Tag Archives: Roman Empire

Evidence of Cinnamon in use 3000 years ago

Live Science reports (here) on the investigation of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel showing that cinnamon was stored in them. The flasks date back to about 1000 years B.C. Ten of the 27 flasks contain “cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.” Tel Dor is the only site named in the report.

At this time cinnamon was found in the Far East with the closest places to Israel being southern India and Sri Lanka located at least 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) away. A form of it was also found in the interior of Africa, but does not match the material found in these flasks.

This discovery “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” researchers write in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry. Although cinnamon can be purchased today at any grocery or bulk food store, 3,000 years ago, people in the Levant would have needed to take part in trade that extended beyond the edge of the known world in order to acquire it, something this discovery suggests they were willing to do.

This trade may go back ever further into antiquity and involve other goods and parts of the Middle East. The researchers note, for example, that black pepper from India has been found in the mummy of Ramesses II, a pharaoh of Egypt who lived more than 3,200 years ago.

Cinnamon displayed on the Spice Route at Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cinnamon and pepper displayed on the ancient Spice Route at Avedat.

Cinnamon is mentioned only four times in the Bible.

  • Cinnamon was used in the anointing oil for the tabernacle (Exodus 30:23).
  • The adulterous woman tells the young man that she has perfumed her bed with cinnamon and other spices (Proverbs 7:17).
  • Cinnamon is used in the sexual/sensuous context of Song of Solomon 4:14.
  • Cinnamon is one of the spices imported by Babylon (the ancient Roman Empire) in Revelation 18:13.

Much archaeological work goes on in the library and in the lab.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Fort Babylon in Old Cairo

Daily News Egypt carried a brief article about the Roman ruins in Old Cairo here. The article says,

The fort was built on the southern end of the old Pharaonic town Per-Hapi-On, or ‘The river house of On’. According to some historians the mispronunciation of the name by the Romans led to the name Fort Babylon but others claim it was named after a number of captives brought there from Babylonia during the time of Sesostris.

Roman Emperor Diocletian built the fort in 300 C.E. as the stronghold of three legions in charge of securing Egypt. The garrison of Fort Babylon vowed to secure ships on the Nile and a canal that passed through the town connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. This canal was first established by the Pharaohs, and was restored and enlarged by the Roman Emperor Trajan. The fort was renovated and fortified by the Roman Emperor Arcadius.

Our photo shows ruins of the Roman fort that was known as Fort Babylon in Roman times. At that time the Nile River flowed beside the Fort, but has since changed its course. New building of Old Cairo dwarf the old structure.

Roman Tower (Fort Babylon in Old Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Tower (Fort Babylon in Old Cairo). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in front of the structure says that it was constructed by Diocletian (c. A.D. 300) to fortify the Roman harbor of Old Cairo built by Trajan (c. A.D. 110).

HT: Agade List

Xanathos in Lycia

The photo I am sharing today was made at ancient Xanthos, a city of Lycia, now in southwestern Turkey. The city is situated in the Lycian mountains a few miles from the Mediterranean coast and the ancient city of Patara (Acts 21:1). The small town of Kinik lies in the valley below Xanthos.

Roman Emperor Vespasian

Emperor Vespasian. BM. Photo by F. Jenkins

A road runs up the hill through the ancient ruins. One of the first monuments we come to is a Roman arch dedicated to the emperor Vespasian  (A.D. 69-79) by the Council and People of Xanthos. George E. Bean says,

The pavement which survives in part belongs to an ancient road which led up from Patara and the Letoum. – Lycian Turkey, 60.

Our view is made from above the arch. To the left you can see the narrow modern road leading to the parking lot at Xanthos.

Arch built by Vespasian partially below modern road level. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arch built by Vespasian partially below modern road level. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo illustrates the build up of debris over the centuries.

Writers such as Bean tell of the time when the Persians conquered western Asia about 540 B.C. Rather than surrender, the fighting men of Xanathos placed their women, children, slaves, and property on the acropolis and set fire to it. These men then went forth and fought to the death.  This account reminds us of the one recorded by Josephus about the fall of Masada during the Jewish Wars against the Romans (The Jewish War 7.8.6).

