Troy is the home of legend. Homer immortalised Troy in his stories of King Priam, Hector, Paris, and the beautiful Helen. Archaeological excavations have revealed nine separate periods of settlement including ruins of city walls, house foundations, a temple and and a theatre. A symbolic wooden Trojan horse commemorates the legendary war.
Alexandria Troas – Odun Iskelesi
The City’s importance in religious history comes from the visits by St. Paul on his missionary journeys. On his second Journey St. Paul had wanted to go north in to Bithynia, but instead he and his companion Timothy were deflected to the Aegean Coast. In the night a Macedonian appeared to St. Paul calling him to cross the Aegean to Neapolis (Kavala) and Philippi. This is noted as the inspiration and beginning of the spread of Christianity in to Europe (Acts 16:7, 12). Perhaps it was here that St. Luke joined St. Paul in his journeys. The evidence is that the account in Acts changes at this point from “ they” to “we” . (Acts 16:8, 10). St. Paul was in Alexandria Troas again for a week as he returned from Macedonia on his third journey. This time he had so much to say to his friends that they stayed up all night. Eutychus, one of his young listeners, was sitting in a window, perhaps to get some fresh air because there were a lot of lambs burning. Around midnight he went to sleep in the stuffy room and fell out, landing on the ground. St. Paul ran down, examined him, looked at him and said: “ Stop this commotion, there is till life in him “ (Acts 20:10). The incident was only a brief interruption in the discussion that continued until after sunrise. It could be that during this visit to Troas St. Paul left his cloak behind in excitement. Maybe it was used to cover Eutychus and keep him warm after his fall. Whatever the reason, St. Paul asks Timothy to “Bring the cloak I left with Carpus at Troas, and the books, above all my notebooks”. (II Timothy 4:13 )
Troas also mentioned in II Corinthians 2:12 when St. Paul comments that he was disappointed at not finding Titus there, and so he went on to Macedonia. This probably refers to his first visit to Troas when he did not stay but quickly took the ship and went to Philippi. ( Alexandria Troas : Acts 16:8-11, 20:5-12, II Timothy 4:13, Corinthians 2:12-13 )
Assos – Behramkale
Assos is a southern port on the Canakkale peninsula and as such was a stop-over for St. Paul. St. Paul passed through Assos on his way between Alexandria Troas he sent a message back to Carpus in Alexandria Troas asking him to forward his cloak and notebooks. His friends has taken a boat from Alexandria Troas while St .Paul has travelled overland (Acts 20:13-14). He met them in Assos from whence they sailed together across the ten kilometres (6 miles) to Mytilene. ( Assos : Acts 20:13-14)
Adramyttium – Edremit
Adramyttium is mentioned in the New Testament only as the home port of the ship which St. Paul and the centurion Julius and some other prisoners took from Caesaerea of Phoenicia to Sidon and Then to Myra. ( Adramyttium : Acts 27:2 )
Pergamum – Bergama
Pergamum’s place in religious history is largely because of the paragraph addressed to its Christian believers by St. John in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 2:12-17)
He characterised Pergamum as the place where Satan was enthroned. (Revelation 2:13) Some people have thought that to be a reference to the Temple to Zeus which was on the acropolis. Some steps from the foundation were left in situ when it was sent to Berlin, Germany. St. John saw a group he called the Nicolatinas as an additional threat to the believers. Who these people were is not clearly known. (Revelation 2:14-15) St. John condemned them for adultery and for eating food that had been sacrificed to pagan gods. St. John also promised a white stone and hidden manna to those who repented of their false beliefs and immoral behaviour. (Pergamum :Revelation 2:12-17)
Thyatira – Akhisar
It is a small modern city, appears in guide books mainly because it is the old Thyatira, the site of one of the Seven Churches of Asia ( Rev. 2:18-29 ). St. John’s Criticism of Thyatira in Revelation was related to the prophetess Jezebel. Whether she was a real woman of that name or whether he intended her as a symbol of licentiousness, St. John saw the challenge to Christianity which Thyatira represented as a moral decay among the members. To those who refused to compromise with their ideals he promised “the star of dawn” and “ authority over the nations”. About forty years previous to the time that St. John wrote those words to the congregation in Thyatira, St. Paul had met one of the merchants from there when he arrived in Philippi. This was on his second Journey. The merchant was Lydia, a woman dealing in expensive purple cloth. Under St. Paul’s influence she and her whole household became baptised Christians. Lydia probably was well off; she insisted that St. Paul and his companions Timothy and St. Luke should stay in her house in Philippi (Acts 16:13-15).Perhaps her influence helped the church grow in Thyatira. By the end of the 1st century where must have been a sizeable community there for St. John to have chosen it as one of his seven. ( Thyatira : Revelation 2:18-29, Acts 16:14 )
