Saturday, April 12, 2014

Downey's Tour Of Ancient Antioch

In his book, Antioch in the Age of Theodosius the Great, Granville Downey, the noted Antioch scholar took a lighter view of the city than he had done in his previous magisterial works. There is a chapter devoted to a fanciful wander through the city by a visitor back in those times. The book is long out of print and hard to find so it is worth repeating here the specific chapter because it brings to life the city in a way that dry quotations can never achieve. 

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As he set out on his initial tour of the city, the visitor would very likely be conducted along the route described in Libanius' celebrated encomium of Anti­och. This had the advantage of offering a systematic view of the whole city, followed by a tour of the suburb Daphne, ending at the famous springs. Libanius' encomium comprised a description of the foundation of Antioch by Seleucus the Conqueror, and an account of its institutions and culture, closing with the description of the city and Daphne. The work was considered to be one of Libanius' masterpieces, and it soon became a classic. Illustrated editions of it were published, depicting scenes of the itinerary as the orator described them. A century later, a wealthy householder at Daphne had one of the main rooms of his villa decorated with a mosaic floor whose border reproduced in the same order many of the scenes in Libanius' itinerary. This mosaic, preserved in part and recovered in 1932, gives a precious glimpse of the life of Antioch, and combined with the more detailed text of Libanius, it furnishes us with a picture of the monuments of Antioch, and of life in the city, such as we possess for no other place at that time.

The visitor—following this itinerary—would come first to the fortified gate in the northern wall of the city, on the road which led from Beroea. The roadway, thirty feet wide was paved with massive blocks of Egyptian granite. As he passed through the monumental entrance with its heavy doors, he found himself in the main thoroughfare of the city, its granite roadway flanked on either side by covered colonnades, each, like the open street, thirty feet wide.

Running through the long axis of the city, north and south, the main street was two miles long. This famous thoroughfare resembling the colonnaded street at Palmyra, was one of the city's greatest sources of pride, and one of the well-sons for its fame. The wide roadway provided n:i for the busy traffic of the city, and the spacious s on either side of it, each lined with two rows of columns provided pleasant accommodation for pedestrians and loungers. The colonnades were two-storied and roofed, intervals leading up to the second-story galleries ans the roofs. Under the colonnades there was shade in the summer and shelter from rain and snow in the winter. Along the inner sides of the colonnades ran the walls of houses and sings, their entrances opening between the columns, while on the side toward the street merchants and vendors often set up booths between the columns. The municipal authorities found it difficult to control these intrusions.

The street had been built under the auspices of the Emperors Augustus (23 B.C.-A.D. 14) and Tiberius (A.D. 14-37), with assistance from King Herod, at the time when the Romans were transforming Hellenistic Antioch into a Roman city. In Hellenistic times this had been a graveled roadway running along the outside of Seleucus' city, but with the growth of Antioch it had become the principal thoroughfare.

The roadway was open to the sky, but since it ran north and south it was shaded during part of the day, and it caught the breeze which blew up the Orontes Valley in the summer. It was full of the most varied traffic. Travelers on horseback or in carriages drawn by mules; donkeys heavily loaded with burdens of all kinds, singly or in strings, led by drivers armed with sticks; two-wheeled carts carrying building materials; porters bearing heavy loads—every kind of activity could be seen in this thoroughfare and the side streets which opened from it. Some drivers, in order to escape the sun, led their asses and camels through the porticoes—"as though they were brides," as someone said. Farmers brought food into the city in carts or on donkeys, and the municipal authorities forced them to carry rubbish out of the city as they left. Women hurried on errands, their children trailing behind them. Boys walked to school, chaperoned by slaves carrying their books and wax writing tablets secured in leather straps. High officials and army officers passed on horseback, their harness and uniforms glittering. Wealthy citizens had the harness of their horses inlaid with gold, and ladies went about the city in brightly painted wooden carriages. An important personage, seated in aloof dignity on his white horse, would have a servant armed with a stick running before him, shouting and clearing the way through the crowd for his illustrious master. Many of the great houses of the city had Negro servants whose liveries were trimmed with gold. The governors of Syria, the Counts of the East, and the generals of the eastern command when they appeared in public were escorted by detachments of the archers who served as police.