For more information about Xanathos, and Lycia in general, see the nice Lycian Turkey website here.

Acts 28 — Photo Illustrations

Many of the places mentioned in Acts 28 have been discussed, with photos, over a period of years. For sure, we have posts on Malta, (Publius), Syracuse, Rhegium, (Appian Way), and Rome. Use the search box to locate these for your study and teaching.

For this final post on the Book of Acts I have decided to look at a thought suggested by Paul when he spoke with the leading men of the Jews in Rome.

 17 After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 “And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death.
19 “But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.
20 “For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” (Acts 28:17-20 NAU)

Paul was taken to Rome in chains as a prisoner of the Roman Empire. See also Acts 21:33; 22:29; 26:29; Ephesians 6:20.

The Basilica of St. Paul, commonly known as St. Paul Outside the Walls, dates to the time of Constantine, and is thought to be the site of the burial of Paul.

Among the statues on the property is the one shown below. Paul is portrayed as a writer and a prisoner ready to be offered. We recall that the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians) were written from Rome. My own understanding is that Paul was likely released after about two years. During that time we know very little about his activities, but believe that he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. Later he was imprisoned a second time in Rome and writes another prison epistle, 2 Timothy.

Statue representing Paul as a writer in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue representing Paul as a writer in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The chains are difficult to see in the photo above, but in the view below they are clearly visible.

Paul in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This final post in the series on Acts is sent forth with the hope that the material will be of value to students and Bible class teachers for years to come.

Acts 27 — Photo Illustrations — Myra in Lycia

Myra was a town of Lycia about 85 miles west of Antalya, Turkey (biblical Attalia, Acts 14:25). The town is located about two miles inland from the Mediterranean, but has a port at nearby Andriake. When Paul was being escorted by a Roman centurion from Caesarea Maritima to Rome, the ship sailed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, and landed at Myra in Lycia (Acts 27:5). There they found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy. This was one of the many grain ships that used Andriake as a port (Acts 27:38).

We do not know whether Paul was able to see any of Myra. There are several interesting things that could have been seen.

Here is a photo of the house-type tombs in the rock cliffs at Myra dating from the 4th century B.C.

Fourth century B.C. house-type rock tombs at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fourth century B.C. house-type rock tombs at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows the top seats of the 2nd century B.C. theater with the tombs in the background. The theater seated about 10,000 spectators.

Rock tombs of Myra with Theater in the foreground. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rock Tombs of Myra with Theater in the foreground. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our last photo shows the harbor at Andriake, and walls of granaries built in the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138).  This was an ideal place to find a grain ship headed for Rome, even before Hardian built the granaries.

Anriake, the harbor of Myra, Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Anriake, the harbor of Myra, Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Acts 26 — Photo Illustrations — Herod’s Praetorium and Audience Hall

We have mentioned previously that the events of Acts 24-26 took place at Caesarea. The material we have presented may be used with either chapter.

Luke says that Agrippa and Bernice came amid great pomp into the audience hall.

So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. (Acts 25:23 ESV)

Excavations at Caesarea in 1997 caused Yosef Porat, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, to think that the auditorium or audience hall mentioned here has been discovered. This photo shows the general area within the Herodian Palace (cf. John McRay, Paul: His Life and Teaching).

Area of the Audience Hall at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Area of the Audience Hall at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign visible in the foreground is found only in my 2011 photographs. Signs are moved because they become incorrect, worn, or in the way of continued restoration. Here is the sign.

Sign at the Audience Hall in Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign at the suggested Audience Hall in Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul may have appeared before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa at this place. I often tell my tour groups, “If it didn’t happen right here (pointing down), it happened right here (motioning with arms extended, meaning nearby).”

When Paul first arrived at Caesarea, Felix said,

…  “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium. (Acts 23:35 ESV)

Two prison inscriptions were found in the same area, leaving the scholars working there to conclude that this was indeed the Praetorium of the Palace.

