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


Antioch on the Orontes | Derbe | Lystra | Iconium | Antioch in Pisidia | Alexandria Troas | Neapolis | Philippi | Thessalonica | Beroea | Athens | Corinth | Ephesus | Caesarea | Antioch on the Orontes

After a few years, the Gentile mission now accepted, the elders in Antioch and Jerusalem decided for a second journey. This time Sts Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, ostensibly because they disagreed over the suitability of John Mark, but perhaps also because of St Paul's more radical views as to the rights of Gentiles. At this date St Paul had not yet forgiven the desertation in Perge. Whilst St Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus, St Paul left Antioch perhaps in the spring of 49, accompanied by Silas and began a second missionary journey. The latter's being a Roman citizen was also an advantage.
The preaching of the gospel at Ephesus, the rich cosmopolitan metropolis of the Roman province of Asia, was probably the major objective of this journey. St Paul also wanted to check how his first converts in the churches of Galatia were doing. Recently, he had heard of their apostasy and was probably compelled to write them.
There was only one overland route to Galatia. This had been in use centuries before St Paul's time and is still in use today. After they left Antioch, the Apostle and Silas probably skirted the Amuq (Amik) plain until they reached the Amanus mountain, the southernmost extension of the Taurus chain. They must have crossed the Amanus by the Assyrian Gates and descended to the Mediterranean coast, to Alexandretta ad Issum (iskenderun), another city founded by Alexander the Great, and passing by the battleground of Issus (333 BCE] continued towards Cilicia. The name of this fertile plain is thought to have derived from its name when it was a part of the Assyrian 'Khilakku' domain and later the satrapy of Hlk=Hilik established here by the Persians. It was fed by the rivers Pyramus (Ceyhan) and Sarus (Seyhan). In antiquity, like that of the river Cestrus of Perge, the deltas created by these rivers were infected with malaria. From Antioch on the Orontes it would have taken a walk of several days to reach Tarsus. It is very probable that St Paul visited his family and friends before departure, and they refreshed their supplies for the long trip awaiting them. The only connection between the southern plain and inland Anatolia was established by the Cilician Gates (Gülek Bogazi) which was a narrow pass of 3 m width. The pass had been carefully guarded by the ancient kingdoms which ruled in the region and during the late Hittite period it was known as Mt Muti. Crossing it in 401 BCE, Xenophon in Anabasis describes it as having 'consisted of a carriage track which was tremendously steep; impassable for any army if there was any opposition'. The Cilician Gates was supplanted by a number of difficult passes and despite the existence of the Roman road which transversed them going through these gorges was a difficult part of St Paul's journeys. Writing in 50 CE when he served as the governor of Cilicia, the Roman statesman Cicero says 'Snow makes the Taurus impassable before June', a statement probably concerning Roman troops and baggage trains rather than individual travellers.
Shortly after crossing the Cilician Gates the landscape changed. This was the beginning of centra! Anatolia which was a dry, vast, high plateau known at the time of St Paul as Galatia. Research has shown that it was once, some ten or fifteen millennia before, occupied by an inland sea. The present day Salt Lake (Tuz Gölü) known at that time as lake Tatta is what is left of it. Where water supplies permited it could give adequate grain harvests, but much of it was a dusty dun-coloured expanse which became a barren waste at the centre. Since their invitation by the king Nicomedes IV of Bithynia to serve as mercenaries around 287 BCE, the region had become the home of Celtic tribes or Gauls, and was named Galatia. Originally forming a military aristocracy, the Gauls remained a minority of a population that was largely native Phrygian and Cappadocian.
The southern province of Galatia at the time of St Paul's journeys, was known as Lycaonia. It was a largely pastoral area, with large flocks of sheep and goats and other animals. The journey of Cyrus the Younger and his army through this area may be regarded as the earliest contact of the native population with Greek culture. Although the region would be subdued by general Perdikkas of Alexander the Great, the actual penetration of the Greek language and culture had to wait for the establishment of the Roman colonies shortly before St Paul's visits. When St Paul came this way, many people spoke their own language, although as elsewhere, Greek was the common language. Even though a network of Roman roads traversed it, the region remained remote, and its few cities were situated along the highway. It is very probable that until he reached Antioch in Pisidia St Paul followed the western branch of the main Roman thoroughfare known as the Cilician road. Coming out of the Taurus range this artery turned west and by way of Cybistra (Eregli) reached Derbe. Thus, following the first mission's route in the opposite direction from Derbe the Apostle continued to Lystra probably by way of Laranda (Karaman), Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia. Except for Lystra the activities of the Apostle during his second missionary journey through this region are not known. However, 5t Paul would not have missed visiting his acquaintances in these churches.
