Q. What was the typical trade route between Antioch and Jerusalem circa 33 C.E.? How long would it take to travel it?
A. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, thousands of pilgrims came to Jerusalem for festivals. Governors stationed troops in Jerusalem during festivals to maintain order and there are a number of accounts of outbreaks of disorder. People came from Africa and Egypt in the south, from Mesopotamia in the east, and from Anatolia and Syria—including Antioch on the Orontes. Antioch, an important intersecting point for a number of roads, is about 300 miles north of Jerusalem. If travelers averaged 20 miles a day (and various factors would determine the rate of progress), it would take some fifteen days of actual walking. Donkeys would be the preferred “beast of burden.”
How did people get there? The Via Maris was the leading trade route from Anatolia or modern day Turkey and Syria. It ran south to Egypt down the coast (hence its name, “the way of the sea”) via Caesarea Maritima, Joppa, Ashkelon, and Gaza. Travelers might leave the Via Maris at various points to head south-east to Jerusalem, for example at Caesarea, or further south around Joppa to head east up through the Aijalon Valley, or via Ekron and the valley of Sorek into Jerusalem.
Another major trade route, the King’s Highway, spanned Egypt to the Euphrates but it ran to the east of Jerusalem and the Jordan river to Damascus and did not pass through Antioch. These two main routes skirted hilly Galilee, the Via Maris to the west along the sea and the other, the King’s Highway, to the east beyond the Jordan.
Meinders Professor of New Testament , Phillips Theological Seminary
Warren Carter is Meinders Professor of New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa OK. He is the author of numerous books, including What Does Revelation Reveal? (Abingdon, 2011), John and Empire: Initial Explorations (Continuum, 2008), and The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide (Abingdon, 2006).
The region of Asia Minor, including modern Turkey, location of the Hittite Empire and Hittite-Luwian languages.
A Jewish historian from the first century C.E. His works document the Jewish rebellions against Rome, giving background for early Jewish and Christian practices.