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From Assos to Miletus

Below, overview of this segment of Paul's third journey.

Map: Neapolis to Miletus

At Assos, Paul boarded the ship carrying Luke and the others. Together they headed for Mitylene on the southeast coast of the island of Lesbos, where they spent the night.

 

Mitylene

The town of Mitylene ("mutilated") on Lesbos, the third largest of the Greek islands, is just 9 miles off the Turkish coast. Lesbos (modern Lesvos) is an island of great scenic beauty. Excavations have uncovered evidence of settlement around 2700 BC. Founded by Aeolian Greeks about 1000 BC, the town site is now occupied by modern Mytilini.  The ancient acropolis, which was probably visible to Paul, contained a sanctuary of the Greek mother goddess Demeter (7th-6th century BC). It is now occupied by a massive fortress looming over the city of Methymna.

Below, modern Mytilene, or Mytilini on the Greek island of Lesvos

Lesbos island

Above the ancient north harbor are the remains of the 3rd century BC theater (below) which gave the Roman general Pompey the idea of building the first stone theater in Rome.

Mitylene theater

The ancient acropolis, which was probably visible to Paul, contained a sanctuary of the Greek mother goddess Demeter (7th-6th century BC). It is now occupied by a large fortress, below (looming over the city of Methymna), thought to have been built in the 6th century AD.

"The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios." (Acts 20:15)

Kios

Kios ("snowy;" KJV Chios; modern Chios), a rugged island between Samos and Lesbos, is separated from the Turkish mainland by a 5 mile wide straight and most of it is occupied by craggy limestone hills, reaching a high point in Mt. Pellinaion (4,157' above sea level). The island has impressive cliffs, particularly on the east side. According to Greek mythology it was named for Chios, the son of Poseidon or Oceanus, and it is also considered to be the birthplace of Homer. The island's principle town and port, Chios or Chora, lies half way down the east coast. Its prosperity depends on agriculture and shipping; about one-third of the Greek merchant fleet is based on Chios, below.

Harbor at Kios

On the third day, they crossed the mouth of the bay leading to Ephesus and came to the island of Samos.

 

Samos

A small island, only 27 miles long, Samos is located south of Chios, north of Patmos and about a mile off the Turkish coast. About 487 BC the Greeks defeated the Persian fleet in the straight between the island and the mainland. In ancient times the island of Samos was famous as the site of one the world's most important sanctuaries and cultural centers, the Heraion, with its massive temple to the Greek goddess Hera (Roman Juno).

Below, Island of Samos. According to Strabo, the name Samos is from Phoenician meaning "rise by the shore."

After leaving Samos the ship sailed for Miletus, a major city about 95 miles south of Smyrna (modern Izmir) and 35 miles from Ephesus. Acts records no incidents or preaching stopovers at Mitylene, Kios or Samos. Paul decided to sail past Ephesus to "avoid spending time in Asia because he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem ... by the Passover."

 

Miletus

Meletus ("pure white fine wool"), near the coast of western Asia Minor, was one of the most important cities in the ancient Greek world. It was situated at the mouth of the Meander River, 35 miles south of Ephesus.. The city was thought to have been founded by settlers from Crete, where there was a city of the same name.

miletus model

Miletus had four harbors and three agoras (marketplaces) and flourished between 324 BC and 325 AD. The city achieved maritime greatness by establishing eighty trading colonies, some afar afield as Egypt and the Black Sea. It was also famous as the birthplace of Greek philosophy. Thales, the "father of Western philosophy," lived in Miletus, as did Anaximander, the father of astronomy, and Hecataeus, the world's first travel writer. Another famous citizen was Hippodamos, who introduced the grid system for laying out cities (used at Miletus and elsewhere). The Milesians were also anti-feminists. Historian Herodotus recorded that they had a law forbidding wives from sitting at tables with their husbands, or even addressing them by name.

The city's main export was wool, which is said to have been marketed in every corner of the ancient world. The city was destroyed by the Persians in 495 BC and rebuilt by 479 BC. Its inhabitants opposed the advance of Alexander the Great (334 BC), only to be crushed again. When the Romans gained control in 130 BC, the city was rebuilt, but it never regained it former maritime and economic greatness. By the time of Paul's visit, the city was living on past glories.

In the footsteps of Paul — Miletus

The remains of this once great economic, cultural and political center are now isolated in an alluvial plain. The site, near the modern city of Söke, is among the most interesting in Turkey and it includes:

Below, "Lion Harbor," a name derived from the two stone lions, one on each side of the harbor. A chain was strung between them to keep enemy ships out of the harbor in times of danger.

Lions harbor today

Below, monument just west of the Lions Harbor that commemorated the victory of Octavian and Agrippa over Marc Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.

Theater (below) with seating for 25,000. It sat on a peninsula between two of the city's harbors.

miletus theater

Below, North Agora (marketplace)

North agora at Miletus

Below, Adjacent to the North Agora is an Odeum, a small covered theater used for lectures, concerts; probably served as a bouleuterion, a meeting place for the city council (boule). It was first built by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 B.C.) who ruled at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in Judea, also when the biblical book of Daniel was written. It had a capacity of about 1,500.

Odeon in agora

Market Gate (below) once led into the southern agora (the largest known Greek marketplace). It is now on display at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany.

market gate of miletus, now in berlin's pergamon museum

Below, southern agora, the largest of the Miletus' three agoras of Miletus. Construction began in the Hellenistic period, and was completed in the Roman period.

miletus south agora

Baths of Faustina (below) located west of the southern agora. The complex was financed by (and named for) Faustine, the wife of emperor Marcus Aurelius (161–180 AD)

faustina baths

 

Paul meets with the Ephesian elders at Miletus:

Miletus was the end destination for Paul's ship. To reach Ephesus, 35 miles to the north, he would have had to change ships. Paul was attempting to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost, fifty days from the Passover, which he had just celebrated in Philippi. It took him over two weeks to get this far, leaving  about a month to complete his journey. If he had gone to Ephesus, he would have had to greet various families and friends, and if trouble should arise, like the theater riot of a year ago (see Acts 19), he would have lost more time. He could not risk the side trip, so he sent messengers requesting that the Ephesian elders come meet with him at Miletus for some final instructions.

It took messengers one day to travel to Ephesus with Paul's invitation, and another day for the return to Miletus. Meanwhile, Paul had time to speak with the believers in Miletus. When the Ephesian elders arrived, Paul spoke of his premonitions that it would be his last time in that area:

"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again."

Paul then left them with final instructions and a warning about what to expect in the future:

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!"

When he had said this, he knelt down and prayed with them.

"They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea..."

After tearful goodbyes at Miletus, Paul and his companions boarded a ship for the final leg of their journey to Palestine.

Continue from Miletus to Rhodes