Fethiye, the ancient Telmessus , played its part in Christian history as a Crusader stronghold. Today it is a port city on the east side of the large Bay of Fethiye The Christian congregation in Telmessus was important that it was represented at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in AD 451. On the Acropolis walls of a medieval castle probably built in the 12th or 13th century by the Knights of St. John, the same group that built the Castle of St. Peter in Bodrum.
Patara – Patara
Patara figures in Christian history several times. It was a port of call on St. Paul’s third missionary journey when he and St. Luke stopped here enroute from Miletus to Jerusalem. Patara was the birthplace of St. Nicholas ( c. 300 AD ) who became first the Bishop of Myra, then figured in the legend of the three girls who were saved from prostitution by his anonymous gift of gold ( The origin of the sign of three balls on a pawn shop). Into the 15th century Patara was a stop on the route of pilgrims from Europa to Jerusalem. ( Patara : Acts 21:1-2 )
Myra – Demre
Demre is the village between Kas and Finike which identifies the site of the ancient Myra. In Roman times Myra was on the sea. It was the port where St. Paul and his companions St. Luke and Aristarchus changed ships on their way to Rome in about 60 AD ( Acts 27:5-6 ). St. Nicholas , as an adult became the Bishop of Myra. He is known for his miracles; he continues to be loved because he cared for people in need. He is the patron saint of Greece and of Russia, and the protector of children, scholars, merchants and sailors. St. Nicholas persecuted by the Emporer Diocletian and kept in prison because of his faith; later he is supposed to have been present at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea ( Iznik ). In old pictures he is often shown standing in a tub with three boys. According to Legend these boys were murdered and concealed in a tub of salt belonging to their butcher. St. Nicholas restored them to life and health. Legend also says that he surreptitiously gave three sisters enough gold for their dowries to save them from lives of sin. This may be the origin of giving presents in secret on the eve of December 6th – his day. The 11th century Church of St. Nicholas in Myra has recently been refurnished; a church service there on December 6th celebrates his memory. ( Myra : Acts 27:5-6 )
Attalia – Antalya
Antalya nestles at the northern end of a gulf against the high Lycian mountains ( Beydaglari ). St. Paul sailed from Antalya about AD 48 on his return to Antioch-on-the-Orontes after his first missionary journey. The coast both south and east of Antalya is a paradise for those who enjoy aquatic sports. The many excellent tourist facilities and the long season have made it a top vacation center. ( Attalia : Acts 14:25 )
Aspendus – Aspendos
Aspendus was a port city; its river was deep enough to accommadete the largest ships of the time. The inland location had been chosen to give residents protection from pirates by preventing them from escaping quickly into the open sea. A roman bridge over the river is ruined, but the 13th century Selcuk bridge continues to be used. The theater in Aspendus is the best preserved Roman theater in the world, built to seat about 15 000 people. A 3rd century AD basilica, stadium, a public fountain, a council chamber and a public bath are among the other ruins that have been excavated.
Perge – Perge
Perge is almost next door to Antalya, being a short distance east and only 1 mile off the main road. Perge is one of the cities that St. Paul visited with Barnabas and his cousin John Mark on their first missionary journey in about AD 47 or 48 ( Acts 13:13, 14:25 ). It was Perge that John Mark left the others to return Jerusalem. John Mark did not accompany St. Paul on the second missionary journey; instead he and Barnabas went together to Cyprus while St. Paul went with Silas into Anatolia ( Acts 15:63-41 ). Perhaps St. Paul and John Mark were reconciled later for St. Paul includes greetings from a Mark to Philemon. ( Philem. 24 ) – ( Perga : Acts 13:13-14, 14:25 )
Side was an important port on the Mediterranean from the time it was founded about the 6th century BC until the 7th century AD when Arab raiders destroyed it. A fortified city, some of the walls that surrounded it are still visible. It has come to life again in the last 25 years as a fashionable recreation center. Roman engineers brought Side’s water through tunnels and an aqueduct from about 30 km inlands. The arches of the aqueduct are the first ruins of the flourishing 1st century city that visitors now see.
A short distance south of Silifke are the ruins of a large basilica noted on the road signs as Ayatekla. This was the 5th century church of the nunnery begun by the 1st century convert to Christianity, Thecla. Thecla is the heroine whose story appears in the Apocrypal Acts of St. Paul and Thecla that was popular in the 2nd century. Thecla was from one of the better families in Konya (Iconium ) wher she first fell under the spell of St. Paul’s preaching. Unusually attracted to him and his message, she became one of his most devoted converts. Against the customs and dictates of propriety of the time, she tried to follow him by distuising herself in men’s clothing. Her mother accused her of being a Christian and she was tried and condemned to be burnt at the stake. A timely rain put the fire out, whereupon she was turned over to the mercies of the wild beasts. Those she likewise overcame miraculously. Barred by St. Paul from accompanying him in his missionary work, she moved south to Silifke where she established her nunnery, gaining fame throughout the area as a nurse and a Christian missionary herself.
