In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man
Or "the first man of the island"; so the governor of Melita used to be called, as appears by an inscription mentioned by Bochart, wherein a Roman knight is called (prwtov melitaiwn) , "the first of the Melitians"; for this island was under the Roman government, and the very name of this chief man shows it: it was first in the hands of the Africans, when Dido built Carthage, which was eight or nine hundred years before the time of Christ: Battus was king of this island, from whom it was taken by Hiarbas king of Lybia, or of the Getulians, and who also conquered Carthage; and it continued under the power of the Carthaginians, until they were conquered by the Romans; and then it was taken by Titus Sempronius, above two hundred years before Christ, in whose hands it was when the apostle was here; since then it has been taken by the Saracenes, though they held it not, being taken from them by Roger earl of Sicily, in the year 1090; and so it remained in the hands of the Sicilians, until the knights of Rhodes were driven out of that island by the Turks, in 1522; and then this was given them by the Emperor Charles the Fifth seven years after, on condition they would oppose the Turks, and defend that part of Christendom, which they bravely did: in the year 1565, it was besieged by Pialis Bassa, but without success F24; and it is said to be so well fortified, as that it is impossible it should be taken, unless through treachery or famine; it is now in the hands of the said knights: but whether this man was governor of the island or not, it may be reasonably thought that he was the richest man in the island, and in the greatest honour and dignity; and had near the shore, where the ship's company landed, many houses and much land, and farms and vineyards, and the like:
whose name was Publius;
or Poplius, as some copies, and the Syriac version read. Publius was a name common with the Romans; it was with them a forename, by which such were called, who were "pupilli", or fatherless, for it is a contraction of "Popilius". There was one of this name who was bishop of Athens, said to succeed Dionysius the Areopagite there; who is thought by some to be the same here mentioned; who they say was first bishop in his own country, which through mistake they make to be Miletus, instead of Melita; and afterwards bishop of Athens, where he suffered martyrdom: but this is not likely, for even though he might be converted by the apostle, of which we have no account; and also became a preacher of the Gospel, of which there is no proof; it is not probable that he should leave his own country, and go to Athens, and take upon him the care of that church there: but whether he was afterwards converted or not, he was very kind to the apostle and the ship's company, as follows:
who received us, and lodged us three days
this was a very considerable instance of humanity and hospitality, to receive so many strangers at once into his houses, as two hundred three score and sixteen; and give them food and lodging, for three days together, and that in such a kind, friendly, and cheerful manner: and thus, as Abraham and Lot, by receiving strangers, entertained angels at unawares, so Publius, though ignorant of it, entertained an apostle of Christ among those strangers; the benefit of which he afterwards enjoyed, and which was a compensation for his liberality and beneficence.
F24 Petav. Rationar. Temp. par. 1. l. 9. c. 11. & 12. p. 501, 507.