondello Beach, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Looking out from Mondello Beach, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We’ve had very co-operative weather today (though it is sprinkling tonight). Our morning began with a visit to Monreale where we had the opportunity to visit the Cathedral. “The building of the monument takes us back to the high point of the Norman kingdom in Sicily, which coincides with the reign of William II (1172-1189)” (Monreale: The Cathedral and the Cloister, p.3).

Monreale Cathedral. Dates back to the 12th century. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Monreale Cathedral. Dates back to the 12th century. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We are to leave Palermo in the morning for Selinunte and then Agrigento to visit the archaeological areas including the Valley of the Temples. There is an incredible amount of history and historical sites in the country of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean.

We plan to post more as time permits.

 


Giovanni Falcone Monument in Capaci

March 8, 2016

My group arrived safely in Palermo, Sicily this afternoon, all in apparent good health, and all of our luggage also!

Our actual touring of archaeological and biblical sites begins tomorrow. On our way to our hotel our tour host pointed out the Giovanni Falcone Monument on the A29 Coastal Highway, at the location where Falcone was assassinated, and gave us some interesting information.

Here is a photo I took from inside the bus while we made a quick stop.

Giovanni Falcone Monument near Palermo, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Giovanni Falcone Monument near Palermo, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Wikipedia has this info:

Giovanni Falcone, 18 May 1939 – 23 May 1992) was an Italian judge and prosecuting magistrate. From his office in the Palace of Justice in Palermo (Sicily), he spent most of his professional life trying to overthrow the power of the Sicilian Mafia. After a long and distinguished career, culminating in the famous Maxi Trial in 1986-1987, he was killed by the Corleonesi Mafia in May 1992, on the A29 motorway near the town of Capaci.

His life parallels that of his close friend Paolo Borsellino. They both spent their early years in the same neighbourhood in Palermo. And though many of their childhood friends grew up in the Mafia background, both men fought on the other side of the war as prosecuting magistrates. They were both killed in 1992, a few months apart. In recognition of their tireless effort and sacrifice during the anti-mafia trials, they were both awarded the Italian “Medaglia d’oro al valore civile” (Gold medal for civil valor). They were also named as heroes of the last 60 years in the November 13, 2006, issue of Time Magazine.

We will plan to post more as we have opportunity along our tour.


Paul Landed at Syracuse

January 20, 2016

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!

Siracusa Theater Greg and Carlo_Picogna

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.

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.

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.


Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

August 26, 2014

We continue to share some photos and info from our recent trip to Italy. Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, was the citadel of the earliest Romans. The Campdoglio Piazza, created by Michelangelo in 1536-1546, encompasses Capitoline Hill.

At the center of the piazza is an equestrian (depicting horseback riding) statue of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, (r. AD 161-180).

Emperor Marcus Aurelius at Campdoglio Piazza in Rome. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius at Campdoglio Piazza in Rome. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wikipedia has this info:

The statue was erected in 175 CE. Its original location is debated: the Roman Forum and Piazza Colonna (where the Column of Marcus Aurelius stands) have been proposed.

Although there were many equestrian imperial statues, they rarely survived because it was practice to melt down bronze statues for reuse as coin or new sculptures in the late empire. Statues were also destroyed because medieval Christians thought that they were pagan idols. The statue of Marcus Aurelius was not melted down because in the Middle Ages it was incorrectly thought to portray the first Christian Emperor Constantine. Indeed, it is the only fully surviving bronze statue of a pre-Christian Roman emperor.

In the medieval era it was one of the few Roman statues to remain on public view. In the 8th century it stood in the Lateran Palace in Rome, from where it was relocated in 1538 to the Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill) during Michelangelo’s redesign of the Hill. Though he disagreed with its central positioning, he designed a special pedestal for it. The original is on display in the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini, while a replica has replaced it in the square.

Click on image for larger view.