The Twin Brothers, Castor and Pollux

May 1, 2012

After Paul had suffered shipwreck on the island of Malta (Acts 27:39-44; 28:1), and wintered there, he continued his trip (as a prisoner) to Rome. Luke writes, “After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island” (Acts 28:11, NKJV). The Twin Brothers were the mythical Greek gods (assimilated by the Romans) Castor and Pollux, sons of the god Zeus.

The NIV renders the text, “After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux” (cf. KJV).

The NET Bibles notes:

tn Or “the ‘Twin Gods'”; Grk “the Dioscuri” (a joint name for the pagan deities Castor and Pollux). sn That had the “Heavenly Twins” as its figurehead. The twin brothers Castor and Pollux, known collectively as the Dioscuri or “Heavenly Twins,” were the twin sons of Zeus and Leda according to Greek mythology. The Alexandrian ship on which Paul and his companions sailed from Malta had a carved emblem or figurehead of these figures, and they would have been the patron deities of the vessel. Castor and Pollux were the “gods of navigation.” To see their stars was considered a good omen (Epictetus, Discourses 2.18.29; Lucian of Samosata, The Ship 9).

Remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux may be seen in the Roman Forum.

Temple of Castor and Pollux in Roman Forum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The temple was built in gratitude for victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus (495 BC). This site furnishes yet another link between surviving archaeological artifacts and references in the biblical text.

Click image for larger view.