On the southern edge of Turkey in
the Xanthus Valley, the ancient Mediterranean harbor of Patara was marked by a
prominent hill that may have held a lighthouse. The port area is now silted and
marshy, but the Patara of old was a famous city. The winter setting for the
Oracle of Apollo each year, the city eventually rose to prominence and became
the judicial seat of the Roman governor. The city was an outfitting and
launching place for longer journeys, like a journey to Alexandria or Phoenician
The remains of the city today
include two Roman bathhouses, including one known as the “Baths of Vespasian”
(69-79 CE). In addition, a theatre that is fairly well preserved (though partly
filled with sand) and a Temple of the Corinthian order are discernible.
Alexandrian texts of Acts 21:1 state that Paul made his way to Tyre by means of Patara, but the Western text adds the “and Myra” that many scholars believe was a scribal error influenced by Acts 27:5-6. It is likely that the Alexandrian text reflects the original event, as the prevailing winds made Patara a better launch site for this long journey. Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina visited here (circa 130’s CE), and a granary of Hadrian can still be seen west of the harbor marsh.