The streets and the open squares which occurred at intervals throughout the city exhibited all the varied activity of a Mediterranean city, where in the warm, dry summer, life was largely lived out of doors. Antioch was not like other cities in which the vendors of different types of goods tended to congregate, so that each commodity could be purchased in only one part of the city. Thus one would buy hardware in one section of the city, leather in another, cloth in a third legion. Instead, Libanius tells us, everything in Antioch was sold in all parts of the city, and people did not have to make long expeditions in order to make their purchases. The shopper could go from shop to shop, or find an open square filled with the bustle of buying and selling in the air.

The squares served as social centers as well. Citizens paced about in twos and threes, conversing, while children played tug of war, falling backward sometimes as their rope broke in the middle. Beggars danced and piped, and jugglers and acrobats wandered about giving performances wherever they could collect a crowd. Philosophers made their way about, distinguished by the recognized signs of their calling, the long beard
(most men were clean shaven), the threadbare cloak, and the staff carried in the right hand. The streets and market places were busy until midnight, and Antioch enjoyed public street lighting, an unusual thing in those days.

There were camps all about Antioch, which had a permanent garrison and was headquarters for the defense of the Persian frontier; and soldiers were to be seen everywhere in the streets dressed in their uniforms tunics and kilts, with their branch of service—artillery, cavalry, infantry—indicated by the colour of their uniforms. All through the slow-moving crowds one could see visitors from remote parts of the empire or from foreign lands, easily identified by their exotic dress. Servants and porters hurried along, balancing bundles on their heads; and men often carried lumber and other heavy burdens for it could be cheaper to hire a man than to employ an animal.

At the public fountains at the corners of the streets women and children filled tall earthenware water jars, which they carried on the shoulder, balanced with one hand, or on the back, the pointed bottom of the jar resting in a sling which passed around the forehead and down the back. With the abundant water supply of Antioch, there was no quarreling and pushing about the fountains, as there was in some other cities where water was scarce and the supply irregular. Indeed, many of the large private houses in Antioch had water piped into their courtyards from the aqueducts.

Dress had not changed essentially for many generations, and would not change for many more. Men customaily wore a one-piece tunic reaching to the knees, and belted at the waist, to give the effect of a kilt. This was of wool in winter, cotton or linen in the summer. Officials and citizens of substance wore in addition robes reaching to the ground. In winter there would be worn a wool cloak with an detached hood. While workmen and slaves were barefooted, most men who could do so wore sandals, with tight woolen trousers in cold weather. Officials and army officers wore distinctive cloaks as part of their uniform, fastened at the shoulder with ornamental brooches which betokened rank—officers' cloaks were white. The uniform belt was worn as a badge of service in the army or the civil service. Women wore long robes reaching to the ground, of various colors and materials—wool, linen, silk—depending on the season of the year and the occasion and status of the wearer. Outdoors the hair was covered with a colored scarf. In winter there would be a wool cloak with a hood. Children wore smaller counterparts of their parents' clothing, and carried toys which have been familiar at all times—wooden or rag dolls, hoops, tops.

The long line of the main street was broken at regular intervals by side streets, on one side running up toward the
mountain , on the the other side across the level area toward the river. Only the more important of these side streets were colonnaded. The city blocks were of uniform size, about one hundred yards long and half as wide. The lower slopes of the mountain provided choice sites for houses; Libanius wrote of the pleasures of living in this area:

The mountain rises up, stretched out beside the city like a shield raised high in defense, and the last dwellers on the lower slopes of the mountain have nothing to fear from the heights, but they have the sources of every happiness, springs, plants, gardens, breezes, flowers, the songs of birds, and the enjoyment of Spring earlier than the others have it.”

Fine villas lined the slopes, with their dining rooms arranged so that guests could enjoy the view over the city.

