Saint Paul the Apostle | Travel and transport in St. Paul's Time | Tarsus : City of Saint Paul | Antioch on the Orontes : Headquarters of the Gentile mission | Seleucia Pieria : Port of Antioch on the Orontes | Saint Paul's First Journey | Ministry in Antioch on the Orontes | Saint Paul's second journey | Saint Paul's Third journey | Saint Paul's Journey to Rome

SAINT PAUL'S FIRST JOURNEY

Antioch on the Orontes | Seleucia Pieria | Salamis | Paphos | Perge | Antioch in Pisidia | Iconium | Lystra | Derbe | Lystra | Iconium | Antioch in Pisidia | Perge | Attaleia | Seleucia Pieria | Antioch on the Orontes


In the spring of the year 47 Sts Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by John Mark, set out on their first missionary journey from Antioch on the Orontes.
It was St Barnabas who had gone from Antioch on the Orontes to Tarsus, found St Paul and explained him what was being asked from them. His background, as both a Levite, namely a member of a Jewish priestly family, descended from Aoron, the brother of Moses and a Hellenistic Jew from the diaspora, was not dissimilar to St Paul's. He could speak Greek and was familiar with pagans. John Mark, St Barnabas' cousin, probably owed his participancy in the journey as the third member of the group to St James. If John Mark was the young man who had followed Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane 'wearing nothing but a linen cloth' and who left his garment 'behind and ran off naked' (Mk 14:51), he must have met Jesus Christ and knew his life and thus could help the preaching of his companions as an eyewitness.
Although the distance between Antioch and Seleucia was no more than 15 km as the bird flies, the region was rugged and overland transportation was very difficult. The Apostles probably sailed downstream by the Orontes to reach Seleucia, which must have taken a day. There, according to the fifth century apocryphal Acts of Barnabas they had to wait for three days to find a ship bound to Cyprus. The memory of their departure must have lingered for a long time because during the previous century each of the two piers of the outer harbour of the city, until they disappeared under water, was named after one of the Apostles.
Cyprus, the island to which their first journey took them was situated at the centre of the eastern Mediterranean, crossroads of ancient civilizalions. St Barnabas was a native of Salamis and would have known the island well, hence perhaps the decision to come here.
The island's earliest inhabitants are thought to have been immigrants from Syrian and Cilician coasts. On clear days the silhouette of the Troodos chain of Cyprus is visible from these countries; and thus small rafts must have been sufficient to take the first inhabitants there.
The rich copper deposits of the island are thought to have been utilized since the beginning of the Bronze Age, sometime around 3000 BCE, and have given the island its name1. Ox-hide copper ingots brought to light by underwater archaeology indicate that, in addition to agricultural produce such as wine, corn and olive oil, this metal was the most important source of wealth for the islanders. Being on ancient trade routes the island was influenced by the Anatolian cultures, and the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete, Greece and Sicily. Kition, its capital and the most flourishing city of the Bronze Age is thought to be the Alasia mentioned in the Hittite cuneiform tablets. The Old Testament term 'kittim' referred to the inhabitants of this city and was later used for Cypriots in general and eventually for Greeks and even Romans. Like Anatolia, Greece, the Aegean islands and the eastern Levant, in about 1 200 BCE Cyprus suffered the destruction of the Sea Peoples. Some of these immigrants may have also settled on the island. The strongest Greek element introduced to the ancient culture of Cyprus dates to this period. When Cyprus recovered from the Dark Age (about 1200-800 BCE) it was ruled successively by the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians and Persians.
The Greek city states which were established on the island took a short respite after the conquest of Alexander's navy in 333 BCE. Meanwhile Petra tou Romiou, some 20 km to the southeast of Paphos, had traditionally become the place where the goddess Aphrodite was born from foam. During the Hellenistic era the island was under the hegemony of the Ptolemies of Egypt which ended in 58 BCE with the conquest of Rome. Thus, at the time that the Apostles' ship sailed into the harbour of Salamis the island was a part of the Roman empire with a Roman governor.
Although the Romans had chosen Paphos for the residency of the proconsul, Salamis was still the most important city in Cyprus. At the time that Sts Paul and Barnabas reached the city it boasted the institutions of a large Hellenistic polls: a theater and a gymnasium both of which were being enlarged during this period.
