01 THE ROYAL ROADS The story of the Bible involves thousands of people traveling for their faith, trusting God, knowing the provision of the Lord across vast distances. There is both the literal meaning of a trip and the figurative image of a spiritual journey involved in these lives.
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03 Abraham lived in a time when the agricultural life occupied most people of the land. Abraham himself had herds of cattle, sheep and goats.
04 Eventually Abraham would travel from Ur to Egypt. This region was known as the Fertile Crescent. Egypt's main highway was its great river, the River Nile. Without the Nile life could never have been established there.
05 Abraham's (lived about 2166-1991 BC) arrival in Egypt coincided with the beginning of the First Intermediate Period (2181-2040 BC), following the decline of the 6th Dynasty. The Pyramid of Cheops was more than 500 years old when Abraham saw it.
06 Egypt would continue to be important in Biblical and secular history. Egyptian troops invaded Palestine repeatedly. Jeremiah was one of the captives taken to Egypt. Alexander the Great marched through these gates (see photo), and Jesus was a refugee there for several years.
07 For much of the history of the Old Testament the camel was the main beast of burden for long marches. Royal Roads enabled people to travel long distances across the Fertile Crescent.
08 Roads followed the watering holes. Where there were springs the animals would be nourished, plants would grow, habitations could be established and trade could flourish.
09 One great example of the Royal Roads was Petra, (today one of the "Other Seven Wonders of the World"). The Nabatean kings of Petra controlled the spice trade from Yemen. The New Testament story of the spread of the Church took place while Aretas IV ruled Petra.
10 Aretas IV became so powerful that he won recognition from Caesar Augustus. Many coins from his time were found. His daughter married Herod Antipas, but he divorced her to marry Herodias. The offence against Aretas provoked a war, which Aretas won (See Josephus).
11 The desert peoples of Jordan hosted traffic coming from Yemen as it passed through Wadi Rum. The Nabateans may have migrated from the Persian Gulf and become the rulers of these desert roads.
12 The King's Highway was the important trade route connecting present day Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The present day road (this one in Jordan) is laid down on much of the ancient highway.
13 To the west, in Asia Minor, small kingdoms sprang up in various locations. The Hittites were a people group of Indo-European origin, unlike the Semites (like the Israelites, Assyrians and Canaanites). They governed a large area from (approx) 2300 - 850 BC.
14 Between the region of the Hittites and the Fertile Crescent lay the two great rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Cities grew up along these rivers, some threatened today by new dams being built in Turkey.
15 Jacob left the company of his father and mother, Isaac and Rebekah, (Gen 27-29) fled to Haran and married Leah and Rachel, the daughters of his uncle Laban. He came back to Canaan with his wives, their servants Bilhah and Zilpah, and sheep and goats.
16 The Royal Road in Sardis, discovered in an archaeological dig in 1925, shows the skill of engineers. It linked Sardis with Susa, Persia. It was used between 3500 BC and 300 BC; then it was upgraded, as part of a treaty, when the Roman army took over in 198 BC.
17 Persia expanded quickly. In 539 BC Cyrus the Great (ruled 559-530) defeated the Babylonians in their own capital, Babylon. Persia governed 127 provinces, satraps. As he expanded Persian power westward his most important prize was Sardis.
18 The foreign policy of Cyrus involved, in part, granting more local autonomy in religion and rebuilding ancient cultures (Ezra 1:1-11). This photo shows the base of the Royal Road from Sardis to Susa. The wall to the right, 2 metres, six feet high, is the modern road built over the old.
19 Much is written by the Old Testament prophets about Persia. Cyrus reigned from the Aegean Sea, in the west, to the Indus River, India, in the East. Isaiah prophesied that Cyrus would deliver the Jews and called him the "Anointed" of God for this purpose. (Isaiah 45:1)
20 The paving stones of the Royal Road - Sardis to Susa - lie exposed by archaeologists. The paving stones show the marks of the wheels of thousands of chariots over hundreds of years. (See the marks of the wheels in the photo above.)
21 Travel involved camels - lots of them. Some of the camel trains involved hundreds of animals. The historic invasion of India from Central Asia, about 1200 BC, was said to have counted on 20,000 camels for a 95 day trip across the desert. Mostly they carried water for the army.
22 Travel also involved the physical obstacles of the land. Streams, rivers, mountains, swamps and forests were all part of the terrain over which the road had to pass.
