Greetings from the Pontine Marshes

Reading Acts 28:13-16 one assumes that once Paul and the Roman centurion guarding him landed at Puteoli* (modern Pozzuoli), they just traveled up the Appian Way toward his audience with “Caesar” in Rome (Acts 25:10-12).  Actually, it was a little more complicated than that.  First, Paul and his fellow travelers had to get to the Appian Way, starting from Puteoli.  Then, there were the Pontine Marshes to traverse.

Modern Pozzuoli (Puteoli) No. Shore  Bay of Naples

Modern Pozzuoli (Puteoli) No. Shore Bay of Naples

Construction on the Appian Way began about 312 B.C.  It bore the name of the Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus, its initial sponsor.  By Paul’s time, it reached all the way to Brindisi on the “heel” of Italy, 350 miles south of Rome.  But though it came close to Puteoli, Paul and his party had to travel some 20 to 30 miles, depending on the route they took, in order to get to the Appian Way, at the city of Capua.  From Capua, they could travel the Appian route northward to Rome.

Pontine Marsh and Canal

Pontine Marsh and Canal

But, south of Rome lay the Pontine Marshes, a malarial swamp that was not drained and put to agricultural use until the days of Benito Mussolini.  In order to take the Appian route from Capua to Rome it was often necessary, beginning at a location 43 miles south of Rome to board one of the barges that plied the waters of a ten mile canal from the Market of Appius (Appii Forum) to The Three Taverns (Tre Taberne) (Acts 28:15).

Site of Three Taverns

Site of Three Taverns

Memorial Site, Appii Forum

Memorial Site, Appii Forum

  From The Three Taverns, Paul and his party could have traveled, unimpeded, on the great Appian highway into Rome.

Remembering that Paul was a chained prisoner on his way to an unpredictable audience with the Roman emperor, Nero, it is touching to read that, at the Market of Appius and at The Three Taverns, Paul was met by “brethren” from Rome who had heard of Paul’s coming, “whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage” (Acts 28: 15).

Site of the Three Taverns: Scripture Reading, Prayer, and Communion Service

Site of the Three Taverns:
Scripture Reading, Prayer, and Communion Service

*It is interesting to note that Paul “found brethren” at Puteoli and was allowed to spend seven days in their company before proceeding toward Rome (Acts 28:14; cf. 20:6-7; 21:4).  This use by Paul of a seven day hiatus in more than one place on his travels is indicative of an already established pattern of Christian worship on “the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2), the day, no doubt, the Apostle John referred to as “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10).



  1. Jeff

    Great stuff, Don. Thanks for the wonderful trip with wonderful people! It is very moving to imagine brethren traveling from Rome some 43 miles (esp. in those days) to meet Paul and then travel back with him to Rome. Both a significant sacrifice of time and energy and a sign that they were not ashamed of his chains. No wonder he took courage and was thankful to God. Grace & Peace.

  2. As usual you have provided knowledge of things I did not know.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  3. Rhonda

    Thank you so much for the posts. I am enjoying ‘reliving’ the trip!

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