Nicopolis and Its Surroundings

Like a teaser near the end of an epic novel, Paul’s brief, singular mention of his plans to winter in the city of Nicopolis (Titus 3:12) raises as many questions as it answers regarding his travels after his imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:14-31). Though Scripture doesn’t clearly say, it seems that after Paul left Rome he traveled to Crete and left Titus behind on the island to minister there (Titus 1:5). Then he made his way to Ephesus with Timothy so that Timothy could do the same. After this Paul traveled to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3). It appears that Paul then traveled to Nicopolis around A.D. 65 and sent a fellow worker back to Crete to visit Titus, and he urged Titus to come to him at Nicopolis, because he planned to spend the winter there. Paul does not indicate why he went to Nicopolis, so the best that one can do is simply speculate as to possible reasons. Years earlier in his letter to the Romans Paul declared that he had proclaimed the gospel “all the way around to Illyricum” (Romans 15:19), so perhaps Paul was now continuing this ministry along the western coast of Greece. In any event, he decided to spend the winter there, and this was no doubt because of the city’s very temperate climate, where the coldest month of the year (January) averages about 57 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius). Also, Paul would have been over 60 years old by this time and had already suffered shipwreck due to bad weather (Acts 27), so it would not be surprising if this contributed to his decision to minister in Nicopolis through the winter. The city of Nicopolis, meaning “city of victory,” had been established in 29 B.C. by Caesar Augustus to commemorate his decisive naval victory over the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra near the town of Actium just south of Nicopolis. Augustus also established the quadrennial Actian Games to celebrate this victory, and even Herod the Great, king of Judea, donated money to adorn Nicopolis (Josephus: Jewish Wars: 1, 2, 11, Jewish Antiquities: XVI, 5, 3-147). Augustus compelled many residents of nearby towns to relocate to his new city, and decades later, around A.D. 67–perhaps just after Paul had visited the city–Emperor Nero visited Nicopolis and participated in the Actian Games. Nicopolis served as a vital shipping port between western Greece and Italy, and it boasted significant commerce and fisheries. The city became the capital of the region and was well endowed with sanctuaries, monuments, baths, theaters, stadiums, gymnasiums, and aqueducts. The city was also home to a colony of Jews, who may have provided Paul with a ready audience to hear his good news about the Messiah.

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