Travel in Bible Times–Tomb of Merchant Flavius Zeuxis

June 26, 2014

The necropolis of Hierapolis is one of  the largest ancient burial sites in Turkey. Tombs there date from 2nd century BC through 3rd century AD. One of the more interesting is that of T. Flavius Zeuxis and his sons (1st century AD).

Tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, merchant of Hierapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, merchant of Hierapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Dr. Carl Rasmussen observes: “Note the finely carved doorway with doorposts and lintel, the carved base, the slightly protruding stones of the corners (pilasters) of the tomb, the upper molding, and the Doric frieze composed of triglyphs and metopes filled with rosettes!” Click here.

The inscription above the tomb entrance is translated, “Flavius Zeuxis, merchant, who sailed seventy-two trips around Cape Malea to Italy, built this.”

Tomb Inscription above door. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Tomb Inscription above door. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This inscription is helpful on several counts. Cape Malea is the southern tip of Greece’s Peloponnesus peninsula. It is famous for its treacherous weather and seas. William Barclay wrote:

It was a dangerous cape, and to round Cape Malea had in ancient days much the same sound and implications as to round Cape Horn had in later times. The Greeks had two sayings which showed what they thought of the voyage round Malea-“Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,” and, “Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.” (The Letters to the Corinthians, p.1).

Obviously it would have been considered quite an accomplishment to have made 72 trips around the Cape. This would mean a total of 36 round trips this merchant had made from Hierapolis of Asia Minor to Italy and back! Some have suggested that Zeuxis would have made two or three trips per year from Hierapolis to sell his goods in Italy.

This has implications for several biblical texts. For example, when Paul (as a prisoner under house arrest) was writing the NT letter of Colossians from Rome, Epaphras of Colossae was with him (Col. 1:7). Paul went on to referenced the tri-cities of Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea as he spoke of Epaphras’ work among them:

Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. (Col. 2:12-13, NKJV).

The Zeuxis inscription shows it would not be unusual for residents of the Lycus River Valley, such as Epaphras, to make the voyage to Rome and back.

The travel of merchants such as Zeuxis also helps us relate to Paul’s journeys recorded in Acts, many of which were by sea. Further, it is not without significance that Paul mentioned the dangers he faced, including those on the sea:

 I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers (2 Cor. 11:26, NET).

But notwithstanding the potential dangers faced, travel by sea in the 1st century was common!

Also we might think of Rev. 18:11-13, with its extensive list of trade good that merchants (like our Flavius Zeuxis) from various locations in the Empire, brought to Rome. Contextually this passage speaks of the mourning that will come as a result of the fall of Rome:

And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.

Click on images for larger view.


Theater At Hierapolis

May 27, 2014

Today was devoted to exploring Hierapolis. I think today was the hottest day of our trip, and we did a lot of walking. There is a lot to see here.

First century Christians living in Hierapolis are mentioned in Colossians 4:12-13:

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.

Every significant Roman city ordinarily had a theater.

Hierapolis Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hierapolis Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Some flora and fauna at Heriapolis:

Gecko at Hierapolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Gecko at Hierapolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wild flowers at Hierapolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wild flowers at Hierapolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Today wraps up this photo/study trip for various sites in Turkey for Ferrell Jenkins & me.  We have made several trips of this nature, and I always enjoy them and learn a lot. Tomorrow morning is a 4 hr. drive back to the airport at Antalya and then a flight to Istanbul and homeward bound from there.


Sardis, Philadelphia and Hierapolis

March 13, 2010

As we continued our visitation and study of the cities of the Seven Churches (Rev.2-3), we began the day today at Sardis, the former capital of the Lydian Empire.  Sardis has an interesting history. The inhabitants felt overly secure because of their seemingly impenetrable location, and fell to the Persians under Cyrus and later to the Greeks led by Alexander.  The spirit of the community tends to spill over into the church.  The church at Sardis had a name that they were alive, but Jesus said they were dead. Using their history of being caught off-guard as a springboard, Jesus told the church there to “be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God” (Rev. 3:2).

Pictured here is the temple of Artemis at Sardis:

Sardis Temple of Artemis. Photo by Martha Felker

Sardis Temple of Artemis. Photo by Martha Felker.

It seems that most kids, like these girls, like to have their picture taken.

Little Girls at Sardis. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Coinage was invented here at Sardis.  Pictured here is the site of the gold mining operation.Sardis Gold Mining.  Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Next we went to Philadelphia.  The church at Philadelphia had an “open door,” Jesus said.  This church and the one at Smyrna were the two which Jesus only commended and of which He had nothing to condemn.  The promise, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more” (Rev. 3:12), is likely a reference to the frequency of earthquakes in the area.  It is a promise of stability and strength.  Historically, the people would have to flee out of the city until the tremors had stopped; hence the promise, “he shall go out no more,” depicting safety and security for the faithful.

I thought I would post a couple of human interest photos from Philadelphia.Walking up to the acropolis we were met by an older gentleman with his horse.  He was very willing for me to take his photo.

Philadelphia Old Gentleman and Horse. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Philadelphia Old Gentleman and Horse. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This photo was taken at the acropolis of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Family Picnic. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Philadelphia Family Picnic. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Next we traveled on to Hierapolis, just north of the Lycus River.  Hierapolis is not one of the Seven Churches, but is nearby Laodicea and Colossae.  Each of those three cities had New Testament churches, and are referenced in Col. 4:13-16.  Hierapolis was/is known for its medicinal thermal springs.  The warm water coursing down the slopes leaves behind white calcified limestone formations. Today the town is called Pamukkale, which means “cotton castle” or “cotton fortress.”

Leon at Hierapolis.  Photo by Johnny Felker.

Leon at Hierapolis. Photo by Johnny Felker.

For tonight I’ll leave you with a sunset photo.

Hierapolis Sunset.  Photo by Leon Mauldin

Hierapolis Sunset. Photo by Leon Mauldin