Shipwreck
Chapter 32

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Though the Romans had no natural love for the sea, and though a commercial life was never regarded by them as an honorable occupation, and thus both experience of practical seamanship and the business of the carrying-trade remained in a great measure with the Greeks, yet a vast development had been given to commerce by the consolidation of the Roman Empire. Piracy had been effectually put down before the close of the Republic. The annexation of Egypt drew towards Italy the rich trade of the Indian seas. After the effectual reduction of Gaul and Spain, Roman soldiers and Roman slave-dealers invaded the shores of Britain. The trade of all the countries which surrounded the Mediterranean began to flow towards Rome. The great city herself was passive, for she had nothing to export. But the cravings of her luxury, and the necessities of her vast population, drew to one center the converging lines of a busy traffic from a wide extent of provinces. To leave out of view what hardly concerns us here, the commerce by land from the North, some of the principal directions of trade by sea may be briefly enumerated as follows.

The harbors of Ostia and Puteoli were constantly full of ships from the West, which had brought wool and other articles from Cadiz: a circumstance which possesses some interest for us here, as illustrating the mode in which Apostle Paul might hope to accomplish his voyage to Spain (Romans 15:24). On the South was Sicily, often called the Store-house of Italy, - and Africa, which sent furniture-woods to Rome, and heavy cargoes of marble and granite. On the East, Asia Minor was the intermediate space through which the caravan-trade passed, conveying silks and spices from beyond the Euphrates to the markets and wharves of Ephesus. We might extend this enumeration by alluding to the fisheries of the Black Sea, and the wine-trade of the Archipelago. But enough has been said to give some notion of the commercial activity of which Italy was the center: and our particular attention here is required only to one branch of trade, one line of constant traffic across the waters of the Mediterranean to Rome.

Alexandria has been mentioned already as a city, which, next after Athens, exerted the strongest intellectual influence over the age in which Apostle Paul's appointed work was done; and we have had occasion to notice some indirect connection between this city and the Apostle’s own labors. But it was eminent commercially not less than intellectually. The prophetic views of Alexander were at that time receiving an ampler fulfillment than at any former period. The trade with the Indian seas, which had been encouraged under the Ptolemies, received a vast impulse in the reign of Augustus: and under the reigns of his successors, the valley of the Nile was the channel of an active transit trade in spices, dyes, jewels, and perfumes, which were brought by Arabian mariners from the far East, and poured into the markets of Italy. But Egypt was not only the medium of transit trade. She had her own manufactures of linen, paper, and glass, which she exported in large quantities. And one natural product of her soil has been a staple commodity from the time of Pharaoh to our own. "We have only to think of the fertilizing inundations of the Nile, on the one hand, and, on the other, of the multitudes composing the free and slave population of Italy, in order to comprehend the activity and importance of the Alexandrian corn-trade. At a later period the Emperor Commodus established a company of merchants to convey the supplies from Egypt to Rome; and the commendations which he gave himself for this forethought may still be read in the inscription round the ships represented on his coins. The harbor to which the Egyptian corn-vessels were usually bound was Puteoli. At the close of this chapter we shall refer to some passages which give an animated picture of the arrival of these ships. Meanwhile, it is well to have called attention to this line of traffic between Alexandria and Puteoli; for in so doing we have described the means which Divine Providence employed for bringing the Apostle to Rome.

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The transition is easy from the commerce of the Mediterranean to the progress of travelers from point to point in that sea. If to this enumeration of the main lines of traffic by sea we add all the ramifications of the coasting-trade which depended on them, we have before us a full view of the opportunities which travelers possessed of accomplishing their voyages. Just in this way we have lately seen Apostle Paul completing the journey, on which his mind was set, from Philippi, by Miletus and Patara, to Caesarea. We read of no periodical packets for the conveyance of passengers sailing between the great towns of the Mediterranean. Emperors themselves were usually compelled to take advantage of the same opportunities to which Jewish pilgrims and Christian Apostles were limited. When Vespasian went to Rome, leaving Titus to prosecute the siege of Jerusalem, "he went on board a merchant-ship, and sailed from Alexandria to Rhodes," and thence pursued his way through Greece to the Adriatic, and finally went to Rome through Italy by land. And when the Jewish war was ended, and when, suspicions having arisen concerning the allegiance of Titus to Vespasian, the son was anxious "to rejoin his father," he also left Alexandria in a "merchant-ship," and "hastened to Italy," touching at the very places at which Apostle Paul touched, first at Rhegium (Acts 28:13), and then at Puteoli (ib).

If such was the mode in which even royal personages traveled from the provinces to the metropolis, we must of course conclude that those who traveled on the business of the state must often have been content to avail themselves of similar opportunities. The sending of state prisoners to Rome from various parts of the Empire was an event of frequent occurrence. Thus we are told by Josephus, that Felix, "for some slight offence, bound and sent to Rome several priests of his acquaintance, honorable and good men, to answer for themselves to Caesar." Such groups must often have left Caesarea and the other Eastern ports, in merchant-vessels bound for the West; and such was the departure of Apostle Paul, when the time at length came for that eventful journey, which had been so long and earnestly cherished in his own wishes; (Romans 15:23) so emphatically foretold by divine revelation; (Acts 19:21; 23:11. See Acts 27:24) and which was destined to involve such great consequences to the whole future of Christianity.

