In ancient times, how did a traveler arrange sea passage?
FOR the most part, ships exclusively for passengers did not exist in Paul’s day. To find passage, travelers typically had to ask others if they knew of a merchant (cargo) ship that was going in the right direction and that was willing to take on passengers. (Acts 21:2, 3) Even if a ship was not headed exactly where the traveler wanted to go, in ports of call en route he could look for another ship that would take him closer to his destination.—Acts 27:1-6.
Sea travel was mostly seasonal, and ships did not keep to a strict schedule. Besides unfavorable weather, superstitious sailors could delay their sailing if they had a bad omen, such as a raven croaking from the rigging, or if they saw wreckage on the shore. Sailors would take advantage of favorable winds, so when the winds were right, they would set sail. On finding a ship that would give him passage, the traveler went to the vicinity of the harbor with his baggage and awaited a herald’s announcement of the vessel’s imminent departure.
“Rome offered a convenient service which spared people much weary tramping along the waterfront,” says historian Lionel Casson. “Its port was located at the mouth of the Tiber. In the town of Ostia nearby was a big piazza surrounded by offices. Of these, many belonged to the shippers of various seaports: the shippers of Narbonne [modern-day France] had one, the shippers of Carthage [modern-day Tunisia] had another, . . . and so on. Anyone seeking a sailing had only to check at the offices of whatever cities lay along his route.”
Sea passage saved time for travelers, but it had its risks too. Several times, Paul experienced shipwreck in his missionary travels.—2 Cor. 11:25.