From Malta to the port of Puteoli

The experience with the storm convinced the ship's captain and its owner that they should not venture out to sea again until the spring. So Paul spent the next thee months on Malta.

Below, satellite view of Malta showing the location of the bay where Paul is believed to have been shipwrecked; now named St. Paul's Bay in the apostle's honor.

Map of malta

Malta, known to the Romans and Greeks as Melite, was located 58 miles south of the much larger island of Sicily (below) and it possessed one of the finest harbors in southern Europe. With the defeat of Carthage in 218 BC, it became part of the Roman Empire.

map showing malta, sicily  and the toe of the italian boot

Below, St. Paul's Bay, Malta

Luke relates two miraculous incidents that occurred on Malta. The first happened when the islanders* built a fire for the shipwreck survivors to warm them against the rain and cold. As Paul placed a pile of brushwood he had gathered on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. The islanders saw the poisonous snake hanging from his hand and assumed Paul was murderer. But when Paul shook the snake off into the fire, suffering no ill effects, the Maltese changed their minds and said he was a god.

*"Islanders," literally "barbarians," the Greek name for all non-Greek speaking people. Far from being uncivilized, they were of Phoenician ancestry and spoke a Phoenician dialect, but were thoroughly Romanized.

The second incident occurred when Publius (Greek protos "first in any succession of things"), the island's chief official, invited everyone to his home. Publius' father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery.

"Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him." Afterward, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured."


Paul finally reaches Rome

When spring came, another Alexandrian grain ship, with a wooden figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux, arrived on the island. In gratitude to Paul, the Maltese provided him and his companions with food for the rest of their voyage to Rome. Once on board their new ship they set sail, first, for Syracuse where they stayed three days.


Syracuse (Greek Surakousai)

Syracuse was a large maritime city on the island of Sicily, the "football" west of the "toe" of the Italian "boot." It had an excellent harbor and was surrounded by a 14 mile wall.

modern syracuse

Below, Temple of Apollo

Syracuse apollo temple

Below, ancient theater at Syracuse

syracuse theater


From Syracuse Paul sailed to Rhegium

Rhegium  ("breach," modern Reggio) was at the toe of the Italian "boot," just at the southern entrance of the Straits of Messina (ancient Fretum Siculum), which separates the southern tip of Italy from the island of Sicily. By a curious coincidence, the figures on its coins are the twin gods Castor and Pollux that appeared as figureheads on Paul's ship. Like Syracuse, it was originally founded by Greeks (about 750 BC). Because of its position on the Straits of Messina, Rhegium soon became the leading city of Calabria and by 433 BC, a very prosperous city and a busy port on the Greek trade routes.

The next day, a reliable south wind came up to take them through the Straits of Messina without foundering on the rock of Scylla and the dangerous whirlpool of Charybdis located around the promontory north of Rhegium. Gliding past the island of Capri, near the southern entrance of the Bay of Naples, they could seen Mt.Vesuvius dominating the eastern shore of the Bay of Naples.

Below, the still-active volcano Mt. Vesuvius (4,199') looming over the Bay of Naples. Ash and lava from a catastrophic eruption in 79 AD, about 19 years after Paul came here, buried the towns of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae at its base.

bay of naples and mt. vesuvius

After nine or ten days of sailing from Malta, the ship docked at Puteoli.



Puteoli was located almost 200 miles from Rhegium on the northern shore of the celebrated bay called "Sinus Puteolanus," now the Bay of Naples. It was founded in the 6th century BC and, in 338 BC, it fell into Roman hands. It was the great landing-place for travelers to Italy from the East and the harbor to which the Alexandrian grain-ships brought their cargoes. The name Puteoli, meaning "sulfurous springs," was derived from the strong mineral springs in the area. It was a favorite watering place of the Romans who believed its hot springs cured various diseases. Although 75 miles from Rome, ships usually discharged their passengers and cargoes there because it was the closest large harbor to the capital of Empire.

modern puzzuoli

In the fifth century AD, Puteoli was ravaged by both Alaric and Genseric, and it never recovered its former prominence. Now called Pozzuoli, the remains of the baths, a huge amphitheater, the temple of Serapis (below), and the quay at which Paul landed may still be seen there.

temple of serapis at anceint puteoli

At Puteoli, Paul and his companions were met by some fellow Christians. As at Sidon months earlier, the centurion Julius allowed Paul to spend a week with them, undoubtedly as a favor to Paul for his services during the perilous voyage.



Remainder of the journey to Rome