2007-04-26

A Ship of Adramyttium

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by Neil Godfrey

Paul leaves for Rome initially in a ship from Adramyttium — a port city in the Troad, at the base Mount Ida, the gods’ grandstand from where they viewed the action of the Trojan war. This means that every “we” passage in Acts begins with a sea voyage associated with Troy.

I can’t help but think this has something to do with an emulation of the epic story of the original founding of Rome by the Trojans. I’ve discussed elsewhere the Acts pattern of “we” sea voyages imitating the pattern of Aeneas’s circuitous voyages to Rome. I wonder if the detour of the final leg via Jerusalem was an emulation of the Carthage detour by Aeneas — the Jerusalem detour was made after Paul announced he was to go to Rome. Dennis MacDonald suspects the “we” voice was an intentional flag by the author to alert readers of his indebtedness to Homer. (In Homer’s Odyssey the voyages from Troy are always told in the first person.) Maybe, but there are difficulties. Acts 27-28 inconsistently fluctuates between “we” and “they” in the narration. Does this indicate some sort of fatigue on the part of an author unable to sustain a voice he was attempting to rework into a source of another voice? Or is it just clumsy editing of sources? But the story of chapters 27-28 appears too unified to be a patchy collage from multiple sources. Maybe, given the ancient importance of numbers and proportion in rhetoric and literature, the author was simply controlling his references fit some “arcane” golden section ratio.

Troad

The meaning of the Troad in relation to Troy

When Aeneas fled from Troy he did not set sail from the city of city of Troy itself but from near Mt. Ida, on the same coast as the later Troas, in the geographic area collectively known as “Troy” in Virgil’s Aeneid:

‘The Powers Above had decreed the overthrow of the Asian empire . . . Lordly Ilium had fallen and all Neptune’s Troy lay a smoking ruin on the ground. We the exiled survivors were forced by divine command to search the world for a home in some uninhabited land. So we started to build ships below Antandros, the city by the foothills of the Phrygian Ida . . . In tears I left my homeland’s coast, its havens, the plains where Troy had stood.’ (Aeneid III,1-9)

While Troas is a port several miles south of where Troy stood it is part of the area generally understood as belonging to Troy that was known as the Troad. The geographer Strabo described the whole Troad as being understood as “Troy” in Homer’s Iliad:

“Now as for Homer’s statements, those who have studied the subject more carefully conjecture from them that the whole of this coast became subject to the Trojans, and, though divided into nine dynasties, was under the sway of Priam at the time of the Trojan War and was called Troy. And this is clear from his detailed statements. For instance, Achilles and his army, seeing at the outset that the inhabitants of Ilium were enclosed by walls, tried to carry on the war outside and, by making raids all round, to take away from them all the surrounding places: ‘Twelve cities of men I have laid waste with my ships, and eleven, I declare, by land throughout the fertile land of Troy.’ For by “Troy” he means the part of the mainland that was sacked by him.” (13.1.7)

Strabo also explained that all the inhabitants in the Troad from Homeric times were called “Trojans”:

“But the topography of Trov, in the proper sense of the term, is best marked by the position of Mt. Ida, a lofty mountain which faces the west and the western sea but makes a slight bend also towards the north and the northern seaboard. This latter is the seaboard of the Propontis, extending from the strait in the neighborhood of Abvdus to the Aesepus River and Cyzicene (13.1.5)

“And indeed those who are placed under Hector in the Catalogue are called Trojans: ‘The Troians were led by great Hector of the flashing helmet.’ And then come those under Aeneas: ‘The Dardanians in turn were commanded by the valiant son of Anchises’ and these, too, were Trojans; at any rate, the poet says, ‘Aeneas, counsellor of the Troians.’ And then come the Lvcians under Pandarus, and these also he calls Trojans: And those who dwelt in Zeleia beneath the nethermost foot of lda, Aphneii, who drink the dark water of the Aesepus, Trojans; these in turn were commanded by Pandarus, the glorious son of Lycaon. And this was the sixth dynasty. And indeed those who lived between the Aesepus River and Abvdus were Trojans; for not only were the parts round Abvdus subject to Asius, and they who dwelt about Percote and Practius and held Sestus and Abvdus and goodly Arisbe — these in turn were commanded by Asius the son of Hvrtacus, but a son of Priam lived at Abydus, pasturing mares, clearly his father’s: But he smote Democoon, the bastard son of Priam, who had come at Priam’s bidding from his swift mares; while in Percote a son of Hicetaon was pasturing kine, he likewise pasturing kine that belonged to no other. And first he rebuked mighty Melanippus the son of Hicetaon, who until this time had been wont to feed the kine of shambling gait in Percote; so that this country would be a part of the Troad, as also the next country after it as far as Adrasteia, for the leaders of the latter were the two sons of Merops of Percote. Accordingly, the people from Abvdus to Adrasteia were all Trojans . . .” (13.1.7)

The name Troas (=Trojan) was given to the port that had originally been named “Alexander” to distinguish it from the other cities so-named. It is not by any means unrealistic to expect that the author and Roman readers alike would with the name of Troas in this context be reminded of the mythical tales of how Trojans, at the time of the fall of Troy, had originally set out from a port a few miles south of Troy (yet within the Troad) before arriving at Rome itself to establish the Roman race.

