Fair Havens, Crete


Kali Limenes, the Greek name that translates “Fair Havens,” is situated on the southern coast of Crete. Its position matches the biblical description (Acts 27:7-8, 12): Fair Havens lies under the lee of Crete; it would have been “unsuitable to winter in”; and it is located approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of Lasea.

Paul’s Journey to Rome

During the reign of Roman emperor Claudius (AD 41-54) the survival of the city of Rome depended on fleets bringing grain from Alexandria. In Acts 27, Paul was being transported to Rome under the charge of a centurion named Julius. They transferred to an Alexandrian grain ship that was attempting a winter run. “We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea” (Acts 27:7-8, ESV).

Partial Protection from Winds

The harbor is formed by a gradually curving shoreline that runs east and southwest. It did not shelter ships from the wind in every direction. The harbor’s shape sheltered ships from the northwestern wind, but other than a few offshore islets, it was unprotected from the sea. There does not seem to have been any town at the harbor, which is probably why Luke mentions it being near the town of Lasea.

Unsuitable for Wintering

Fair Havens would have been the westernmost harbor Paul’s ship could reach while staying under the lee of Crete. Beyond the cape west of Fair Havens, the shore turns north dramatically, exposing the ship to the winds they were trying to avoid. The fact that the harbor was “unsuitable to winter in” was confirmed in 1853 by an explorer named Captain T. A. B. Spratt, who observed that winter winds from the east and southeast blow right into the harbor. But the decision to make a run for Phoenix was not wise. Vegetius (4th century AD) records that sailing in the Mediterranean after September 15th was dangerous, and after November 11th was impossible (De re militari 4.39). When they decided to sail after the Day of Atonement (Acts 27:9), it was the middle of the “dangerous” period.

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Related Websites

For historical images of travel by sea, see Life in the Holy Land.

Kaoi Limenes (Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites). Helpful online resources are somewhat thin for this site, but Princeton offers a nice summary.

Fair Havens (Holy Land Photos). This site has some photos annotated with useful information.

Paul showed me Fair Havens in Crete (Ferrell’s Travel Blog). Ferrell Jenkins, friend of BiblePlaces, briefly describes his own experience with the area.