1 THESSALONIANS 1 The city of Thessalonica was founded in 315 B.C. at the head of the Thermaic Gulf on the Aegean Sea. Thessalonica was a military and commercial port that became the capital of the Macedonian province in 146 B.C. Paul wrote letters to churches in at least two Macedonian cities, Thessalonica and Philippi) Thessalonica became a free city in 42 B.C.as a reward for assisting Mark Antony and Octavian (later called Augustus) in a military engagement with Brutus and Cassius, the leading assassins of Julius Caesar, at the battle of Philippi. As a port city located on the Via Egnatia, a road that ran through the major cities of Macedonia, Thessalonica became a major center for trade and the arts. It had both a large Roman and a sizable Jewish population.
Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian believers hints that the Christians there suffered persecution from their own country-men (1Th 2:14). Whether this persecution came primarily at the hands of Jews or Gentiles in the region is uncertain.2 Archaeological and historical records indicate the presence of temples to Roman gods and various oriental cults.? Inscriptions discovered in the city also give evidence of Jewish settlements there during the Roman
Because an active, modern city (Thessaloniki) exists on the site, little remains of the ancient city (or is available for excavation). The Arch of Galerius commemorates a Roman victory over the Persians, dating to the late third century A.D., but only one section of the original remains. A Roman forum has been unearthed, but it may have been in use no earlier than the second century A.D. Archaeologists are aware, however, that a first-century A.D. arch, called the Vandal Arch, once existed in Thessaloniki. It was torn down in 1867, but an inscription from the arch is now on display in the British Museum. It mentions officials called politarches, a Greek word Luke used to designate the Thessalonian officials (Ac 17:6).Since no previous usage of this word had been found in Greek literature, scholars had once wondered whether Luke's usage of the term was an error.In light of this controversy, the location of the inscription proved to be a significant step in illustrating the precision of Luke's account; a fair number of occurrences of this otherwise elusive word in inscriptions from the general area have since been documented.
Travel in the Greco-Roman World
1 THESSALONIANS 3 Travelers in the Greco- Roman would could choose to journey either by foot or by sea. Although the opportunities for travel greatly increased under the Roman Empire, journeys continued to be treacherous and slow. The vast expanse of the empire led of necessity to the construction and improvement of an intricate network of roads in order to connect cities from east to west. Major arteries, such as the Via Egnatia (which passed through Thessalonica), conveyed enormous amount of traffic, and cities along these routes became prosperous and cosmopolitan. These well developed and maintained roads were necessary for both military operations and trade purpose. Amazingly, the quality of their construction was so high that many of them remain intact to this day.
Voyage by sea put the traveler at the risk of shipwreck and intervention by buccaneers, but the presence of Roman fleets on the seas lessened the fears of piracy. With the exception of the dangerous winter season, running from mid-November until early March, such voyages were significantly less expensive and faster than travel by land. Scholars used to think that ships in classical times hugged the shoreline and never ventured into deep water, but recent research has proved this to be false.
The mobility made possible by the Roman Empire contributed greatly to the spread of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world. Paul and his coworkers traveled extensively, both by foot and by sea, in their efforts to spread the gospel and to maintain contact with the churches they had established (1Th 3:2,6). Reflecting upon his own travels, Paul mentioned three shipwrecks and other dangers that he had faced (2Co 11:25-26). Scholars estimate from the journeys recorded in Acts that Paul must have covered over 10,000 miles during his missionary career.