As he passed along the street the visitor would see ahead of him a distant vista of an open plaza in the middle of which stood a column bearing a statue of the Emperor Tiberius. At this point the direction of the street changed very slightly, so that as one walked along the avenue toward the center of the city, from either direction, one's view came to rest upon an architectural composition, a more pleasing effect than a straight, unending row of colonnades disappearing into the distance would have been.

When he came to this square, the visitor would pause. He was in the center of the city. On his right, at right angles to the main street, he saw a colonnaded street leading to the river and the large island in the Orontes. At the head of this street, all along the side of the plaza, stood a hand-some nymphaeum, consisting of an ornamental facade of variegated marble and colored mosaic faced with columns between which were fountains enclosed in niches. The water ran out into a marble basin paved with mosaic.

To the visitor's left, a short colonnaded street, running in the direction of the mountain, led to the recently completed Forum named for Theodosius' predecessor, the Emperor Valens (A.D. 364-78), on which stood some of the most important public buildings in the city.

As he walked up the sloping street and entered the forum with its gleaming marble buildings, the visitor would see about him the tokens of all the varied activities which went to make up the life of the city. Government, social life, religion, and trade were all represented in this splendid com-position of monumental public buildings grouped about a vast open area. The forum was a distinctively Roman institution, taking the place of the agora or market place of the Greeks, such as the two old agoras in Antioch which had been the centers of the city's life in the days of the Seleucids. The Forum of Valens at Antioch was intended to be one of the most magnificent in the Graeco-Roman world, resembling in its general composition the Forum of Trajan in Rome.

There were splendid buildings already in existence which Valens' architects could use as the basis for the new forum; indeed the monumental development of the area went back to the time of Julius Caesar and before. The oldest buildings in this part of the city were the Temple of Ares and the Temple of Athene, which were of Hellenistic date, the Temple of Ares having originally had a large enclosure in which religious rites connected with the army had been performed. Near by was a basilica called the Caesarium, built by Julius Caesar, on the plan of a similar building which he had presented to the city of Alexandria. The distinctive feature of this was an open court with a vaulted apse in front of which stood two statues, one of the Fortune of Rome, the other of Caesar. The Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117) had added a monumental arch. The Emperor Commodus (A.D. 180-92) had done much to beautify the area; here he had built an exercise grounds for use in the local Olympic Games called the Xystos and the Plethrion, and he had erected a temple to Olympian Zeus, the patron deity of the games. He had also restored the old Temple of Athene. Near Commodus' building stood the Tower of the Winds, built by the Vespasian (A.D. 69-79), which contained the Horologion, a public clock.

When Valens had decided to turn this area into this area into a forum, the necessary open space was obtained by demolishing part of the Caesarium and by building vaults over the stream Parmenius, which flowed from the mountain to the river through this area. The open area, paved with marble, was surrounded on its four sides by colonnades, decorated with coffered ceilings, mosaics, and paintings. The columns were of marble brought from Salona, and statues stood at intervals around the porticos. Opposite the Bath of Commodus, which had been turned into the headquarters of the Governor of Syria, Valens had built a new basilica. A macellum or provisions market took up some of the former space of the Temple of Ares. The forum contained three statues of the Emperor Valentinian I (A.D. 364-75), one on a column in the middle of the open space, the other two in different parts of the Caesarium. Nearby Valens built a kynegion or amphitheatre for shows and combats of wild beasts and gladiators. The number and variety of the buildings in this part of the city meant that at all hours of the day one would find in the forum a varied collection of people intent on business of every kind.

The visitor, having seen the forum and its neighborhood, would set out for the island along the transverse colonnaded street. Along this, the distance from the main street to the river was about one-third of a mile. On reaching the Orontes the visitor would cross a stone bridge and find himself on the island, one of the oldest quarters of the city, surrounded by its own wall and linked by five bridges to the mainland part of the city and to the plain on the far side of the Orontes.

