The name Melita was anciently applied to two islands; one in the Adriatic Sea, on the coast of Illyricum, now called Meleda; the other in the Mediterranean, between Sicily and Africa, now called Malta. That the latter is the one on which Paul suffered shipwreck is evident both from the direction of the wind which blew him thither, (See EUROCLYDON,) and from the fact that he left the island in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered there on her voyage to Italy, and after touching at Syracuse and Rhegium, landed at Puteoli, thus sailing on a direct course. The other Melita would be far out of the usual track from Alexandria to Italy; and in sailing from it to Rhegium, Syracuse also would be out of the direct course. The fact that the vessel was tossed all night before the shipwreck in the Adriatic Sea, does not militate against this view, because the name Adria was applied to the whole Ionian Sea, which lay between Sicily and Greece. See ADRIA. Ac 27:27; 28:1.
Malta is a rocky island, sixty-two miles south of Sicily, seventeen miles long and nine broad, and containing nearly one hundred square miles, and 100,000 inhabitants. At an early period it was seized by the Phoenicians; these were dispossessed by the Greeks of Sicily; they by the Carthaginians; and they in turn, 242 B. C., by the Romans, who held it in the time of Paul. After numerous changes, it fell at length into the hands of the English, who since 1814 have held undisputed possession of it. The name of "St Paul's bay" is now borne by a small inlet on the north side of the island, opening towards the east, which answers well to the description in Ac 27. Here Paul was protected by the hand of God, amid perils on shore as well as in the sea. He remained here three months, and wrought many miracles.
(Ac 27:28), an island in the Mediterranean, the modern Malta. Here the ship in which Paul was being conveyed a prisoner to Rome was wrecked. The bay in which it was wrecked now bears the name of "St. Paul's Bay", "a certain creek with a shore." It is about 2 miles deep and 1 broad, and the whole physical condition of the scene answers the description of the shipwreck given in Ac 28. It was originally colonized by Phoenicians ("barbarians," Ac 28:2). It came into the possession of the Greeks (B.C. 736), from whom it was taken by the Carthaginians (B.C. 528). In B.C. 242 it was conquered by the Romans, and was governed by a Roman propraetor at the time of the shipwreck (Ac 28:7). Since 1800, when the French garrison surrendered to the English force, it has been a British dependency. The island is about 17 miles long and 9 wide, and about 60 in circumference. After a stay of three months on this island, during which the "barbarians" showed them no little kindness, Julius procured for himself and his company a passage in another Alexandrian corn-ship which had wintered in the island, in which they proceeded on their voyage to Rome (Ac 28:13-14).
Illustration: St Paul's Bay, Malta
The scene of Paul's shipwreck (Acts 27-28). Not the Melita now Meleda in the gulf of Venice near Dalmatia; but the Melita between Sicily and Africa, Malta, where tradition names the place of the wreck "Paul's bay" (Mr. Smith, of Jordan Hill, Shipwreck of Paul). After leaving Fair Havens in Crete, and while sailing along its S. coast, the wind blew from E.N.E. (Euraquilon in the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts instead of Euroclydon), carrying them under the lee of the island Clauda (or Cauda, Vaticanus manuscript), 20 miles to the S.W. The Greek (Ac 27:15, antofthalmein) is, "when the ship could not keep her eyes to the wind"; either figuratively, or literally eyes were carved or painted on the bows of the ship, an eastern usage still existing. Here, to enable the ship to weather the storm, they hoisted the boat on board, "undergirded the vessel" (trapping it by passing four or five turns of cable round the hull), and "lowered the gear" (chalasantes to skeuos not "struck sail," which if they had done they would have been driven directly toward the Syrtis or quicksand), i.e. brought down the topsails and heavy yard with sail attached.