The vessel in which he sailed, with certain other state prisoners, was "a ship of Adramyttium" apparently engaged in the coasting-trade, and at that time (probably the end of summer or the beginning of autumn) bound on her homeward voyage. Whatever might be the harbors at which she intended to touch, her course lay along the coast of the province of Asia. Adramyttium was itself a seaport in Mysia, which (as we have seen) was a subdivision of that province: and we have already described it as situated in the deep gulf which recedes beyond the base of Mount Ida, over against the island of Lesbos, and as connected by good roads with Pergamus and Troas on the coast, and the various marts in the interior of the peninsula. Since Apostle Paul never reached the place, no description of it is required. It is only needful to observe that when the vessel reached the coast of "Asia," the travelers would be brought some considerable distance on their way to Rome; and there would be a good prospect of finding some other westward-bound vessel, in which they might complete their voyage, - more especially since the Alexandrian corn-ships (as we shall see) often touched at the harbors in that neighborhood.

Apostle Paul's two companions - besides the soldiers, with Julius their commanding officer, the sailors, the other prisoners, and such occasional passengers as may have taken advantage of this opportunity of leaving Caesarea - were two Christians already familiar to us, Luke the Evangelist, whose name, like that of Timothy, is almost inseparable from the Apostle, and whom we may conclude to have been with him since his arrival in Jerusalem, - and "Aristarchus the Macedonian, of Thessalonica," whose native country and native city have been separately mentioned before (Acts 19:29, 20:4), and who seems, from the manner in which he is spoken of in the Epistles written from Rome (Philemon 1:24, Colossians 4:10), to have been, like Apostle Paul himself, a prisoner in the cause of the Gospel.

On the day after sailing from Caesarea the vessel put into Sidon (verse 3). This may be readily accounted for, by supposing that she touched there for the purposes of trade, or to land some passengers. Or another hypothesis is equally allowable. Westerly and north-westerly winds prevail in the Levant at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn; and we find that it did actually blow from these quarters soon afterwards, in the course of Apostle Paul's voyage. Such a wind would be sufficiently fair for a passage to Sidon: and the seamen might proceed to that port in the hope of the weather becoming more favorable, and be detained there by the wind continuing in the same quarter. See our article on more information about Sidon!

On going to sea from Sidon, the wind was unfavorable. Hence, whatever the weather had been before, it certainly blew from the westward now. The direct course from Sidon to the "coasts of Asia" would have been to the southward of Cyprus, across the sea over which the Apostle had sailed so prosperously two years before. Thus when Luke says that "they sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary" he means that they sailed to the north-east and north of the island. If there were any doubt concerning his meaning, it would be made clear by what is said afterwards, that they "sailed through the sea which is over against Gilicia and Pamphylia." The reasons why this course was taken will be easily understood by those who have navigated those seas in modern times. By standing to the north, the vessel would fall in with the current which sets in a north-westerly direction past the eastern extremity of Cyprus, and then westerly along the southern coast of Asia Minor, till it is lost at the opening of the Archipelago. And besides this, as the land was neared, the wind would draw off the shore, and the water would be smoother; and both these advantages would aid the progress of the vessel. Hence she would easily work to windward, under the mountains of Cilicia, and through the bay of Pamphylia, - to Lycia, which was the first district in the province of Asia. Thus we follow the Apostle once more across the sea over which he had first sailed with Barnabas from Antioch to Salamis, - and within sight of the summits of Taurus, which rise above his native city, - and close by Perga and Attaleia, - till he came to a Lycian harbor not far from Patara, the last point at which he had touched on his return from the third missionary journey.

The Lycian harbor, in which the Adramyttian ship came to anchor on this occasion, after her voyage from Sidon, was Myra, a city which has been fully illustrated by some of those travelers, whose researches have, within these few years, for the first time provided materials for a detailed geographical commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Its situation was at the opening of a long and wonderful gorge, which conducts the traveler from the interior of the mountain-region of Lycia to the sea. A wide space of plain intervened between the city and the port. Strabo says that the distance was twenty stadia, or more than two miles. If we draw a natural inference from the magnitude of the theater, which remains at the base of the cliffs, and the traces of ruins to some distance across the plain, we should conclude that Myra once held a considerable population: while the Lycian tombs, still conspicuous in the rocks, seem to connect it with a remote period of Asiatic history. We trace it, on the other hand, in a later though hardly less obscure period of history: for in the Middle Ages it was called the port of the Adriatic, and was visited by Anglo-Saxon travelers. This was the period when Nicholas, the saint of the modern Greek sailors, - born at Patara, and buried at Myra, - had usurped the honor which those two cities might more naturally have given to the Apostle who anchored in their harbors. In the seclusion of the deep gorge of Dembra is a magnificent Byzantine church, - probably the cathedral of the diocese, when Myra was the ecclesiastical and political metropolis of Lycia. Another building, hardly less conspicuous, is a granary erected by Trajan near the mouth of the little river Andraki. This is the ancient Andriace, which Pliny mentions as the port of Myra, and which is described to us by Appian, in bis narrative of the Civil Wars of Rome, as closed and protected by a chain.

Andriace, the port of Myra, was one of the many excellent harbors which abound in the south-western part of Asia Minor. From this circumstance, and from the fact that the coast is high, and visible to a great distance, - in addition to the local advantages which we have mentioned above, the westerly current, and the offshore wind, - it was common for ships bound from Egypt to the westward to be found in this neighborhood when the winds were contrary. It was therefore a natural occurrence, and one which could have caused no surprise, when the centurion met in the harbor at Myra with an Alexandrian corn-ship on her voyage to Italy (verse 6). Even if business had not brought her to this coast, she was not really out of her track in a harbor in the same meridian as that of her own port. It is probable that the same westerly winds which had hindered Apostle Paul's progress from Caesarea to Myra had caused the Alexandrian ship to stand to the north.

