Paphos, Cyprus: Where Paul Began His First Preaching Mission, Archaeologists Have Unearthed The World’s Oldest Theatre

Nicosia– An Australian team of archaeologists have uncovered an ancient theatre in Cyprus: a structure that was used as a venue for performance and spectacle for over six-and-a-half centuries, dating back to 300 BC.

The theatre, 2,300-years-old, It is one of the oldest structures of its kind to be unearthed on the Mediterranean island,  the antiquities department stated.

Archaeologists report that Paphos has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, and the remains of villas, palaces, a theatre, an odeon, fortresses, and tombs of the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods make the site significantly important for archeological and historical purposes. The area is also well-known for the remains of the Roman governor’s palace, where substantial, fine mosaics remain as a pivotal tourist attraction today. The mosaics are noted as among “the most beautiful in the world.”  As such, the town of Paphos is included in the official UNESCO list of cultural and natural treasures of the world’s heritage.

In Greco-Roman times, Nea Paphos became the capital of the island, replacing Salamis, during the Hellenistic era, under the successors of Alexander III of Macedon – the Ptolemies, requested the change, as they favoured a location closer to their capital, Alexandria. The port of Paphos was rebuilt by last king of Paphos, Nicocles, who ruled shortly after the death of Alexander the Great.

The theatre, located in the northeastern area of the ancient city has been under excavation by the University of Sydney since 1995.

Odeon in Paphos. Built 2nd century AD, with about 1200 seats. Photo Credit: WIkipedia

“More recent excavations have attempted to position the theatre within its ancient urban context, by understanding the surrounding ancient structures including a second century AD nymphaeum (water fountain),” it added.

A member of an Australian archaeological team, conducting a pole photograph survey in Nea Paphos, on Cyprus’ southwestern coast, at the site of an uncovered Hellenistic-Roman theatre dating from 300 BC. Excavations at the site of the Hellenistic-Roman theatre of Nea Paphos, on Cyprus’ southwestern coast, were conducted by the Australian Archaeological Mission from the University of Sydney. The team has been excavating at the UNESCO World Heritage site for nearly two decades.

In September, the team conducted a geo-mapping survey of the ruins of the town’s Roman colonnades.

Excavations immediately to the south of the theatre revealed a Roman paved road, approximately 8.4 metres (28 feet) wide, which was the main traffic thoroughfare to access the theatre, the antiquities department said.

“The existence of this road also confirms that ancient Nea Paphos was laid out on a typical Hellenistic grid plan. The discovery of numerous fragments of granite columns on the theatre site (over 30 to date) confirms the importance of the paved road,” said the statement.

The columns are made from granite from quarries in Troad in Turkey and reflect Roman trade in monumental architectural elements.

The largest, and least common, of Troad granite columns stood 24 Roman feet (over 7 metres) tall.

Archaeologists uncover 2-300-year-old Theatre in Cyprus.

“Troad granite columns are known from colonnades across the Mediterranean. As the capital city of Cyprus at the time, it is not surprising that Nea Paphos would be adorned with this architectural demonstration of Roman civic order.”

The ancient theatre was recorded for the first time using pole photography and photogrammetry programs which stitched together over 2,000 individual high-resolution photos.

“The theatre stood until its final destruction in the earthquakes of AD 365,” the statement read.

The AD 365 Crete earthquake occurred at about sunrise on 21 July in the Eastern Mediterranean with an assumed epicentre near Crete.  Geologists today estimate the undersea earthquake to have registered at an eight or higher magnitude on the Richter scale.  Widespread destruction in central and southern Greece, northern Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, Sicily and Spain were reported, and in Crete, nearly all the towns were destroyed.

Map showing where the earthquake and tsunami struck on July 21, 365 AD. Notice how nearby Israel and the far left neighbors are within close proximity of Cyprus, and none were harmed.

The Crete earthquake was followed by a tsunami which devastated the southern and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, most notable being Libya, Alexandria and the Nile Delta. The stormed killed thousands, and flung ships through the air 3 km (1.9 mi) inland.  

The quake would leave a deep and lasting impression on the minds of historians who lived through the times, as many of their works recalled the events of the quakes’ devastation.

The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus described the horrid details of the tsunami, noting that the quake struck Alexandria in the early waking hours of 21 July AD 365. His account is particularly noteworthy for clearly distinguishing between the three main events that occurred, the tsunami, the initial earthquake, and the sudden gigantic sea wave rolling over the island.

The tsunami was so devastating, that it has been permanently commemorated on its anniversary, and to this day, known in Alexandria, as the “day of horror.”

Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.-Micah 5:13 (KJV).

