The Difference in Visiting Biblical Greece

The world in which the gospel came and flourished, mostly through the ministry of apostle Paul, was the borderless Greco-Roman realm of the Mediterranean, a world with Roman administration and infrastructure, and of Greek spirit and culture.

The first European territory that became a missionary field was Greece itself. The cities in Greece that first heard the gospel never became the target of Christian pilgrims and were spared from monuments. Today these cities are simply archaeological sites free of later sacred shrines, and for this reason they uniquely maintain their authenticity.

A visitor walking among the ruins of Philippi, Corinth, and other places of Greece that are mentioned in the Bible, can see and touch today the authentic locations of New Testament events, as they have survived throughout the centuries until now. Christians can touch with their finger the historicity and authenticity of the New Testament without the alterations that the ‘pious’ pilgrims of the past may have caused in other places, i.e. Jerusalem.

The agora of Philippi, the inscriptions of the Politarchs in Thessaloniki, the inscription of Gallio at Delphi, the inscription of Erastus in Corinth and the bema of the Roman administration in the same city, are only part of what the New Testament describes. All these can be approached by the impartial researcher and the contemporary Christian in a completely authentic way.

Kavala

A contemporary city and port of Eastern Macedonia; that is, of the First District of the Roman Province of Macedonia (Acts 16:12)

The city has been re-named a number of times. Until the 9th Century A.D. it was under the name of Neapolis, from the 9th - 15th Century under the name of Christoupolis, and from the 15th century until today under the name of Kavala, when the Ottomans established their "Kavalaria" (cavalry) there. 

It was built the 7th century B.C. from inhabitants of the island of Thassos and became the predominant city of the area after the abandonment of Philippi, whose port it was up until then. It was the first station of the Apostle Paul on European soil, on his way towards the West (Acts 16:11)

Philippi

The city of Philippi was also built by the Thassians in 360 B.C., closer to the "Gold bearing Pangaeum". The original intent was exploitation of the gold, and the city was initially named Krenides ("springs"). 

The quarrels of its citizens with neighboring people brought to the area Philip II of Macedonia, who as soon as he discovered the "secret" of gold, charged out the Thasians, fortified and decorated the city, and named it after himself. 

Outside its walls in 42 B.C. took place one of the most dramatic battles of the Roman civil wars, which resulted in the defeat of the Republican legions of Cassius and Brutus from the legions of the imperialist Octavian and Mark Antony. 

In this city Paul had the first convert on European soil, the purple-seller from Thyateira of Lydia, named Lydia. Today it is one of the most important archaeological sites of Biblical Greece. (Acts 16:12-40, 20:6; Philippians)

Amphipolis

A very important archaeological site of Eastern Macedonia (Acts 16:12), built on the shores of Strymon River by the Athenians in the 5th Century B.C. It was the capital city of the First District of the Roman Province of Macedonia, close to Via Egnatia. 

The Apostle Paul, probably because of lack of Jewish population, did not stop there on his journey towards Thessaloniki. A Jewish presence in the city is testified archaeologically only after the 3rd Century A.D. An important early Christian establishment has been discovered on its Acropolis. (Acts 17:1)

Apollonia

Ancient city close to Via Egnatia, from which the Apostle Paul passed without stopping on his way towards Thessaloniki, for the same reason that he did not stop in Amphipolis. The city's location has been identified from epigraphic material, but has not been excavated yet. (Acts 17:1)

Thessaloniki

The second largest city of Greece and up until 1943, one of the largest Jewish cities. It was founded by Cassander, the King of Macedonia and son-in-law of Phillip II, in 316 B.C. Taking its name from Cassander's wife, queen Thessaloniki, it was appointed as capital city of all the Roman Province of Macedonia and the Second District (Central). 

It was the second city on European soil, after Phillippi, in which the Apostle Paul founded a church. During the Diocletianic Tetrarchy it became the capital of Caesar Galerius. Also during this time, a Christian officer of the Roman army, Demetrius, was martyred there. From Thessaloniki, Theodosius started the violent Christianization of the Roman Empire. 

In Byzantine times it held the title of Corregent. Today it is an important port of the Balkans with many significant archaeological sites and remarkable museums. (Acts 17:1-10, I and II Thessalonians)

Pella

The new second capital of the Macedonian Kingdom and birth city of Phillip II and Alexander III, the Great. After the Roman conquest it was degraded to capital of the Third District (Western) of the Roman Province of Macedonia. 

Today Pella contains a very important archaeological site with a museum that houses rare findings from the ancient city.

Veria

Modern city that it is located in the same position from the first millennium before Christ, and since then has been known with the same name. Its ancient Jewish community shrank after the Holocaust and finally moved to Israel. The remarkable Jewish quarter and synagogue are among the city's sights worth seeing. 

