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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


Patmos, one of the group of islands named the Sporades, lies in that part of the aegean Sea which the Greeks called the Icarian, and is visible on the right as one sails from Samos to Cos. It is a volcanic island, bare and rocky, 10 miles long from N. to S., and 6 miles wide at the northern end. Its hills command a magnificent view of the surrounding sea and islands. At its centre, where it narrows to an isthmus, between the bay of Scala on the E. and that of Merika on the W., are found the remains of an ancient Hellenic town, which prove that the island was once populous; and the name of ‘Palmosa,’ which it bore in the Middle Ages, points to another time of prosperity; but Turkish rule has had its usual blighting effect. To-day ‘the isle’ has 4,000 Greek inhabitants, who are mostly sponge-fishers. The modern town stands on a hilltop, 800 ft. above sea-level, in the southern half of the island. It clusters about the Monastery of St. John-founded by St. Christodulus in a.d. 1088, on the site of an old temple-which has lost most of the treasures of its once valuable library, including the 9th cent. edition of Plato, now in the Bodleian. Monastic piety shows the place where the Revelation was written by St. John, and halfway down the hill is a grotto (τὸ σπήλαιον τῆς Ἀποκαλύψεως) the rocks of which are said to have been cleft by the Divine voice.

More important are the internal indications that the book was written amid the sights and sounds of the infinite sea. It has the word θάλασσα 25 times, and it is full of the clashing of waves. No fitter scene could be found for the composition of the Apocalypse than the traditional one, and, if there were any reason to question the story of the author’s banishment to the island, one would have to say, ‘si non è vero, è ben trovato.’ Nowhere is ‘the voice of many waters’ more musical than in Patmos; nowhere does the rising and setting sun make a more splendid ‘sea of glass mingled with fire’; yet nowhere is the longing more natural that the separating sea-the oceanus dissociabilis of Horace (Od. I. iii. 22)-should be no more.

Small and inhospitable islands were often used as places of banishment (relegatio) in the 1st cent. (Pliny, HN_ IV. xii. 23; Tac. Ann. iii. 68, iv. 30, xv. 71). According to Eusebius (HE_ iii. 18), Jerome (de Vir. Illustr. 9), and others, St. John was exiled to Patmos under Domitian in a.d. 95, and released about 18 months afterwards under Nerva. W. M. Ramsay thinks that, as St. John was not a first-class prisoner, he must have been condemned not only to banishment but to hard labour for life (The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, 1904, p. 82 ff.). At any rate, St. John was in Patmos ‘for (διά) the word of God’ ( Revelation 1:9). The meaning of the phrase is much disputed, some holding that it expresses the human cause, others the over-ruling Divine purpose, of his exile. He was banished either because of his loyalty to truth already revealed, or for the reception of truth about to be revealed. The former interpretation probably gives the writer’s real meaning, but the latter (preferred by B. Weiss and others) contains a thought well worth expressing. While the authorities of Ephesus, moved perhaps by some mysterious impulse to spare the saint’s life, transported him to the lonely island in order that the city might be freed from his too insistent word and testimony, he was providentially taken into a retreat where he was beside ‘the deep sea and the mighty things.’ The story of his exile is outlined in two phrases: ‘I was in the isle … I was in the Spirit’ ( Revelation 1:9-10). The realism was transfigured, and in that aegean where aeschylus heard ποντίων κυμάτων ἀνήριθμον γέλασμα (Prom. 89 f.), St. John listened to ‘the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters’ ( Revelation 19:6).

Literature.-L. Ross, Reisen auf den griéchischen Inseln des ägäischen Meeres, Halle, 1840-1845; V. Guérin, Description de l’ile de Patmos et de l’ile de Samos, Paris, 1856; H. F. Tozer, Islands of the aegean, London, 1890, pp. 178-195.

James Strahan.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [2]

An island of the Aeagean sea, to which the apostle and evangelist John was banished by Domitian, A. D. 95,  Revelation 1:9 . It is a rocky and desolate island, about twenty-eight miles in circumference, with a bold and deeply indented shore; and was used by the Romans as a place of banishment for many criminals. It lies between Samos and Naxos, about forty miles west by south from the promontory of Miletus; and contains at present some four thousand inhabitants, mostly Greeks. Its principal port is a deep bay on the northeast side; the town lying on a high and steep hill, the summit of which is crowned by the old and castle-like monastery of St. John. Half way down the hill is a natural grotto, now covered by a Greek chapel, school, etc. In this cave, over-looking the sea and its islands towards his beloved Ephesus, tradition says that John saw and recorded his prophetic visions. The island is now called Patino; and the port Patmo, or San Giovanni di Patino.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

PATMOS. An island W, of Caria, now called Patino , with an area of 16 sq. miles and a population of about 4000. In the Middle Ages its palms gained for it the title of Palmosa, but it is no longer fertile. Its Cyclopean remains show that it was very early inhabited. It is the traditional place to which St. John was banished by Domitian, and in which he wrote the Apocalypse (  Revelation 1:3 ). The ‘Cave of the Apocalypse’ is still shown in which the Apostle is said to have seen the visions. The chief remaining interest of the island is the monastery of St. John, founded in the 11th century. It once contained a valuable library, from which was purchased in 1814 the 9th cent. Plato now in the Bodleian.

