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.

Click images for larger view.

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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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Milestones near Beth Shan

May 18, 2016

You’ve heard about “going the second mile.” In His “Sermon on the Mount” in Galilee Jesus said (in a context forbidding retaliation for evil), “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matt. 5:41). In New Testament times a Roman soldier could compel a Jewish citizen (or others) to carry burdens for them. They were authorized by the Roman government to press civilians into service of this nature; such would have to carry the load for the distance of one mile, but no further.

But how would you know when the mile was up? Conveniently, Roman roads had mile markers, such as these below, collected from the Beth Shan area.

Milestones from the Beth Shan area, at Gan Hashlosha National Park. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Milestones from the Beth Shan area, at Gan Hashlosha National Park. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jesus tells His disciples that instead of complaining about an oppressive government, or bemoaning their victimization, they were to go an extra mile. You see, Jesus’ disciples are different; in the world, but not of the world. Who knows but that from time to time this kind of unusual conduct would cause that soldier to ask, “What makes you different; what do you have that I don’t have?” If so then as Peter said, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Pet. 3:15,16).

I’ve previously written on milestones here.


Odeion at Troy

April 1, 2016

Ancient Troy has been made famous by Homer’s Iliad. Troy is located within the province of Çanakkale, located in extreme western Turkey. Troy’s extensive remains are the most significant and substantial evidence of the first contact between the civilizations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. This past Spring, 2015, we were able to visit Troy. Among the fascinating ruins there was the Roman Odeion, a small theater where concerts, lectures and other events took place.

Roman Odeion at Troy, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Roman Odeion at Troy, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The skene, stage building included a larger-than-life statue of the Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138). Also, a sculpted head of Augustus was found at the odeion, causing some to surmise that this may have been erected in honor of his visit here in 20 BC. Beyond the odeion at the back you can see a portion of the fortification wall of Troia VI.

The Roman odeion is in Troy’s Level IX. Over the centuries there were nine levels of occupation.

Cross-section of Troy, showing 9 occupation levels. Istanbul Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Cross-section of Troy, showing 9 occupation levels. Istanbul Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin. 

Wikipedia has this helpful chart:

Troy I 3000–2600 BC (Western Anatolian EB 1)
Troy II 2600–2250 BC (Western Anatolian EB 2)
Troy III 2250–2100 BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [early])
Troy IV 2100–1950 BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [middle])
Troy V: 20th–18th centuries BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [late])
Troy VI: 17th–15th centuries BC
Troy VIh: late Bronze Age, 14th century BC
Troy VIIa: c. 1300–1190 BC, most likely setting for Homer’s story
Troy VIIb1: 12th century BC
Troy VIIb2: 11th century BC
Troy VIIb3: until c. 950 BC
Troy VIII: c. 700–85 BC
Troy IX: 85 BC–c. AD 500

Biblical significance: It was here at Troy (Ilium) at the temple of Athena that Xerxes (Ahasuerus) of the book of Esther sacrificed 1,000 head of cattle en route on his march through the Hellespontine region towards Greece. This was 480 BC.

We have previously posted on Troy here.


At Rome

March 16, 2016

Tonight I thought I’d share a group photo taken today in front of the Arch of Constantine. The Colosseum can be seen at right.

Group photo at Colosseum in Rome.

Group photo at Colosseum in Rome.

There is 3,000 years of history in Rome. More later. Thanks for following our blog.

 


On to Piazza Armerina and Siracusa, Sicily

March 11, 2016

Leaving Agrigento this morning, we went on to Piazza Armerina, and from there southeast to Siracusa, mentioned in Acts 28:12. While at Piazza Armerina we visited the Roman Villa of Casale. A portion of the Roman wall and one of the entrances is seen here:

Entrance to Roman Villa of Casale in Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Entrance to Roman Villa of Casale in Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The largest mosaic in the world, a hunting scene, is here.

Mosaic Hunting Scene. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mosaic Hunting Scene. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This villa, as was generally the case when there was running water, was serviced by lead pipes, which caused the inhabitants to have lead poisoning.

Lead pipe at Villa of Casale. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Lead pipe at Villa of Casale. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We are looking forward to touring Siracusa tomorrow, as well as Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano.

For now, here is further info re: the Roman villa of Casale:

The Villa Romana del Casale  is a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km outside the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily, southern Italy. It contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, and has been designated as one of 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

Plan of the villa
The villa was constructed (on the remains of an older villa) in the first quarter of the 4th century AD, probably as the center of a huge latifundium (agricultural estate) covering the surrounding area. How long the villa had this role is not known, maybe for fewer than 150 years. The complex remained inhabited and a village grew around it, named Platia (derived from the word palatium (palace). The villa was damaged and perhaps destroyed during the domination of the Vandals and the Visigoths. The outbuildings remained in use, at least in part, during the Byzantine and Arab periods. The site was abandoned in the 12th century AD after a landslide covered the villa. Survivors moved to the current location of Piazza Armerina.

The villa was almost entirely forgotten, although some of the tallest parts of the remains were always above ground. The area was cultivated for crops. Early in the 19th century, pieces of mosaics and some columns were found. The first official archaeological excavations were carried out later in that century.

The first professional excavations were made by Paolo Orsi in 1929, followed by the work of Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-39. The last major excavations took place in the period 1950-60. They were led by Gino Vinicio Gentili, after which a cover was built over the mosaics. In the 1970s Andrea Carandini carried out a few localized excavations at the site. (Wikipedia)


Aqueduct at Beit Hananya

September 25, 2015

In perusing some homeschooling curriculum on the Roman Empire there was a heading entitled “Amazing Architects.”

The Romans were among the best builders in history. They built things that served practical purposes, such as canals, bridges, sewers, harbors, and roads. But it was perhaps in constructing aqueducts that their engineering skills were most impressive.

Aqueducts were developed by the Romans. They are channels for carrying water that were mostly dug into the earth, following the contours of hills. Where this was not possible, the Romans build arches made of concrete and stone. It took great skill to build an aqueduct. The water channels had to slop at exactly the right angle all the way along its length to give a steady flow of water. (Peter Chrisp, Ancient Rome, p.46).

Many sections of the ancient Roman aqueducts still survive in various parts of the former Roman Empire. The aqueduct that emptied into Caesarea on Israel’s coast is a prime example. Caesarea was the capital of Judea during the ministry of Jesus. See our post here.

In Sept. 2011, Ferrell Jenkins & I made a personal study trip to Israel that included a stop at Beit Hananya, in the biblical “Plain of Sharon,” where a portion of the aqueduct can still be seen. This is north of Caesarea by a few miles. (Fresh water was channeled to Caesarea  from a distance of 8.5 miles).

Roman Aqueduct at Beit Hananya, north of Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Roman Aqueduct at Beit Hananya, north of Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beit Hananya Aqueduct as seen from top. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beit Hananya Aqueduct as seen from top. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The water was channeled to course down the top of the aqueduct.

Click photos for larger view.