Thus the expectation was fulfilled which had induced the centurion to place his prisoners on board the vessel of Adramyttium. That vessel proceeded on her homeward route up the coast of the Aegean, if the weather permitted; and we now follow the Apostle through a more eventful part of his voyage, in a ship which was probably much larger than those that were simply engaged in the coasting-trade. From the total number of souls on board (verse 37), and the known fact that the Egyptian merchantmen were among the largest in the Mediterranean, we conclude that she was a vessel of considerable size. Every thing that relates to her construction is interesting to us, through the minute account which is given of her misfortunes from the moment of her leaving Myra. The weather was unfavorable from the first. They were "many days" before reaching Cnidus (verse 7):and since the distance from Myra to this place is only a hundred and thirty miles, it is certain that they must have sailed "slowly" (ib). The delay was of course occasioned by one of two causes, - by calms or by contrary winds. There can be no doubt that the latter was the real cause, not only because the sacred narrative states that they reached Cnidus "with difficulty" but because we are informed that, when Cnidus was reached, they could not make good their course any farther, "the wind not suffering them" (ibid). At this point they lost the advantages of a favoring current, a weather-shore and smooth water, and were met by all the force of the sea from the westward; and it was judged the most prudent course, instead of contending with a head sea and contrary winds, to run down to the southward, and after rounding Cape Salmone, the easternmost point of Crete, to pursue the voyage under the lee of that island.

Knowing, as we do, the consequences which followed this step, we are inclined to blame it as imprudent, unless, indeed, it was absolutely necessary. For while the south coast of Crete was deficient in good harbors, that of Cnidus was excellent, - well sheltered from the north-westerly winds, fully supplied with all kinds of stores, and in every way commodious, if needful, for wintering.

This excellent harbor, then, from choice or from necessity, was left behind by the seamen of the Alexandrian vessel. Instead of putting back there for shelter, they yielded to the expectation of being able to pursue their voyage under the lee of Crete, and ran down to Cape Salmone: after rounding which, the same "difficulty" would indeed recur (verse 8), but still with the advantage of a weather-shore. The statements at this particular point of Luke’s narrative enable us to ascertain, with singular minuteness, the direction of the wind: and it is deeply interesting to observe how this direction, once ascertained, harmonizes all the inferences which we should naturally draw from other parts of the context. But the argument has been so well stated by the first writer who has called attention to this question, that we will present it in his words rather than our own.

"The course of a ship on her voyage from Myra to Italy, after she has reached Cnidus, is by the north side of Crete, through the Archipelago, W. by S. Hence a ship which can make good a course of less than seven points from the wind would not have been prevented from proceeding on her course, unless the wind had been to the west of N. N. W. But we are told that she ‘ran under Crete, over against Salmone,’ which implies that she was able to fetch that cape, which bears about S. W. by S. from Cnidus; but, unless the wind had been to the north of W. N. W., she could not have done so. The middle point between N. N. W. and W.N.W. is north-west, which cannot be more than two points, and is probably not more than one, from the true direction. The wind, therefore, would in common language have been termed northwest."

And then the author proceeds to quote, what we have quoted elsewhere, a statement from the English Sailing Directions regarding the prevalence of north-westerly winds in these seas during the summer months; and to point out that the statement is in complete harmony with what Pliny says of the Etesian monsoons.

Under these circumstances of weather, a consideration of what has been said above, with the chart of Crete before us, will show that the voyage could have been continued some distance from Cape Salmone under the lee of the island, as it had been from Myra to Cnidus, - but that at a certain point (now called Cape Matala), where the coast trends suddenly to the north, and where the full force of the wind and sea from the westward must have been met, this possibility would have ceased once more, as it had ceased at the south-western corner of the Peninsula. At a short distance to the east of Cape Matala is a roadstead, which was then called "Fair Havens," and still retains the same name, and which the voyagers successfully reached and came to anchor. There seems to have been no town at Fair Havens: but there was a town near it called Lasaea, a circumstance which Luke mentions (if we may presume to say so), not with any view of fixing the locality of the roadstead, but simply because the fact was impressed on his memory. If the vessel was detained long at this anchorage, the sailors must have had frequent intercourse with Lasaea, and the soldiers too might obtain leave to visit it; and possibly also the prisoners, each with a soldier chained to his arm.

We are not informed of the length of the delay at Fair Havens: but before they left the place, a "considerable time" had elapsed since they had sailed from Caesarea (verse 9); and they had arrived at that season of the year when it was considered imprudent to try the open sea. This is expressed by Luke by saying that "the fast was already past;" a proverbial phrase among the Jews, employed as we should employ the phrase "about Michaelmas," and indicating precisely that period of the year. The fast of expiation was on the tenth of Tisri, and corresponded to the close of September or the beginning of October; (Leviticus 16:29, 23:27) and is exactly the time when seafaring is pronounced to be dangerous by Greek and Roman writers. It became, then, a very serious matter of consultation whether they should remain at Pair Havens for the winter, or seek some better harbor. Apostle Paul's advice was very strongly given that they should remain where they were. He warned them that if they ventured to pursue their voyage, they would meet with violent weather, with great injury to the cargo and the ship, and much risk to the lives of those on board. It is sufficient if we trace in this warning rather the natural prudence and judgment of Apostle Paul than the result of any supernatural revelation: though it is possible that a prophetic power was acting in combination with the insight derived from long experience of "perils in the sea" (2Corinthians 11:26). He addressed such arguments to his fellow-voyagers as would be likely to influence all: the master would naturally avoid what might endanger the ship: the owner (who was also on board) would be anxious for the cargo: to the centurion and to all, the risk of perilling their lives was a prospect that could not lightly be regarded. That Apostle Paul was allowed to give advice at all implies that he was already held in a consideration very unusual for a prisoner in the custody of soldiers; and the time came when his words held a commanding sway over the whole crew: yet we cannot be surprised that on this occasion the centurion was more influenced by the words of the owner and the master than those of the Apostle. There could be no doubt that their present anchorage was "incommodious to winter in" (verse 12), and the decision of "the majority" was to leave it so soon as the weather should permit.

