Matiate – a place of refuge for Christians?
Archaeologists have reported making an amazing discovery in southeastern Turkey. Under the current city of Midyat, they discovered a massive underground city which could be the largest such find in the world.
Occupying seventy-four acres or more, researchers to date have explored forty-nine rooms, including tunnels, places of worship, artifacts, wells, artwork, and storage areas. Archaeologists believe they have only excavated three percent of the total size of the city. It is estimated that at least 60-70,000 people lived there.
Matiate (“City of Caves”) as it is called, was discovered purely by accident. A street cleaning crew observed a newly exposed cave behind which were several corridors. Archaeologists took over from there. They contend that its building began already in the first century, likely as a hiding place or refuge for Christians. Since Christianity was not accepted as an official religion, families and groups who followed the teachings of Jesus may have sought shelter underground to escape Roman persecution. Matiate, built over five centuries, later was used only as catacombs and for winemaking.
Other discoveries of cave complexes in Turkey demonstrate they are not rare or isolated occurrences. More than forty of these subterranean cities have previously been found. Archaeologist Gani Tarkan believes this discovery may be greater than all the rest. He states, “[T]his will truly be an underground city that will make a worldwide impact. There is no [other] underground city spread over such a large area.”
That is quite a claim when comparing it to Derinkuyu, an underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey. That complex spans more than eight levels and goes as deep as eighty meters. The city is complete with ventilation shafts, wells, water tanks, stables, apartments, communal rooms, and tombs, and is “secured” by one thousand-pound stone doors which could only be opened from the inside. Each level could be isolated from the others, even though all levels access one another. More than six hundred entrances to Derinkuyu exist, most of them hidden. Gani Tarkan believes this latest finding will surpass even that.
If we wonder why such elaborate and massive underground cities were necessary, we need only to consult the past to recount the centuries of persecution and martyrdom for those who follow God. The biblical book of Hebrews reminds us of this history:
Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured… and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground… (Hebrews 11:35-38).
Like many who came before, Christians today face scrutiny and resistance in the United States and the West. In numerous countries believers today face severe penalties and persecution for their faith. Many of those in the past were willing to give up life above ground for life after death. The Bible promises their reward: “And all these… gained approval through their faith” (11:39).
Sources: “Enormous Underground City Discovered in Turkey,” www.ancient-origins.net.
Matiate Turkey: “Archaeologists Discover What is Believed to be the Largest Underground City in the World,” www.eskigaste.com