The town had been wrought and devastated by several successive earthquakes. And when you read its history, you will begin to understand why, more on that below.  Despite the devastation of the earthquakes, its temples still stood, and retained much of their cultic fame and worship of greek mythology deities.  In 69 AD Titus, the future emperor of Rome, who turning aside from his planned journey to Jerusalem, which he captured the following year, also paid a visit to the sacred shrines. He inquired of the “priests” to reveal through their sorcery, “the fortune which awaited him.”  A practice, that is clearly forbidden in the bible.

The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.-Jeremiah 2:8 (KJV).

Time and time again, we see where God used earthly devastations, such as earthquakes to bring about punishment.  Man has clearly never learned from history!

Let’s Take a Stroll through Biblical History, shall we?

Paphos, is a coastal city that lies directly by the Mediterranean sea. The city itself is situated at the southwestern corner of the Island of Cyprus.

Cyprus, Is known as “Chittim” of the Old Testament (Numbers 24:24). is one of the largest islands of the Mediterranean, measuring about 148 miles long and 40 broad. It is distant about 60 miles from the Syrian coast. The island of Cyprus was originally inhabited by Phoenicians, until 477 BC,  when it fell to the rule of Greeks; and  became a Roman province in 58 BC. Cyprus, was known for its great commercial activity including production of timber and minerals, but especially for its fine corn, wine, and oil. Cyprus was strategically located in the center of major countries, giving it great merchant advantage, and as such, came to be a wealthy nation.

Cyprus is infamously known for its idols and pagan deities, and also the recepient of many historic earthquakes!

Cyprus is first mentioned in the New Testament in Acts 4:36, denoting it as the native place of Barnabas. It was the place where Paul’s first missionary tour would begin (Acts 13:4-13 ), where he and Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 12:25) were sent out by church of Antioch. Barnabas and Mark visited it alone (Acts 15:39). “Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge” is mentioned in Acts 21:16.  Paul’s many voyages centered around Cyprus as we are told in Acts 21:3; 27:4.

There is one particular bible story that takes place in exactly the same place where the theatre was uncovered– Nea Paphos.

As we recall, Saul of Tarsus, now called Paul, after being filled with the Holy Spirit, became a devout follower of Jesus Christ. After his conversion, Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, visited Paphos during the first century AD, when the Roman governor held residency there. It would mark Pauls’ very first missionary tour (Acts 13:6) and It was here that Paul would convert Sergius Paulus the proconsul (governor of the province in the Roman Republic) despite great opposition from Elymas the sorcerer, who Paul blinded.

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. – Acts 13:6-13 (KJV).

Paphos is to this day recognized for their infamous cult worship of Aphrodite. During the 12th century BC, the Myceneans had erected several temples/shrines in her honor. As the myth goes, Paphos was where Aphrodite (or Venus), known as the Greek goddess of love and beauty, was said to have risen from the foam of the sea.

Even the town’s name “Paphos” itself is tied to the pagan goddess Aphrodite.  Paphos, was the son of Pygmalion. Pygmalion was the sculptor who created the cult image of Aphrodite carved out of ivory, and fell in love with it. It is believed in Greek mythology, that the statue was “brought to life” by the goddess Galatea, who in turn bore Pygmalion a son, named Paphos.

Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods. – Psalm 97:7 (KJV).

Biblically, we know that the cult of Aphrodite is mentioned in Corinthians.  The Corinth had gods and goddess’ from  Egypt, Rome and Greece. The actual temple of Aphrodite, stood atop the Acrocorinth, and housed well over 1,000 cultic temple prostitutes. As a form of worship, the prostitutes would engage in sexual activities to honor their goddess.

The bible is laden with warnings regarding such practices:

Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: – Isaiah 2:8 (KJV). 

And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images. -Isaiah 17:8 (KJV). 

They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye areour gods.-Isaiah 42:17 (KJV).

Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? -Isaiah 44:10 (KJV).

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? -Habakkuk 2:18 (KJV).

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;-Acts 17:23-25 (KJV). 

Paul dedicated entire books (1 Corinthians 5, 6, 7 and 8) mentioning the abominations taking place with the Corinthians: idol worship, sexual immorality, and incest (to name a few). Paul’s chief response was to flee immorality, idolatry, and bondage, and put the sexually immoral out from their midst.

In other biblical passages, Philippians 2:25-30 and 2:4-5, and 4:18-19, Paul mentions Epaphroditus.  The name itself is of pagan origin, and literally means “belonging to Aphrodite.”  Through the power of Jesus Christ, Epaphroditus had been set free from pagan worship, and instead belonged to JESUS, despite his pagan name.  His REBIRTH and NEW CREATION through JESUS, manifested the healings of his heart, not the meaning that was given in his name!  Christ recognized him as a child of GOD, as did Paul.  He was the one who visited Paul with gifts when Paul was in prison. If you find time to read the story, it is one that really sheds light and gives instruction when we compare it to the modern “sacred name movement” that falsely teaches followers of Christ to call JESUS by the name YAHWEH, often citing that JESUS is really Zeus.  