23 Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, their wives and children all traveled on ancient roads. Abraham "had received a promise and he obeyed and went, not even knowing where he was going to. By faith he made his home in the promised land, living in tents." Hebrews 11:8-9
24 "Isaac and Jacob also lived in tents, heirs with him of the same promise. Abraham was looking for a city - a permanent place with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. They were looking for a better country - a heavenly one." Hebrews 11:10, 16
25 Travel in the winter was impossible due to the weather: snow and ice in the mountains ...
26 ...while cold winds and sand storms in the desserts limited travel to about half of the year. By the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, probably in 6 AD, or 4 AD, most places were safe for travel. Pax Romana meant that most of the Mediterranean Sea and the land were rid of bandits.
27 Archaeologists have worked out that the Persian Royal Road was 2,857 kms long (1,775 miles). Herodotus wrote (about 475 BC) that the time needed to go from the Persian Gulf to the Aegean Sea was 93 days.
28 Twenty-nine great military roads radiated from Rome. Hence the famous expression, "All roads lead to Rome." Under Caesar Augustus the expansion of road building united the Empire as never before.
29 Each city of importance had a central arch, a symbol of Roman domination. This arch in Rome, known as the Domitian Gate, dates from the last decade of the first century, about 90 AD.
30 The most famous of the 29 highways radiating out from Rome was the Appian Way, started in 312 BC. The high standard set by the engineers as they built this road set the pattern for the next 2000 years.
31 Some of the roads leading to Rome ended on the Mediterranean Sea, then linked up with the Appian Way. The Via Egnatia, which ran through Macedonia, northern Greece, carried a large volume of traffic.
32 Seen here in the ruins of Philippi, Greece, the Via Egnatia (Ignatian Way) ran along the eastern side of the market. Paul used this highway several times. He went from Philippi to Thessalonica and then on to Berea on this road. Later he returned to Ephesus along this road.
33 This Via Egnatia highway started on the coast, at the Adriatic Sea and went east to Byzantium, (later Constantinople - later Istanbul).
34 Other highways used by Paul, Silas and Timothy - and thousands of other early Christians, was the Highway of the Interior. (Acts 19:1) It would have taken Paul about two months to travel from Antioch to Ephesus - as he began his Third Journey.
35 Along the way he traveled through well developed cities. Aphrodisias, just to the south of the Laodicea - Ephesus section of the Highway of the Interior, was an important Roman city. It has been excavated within the last 50 years with unending surprises.
36 Aphrodisias may have had a population as high as 50 - 70,000. It was a trading center and a well developed School of Fine Arts.
37 Roman construction in a city like this enables the visitor to see into the past, somewhat like opening a window of an ancient building, letting us see just a little bit of the furniture inside as sun light illuminates a tiny section of the dwelling. (Here the forum, or market place.)
38 The techniques used by the engineers for theatre, market places, temples, sports, hot baths, sewage system, aqueducts and sculpture enable one to understand the high degree of permanence that the Romans sought as they created a civilization that would remain.
39 What is missing, of course, are the individual human faces, the people who walked these streets, who lived in the Greco-Roman world. The fragility of human life, however, is manifest in faith towards God. The Bible says that faith and love will outlast everything else.
40 What is left today are the well sculptured walls, roads and remains of foundations, aqueducts and other buildings, all a silent testimony to the endless patience and incredible hard work of building cities - cities that have by and large fallen and are no more.
41 The city of Aphrodisias gives us a chance to learn how roads helped in the formation of cities. Carts with four wheels, specially built for the purpose, could transport large stones that would be used in the construction of buildings.
42 The stadium at Aphrodisias, the best preserved from the Greco-Roman period, illustrates the endless work involved and the importance of roads. Stone blocks, sufficient for a stadium with a capacity of 30,000 people, were brought from quarries about 20 kms, 13 miles, away.
43 Many of the ancient Roman roads are still visible and are used today, as is the case with these two school boys in Amasra, a small city on the Black Sea in the Turkish Province of Bartin.
44 Parallel trenches were dug 12 metres (40 feet) apart to determine the nature of the subsoil. This pattern set the standard for the next 2000 years.
45 Roman roads lasted! (1). The lower layer, the foundation, was a massive bed of large flat stones 10-24 inches thick. (2). On top of the foundation smaller stones, 9 inches, mixed with lime. )3). Gravel and course sand came next, about one foot thick;
46 Finally (4) The top surface was built of flint-like lava stone, six inches thick. The total road depth was between three–five feet thick. (Many modern roads in Turkey are simply laid down upon existing, some still enduring, roads built by Rome.)
47 Remember that all of this was done by hand. Slaves did a lot of work, obviously, with high skilled stone workers making sure that the stones of the foundations and the four different layers arrived at the standard set by the department responsible for road building.
