Acts 13:6-12 Paul, Barnabas and John Mark then walk the 90 miles / 145 km across the south coast of Cyprus, preaching at the Jewish synagogues en route until they reach Paphos (see 2 on Map 23), reputedly the birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
The Birth of Venus (Aphrodite), Sandro Botticelli (Acts 13:6)
In Paphos they meet a Jewish ‘magician’ called Elymas (or Bar-Jesus, meaning ‘son of Jesus’ or 'Son of Joshua') who is an attendant of the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus. Paul (who, like the proconsul, also has the Latin name ‘Paulus’ meaning ‘small’) filled with the Holy Spirit, tells Elymas that he is a “son of the devil” (Acts 13:10) and condemns him to temporary blindness. Amazed by what happens, the Roman proconsul believes the Good News about Jesus.
Paphos was the Roman capital of Cyprus and an important port (see Map 23). The island of Cyprus is traditionally regarded as the home of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, (known as ‘Venus’ by the Romans) and in Paul’s day, Paphos was famed for its impressive Temple of Aphrodite. Paphos was also the home of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, and his court of attendants and ‘publicani’ – public servants who collected taxes and maintained the bureaucracy of the Roman administration.
The bay near Paphos where Aphrodite was said to have emerged from the waves
Twenty-first century holidaymakers at the popular resort of Paphos in the Greek Cypriot administered region of Southern Cyprus fill the many restaurants overlooking the old harbour and the ancient Byzantine fortress. Nearby, visitors to the House of Aion, and the Houses of Theseus, Orpheus and Dionysos gaze at the beautifully preserved mosaic floors laid by these prosperous Romans in their 3rd and 4th century villas.
Other attractions include remains of the Roman agora (the market place), the reconstructed 2nd century Odeon (theatre) and the Temple of Apollo, rebuilt by the Romans after an earthquake in 100AD. A short distance inland from the small harbour stands a stone pillar, to which it is claimed that Paul was tied and whipped, while further east along the coast at the Rock of Aphrodite is a shingle-covered bay where Aphrodite (Venus) allegedly rose from the sea.
St Paul's Pillar and remains of C13-14th Latin church, Paphos