Category Archives: Greece

Lesbos, Syrian refugees, and “Come before winter”

A recent evening news report on the Syrian refugees trying to reach some semblance of safety in Europe shows the dangers they face trying to get from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Some of the heavily loaded rafts and small boats have overturned in the rough sea. Why is that? It is because of the approach of winter. Keep that thought in mind and we will return to it.

Our first photo shows the ruins of the temple of Athena at Assos. The Aegean island of Lesbos is visible across the strait.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the temple of Apollo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the ruins of the temple of Athena. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The apostle Paul undoubtedly saw the temple of Athena when he traveled the approximate 20 miles from Alexandria Troas to Assos by land. His companions had traveled by boat from Troas to Assos. The historical account reads this way:

But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. (Acts 20:13-14 ESV)

The island across the strait is Lesbos. Follow the island coastline south and you will come to the town of Mitylene.

The island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit:

The Greek island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit:

Now, back to the danger of the sea in winter. There is a valid reason why Paul would encourage Timothy, after picking up his cloak and parchments at Troas [see the map] to come to him in Rome “before winter.”

Do your best to come before winter.  (2 Timothy 4:21 ESV)

Paul, having experienced his own shipwreck on the way to Rome, knew of the danger of traveling too late in the year. We are told that there were 276 persons aboard the ship that wrecked on Malta (Acts 27:37).

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ships that regularly cruise the Aegean Sea are only about half the size of those we are accustomed to in the Caribbean. They sail from April through mid-November. After that the sea is too rough.

Imagine the horror of taking one’s family out on the sea in a small raft during the winter season?

A nostalgic remembrance

In May, 1984 I directed at tour to Israel, Egypt, and Rome. With the group ready to return from Rome to the USA, I went to Athens to meet two of my Florida College colleagues, Melvin Curry and Phil Roberts. The next day we took a flight to Samos, Greece and a ferry to Kusadasi, Turkey. There we picked up a car and visited the sites of the seven churches of Revelation, and other biblical-related places, in western (or Aegean) Turkey.

The photo below was made at Colossae. It was difficult to get to Colossae in those days, but we had come a long way and did not want to be denied. I had read an article by Dr. Harold Mare about a visit to the site and the wish that an excavation could be undertaken. We followed the dirt road to the bank of the Lycus River where this photo was made. Beyond the tell (huyuk, in Turkish) of Colossae is the snow covered Mount Cadmus. The city of Honaz is hidden from view by the mound.

Melvin Curry and Ferrell Jenkins at Colossae. Photo by Phil Roberts.Melvin Curry and Ferrell Jenkins at Colossae in 1984. Photo by Phil Roberts.

After our visit in Turkey we took a variety of boats to Samos, Patmos, Rhodes, and Crete. From there we took a flight back to Athens to complete our tour together.

Melvin served as chair of Biblical Studies at Florida College prior to my stint. We see each other occasionally and enjoy a short visit now and then. Phil succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the young age of 57 in 2005.

After Phil’s passing, Marty Pickup, a younger teacher at Florida College, and I prepared brief tributes to him. I am posting, for the first time, a link to these tributes at here. Former students and friends might enjoy reading these after a 10 year lapse. Marty died suddenly at the age of 53 in 2013.

Three cities of the Lycus River valley are significant to New Testament studies. The saints at Colossae were the recipients of one of Paul’s epistles (Colossians 1:1-2). Hierapolis is mentioned in Colossians 4:13. Laodicea is mentioned in Colossians (2:1; 4:13-16), and was the recipient of one of the letters of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:11; 3:14).

Cities of the Lycus River Valley.

Cities of the Lycus River Valley. Made with Bible Mapper.

That was a wonderful trip, and one of many such personal study trips I have been blessed to make in the Bible World.

Hastings five volume Dictionary of the Bible

A few weeks (months?) back, after a long wait, I received the 5-volume A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by James Hastings, in Logos format. I have mentioned earlier that this is an old set that is not a substitute for owning newer materials. The fifth volume is an Extra Volume that includes some special studies. William M. Ramsay wrote sections on Roads and Travel in the New Testament. This material was published in 1911 and 1912.

Ramsay also wrote the Dictionary entry on Troas. Here I will share a few excerpts from that material that I think will illustrate the value of such material.

TROAS (Τρῳάς, or more correctly Ἀλεξάνδρεια ἡ Τρῳάς [Alexandria Troas]) was a city on the Ægean coast of Asia Minor, opposite the small island of Tenedos. The district in which it was situated was sometimes called as a whole Troas, and is in modern times generally called the Troad; it was the northwestern part of the land of Mysia….