At Salamis, where there was a large Jewish community, known to have come here after Augustus leased the salt mines on the island to king Herod the Great [37-4 BCE), the first Christians were probably some of those who had to leave Jerusalem when the persecutions began. In Acts, one of the Cypriot converts is mentioned as 'Mnason, a Cypriot, a disciple of long standing' at whose house St Paul would stay in Jerusalem when he returned from his third journey (Acts 21:16],
There is not any information about the content of the Apostles' message in Cyprus but that they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues. The fifth-century apocryphal Acts of Barnabas mentions a synagogue which was 'near the place called biblia, where Barnabas, having unrolled the gospel which he had received from Matthew his fellow-labourer, began to teach Jews'. Excavations in Salamis have not yet brought to light any synagogue of St Paul's era or later. All of the early synagogues must hove been destroyed following the big Jewish revolt which began in Egypt and spread to the island (1 15-17). When the rebellion was suppressed 'no Jew was allowed to appear on the island' by the order of the emperor Trojan.
From Salamis the Apostles travelled across the island or 'through the whole island' [Acts 13:6) to Paphos. The expression, probably, is used to imply that in addition to those of Salamis and Paphos, some of the other Jewish communities were visited. The trip would have been made either by following the coast or transversing the island. During the Apostles' calls the Cypriots probably knew more about St Barnabas whom they later regarded as their patron saint, than St Paul. His given name, Barnabas (from Hebrew barnebhuah=son of 'prophecy'), may infer a role as a prophet or teacher. Previously in Jerusalem, he had 'sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money at the feet of the apostles' (Acts 4:37). In Acts his name is interpreted by St Luke as 'son of consolation'.
The apocryphal Acts of Barnabas states that they visited Lapithus (Lapta) along the northern coast of the island where they were not received well because of the 'idol Festival' which was being celebrated then. They continued 'through the mountains and came to the city of Lampadistus' which is now identified with the resort of Kalopanayiotis village some 70 km to the southwest of the island's present capital. During their wanderings they had to take refuge in 'the village of the Ledrians' from the Jews who opposed them and were looking for them. Ledra is the ancient name of Nicosia (Lefkose).
In Paphos, where a well-established Jewish community is thought to have existed, the Apostles were summoned to speak in the presence of Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor who had a Jewish sorcerer named Elymas Bar-Jesus. During this period employment of magicians or sorcerers by rich people was popular; worshipping one or more gods or cults was common. As he had shown interest in what Elymas represented, the governor wonted to hear about the cult of the new speaker. To the magician, St Paul must have appeared as a rival and he tried to prevent his patron from hearing the Apostle's preaching. St Paul, calling upon the power of the Holy Spirit, temporarily struck blind the sorcerer. This miracle so impressed the governor that when he 'saw what had happened he came to believe, for he was astonished by the teaching about the Lord' (Acts 13:12).
St Paul seems to have employed the method which would have been used by any magician of the time. Fixing his eyes on his opponent, he cursed him so that Bar-Jesus, at least temporarily, lost his eyesight. It has been suggested that the phrase may refer to 'spiritual blindness' which later led to the story of 'actual blindness'. One may also infer that the blinding of the magician, a false prophet, opened the governor's eyes. The conversion of Sergius Paulus, however, could not have had an immediate role on the spread of Chrislianity in the island, because proconsuls were usually appointed for one year periods and there was no reason why the Cypriots should follow the religion of the Roman administrator.
From this point on, in Acts, the Apostle is not referred to as Saul, but Paul. Early Christian writings suggest that the Apostle changed his name after this Famous conversion. Nevertheless, choosing Greek names was not unusual among Jews even before the time of St Paul and it did not necessarily indicate a hellenizing tendency. It has been also claimed that here the change of the Apostle's name refers to a change in his role; from being a Jew among Jews in the Semitic world of Palestine, to a Roman citizen in the hall of a Roman proconsul, in the Gentile world. Thus his ancient royal name had lost its importance. This governor, however, is said to have been Lucius Sergius Paulus a native of Antioch in Pisidia who later became a consul in Rome. It is probable that he suggested St Paul should go to Antioch in Pisidia where he had relatives and estates and even gave him letters of introduction.