What else was going on in 365 AD? – THE COUNCIL OF LAODICEA  

A little off the beaten path of Paphos, but nonetheless, during the same time period when the great earthquake struck nearby…

Laodicea was one of the seven Churches mentioned in Revelation. One thing to take particular notice of, is that Laodicea is the only church of the seven, that received ABSOLUTELY NO praise from God. John, in his letters to the Seven Churches, described Laodicea as spiritually arrogant engulfed in self-satisfaction. The church, due to its abundant riches, also thought of itself as in need of nothing from Jesus Christ. Like the church at Sardis, Laodicea was complacent.

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

– Revelation 3:15-22 (KJV).

We can gather some insight as to what was going on with Laodicea by the following historical account:

The first “Christian” assembly at which the “allowable” contents of the bible was made the subject of the meeting was held at Laodicea in 365 A.D. It was the first formal meeting where the controversial subject matter was to rule out the canonization of the book of Revelation, among others, and would mark the first time that a “council” had decreed what books of the bible would and would not be “allowed” to be read in the “churches.”  It was estimated that no more than thirty-two (32) clergy from Lydia and Phrygia were in attendance, and historians noted them as “heretics” who had no knowledge of why a book should be canonized, but nonetheless maintained the “majority of the vote.” The heretics ruled that Revelation was unworthy for canonization (Davidson, The Canon of the Bible, p. 173).

However, over in Egypt, one such Bishop, would not allow the decision to stand….and neither would God!

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, (365 A.D.), was at odds with the clergy of Laodicea (Davidson, The Canon of the Bible, p. 234), and after the ruling by the heretics at Laodicea, decreeing that Revelation would not be allowed in the Bible, Athanasius immediately circulated a list, overturning the decision, and declared that Revelation was in fact, a part of the bible.  Strangely, while quoting the warning from Revelation,  “which no man must take from, and no man add to,”  Athanasius, decided that Esther would be omitted, and reinserted Baruch and letters of Jeremiah, and Revelation (Athanasius, Festal Epistle XXXIX, Liberty Of The Fathers, Oxford, 1954). Growing tired of the controversy, Athanasius,  closed by saying: “Let there be no mention of apocryphal writings.”

“Those who maintain ‘There was a time when the Son was not’ rob God of his Word, like plunderers.” – Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria

Athanasius, was a man of short stature, a dark-skinned Egyptian bishop with enemies abounding, as such he was referred to as the “Black Dwarf.” Having been exiled five times by four Roman emperors, Athanasius spent 17 of the 45 years he served as bishop of Alexandria in exile.  However, in a turn of events, his theological enemies would eventually be “exiled” from the churchs’ teaching, and it was Athanasius’s writings that would come to shape the future of the churches today(Source:Christianity Today).

Can you imagine the bible without the book of Revelation?  One thing is certain, that despite the arrogant leaders of Laodicea, GOD preserved his word just as he promised!

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. – Psalm 12:6-7 (KJV).

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. -1 Peter 1:25 (KJV).

Perhaps, one could surmise, the councils’ decision to rule out the writings of John the Divine, was due to the unsavory description of them in Revelation 3:14-22.  Either way, we can in no uncertain terms ignore the message that Jesus sent to the Church of Laodicea. it is in fact a reflection of the church age today, many lukewarm with hearts far from JESUS, worshipping idols and practicing rituals of man, not of God.

When God said, there was nothing new under the sun, (Ecclesiastes 1:9), we can now see, by rewinding history, how true that is!   The presence of cults, and the worship of deities, even though they have manifested under new names, the practice is still seen today, with similar belief and cultic worship patterns.  We can expect that false gods, demigods, goddess’ and pagan worship will continue and increase, up until the return of Jesus Christ.

The avoidance of such practices should be at the heart of every CHRISTIAN.  And just as the times of old, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have never relinquished its part in such pagan ritual practices, or their religiosity, taking away from the written word of GOD.  All of this history, marked by punishment, should be heeded as a warning.  Let us learn from history, and not partake in the practices which JESUS clearly condemns.

29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. –Acts 17:29-31 (KJV).

In the Faithful Service of Jesus Christ, 

Lisa Muhar

Read more: The Prophetic Statue in Daniel: Scientists to Rebuild the Ancient Babylonian ‘Colossus Of Rhodes’-The Greek Pagan Sun god, Helios

Source:Business Insider and sources cited in article

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 “…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” – Daniel 12:4 (KJV).  

For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof – Psalm 102:14 (KJV).


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