48 In the case of very large stones, sometimes used for buildings, the weight was too much for four-wheeled wagons. In this case the massive blocks were pulled along on the ground on top of wooden rollers.
49 Roman roads were remarkable. They travelled in a straight line regardless of obstacles, over marshes, lakes, ravines and mountains. Rome had 85,000 kms (53,000 miles) of roads connecting the capital with 100+ provinces in the Empire.
50 One case in particular illustrates how Roman roads in the time of the New Testament enabled the communication of the Christian Gospel during the time of Pax Romana. We'll look for a moment at the Via Sebaste, completed in 6 BC. (Click NEXT for photos 51-100)
51 Above the Mediterranean Sea lies the mountainous area of the Torus Mountain Range. Only a few mountain passes are suitable for building a road from the coast to the interior.
52 The mountains are covered in snow in the winter time. They are formed of granite as well as limestone.
53 Passing through these mountainous areas is difficult even today. the grade, or incline, is steep in places. Little villages populate the small valley regions between the cliffs.
54 When Caesar Augustus came to rule Rome, after a long struggle against Cleopatra and Marcus, he knew that he must govern Anatolia (modern day Turkey) with a strong hand. Not only bandits but small kingdoms with a long history must be dominated.
55 He would have to subdue, once for all, the little kingdoms. He devised a plan. The Via Sebaste would snake up the mountain range (seen above - part of the remaining road) and the old family of wild bandits must be removed permanently.
56 The road project was started immediately upon his being proclaimed Caesar, about in 25 AD, and the road was completed in 6 BC, just before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The Time was ripe for news to travel along the road system from place to place.
57 Where there had always been commerce between various parts of the Middle East, there was now a huge boom in travel and business. The safety of the roads promoted commerce. And commerce meant bigger taxes to the Empire.
58 The Via Sebaste connected the old city of the interior, Pisidia Antioch, with the coast. Roman soldiers who were too old to fight any more were rewarded with free land around the city of Pisidia Antioch.
59 Pisidia Antioch now became a significant place from which the power and glory of Rome radiated throughout the province of Galatia.
60 Travel was not easy. Not only was the terrain often full of hills, cliffs, swamps or desserts, but clothing, books, food and small items had to be carried. Usually the animals did most of the work. But they needed to be fed and watered and cared for, too.
61 Reading between the lines of the story about Paul, Barnabas and John Mark in Acts 13:13 I see the disappointment and frustration of Paul. John Mark decided to leave them in Perge. Now Paul and Barnabas would have a much more difficult time traveling along to Pisidian Antioch.
62 Travels could average about 31 kms, or 20 miles a day, if they were going a normal speed. Men in the military could average about 50 kms a day, or 31 miles, on a normal march. Urgent messages could be delivered by horse at 120 kms, 75 miles a day.
63 When Paul saw the Lord Jesus Christ he was on the Royal Road from Jerusalem to Damascus. He saw a blinding light as he lay on the ground. Jesus spoke to him in a vision.
64 Paul would later travel through a large part of the Empire. It is estimated by some that the traveled about 20,000 kms (13,000 miles) during his life as he carried out three great journeys, and several lesser trips.
65 Cities were protected by walls. Since ancient times the dangers of armies coming to attack meant that at the end of a journey one expected a safe place to stay - a walled city.
66 Around the cites were the farm lands. People lived in these rural places and provided themselves with food. Later, food was traded in the cities for other provisions.
67 Where there was plenty left over, the provisions were sent to Rome. the city of Rome had a huge appetite for wheat and corn. Egypt sent corn to Rome in a whole fleet of merchant ships.
68 So, it came about that these roads which had been built for the expansion of the Roman Empire also began to be used by the early Christians to take their news of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, from place to place.
69 Travelling meant that early Christians talked with thousands of strangers. People talked with others, getting to know their fellow travellers.
70 "Do you know so-and-so in that city?"- "Oh, yes, I've been there and he is a friend of mine." - "When you get to such-and-such a place be sure to look up Marcos." There must have been helpful chatter like this as the early Christians went from place to place.
71 Acts 19:10 records an incredible spread of the Gospel. "This (teaching) went on for two years so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the world of the Lord."
72 Not everyone heard it in a positive light. "Have you heard about the attack that Paul of Tarsus is making against Artemis of Ephesus?" - "No, you don't say! He is attacking our goddess? Why is he doing that?"- "He says that there is only one God." There was immediate opposition.