A Cypriot legend maintains that the Apostles were imprisoned and scourged in Paphos before their encounter with the governor. A broken column in the former church of Chrysopolitissa (also known as of St Kriake) near New Paphos is said to have been used to tie up St Paul and lash him 39 times. The tradition of 'columns of flagellations' seems to have been inspired by St Paul's words that five times at the hand of the Jews he was scourged 'forty lashes minus one' (2 Cor 1 1:24). According to the book of Deuteronomy forty stripes, but no more, may be given to a man whom the judge found guilty, in order not to disagrace his relatives 'because of the severity of the beating' [Dt 25:2-3). With the standards of the time this was regarded as a mild punishment. It has also been suggested that the expression, probably, did not refer to the number of strokes but the type of whip, which had 39 cords tied in three bands of thirteen cords. The story in Paphos might have even been inspired by the incident in Jerusalem when the centurion gave instructions for the Interrogation of St Paul under the lash (Acts 22:24).
After a few years St Barnabas returned to his island together with his cousin John Mark. There is no scriptural record about the return of St Barnabas to Cyprus. Tradition has It that he was martyred in his native city Salamis probably about 61 and secretly buried.
From Cyprus the Apostles sailed to Perge in Pamphylia. This sea voyage may have taken about three days. Pamphylia was a narrow coastal plain between the Taurus chain and the Mediterranean extending from Cilicia to the heights of Lycia. It had been settled by a people of Anatolian origin and later by Greeks. The latter began to settle here after the great migrations around 1 200 BCE ond chose Trojan heroes as their ancestors. Amongst its prosperous cities were, in addition to Perge, Attaleia (Antalya), Side and Coracesium (Alanya).
Perge may have been the destination of the ship's captain, a situation with which the Apostles seem to have complied. The Cestrus river (Aksu) that ran by the east of Perge, having no delta, was navigable from the sea and the Apostles' vessel soiled against the slow moving current up to the city, which by the middle of the first century had began moving from the original settlement on the acropolis to the flat plain.
At the time of St Paul's arrival Perge was entering an era of great prosperity. Most of the standing remains are of a later date, but the walls, theatre and the circular Hellenistic towers of the main gate were there when the Apostles came to this city. If one walked on the main street to the north one would have reached the palaestra, dedicated to the emperor Claudius (41-54). Later, in the early second century CE, the oval area flanked by the towers was converted into a beautiful marble-lined courtyard with niches housing statues of the gods, the family of the emperor, the mythical founders of the city and various celebrities. St Paul would certainly have seen the temple of Artemis of Perge which was described by Strabo as being 'near Perge on a lofty site, to the temple where a general festival is celebrated every year'.
Apart from St Paul's brief visits and his preaching here, little is known about early Christianity in Perge. The apocyrphal Acts of Barnabas mentions a two-month stay in Perge. Here John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem. In Acts there is no indication why John Mark left. It has been suggested that he may have been jealous of St Paul who by then hod assumed the leadership of the party. Or, he may have worried about the brigands who haunted the Pisidian heights. It is also claimed that St Paul's plans to bring the gospel to Gentiles may have been regarded unacceptable by John Mark. Or was he shocked and lost heart when he saw St Paul all of a sudden sick? If this sickness were epilepsy, seeing the Apostle with his eyes rolled up and foam at his mouth which had to be gagged ond his body rigid as stone may have disappointed the young man. Whatever happened in Perge, the event affected St Paul's faith in John Mark (Acts 15:36-41), although it did not affect his feelings towards St Barnabas. St Paul and John Mark were eventually reconciled, for many years later in his letter to the Colossians, St Paul wrote 'Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions; if he comes to you, receive him]' (Col 4:10) and in his second letter to Timothy (4:1 1), 'Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry'.
Some scholars believe that the reason for St Paul's moving to Pisidia and southern Galatia was the illness he contracted, perhaps malaria. Otherwise, for winning new converts the cosmopolitan coastal cities of Pamphylia were certainly more favourable than the scarcely populated northern highlands. Later when the Apostle says 'you know that it was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the gospel to you, and you did not show disdain or contempt because of the trial caused by my physical condition, but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Jesus Christ' (Gal 4:13-14) he refers to his sickness. Whatever his sickness6 was, the Apostle's words make it clear that fresh mountain air was better for it than the hot and humid coastal plain.
The narrow passes of the Taurus chain were closed through the winter months, and thus the Apostles are thought to have begun journeying north before snow began falling. Shortly after coming out of Perge the main Roman road was split into two and the path which turned to west crossed the mountains to the north of Attaleia and continued northwest towards Laodicea.