On the south coast of the island, somewhat farther to the west, was a harbor called Phoenix, with which it seems that some of the sailors wove familiar. They spoke of it in their conversation during the delay at Fair Havens, and they described it as "looking toward the south-west wind and the north-west wind." If they meant to recommend a harbor, into which these winds blew dead on shore, it would appear to have been unsailor-like advice: and we are tempted to examine more closely whether the expression really means what at first sight it appears to mean, and then to inquire further whether we can identify this description with any existing harbor. This might indeed be considered a question of mere curiosity, - since the vessel never reached Phoenix, - and since the description of the place is evidently not that of Luke, but of the sailors, whose conversation he heard. But every thing has a deep interest for us which tends to elucidate this voyage. And, first, we think there cannot be a doubt, both from the notices in ancient writers and the continuance of ancient names upon the spot, that Phoenix is to be identified with the modern Lutro. This is a harbor which is sheltered from the winds above mentioned: and, without entering fully into the discussions which have arisen upon this subject, we give it as our opinion that the difficulty is to be explained, simply by remembering that sailors speak of every thing from their own point of view, and that such a harbor does "look" - from the water towards the land which encloses it - in the direction of "south-west and north-west."

With a sudden change of weather, the north-westerly wind ceasing, and a light air springing up from the south, the sanguine sailors "thought that their purpose was already accomplished" (verse 13). They weighed anchor: and the vessel bore round Cape Matala. The distance to this point from Fair Havens is four or five miles: the bearing is W. by S. With a gentle southerly wind she would be able to weather the cape: and then the wind was fair to Phoenix, which was thirty-five miles distant from the cape, and bore from thence about W. N. W. The sailors already saw the high land above Lutro, and were proceeding in high spirits, - perhaps with fair-weather sails set, - certainly with the boat towing astern, - forgetful of past difficulties, and blind to impending dangers.

The change in the fortunes of these mariners came without a moment’s warning. Soon after weathering Cape Matala, and while they were pursuing their course in full confidence, close by the coast of Crete (verse 13), a violent wind came down from the mountains, and struck the ship (seizing her, according to the Greek expression, and whirling her round), so that it was impossible for the helmsman to make her keep her course. The character of the wind is described in terms expressive of the utmost violence. It came with all the appearance of a hurricane: and the name "Euroclydon," which was given to it by the sailors, indicates the commotion in the sea which presently resulted. The consequence was, that, in the first instance, they were compelled to scud before the gale.

If we wish to understand the events which followed, it is of the utmost consequence that we should ascertain, in the first place, the direction of this gale. Though there is a great weight of opinion in favor of the reading Euroaquilo, in place of Euroclydon, - a view which would determine, on critical grounds, that the wind was E. N. E., - we need not consider ourselves compelled to yield absolutely to this authority: and the mere context of the narrative enables us to determine the question with great exactitude. The wind came down from the island and drove the "vessel off the island: whence it is evident that it could not have been southerly. If we consider further that the wind struck the vessel when she was not far from Cape Matala (verse 14), - that it drove her towards Clauda (verse 16), which is an island about twenty miles to the S. W. of that point, - and that the sailors "feared" lest it should drive them into the Syrtis on the African coast (verse 17), - all which facts are mentioned in rapid succession, - an inspection of the chart will suffice to show us that the point from which the storm came must have been N. E., or rather to the East of N. E., - and thus we may safely speak of it as coming from the E. N. E.

We proceed now to inquire what was done with the vessel under these perilous circumstances. She was compelled at first (as we have seen) to scud before the gale. But three things are mentioned in close connection with her coming near to Clauda, and running under the lee of it. Here they would have the advantage of a temporary lull and of comparatively smooth water for a few miles: and the most urgent necessity was attended to first. The boat was hoisted on board: but after towing so long, it must have been nearly filled with water: and under any circumstances the hoisting of a boat on board in a gale of wind is a work accomplished "with difficulty." So it was in this instance, as Luke informs us. To effect it at all, it would be necessary for the vessel to be rounded to, with her head brought towards the wind; a circumstance which, for other reasons (as we shall see presently), it is important to bear in mind. The next precaution that was adopted betrays an apprehension lest the vessel should spring a leak, and so be in danger of foundering at sea. They used the tackling, which we have described above, and which provided "helps" in such an emergency. They "undergirded" the ship with ropes passed round her frame and tightly secured on deck. And after this, or rather simultaneously , they "lowered the gear." This is the most literal translation of the Greek expression. In itself it is indeterminate: but it doubtless implies careful preparation for weathering out the storm. What precise change was made we are not able to determine, in our ignorance of the exact state of the ship’s gear at the moment. It might mean that the mainsail was reefed and set; or that the great yard was lowered upon deck and a small storm-sail hoisted. It is certain that what English seamen call the top-hamper would be sent down on deck. As to those fair-weather sails themselves, which may have been too hastily used on leaving Fair Havens, if not taken in at the beginning of the gale, they must have been already blown to pieces.

