Myra

MYRA (mī'ra, Gr. Myra). Now Dembre, one of the southernmost ports of Asia Minor, and once the chief haven of Lycia. Paul came here on a ship from Adramyttium (Acts.27.2, Acts.27.5), the seaport on the Aegean opposite Lesbos. There was an Alexandrian ship in port, and they transferred to it. The vessel had chosen this northerly coasting route because of the lateness of the season. Some are, however, of the opinion that the Lycian coast was the regular shipping route from Egypt.


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MYRA mī’ rə (Μύρα, G3688, meaning uncertain). A city in southern Asia Minor.

The origins of Myra are lost in antiquity; it was known as an ancient city, achieved some importance as the chief city of the Lycian district, and actually was called a metropolis. It is described by ancient writers as the “best and most sparkling” city of Lycia. Its public buildings were distinguished, and included a gymnasium with an arcade furnished with recesses and seats, a theater, a bath, a stoa or roofed colonnade, a temple of Peace, and during the Christian era several churches.

Myra had a large territory, extending to the S 2 1/2 m. to the sea, where the port city Andriaca lay. It spread widely to the N and W as well. Some notion of the influence of the place may be gathered from the fact that many citizens of Myra also held citizenship in other cities. This was a common form of recognition in the Hel. world.

It is strange that for such an influential city only one product, rue (from which oil was pressed, and a flavoring for wine extracted), is mentioned, and two occupations: something having to do with flax or fishingnets, and tavern-keeping. Perhaps these are things for which Myra was particularly known, and do not represent the sole business activity of the city.

In spite of its importance, little is known of the actual history of Myra. In 88 b.c. Ptolemy IX of Egypt, fleeing from his mutinous army, took refuge there. In 42 b.c., during the troubled period following the death of Caesar, the city was attacked, and capitulated to Brutus. The Apostle Paul visited the town on his journeys, and the fact that he changed ships there indicates its importance as a port (Acts 27:5). It suffered extensively from a severe earthquake in a.d. 141 and was rebuilt largely by the contributions of one of its prominent citizens. Little is known of its subsequent history.

Bibliography

Pauly-Wissova, Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft (1933), Vol. XVI2, 1083-1089.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A city of the ancient country of Lycia about 2 1/2 miles from the coast. Here, according to Ac 27:6, Paul found a grain ship from Alexandria. The city stood upon a hill formed by the openings of two valleys. At an early period Myra was of less importance than was the neighboring city Patara, yet later it became a prominent port for ships from Egypt and Cyprus, and Theodosius II made it the capital of the province. It was also famed as the seat of worship of an Asiatic deity whose name is no longer known. Nicholas, a bishop and the patron saint of sailors, is said to have been buried in a church on the road between Myra and Andraki, the port. Here an Arab fleet was destroyed in 807. In 808 Haroun al-Rashid, the renowned kalif of Bagdad, took the city, and here Saewulf landed on his return from Jerusalem. Dembre is the modern name of the ruins of Myra, which are among the most imposing in that part of Asia Minor. The elaborate details of the decoration of theater are unusually well preserved, and the rock-hewn tombs about the city bear many bas-reliefs and inscriptions of interest. On the road to Andraki the monastery of Nicholas may still be seen.