Our final day in the area of the 7 churches were visits to two ancient cities that were not connected with the 7 churches – Miletus and Didymas. Miletus was the city to which Paul asked the Ephesian elders to meet him on his way to Jerusalem where he knew that things were reaching a climax.
Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. (Acts 20:16-17)
Miletus is just down the coast from Ephesus but it does seem surprising that Paul thought it quicker to go on to Miletus and then send a messenger back (50 miles) to bring the elders of the church – surely a 4-5 day journey. The more likely explanation is that the risk to delay came from his being recognised. The harbour in Ephesus was very near to the commercial marketplace and the theatre where the riot against Paul occurred. If Paul had been recognised this could have caused significant delay either by another riot or tangles with the authorities.
Miletus is also interesting because it also had a harbour that silted up and left a city that declined and disappeared. This has meant that it is another site that has massive opportunities to be excavated. The issue for Turkey is that it has so many such sites – any of which we would regard as amazing in Britain – and too few resources to excavate or look after them. This site suffers from bad flooding and you will be able to see in some of the pictures the swamps that are about (I have the bites to prove it!).
The other site we visited on Saturday was that of Didymus where the Temple of Apollo resided – one of the top oracles in the greek world. People would come to Didymus to ask for an oracle for their life or for political decisions. Indeed when Galerius suggested persecuting the Christians the Emperor Diocletian was reluctant. So, he sent to the Oracle of Apollo at Didymus to see what they suggested – they agreed to Galerius’ idea and one of the great persecutions of the church started. Indeed the Temple had played a leading role in opposing the Christian faith.
The Temple is in quite good condition due to its destruction by earthquake and it hasn’t been as pillaged as other temples. Interestingly, the architect of this temple also helped design the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.