Famous for being the location for the writing of the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse), the island of Patmos is a jewel in the Aegean. This small island combines the charm and beauty of a typical Greek island with the tranquility and reverence of a sacred space. Visitors today might very well wish that they, like John, could be sentenced to exile on this island so rich with tradition, faith, and wonder. The northernmost island of the Dodecanese Islands (part of the Southern Sporades chain) in the Aegean Sea, Patmos, a part of the country of Greece, is 22 miles southwest of the island of Samos and about 38 miles from ancient Miletus on the mainland of Turkey. Patmos is a small, mountainous island, about 7 miles long and 3 miles wide, with a ragged coastline. The island has two narrow isthmuses that divide it into three parts. Primarily known for its association with the author of the New Testament book of Revelation, the island today displays the charm of a typical Greek island. The three main towns or villages on the island are Hora, Skala, and Kambos. Patmos is mentioned only briefly by ancient writers (Thucydides, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, and Tacitus), and little is known of its ancient history. The island was settled by the Dorians and later by the Ionians. Ancient ruins on the island attest to the inhabitation of the island during the Hellenistic period, a time when Patmos, along with the islands of Lipsos and Leros, belonged to the territory controlled by Miletus. These islands served as “buffer” islands, guarding and protecting the city of Miletus. Inscriptions from the island provide evidence of a temple of Artemis and a gymnasium on the island. Information about Patmos during the Roman period is scarce. Christian tradition, based on Revelation 1:9, claims Patmos as the site where John was exiled at the end of the 1st century C.E. by the Roman emperor Domitian. Whereas the Roman historian Tacitus does name three other islands in the Aegean (Donusa, Gyarus, and Amorgus) as islands where the Romans exiled or banished political prisoners, Patmos is never mentioned by ancient writers as a place of punishment.
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