The first reads, “The fraternity of the Frumentarii. Happiness for all.”

The inscription reads, “O, good hope, I came to this office. I will be secure.” An accompanying sign says,

“This inscription indicates that a Latin-speaking guard was in charge of the security of the building, and of the safety of the governor.”

Prison inscription found at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Prison inscription found at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The second inscription reads, “The fraternity of the Frumentarii. Happiness for all.” The Frumentarius was an official in charge of police duties and prisoners. The accompanying sign says that Paul was the most famous prisoner held there.

Prison inscription found at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Prison inscription found at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As a Roman citizen, Paul was allowed his right to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12). We all know that the wheels of justice often move slowly.

Acts 25 — Photo Illustrations — Coins of the Rulers

We continue our look at the three chapters describing Paul’s stay at Caesarea Maritima — Acts 24-26. Three civil rulers are mentioned in these chapters. They are known not only from Luke’s account, but in the writings of Josephus.

Rapske says that Caesarea “was the administrative seat of the Roman procurators of Palestine.” He adds that in the time of the Flavians it became a Roman Colony (The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting; Vol. 3, The Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody, 155).

After the Romans occupied “Palestine” the Jews had both a religious and a secular tax to pay. The procurators (prefects) were responsible for collecting the taxes for Rome. Coins were minted by various procurators, including Felix and Festus. I have chosen one example from each to show the type of coin current in their time.

Antonius Felix — A.D. 52-59.

Felix is described as a hegemon in the Greek New Testament. Major English versions use the term governor (Acts 23:24, 26; 24:2, 22, 24, 25, 27; 25:14). Hemer says that hegemon is a general word to describe a ruler, “the formal Latin title of these governors of Judaea being procurator or praefectus” (The Book of Acts, 128).

The obverse (head) of the coin of Felix shows two oblong shields and two spears. The inscription is translated “Nero Claudius Caesar–son of Claudius. The reverse (tail) shows a “six-branched palm tree bearing two bunches of dates” with a Greek inscription above and below (Hendin, Guide to Biblical Coins (1987), 117).

Coin of Roman Procurator Felix.

Coin of Roman Procurator Felix.

Porcius Festus — A.D. 59-61.

Porcius Festus followed Felix as governor or procurator. He is mentioned in each of the three chapters we are discussing. Paul had been left in custody by Felix, and Festus seems to be pleased to get the advice of King Agrippa when he visited Caesarea.

The coin of Festus, struck in A.D. 58, bears a Greek inscription within a wreath on the obverse. At the bottom is an X. The inscription reads NER ONO C (Nero). The reverse shows a palm branch with a Greek inscripton KAIC APOC (Caesar). The date LE means year five (Hendin, 118).

Coin of Porcius Festus.

Coin of Roman Procurator Porcius Festus.

Herod Agrippa II — A.D. 48-70.

Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great (Acts 12:1, et al.). Agrippa II was the tetrarch of Chalcis and of northern territories. Chalcis was the small but beautiful territory between the Lebanon and Antilebanon mountains. Later he was granted the territories that had been controlled by Philip and Lysanias. Agrippa lived until the end of the first century, and minted coins even to the time of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96).

According to Hendin, the obverse shows a laureate bust of Domitian facing right. The inscription around it reads DOMITIAMOC KAICAP (Domitian Caesar). The reverse shows Nike standing right. One foot is resting on a helmet. She is writing on a shield that is resting on her knee. The inscription reads ETO KZBA AΓPIΠΠA (Year 27 of King Agrippa). The coin was struck in A.D. 83. (I do not know how best to harmonize the dates associated with the reign of Agrippa II.)

Coin of Herod Agrippa II with image of Domitian. Struck A.D. 83.

The coin above is copied from FORVM ANCIENT COINS.


I have only the original edition of Hendin’s Guide to Biblical Coins, but recommend the newer fifth edition of his book in the event that you have a genuine interest in Biblical coins. From my limited collecting experience, I can say that it is both fascinating and educational.

