We left Adana and traveled along the beautiful Tuquoise Coast passing Mersin, Pompeipolis, Corycos and Silifke. The Mediterrenean coast is the real fruit bowl of Turkey. At Silifke we headed north and drove through another of the important passes in the Taurus Mountain highest point was about 5000 feet above sea level. We saw some Cedars of Lebanon growing in the area. That is about the same altitude of the great Cedars in Lebanon. Near Karaman we stopped for a lunch break. The ladies of the group posed under an image of one of Turkey’s famous folk musicians from the area.
We visited the tell of Derbe (Kerti Huyuk; Acts 14:20-21; 16:1; 20:4). We made a short stop at the Museum in Karaman to see one of the inscriptions which helped to identify the site of Derbe. After that we headed for the mound of Lystra (Zordula) of Lycaonia near the village of Hatunsaray. It was here that the priest of Zeus wanted to offer a sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:6-20). This was the home of Lois, Eunice, and young Timothy (Acts 16:1-4). These cities were in the province of Galatia (Gal. 1:2) in New Testament times. Both Derbe and Lystra await the archaeological spade.
Along the way we saw a large flock of goats (several hundred) and some camels grazing in a field. The nomad family, consisting of a mother and three or four girls, had brought the animals from the Coast over a two month period. The young lady watching the camels did not know her age. She might have been between 14 and 16 told our guide they would go back “when the first snow flakes fall.” This was a good reminder of Patriarchal days of the Bible.
Thursday we plan to visit the archaeological museum in Iconium (Konya) and Pisidian Antioch before heading for Antalya (Attalia of the New Testament).
We have had a busy, wonderful day. It is getting late and I probably will not be able to get the photos posted tonight. Everyone in the group is doing well and enjoying the historical, cultural, and biblical things we are seeing. Check in again tomorrow.
We made a full day excursion to Antakya (biblical Antioch of Syria). Turning south along the Mediterranean we passed the plain of Issus where the armies of Alexander and Darius fought in 333 B.C. Further south we passed Iskenderun (Turkish word for Alexandria) which was founded by Alexander the Great. It was along this land bridge that many ancient powers, Hittities, Macedonian, Romans, and Crusaders, made their way to ancient Canaan (Israel, Palestine). Antioch of Syria on the Orontes River was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 300 B.C. Antioch became a Roman city in 64 B.C. and capital of the new province of Syria. It became the third largest city of the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria. After Jerusalem, Antioch was the second great center of Christianity in New Testament times and where the disciples of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3; 14:26-28; 15:1-41; 18:22-23; Gal. 2). A church called the Cave Church of St. Peter honors Peter’s visit to the city (Gal. 2).. From here the great journeys of Paul began. This photo shows part of the modern city from Mount Silpius.
The museum has a fine collection of 4th century A.D. mosaics from nearby Daphne. After lunch we visited the site of the port of Seleucia (near Samandag) which was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 300 B.C. and served as the seaport of Antioch. From here Barnabas and Saul sailed for Cyprus (Acts 13:4). We saw the tunnel built by the Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus to control flooding in the area. The photo below is of the Besikil Cave, a rock cut tomb monument dating to as early as the first century A.D.
Tomorrow we visit Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium (modern Konya).
This morning we went to Tarsus, the native home of the apostle Paul. Tarsus is located near the Mediterranean Sea about 30 miles below the Cilician Gates. Tarsus in Cilicia served as one of the great crossroads of history. Paul described it as “no insignificant city” (Acts 21:39; 9:11; 22:3). Cleopatra once came up the River Cydnus to Tarsus to meet Mark Antony. The city now has a population of about 212,000. The fertile land of the Cilician plain near the city is suitable for growing many kinds of fruit, including citrus. North of the city in the hill country vineyards and wheat fields are abundant.
In Tarsus we saw a gate called Cleopatra’s Gate (or St. Paul’s Gate), sites associated with Paul (whether authentic or not), the recent excavation of the Roman street, and the Roman bath. There has been a recent discovery of a Roman bridge that once spanned the river. It is underneath a mosque that claims to contain the tomb of the prophet Daniel. I know of no historical reason to connect Daniel with Tarsus. We had lunch at the beautiful waterfalls on the outskirts of the city. It is difficult to imagine Paul not seeing these falls many times during his years in Tarsus.
