The King and I (Part 2): Exiled to Patmos -- By: Gordon Franz
BSP 12:4 (Fall 1999) p. 115
The King and I (Part 2):
Exiled to Patmos
Second in a series on the Book of Revelation, this article examines the physical and historical evidence for the Aegean island of Patmos. The author draws from both ancient sources and his own exploration of the island to provide a greater understanding of the Book of Revelation.
A common misconception in commentaries and popular prophetic writings is that the island of Patmos, where John was exiled, was a sort of Alcatraz (Swindoll 1986: 3) or St. Helene where Napoleon was exiled (Saffrey 1975:392). This is partly due to 19th-century travelers who described the island as “a barren, rocky, desolate-looking place” (Newton 1865: 223) or as “a wild and barren island” (Geil 1896: 70).
Unfortunately, these 19th-century perceptions are not accurate in describing the island in John’s day.
First-century Patmos, with its natural protective harbor, was a strategic island on the sea lane from Ephesus to Rome. A large administrative center, outlying villages, a hippodrome (for horse racing), and at least three pagan temples made Patmos hardly an isolated and desolate place!
The 11 km (7 mi) long crescent-shaped island has a jagged 65 km (40 mi) coastline. Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) knew the island, and in his Natural History said it was 48 km (30 mi) in circumference (Rackham 1989: 169). Central in the island and at its narrowest point is the Kastelli, the ancient administrative center. Called Skela today, it was located behind the harbor, and remains of its 1.2 m (4 ft) wide acropolis wall and three towers can still be seen (Tozar 1889: 194-95; Simpson and Lazenby 1970: 47-
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