Sardis – Sart
In the Old Testament Sardis, perhaps appears as the place called Sepharad where there were exiles from Jerusalem ( Obad. 19 ). These may have been people who had left Jerusalem after the Temple was destroyed in 586 BC. Or they may have been slaves who were sold to the Lydians by one of Nebuchanezzar’s ministers, Nabuzaradan ( II Kings 25:11-12 ) In the book of Revelation ( Rev. 3:1-6), St. John stated that Sardis needed to wake up. He complained that their acts did not live up to their reputation, that they did not finish what they started. But he held out the hope those who were not polluted that they should have robes of white (Revelation 3:5) White was the color then of righteousness and immortality. ( Sardis : Revelation 3:1-6 )
Philadelphia – Alasehir
During Byzantine times Philadelphia was the seat of a Christian bishopric. Its significance in Christian history was because it was the place one of the Seven Church congregations addressed by St. John in the Book of Revelation ( Rev. 3:7-13 ). Although one of the Seven Churches, Philadelphia was the least distinguished; it was the only one about which St. John had no real criticism. He characterised it as having been given an open door. It has been suggested that this is a reference to the border post. He told the Christians not to leave anyone take away their crowns and promised that those who were victorious would become pillars in God’s temple. “ Hold fast to what you have , and let no one rob you of your crown” (Revelation 3:11).The only evidences of Christianity in Alasehir now are the ruined walls of an 11th century church in Bes Eylul district. It was the seat of a Greek Orthodox archbishop into the 19th century, and the title is still maintained in the church. ( Philadelphia : Revelation 3:7-13 )
Laodicea – Laodikya
The site of another of the Seven Churches addressed by St. John in the Book of Revelation. (Rev. 3:14-22), Laodicea is on a low hill on the south bank of the Lycus River ( Curuksu ). The city was intersected by main trading routes running east-west and north-south. As a commercial center, it had a large Jewish community. When Hadrian visited it in AD 129 it was at its height and called itself “ the metropolis of Asia “. For St. John in Revelation, the Christians of Laodicea were neither hot nor cold and because of their indifference he wanted to spew them out of his mouth. “ I know all all your ways, you are neither hot or cold. How I wish you were either hot or cold. Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” ( Revelation 3:15-17 ) St. John promised in “ the words of the Amen” ( Revelation 3:14) that for those who were sensitive enough to hear and respond to what was being said , the Spirit would join them in the great feast. “Here I stand knocking at the door; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sit down to supper with him and he with me “ ( Revelation 3:20) ( Laodicea : Revelation 3:14-22, Colossians 2:1, 4:13-16 )
Hierapolis – Pamukkale
Pamukkale (The Cotton Castle of white travertine terraces ), is the ancient city where St. Philip was martyred. Recently Italian archaeologists have discovered his Martyrium, an octagonal chamber forming a double cross surrounded by a square. St. Philip lived here after the Apostles scattered from Jerusalem. Hierapolis is listed in the New Testament along with Laodicea as the center of Epaphras’s work (Colossians 4:13). Another less well-known resident of Hierapolis was Papias, a disciple of St. John and the author of the lost book called the Sayings of Jesus. ( Hierapolis : Colossians 4:13 )
Colossea – Honaz
Its place in Christian history is because of a 1st century AD letter addressed to it that was included in the New Testament. The letter to the Colossians was probably written about AD 60 or 65. From various references in the letter, it would appear that some of the Christians in Colossea were Jews ( Col. 2:11, 16, 21 ); and that St. Paul had not visited the city ( Col. 1:4; 2:3 ). Rather, he had heard about the group from Epaphras and from Onesimus who apparently from Colossea ( Col. 4:9 ). St. Paul was in prison at the time ( Col. 4:3 ), possibly in Rome. It also appears that St. Paul had become reconciled with John Mark ( Col. 4:10 ). Others mentioned in this letter include Timothy, St. Luke, Aristarchus who was in prison with him, and Tychicus whom St. Paul had asked to carry the letter. ( Colossae : Colossians )
Aphrodisias – Geyre
Aphrodisias as one of the most attractive ancient cities in Anatolia. The history of the city dates back to 5800 BC. Aphrodisias flourished as an important religious center and agricultural city, but it was also known as a center of the arts, letters and other intellectual and scientific pursuits. The Temple to Aphrodite, dating back to at least as the 7th century BC, was converted into a Christian basilica in the mid 5th century AD.
