National Geographic : 1956 Dec
The National Geographic Magazine Cyprus was in a state of turmoil when I returned to the island on the trail of St. Paul. Captured rebels were penned behind barbed wire, and roadblocks, searches, and curfews were the order of the day. Among the Greeks of Cyprus, outnumber ing Turks by at least four to one, there was violent agitation for union with Greece. Scrawled on the whitewashed walls of mud brick houses were slogans of the EOKA, an organization of bomb-throwing rebels. By violence they hoped to force Britain to aban don Cyprus.* Great Britain's reply was to declare a state of emergency. At a roadblock I silently obeyed orders to leave my car, hoist my hands in the air, and submit to search. But I could not refrain, finally, from making a joking remark to the soldier. He immediately recognized my accent. "I say!" he called out to his corporal. "This bloke's a ruddy American!"' "Blimey!" came the rejoinder. "'E must take 'is sightseein' seriously!" Apostle's First Mission Leads to Cyprus Cyprus was the scene of Saul's first recorded triumph. Here he addressed the heathen, pitting his God against their pagan deities. The island's Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, called Saul before him to hear the story of Jesus. Heckled by Elymas, a sorcerer, Saul called down the wrath of God, and Elymas was blinded. Witnessing this first of Saul's miracles, the proconsul "believed." Saul's success here may have done much to spur him in his desire to preach the new religion to Gentiles as well as to Jews. Saul came to Cyprus with his missionary colleague Barnabas. A native Jew of Cyprus, Barnabas had become a convert to the Messianic faith, probably in Jerusalem. He wanted to spread the belief in Jesus through the synagogues of his own land. At Salamis, the commercial capital of the Roman island, they landed and preached among the Jews. Local legend has it that St. Barnabas, on a later mission here, was stoned to death and that St. Mark, young kinsman and constant companion of Barna bas, buried him outside the city, placing on his breast a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew (page 733). From the ruins of the great city of Salamis, slowly being exposed by the picks and shovels "Thrice I Suffered Shipwreck, + a Night and a Day I Have Been in the Deep"-II Corinthians 11:25 Page 735: In his account of the hazards and hard ships of missionary work, Paul did not neglect the sea. In his day ships had no compasses and hugged unlighted coastlines in constant danger of hitting un charted reefs. Sailing from Cyprus to Asia Minor, Paul's vessel may have set its course on the snow-capped Toros Mountains (background). The Apostle could have landed here at Antalya, Turkey, a port known to him as Attalia. Later he sailed from this spot on his return to Antioch. These boatmen unload steel for a new electric power line. Lower: Trudging inland from the sea, Paul doubt less met nomads as homeless as himself. This gypsy father leads a dancing bear, the family's chief sup port, on a road near Ayvalik, Turkey. © National Geographic Society of Cypriote archeologists, I crossed the island to Paphos. On the way I passed through the rebels' alleged hide-out, the Troodos moun tains. Their highest peak is Cyprus's Olym pus, one of several in the classic Greek world named for the home of the gods and goddesses of Hellenic mythology. There were other routes I could have driven to Paphos. But the mountain way was a for est ride of such primeval majesty that I should gladly risk it again, rebels or no. Lightning over Mount Olympus Through a writhing mist we climbed. At times we were sheeted in storm and cuffed by squalls of driving rain. Then the clouds dipped and swirled through the valleys to reveal Olympian views of blue-and-purple mountains lashed by jagged tongues of light ning. I thought I should be less surprised to come face to face with Zeus or Apollo than to meet a Cypriote rebel. I wandered among the ruins of Sergius Paulus's provincial seat of Roman govern ment at Paphos, and a few miles along the shore I watched the seafoam from which the mythical Aphrodite arose. St. Paul, though he had grown up among heathen gods in Tarsus, must have been shocked at the pagan sex worship that sur rounded this Greek Cypriote deity. And he would have sensed the yearning of many * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Cyprus, Geography's Stepchild," by Franc Shor, June, 1956; and "Cyprus, Idyllic Island in a Troubled Sea," by Jean and Franc Shor, May, 1952.