It became one of the greatest and largest cities of the north-west of Asia. In the coasting voyage system of ancient navigation, it was the harbour to and from which the communication between Asia and Macedonia was directed (cf. Ac 16:8, 20:5, 2 Co 2:12). Owing to the greatness of Troas and its legendary connexion with the foundation of Rome, the idea was actually entertained by Julius Cæsar of transferring thither the centre of government from Rome (Suet. Jul. 79); and some similar scheme was still not wholly forgotten when Horace protested against it in Od. iii. 3. Hadrian probably visited Troas and it was perhaps his interest in it that led the wealthy and politic Herodes Atticus to build there an aqueduct (the ruins of which were imposing in very recent times) and baths….

The route followed by St. Paul, with Silas and Timothy, from the Bithynian frontier near Dorylaion or Kotiaion, brought the party to the coast at Troas (Ac 16:6–8). There can be little doubt that this road led down the Rhyndacus valley past the hot springs Artemaia, sacred to Artemis, on the river Aisepos.

Don’t dismiss the “old guys” in your studies, but don’t limit your studies to them.

Ruins of the Bath of Herodes Atticus at Troas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the Bath of Herodes Atticus at Troas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t confuse the Herodes Atticus mentioned here with the Herod’s of the New Testament. Herodes Atticus was a wealthy Greek from Athens who later became a Roman senator. The dates for his life are given in several sources as about A.D. 101–177. Those who have visited Athens may recall seeing the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slope of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slope of the Acropolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Eric Cline – 1177 BC – Live Stream

The Explorers Club — New York City
Public Lecture Series featuring Eric Cline

Event open to: Public — Date: November 03, 2014
Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Lecture
Location: NYC Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed

This event will be streamed live. Please visit our Live Stream page here at 7pm on the evening of the event to view the lecture for free.

Here is a brief summary of the lecture provided by The Explorers Club.

For more than three hundred years during the Late Bronze Age, from about 1500 BC to 1200 BC, the Mediterranean region played host to a complex international world in which Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Cypriots, and Canaanites all interacted, creating a cosmopolitan and globalized world-system such as has only rarely been seen before the current day. It may have been this very internationalism that contributed to the apocalyptic disaster that ended the Bronze Age. When the end came, as it did after centuries of cultural and technological evolution, the civilized and international world of the Mediterranean regions came to a dramatic halt in a vast area stretching from Greece and Italy in the west to Egypt, Canaan, and Mesopotamia in the east. Large empires and small kingdoms, that had taken centuries to evolve, collapsed rapidly. With their end came the world’s first recorded Dark Ages.

It was not until centuries later that a new cultural renaissance emerged in Greece and the other affected areas, setting the stage for the evolution of Western society as we know it today. Blame for the end of the Late Bronze Age is usually laid squarely at the feet of the so-called Sea Peoples, known to us from the records of the Egyptian pharaohs Merneptah and Ramses III. However, as was the case with the fall of the Roman Empire, the end of the Bronze Age empires in this region was not the result of a single invasion, but of multiple causes. The Sea Peoples may well have been responsible for some of the destruction that occurred at the end of the Late Bronze Age, but it is much more likely that a concatenation of events, both human and natural — including earthquake storms, droughts, rebellions, and systems collapse — coalesced to create a “perfect storm” that brought the age to an end.

For more information about Dr. Cline, see here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

New Discoveries from the Antikythera Shipwreck

The Antikythera Shipwreck was a special exhibition at the Athens (Greece) National Museum between April 2012 and April 2013.

The shipwreck off the eastern coast of Antikythera is dated to 60-50 BC, a period during which maritime trade and transportation of works of Greek art from the Eastern Mediterranean to Italy flourished. Its cargo dates from the 4th to the 1st century BC. The ship was a freighter of about 300 tons capacity and was sailings towards Italy.

Thera (aka Santorini) has been one of the stops on several of our tours that included an Aegean cruise. Antikythera (“opposite Kythera”) is a Greek island between Crete and the Peloponnese (where Corinth is located).

Now comes word (Oct. 10, 2014) that a team of archaeologists have recovered additional items including a bronze spear measuring more than 7 feet, a golden ring, an anchor, and an amphorae cluster. More information is available in TO BHMA here. Three short videos are included with the article.

The photo below, part of the Athens exhibit, shows some of the pottery from the earlier expedition scattered on the sea bottom.

Pottery and the cast of a horse on the sea bottom at Antikythera.

Pottery and the body of a horse sculpture on the bottom of the sea at Antikythera. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins

The ship was carrying numerous statues in bronze and Parian marble. The photo below shows Odysseus the mythical king of Ithaca wearing a one-sleeved chiton fastened on the left shoulder, and a conical cap on the head (museum display sign).

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C.

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We typically think of coasting vessels from the Roman period, and earlier, staying near the shore. This was certainly true of many of the sea journeys of the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:5, 13-16 27:5-7).