But the mention of one particular apprehension, as the motive of this last precaution, informs us of something further. It was because they feared lest they "should be driven into the Syrtis" that they "lowered the gear." Now, to avoid this danger, the head of the vessel must necessarily have been turned away from the African coast, in the direction (more or less) from which the wind came. To have scudded before the gale under bare poles, or under storm-sails, would infallibly have stranded them in the Syrtis, - not to mention the danger of pooping, or being swamped by the sea breaking over her stern. To have anchored was evidently impossible. Only one other course remained: and this was what is technically called by sailors lying to. To effect this arrangement, the head of the vessel is brought as near to the wind as possible: a small amount of canvas is set, and so adjusted as to prevent the vessel from falling off into the trough of the sea. This plan (as is well known to all who have made long voyages) is constantly resorted to when the object is not so much to make progress as to weather out a gale.

We have been minute in describing the circumstances of the ship at this moment; for it is the point upon which all our subsequent conclusions must turn. Assuming now that the vessel was, as we have said, laid to on the larboard tack, with the boat on board and the hull under-girded, drifting from Clauda in a direction W. by N. at the rate of thirty-six miles in twenty-four hours, we pursue the narrative of the voyage, without anticipating the results to which we shall be brought. The more marked incidents of the second and third days of the gale are related to us (vverse 18, 19). The violence of the storm continued without any intermission. On "the day after" they left Clauda, "they proceeded to lighten the ship" by throwing overboard whatever could be most easily spared. From this we should infer that the precaution of undergirding had been only partially successful, and that the vessel had already sprung a leak. This is made still more probable by what occurred on the "third day." Both sailors and passengers united in throwing out all the "spare gear" into the sea. Then followed "several days" of continued hardship and anxiety. No one who has never been in a leaking ship in a continued gale can know what is suffered under such circumstances. The strain both of mind and body - the incessant demand for the labor of all the crew - the terror of the passengers - the hopeless working at the pumps - the laboring of the ship’s frame and cordage - the driving of the storm - the benumbing effect of the cold and wet - make up a scene of no ordinary confusion, anxiety, and fatigue.

But in the present case these evils were much aggravated by the continued overclouding of the sky (a circumstance not unusual during a Levanter), which prevented the navigators from taking the necessary observations of the heavenly bodies. In a modern ship, however dark the weather might be, there would always be a light in the binnacle, and the ship’s course would always be known; but in an ancient vessel, "when neither sun nor stars were seen for many days," the case would be far more hopeless. It was impossible to know how near they might be to the most dangerous coast. And yet the worst danger was that which arose from the leaky state of the vessel. This was so bad, that at length they gave up all hope of being saved, thinking that nothing could prevent her foundering. To this despair was added a further suffering from want of food, in consequence of the injury done to the provisions, and the impossibility of preparing any regular meal. Hence we see the force of the phrase which alludes to what a casual reader might suppose an unimportant part of the suffering, the fact that there was "much abstinence." It was in this time of utter weariness and despair that to the Apostle there rose up "light in the darkness:" and that light was made the means of encouraging and saving the rest. While the Heathen sailors were vainly struggling to subdue the leak, Paul was praying; and God granted to him the lives of all who sailed with him. A vision was vouchsafed to him in the night, as formerly, when he was on the eve of conveying the Gospel from Asia to Europe, and more recently in the midst of those harassing events, which resulted in his voyage from Jerusalem to Rome.

The gale still continued without abatement. Day and night succeeded, and the danger seemed only to increase: till fourteen days had elapsed, during which they had been "drifting through the sea of Adria" (verse 27). A gale of such duration, though not very frequent, is by no means unprecedented in that part of the Mediterranean, especially towards winter. At the close of the fourteenth day, about the middle of the night, the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. There is little doubt as to what were the indications of land. The roar of breakers is a peculiar sound, which can be detected by a practiced ear, though not distinguishable from the other sounds of a storm by those who have not "their senses exercised" by experience of the sea. When it was reported that this sound was heard by some of the crew, orders were immediately given to heave the lead, and they found that the depth of the water was "twenty fathoms." After a short interval, they sounded again, and found "fifteen fathoms." Though the vicinity of land could not but inspire some hope, as holding out the prospect of running the ship ashore and so being saved, yet the alarm of the sailors was great when they perceived how rapidly they were shoaling the water. It seems also that they now heard breakers ahead. However this might be, there was the utmost danger lest the vessel should strike and go to pieces. No time was to be lost. Orders were immediately given to clear the anchors. But, if they had anchored by the bow, there was good ground for apprehending that the vessel would have swung round and gone upon the rocks. They therefore let go "four anchors by the stem." For a time, the vessel’s way was arrested: but there was too much reason to fear that she might part from her anchors and go ashore, if indeed she did not founder in the night: and "they waited anxiously for the day."

The reasons are obvious why she anchored by the stern rather than in the usual mode. Besides what has been said above, her way would be more easily arrested, and she would be in a better position for being run ashore next day. But since this mode of anchoring has raised some questions, it may be desirable, in passing, to make a remark on the subject. That a vessel can anchor by the stern is sufficiently proved (if proof were needed) by the history of some of our own naval engagements. So it was at the battle of the Nile. And when ships are about to attack batteries, it is customary for them to go into action prepared to anchor in this way. This was the case at Algiers. There is still greater interest in quoting the instance of Copenhagen, not only from the accounts wo have of the precision with which each ship let go her anchors astern as she arrived nearly opposite her appointed station, but because it is said that Nelson stated after the battle, that he had that morning been reading the twenty-seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. But, though it will be granted that this manoeuvre is possible with due preparation, it may be doubted whether it could be accomplished in a gale of wind on a lee shore, without any previous notice. The question in fact is, whether ancient ships in the Mediterranean were always prepared to anchor in this way. Some answer to this doubt is supplied by the present practice of the Levantine caiques, which preserve in great measure the traditionary build and rig of ancient merchantmen. These modern Greek vessels may still be seen anchoring by the stern in the Golden Horn at Constantinople, or on the coast of Patmos.