If St Paul took this longer road to reach Antioch in Pisidia he would have probably travelled to Cremna and Sagalassus, and ended up on the Via Sebaste which encircled the lakes Anava (Burdur) and Limnai (Egridir) to the north. St Paul, however, eager both to leave the humid plain as quickly as possible, and reach his destination where he expected to make new Gentile converts, very probably took the second much shorter route. This road connected Perge to Antioch in Pisidia by way of Adada following the path of the Cestrus river, by a route which was used until recently by nomads and because of the high number of crossings is known in Turkish as 'Kirk Geçitler', 'Forty Passes'. The uncountable number of crossings on the ravine must have been a very difficult experience, for when St Paul later says 'on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers' (2 Cor 1 1:26), he is thought to allude to this part of his travels, to the deep gorges of Cestrus, dangerous even in autumn when dry. Adada was the most important ancient city on this route to Antioch in Pisidia and is still known by the local villagers as 'Karabavlu', 'Black Paul'.
On such a rugged track their trip may have taken about ten days or more to reach inland. A few decades before the Romans had pacified the Pisidian heights. Despite this, the Apostles probably joined a group of travellers going in the same direction, and waited until a crowd big enough to discourage the bandits from attacking them was gathered.
Having lost the battle of Magnesia (190 BCE) against Rome, the Seleucids had retreated to the south of the Taurus mountains ond the Seleucid hegemony in the north was taken over by the Galatians, who ruled as a vassal kingdom of Rome. This lasted until their last king Amyntas' (37-25 BCE) death, when the region was made a Roman province. With the exception of Derbe, the three cities 5t Paul visited in this region (Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra) were Roman colonies. They were settled by Italian war veterans and immigrants who brought with them their native political and social institutions. Their function was to guard the Roman military routes against the Pisidian mountain tribes.
Antioch in Pisidia (Yalvac] lies on the slope of a mountain overlooking a fertile valley northeast of lake Limnai, by the river Anthius (Yalvaç çayi). The city was probably founded by Seleucus I (31 2-281 BCE) and again named after his father Antiochus. It was called 'Antioch ad Pisidiam', 'Antioch in ('towards or 'next to'} Pisidia' in order to distinguish it from a number of Antiochs that the king had founded. Near the Phrygian and Pisidian borders, the city was settled with Macedonian soldiers. The population was doubtless expanded by local Phrygians, as the city's main deities were Anatolian: Cybele the Great Mother, whose main sanctuary lay north at Pessinus, and the moon god Men, to whom numerous votives were offered by Antiochenes at his temple at the top of a nearby mountain at Karakuyu.
Antioch in Pisidia was an important city for the Romans during their war with the Homonadeis, a people who had preyed on the Pisidian heights and the first colony in the region, named Colonia Caesarea Antiochea. The pacification of the Pisidian heights was achieved by the consul Publius Sulpicius Quirinius who is said to have left no man free in the countryside and forced the younger generation to adopt Roman customs. By 6 BCE the Taurus range had become quiet and the consul was transferred to Syria, which he was to govern, and to hold the great census at the time when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem (Lk 2:1 -7).
Some scholars think that although physical preoccupations may explain St Paul's preference of preaching the gospel to the people in the cool heights (Gal 4:13) rather those in the damp and hot Pamphylian lowlands, this is not enough to explain why he did not go from Perge to any of the better-populated and better-situated cities such as Sagalassus or Cremna but turned directly towards Antioch in Pisidia.
Antioch's elite families were descended from the Italian colonists and one of them was a relative of the proconsul of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus who had been converted to Christianity by St Paul a few months ago. It is possible that this contact, with all the possibilities it suggested, was one of the reasons for the Apostle's visit to Antioch in Pisidia where he hoped to make similar highly-placed converts, lulius Sergius Paullus, whose name is encountered on a stone discovered at Antioch is believed to be the son or grandson of Sergius Paulus of Cyprus.
Although the city was the largest in the region there is no information about the size of the Jewish community. The evidence of the existence of a Jewish people in the area comes from a second- or third-century-CE epitaph found in Apollonia (Uluborlu) which refers to a Jewess named Debbora, a citizen of Antioch, married to a man from Sillyum in Pamphylia who is thought to have settled in Apollina. This epitaph says that Debbora was 'born of renowned parents'. The name is, however, Semitic and implies that her 'renowned parents' probably lived in Antioch on the Orontes rather than Antioch in Pisidia.
