1902 Encyclopedia > Antioch


ANTIOCH, (Greek, Antiochea), a city in Syria, long. 36°10' E, lat. 36°11' N., described as "Epidaphnes" (Greek, he epi Daphnes or epi Daphne), or as "on the Orontes," to distinguish it from the fifteen other Greek towns which, like itself, owed their foundation to Seleucus Nicator, and their names to his father Antiochus. While the wide-spread notoriety of Daphne, with its beautiful grove, compared to the vale of Tempe, and with its extraordinary excesses of pleasure, rendered it available as a local designation for Antioch, the river Orontes also seems to have served the same purpose with more than usual interest, owing perhaps, to its fabulous history. Originally it had been called Typhon, from the snake-legged giant of that name (Strabo, p. 750), who here struck by the thunderbolt of Jupiter, and seeking escape under the earth, formed the bed of the river by his trail, and its source by his descent. Orontes, it was said, was the name of a man who had built a bridge over the river, and when in Roman times the course of the stream was partly changed, a tomb (soros) was found in the old bed containing the bones of a man of colossal size, which the oracle declared to be those of Orontes (Pausanias, viii. 29.3). On the coins of Antioch struck by Tigranes, and freuqnetly on those of later times, the city is personified as a female figure seated on a high rock or hill, from under which issues the Orontes in the form of a youth in the attitude of swimming. The same representation occurs in a marble statue in the Vatican, and in a silver statuette in he British Museum; and in each case there can be little doubt that the original model was the celebrated statue of Antioch by Eutychides, a pupil of Lysippus.

On the dismemberment of the Eastern empire founded by Alexander the Great, it fell to Seleucus to make himself master of that portion of it included in Syria. It was an age remarkable for the building of new towns more or less on the plan of Alexandria, and accordingly Seleucus, instead of establishing himself at Antigonia, the newly-built capital of his defeated rival, chose a site a little further down the Orontes, about 20 miles from its mouth, for the capital of his new kingdom, the task of laying out and building it being entrusted to the archiect Xenaeus. On Mount Silpius was placed the citable, and on the slope towards the river the town. Seleucus destroyed Antigonia, transferred its inhabitants to Antioch, and perhaps, as has been said, utilized its building material. In addition to this new population there were the old inhabitants of the village of Iopolis or Ione, which had before occupied the citadel, and which traced its origin to Ione, and Argive fugitive from Egypt, in search of whom Triptolemus had been sent from Eleusis. Though this legend appears to have originated simply from the name Ione, the people of Antioch yet boasted of a common descent with the inhabitants of Attica, struck coins with the head of the Pallas and an owl, precisely like coins of Athens, and maintained the traditions of Triptolemus as of a sort of ancestral hero. Besides Iopolis, the villages of Meroe, afterwards a suburb, and Bottia, on the banks of the Orontes, where Alexander dedicated a temple to Jupiter Bottieaus, claimed to have furnished the original inhabitants of Antioch. But the town founded by Seleucus, 300 B.C., soon became insufficient for the influx of population, and a new district had to be enclosed, the original walls being allowed to remain. For the same purpose a third addition was made in the time of Seleucus Callinicus (246-226 B.C.), and a fourth under Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), to whom the city owed also many new buildings of great splendour. From its four parts, each separately walled, Antioch was Callinicus (246-226 B.C.), and a fourth under Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), to whom the city owed also many new buildings of great splendour. From its four parts, each separately walled, Antioch was now called a tetrapolis, and in point of situation, architectural magnificence, and resources of enjoyment, ranked after Rome and Alexandria as the next city of its time. The chief retreat of pleasure was the cypress grove of Daphne, at a distance of between 4 and 5 miles, but connected with the city by a suburb called Heraclea, the road passing among beautiful villas, gardens with fountains, hot springs, medicinal wells, brooks, and, in short, if we may trust the ancient writers who speak from personal observation, every combination of salubrity and beauty. Seleucus Nicator had laid out the grove of Daphne, and erected in it a temple of Apollo and Diana, to which deities an annual festival was held in August, attended by all the people of the neighbourhood. Round the temple was an enclosure or asylum within which refugees were safe. In the temple of Apollo was a colossal statue of that god, the work, it was said, of the sculptor Bryaxis, of which, apparently, there is a copy on the coins of Antiochus Epiphanes. While the emperor Julian was at Antioch preparing for the Parthian war, this temple was burned, but whether the fire was due to the antipathy of the Christians, or to accident, was never ascertained.

