What did the seaport of Attalia look like from where St. Paul sailed?
In the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, we see that St. Paul went to Attalia, a seaport in southern Turkey, and sailed from there to Antioch in Syria where he explained to the Christian community how well the Gentiles have embraced Christianity.
D. Darke says that, during the Crusades, Attalia was also the point of embarkation for the Christian armies who sailed from here to the Holy Land. H. Hoefer says the population of Attalia today is 150,000 people, but the population doubles in the summer.
Attalia (modern Antalya) is a port on the Mediterranean Sea. I had lunch at the restaurant there on a hill with a spectacular view overlooking all the boats and the vast sea. E. Blake feels the area of Attalia is one of the most beautiful in all Turkey. It sits on sheer cliffs above the blue Mediterranean with a green pasture stretching behind the city to magnificent pine forests. To the west great mountains rise straight out of the sea.
A. Edmonds says Attalia was founded in the second century by Attalus II, the king of Pergamum in western Turkey, and was named for him. The ancient Roman author Plutarch says pirates held secret rites of fire worship near Attalia. This fire worship may be connected with the natural fire that has burned on the hillside for centuries and is still visible at night from the sea.
The Bible doesn’t say St. Paul preached in Attalia, but there are some evidences of early Christianity there. The ruins of the 13th-century Selcuk mosque at Attalia was previously a Christian Byzantine basilica from the 7th century. The Great Mosque had also been a Christian basilica and the Kesik Minare Mosque had been the 5th century Christian Church of the Panaghia or Virgin and was decorated with finely carved marble. The archaeological museum at Attalia houses some sarcophagi and mosaics from nearby Perga and a casket of bones reputed to be those of the famous St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, further down the Turquoise coast. Other sights in Attalia include the monumental triple arch of the Roman emperor Hadrian in honor of his visit in 130 called the Hadrian gate, a clock tower and a round Roman defensive tower or lighthouse.
Near Attalia is another seaport called Side that St. Paul could have visited or used.
E. Blake says Side had been the main port for the area, but was always exposed to all the storms on the Mediterranean Sea. Safe entrance to Side met with great rejoicing by those on board ship and those on land. Attalia had the better natural harbor and became the commercial center of the area.
Nevertheless, Side today is a magnificent archaeological site.
M. Grant says its theater is one of the largest known in the Greco-Roman world, accommodating 13,000 spectators. Side was the seat of a Christian bishopric. Beside the harbor, a large three-aisled Christian basilica was erected around 500 A.D. Other ancient sites at Side include a gymnasium, two marketplaces, a fountain-house, a bathhouse, an aqueduct, two sanctuaries dedicated to Apollo and Athena, an arcade and a gate with battlements.
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