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ADRIA (ā'drĭ-a). Originally that part of the gulf between Italy and the Dalmatian coast near the mouth of the Po River, named for the town of Adria. Later it was extended to include what is now the Adriatic Sea; and in NT times it included also that part of the Mediterranean between Crete and the Peloponnesus on the east and Sicily and Malta on the west. This extended meaning appears in Acts.27.27, where Paul’s ship is “driven across the Adriatic Sea.” “The sailors sensed that they were approaching land,” and that land proved to be Malta (Acts.28.1 rsv, niv; Melita in kjv).

ADRIA ā’ drĭ ə (̓Αδρίας ̔Αδρίας [WH]), Adria (KJV), sea of Adria (ASV, RSV). The entire body of water lying between Italia on the W and Dalmatia, Macedonia and Achaia on the E and extending into the central Mediterranean to include the waters between Crete and Malta where Paul’s ship encountered the storm on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:27).

The name Adria appears to be derived from Atria, an important ancient commercial town situated near the mouth of the river Po in northern Italy (Livy, v. 33; Strabo v. 1; Pliny, NH, iii. 120). Livy and others describe the town as Tuscan. Justin (xx. 1. 9), on the other hand, says the town was of Gr. origin, a suggestion seemingly supported by the discovery of an abundance of Gr. vases of a type not found elsewhere in this particular district of Italy.

In earliest times, Adria referred only to the inner expanse of water near the outflow of the Po while the more southerly expanse was designated the Ionian Sea. These terms, however, soon came to be used either interchangeably or to designate respectively the inner and outer basins of the one body of water considered as a whole, and, in fact, the term Adria by itself could be used also to designate this whole (Strabo ii. 123, vii. 187).

By a further extension, Adria came to refer to the entire expanse of water from the Po into the central Mediterranean. Thus Ptolemy, the 2nd cent. scientist and geographer, describes the Adria as being E of Sicily (iii. 4), S of Achaia (iii. 14), W of Crete (iii. 15), and W and S of the Peloponnesus (iii. 16). The record Josephus gives of his rescue from the Adria by a ship of Cyrene supports this use of the term (Life, iii. 15).


J. Smith, Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul (18804); W. P. Dickson, “Adria,” HDB (1908), 43, 44; W. Burridge, Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck (1952).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

In Greek Adrias (Polybios i.2.4), Adriatike Thalassa (Strabo iv.204), and Adriatikon Pelagos (Ptolemy iii.15.2), and in Latin Adriaticum mare (Livy xl.57.7), Adrianum mare (Cicero in Pisonem 38), Adriaticus sinus (Livy x.2.4), and Mare superurn (Cicero ad Att. 9.5.1). The Adriatic Sea is a name derived from the old Etruscan city Atria, situated near the mouth of the Po (Livy v.33.7; Strabo v.214). At first the name Adria was only applied to the most northern part of the sea. But after the development of the Syracusan colonies on the Italian and Illyrian coasts the application of the term was gradually extended southward, so as to reach Mons Garganus (the Abruzzi), and later the Strait of Hydruntum (Ptolemy iii.1.1; Polybios vii.19.2). But finally the name embraced the Ionian Sea as well, and we find it employed to denote the Gulf of Tarentum (Servius Aen xi.540), the Sicilian Sea (Pausanias v. 25), and even the waters between Crete and Malta (Orosius i.2.90). Procopius considers Malta as lying at the western extremity of the Adriatic Sea (i.14). After leaving Crete the vessel in which the apostle Paul was sailing under military escort was "driven to and fro in the sea of Adria" fourteen days (Ac 27:27) before it approached the shore of Malta. We may compare this with the shipwreck of Josephus in "the middle of the Adria" where he was picked up by a ship sailing from Cyrene to Puteoli (Josephus, Vita, 3).

George H. Allen