The city belonged to the Third District (Western) of the Roman Province of Macedonia and was located close to the old capital of the Macedonian Kingdom, Aiges. The Apostle of the Nations, Paul, after escaping at night from Thessaloniki, found refuge among the noble and pious Berean Jews, who accompanied him by sea down to Athens. (Acts 17:10-15)

Vergina

The old capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia, known in antiquity with the name of Aiges. In 1976 the professor of archaeology Manolis Andronikos, while excavating the cemetery of the ancient city, discovered two non-desecrated royal tombs which are attributed to Philip II and his grandson, the son of Alexander the Great, Alexander IV. This archaeological discovery has been evaluated as the second most important discovery in the 20th Century worldwide, after the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. 

The visit to the site brings to life the legendary figures of the King-Priest as Homer describes and the Bible imprints it. Archaeological research from the excavation continues at the palace and the walls of the city.

Dion

The sacred city of the Macedonians at the foot of Mount Olympus, and the "Olympia" of the North. The excavations of the great altar of Zeus identifies where Alexander the Great (according to Flavius Josephus) saw the vision of the Jewish High Priest promising him victory at the beginning of his campaign. 

It is believed that from the port of this city the Apostle Paul probably departed from Macedonia to Athens. Today the site of the ancient city is an extensive archaeological park.

Delphi

The most important Oracle in antiquity, with essential contributions in religious, political, and social issues of the ancient world. The response that was given by the Oracle to Augustus Caesar, about the Jewish "King", is comprised among the multitudes of famous foresayings. 

Its position in the Corinthian Gulf explains its important relationship with Corinth. Here the Pythian Games were held, third in importance of the Pan-Hellenic Games. In its important museum is displayed the renowned "Gallio inscription", (Acts 18:12) on which is dated with exactness the first visit of the Apostle Paul in Corinth. As a consequence, all the events of the Book of Acts are dated through the confirmed date of this inscription.

Eleusis

A small industrial city on the road from Athens to Corinth. From the second half of the second millennium before Christ, there was the sanctuary of Demetra and Kore and a temple of Hades in its center. Here took place "The Great Mysteries", the famous rituals during which an initiated individual was offered the knowledge that conquers the fear of Death. 

Later this provided the terminology of the New Testament terms such as Mystery, Apocalypse, and Makariotis, while cultivating the concept of life and judgment after death in the Mediterranean world.

Athens

The capital and largest city of the Greek State. Athens is the place where Democracy was born and the cradle of Classical Civilization, which together with Christianity constitutes the founding block and cornerstone of contemporary Western Civilization. 

In the agora of Athens, The Apostle Paul met the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, with whom he spoke with on the hill of the Areopagus. A result of this official presentation was the conversion of Dionysius, a member in the highest council of the Areopagus,. Other individuals of Athenian society were converted as well. 

The Acropolis of Athens, with the temple of the Virgin goddess of Wisdom (the Parthenon), is the highest example of classic aesthetic and the emblem of the civilization that gave birth to Democracy. The archaeological museum of the city is comprised among the largest and most important in the world. (Acts 17:16-33)

Corinth

The cosmopolitan capital of the Roman Province of Achaia, which is included among the four largest cities of the ancient world. Built near the Isthmus, it connected with its two ports the western and eastern Mediterranean. It was a city of wealth and luxury that worshipped the goddess of love Aphrodite, and served her like no other. 

The Apostle Paul visited Corinth more than once and connected it with some of his most important writings. Among the members of that early Church was Erastus the Treasurer and the deaconess Phoebe, who also served as the post woman of the Letter to the Romans. The agora of Corinth is larger even than the Roman forum while its bema, in front of which Paul was brought to be judged by Gallio, is the image of the Heavenly Bema, "in front of which we will all stand". (Acts 18:1-18; 1st and 2nd Corinthians)

Acrocorinth

The “Acrocorinth” is the acropolis (citadel) of Corinth. It is situated to the southwest of the ancient city and rises to an elevation of 1883 ft. [574 m.]. Today it is surrounded by walls that are about 1.85 mi. [3 km.] long. The foundations of the fortifications are ancient—going back to the Hellenistic Period. The current walls were built and rebuilt by the Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks. The entrance to the Acrocorinth is from the west where the approach is most gentle.

Cenchreae

Cenchreae was Corinth’s port located about 6.5mi. [9 km.] east on the Saronic Gulf. It was Corinth life-line to Athens, to Asia Minor, and additional ports in the eastern Mediterranean. Having stayed at Corinth for 18 months, Paul set sail for Jerusalem (via Ephesus and Caesarea) from here at the end of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18). Just prior to his departure he cut his hair in Cenchreae—in fulfillment of a vow (18:18) Later, writing to the church at Rome while staying at Corinth on his third journey, Paul commends Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae to the church at Rome (Romans 16:1-2).