Although he had been stoned at Lystra this had taken place about a year ago and by this time the magistrates in the city were expected to have changed. Here St Paul was joined by a young disciple, Timothy, whose Father was Gentile, but whose mother was a Jewish convert to Christianity. In spite of St Paul's belief that circumcision was not necessary for salvation, a fact which was officially established by the Apostolic Council, for expedience he had Timothy circumcised (Acts ] 6:3). Although his behaviour seems to contradict his words 'if you have yourselves circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you' (Gal 5:2), as a practical man St Paul might have wanted to avoid unforeseen problems when preaching to Jewish communities.
After a trip through the cities of southern Galatia and Pisidia in the spring the prospect of going to Ephesus, a city with a coastal swamp for a harbour, may not have looked attractive. He was prevented from going into the province of Asia by the Holy Spirit. The hills around Antioch in Pisidia were the western extremity of the Phrygian plateau. From Pisidia, St Paul, Silas and Timothy must have avoided the dry central plateau and travelled through the Phrygian highlands which were never short of sweet water springs and towns established in the pockets of the mountains. The Royal Road which Herodotus claims to have been built by Darius I (522-486 BCE) and connected Sardis to susa also ran through this region. To reach Ephesus the shortest and easiest route at the time that the Apostle and his friends hit this ancient highway was to Follow it to the west. If they had continued on it to the end it would have taken them through the Hermus valley to Sardis. They, however,seem to have crossed the highway somewhere and travelled northwest towards Dorylaeum (Eskisehir).
Somewhere between Mysia and Bithynia St Paul had a vision, which prevented him continuing in this direction. If St Paul had continued in this direction, he would have reached the populated cities of Prusa (Bursa), Nicaea (Iznik) and Nicomedia (Izmir) and finally Byzantium. The prospect of preaching the gospel in the populated urban centres across the Aegean, and even eventually further west at Rome, was always in the Apostle's mind. He travelled west, to the Aegean coast whose harbours were never short of vessels to the islands and Macedonia. Troas, also known as Troad, was the name of the northwestern projection of Anatolia into the Aegean. It extended north from Adramyttium (Edremit), the destination of the vessel St Paul would take as a prisoner for Rome a few years later (Acts 27:2), to the Hellespont (Dardanelles). Its highest point was Mt Ida (Kaz Dagi) where Paris once acted as the arbitrator for the beauty contest which is said, ultimately, to have led to the Trojan war. The major cities of the region were Assos, Troia and Alexandria Troas.
In Alexandria Troas the Apostle saw another vision, very probably an allusion to St Luke, telling him to go to Macedonia. The first encounter of St Luke, the narrator of 'We-sections' in Acts2, and St Paul is thought to have taken place here. This meeting was very probably accidental because until he reached the border of Mysia and Bithynia, the Apostle had not yet decided which way to travel. St Luke was a Greek physician, the 'beloved physician' (Col 4:14), and according to one tradition 'by birth' from Antioch on the Orontes, a hypothesis originating from the detailed manner in which he recounts the development of Christianity in that city. He might have also met St Paul there. His parents are thought to have obtained Roman citizenship when Julius Caesar gave it to the physicians in Rome. A second tradition claims that he was a native of Macedonia whom St Paul met in Alexandria Troas and converted. It has been suggested that the party, now of four, decided to cross to Macedonia on the initiative of St Luke who was familiar with the region.
Although St Luke begins narrating the events as a member of the group it is difficult to know exactly if he simply used 'we', first person plural, as a literary device to colour the incidents. The realistic way that the events are recounted after this point give the impression that even if he was not there during the 'we' events, he may have used another eyewitness' story. Acts does not mention any ministry in the city during this first visit to Alexandria Troas. The Apostle would visit the city during his next journey and preach the gospel.
Alexandria Troas was founded around 300 BCE by Antigonus I, a general of Alexander who had inherited the European portion of the hero's empire after his death, and named it Antigonia. After defeating Antigonus at Ipsus (301 BCE), the victor, Lysimachus [another general of Alexander) renamed the city in honour of Alexander and added the word 'Troas' to distinguish it from Alexandria in Egypt. It was strategically situated on sea and land routes and had later become a Roman colony. With its small but well-protected harbour, which is still very impressive the city was then a major trading post. The warm springs of the region still attract many visitors as in the past. All that can be seen of this large and overgrown site are some remains of the baths built by Herodes Afticus in the first half of the following century.
From Alexandria Troas St Paul and his friends took a boat to the island of Samothrace to continue their journey towards Macedonia. His meeting with Lydia, a citizen of Thyateira, a dealer in purple cloth, is interesting in showing the lively commercial world of this period in the Aegean.