They then turned the ship's head to the N. on the starboard tack. the only course whereby to escape falling into the Syrtis. Thus, for 13 days they drifted through Adria, i.e. the middle of the Mediterranean between Crete and Sicily. If we deduce the ship's course from that of the wind, from the angle of the ship's head with the wind, and from the leeway, she must have drifted nearly W. by N., the precise bearing of the N. of Malta from the S. of Clauda. The rate of drift would average a mile and a half an hour, so that in 13 days she would pass over 468 miles; and Malta is from Clauda, just 476 miles. The striking coincidence at once identifies Malta as the scene, and confirms Luke's accuracy. On the 14th night "the seamen deemed that land was approaching them" (Greek), probably hearing the surf breaking. A ship entering Paul's bay from E. must pass within a quarter of a mile the point of Koura; but before reaching it the land is too low and too far to be seen in a dark night, but at this distance the breakers may be heard and also if the night admit, be seen.
The "land" then is the point of Koura E. of Paul's bay. A ship drifting W. by N. toward Paul's bay would come to it without touching any other part of the island, for the coast trends from this bay to the S.E. On Koura point, the bay's S.E. extremity, there must have been breakers with the wind blowing from N.E. Sounding they first found 20 fathoms, and a little further 15; and, fearing rocks ahead, east four anchors from the stern. Purdy (Sailing Directions) remarks on the tenaciousness of the bottom in Paul's bay, "while the cables hold there is no danger, the anchors will never start." After the frustrated attempt of the shipmen to flee in a boat, they lightened the ship of its wheat (brought from Egypt, the great granary of Italy, Ac 27:6); they knew not the land (for Paul's bay is remote from the great harbor, and has no marked features to enable the Alexandrian seamen to know it), but discovered "a creek having a sandy beach (aigialon) into which they determined if possible to strand the ship."
They cut the anchor cables, which had been let down at the stern rather than the bow, with the ulterior design of running her aground. Ships were steered by two paddles, one on each quarter. They were lifted out of water during anchorage in a gale, and secured by "rudder bands." These now they "loosed" in getting the ship again under weigh. Then "they hoisted up the foresail (not 'mainsail,' artemon) to the wind and made toward shore; and falling into a place where two seas met (Salmonetta, an island at the W. of Paul's bay, which from their anchorage they could not have known to be one, is separated from the mainland by a channel 100 yards wide communicating with the outer sea; just in the sound within Salmonetta was probably where two seas met) they ran the ship aground, and the forepart stuck fast, but the hinder was broken with the waves."
The rocks of Malta disintegrate into minute particles of sand and day, which when acted on by currents form a deposit of tenacious day; in still water of creeks without currents, at a depth undisturbed by waves, mud is found. A ship, driven by the wind into a creek, would strike a bottom of mud, graduating into tenacious clay; in this the forepart would stick fast. while the stern would be exposed to the violence of the waves. Captain Smyth's chart shows that after passing Koura point the ship coming from the E. passes over twenty fathoms, and pursuing the same direction after a short interval fifteen, a quarter of a mile from the shore which is here "girt with mural precipices."
The W. side of the bay, where the ship was driven, is rocky but has two creeks, one of which (Mestara) has still a sandy beach, and the other had one formerly, though now worn away by the sea. The Castor and Pollux after wintering in Melita proceeded with Paul to Puteoli (Ac 28:11-13) by way of Syracuse and Rhegium. Therefore Melita lay on the regular route between Alexandria and Puteoli, which Malta does; and Syracuse, 80 miles off, and Rhegium would be the natural track from the neighboring Malta. "They knew the island" (Ac 28:1) when they landed as Melita. The natives are called "barbarians" (Ac 28:2) not as savages, but as speaking neither Greek nor Latin (Ro 1:14), but a Phoenician or Punic dialect corrupted by foreign idioms of the mixed population.
The disappearance of vipers now is due to the clearing away of the woods that sheltered them. The "no little kindness" of the natives shows they were no savages. Publius is called (Ac 28:7)" chief man of the island," not from his "possessions," his father being still alive, but as lieutenant of the printer of Sicily, to whose province Malta was attached (Cicero, Verr. 2:4, section 18). Two inscriptions, Greek and Latin, in Civita Vecchia in Malta record the title "the chief (protos, primus) of the Maltese." Paul healed diseases and received in return "many honors" and "necessaries" (Ac 28:9-10). Melita was famous for honey, fruit, cotton fabrics, building stone, and a breed of dogs. Shortly before Paul's visit his piratical Cilician countrymen made Melita their haunt; but the Christianity which he introduced has continued since, though sadly corrupted by superstition. The knights of John flourished here in later times.
