What is Patara?
Patara is coast city of ancient Lycia, from which, according to Acts 21:1, Paul took a ship for Phoenicia. Because of its excellent harbor, many of the coast trading ships stopped at Patara, which therefore became an important and wealthy port of entry to the towns of the interior.
As early as 440 BC autonomous coins were struck there; during the 4th and the 3rd centuries the coinage was interrupted, but was again resumed in 168 BC when Patara joined the Lycian league. Ptolemy Philadelphus enlarged the city, and changed its name to Arsinoe in honor of his wife.
The city was celebrated not only as a trading center, but especially for its celebrated oracle of Apollo which is said to have spoken only during the six winter months of the year. Among the ruins there is still to be seen a deep pit with circular steps leading to a seat at the bottom; it is supposed that the pit is the place of the oracle. In the history of early Christianity, Patara took but little part, but it was the home of a bishop, and the birthplace of Nicholas, the patron saint of the sailors of the East.
Though born at Patara, Nicholas was a bishop and saint of Myra, a neighboring Lycian city, and there he is said to have been buried. Gelemish is the modern name of the ruin. The walls of the ancient city may still be traced, and the foundations of the temple and castle and other public buildings are visible. The most imposing of the ruins is a triumphal arch bearing the inscription: "Patara the Metropolis of the Lycian Nation." Outside the city walls many sarcophagi may be seen, but the harbor, long ago choked by sand, has been converted into a useless swamp.
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