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PUTEOLI (pū-tē'ō-lē, Gr. Potioloi, little wells or springs). A well-known seaport of Italy located in the Bay of Naples; it was the nearest harbor to Rome. It was the natural landing place for travelers from the East to Rome. In Acts.28.13-Acts.28.14 Luke reports that Paul landed there with the other prisoners when he was taken to Rome for trial. Paul and Luke and their party found Christian brothers there and enjoyed their hospitality for seven days before going on to Rome. The old ruins may still be seen in the northern part of the bay, including part of a pier Paul is supposed to have used. The modern name is Pozzuoli.

PUTEOLI pū tē’ ə lĭ (οἱ Ποτίολοι). A port on the Campanian coast opposite the ancient watering place of Baiae, and like Baiae, a holiday resort of fashionable Rom. society as well as an important place of ingress to Italy (Acts 28:13), and emporium of trade. Puteoli was also a spa, the name derived either from the smell of sulphur in the air (putere, to smell in a pejorative sense) or from puteus (a well). Sulla, Cicero, and Hadrian had villas there. Modern Pozzuoli.

Puteoli was on the site of the maritime Gr. foundation of Dicaearchia, settled by Samian colonists from Cumae in 521 b.c. When the town acquired its Lat. name is unknown. Writing of the year 215 b.c., when Rome was seeking to deny the Gr. ports of southern Italy to Hannibal, Livy writes: Exitu eius anni, Q. Fabius ex auctoritate senatus, Puteolos, per bellum coeptum frequentari emporium, communiit praesidiumque imposuit, “At that year’s end, by the Senate’s command, Q. Fabius fortified Puteoli, which was a port growing in traffic as the war progressed, and put a garrison there.” Livy prob. found the name in his authorities, and this may indicate the time of change (Livy 24.7, 26.17). Twenty years later, Rome made Puteoli a colony, and put a force of settlers there. Colonies always had a military significance, and the move followed up the garrisoning of the port (34:35). It was still a colony under Augustus and Nero (Tac. Ann. 14.27). By 125 b.c., Puteoli was an important commercial entrepôt, as the recipient of much of Rome’s eastern trade, rivaled only by Ostia. Passenger traffic passed through to Rome that way, joining the Via Appia by the Via Domitiana. Seneca (Ep. 77) tells how the Puteolans watched for the appearance of the Alexandrian grain ships (Acts 27:6). So it was that Paul came that way, as also did Titus after the fall of Jerusalem (Suetonius, Titus, 5.3). It was down the road to Naples that legend associated Paul with Vergil. In the Mass of Saint Paul, recited at Mantua (the poet’s birthplace) until the 15th cent., a Lat. v. pictures the apostle turning aside from the road to Rome to the spot between Puteoli and Naples where Vergil was buried. It is simple Lat., somewhat lushly tr. by T. R. Glover, thus:

Vergil’s tomb the saint stood viewing,

And his aged cheek bedewing,

Fell the sympathetic tear;

“Ah, had I but found thee living,

What new music wert thou giving,

Best of poets and most dear.”

The story, undoubtedly apocryphal, arose from an early consciousness of some link between the deep humanity of Vergil and his longing for a “savior,” and Paul’s dynamic Gospel that answered such a yearning. Inscriptions and visible remains attest the commercial vitality of Puteoli. There are records of trade-guilds, that certain indication of prosperity, of fire-fighting activities, essential in a warehouse center, and of the port’s function as an imperial posting station. There are surviving evidences and references to a lighthouse, extensive harbor installations, a market hall, and an amphitheater—prob. the one where Nero, in a.d. 66, staged a gladiatorial show for Tiridates, the Armenian king.

There was also a Christian church in Puteoli before a.d. 60, for Paul stayed seven days with the “brethren” (Acts 28:14).

Puteoli never recovered, in common with many other busy centers of Rom. life, from the Gothic and Teutonic inroads of Alaric (410), Genseric (455), and Totila (545).


K. J. Beloch, Campanien (1890); C. Dubois, Pouzzuoles Antiques (1907).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Potioloi, "sulphur springs" (Ac 28:13, Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek), the modern Pozzuoli): A maritime city of Campania, which occupied a central position on the northern shore of a recess in the Gulf of Naples, protected on the West by the peninsula of Baiae and Cape Misenum. It was originally a colony of the neighboring Greek city Cumae.

The earliest event in the history of Puteoli which can be dated definitely was the repulse of Hannibal before its walls by a Roman garrison in 214 BC. The design of the Carthaginian to secure a seaport as base of supplies and communication was thus thwarted (Livy xxiv. 7, 12, 13). A Roman colony was established here in 194 BC, and Puteoli thus became the first Roman port on the Gulf of Naples (Livy xxxiv. 45; Strabo v.245; Velleius, i.15). Its subsequent remarkable prosperity and commercial activity are to be attributed to the safety of the harbor and the inhospitable character of the coast nearer Rome. For Puteoli became the chief seaport of the capital before the creation of an artificial harbor at Portus Augusti by Claudius, and before Trajan made the mouth of the Tiber the principal converging point for the over-sea carrying trade. The imports at Puteoli consisted mainly of Egyptian grain and oriental wares, dispatched from Alexandria and other cities of the Levant (Cicero Pro Rabirio 40; Suetonius, Augustus 98; Strabo xvii. 793; Cicero Pro Caelio 10). The eastern element in the population was very numerous (Petronius 81;

CIL, X, 1797). The harbor was rendered doubly safe by a mole, which is known to have been at least 418 yards in length, consisting of massive piers connected by means of arches constructed in solid masonry (Strabo v.245). Extensive remains of this mole still exist. The shore line devoted to purposes of commerce (emporium) extended for a distance of about 1 1/4 miles westward from the mole. At the height of its prosperity under Claudius and Nero, the town is thought to have contained a population of nearly 100,000.

The region in which the town was situated is of volcanic formation, the name Puteoli being due to the odor of the sulphureous springs or to the wells of a volcanic nature which abound in the vicinity. The volcanic dust, called pozzolana today, was mixed with lime to form a cement of the greatest durability, which was weatherproofing against the influence of seawater.

Extensive remains of an amphitheater, whose axes measure 160 and 126 yards across the space enclosed by the outer facade and 75 and 45 yards within the arena, bear testimony to the former affluence of Puteoli.

The region about Puteoli together with Baiae became the favorite resort of the Roman nobility, and the foundations of many ancient villas are still visible, although partly covered by the sea. Cicero’s villa in the territory of Puteoli (Cicero Ad Fam. v.15, 2; Ad Att. xiv. 16, 1; 20, 1) was afterward selected as the place of burial of Hadrian (Spartianus Had. 25). The portion of the bay between Puteoli and Baiae was the scene of the attempt made at the instigation of Nero upon the life of his mother by means of a vessel so contrived that it was to break to pieces while conveying Agrippina toward her villa near the Lucrine Lake (Tacitus, Annals xiv.8).

See Nero.

The apostle Paul found a Christian community at Puteoli, when he arrived there on his way to Rome, and stopped 7 days with them (Ac 28:13,14). At that time the ordinary route to Rome, following the Via Appia from Capua, was 155 Roman, or about 142 1/3 English miles (Nissen, Italische Landeskunde, II, 739). Later, Domitian reduced the distance to 139 Roman miles (about 129 English miles) by laying out the Via Domitia along the coast, joining the Via Appia at Sinuessa (Geog. Raven., IV, 32; Itin. Ant., 122; Tab. Peut.).

George H. Allen