A. E. Hillard.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

 Revelation 1:9. One of the Sporades. A small rugged island of the Icarian Sea, part of the Aegean; 20 miles S. of Samos, 24 W. of Asia Minor, 25 in circumference. The scene of John's banishment (by Domitian), where he "was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." The rocky solitude suited the sublime nature of the Revelation. On a hill in the southern half of the island is the monastery of John the divine, and the traditional grotto of his receiving the Apocalypse. In the middle ages called Palmosa from its palms; now there is but one, and the island has resumed its old name Patmo or Patino. It is unvisited by Turks, without any mosque, and saddled with moderate tribute, free from piracy, slavery, and any police but their own.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Pat'mos.  Revelation 1:9. A rugged and bare island in the Aegean Sea, 20 miles south of Samos, and 24 miles west of Asia Minor. It was the scene of the banishment of St. John, in the reign of Domitian, A.D. 95. Patmos is divided into two nearly equal parts, a northern and a southern, by a very narrow isthmus where, on the east side, are the harbor and the town.

On the hill, to the south, crowning a commanding height, is the celebrated monastery, which bears the name of, "John the Divine." Halfway up the descent is the cave, or grotto, where tradition says that St. John received the Revelation.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Patmos ( Păt'Mos ).  Revelation 1:9. A little ragged island in the Ægean Sea, 24 miles west of Asia Minor. It is from 15 to 25 miles in circumference, and is very rocky and barren. The barrenness of the island made it a suitable spot for the banishment of Roman criminals. To it the apostle John was banished by the emperor Domitian, a.d. 95. Its rocky solitude well suited the sublime nature of the Revelation.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

An island to which John was banished by one of the Roman emperors, and where he received the Revelation.  Revelation 1:9 . It is a rocky island in the Ægean Sea, about 37 15' N, and is peculiarly rugged, bare, and desolate. On the hill to the south is a monastery called 'John the Divine.' In the ascent is a cave or grotto in which John is said to have written the Revelation.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [8]

a small rocky island in the AEgean Sea, about eighteen miles in circumference; which, on account of its dreary and desolate character, was used by the Roman emperors as a place of confinement for criminals. To this island St. John was banished by the Emperor Domitian; and here he had his revelation, recorded in the Apocalypse.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

An island in the Ægean Sea, where the beloved apostle John was banished. ( Revelation 1:9)

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Revelation 1:9John

Holman Bible Dictionary [11]

 Revelation 1:9

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

pat´mos ( Πάτμος , Pátomos  ; Italian: San Giovanni 501 Patino): A T urkish island of the group Sporades, Southwest of Samos, mentioned once in the Bible,  Revelation 1:9 , "I, John ... was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καί τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ , diá tón lógon toú theoú kaı́ tḗn marturian Iēsoú ). The island is 10 miles long, and about 6 broad along the northern coast. It is for the most part rocky. The highest part is Mount Elias, which rises to a height of over 800 ft. As in Greece, and in the adjacent mainland of Asia Minor, the land is treeless. Near the city of Patmos there is a good harbor. A famous monastery, Christodulos, was founded on the island in 1088. Near this is a thriving school, attended by students from all parts of the Archipelago. The population of the island numbers 3,000, almost entirely Greek. The ancient capital was on an isthmus between the inlets of La Scala and Merika. Many ruins can still be seen. The huge walls of Cyclopean masonry, similar to those at Tiryns, attest their great age. In Roman times Patmos was one of the many places to which Rome banished her exiles. In 95 AD, according to a tradition preserved by Irenaeus, Eusebius, Jerome and others, John was exiled here - in the 14th year of the reign of Domitian - whence he returned to Ephesus under Nerva (96 AD). The cave in which he is said to have seen his visions is still pointed out to the traveler. Only a small part of the once valuable library in the monastery of Christodulos is left. Just 100 years ago (1814) Mr. E.D. Clark purchased here the manuscript of Plato which is now in the Bodleian Library, the celebrated Clarkianus, a parchment written in the year 895, and admittedly the best of all for the 1st of the 2 volumes into which the works of Plato were divided for convenience. Patmos is mentioned by Thucydides (iii. 33), by Pliny ( NH , iv. 23), and by Strabo (x.5). See also John , The Apostle; Revelation Of John .


Tozer, The Islands of the Aegean (1890), 178-95; Walpole, Turkey (London, 1820), II, 43; E.D. Clark, Travels (London, 1818), VI, 2; Ross, Reisen (Stuttgart, 1840), II; Guerin, Description de l'Ile de Patmos (Paris, 1856).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Pat´mos, a rocky and bare island of the Ægean Sea, about fifteen miles in circumference, and reckoned as one of the Sporades. On account of its stern and desolate character, the island was used, under the Roman Empire, as a place of banishment, which accounts for the exile of John thither 'for the testimony of Jesus' [[[John The Evangelist]]] He was here favored with those visions which are contained in the Apocalypse, and to which the place owes its Scriptural interest.

On approaching the island the coast is found to be high, and to consist of a succession of capes, which form so many ports, some of which are excellent. The only one in use is, however, a deep bay, sheltered by high mountains on every side but one, where it is protected by a projecting cape. The town attached to this port is situated upon a high rocky mountain, rising immediately from the sea; and this, with the Scala below upon the shore, consisting of some shops and houses, forms the only inhabited site of the island.

Patmos is deficient of trees, but abounds in flowering plants and shrubs, Walnuts and other fruit trees are grown in the orchards; and the wine of Patmos is the strongest and best flavored of any in the Greek islands. Maize and barley are cultivated, but not in a quantity sufficient for the use of the inhabitants, and for the supply of their own vessels and others which often put in at the great harbor for provisions. The island now bears the names of Patino and Palmosa, and the inhabitants do not exceed 4000 or 5000, many of whom are emigrants from the neighboring continent.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Patmos'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [15]

A barren rocky island in the Ægean Sea, S. of Samos, 28 m. in circuit, where St. John suffered exile, and where it is said he wrote the Apocalypse.