An island about sixty miles S. of Sicily, with an area of about ninety-five square miles. Its excellent position as a commercial station led to its early colonization by Ph
The island on which Paul was shipwrecked. He and the whole of the ship's company were received kindly by the inhabitants. Paul cured the father of the chief man and many others. They stayed there three months, and were bountifully supplied when they left. Ac 28:1-11. It is the well-known island of Malta in the Mediterranean.
(honey), the modern Malta. This island lies in the Mediterranean 60 miles south of Cape Passaro in Sicily, 900 miles from Gibraltar and about 1200 from Jerusalem. It is 17 miles long. by 13 or 10 broad. It is naturally a barren rock, with no high mountains, but has been rendered fertile by industry and toil. It is famous for its honey and fruits. It is now in the hands of the English. --McClintock and Strong. This island has an illustrious place in Scripture as the scene of that shipwreck of St. Paul which is described in such minute detail in the Acts of the Apostle.
... The wreck probably happened at the place traditionally known as St.Paul's day, an inlet with a creek two miles deep and one broad. The question has been set at rest forever by Mr. Smith of Jordan Hill, in his "Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul," the first published work in which it was thoroughly investigated from a sailor's point of view. The objection that there are no vipers in Malta is overruled by the fact that Mr. Lewin saw such a serpent there and that there may have been vipers in the wilder ancient times, even were none found there now. As regards the condition of the island of Melitu, when St. Paul was there it was a dependency of the Roman province of Sicily. Its chief officer (under the governor of Sicily) appears from inscriptions to have had the title of protos Melitaion, or Primus Melitensium and this is the very phrase which Luke uses.
Melita, from its position in the Mediterranean and the excellence of its harbors, has always been important in both commerce and war. It was a settlement of the Phoenicians at an early period, and their language in a corrupted form, was still spoken there in St. Paul's day.
MELITA, now called Malta, an island in the African or Mediterranean Sea, between Africa and Sicily, twenty miles in length and twelve in breadth, formerly reckoned a part of Africa, but now belonging to Europe. St. Paul suffered shipwreck upon the coast of Malta, Ac 18:1-3. In the opinion of Dr. Hales, the island where this happened was not Malta, but Meleda. His words are: "That this island was Meleda, near the Illyrian coast, not Malta, on the southern coast of Sicily, may appear from the following considerations:
1. It lies confessedly in the Adriatic Sea, but Malta a considerable distance from it.
2. It lies nearer the mouth of the Adriatic than any other island of that sea; and would, of course, be more likely to receive the wreck of any vessel driven by tempests toward that quarter. And it lies north-west by north of the southwest promontory of Crete; and came nearly in the direction of a storm from the south-east quarter.
3. An obscure island called Melite, whose inhabitants were 'barbarous,' was not applicable to the celebrity of Malta at that time, which Cicero represents as abounding in curiosities and riches, and possessing a remarkable manufacture of the finest linen; and Diodorus Siculus more fully: 'Malta is furnished with many and very good harbours, and the inhabitants are very rich; for it is full of all sorts of artificers, among whom there are excellent weavers of fine linen. Their houses are very stately and beautiful, adorned with graceful eaves, and pargetted with white plaster. The inhabitants are a colony of Phenicians, who, trading as merchants, as far as the western ocean, resorted to this place on account of its commodious ports and convenient situation for maritime commerce; and by the advantage of this place, the inhabitants frequently became famous both for their wealth and their merchandise.'
4. The circumstance of the viper, or venomous snake, which fastened on St. Paul's hand, agrees with the damp and woody island of Meleda, affording shelter and proper nourishment for such, but not with the dry and rocky island of Malta, in which there are no serpents now, and none in the time of Pliny.
5. The disease with which the father of Publius was affected, dysentery combined with fever, probably intermittent, might well suit a country woody and damp, and probably, for want of draining, exposed to the putrid effluvia of confined moisture; but was not likely to affect a dry, rocky, and remarkably healthy island like Malta."