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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Rhegium

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(Ῥήλιον, now Reggio)

Rhegium was an ancient Greek colony, mainly of Chalcidians, in the south of Italy. Commanding the southern entrance to the Sicilian Straits, It had great strategic importance, and willingly or un willingly played a part in many wars. For a time it held its own among the leading cities of Magna Graecia, but in revenge for a slighted Offer of friendship it was totally destroyed by Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse (387 b.c.). From this calamity it never quite recovered, but it profited by fidelity to Rome in the Punic Wars and to Augustus in the Civil Wars. Re-peopled by the Emperor, it assumed the name of ‘Rhegium Julium.’ Strabo, in the beginning of our era, speaks of it as ‘tolerably well peopled,’ and as one of three cities founded by the Greeks in Italy-the others were Neapolis and Tarentum-that had not become barbarian, i.e. lost the language and manners of their mother-country (VI. i. 6). Since 134 b.c., it had a further importance as the terminus of the Via Popilia, which branched from the Via Appia at Capua and traversed southern Italy. The actual place of crossing to Messana (now Messina) was, and still is, about 8 miles north of the city, at Columna Rhegina (ἡ Ῥηγίνων στυλίς), now Villa San Giovanni, where the channel is only 5 miles wide.

In view of the destruction of Reggio by earthquake in 1908, when 35,000 out of 40,000 inhabitants perished, Strabo’s words, with their curious mingling of fact and fancy, are Striking. ‘It was called Rhegium, as aeschylus says, because of the convulsion which had taken place in this region; for Sicily wan broken from the continent by Earthquakes.… But now these months [of aetna, the Lipari, and the neighbouring islands] being opened, through which the fire is drawn up, and the ardent masses and water poured out, they say that the land in the neighbourhood of the Sicilian Strait rarely suffers From the effect of earthquakes; but formerly all the passages to the surface being blocked up, the fire which was smouldering beneath the earth, together with the vapour, occasioned terrible earthquakes’ (VI. i. 6).

To indicate the course of St. Paul’s ship from Syracuse to Rhegium, St. Luke, who was evidently impressed by the good seamanship of the crew, uses a nautical term (περιελθόντες) which has perplexed exegetes (Acts 28:13). Probably it means ‘by tacking.’ This explanation was suggested by J. Smith, who writes, ‘I am inclined to suppose that the wind was north-west, and that they worked to windward’ (The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul4, 1880, p. 156). This translation is now generally adopted in place of ‘we fetched a compass’ (Authorized Version ) or ‘we made a circuit’ (Revised Version ). The alternative reading in אB-περιελόντες, ‘casting loose’-was probably due to copyists who were not at home in the language of men of the sea. Arriving at Rhegium, the crew had to wait a day for a favourable wind. If the north-west breeze was still blowing, they could not go through the Straits, where there is scarcely enough sea-room for successful tacking; but when the wind veered to south they ran before it to Puteoli, a distance of 180 miles, in little more than a day (28:13).

Literature.-C. Baedeker, southern Italy and sicily12, London, 1896, P. Larissa, Rhegium Chalcidense, Rome, 1905.

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Rhegium'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/r/rhegium.html. 1906-1918.

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