Greek archaeologists announced here the discovery of two Roman-era shipwrecks in water nearly a mile deep. Sailing to Italy required leaving the safety of the nearby shore for deep waters. Such was true of Paul’s journey to Rome after leaving Crete (Acts 27).

Paul spoke of the dangers at sea in his second letter to the Corinthians (11:24-29) about A.D. 55.

  • Three times I was shipwrecked.
  • A night and a day I was adrift at sea.
  • He mentioned “Danger at sea.”

The Malta shipwreck is the only one recorded in Acts, and it occurred after the writing of 2 Corinthians. Hughes mentions at least nine voyages between Acts 9 and 18. Paul says three of these ended in shipwreck. Hughes says there were at least another nine voyages between the writing of 2 Corinthians and the Malta shipwreck (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, 410-411).

At least some of the ships used by Paul seem to have been grain ships (Acts 27:38), but there may have been other cargo on some of them.

More photos from the special exhibition are available here and here.

New discoveries at Amphipolis

A new excavation at Amphipolis has revealed what the excavator and others think is a Macedonian tomb from the about 300 B.C. I have been following Carl Rasmussen’s HolyLandPhotos’Blog. He now has combined them into one here. In addition, he has called attention to the possibility of this tomb being similar to the one found at Vergina.

Drawing showing progress of the excavation. Source: Greek Reporter.

Drawing showing progress of the excavation. Source: Greek Reporter.

Here is a list of interesting articles, mostly with photos and drawings, to give you some idea of the exciting potential at Amphipolis.

The obvious answer is that it was most likely to have been built for Alexander, and either left empty when he was buried in Alexandria, or re-used for another Macedonian monarch – eg it could have become the tomb of Antigonus I Monophthalmus and the mausoleum of the Antigonids, for example.

Professor Rasmussen includes photos of jewelry and a golden oak wreath found in the area of Amphipolis.

Map showing Amphipolis. Credit: Bible Atlas.

Map showing Amphipolis. Credit: Bible Atlas.

Our photo below show the entrance to the Royal tombs at Vergina, a city located just a few miles from Berea, a city visited by Paul, Silas and Timothy (Acts 17:10-14). After the tumulus at Vergina was excavated a museum was built and then covered over to have the natural appearance. Notice the tumulus behind the ornamental fence.

Entrance to the Ancient Cemetery of the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ancient Cemetery of the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Without the sign and ticket office one might pass this museum as just another rolling hill. In the photo below you see a sign on the left pointing to the entrance. The exit is near the center of the photo. The museum is filled with items of silver and gold and photography was not allowed when I was there. I am pleased to have a copy of Vergina The Royal Tombs, by Manolis Andronicos, given to me by a Greek guide and friend nearly 30 years ago. The book includes photos of the artifacts that are displayed in the museum. A popular theory says that this is the tomb of Phillip II of Macedon. One may only imagine the glory of the tomb of Phillip of Macedon, or Alexander.

Tumulus covering the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tumulus covering the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo by Sarah C. Murray shows a golden wreath suspended over a golden larnax.

Golden wreath suspended over a golden larnax. Photo by Sarah Murray.

Golden wreath suspended over a golden larnax. Photo by Sarah Murray.


Paul traveled through Amphipolis

When Paul and his companions went from Troas into Macedonia on his second preaching journey, they went ashore at Neapolis (modern Kavalla, Greece), and continued to Philippi. Luke remained at Philippi while Paul, Silas and Timothy followed the Egnatian Way to Thessalonica. There is no indication of any preaching done in Amphipolis and Appollonia. In fact, the reference to the cities barely attracts notice.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. (Act 17:1 ESV)

Amphipolis was situated about 30 miles west of Philippi on the Via Egnatia. The River Strymon runs past Amphipolis and continues for about 3 1/2 miles south where it flows into the Aegean Sea.

The River Strymon at Amphipolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The River Strymon at Amphipolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

K. L. McKay, in an article in The New Bible Dictionary, describes the city briefly:

Prized by the Athenians and Macedonians as the key both to the gold, silver and timber of Mt Pangaeus and also to the control of the Dardanelles, it became under the Romans a free town and the capital of the first district of Macedonia. Amphipolis is about 50 km WSW of Philippi on the Via Egnatia, a great Roman highway, and Paul passed through it on his way to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1).

The city is somewhat difficult to reach and there is little to be seen. The most impressive ruin is a reconstructed lion dating to the 4th century B.C. standing along the highway.

The Lion of Amphipolis from the 4th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Lion of Amphipolis from the 4th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

New excavations recently have uncovered what may turn out to be an impressive tomb from the 4th century B.C.  More about that in a post to follow.