This is one of the circumstances which must be taken into account, when we sum up the evidence in proof that the place of shipwreck was Malta. At present we make no such assumption. We will not anticipate the conclusion till we have proceeded somewhat farther with the narrative. We may, however, ask the reader to pause for a moment, and reconsider what was said of the circumstances of the vessel when we described what was done under the lee of Clauda. We then saw that the direction in which she was drifting was W. by N. Now an inspection of the chart will show us that this is exactly the bearing of the northern part of Malta from the south of Clauda. We saw, moreover, that she was drifting at the rate of about a mile and a half in every hour, or thirtysix miles in the twenty-four hours. Since that time, thirteen days had elapsed: for the first of the "fourteen days" would be taken up on the way from Pair Havens to Clauda. The ship therefore had passed over a distance of about 468 miles. The distance between Clauda and Malta is rather less than 480 miles. The coincidence is so remarkable, that it seems hardly possible to believe that the land, to which the sailors on the fourteenth night "deemed that they drew nigh," - the "certain island" on which it was prophesied that they should be cast, - could be any other place than Malta. The probability is overwhelming. But we must not yet assume the fact as certain: for we shall find, as we proceed, that the conditions are very numerous which the true place of shipwreck will be required to satisfy.

We return, then, to the ship, which we left laboring at her four anchors. The coast was invisible, but the breakers were heard in every pause of the storm. The rain was falling in torrents; and all hands were weakened by want of food. But the greatest danger was lest the vessel should founder before daybreak. The leak was rapidly gaining, and it was expected that each moment might be the last. Under these circumstances we find the sailors making a selfish attempt to save themselves, and leave the ship and the pasengers to their fate. Under the pretence of carrying out some anchors from the bow, they lowered the boat over the ship’s side (verse 30). The excuse was very plausible, for there is no doubt that the vessel would have been more steady if this had been done; and, in order to effect it, it would be necessary to take out anchors in the boat. But their real intention was to save their own lives and leave the passengers. Apostle Paul penetrated their design, and either from some divine intimation of the instruments which were to be providentially employed for the safety of all on board, - or from an intuitive judgment, which showed him that those who would be thus left behind, the passengers and soldiers, would not be able to work the ship in any emergency that might arise, - he saw that, if the sailors accomplished their purpose, all hope of being saved would be gone. With his usual tact, he addressed not a word to the sailors, but spoke to the soldiers and his friend the centurion; and they, with military promptitude, held no discussion on the subject, but decided the question by immediate action. With that short sword, with which the Roman legions cleft their way through every obstacle to universal victory, they "cut the ropes;" and the boat fell off, and, if not instantly swamped, drifted off to leeward into the darkness, and was dashed to pieces on the rocks.

Thus the prudent counsel of the Apostle, seconded by the prompt action of the soldiers, had been the means of saving all on board. Each successive incident tended to raise him, more and more, into a position of overpowering influence. Not the captain or the ship’s crew, but the passenger and the prisoner, is looked to now as the source of wisdom and safety. We find him using this influence for the renewal of their bodily strength, while at the same time he turned their thoughts to the providential care of God. By this time the dawn of day was approaching. A faint light showed more of the terrors of the storm, and the objects on board the ship began to be more distinctly visible. Still, towards the land, all was darkness, and their eyes followed the spray in vain as it drifted off to leeward. A slight effort of imagination suffices to bring before us an impressive spectacle, as we think of the dim light just showing the haggard faces of the 276 persons, clustered on the deck, and holding on by the bulwarks of the sinking vessel. In this hour of anxiety the Aposti-stands forward to give them courage. He reminds them that they had "eaten nothing" for fourteen days; and exhorts them now to partake of a hearty meal, pointing out to them that this was indeed essential to their safety, and encouraging them by the assurance that "not a hair of their head" should perish. So speaking, he set the example of the cheerful use of God’s gifts, and grateful acknowledgment of the Giver, by taking bread, "giving thanks to God before all," and beginning to eat. Thus encouraged by his calm and religious example, they felt their spirits revive, and "they also partook of food," and made themselves ready for the labor which awaited them.

Instead of abandoning themselves to despair, they proceeded actively to adopt the last means for relieving the still sinking vessel. The cargo of wheat was now of no use. It was probably spoilt by the salt water. And however this might be, it was not worth a thought; since it was well known that the vessel would be lost. Their hope now was to run her on shore, and so escape to land. Besides this, it is probable that, the ship having been so long in one position, the wheat had shifted over to the port side, and prevented the vessel from keeping that upright position, which would be most advantageous when they came to steer her towards the shore. The hatchways were therefore opened, and they proceeded to throw the grain into the sea. This work would occupy some time; and when it was accomplished, the day had dawned, and the land was visible. The sailors looked hard at the shore, but they could not recognize it. Though ignorant, however, of the name of the coast off which they were anchored, they saw one feature in it which gave them a hope that they might accomplish their purpose of running the ship aground. They perceived a small bay or indentation, with a sandy or pebbly beach: and their object was, "if possible," so to steer the vessel that she might take the ground at that point. To effect this, every necessary step was carefully taken. While cutting the anchors adrift, they unloosed the lashings with which the rudders had been secured, and hoisted the foresail. These three things would be done simultaneously, as indeed is implied by Luke; and there were a sufficient number of hands on board for the purpose. The free use of the rudders would be absolutely necessary; nor would this be sufficient without the employment of some sail. It does not appear quite certain whether they exactly hit the point at which they aimed. We are told that they fell into "a place between two seas" (a feature of the coast, which will require our consideration presently), and there stranded the ship. The bow stuck fast in the shore, and remained unmoved; but the stern began immediately to go to pieces under the action of the sea.