Diolkos

The Diolkos [Greek meaning “haul across”] was a paved “road” that connected the Corinthian and Saronic gulfs before the Corinthian Canal was dug. It was built because sailing around the southern tip of the Peloponnese was very treacherous. Strabo, for example, writes ‘But when you sail around Cape Malea, forget your home” (= “you’ll never return!”; viii 6, 20). The Diolkos was constructed during the sixth century B.C. It was made of large paving stones and was about 11 to 20 ft. [3.4 to 6 m.] wide. It ran from the southeast to the northwest across a narrow point of the isthmus and was about 3.7 mi. [6 km.] long The ancients offloaded their cargo, and then dragged it on carts to the other side of the isthmus and loaded it on to another ship. By doing this, they avoided the long and dangerous trip around the southern tip of the Peloponnese. Some commentators believe that small boats were transported over the Diolkos. This is possible for small boats, but is not probable for normal size Roman cargo ships.

Isthmia

Isthmia is a sanctuary area located 6 mi. [10 km.] east of Corinth near, but not quite on, the shore of the Saronic Gulf. This Panhellenic sanctuary was dedicated to Posideon (god of the sea and of earthquakes). Games and music contests were held here every two years. The activities included running, boxing, wrestling, the pentathlon, and horse and chariot racing. In later times musical and poetry contests were added to the list of events. Because of its proximity to Corinth, where the apostle Paul stayed for about 18 months, some biblical scholars believe that the apostle Paul may have “picked up” some of the “athletic imagery” that he uses in his letters from these games and that as a tent maker, he may have made tents for the athletes, officials, and visitors to the games. The four Panhellenic Games were held at Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia, and Nemea.

Olympia

The cradle of the most glorious athletic games that the ancient world has known. The Olympic Games were dedicated to the father of the Greek gods, Zeus, whose temple hosted one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the chryselephantine statue made by Athenian sculptor Phidias. 

Apart from the ideals of the ancient games that inspired their reinstitution, only there can visitors today trace the visual images that make the athletic language of the New Testament tridimensional.

Mycenae

Mycenae is a site located about 56 mi. [90 km. — “as the crow flies”] southwest of Athens in the Peloponnese. There is 9.5 mi. [15 km.] of plain to the south of it until one reaches the sea and it guards passes leading north from the plain into the mountains and on to the Corinth area and from there into mainland Greece. The high point of Mycenaean civilization was from 1600 to 1200 B.C. and because of its importance some of the pottery of this period is named “Mycenaean” and was used all over the Mediterranean world. Its rulers have also been immortalized in Homer’s works—the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Nemea

Nemea was located about 11.6 mi. [18.6 km.] southwest of Corinth. One of the four Panhellenic festivals was held every two years in the stadium of Nemea. The other locations of these festivals were Delphi, Isthmia, and Olympia. Nemea is well known in Greek mythology as the site of the first of the twelve labors of Heracles (Herakles). Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and a mortal Alcmene. Although originally a mortal, he eventually attained divine status and was widely worshiped throughout Greece. As punishment for killing six of his children he had to perform 12 “labors” (= very difficult tasks). The first of which was to kill the Nemean Lion. He wrestled with the lion, strangled it, and subsequently used its pelt as a cloak.

Nicopolis

The city that Octavian built to celebrate the victory at nearby Cape Actium in 31 B.C. He defeated his former colleague and husband of his sister, Mark Antony, and the Greek Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra VII, in 31 B.C. 

The Apostle of the Nations spent a winter in this city during one of his missionary trips. After Paul's visit, the city developed into an important Christian center. The excavations have brought to light important sections of the ancient city, including a multitude of early Christian churches and tombs of early Christian martyrs. (Titus 3:12)

Patmos

The humble yet beautiful island of the Apocalypse. It is located opposite Ionia in Asia Minor, specifically opposite "The Metropolis of all Asia", Ephesus. Sanctified by the presence of the exceedingly old Apostle of Love, John, it became the heritage of Pious Hosios Christaloulos. 

The monastery which he founded in 1088 on the ruins of the temple of Artemis still crowns the highest peak of the island and preserves one of the most valuable libraries of pergamene manuscripts. A cave on the island, according to Ecclesiastic tradition, was the dwelling of the God-inspired writer of the Apocalypse and his disciple Prochorus. Today it is a venerable place of prayer for many pious pilgrims. (Revelation 1:9)

Instructions

Click on a location to see photos of the site. From there, you may click on the name of the site to read more information about it.