The island exhibited a concentration of buildings of special interest – the principal church of the city, the imperial palace, the hippodrome. The church was the famous octagonal “Golden House" built by Constantine the Great in honor of the city where the disciples had first been called Christians. Standing in an open court surrounded by colonnades, with its gilded dome towered above the other buildings on the island and could be seen from all parts of the city. The church itself was built of rich marbles, and the interior was decorated with mosaics, statues, and lamps of silver and bronze. The Eucharistic vessels on the altar were of gold, replacing the original vessels presented by Constantine, and his son Constantius, which had been carried off when the pagan Emperor Julian closed the church. This was the cathedral seat of the Bishop of Antioch, and when church councils were convened at Antioch it was here that they met, in the church in the winter and in the cool colonnades around the courtyard in the summer. The church stood on the site of an old public bath which had fallen into disrepair and had been demolished to make way for the new cathedral. The construction had been in charge of Plutarchus, the first Christian governor of Syria. The building had not been finished at the time of Constantine's death in A.D. 337, and was completed by his son and successor Constantius. The unusual octagonal plan was later employed in the Church of St. Symeon Stylites in the hilly country between Antioch and Beroea. A metrical inscription in Greek commemorated the Construction: 

For Christ did Constantine make this lovely dwelling,
In all respects like the shining vaults of Heaven.
Constantius his son obeyed the commands of the rider;
The Count Gorgonius oversaw the construction.

The walled enclosure around the church contained residences for the clergy, a xenon or guest-house for travelers, schools, and kitchens for feeding the poor of the city. Near the church, on the outer edge of the island, stood the great palace, built by Diocletian (before A.D. 298) for the use of the emperors when they visited the city. The entrance was approached along a short colonnaded street forming part of the symmetrical plan of the streets of the island. The rectangular plan of this palace was later repeated in the one which Diocletian built for himself at Spalato on the Adriatic Coast. Others of the same plan were to be seen at Thessalonica and Constantinople. This palace plan was based on the standard plan of the fortified camps which were regularly constructed by the Roman army, divided into four sections by two streets crossing one another at right angles. The great structure was filled with a vast complex of living apartments, baths, a church, quarters for servants and soldiers, and an oval riding track, hedged with evergreens, on which the emperor could take his exercise. The palace occupied nearly a quarter of the island. Libanius wrote that it was "divided into so many chambers and porticoes and halls that even those who are well accustomed to it become lost as they go from door to door." The outer wall of the complex ran along the river, and there a covered and sheltered portico built on top of the wall provided a walk for the emperor from which he could look out over the river and the plain beyond it to the mountains in the distance.

Beside the palace stood the hippodrome which, with its arena over 1,600 feet long, was one of the largest in the Roman world. This dated to the time of the Roman occupation of Syria. The location of the chief church and the hippodrome near the palace symbolized the different aspects of the emperor's functions which were expressed by his ceremonial appearances at the great services of the church and his presence as presiding figure at the chariot races in the hippodrome, which were provided by the state for the enjoyment of the people. The same conjunction of palace, principal church, and hippodrome could be seen in the capital, Constantinople.

In the remainder of the island one could see luxurious villas and visit great public baths with their succession of pools and chambers for the various stages of bathing and recreation, the halls all richly ornamented with architectural moldings, sculptures, variegated marbles, and mosaic floors which were cool and pleasant in the summer. The baths were surrounded by gardens and open exercise grounds.

But the visitor had still seen only half the city. Returning by another bridge to the mainland, he would find himself on the bank of the river, in the oldest part of Antioch. Here on the edge of the water, behind the wall which ran along the Orontes, was the original settlement of Seleucus the Conqueror. The original agora or market place had lain along the river where boats and barges could discharge their cargoes at stone quays. Here too were the original temples and government buildings of Seleucid times. There had been no Seleucid palace for the Hellenistic kings had been content to live in large and luxurious versions of the private houses of the time. In this quarter stood the Old Church, supposed to date from the apostolic times, and it was in this quarter that St Paul had preached, in the street called Singon Street, near the Pantheon.