When the Apostles entered the synagogue9, they sat down with the rest of the congregation and prayed. After the prayers and the readings they were invited to address the assembly. According to Jewish custom, as Jesus had done before (Lk 4:16), a person was free to speak in the synagogue (Acts 17:1-2). After delivering his address here St Paul was invited to preach on the next sabbath.
When, subsequently, St Paul drew a large crowd of Jews and Gentiles, some Jewish members of the regular congregation became so angry that they 'stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them' (Acts 13:50).
St Paul might have hoped that not only Jews, but also Gentiles from important families who were Jewish sympathizers, and so sometimes attended the synagogue, would perhaps accept his Christian message. In the event, it was to the Jews of Antioch rather than to St Paul, that these well-connected people gave support and the Apostles were persecuted and expelled from Antioch. When he later speaks about his sufferings and says 'Three times I was beaten with rods' (2 Cor 1 1:25), a magistrate's punishment with the rods of Roman lictors, one of the cases may have been here at Antioch in Pisidia.
Nevertheless, some converts were made, and although their number may not have been high it was the first time a church of Gentiles isolated from the Jewish community was established. It was probably this fact which kindled the anger of the local Jews against the Apostles.
Sts Paul and Barnabas returned here from Iconium before going on to Perge 'Confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith' (Acts 14:22). It is very probable that St Paul came here in the course of his second and third journeys because the region was on his way to the province of Asia, Macedonia and Greece.
Almost none of the ruins which can be seen today, probably with the exception of the aqueduct which brought water from a spring 10 km north, were here when St Paul came. The temple of Augustus and Tiberius' courtyard with the street leading to it were under construction.
Thus shaking 'the dust from their feet' so as not no be defiled by a heathen community the Apostles left. The expression has been used by Christ in his teaching of the mission to the Twelve Apostles (Mk 6:1 1; Lk 9:5) as a testimony against the people who rejected the call to repentance.
During this period the region where Iconium, Lystra and Derbe were located was known as Lycaonia with Iconium as its capital. To get to Iconium the Apostles probably took the Roman military road, the Via Sebaste. It was built by the magistrate Cornutus Aquila in 6 BCE and named in honour of Augustus. By the time of St Paul's visits the road had become a network connecting the Roman colonies of Pisidia with each other and served as the main artery between the province of Asia and Cilicia and Syria. Iconium had already a very long history when it was visited by the Apostles and was known as Claudio-Conium after the Roman colony which Claudius had founded by the existing Greek settlement.
In Iconium (Konya) 'they entered the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks came to believe' (Acts 14:1). However, not all the Jews believed and the Christian message gave rise to argument and division in the city, rather than to brotherly love. The Apostles' stay in the city was perhaps several months long. Hearing that their adversaries were planning to stone them, St Paul and his companions fled- Nevertheless, they returned here from Lystra to exhort the faithful, before leaving the region.
Though not specifically mentioned, it is possible that St Paul came again to Iconium when passing through Galatia on his second and third journeys. The only other material relating to St Paul's stay in Iconium is the romantic story about him and Thecla in the apocryphal Acts of Paul. In antiquity the easternmost of the two conical mountain peaks which command the landscape of Iconium to the west was named after her. The other one is named after St Philip who according to one tradition travelled to Hierapolis and Ephesus by way of Iconium.
Fleeing from Iconium, the Apostles seem to have found themselves on the road to Lystra which was about a day's walk by the Via Sebaste, some 30 km south.
At Lystra there was a crippled man, lame from birth, who had never walked. He listened to St Paul speaking, who looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, 'Stand up straight on your feet'. He jumped up and began to walk about. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian: 'The gods have come down to us in human form'. They called St Barnabas 'Zeus' and St Paul 'Hermes', because the latter was the chief speaker (Acts 14:8-12).
Obviously the people with whom the Apostles first came in contact were the uneducated local population and when St Paul healed a cripple they were at first thought to be gods, and the people hailed them in their native tongue as Zeus and Hermes.