And now another characteristic incident is related. The soldiers, who were answerable with their lives for the detention of their prisoners, were afraid lest some of them should swim out and escape: and therefore, in the spirit of true Roman cruelty, they proposed to kill them at once. Now again the influence of Apostle Paul over the centurion’s mind was made the means of saving both his own life and that of his fellow-prisoners. For the rest he might care but little; but he was determined to secure Paul’s safety. He therefore prevented the soldiers from accomplishing their heartless intention, and directed those who could swim to "cast themselves into the sea" first, while the rest made use of spars and broken pieces of the wreck. Thus it came to pass that all escaped safely through the breakers to the shore.

When the land was safely reached, it was ascertained that the island on which they were wrecked was Melita. The mere word does not absolutely establish the identity of the place; for two islands were anciently called alike by this name. This, therefore, is the proper place for summing up the evidence which has been gradually accumulating in proof that it was the modern Malta. We have already seen the almost irresistible inference which follows from the consideration of the direction and rate of drift since the vessel was laid to under the lee of Clauda. But we shall find that every succeeding indication not only tends to bring us to the shore of this island, but to the very bay (the Cala di San Paolo) which has always been the traditionary scene of the wreck.

Apostle Paul was enabled to work many miracles during his stay in Malta. The first which is recorded is the healing of the father of Publius, the governor of the island, who had some possessions near the place where the vessel was lost, and who had given a hospitable reception to the shipwrecked strangers, and supplied their wants for three days. The disease under which the father of Publius was suffering was dysentery in an aggravated form. Apostle Paul went in to him and prayed, and laid his hands on him; and he recovered. This being noised through the island, other sufferers came to the Apostle, and were healed. Thus he was empowered to repay the kindness of these islanders by temporal services intended to lead their minds to blessings of a still higher kind. And they were not wanting in gratitude to those whose unexpected visit had brought so much good among them. They loaded them with every honor in their power, and, when they put to sea again, supplied them with every thing that was needful for their wants (ver. 10).

After three months they sailed again for Italy in a ship called the Castor and Pollux. Syracuse was in their track, and the ship put into that famous harbor, and stayed there three days. Thus Apostle Paul was in a great historic city of the West, after spending much time in those of greatest note in the East. We are able to associate the Apostle of the Gentiles and the thoughts of Christianity with the scenes of that disastrous expedition which closed the progress of the Athenians towards our part of Europe, - and with those Punic Wars, which ended in bringing Africa under the yoke of Rome. We are not told whether Apostle Paul was permitted to go on shore at Syracuse; but from the courtesy shown him by Julius, it is probable that this permission was not refused. If he landed, he would doubtless find Jews and Jewish proselytes in abundance, in so great a mercantile emporium; and would announce to them the Glad Tidings which he was commissioned to proclaim "to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." Hence we may without difficulty give credit to the local tradition, which regards Apostle Paul as the first founder of the Sicilian church.

Sailing out of that beautiful land-locked basin, and past Ortygia, once an island, but then united in one continuous town with the buildings under the ridge of Epipolae, - the ship which carried Apostle Paul to Rome shaped her course northwards towards the straits of Messina. The weather was not favorable at first: they were compelled to take an indirect course, and they put into Rhegium, a city whose patron divinities were, by a curious coincidence, the same hero-protectors of seafaring men, "the Great Twin Brethren," to whom the ship itself was dedicated.

Here they remained one day (ver. 13), evidently waiting for a fair wind to take them through the Faro; for the springing-up of a wind from the south is expressly mentioned in the following words. This wind would be favorable, not only for carrying the ship through the straits, but for all the remainder of the voyage. If the vessel was single-masted, with one large square-sail, this wind was the best that could blow: for to such a vessel the most advantageous point of sailing is to run right before the wind; and Puteoli lies nearly due north from Rhegium. The distance is about 182 miles. If, then, we assume, in accordance with what has been stated above, that she sailed at the rate of seven knots an hour, the passage would be accomplished in about twenty-six hours, which agrees perfectly with the account of Luke, who says that, after leaving Rhegium, they came, "the next day" to Puteoli.

Before the close of the first day they would see on the left the volcanic cone and smoke of Stromboli, the nearest of the Liparian islands. In the course of the night they would have neared that projecting part of the mainland, which forms the southern limit of the bay of Salerno. Sailing across the wide opening of this gulf, they would, in a few hours, enter that other bay, the bay of Naples, in the northern part of which Puteoli was situated. No long description need be given of that bay, which has been made familiar, by every kind of illustration, even to those who have never seen it. Its south-eastern limit is the promontory of Minerva, with the island of Capreae opposite, which is so associated with the memory of Tiberius, that its cliffs still seem to rise from the blue waters as a monument of hideous vice in the midst of the fairest scenes of nature. The opposite boundary was the promontory of Misenum, where one of the imperial fleets lay at anchor under the shelter of the islands of Ischia and Procida. In the intermediate space the Campanian coast curves round in the loveliest forms, with Vesuvius as the prominent feature of the view. But here one difference must be marked between Apostle Paul's day and our own. The angry neighbor of Naples was not then an unsleeping volcano, but a green and sunny background to the bay, with its westward slope covered with vines. No one could have suspected that the time was so near, when the admiral of the fleet at Misenum would be lost in its fiery eruption; and little did the Apostle dream, when he looked from the vessel’s deck across the bay to the right, that a ruin, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, hung over the fair cities at the base of the mountain, and that the Jewish princess, who had so lately conversed with him in his prison at Caesarea, would find her tomb in that ruin, with the child she had borne to Felix.

