Bruce Longenecker’s The Crosses of Pompeii– Part One

BEN: Bruce you’ve now written two books The Cross before Constantine (Fortress, 2015) and The Crosses of Pompeii (Fortress, 2016) about the early Christian use of the cross symbol. What prompted your extensive interest in this particular subject?BRUCE:Having written a book on “Paul, Poverty, and the Greco-Roman World” (the subtitle of my book Remember the Poor from 2010), the historian in me wanted to press further into the first-century world in order to expand my reach regarding the cha … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016 Part Twelve– The Euphrates

According to the Bible, two of the rivers that flowed from or by Eden were the Tigris and the Euphrates, both of which are in the very area of eastern Turkey we were visiting..... above are the pictures of the Euphrates today, post the building of the Ataturk dam. And here's my friend Meltem stepping in the river, followed by a picture of somebody else's foot in the river... (guess who).Here is the dam that made possible the regulating of the river.... According to Meltem, this dam … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016– Part Eleven, Mt. Nimrud

The climb up Mt. Nimrud is breath-taking, quite literally, and for some reason it was harder for me this time than five years ago. Surely it couldn't be because I'm older now--- could it? But even more breath-taking is the view in all directions from the top of Mt. Nimrud. When one approaches this peak from a distance it stands out from the range it is in, not least because of its artificial top, which may or may not contain the tomb of Antiochus (probably not). Here's the view.... The top of … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016– Part Ten Arsemeia

It is hard for me to stress enough how beautiful a country Turkey is. And the Commagene kingdom which includes Arsemeia, Zeugma, and Mt. Nimrud, the mount Olympus of Turkey is some of the most beautiful. Arsemeia is on the back side of Mt. Nimrud and on the way to it. King Antiochus Commagene was a remarkable fellow, not only claiming direct descent from Darius the Persian, but also the inheritor of the Alexandrian legacy, and so like Alexander he made an attempt at syncretism--- a blending of … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016– Part Nine, Roman Bridges Standing Up

The phrase 'built to last' gets thrown around a lot in our time, but frankly we ain't got nothing on the ancient Romans. When they built a bridge or a road, or an aqueduct, or a theater or a coliseum, well at least some of it is still around in most cases. As for us, we can't even make asphalt last three years without cracking and potholes. You get the picture. One such bridge is the bridge pictured above which we stopped at on the way to Mt. Nimrud. Here's the details about this bridge … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016 Part Eight B, The Zeugma Mosaics

Without question, the mosaic depiction most commented on by scholars, and rightly so is the so-called Zeugma Mona Lisa, or more commonly called the gypsy woman. So celebrated is this mosaic that it garners its own dark room for display. Look for a while into these eyes... what do you see? Many of the other mosaics are less skillfully rendered than this one, but they are still impressive whether depicting a god like Dionysius, or Helios riding his sun chariot across the sky, or Neptune or … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016– Part Eight A, the Zeugma Museum

I flew directly from Istanbul to Gaziantep to meet my friend Meltem Chiftchi (my usual superb guide) and a couple of others to tour the new Zeugma museum there with its fabulous mosaics extracted from Roman villas in Zeugma before that part of the land was submerged by the new Attaturk dam waters. What was Zeugma? Actually it was twin towns on the Euphrates (on which more anon). A zeugma is actually a term for a rhetorical device, but there was a city named this which was part of the Commagene … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016 Part Seven– A Bazaar Time in Gaziantep

Yep, those are faux camels headed down the traffic median in Gaziantep, just outside the famous Zeugma mosaics museum (on which see the following post). Why are they there, you may ask? Well Gaizantep was on the spice road which came from the Middle East through Jordan up the King's highway into Turkey and then west across Anatolia (note what the wise men brought from the east to give Jesus--- spices like frankincense and myrrh). So, as one would expect when you get to Gaziantep, you need to go … [Read more...]

Turkey 2016– Part Six– Byzantine Palace Mosaics

For better or worse, it was the practice of Muslim conquerors to: 1) take over churches and turn them into mosques (e.g. Hagia Sophia) which unintentionally helped preserve some of these churches and their features, and 2) alternately, they would build on top of such structures, which is what happened with the Byzantine Palace the remains of which are under the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. To be fair, the Palace was mostly in ruins due to an earthquake, so this was not really a hostile act and the … [Read more...]