In Lystra the crowds' belief that the gods had arrived in their city in the likeness of men was not surprising. In their world gods often made themselves visible, even participated in the banquets prepared in their honour. Early Christian writings mention St Barnabas' having a tall and imposing appearance and this must have caused him to be identified with Zeus. St Paul, the speaker less significant than his companion, could be Hermes, the god with the gift of eloquence.
The anthropomorphic pagan gods worshipped in the region included Zeus/ Jupiter and Hermes/Mercury. Hermes (Mercury), herald and messenger of gods and protector of travellers was a well-known god whose shrines were encountered even between milestones. It is known that in some parts of Anatolia, Zeus was associated with other deities.
Although the very persons whom the Apostles encountered at this point may not have known it, Greek mythology associates the region with the visit of Zeus and Hermes during the time of the great flood as told by the Roman poet Ovid in Metamorphoses written a few decades before St Paul was born:
'Jupiter visited this place, disguised as a mortal, and Mercury, the god who carries the magic wand, laid aside his wings and accompanied his father. The two gods went to a thousand homes, looking for somewhere to rest, and found a thousand homes bolted and barred against them. However, one house took them in: it was, indeed, a humble dwelling roofed with thatch and reeds from the marsh, but a good-hearted old woman, Baucis by name, and her husband Philemon, who was the same age as his wife, had been married in that cottage in their youth, and had grown grey in it together...So, when the heaven-dwellers reached this humble home and, stooping down, entered its low doorway, the old man set chairs for them, and invited them to rest their weary limbs; Baucis bustled up anxiously to throw a rough piece of cloth over the chair, and stirred up the warm ashes on the hearth, fanning the remains of yesterday's fire...Her husband had brought in some vegetables from his carefully-watered garden, and these she stripped of their outer leaves. Philemon took a two-pronged fork and lifted down a side of smoked bacon that was hanging from the blackened rafters; then he cut off a small piece of their long-cherished meat, and boiled it till it was tender in the bubbling water. Meanwhile the old couple chattered on, to pass the time, and kept their guests from noticing the delay. There was a beechwood bowl there, hanging from a nail by its curved handle, which was filled with warm wafer, and the visitors washed in this, to refresh themselves. On a couch with frame and legs of willow wood lay a mattress, stuffed with soft sedge grass. Baucis and Philemon covered this with the cloths which they used to put out only on solemn holidays...Then the gods took their places for the meal.
The meal that the poor couple prepared for the gods included various delicacies. After wiping the table with some stacks of fresh mint, Baucis placed wild cherries, radishes, cheese, eggs roasted in ashes, nuts, figs, dates, plums and wine. When the dinner was over Zeus and Hermes revealed themselves.
"We are gods", they said, "and this wicked neighbourhood is going to be punished as it richly deserves; but you will be allowed to escape this disaster. All you have to do is to leave your home, and climb up the steep mountainside with us". The two old people both did as they were told and, leaning on their sticks, struggled up the long slope. When they were a bowshot distant from the top, they looked round and saw all the rest of their country drowned in marshy waters, only their own home left standing. As they gazed in astonishment, and wept for the fate of their people. Their old cottage, which had been small, even for two, was changed into a temple: marble columns took the place of its wooden supports, the thatch grew yellow, till the roof seemed to be made of gold, the doors appeared magnificently adorned with carvings, and marble paved the earthen floor.
Among the archaeological material which is brought to light in the central Anatolia and related to Hermes or Zeus, the most interesting is a sculpted bust of the latter accompanied by an image of an eagle, his attribute, and Hermes, his travel companion during the terrestrial sojourn in Phrygia.
The news of the wonder worked by the two strangers spread through the streets of Lystra and the priest of the temple of Zeus hurried to find sacrificial bulls bearing garlands. The Apostles tore their garments in the customary Jewish reaction against blasphemy, an act also encountered in Acts 1 8:6 and Mark 14;63. In answer to the pagan Lycaonians the Apostle, 'Hermes' called upon their experience and knowledge of God, who at last had given a supreme revelation of himself, to turn 'from these idols to the living God', advice which he would later repeat to the philosophers of Athens (Acts 17:24-31}.