Acts 21 — Photo Illustrations – Patara

Patara is mentioned only once in the New Testament. When Paul and his companions sailed from Miletus on their way to Syria (Caesarea), they made stops at Cos, Rhodes, and Patara in the Roman province of Lycia in Asia Minor (Acts 27:5).

And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.  (Acts 21:1-2 ESV)

Patara is known as Gelemis (in Turkey) today, but the sign on the main highway from Fethiye to Kas points to the ancient site of Patara.

Wilson says,

Patara served as a way station for sea travelers, and Paul changed ships here to Phoenicia at the end of his third journey in AD 57 (Acts 21:1). (Biblical Turkey, 91).

The beach at Patara is a popular leisure place for locals as well as visitors to the area. For this photo we drove the narrow road from the main highway through the ruins of the city to the water.

Beach on the Mediterranean Sea at Patara, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Beach on the Mediterranean Sea at Patara, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Patara already had a long history before Paul stopped there. Tradition has it that it was founded by Patarus, a son of Apollo. Persians used the port during the Persian Wars. The city later came under the control of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies, and the Seleucids in succession before being given freedom by the Romans in 167 B.C. In 43 B.C. the city became part of the province of Lycia (Biblical Turkey, 90-91).

Our next photo shows the site of the silted up harbor of Patara. In the distance you will see a narrow sliver of blue between the trees and the sky. That is the Mediterranean Sea. Entrance to the harbor from the Sea is blocked. Ruins of granaries built in the days of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) are visible on the west side of the harbor. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Silted up harbor at Patara. The Mediterranean Sea is visible on the horizon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Silted up harbor. The Mediterranean is visible on the horizon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our last photo shows the theater which was built in the Hellenistic period, but was rebuilt in the time of the Roman Emperor Tiberias (A.D. 14-37). It seated more than 6,000 people.

Theater at Patara. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Theater at Patara. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Use the search box for posts about some of the other places mentioned in Acts 21: Rhodes, Cyprus, Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea.

The delivery of Peter’s Epistles

When I began to write about Pontus, the Black Sea Coast, and the cities of Samsun and Sinop, it was primarily to discuss the address of the Apostle Peter’s epistles.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

I assume, based on 2 Peter 3:1, that both of Peter’s epistles were written to the same Christians.

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, (2 Peter 3:1 ESV)

The map below shows the larger portion of Asia Minor. Note the order of the provinces in Peter’s address: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

Map of Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire. BibleAtlas.org.

Map of Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire. BibleAtlas.org.

We know it was common for the New Testament letters to be carried from the place of writing to the those addressed by personal, trusted messengers.

  • Tychicus was the bearer of Ephesians and Colossians (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7).
  • Letters were sometimes sent from one church to another (Colossians 4:16).
  • It is often pointed out that the order of the letters to seven churches of Asia follow a typical circuit along known travel routes: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Revelation 1:11; 2-3).

We may raise questions concerning Peter’s epistles. Let us assume for the moment that Peter wrote from Rome. This is my understanding of 1 Peter 5:13. If the bearer of 1 Peter began his delivery route in Pontus, how did he get there? Was it overland or by sea?

Understanding the terrain. Once we understand something about the terrain the answer becomes obvious. Coming from the west it would be much easier to go to Pontus by sea than by land. A first stop might be at the city of Amastis (modern Amasra, west of Sinop). The next stop would be Sinop. Neither of these cities would provide a good place to begin an inland journey going through the named provinces. The ideal beginning point would be Amisos (modern Samsun). Mark Wilson writes about Amastris:

A coasting vessel carrying Peter’s messenger would certainly have stopped here. Amastris has been suggested as an entry point for Peter’s letter to the cities of inner Pontus and northern Galatia, but the road to the interior was difficult. It is more probable that the messenger continued by sea to Sinope and Amisus. (Biblical Turkey, 337).

When you look at a map showing topographical detail you see that both Bithynia and Pontus are not very wide (north to south), and that most of that width is mountainous. Some areas, in fact, have no coastal roads. Such is still true of the region east of Sinope.

Map shows the narrow province of Pontus. Made with Bible Mapper.

