Maramoas was the priest of Zeus in Lystra, a city in the Roman Empire, which was situated on the territory of modern Turkey. He was mentioned in the New Testament in verses describing the idolatry in Lystra: “Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes” (New King James Version, 1982, Acts 14:13). This paper will try to uncover some details of Maramoas’s biography, including his place and time of birth, how he became a priest, and what his life as the priest of Zeus looked like.
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Maramoas was born in Lystra in about AD 1-2. The reason for this estimate is that the events described in the Bible take place in AD 46-47 (Acts 14 commentary, 2021). By that time, Maramoas had already served as the priest of Zeus, which implies that he possessed a thorough knowledge of Roman rituals and traditions (Rüpke, 2015). He must have spent much time of his life learning the religious practices, which allows one to assume that, by the time of the events described in the Bible, he was not a young man. As for the place where he lived, Lystra was a city located in the Roman province of Galatia, and it was used as a bastion of Roman authority in the area (Acts 14 commentary, 2021). Lystra was colonized by the Roman Empire shortly before the beginning of Anno Domini dating, which implies that Maramoas lived all his life under Roman authority.
Becoming the priest of Zeus was a difficult task for Maramoas, but it was possible for him as he came from a family of patricians – the Roman ruling class. The priest of Zeus was one of the fifteen flames, i.e., priests appointed to each of the Roman gods. Among the fifteen flamines, the main one was Flamen Dialis, the priest representing Zeus (Rüpke, 2015). He was appointed by the Pontifex Maximus, the highest priest in the Roman College of Pontiffs. Thus, Maramoas was selected to be the priest of Zeus due to his noble origin and extreme devotion to serving the gods.
The position of the priest of Zeus granted Maramoas both significant advantages and disadvantages. For example, he was considered “the animate embodiment and sacred image of the god” (Rüpke, 2015, p. 79). As such, he was vested with considerable power: anyone who fell to his knees was free from punishment, even if that person was a fled prisoner (Rüpke, 2015). At the same time, he had many restrictions; for example, he had to wear festival garments when appearing in public and was prohibited from touching or naming a dog or a goat (Rüpke, 2015).
The event described in the Bible reveals the core religious values of Maramoas. The Bible narrates a story in which Paul healed the sick man “who had never walked” (New King James Version, 1982, Acts 14:8). Maramoas was grateful for this miracle, and he expressed his gratitude in the way familiar to him and his culture: by offering a sacrifice. He “brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes” (New King James Version, 1982, Acts 14:13).
Garlands were designed for decorating the bulls, thus emphasizing the importance of the ritual. Sacrifice was an important ceremony in the Roman religion because it was “the way that people could relate to the gods” (Freedman, 2011, p. 51). Therefore, by offering a sacrifice, Maramoas seemed to be willing to thank god for the healing of the cripple but made it in a way acceptable in his religion instead of Christianity. Given the priest’s high devotion to Zeus and the Roman religion, one may assume that he never adopted Christianity and died firm in his faith in Roman gods.
Acts 14 commentary. (2021). Precept Austin. Web.
as little as 3 hours
New King James Version. (1982). BibleGateway. Web.
Freedman, D. N. (2011). The Anchor Yale Bible dictionary. Yale University Press.
Rüpke, J. (2015). The role of priests in constructing the divine in ancient Rome. In N. Belayche & V. Pirenne-Delforge (Eds.), Fabriquer du divin: Constructions et ajustements de la représentation des dieux dans l’Antiquité (pp. 79-92). Presses Universitaires de Liège.