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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Salamis, the most important city of ancient Cyprus, was the first place visited by St. Paul and. Barnabas in their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5). Situated at the eastern extremity of the island, about equidistant from Cilicia in the north and Syria in the east, it was the emporium of the wide and fertile plain of Salaminia, which stretched inward between two mountain ranges as far as Nicosia, the present capital of Cyprus. Once a centre of Mycenaean civilization, and afterwards colonized by the Greeks, Salamis became the arena of a long conflict between an Eastern and a Western culture, Phcenicia and Hellas here contending with and profoundly influencing one another.

The city possessed a fine harbour, near which the Athenians defeated the Phcenicians, the allies of Persia, in 449 b.c. The same waters witnessed the greatest sea-fight of ancient times, in which Demetrius the son of Antigonus achieved in 306 b.c. a brilliant victory over Ptolemy Soter and thus wrested the island from him. But after a few years Cyprus was again in the possession of the Egyptian king, and it was probably during his reign that Jews began to settle in the island, to which a letter is said to have been sent by the Roman Senate on behalf of this people about 139 b.c. (1 Maccabees 15:23). Their numbers were doubtless greatly increased in the time of Herod the Great, when ‘Caesar made him a present of half the copper mines in Cyprus, and committed the care of the other half to him’ (Jos. Ant. XVI. iv. 5). Many Jews must have made their home in Salamis, where Barnabas (himself a Cypriote, Acts 4:36) and St. Paul found synagogues, in which they ‘proclaimed the word of God’ (Acts 13:5). The historian has recorded no incidents or results of this visit. After the ‘sharp contention’ of St. Paul and Barnabas at the beginning of the second missionary tour, the latter went back to labour in his native island, taking his cousin Mark with him (Acts 15:39). During a widespread insurrection in the reign of Hadrian (a.d. 117), the Jews of Salamis, grown numerous and wealthy, rose and massacred their fellow-citizens, and the once populous city became almost a desert. ‘Hadrian, afterwards Emperor, landed on the island, and marched to the assistance of the few inhabitants who had been able to act on the defensive. He defeated the Jews, expelled them from the island, to whose beautiful coasts no Jew was ever after permitted to approach. If one were accidentally wrecked on the inhospitable shore, he was instantly put to death’ (H. H. Milman, Hist. of the Jews4, London, 1866, ii. 421). Devastated by earthquakes in the time of Constantius and Constantine, Salamis was restored by Constantius II and named Constantia. Epiphanius, the writer on the heretical sects, was its archbishop a.d. 367-402. The story that Barnabas suffered martyrdom there is a late legend. His relics, with a copy of the First Gospel, were ‘discovered’ in a.d. 477, and the Emperor Zeno consequently made the Cyprian Church independent of the patriarchate of Antioch. The site of the ancient city is now covered by sandhills, its place being taken by Famagusta, 2½ miles S., where there is a good natural harbour.

Literature.-Conybeare-Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, new ed., 1877, i. 169ff.; T. Lewin, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul3, 1875; J. A. R. Munro and H. A. Tubbs, in JHS [Note: HS Journal of Hellenic Studies.] xii. [1891] 59 ff., 298ff.

James Strahan.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Salamis'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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