Rhodes to Tyre in Phoenicia

From Rhodes, still heading east, Paul sailed to Patara on the southern coast of the province of Lycia.

Map 3rd Journey: stops in west Turkey



Patara ("scattering, cursing") on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor, immediately east of the island of Rhodes, served as a popular port for ships traveling eastward during the early autumn months when favorable winds made travel to Egypt and the Phoenician coast easier. The harbor sat near the outlet of the Xanthus River and it was the main shipping point for Xanthus (7 miles north), the chief city of the region of Lycia in antiquity.

The city probably dates from the 5th century BC, but it doesn't appear in historical records until it surrendered to Alexander the Great in 333 BC. In ancient times Patara was celebrated for its oracle of Apollo who, according to legend, wintered there after spending his summers on the Greek island of Delos. Some considered Apollo's oracle there to be better than the more famous one at Delphi. Ancient historian Herodotus records that the oracle spoke through dreams experienced by priestesses. Later it was a Roman city, and most of the ruins seen there today date from this period.


Exploring ancient Patara

Below, overall view of the ruins of ancient Patara

Overall view of the Patara site

Below, arch of Mettius Modestus, governor of the Roman province of Lycia-Pamphylia about 100 AD. Empty niches on the arch once held busts of Modestus and his family.

Gate of Modestus

Between the arch and the theater, near the east edge of the harbor mouth, are baths built during the reign of Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-79 AD), a Byzantine basilica, a colonnaded street, and a council house.

Below, Patara theater

Patara Theater

The ancient harbor is now a reed-filled quagmire closed off from the sea by sand dunes. Recent excavations have uncovered a residential area; and two Hellenistic temples. Restoration efforts are focused on the Roman baths, Byzantine basilica and ancient main street.

Below, temple

Corinthian Temple

At Patara, Paul changed ships, from one that hugged the shore of Asia Minor, to one going directly to the ancient Phoenician port of Tyre. The journey took, perhaps, two to three days, and along the way he passed to the south of the island of Cyprus where he, accompanied by Barnabas, stopped on his first missionary journey.

Map: route from Patara to Tyre

At Tyre Paul remained for one week.



Tyre ("a rock") was the principal seaport on the Phoenician coast, about 40 miles south of Sidon and 45 miles north of Acre (Acco). According to Herodotus, Tyre was founded about 2700 BC. Like Sidon, Tyre was in reality two cities, one  on an island, another on the mainland, and each had its own harbor. Its Hebrew name, Tzor, signifies a rock, as in flint, which was used as a knife. The city took an active part in the maritime trade with Egypt which led to the Egyptian attempts to control the Phoenician coast. When the Philistines plundered Sidon about 1200 BC, many of its inhabitants fled to Tyre. Afterward, Tyre became the principal Phoenician port.

Below, modern Sour, Lebanon, successor to ancient Tyre in Phoenicia

Tyre (modern Sour)  port

Southern Tyre

The city's most coveted export was the costly red-purple dye, called 'Tyrian," made from the local murex shell. Legend says the deities Melqart and Astarte were walking along the beach when their dog picked up a shell that stained its mouth crimson. Astarte told Melqart she would love him forever if he would make her a dress of that color. In response he built the dye-works. The Tyrians jealously guarded the processes used to extract and blend their dyes. Some of these trade secrets still lie buried in the ruins of ancient Tyre.

The city first appears in the Bible in Joshua 19:29 where it is referred to as a "fortified city" in reference to the boundaries of the tribe of Asher. Joshua, however, was unable to conquer the surrounding territory. But it is most famous as the city from which King Hiram sent cedar wood and workmen to David for the building of his palace, and subsequently supplied Solomon with materials and workmen for construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. During his reign Hiram linked the mainland with the island by an artificial causeway and built a temple to Melqart (Herakles or Hercules) and Astarte (Ashtoreth in the Bible).

In the 9th century BC, Tyre founded Carthage in Libya, on the north African coast. Early in the 6th century BC, king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon laid siege to the walled city for 13 years. Tyre stood firm, but it is probable that at this time the residents abandoned the mainland city for the safety of the island. In 332 BC Alexander the Great set out to conquer this strategic coastal base in his war with the Persians. Unable to storm the city, he blockaded Tyre for 7 months. Again Tyre held on. But Alexander used the debris of the abandoned mainland city to build a causeway, then used his siege engines to batter and finally breach the city walls. It is said that Alexander was so enraged at the Tyrians' defense that he destroyed half the city. The towns' 30,000 residents were massacred or sold into slavery. Despite these heavy losses, the city recovered under Seleucid patronage. In 64 BC, Tyre (and the whole of ancient Syria) fell under Roman rule. Herod the Great rebuilt the city's main temple which would have been standing when Paul stopped over in Tyre, also earlier when Jesus came to the vicinity of Tyre and healed the demon-possessed daughter of a Canaanite woman (see Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-31).

The Romans built a great many important monuments in the city, all dating from the 2nd century to the 6th century AD. They include:

Monumental arch (below), which stands astride a Roman road that led into the ancient city. Alongside the road are the remains of the aqueduct that assured the city its water supply.

Tyre ancient street with triumphal arch

Hippodrome (below) - One of the largest ever found, with seating for 20,000 spectators who gathered to watch the death-defying sport of chariot racing (as in the movie "Ben Hur"). Each end of the course was marked by still existing stone turning posts (metae). Charioteers had to make this circuit seven times. Rounding the metae at top speed was the most dangerous part of the race and often produced spectacular spills.

Hippodrome chariot racing track

Below, seating section of the hippodrome

Tyre hippodrome chariot racing track

Colonnade of the palaestra, gymnasium exercise area.

palaestra gymnasium excercise area

This was Paul's first visit to Phoenicia, but already a Christian congregation was thriving in Tyre. He stayed with his fellow believers for seven days, and they, through the Spirit, urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem for fear of what would happen to him. But Paul dismissed the warning because he wanted to take money collected from the Asian and European churches to the Holy City. Luke continues his account:

"But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-bye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home. We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais..."


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