Smyrna – Izmir
Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and the main center for exports. It was the site of the second church scolded by St. John in revelation, and the home of the martyred Polycarp. Under the Eastern Roman Empire Smyrna’s leading place in commerce was taken over by Constantinople ( Istanbul ). It went back and forth between Turkish and Byzantine rule. For a while the Knights of St. John held part of it before Tamerlane took it 1402 and massacred almost everyone. He was quickly replaced by Turkish rule.
Ancient Smyrna was considered the most beautiful of the cities of Roman Province of Asia. Many of its public building were faced with white marble. Its most famous native son is Homer; he is thought to have been born near the river Meles. Smyrna figures in St. John’s Book of Revelation ( Rev. 2:8-11 ) as the place of the synagogue of Satan. St. John tells the Christians that they are about to suffer for their faith, but also says that those who are faithful unto death will gain a crown of life. By the turn of the 2nd century there was a large enough congregation in Smyrna to support a bishop. Of the early Christians, Polycarp, the fourth Bishop of Smyrna is known as one of the first Christian martyrs. He lived between about AD 65 and 155. After 40 years later Polycarp travelled to Rome to discuss with the Western Christian leaders the question of when Easter should be observed. Polycarp had been chosen by the Eastern community because he had known those who knew the original traditions ( St. Philip, Onesimus, St. John the writer of Revelation and others). Shortly after, when Polycarp returned to Smyrna, he was arrested by the Roman governor and tried in a public gathering in the Stadium ( Located on the hill below Kadifekale ) When the governor Statius Quadros tried to get him to temporise, polycarp replied heatedly, “ if you vainly suppose that I will acknowledge Ceaser as sovereign, and if you pretend you do not know who I am, listen plainly: I am a Christian. For eighty and six years I have served Jesus Christ and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King ? “. This was high treason, and for his crime Polycarp was burned at the stake. ( Smyrna :Revelation 2:8-11 )
Ephesus – Efes
Gleaming white with marble, offering a full range of business and entertainment opportunities, Ephesus rivalled Rome in its magnificence. For pagans, the glorious Temple to Diana drew the crowds. Today the marble street where St. Paul walked and the theater he faced a rioting mob call forth the most attention. The most important commercial center in western Anatolia, probably over a quarter of a million people lived here at its height in the Roman and early Byzantine Periods. Even ruins are impressive.
Ephesus began as a port on the mouth of the Cayster River; it became one of the leading cities of the world linking the western end of trade routes in Anatolia with the rest of the Mediterranean. The commercial banks of Ephesus, which handled the foreign exchange, are considered to be the institutions where banking as we know it today originated. The Austrian archaeologists who have worked in Ephesus for over a century have uncovered an impressive amount of the city and restored parts of a number of buildings. Thus with a modicum of imagination, people visiting Ephesus today can visualise the city when it was the capital of the province.
