Some Thoughts Concerning Marcion's Geographical World
Herein is presented some interesting information and profound reflections concerning the ancient port of Sinope, off the coast of the Black Sea, where Marcion is reported to have lived (prior to his alleged trip to Rome), as shared with me by a good friend and superb scholar, David Anderson, author of The Two Ways of the First Century Church. I have included a few maps throughout, though I doubt that they're as detailed as the map which Dave used as he shared these things in his letters with me. Nonetheless, there is much compelling food for thought here, which may provide reason to question the way history has been usually interpreted, from the assertion that Marcionism began in Rome and spread to the east (being most likely the other way around, that it began in the east and spread west, where it ultimately receded), to what might have been one of the actual motives behind relocating the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium (Constantinople). -- Daniel Mahar
If the Black Sea was moved directly east about 1300 miles, Rome would be where Sinope is on the map. I never realized just how big the Black Sea is until this morning, from north to south it is about 400 miles high and from west to east about 800 miles wide. And the seaport city that dominated the commerce of the Black Sea was Sinope, one time home of shipping magnate Marcion "The Heretic". Sinope sits on the south shore of the Black Sea, almost exactly in the center of it and at the northernmost point of the south shoreline. So Marcion could look east 400 miles and see nothing but water. He could look west 400 miles and see nothing but water. He could look north 400 miles and see nothing but water. And if he looked south 400 miles, he would see nothing but mountains until he got to the north shore of the very eastern limit of the Mediterranean. If he looked south another 200 miles he would see Jerusalem. If he looked south west 600 miles he would see Ephesus, and if he wanted to go to Jerusalem he would first have to go to Ephesus and then head south east another 600 miles in his coast guard cutter to get there. But that would still be a far easier trip than to get to Rome- assuming he ever had any interest in going to Rome. My guess is he never even went there and his kissing the ass of the Roman Catholic Church is so much wishful thinking and propaganda of the likes of Tertullian, who probably wasn't even born yet when Marcion was on the scene.
Now, if Marcion had a Lear Jet, which to the best of my knowledge he didn't have, he could have flown the 1300 miles to Rome instead of having to sail probably twice that far to get there. But then his Lear Jet would have taken him due north to Moscow (1000 miles) or south east to Bagdad (800) in less time. So there you have the world of Marcion (plus or minus 50 miles here or there).
Next question, how did his ancestors get there and where did they come from? To get a historical slant on this question, assuming his ancestors were indigenous to the area, the authoritative book on the "steppe people" is "The Heartland", by a guy named Stewart (I forget his first name), which I was introduced to by an Armenian down in Memphis Tennessee that I worked for ten years or so ago. If Marcion's roots don't go back to the steppe people, he certainly dealt extensively with them because if Sinope could be considered as part of "Western Civilization" it certainly was on the extreme eastern margin of it.
If Marcion's ancestors were imports, their history goes back to 630 B.C., a date the ancient inhabitants assign to the founding of the city, supposedly founded by Autolycus, a companion of Hercules. My 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica says it was founded "by the Ionians of Miletus, and ultimately became the most flourishing Greek Settlement on the Euxine (the Euxine Sea is the ancient name for the Black Sea), as it was the terminus of a great caravan route from the Euphrates, through Pteria, to the Black Sea, over which were brought the products of Central Asia and Cappadocia."
Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole story about Marcion being in the shipping business was mere fabrication, a plausible bull **** story so the Catholic church could establish some reason (70 years or more after the fact) for Marcion to possibly have any ties to Rome- or even a way, or a reason, to get there. I think it's safe to accept that he came from Sinope because if they lied about this then people would think they were talking about the wrong guy and trying to defame him- you know, "Dan from Denver" is a real Heretic and people would say, "Wheoo, I'm glad they're not talking about our friend "Dan from Connecticut." I mean, if you're going to go to the trouble of defaming someone, you at least have to be sure that people know who you're trying to defame. And without Marcion having a shipping business, a rich "Fat Cat" coming to Rome to give them a big donation, why people would probably say, "What do you care about Marcion anyway?" Ah, but if they could cook up a story that he tried to bribe the whole of Christianity with his wealth by buying off a Pope of two, ah, now you have a cause celebré to promote for two thousand years!
Anyway, back to Sinope, the terminus of an ancient trade route from the east, not the west! The Greeks, long before the Romans had any say in anything, established a colony to their eastern extremely, to get the goodies from the East into their commerce. Interestingly enough, at the turn of this last century, the population consisted of 5,000 Moslems and 4,000 Christians, chiefly Greeks and Armenians, encl. Brit. says. It goes on to say that Mithradates VI was born there, that Julius Caesar (102 B.C.-44 B.C.) tried to set up a Roman colony there but that by this time Sinope was already declining with the diversion of traffic to Ephesus (the port for Rome). Seems that Sinope had it's hay day at the time when all things went to Athens rather than Rome.