73 "No, you don't say! He is attacking our goddess? Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Why is he doing that?" - "He says that there is only one God." - "Only one God! Why he must be an atheist! He doesn't believe in all the gods of the Greeks!? Why?"- "Well, he is what he teaches ... "
74 As they were traveling from place to place the merchants, bankers, potters, soldiers, carpet and tent makers and people of other professions needed animals.
75 They might travel through the whole day, on a hot summer trip, with the sun boiling on their backs.
76 By the end of the day they would need a place for their animals to stay.
77 Maybe they had crossed a mountain, or maybe they had crossed a river, like the Seyhan River in Adana, Turkey. This bridge, built 117-138, during the time of the Emperor Hadrian, has 16 arches and is still impressive.
78 This Roman bridge still can carry traffic both ways. It is wide enough to carry two lanes of trucks and buses, but it is presently used to carry both lanes going west. Another bridge, just to the north, carries traffic to the eastern part of the city.
79 The security of Rome rested on its providing security for its citizens. Small local forts and military outposts were built on strategic locations so that the earliest sign of a rebellion could be put down.
80 Thus, the system of military roads (sometimes called the Royal Roads) and local forts offered security that underlined the far-off imperial power of Rome.
81 No matter how far one travelled away from Rome, the laws were upheld by governors and prefects who were appointed either by the Roman Senate, or by the Emperor himself.
82 Laws applied to governance, citizenship, taxes, military service and a host of other imperial functions. However, local culture and religious beliefs were respected and local communities could continue with their languages and traditions.
83 Thus the road system became an integral part of the system by which ideas, art, manufactured products and religious ideas could travel extensively across vast distances. Never before had this been possible to such an extent.
84 Standards that were set by the Imperial Edicts, the permanence of these roads opened the way for countless people to travel, people like Epenetus, Andronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Apelles, Aristobulus and scores of others. (See Romans 16:3-20)
85 Where did people stay when they were traveling? What did they do when night fall came? Where did they stay during a storm or cold weather?
86 The Roman system of Royal Roads also included a well built system of hotels. Every 20 - 30 kms (13- 20 miles) there was an inn with a stable. This scene is taken inside one of the best preserved in Turkey, located in Cappadocia, half way between Nevsehir and Urgup.
87 The bathroom shows what would meet the travellers as they looked for the comfort of a bath in the late afternoon or early evening.
88 Carts were pulled by horses or donkeys. Both two wheel as well as four wheel vehicles made their way through these doors for thousands of years.
89 The ever present carpet salesmen are never far away, for one's wealth, then as well as now, rests largely in what kind of flooring one can present when guests come to one's home.
90 The walls of the Inn, or in Turkish - Caravan saray - are high, safe enough to keep robbers out at night. Obviously, this was important because merchants would have been carrying items worth a lot.
91 The Inn was entered from a magnificent portal, or gate. Romans, and later other civilizations, used white marble where possible, to welcome visitors. One could stay up to three days for free, to refresh the animals.
92 In the later restorations of some of the Inns that can still be visited today the gates were built with a Persian motif. Obviously, as Islam became the dominant religion of the region the Caravan Saray would also include an area for prayer for the Muslim faithful.
93 The Inn consisted of two parts, the open courtyard and the covered areas. During the summer time people would have used the open courtyard more, while the spring and fall may have made more use of the closed in areas.
94 Animals were housed for the night in an enclosed space that gave ample protection to camels, horses, donkeys and mules.
95 The Romans built roads that unified their lands and provided for merchants to carry out commerce. The Turkish government today is doing the same thing. The New Silk Highway is a vast project aimed at integrating the region. The road is built right out into the Black Sea.
96. Hundreds of miles of road (400 kms, or 290 miles) wind their way along the Black Sea, integrating poorer cities, and opening up the way for expansion into the region of Central Asia. The way is set to repeat the history of the Silk Road.
97. Built right into the Black Sea. Incredible determination was needed to create space for a modern highway, and that meant laying down the road in the Black Sea.
98. Once the wall was built out into the Black Sea the enormous space was filled in with rocks from nearby mountains. The ten year project is now complete and Turkey's Black Sea - New Silk highway is complete.
99. In this photo I stood in the middle of the highway, just before it was opened. That's the city of Trabzon. The highway here was built out into the Black Sea filling in 230 (!) meters / yards. The highway avoids the traffic of Trabzon, going out and around it for about 15 km (10 miles).
100 On July 25, 2008 the leaders of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia launched the construction of the railway that will revive the Silk Road trade route that once connected Asia and Europe. This is called the New Silk Road. Welcome to the new Turkey!