For many Christians the best-known building in Ephesus is the large theater where a 1st century AD silversmith attempted to stir up a riot to get rid of St. Paul who was damaging his business of making images of Artemis. Now more than a trinket than a cult figure, Artemis is back on sale near that same theater. In the plain to the north of the colonnaded street is the Double Church where in 431 the Third Ecumenical Council members fought over orthodox Christian belief. It is a long, narrow building. St. Paul preached and taught in Ephesus for over 2 years. During that time he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia to continue the missionary work there. The fact that St. Paul was effective in Asia is proved in that the silversmiths, led by Demetrius, feared that if they did not stop him they would soon be completely out of work. The names of several other early Christians are recorded as residents of Ephesus. Among them are the eloquent Apollos with whom St. Paul associated himself, saying that he planted, that Apollos watered, but that God gave the growth ( I Cor. 3 :6 ) A couple, Priscilla and Aquilla, established a house church in Ephesus ( I Cor. 16:19 ); perhaps Aquilla did well in the profession of tent making that he shared with St. Paul. In the 2nd century one of the bishops of Ephesus was Onesimus; while that name became common for bishops to use, this particular man could have been the young runaway slave whom St. Paul adopted when he was in prison. That story appears in St. Paul’ letter to the slave’s owner Philemon appealing for pardon ( Phil. 10-21 ). The daughters of the Apostle Philip lived in Ephesus.
A small stone building high up on the west corner of the city wall is pointed out as St. Paul’s Prison. He wrote the letter to the Ephesians from this place. On the east side of Mt. Pion, the hill of Ephesus, is the crude Cave of the Seven Sleepers. The legend associated with this is that of young men who escaped religious persecution by sleeping a miraculously long time. This one became a place of Christian burial just outside Ephesus; graffiti found here date from the years that Crusaders marched through Ephesus. ( Ephesus : Revelation 1:11, 2:1-7, Acts 18:19-28, 19:1-41, Ephesians, I Corinthians 15:32, Romans 16:3, 16:7 II Corinthians 1:8, 6:4-10,11:23-27 )
House of Virgin Mary – Meryem Ana
About 3 miles away in the forested mountain above Ephesus is House of Virgin Mary ( Meryem Ana ). Today it is visited by pilgrims from all over the world. It is a modest stone house. St John brought Virgin Mary to Ephesus after the death of Jesus, in keeping with Jesus Christ’s admonition to St. John to care for his mother. ( John 19:27 )
House of Virgin Mary, is now visited by over a hundred thousand pilgrims each year, of whom many are Muslims who revere her. The pilgrims come to drink the waters of the sacred spring, to mediate, to pray for health, and to breathe the atmosphere of what undoubtedly is an ancient spot of worship. Both Pope Paul VI in 1967 and Pope John Paul II in 1979 have celebrated mass here. Many people congregate at this sanctuary every August 15 to observe the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin. It was first identified in 1818 by an Austrian peasant, Anne Catherine Emmerich, who saw it in a dream exactly as it was found. The setting is beautifully peaceful, encouring reverence and contemplation.
Priene – Gullubahce
Originally Priene was a port city located on the sea. It moved to its present location in 350 BC. Priene was never a large city, but it was responsible for managing the Panionium, the place of the Panionic Temple to Poseidon and the council seat of Panionium League.
Besides the Temple to Athena, among the other interesting buildings are a gymnasium, a Christian archbishop’s basilica and the theater. The ruins of the Hellenistic city suggest that its residents liked precision: The main streets run east-west; the side streets had to be stepped to accommodate the slope. There were four houses to a block, while public buildings took up one, two, or three blocks.
Miletus – Milet
As a most important city in on the Aegean coast, Miletus had its share of pagan temples, then churches, and later mosques. St. Paul said good-by to his friends and his work in Asia near the lions that still guard the former harbour. By the 5th century Miletus had developed a system of writing that the people of Athens adopted. This then became the standard Greek Alphabet. It was the birthplace of several philosophers, among them Thales ( who predicted the eclipse of the sun in 585 BC ), Hippodamus ( who organised towns on a grid of crossing streets ), and Anaximander ( who invented the sun dial ). The religious center of Miletus was the Delphinium located just east of harbour stoa. Here worshippers conceived of Apollo Delphinius particularly as a protector of sailors and – in the form of a Dolphin- as a lover of music. St. Paul visited Miletus in the spring AD 57 as he completed his third journey ( Acts 20:15-38 ). For St. Paul and for his listeners, many of whom had come from Ephesus, it was an emotional visit. They were close friends; they had gone through many ordeals together as St. Paul reminded them. St. Paul was looking forward to a time of more great trial for himself personally and for the church as a whole. He expected to be thrown into prison; he expected that the church would be attacked by people who wanted to distort the truth. He also was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost ( In St. Paul’s time it was 50 days after the first day of Passover ).
