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Antioch, Page Two

Article from the 1911 Encyclopedia

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Of its population in the Greek period we know nothing. In the 4th century A.D. it was about 200,000 according to Chrysostom, who probably did not reckon slaves. About 4 m. west and beyond the suburb, Heraclea, lay the paradise of Daphne, a park of woods and waters, in the midst of which rose a great temple to the Pythian Apollo, founded by Seleucus I. and enriched with a cult-statue of the god, as Musagetes, by Bryaxis. A companion sanctuary of Hecate was constructed underground by Diocletian. The beauty and the lax morals of Daphne were celebrated all over the western world; and indeed Antioch as a whole shared in both these titles to fame. Its amenities awoke both the enthusiasm and the scorn of many writers of antiquity.

Antioch became the capital and court-city of the western Seleucid empire under Antiochus I., its counterpart in the east being Seleucia-on-Tigris; but its paramount importance dates from the battle of Ancyra (240 B.c.), which shifted the Seleucid centre of gravity from Asia Minor, and led indirectly to the rise of Pergamum. Thenceforward the Seleucids resided at Antioch and treated it as their capital par excellence. We know little of it in the Greek period, apart from Syria, all our information coming from authors of the late Roman time. Among its great Greek buildings we hear only of the theatre, of which substructures still remain on the flank of Silpius, and of the royal palace, probably situated on the island. It enjoyed a great reputation for letters and the arts (Cicero pro Archia, 3); but the only names of distinction in these pursuits during the Seleucid period, that have come down to us, are Apollophanes, the Stoic, and one Phoebus, a writer on dreams. The mass of the population seems to have been only superficially Hellenic, and to have spoken Aramaic in non-official life. The nicknames which they gave to their later kings were Aramaic; and, except Apollo and Daphne, the great divinities of north Syria seem to have remained essentially native, such as the "Persian Artemis" of Meroe and Atargatis of Hierapolis Bambyce. We may infer, from its epithet, "Golden," that the external appearance of Antioch was magnificent; but the city needed constant restoration owing to the seismic disturbances to which the district has always been peculiarly liable. The first great earthquake is said by the native chronicler John Malalas, who tells us most that we know of the city, to have occurred in 148 B.C., and to have done immense damage. The inhabitants were turbulent, fickle and notoriously dissolute. In the many dissensions of the Seleucid house they took violent part, and frequently rose in rebellion, for example against Alexander Balas in 147 B.C., and Demetrius II. in 129. The latter, enlisting a body of Jews, punished his capital with fire and sword. In the last struggles of the Seleucid house, Antioch turned definitely against its feeble rulers, invited Tigranes of Armenia to occupy the city in 83, tried to unseat Antiochus XIII. in 65, and petitioned Rome against his restoration in the following year. Its wish prevailed, and it passed with Syria to the Roman Republic in 64 B.C., but remained a civitas libera. The Romans both felt and expressed boundless contempt for the hybrid Antiochenes; but their emperors favoured the city from the first, seeing in it a more suitable capital for the eastern part of the empire than Alexandria could ever be, thanks to the isolated position of Egypt. To a certain extent they tried to make it an eastern Rome. Caesar visited it in 47 B.C., and confirmed its freedom. A great temple to Jupiter Capitolinus rose on Silpius, probably at the instance of Octavian, whose cause the city had espoused. A forum of Roman type was laid out. Tiberius built two long colonnades on the south towards Silpius. Agrippa and Tiberius enlarged the theatre, and Trajan finished their work. Antoninus Pius paved the great east to west artery with granite. A circus, other colonnades and great numbers of baths were built, and new aqueducts to supply them bore the names of Caesars, the finest being the work of Hadrian. The Roman client, King Herod, erected a long stow on the east, and Agrippa encouraged the growth of a new suburb south of this.

Continued on page three.

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