It is important to note that the Persian Empire never was in the least dominated by Rome and so trade with them probably was not a very big ticket item with Rome. The fact that Antioch was the "Rome East" of the Roman Empire makes it likely that any trade from the east came by caravan to Antioch. In other words, if you're in India, China, Iran, Iraq,etc and trying to get to Rome or the Roman Empire with your stuff, it's an entirely different proposition than if you're trying to get to Athens and the Greek Empire. It appears that Sinope was the gateway to the Greek Empire but not to the Roman Empire. So just what the hell would Tertullian know about Sinope or it's people, or their way of thinking, anyway?
Well Dan, it's been a delightful way to spend the first three hours of my day today looking at maps of the ancient east, reading about Sinope, and trying to picture what Marcion must have seen and lived. I wonder if there are any Sinopian Christians on the Internet, and if so, I wonder what language they speak. Sure would like to go there some day and hang out for a few months and then retrace the caravan route to the Euphrates- but that would probably have to be on horseback and so I'd better continue my education on horses so I can find a good one in Sinope to take me to Babylon.
By the way, what does the Eastern Text say at II Peter 5:13? (i.e. was Peter really writing from Babylon or from Rome?) Finally, when Jesus said to the disciples, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations" I wonder if the disciples understood that to mean "but stay within the Roman Empire!" Somehow, I doubt it, although most people I know would probably figure he did mean that.
About 100 miles south east of Sinope is the ancient capital of the kingdom of Pontus, a city today called Amasya. It was the birthplace of Strabo, Greek geographer of about 63 B.C. About 20 miles south of Amasya is the town of Zile, where, in 47 B.C. Caesar defeated Pharnaces, King of Pontus, and coined his famous phrase, "Veni, vidi, vici"- "I came, I saw, I conquered." (Hmm, he must have seen a very fair land indeed!)
Young's Concordance has this to say about Pontus: "The N.E. province of Asia Minor, having the Euxine Sea on the N., Cappadocia on the S., Colhis on the E., and Paphlagonia and Galatia on the W. It was originally a part of Cappadocia, and a satrapy of the Persian Empire; in 480 B.C. it was given to Artabazes; in 112-110 Mithridates the Great greatly enlarged it, and assisted the Greeks against the Scythians, and in 108-105 he formed connections as far W. as the Danube; in 89-85 he lost Bithynia, Cappadocia and Paphlagonia; in 84-81 he was still losing, and in 75-64 Pontus became a Roman province.
Acts 2:9 tells us that people from Pontus came to the feast of Pentecost, Acts 18:2 tells us that Aquila was born in Pontus, and I Pet.1:1 tells us that Peter was writing to the dwellers in Pontus and that area (an interesting fact, particularly if he was in Babylon and not Rome when writing- in fact seems this verse could be used as some kind of evidence that he was in Babylon since the trade route from Babylon to Sinope would have provided easy access for messages to be sent, and letters, between the two. It's hard to imagine Peter in Rome saying to himself, "I think I'll drop a line to the folks in Pontus today. Let's see, who can I get to deliver it. Hey Mark, how'd you like to take a few thousand mile trip to deliver this letter?" On the other hand, if he was in Babylon, all he'd have to do is to say, "hey Mark, how about dropping this off down at the peer to my friend Caravan Joe, he's headed back up the Euphrates and on up to Sinope tomorrow and I'm sure he won't mind dropping this off at the local church when he gets there).
Anyway, Ankara, the current capital of Turkey, is just 180 miles south west of Sinope and it was the ruling city of Galatia in ancient times. Looks from the map that it's a fairly straight shot to get between the two towns.
And now for the biggie. All day it has been haunting me just why Constantine moved the seat of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople (or Istanbul, or Byzantium as it was variously called at different ages) in 330 A.D.. Strategically, the Bosporus Straight is the choke point for all trade coming and going from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and so it would only make sense economically for him to move if he had lost economic control throughout Europe, France, Spain, Egypt, etc. (and unfortunately I don't know enough Roman History of that period- i.e. when Attilla the Hun sacked Rome, or Alaric, et al.) Either that or the commerce around the Black Sea was far greater than we brainwashed westerners ever imagined. But, try this on for size. The Marcionite Church was so strong, and such a threat to the Papists by this time that the western church cut a deal with Constantine to turn over the church to him if he would move to Byzantium and rename it Constantinople, and put down the Marcionites! Interestingly enough, the little town of Nicea lies inland in Turkey only about a hundred miles from Constantinople as the crow flies and just five years before Constantine moved, don't ya know the Council of Nicea produced the Nicene Creed (Father Son and Holy Ghost, whoever gets there first gets the most)
I've got this great big map (about 4 feet by 3 feet) called "Lands of the Bible Today" published back in 1967 by National Geographic, and it is just loaded with notes all over the place where various historical events took place. The most interesting thing about it is that the western edge of the map includes Greece but does not include Italy! But it does include Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, most of the Persian Gulf, most of the Caspian Sea, and it looks like Turkey could hold a hundred or more nations the size of Israel. Hmm, I guess National Geographic at least thinks the Bible is an Eastern Book! And so, everyone for 1800 years has called Marcion a Heretic- everyone that is that has lived in places not on the Bible Lands map!...
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