The city itself, abounding in fine buildings, seems to have been for nothing so remarkable in this direction as for its streets and porticoes, which were styled "golden," with reference to the splendour of the columns, and perhaps, more literally, to the application of gold as a means of ornamentation. The principal street traversed the entire length of the city from east to west, a distance of about 4 miles, having four parallel rows of columns, forming a broad road in the middle open to the sky, and at each side a narrower covered way or portico. The road in the middle was laid with granite in the time of Antoninus Pius. From this main street others branched off at intervals up to the higher part of the town on the one hand, and down towards the river on the other. Where such junctures occurred, the porticoes of the main street were carrier over in the form of arches. Among the buildings of which particular mention is made, are -- (1), a temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, in imitation of the temple to the same deity in Rome, situated probably on Mount Silpius; (2), the theatre, begun by the Seleucide kings, enlarged by Agrippa and Tiberius, and finished by Trajan; and (3), the great Christian church begun by Constantine and completed by Constantius, which stood until 526 A.D., when it was destroyed by an earthquake and fire. Its dome-shaped roof is said to have been of immense height, while many parts of the building glistened with precious stones and ornaments of gold. The altar within it faced the west. From the description it is thought to have resembled St Vitalis at Ravenna. The necropolis appears to have been situated on Mount Casius, above Antioch, where are still sepulchers cut in the rock, afterwards used as cells by anchorites, among them Zeno, who died about 420. A.D. With a plentiful supply of water for private purposes from the wells and fountains in the city; it was yet necessary to maintain the public baths, which in Roman times became numerous, by aqueducts conveying water for some distance. The ruins of one of these aqueducts still remain, admired for the solidity of the masonry and the colossal scale of the structure (see AQUEDUCT).

But with all its charms Antioch was beset by a danger which, often threatening, several times succeeded in laying its fairest aspect waste. The first recorded earthquake occurred 148 B.C., but the myths of the giants Pagres and Typhon there struck by the thunderbolts of Jupiter seem to refer to similar commotions at a remoter period. A second earthquake, 37 A.D. ,in the reign of Caius Caesar, caused so much damage that the emperor sent two senators to look to the affairs of the city. A third followed in the time of Claudius. One effect of these disturbances was to increase the tendency to superstition, of which there was an instance in the magician Dabbonius, who placed a bust on a purple column in the center of the city, and inscribed it (in Greek) aseista aptota, but in vain, for the next earthquake cast it down. Much more severe was the earthquake 115 A.D., while the city was full of the Roman army which Trajan was to lead against the Parthians. The rivers changed their courses, Mount Casius shook, and it was only by taking shelter for several days in the circus that Trajan himself escaped danger from the falling buildings. The city being restored partly by the aid of Trajan and Hadrian, was spared any serious calamity of this kind till 526 A.D. when it was entirely destroyed, the loss of life, all the greater because of an assembly of Christian then met, being reckoned at 250,000 persons. There had before been two shocks, 341 and 457 --8 A.D., the latter attended with considerable loss. Again, on Nov. 29, 528 A.D., occurred another earthquake, through which 5000 lives were lost. There appears to have been a violent shock, 587 .D., followed on the last day of October 588 by another, attended with a terrible destruction of life.

But the people of Antioch were not without troubles of their own making, as when by their disaffection towards the king Demetrius, they caused him to seek the aid of a body of Jews, with whom he fell upon his subjects, slaying a vast number, and setting fire to the city. In 83 B.C. Tigranes, either by invitation or by force, took Antioch, but was compelled to leave it by Lucullus, who placed on the throne Antiochus Philopator. Syria became a Roman province in the time of Pompey, who (64 A.D.) enlarged the temple at Daphne, and conceded to Antioch autonomy. In 47 A.D. Caesar visited Antioch on his expedition from Alexandria against Pharnaces, and was regarded as a benefactor and styled dictator, because he allowed the town to retain its freedom, and added several public works of importance. Augustus was no less favourably inclined to the famous Eastern city, which on the news of the defeat of Antony at Actium, hastened to espouse the cause of the emperor, and even instituted an era from the day of that battle, which, however, was not long retained. The usual era from which reckoning were made in Antioch, and over a great part of the east, down to the 10th century, was 312 B.C., in which year Seleucus took Babylon. It was known as the era of the Seleucidae. Successive emperors, showed their favour for the city by visits or the erection of public works. Germanicus died at Antioch 19 A.D., his body was burned in the forum, and a monument erected over his ashes. Titus, it is said by Malala, placed the cherubim which he removed from Jerusalem on one of the gates of Antioch, and there seems to be confirmation of this statement in the fact, that one of the gates continued long to be named after these figures. Hadrian built an aqueduct for the town with a reservoir (castellum) at Daphne, in the form of a temple to the nymphs and naiads. Under Commodus a new splendour was given to Antioch by the celebration of the Olympic games at Daphne. Buildings were erected for the practice of athletic feats generally, and in particular for the use of those who competed in the games. In 266 A.D. the Persians invaded Antioch, appearing suddenly on the hills while the people were assembled in the theatre, where many were slain by the enemy's arrows before escape was possible. The Christian church, partly built by Constantine, and finished by his son, has already been mentioned, and from its great size it may be assumed that the Christian population of Antioch was already considerable. In the time of Theodosius the entire population is given by Chrysostom at 200,000, of which number about the half were orthodox Christians,-a name which was here first applied to the disciples of Christ (Acts xi. 26). From 252 to 380 A.D. ten assemblies of the church were held at Antioch. It has been the residence of the apostle Peter, as it was afterwards that of the Patriarch of Asia.