The events in Lystra give us an idea of how things were in a small Anatolian pagan town at the time of St Paul's missionary journeys. The Apostles may have encountered many a similar settlement and event during their travels. A similar incident would later happen in Malta where St Paul's ship was wrecked during his journey to Rome. Here, when the native barbarians saw a viper hanging from St Paul's hand without doing him any harm, they thought that he was a god disguised as a man (Acts 28:3-5). The event also brings to mind the centurion Cornelius' falling at the feet of St Peter when he is greeting the latter in a manner appropriate to a deity (Acts 10:25). Both archaeological findings and ancient literature show that if there was one thing that Anatolia of this period was not short of, it was gods and goddesses. This was a period when politics, social and economic life, fortune and the future of people were all integrated into religion. Be it a metropolis like Ephesus or a countryside town like Lystra, sanctuaries and altars of smaller or larger size could be seen everywhere. There were even nameless altars dedicated to 'unknown gods' so that the deities whose worship may have been neglected unknowingly should not be offended.
Acts does not say if the Apostles were successful in Lystra. However, at least a family of a grandmother, Lois, mother, Eunice, and son, Timothy accepted the Christian faith (2 Tim 1:5). The grandmother and the mother were Jewesses and the mother had married a Greek. Her son, Timothy, although not circumcised, probably had been raised in the manner of a Jewish youth. He would become a travel companion of St Paul during next journey and serve as his secretary.
The place of Lystra (Hatunsaray) has been identified by the discovery of a stone altar, standing in its original site, which gives the name of the site as Lustra. Its inscription indicates the existence of a temple dedicated to Augustus in the city. This may have been the temple of Zeus referred to as being 'at the entrance to the city' (Acts 14:13).
Yet from Lystra too, having preached the gospel, they were expelled, at the behest of a delegation of
in his letters St Paul would refer to these events saying 'once I was stoned' (2 Cor 1 1.25) and also 'persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, persecutions that I endured' (2 Tim 3:1 1).
Derbe was, however, the only place where the Apostles were not persecuted. Acts just mentions that they preached the gospel and made many disciples although only one, Gaius of Derbe, is mentioned by name (Acts 20:4). Later, when St Paul in his letter to the Galatians said 'you did not show disdain or contempt because of the trial caused you by my physical condition, but rather you received me as an angel of the God, and Christ Jesus' (Gal 4:14) he may have been addressing particularly the people of Derbe. Also, later when he refers to the past 'persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra' he does not mention Derbe among these cities.
The site of Derbe (Kerti Hoyuk) was located a few decades ago owing to an inscription discovered at the site. There is almost nothing known about the history of the settlement except the fact that in the first century BCE the settlement served as headquarters for a notorious tyrant named Antipater until he was killed by the Galatian king Amyntas (37-25 BCE) and that it was also occupied during the Byzantine period.
From Derbe the Apostles could have travelled overland to Antioch on the Orontes by way of the Cilician Gates. This might have been more practical than going back through the cities of the furious Jewish communities they had visited or by the deep gorges of the Cestrus river. Also they would have avoided the hot coastal plain unsuitable for the Apostle's health.
St Paul however, returned by the same way he hod travelled before. From Derbe they retraced their steps to Lystra, Iconium, Antioch in Pisidia and Perge. In each of these places they ordained elders or presbyters, whose duties would have consisted of instructing the new converts and baptising children. This shows that, in spite of difficulties, they had made some converts. The early history of the most of these established churches is clouded in darkness.
The visits to these inland cities, with the exception of Antioch in Pisidia, probably incidental. St Paul's missionary objective was directed to the well-populated urban centres, often situated on the coast; and thus accessible by the sea. Despite his failure in the region, however, his determination would not permit him to forget the Galatians and he would visit them again and again on both his second and third journeys.
Acts (14:25) informs us that St Paul, on his return from this journey from Antioch in Pisidia went to Attaleia after preaching at Perge. Although the Apostles preached at Perge twice the narrator of Acts does not give any information concerning new converts or whether they were persecuted. It is not known whether St Paul's purpose in going Attaleia was to proclaim the gospel there, something he had missed when he first arrived in Pamphylia from Cyprus, or just to find a vessel bound for Seleucia Pieria from where they could easily travel to Antioch on the Orontes. Attaleia was founded by the king Attalus II (159-138 BCE) of Pergamum and at this time was a thriving Roman port. Among the ruins which are visible today there is nothing which dates back to the time of St Paul except the ancient harbour which was in use then. As the boat of the Apostles slowly moved out of the harbour and the worn out peaks of the Taurus mountains rose in the distance the Apostle had covered about 2,000 km, mostly on foot during this first journey.