Map shows the narrow province of Pontus. Made with Bible Mapper.

The distance between Samsun and Sinop is barely 100 miles. Leaving Samsun we had good road for about the first 50 miles. After that the road was mountainous and much construction work was underway. Often we were driving high above the Black Sea even when we could see it. We had expected to make the drive in two hours in our good rental car. It took us three hours. Notice this hair pin section of the two lane road.

Hair pin curves in the mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hair pin curves in the mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Both Sinop and Samsun were significant in the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. The following sentence shows that both towns were more easily reached by sea even as recently as a century ago.

Atatürk came to Sinop on the ship Bandirma on 18 May 1919. As there was no road between Sinop and Samsun at that time, he continued his journey by sea. (McDonagh, Blue Guide: Turkey; Emphasis added).

Wilson comments on the importance of Amisus (Samsun) as a port of entry into Asia Minor.

Amisus was at the northern terminus of the main road that ran across Asia Minor to Tarsus. Peter’s messenger undoubtedly embarked at Amisus and initially made his way south along this route. (Biblical Turkey, 340)

The photo below was made from the highway east of Sinop. I hope that this, and the following photo, will help to illustrate the difficulty of travel in the region.

East of Sinop on the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From highway east of Sinop on the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These photos and the information we have provided show that travel by sea would be much easier than travel by land, and that Sinop would not have been a good place to begin an inland journey. Leon made the following photo of the road and the mountains east of Sinop. This was one of the rare places where a vehicle could pull off road.

Mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

A note about spelling. Some of the towns we are writing about have an ancient name and a different modern name. In the case of Sinop, it is spelled Sinope in older sources.

Persecution of Christians in Pontus

Pliny. Pliny was the governor of the Bithynia and Pontus. According to The Dictionary of the Christian Church he was born c. 61 and died c. 112. He exchanged a series of letters with the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.). I have done some browsing in the older Loeb edition (revised by Hutchinson) of Pliny Letters. I see references to the Black Sea cities of Heraclea (now Eregli), Amastris (now Amastra), Sinope (now Sinop), and Amisus (now Samsun). I mention this to emphasize that Pliny was familiar with the cities of Pontus. He writes of Sinope being ill supplied with water and suggests a solution to the Emperor.

Roman Emperor Trajan in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Emperor Trajan in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pliny wrote to the Emperor saying that he was uncertain about how to deal with the Christians in his province. He said that he had not been present at any of the trials of Christians. He explains his procedure to the Emperor:

In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. (X.xcvi).

The Christians were ordered to offer wine and incense to the image of the Emperor. Pliny had been told that those who are really Christians would not make such an offering. Some of those who were questioned said they had quit serving Christ as much as 25 years earlier. Think about that date (about 85 A.D.). This gets us close to the date of Peter’s epistles (1 Peter 1:1).

Trajan answered Pliny:

The method you have pursued, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those denounced to you as Christians is extremely proper. (X.xcvii)

He said that no search should be made for the Christians. If a Christian repented and demonstrated his repentance by “adoring the Gods” [offering the wine and incense to the image of the Emperor] they should be pardoned. I think this is the type of worship mentioned in the book of Revelation which was written a few years earlier to the churches of the Roman province of Asia (Revelation 13; 14:9-11).

Phil Harland comments on the charges brought against the Christians.

The addressees were faced with “suffering” primarily in the form of verbal abuse: they were spoken against, blasphemed, reviled, and falsely called “wrongdoers” (1 Peter 2:12; 3:9, 15-17; 4:3-5; 5:9). The reasons for this suffering stemmed from the Christians’ failure to participate in religious life in the same way as they had before: the Gentiles “are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy, and they abuse you” (1 Peter 4:4 [RSV]). Persecution of Christians, which was local and sporadic, was more often than not a consequence of denying the gods and goddesses of others, along with the social implications of non-participation in the rituals that honoured these deities

For more along this same line see Phil Harland’s post about Bithynia and Pontus here.

My intention is to turn next to the specific question of the route of travel taken by the messenger who delivered Peter’s epistles throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.