About 12 miles north of the city, near the village of Saglikli, there is a wonderful stretch of Roman road. This road, the Roma Yolu in Turkish, was the road that connected Tarsus with the Cilician Gates. We walked almost the full length (about 1.5 miles) of this road. On previous trips I had been unable to get to this road, but thanks to directions from Dr. Mark Wilson, a friend who spends about half of each year doing research in Turkey, I was able to locate it. This was the first time our experienced guide of 18 years had seen the road. Take a look at Dr. Wilson’s web page, Seven Churches Network for some good resources on biblical Turkey. I think every member of our group enjoyed walking on this road that was constructed in about A.D. 200 during the reign of the Emperor Septimius Severus. Did Paul and Silas follow this same route on an earlier road during the second journey?
Today we really traveled ancient roads. Tomorrow we have plans to go to Syrian Antioch (now in Turkey) and Seleucia.
After worship we visited the village of Ortahisar, and made another photo stop in Cappadocia. We stopped in Avanos to make a photo of the Halys River. The river marked the boundary of the early Hittite kingdom. Avanos is noted for its pottery making. In Turkey, as in many parts of the world, the old hand skills such as pottery making are being taken over by machinery. In this small town many of the people still make pottery by hand.
Elizabeth and I are joined by our driver and our guide, Orhan Ongu, for this photo at Ortahisar in Cappadocia. This is Orhan’s home town, but he now lives in Istanbul. He is a knowledgeable and personable guide. The group is enjoying his help and information.
In the afternoon we drove south to Adana through the famous Cilician Gate, the pass through the Taurus Mountains. This pass was used by famous rulers such as Xerxes, Darius, Cyrus, and Alexander the Great. This route seems to be the one taken by Paul and Silas on the second journey (Acts 15:46 – 15:1). It would have been the route used by the Romans and the Crusaders. There is a feeling of participating in history as one travels this road. The ancient road has been replaced by a modern multi-lane highway. The photo below shows the Taurus Mountains from a rest stop north of the Cilician Gates. On the left is a Roman milestone dating to A.D. 231.
We passed near Tarsus, the native home of Paul, and turned east to Adana. This was the Old Testament region of Que (Kue) and the New Testament region of Cilicia. The earliest letter of the New Testament is the one contained in Acts 15:23-29. This letter is addressed “to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles.” Paul and Silas traveled through the region, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:40-41). Who established these churches?
Tomorrow we will explore Tarsus, home of the Apostle Paul.
Yes, I know, the photo is too small for you to pick out your friends. Here is a link to a larger copy you may view. Click on the thumbnail image.
Most of our group arose early to go ballooning over Cappadocia. This was a fascinating experience, and I wanted to share one of the beautiful scenes of the landscape and some of the other balloons that were gliding under the control of their capable pilots.
We spent the entire day visiting the lunar-like Cappadocian countryside. The region is described this way: “Most of this part of Cappadocia is covered with a deep layer of tufa, a soft stone of solidified mud, ash and lava which once poured down from the now extinct volcanoes on Hasan Dagi and Ericiyes Dagi, the two great mountain peaks of Cappadocia. In the eons since then the rivers of the region have scoured canyons, gorges, valleys and gulleys through the soft and porous stone, and the elements have eroded it into fantastic crags, folds, turrets, pyramids, spires, needles, stalagmites, and cones, creating a vast outdoor display of stone sculptures in an incredible variety of shapes and colours” (John Freely, The Companion Guide to Turkey, 238).
Devout Jews from Cappadocia were present in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:9). Peter=s letters were addressed to Christians living in Cappadocia (1 Pet. 1:1). In the centuries after New Testament times many Christians settled in this volcanic region of perhaps 50,000 cones. Hundreds of churches and numerous villages (e.g., Urgup and Goreme) were cut into these strange looking formations. Some apartment buildings are as much as 16 stories high. Subterranean cities (e.g., Kaymakli and Derinkuyu) extend downward to a depth of 8 to 10 levels. (See National Geographic, Jan., 1958; July, 1970).
Tomorrow we will travel south to Adana in ancient Cilicia. We will pass through the famous Cilician Gates in the Tarus Mountains.
Thanks for checking in each day. Here is a photo of our group which was made today by Adem Yildirim, local photographer, with my camera. How many of the group do you know?