After eighteen months of labour in Macedonia and Greece, St Paul and his fellow tentmakers, Aquila and Priscilla, departed from Cenchreae, the eastern harbour of Corinth, for Ephesus. Aquila was a Jew, originally from the Roman province of Pontus, and with his wife Priscilla, had settled in Rome. They were among the Jewish population that the emperor Claudius had banished from Rome (Acts 18:2) and were already Christians when St Paul met them in Corinth. The Roman historian Suetonius, who was born shortly after St Paul's martyrdom, informs us that 'Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus he expelled them from the city'.
The historian's reference is short and it is not clear if he means Christ or any other Jesus movement unknown to us. If he means Christ, it is the earliest reference of its kind outside Christian literature. It may be that some Jewish Christians who regarded Jesus as the expected messiah may have been opposed by other Jews. Claudius seems, despite his lenient rule, and tolerance for Jews to have followed the characteristic Roman attitude at the time of disturbances and punished all of the insurgents by expulsion.
It was after this event that Aquila and Priscilla arrived in Corinth where they met St Paul. The couple may have accompanied St Paul to Ephesus, in addition to their religious enthusiasm, to find more profitable business opportunities, for the city was famous for the manufacture of tents and marquees. This was a period when people travelled safely and easily from one place to the other for different purposes. It is also suggested that towards the end of his second journey St Paul's health was not good and the couple accompanied him as far as Ephesus. This may account for the fast trip of the Apostle from Corinth to Antioch on the Orontes by way of Ephesus.
It is also probable that Aquila and Priscilla went to Ephesus and stayed there to make preparations for St Paul's third journey; because, eventually, one of the congregations in Ephesus met in their house (Rom 16:5). This unusual couple were deeply committed to their religion. The Apostle admits that at least once they 'risked their necks' for his life (Rom 16:3-4).
The writer of Acts says that before sailing from Greece 'he had his hair cut because he had taken a vow' (Acts 18:18). The reason for undertaking this Nazirite vow is not known. The Apostle may have wanted to demonstrate his Jewish origins to the Corinthian Jews. Or he may have been sick. According to the Jewish custom one did this when one was ill, or in distress and followed the observances elaborated in the Book of Numbers 64. To unbind the vow he would shave his head and keep his hair to be burned as a sacrifice at the altar of the Jerusalem Temple. Since the Corinthian mission had been successful and there was no reason to be distressed, the vow St Paul had taken is thought to have concerned his sickness at Corinth, another place infected with malaria. Later in his letter to the Romans in the last part claimed to have been addressed to the Ephesians when he introduces Phoebe of Corinth saying 'she has been a benefactor to many and to me as well' (Rom 16:1) he may have been referring to his sickness there and Phoebe's nursing of him. St Luke should certainly have known of the Apostle's illness; but as a discreet physician faithful to his Hippocratic oath, does not give any information about it.
At the lime that the Apostle's boat arrived, Ephesus was on the sea with its port at the mouth of the Cayster river (Küçük Menderes). Strabo, writing some forty years before (he arrival of 5t Paul, says that the harbour was already silted up. Almost none of the monuments whose ruins are visible today was yet built when St Paul visited Ephesus. In addition to this the great earthquake of 17 CE had destroyed what was left from its previous Hellenistic history.
During his short slay St Paul must have visited the local synagogue, probably on the Sabbath when the people were assembled. The place where the synagogue of Ephesus stood is not known. But the departure of his ship prevented him from staying longer. The reason may have been that the sea voyage which awaited him was long and it was already autumn, the end of the sailing season in 52.
Aquila and Priscilla remained in Ephesus where they became prominent figures of the Christian community. During the absence of the Apostle, Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, who was well read in the Old Testament and a good speaker came to the city. It is difficult to understand if Apollos was a Christian, and if so, where he had been 'instructed in the way of the Lord'. He 'spoke and thought accurately about Jesus' but had not received baptism. The 'baptism of John' stands for 'baptism with water' as a symbol of repentance but not baptism in the name of Jesus.
The information given by Acts leads one to think that Apollos was preaching 'a Baptist sect' which perhaps existed separately, even in competition with the Christian church. Priscilla and Aquila, who had listened to him speak in the Ephesian synagogue, were impressed but also concerned about his lack of understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit, so they'took him aside and explained to him the way [of God] more accurately. And when he wanted to cross Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him.'
The story of Apollos shows that in addition to St Paul, there were other Christian preachers who frequented the metropolises of the Greco-Roman world whether they were authorized or not.

Thus, from Ephesus St Paul took the ship to Caesarea from where he travelled to Antioch on the Orontes by land.