But in the history of Christianity at Antioch no period is so memorable as the reign of the emperor Julian, whose measures directed against the new religion -- such as closing the church and allowing the temple of the Jews to be restored -- brought upon himself an amount of odium which was far from being counterbalanced by success in his efforts to revive the old rites of Apollo and Jupiter. Valens, though not orthodox, was yet liberal in the erection of new buildings in Antioch,-among them a forum surrounded by four basilicas, and with a high column in the center surmounted by a statue of Valentinianus. This be did after having made peace with the Persians, Nov. 10, 371 A.D. The reign of Theodoius the Great was signalized by a fierce sedition in Antioch, caused by a tax which he had imposed in 387 or 388 A.D., a year of famine. The statues of the emperor and the imperial family were thrown down, and a tumult raised which was suppressed with difficulty. Many of the offenders were punished with great severity, while the town itself was deprived of is privileges as a metropolis. In the time of Leon a temple was erected in Antioch to Simeon Stylites, whose body was conveyed to the city from the hill, between 30 and 40 miles to the east, where, on the top of a column 40 or 60 feet high, he had lived in self-imposed martyrdom for thirty years. Under Zeno great efforts were made to restore the city of its original splendour before the earthquakes of 526 and 528 A.D. Its name was now changed to Theopolis, but the change was of short duration, as were also the new buildings for in 538 A.D. Chosroes the king of Persia took the town, and, after removing all the plunder, even that of the church, gave it over to his soldiers, by whom the greater part of it was set on fire. It was again partly revived by Justinian, but from this time gradually sank from its high position of queen of the East. Under Herachlius (635 A.D.) it fell into the hands of the Saracens, who held it till 969 A.D., when it was restored to the Roman dominion by Michael Burza and Peter the Eunuch, and so retained till 1084, A.D. when it fell into the power of the Rurks, from whom again it was captured by the Crusaders, 1098 A.D. In 1268 A.D. it was taken by the sultan of Egypt, and never revived from the destruction which it then suffered.

Of the ancient city little now remains except a great aqueduct bridge and part of the massive walls, which are still to be seen scaling step by step the precipitous hills. At one place the wall is carried over a deep ravine with an arch about 60 feet high. Across the Orontes is a bridge of nine arches, with two towers having gates plated with iron, whence the bridge is known as the iron bridge. Neither the harbour nor the ancient walls which divided the four parts of the city can now be traced. As in the case of many other Greek cities in Asia, once famous for their beauty, the site of Antioch is now studded with squalid hovels of mud and straw. The people live by the produce of the mulberry trees and by growing tobacco, which is of a dine quality. It is still called (Antioch) Antakie, and is sometimes, as in 1822, reminded of its ancient calamities arising from earthquakes. In 1835 it contained 5600 inhabitants, with 6000 Egyptian soldiers under Ibrahim Pasha, who had then his headquarters there.

Further Reading

C. O. Müller, Antiquitates Antiochenae, Göttingen, 1839, from which the plan of Antioch has been here adapted; Bishop Pococke, Description of the East, Lond. 1743-5; Taylor, La Syrie, la Palestine, et la Judée, Paris, 1855; and Voyage Pittoresque de Syrie.

The ancient writers, from whom most of our information concerning Antioch is derived, are: (1) Malala (Johannes), Antiochenus, Historia Chronica, Oxon., 1691; (2) Libanius, the Sophist, who had a school in Antioch in the time of the emperor Julian; and (3) Chrysostom (John), patriarch of Constantinople. (A. S. M.)

The above article was written by Alexander Stuart Murray, LL.D., F.S.A., Keeper of the Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum from 1886; author of History of Greek Sculpture; Handbook of Greek Archaeology; Designs from Greek Vases; and Terra-Cotta Sarcophagi.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries