Travel in the Greco-Roman world (1 Thessalonians 3)

Bilderesultat for roman roads

Travellers in the Greco-Roman world could choose to journey either by foot or by sea. Although the opportunities for travel greatly increased under the Roman empire, journeys continued to be treacherous and slow. The vast expanse of the empire led of necessity to the construction and improvement of an intricate  network of roads in order to connect cities from east to west. Major arteries, such as the Via Egnatia (which passed through Thessalonica), conveyed an enormous amount of traffic, and the cities along these routes became prosperous and cosmopolitan. These well-developed and maintained roads were necessary for both military operations and trade purposes. Amazingly, the quality of their construction was so high that many of them remain intact to this day.

Voyage by sea put the traveller at the risk of shipwreck and intervention by buccaneers, but the presence of Roman fleets on the seas lessened the fears of piracy. With the exception of the dangerous winter season, running from mid-November until early -march, such voyages were significantly less expensive and faster by land. Scholars used to think that ships in classical times hugged the shoreline and never ventured into deep water, but recent research has proved this to be false.

The mobility made possible by the Roman empire contributed greatly to the spread of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world. Paul and his co-workers travelled extensively, both by foot and by sea, in their efforts to spread the gospel and to maintain contact with the churches they had established (1 Thessalonians 3:2, 6). Reflecting upon his own travels, Paul mentioned three shipwrecks and other dangers that he had faced (2 Corinthians 11:25-26). Scholars estimate from journeys recorded in Acts that Paul must have covered over 10,000 miles during his missionary career.


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