By this time the vessel was well within the island of Capreae and the promontory of Minerva, and the idlers of Puteoli were already crowding to the pier to watch the arrival of the Alexandrian corn-ship; so we may safely infer from a vivid and descriptive letter preserved among the correspondence of the philosopher Seneca. He say that all ships, on rounding into the bay within the above-mentioned island and promontory, were obliged to strike their topsails, with the exception of the Alexandrian corn-vessels, which were thus easily recognized as soon as they hove in sight; and then he proceeds to moralize on the gathering and crowding of the people of Puteoli to watch these vessels coming in. Thus we are furnished with new circumstances to aid our efforts to realize the arrival of the Castor and Pollux, on the coast of Italy, with Apostle Paul on board. And if we wish still further to associate this event with the history and the feeling of the times, we may turn to an anecdote of the Emperor Augustus which is preserved to us by Suetonius. The Emperor had been seized with a feverish attack, - it was the beginning of his last illness, - and was cruising about the bay for the benefit of his health, when an Alexandrian corn-ship was coming to her moorings, and passed close by. The sailors recognized the old man, whom the civilized world obeyed as master, and was learning to worship as God; and they brought out garlands and incense, that they might pay him divine honors, saying that it was by his providence that their voyages were made safe and that their trade was prosperous. Augustus was so gratified by this worship, that he immediately distributed an immense sum of gold among his suite, exacting from them the promise that they would expend it all in the purchase of Alexandrian goods. Such was the interest connected in the first century with the trade between Alexandria and Puteoli. Such was the idolatrous homage paid to the Roman Emperor. The only difference, when the Apostle of Christ came, was that the vice and corruption of the Empire had increased with the growth of its trade, and that the Emperor now was not Augustus, but Nero.

We must return to Puteoli. We have seen above how it divided with Ostia the chief commerce by sea between Rome and the provinces. Its early name, when the Campanian shore was Greek rather than Italian, was Dicaearchia. Under its new appellation (which seems to have had reference to the mineral springs of the neighborhood) it first began to have an important connection with Rome in the second Punic war. It was the place of embarkation for armies proceeding to Spain, and the landing-place of ambassadors from Carthage. Ever afterwards it was an Italian town of the first rank. In the time of Vespasian it became the Flavian Colony, like the city in Palestine from which Apostle Paul had sailed; but even from an earlier period it had colonial privileges, and these had just been renewed under Nero. It was intimately associated both with this Emperor and with two others who preceded him in power and in crime. Close by Baiae, across the bay, was Bauli, where the plot was laid for the murder of Agrippina. Across these waters Caligula built his fantastic bridge; and the remains of it were probably visible when Apostle Paul landed. Tiberius had a. more honorable monument in a statue (of which a fragment is still seen by English travelers at Pozzuoli) erected during Apostle Paul's life to commemorate the restitution of the Asiatic cities overthrown by an earthquake. But the ruins which are the most interesting to us are the seventeen piers of the ancient mole on which the lighthouse stood, and within which the merchant-men were moored. Such is the proverbial tenacity of the concrete which was used in this structure, that it is the most perfect ruin existing of any ancient Roman harbor. In the earlier part of this chapter, we spoke of the close mercantile relationship which subsisted between Egypt and this city. And this remains on our minds as the prominent and significant fact of its history, - whether we look upon the ruins of the mole, and think of such voyages as those of Titus and Vespasian, or wander among the broken columns of the Temple of Serapis, or read the account which Philo gives of the singular interview of the Emperor Caligula with the Jewish ambassadors from Alexandria.

Puteoli, from its trade with Alexandria and the East, must necessarily have contained a colony of Jews, and they must have had a close connection with the Jews of Rome. What was true of the Jews would probably find its parallel in the Christians. Apostle Paul met with disciples here; (Acts 28:14) and, as soon as he was among them, they were in prompt communication on the subject with their brethren in Rome. The Italian Christians had long been looking for a visit from the famous Apostle, though they had not expected to see him arrive thus, a prisoner in chains, hardly saved from shipwreck. But these sufferings would only draw their hearts more closely towards him. They earnestly besought him to stay some days with them, and Julius was able to allow this request to be complied with. Even when the voyage began, we saw that he was courteous and kind towards his prisoner; and, after all the varied and impressive incidents which have been recounted in this chapter, we should indeed be surprised if we found him unwilling to contribute to the comfort of one by whom his own life had been preserved.

Maps of Paul's Missionary Journeys
All Cities Visited
Travels just after conversion
First Missionary Journey
Second Journey
Third Journey
Fourth Journey
Final Journey

The Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul

by Conybeare and Howson
(adapted and edited by BibleStudy.org)

Introduction

Religious Life
of the Jews
AntiochThird Missionary
Journey

Civilization of
the Greeks

First Missionary
Journey

A short visit
to Corinth

The Roman
World
Preaching
in Pisidia
At Ephesus,
revisit churches

Dispersion of
the Jews

Iconium,
Lystra, Derbe

Warning to
Church Elders

Cilicia and
Judea
Church
controversies
Last Journey
to Jerusalem

Sects of
the Jews

Background of
Asia Minor

Arrest in
Jerusalem

Paul's birth
and early life
Second Missionary
Journey
A Prisoner
of Rome

Religious
education

Evangelizing
Europe

Shipwreck

The death
of Stephen
Philippi,
Thessalonica, Berea
Journey
to Rome

Paul's conversion

In Athens

Trial delay

Damascus,
Arabia, Jerusalem
CorinthAcquittal, Last
Journey, Death

Serving new
converts

Spiritual Gifts
and Heresies



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