Seleucia Pieria – Samandag
The seaport of Antioch in Roman times was at Seleucia. This town was one of the many cities founded by and named for Seleucus Nicator. Seleucus Nicator was a distunguished officer under Philip of Macedon. He accompanied Alexander the Great on the Asian expedition and became the founder of the Seleucid dynasty that ruled Syria from 312 BC until the Roman conquest in 64 BC. Seleucia is mentioned in the New Testament only as the port from which St. Paul and Barnabas set sail for Cyprus on their first missionary journey. ( Seleucia Pieria: Acts 13:4 )
St. Paul’s birthplace of Tarsus is one of the oldest settlements in Cilicia area. Tarsus became a Byzantine holding thanks to the First Crusade, then a Selcuk annexation, and then a part of Lesser Armenia, dependent upon the support of the controlling Crusaders. The most famous person associated with Tarsus in religious history is St. Paul the Apostle. St. Paul was born a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin in Tarsus about AD 10 and spent his early years here. His father was a Roman citizen; St. Paul inherited that citizenship and its rights. ( Acts 21:39 ) While still a youth he was sent to Jerusalem to study with Gamaliel, a leading Jewish theologian. While in Jerusalem St. Paul persecuted members of the new Christian community and was present when Stephen was stoned ( Acts 7:58 ). Continuing his intent to stop the new group from spreading, St. Paul went to Damascus. Shortly before he arrived, he was struck blind with the vision of Jesus who called him to witness to the Gospel ( Acts 26:4 – 18 ). From then on his life was devoted to that mission. St. Paul was back living in Tarsus when Barnabas recruited him to work with the church in Antioch – on – the – Orontes. He and Barnabas made a brief trip to Jerusalem to take relief supplies to famine-stricken people. Soon after ( in AD 47 ), St. Paul, Barnabas and John Mark started on their first missionary journey which took them to Crete and then back to the mainland. St. Paul made two subsequent missionary journeys through western Anatolia ( with two years spent in Ephesus ) and into Greece before he went to Jerusalem in AD 57. St. Paul’s intense advocacy of Christianity put him several times in danger of his life from outraged crowds. Jewish people from the province of Asia who saw him in Jerusalem caused a riot charging him with bringing Gentiles into the Temple. He lived under police protection for two years until, claiming his right as a Roman citizen, he demanded that the charge of a capital crime against him be heard by the emperor. With a Roman guard he set sail ( Acts 27:1 ); the passage started out stormy and got worse, ending with shipwreck on the coast of Malta. When the winter storms subsided, St. Paul continued on to Rome where he preached for two years ( Acts 28:30 – 31). Tradition says that because of his faith he was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero. Some traditions are associated with an old structure known as St. Paul’s well. Numerous people believe that the water from the well has healing properties. (Tarsus : Acts 9:11, 30, 11:25, 21:39, 22:3, 25-29, 22:28)
Antioch On The Orontes – Antakya
Antioch – where Christians were first named – is a city on both banks of the Orontes River. Antioch has a reputation for spectacular electrical storms and flash floods. St. Peter was the first to establish a church in Antioch; this belief is based on the references in Acts 9:32 and in Galatians 2:11. When Barnabas was sent shortly thereafter by the Jerusalem church to Antioch he encountered an enthusiastic community. Needing a helper, he went up to Tarsus to get St. Paul to join him. Together they worked in Antioch for some time before they started off on their first missionary journey. It was to identify this large group as distinct from the rest of the Jewish congregation that they were given the name ” Christian “. Antioch served as the home base for St. Peter, St. Paul and Barnabas; shortly it became the third most important bishopric ( after Jerusalem and Rome ) in the developing church. Antioch apparently was not a typical 1st century Jewish community, even prior to St. Peter’s arrival. In some of their synagogues The Jewish community had been using Greek in the service rather than Hebrew or Aramiac, and reading from the Septuagint, the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament. Before the refugees from Jerusalem arrived in Antioch there were a number of Antiochene Gentiles who had already been attracted to the high moral qualities of Judaism, nor were the men circumcised, but they were encouraged in their leanings by the Antiochene Jews, and they also presented fertile ground for planting the seed of Christianity. One of the earliest differences among the Jewish Christians of Antioch was over the question of circumcision. The conservative group held that according to Mosaic practice only those who had been circumcised could be saved. Faithful to a vision which he had received, St. Peter already had baptized the Gentile Roman centurion Cornelius, his family, and his relatives, and had eaten a meal with them, both acts in contravention of Mosaic practice which prevented such associaten. St. Paul and Barnabas also believed that the gift of the Holy Spirit as evidence of God’s acceptance of a person was stronger than circumcision. Thus they were chosen to present the views of the Antioch church to the elders and apostles in Jerusalem, an act which they accomplished successfully. The third bishop of Antioch was Ignatus whose seven letters, written as he was enroute to martyrdom in Rome in AD 110, are among the earliest non-biblical church documents in existance.
(Antioch : Acts 6:5, 11:19-30, 13:1-3, 15:1-2, 22-35)
Daphne – Harbiye
Daphne located about 9 km south of Antioch. Its pretty settings calls to mind the myth of Apollo’s love for the nymph Daphne. Also in myth it was in Daphne that Paris gave the golden apple to Venus. In history it is reputed to be where Mark Anthony married Cleopatra. By the time of Romans, Daphne had declined and was known mainly for its licentiouness. When the Emperor Julian the Apostate wanted to worship here in AD 363 he found that Daphne was the Antiochene Christian cemetery.