Two stone lions that guarded the entrance to the harbour had been in place for over 2 hundred years when St. Paul took leave of his friends and boarded his ship. The harbour is gone, but the lions are there today. ( Miletus : Acts 20:15-38, II Timothy 4:20 )
Didyma – Didim
Didyma was the main place for pagan worship for the people of Miletus. A sacred road stretched the 12 miles between the two, its final length marked by statues of lions, priests and priestesses. Didyma was never a more populous town than it is today. Rather, most people who worked in Didyma lived in Miletus. By the 6th century BC the sanctuary, the Temple of Apollo, was one of the most important and most impressive religious sites in Anatolia. Like other temples, this one existed because people who came to it believed that they would find answers to their pressing problems. Temple grounds were often shady parks with places for picnics. The temples where the muse of prophecy could be invoked boasted museum items, exotic animals, trophies from famous battles, and curiosities- much like today’s museums. ( The word “ museum “ means “ pertaining to the Muse.“ ) The prophetess at Didyma was required to fast for three days before she inhaled the stupefying fumes. The great festival of Didyma was an athletic and cultural event and took place every four years. The races were held in the stadium immediately south of temple. Spectators sat on the long rows of the temple steps. Didyma continued important into 4th century AD. Julian the Apostate (361-363) ordered that the chapels built at Didyma to honour Christian martyrs should be razed. The end of the temple as a pagan worship center came in 385 with the rising power of Christianity.
Halicarnassus – Bodrum
Bodrum’s interest in Christian history is in link with the Crusaders through the Castle of St. Peter. In Hellenistic times it was the Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, that attracted visitors to Halicarnassus, as it was then called. Today it is the Castle of St. Peter that is the first building in Bodrum that catches the attention of visitors. This Crusader fortress, perhaps the best preserved of any in Asia, is on a small hill attached to the mainland by a man-made isthmus. Although the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem had been stationed in Halicarnassus since 1304, the construction and remodelling of the building of this fortress continued until 1523 when it was taken by Suleiman the Magnificent. But more than the Ottoman seizure, it was the invention of gunpowder that outmoded this castle and its kind. Bodrum can be described as a town of white houses with colourful flowers. It offers a unique experience for outdoor lovers.: swimming in warm waters, sun bathing, yachting, scuba diving, surfing, good seafood and shopping. For many people, Bodrum is also the place from which to put out to sea for a week or so on a “ Blue Voyage “. Sailing, sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, and exploring the many ruins along the cost combine in an unforgettable vacation.
Cnidus – Knidos
Cnidus was the last landfall mentioned in Asia Minor in St. Paul’s journey from Jerusalem to Rome. He had been put an Egyptian ship in Myra ( Demre) which sailed up the coast to Cnidus; because of head winds they took a good many days to reach it ( Acts 27:7 ). They probably did not anchor there because of the inclement weather which continued and in fact got much worse. Instead, they went on to Fair Havens in Crete where St. Paul advised them to winter, but, a southerly breeze springing up, the
captain put out to sea again hoping for a better harbour The wind changed and “ for days on and there was no sign of either sun or stars , a great storm was raging, andour last hopes of coming through alive began to fade” ( Acts 27:20 )
They had run out of food before St. Paul saw a vision in which he was promised safe journey for himself and all on board. After 2 weeks they were shipwrecked, but all were saved: some swam to land, some paddled ashore on planks or parts of the broken ship. It was the island of Malta where they landed and then spent the winter. With better weather they continued on to Rome where according to tradition St. Paul immeasurably strengthened the church, wrote some of his undying letters, was tried as an incendiary in the great fire during the reign of Nero, and was executed. (Cnidus : Acts 27:7)