Aeneas did not begin his sea odyssey from Troy itself but from a coastal area south of Troy – likewise from the Troad.

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Neil Godfrey

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5 Comments

  • 2007-04-27 05:36:37 GMT+0000 - 05:36 | Permalink

    Since I’m not an expert in ancient literature, I asked Chris Price over at CADRE to examine this series of arguments in more detail. You can see the first post at http://www.christiancadre.blogspot.com, with more coming soon.

    Here’s a comment of my own:

    “Acts 27-28 inconsistently fluctuates between “we” and “they” in the narration. Does this indicate some sort of fatigue on the part of an author unable to sustain a voice he was attempting to rework into a source of another voice? Or is it just clumsy editing of sources? But the story of chapters 27-28 appears too unified to be a patchy collage from multiple sources. Maybe, given the ancient importance of numbers and proportion in rhetoric and literature, the author was simply controlling his references fit some “arcane” golden section ratio.”

    Maybe, but this seems incredibly convoluted and forced. Much simpler is that the author actually participated in the events. What sort of ‘arcane’ golden section ratio is this? I’ve never heard of it before.

  • 2007-04-27 11:22:41 GMT+0000 - 11:22 | Permalink

    What series of “arguments” are you referring to? I’m posing questions. Wondering. Suggesting possibilities. They arise from an article by Dennis MacDonald. I’ve added more of my own notes about the meaning of the Troad to ancients. I’m exploring. Do you see that as a threat that must be countered and squashed? I have been working on reformatting something I wrote on the we-passages long ago and adding them bit by bit here, but each time I do I find myself thinking anew some of the issues, and sometimes thinking them out loud as with this post. You don’t seem to like my questioning set beliefs.

  • 2007-04-27 11:38:11 GMT+0000 - 11:38 | Permalink

    If all you’re doing is ‘posing questions. Wondering. Suggesting possibilities’ then why did you make it sound like you were countering Loveday Alexander’s claims about the differences between Acts and the ancient novels? She definitely was making arguments, and the only way to answer them is with counter-arguments, not just ‘suggesting possibilities’. Which is it? You seem to be very unwilling to accept the idea that Acts was written at least in part by an eyewitness. Your suggestions seem designed to explain certain features of Acts in ANY OTHER WAY than the eyewitness theory.

    The reason I keep answering these posts is twofold: 1)because you do sometimes point to textual data that I hadn’t often noticed before, or a particular way of looking at the texts that I hadn’t thought of, and I think it’s worth exploring those ways and seeing if they shed more light on the texts and early Christianity and 2)because I often see what I take to be distortions or skewed perspectives on the texts which I want to correct both for my own benefit, so that I have a better understanding of the world of the NT, and for others who might read them.

    I certainly couldn’t care less about your questioning ‘set beliefs’. Anyone can do that these days. What I do care about is whether your questioning is well-argued and based solidly in a nuanced, contextualized understanding of the NT texts and their world. I don’t have patience for questioning just for its own sake. I value questioning if there are legitimate points to be made and if it will further our understanding.

  • 2007-04-27 12:01:03 GMT+0000 - 12:01 | Permalink

    “If all you’re doing is ‘posing questions. Wondering. Suggesting possibilities’ then why did you make it sound like you were countering Loveday Alexander’s claims about the differences between Acts and the ancient novels?”

    I was not addressing Loveday Alexander at all in my Adramyttium post. The only point of Alexander’s that I have addressed was a one paragraph summary presented in certain context and my discussion, I believe, was working within consciousness that it was only one para and one context at issue — which was in another post entirely. I don’t believe I mentioned L.A. at all in this one. (I’ve liked a lot of the articles I’ve ready by Loveday A., by the way.)

    But even if I was asking questions with a particular work in mind I would not regard that as “countering” the author. Each time I read an author I find myself embarking on new explorations. No one accepts any one author as a final authority. All are indebted to others in some ways as they all do their bit in advancing knowledge. And many questions and exploratory paths of course end up nowhere, but it is not for some “authority” to decide that in advance.

    I don’t think there is really any such thing as a question literally for its own sake. Questions arise from values and assumptions. I see Acts as a literary document with its final parts controlled by a final author and I am fascinated by questions that seek to understand how this document fitted into the cultures of its day — both its broader culture (literary in particular) and immediate culture (as a Christian document).

    How can one say they value questioning with the qualification “if legitimate points are to be made and if it will further our understanding” before they know the outcomes of exploring those questions? This is the sticking point of that “faith based” thing I’ve discussed elsewhere.

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