(Πάτμος, etymology unknown), a rocky and bare island in that part of the AEgean called the Icarian Sea, about twenty miles south of Samos, and about twenty-four west of the coast of Asia Minor, near Miletus, reckoned as one of the Sporades (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 4:23; Strabo, 10:480). On account of its isolation the island was used, under- the Roman empire, as a place of banishment, which accounts for the exile of the apostle John thither "for the testimony of Jesus" (Re 1:9). SEE JOHN. He was here favored with those visions which are contained in the Apocalypse, and to which the place owes its scriptural interest. We may add that Patmos must have been conspicuous on the right when St. Paul was sailing (Ac 20:15; Ac 21:1) from Samos to Cos.
The island is about twenty-five miles in circumference, has a deeply indented sea-line, and possesses one of the best harbors in the archipelago; lat. 37° 17' N., long. 26° 35' E. On the north-eastern side of the island was a town of the same name with the harbor, and the southernmost point formed the promontory Amazoniun. It is deficient in 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. On the ridge of a hill overlooking the harbor of La Scala stand the ruins of the ancient acropolis, and round its base lies the town, which contains more than half the population of the island. Its inhabitants are about six hundred in number, and between three and four hundred are scattered about the island besides. They subsist by fishing and the poor harvest their fields afford them. They wander away in the autumn months to richer soils, and work as agricultural laborers; or carry on a small commerce, leaving their homes to the care of the women; but this migration has diminished of late years. The educational state of the island is anomalous; the inhabitants are, as they ever have been, ignorant and superstitious, although quiet and peaceable; but the monastery in which Sonnini found eighty monks, only three of whom could read, has now a staff of teachers, who afford their pupils a course of instruction comprising classic Greek, Italian, general literature, and logic. They have a considerable class from the neighboring islands, and even a few from the mainland. Patnpos has been in one respect singularly favored. The Turks have never visited it, none dwell on the island; and the moderate tribute which they exact has been punctually paid, and sent by the islanders themselves to Smyrna. No mosque has ever been erected on the spot rendered sacred by the vision of the Apocalypse. Slavery has been unknown, piracy has never been practiced, and the orderly life of the inhabitants has rendered unnecessary the interference of any other police than that which they supply themselves: their poverty has stood them in good stead. The air of Patmos is pure and wholesome; and the plague, so fatal in the islands round about, has never been known there.
The aspect of the island is peculiarly rugged and bare. Such a scene of banishment for St. John in the reign of Domitian is quite in harmony with what we read of the custom of the period. It was the common practice to send exiles to the most rocky and desolate islands ("in asperrimas insularum"). See Sueton. Titus 8; Juven. Sat. 1:73. Such a scene, too, was suitable (if we may presume to say so) to the sublime and awful revelation which the apostle received there. It is possible indeed that there was more greenness in Patmos formerly than now. Its name in the Middle Ages was Palmosa. But this has now almost entirely given place to the old classical name in the form Patmo; and there is just one palm tree in the island, in a valley which is called "the Saint's Garden" (ὁ κῆπος τοῦ ῾Οσίου). Here and there are a few poor olives, about a score of cypresses, and other trees in the same scanty proportion.
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." It was built by Alexius Comnenus, and in the library are a great many printed books. There were in it formerly also 600 MSS.; there are now 240. Two ought to be mentioned here, which profess to furnish, under the title of αἱ περίοδοι τοῦ θεολόγου, an account of St. John after the ascension of our Lord. One of them is attributed to Prochorus, an alleged disciple of St. John; the other is an abridgment of the same by Nicetas, archbishop of Thessalonica. Various places in the island are incorporated in the legend, and this is one of its chief points of interest. There is a published Latin translation in the Bibliotheca Maxima Patrum (1677, tom. 2), but with curious modifications, one great object of which is to disengage St. John's martyrdom from Ephesus (where the legend places it), and to fix it in Rome. Half-way up the ascent of the mountain on which the monastery stands is the cave or grotto where tradition says that St. John received the revelation, and which is still called τὸ σπήλαιον τῆς Α᾿ποκαλύψεως. A view of it (said to be not very accurate) will be found in Choiseul-Gouffier (1, pl. 57). In and around it is a small church, connected with which is a school or college, where the ancient Greek literature is said to be well taught and understood.
Among the older travelers who have visited Patmos we may especially mention Tournefort and Pococke, and later Dr. Clarke and Prof. Carlisle. See also Turner, Journal of a Tour, 3:98-101; Schubert, Reise ins Morgenland, 1:424-434; Walpole, Turkey, 2:43; and Stanley, Sermons in the East, p. 225. Ross visited it in 1841, and describes it at length (Reisen auf den griechischen Inseln des agaischen Meeres, 2:123-139). Guerin, some years later, spent a month there, and enters into more detail, especially as regards ecclesiastical antiquities and traditions (Description de I'le de Patmos et de l' Ile de Samos [Paris, 1856], p, 1-120).