The Communities of Peter

Like Paul, the apostle Peter was in Rome during the period surrounding Nero’s persecution of Christians in a.d. 65-66. Somewhere in the fifteen-year period when Peter was seen in Antioch and now was in Rome, he established contact with a number of churches in north central Asia Minor. Whether he visited these churches personally we do not know. Before his martyrdom in Rome under Nero around 65, he wrote two letters—1 and 2 Peter—to churches in four Roman provinces in Anatolia (Pontus and Bithynia were politically one province). His greeting in 1 Peter 1:1 suggests the probable order in which a messenger (perhaps Silas) visited these Roman provinces. Coming from Rome he would travel the two main roads—the Appian and Egnatian Ways—to Byzantium, then voyage by ship on the Black Sea. Because these provinces had few major cities (except for Asia), we can make an educated guess as to which cities the messenger visited. His stops in Pontus would be at the ports of Sinope and Amisus (Paul’s coworker Aquila was a Jew from Pontus; Acts 18:2). 

Amisus was at the head of a road that cut inland through the rugged mountains along the Black Sea coast. The road passed through the Galatian cities of Amasia and Zela before reaching the open expanses of Cappadocia and its capital Caesarea Mazaca. The messenger would pass through Galatia again (an unstated recrossing) on his way westward. If his destination in Asia was the Lycus valley churches and Ephesus, he would choose the southern route through Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. However, if time and distance were a concern, the northern route through the north Galatian cities of Tavium, Ancyra, and Pessinus would be preferable. The two cities in Asia along the northern route would be Amorium and Dorylaeum. The final route through Bithynia is certain—Nicea, Nicomedia, then Chalcedon before crossing the Bosporus to Byzantium and back to Rome. Such a journey, no matter what the route, required many weeks of strenuous travel. That churches were spread across Anatolia by the mid 60s testifies to the power of the gospel and the diligence of its heralds. The Roman governor Pliny the Younger, writing to the emperor Trajan around 112 (Epistles 10.96), testified that the pagan temples were empty in Pontus because of the success of the Christians. 

The distances were measured on the Barrington Atlas of the Classical World using a Brunton Digital Map Measurer. The distances are over 95% accurate. Higher accuracies are difficult because of the page creases and the way the maps overlap in the atlas.

Possible Journey of Peter’s Messenger

Origin Destination Distance Km/M
Byzantium Heraclea (by sea) 242/150
Heraclea Amastris (by sea) 112/69
Amastris Sinope (by sea) 304/188
Sinope Amisus (by sea) 168/104
Amisus Amaseia 124/77
Amaseia Zela 72/45
Zela Caesarea Mazaca (via Sebastopolis and Basilica Therma) 258/160
Caesarea Mazaca Tavium (via Basilica Therma) 170/105
Tavium Ancyra 174/108
Ancyra Germa 142/88
Germa Dorylaeum 110/68
Dorylaeum Nicea 144/89
Nicea Nicomedia 62/38
Nicomedia Chalcedon 88/55
Chalcedon Byzantium 6/4
Byzantium Chalcedon 2176/1348