The old quarter of the city exhibited temples and statues which went back to the earliest history of Antioch and re-called to the visitor the stories about the foundation of the city. There was the ancient Temple of Zeus, founded by Seleucus the Conqueror as a thank-offering to the guardian deity of the Seleucid house, for his favor and for his approval of the establishment of the city. This stood on the original agora or market place of Antioch, which covered the area of more than four city blocks. 

There were several famous statues. One was the bronze figure of Athene which Seleucus had erected for the religious needs of the Athenians whom he had brought to settle in his new city. But the most famous was the statue of the Tyche or Good Fortune of Antioch, which had been executed at Seleucus' order by Eutychides of Sicyon, a pupil of the celebrated sculptor Lysippus. This statue had become the ancestor of many personifications of Good Fortune which were set up throughout the cities of the Greek-speaking world; and from being a symbol of prosperity and good luck, these Tyches became the personifications of their cities. 

The Tyche of Antioch, the first such figure to be created, was of bronze, as was appropriate for a statue which was to stand out of doors. It showed the goddess, draped in a long robe, seated on a rock, with one knee crossed over the other. With her left hand she supported herself on the rock; in her right she held a sheaf of wheat, symbolizing the material prosperity of the city. The rock represented Mount Silpius and beneath the feet of the goddess was the figure of a nude youth, his arms extended in the motion of swimming. This figure personified the Orontes River. On her head the Tyche wore a turreted crown representing the crenelated city wall. The statue was raised on a pedestal and sheltered under an ornamental roof supported on four columns, one at each corner. Miniature copies of the Tyche were made as souvenirs and sold to visitors. 

Returning to the main street, the visitor would pass into Epiphania, the quarter built by King Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes (174-564 B.C.), one of the last of the great Seleucid rulers. This section of the city, lying between the main street and the mountain, had been settled by the over-flow of the population when the city began to outgrow its original quarters. Some people had thought that Antiochus Epiphanes was a madman; others, that he was a genius. Whatever its source may have been, his passion for building was famous; indeed, this was one of the ways an ancient ruler could perpetuate his name. He built many things throughout his kingdom and even beyond, and he made his new quarter of Antioch one of the most beautiful parts of the city. 

There was a new agora, built to relieve the old agora near the river of some of its business. One of the most famous of Antiochus' buildings stood on the agora, the bouleuterion or council chamber, which resembled the one at Miletus. This was still in use for the meetings of the senate of Antioch in Theodosius' day. There was also the famous Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, the leading Roman deity, built as a compliment to the Romans whom Antiochus much admired. Other monuments left by Antiochus Epiphanes were a new aqueduct tunneled into the side of the mountain, bringing water from Daphne, the work of the Roman engineer Cossutius; and the Charonion, a gigantic head carved in the rock on the side of the mountain above the city as an apotropaic talisman during a visitation of the plague. This bust continued to look down over the city throughout its whole history, and the traveler was told various legends concerning it, not all of which could have been true. 

One landmark in Antiochus' new quarter which every visitor had to see was the theatre, built at a spot where the slope of the mountain provided a natural curve for the accommodation of the hemicycle of marble seats. There were many statues around the entrances and along the front of the stage, chief among them—standing against the marble background of the stage—a figure of Calliope, the Muse who was regarded, along with Zeus and Apollo, as a tutelary deity of Antioch. Her temple, in the central part of the city, was one of the most important in Antioch. In the theatre she presided over the literary exhibitions which were regu-larly presented before the public there. The statue had been set up by the Emperor Trajan when he had enlarged the the_atre to accommodate the growing population of the city. The figure was of gilded bronze and depicted Calliope in the style of the Tyche of Antioch, being crowned by Seleucus the Conqueror and his son Antiochus—the presence of the two kings typifying the honor which had been paid to Calliope at Antioch since the earliest history of the city. 

Making his way south, toward the gate that led to Daphne, the visitor would pass the quarter where the Jewish community at Antioch had lived since Seleucus' reign. Here, on the side of the mountain, there was a famous church which had originally been the Kenesheth Hashmunith, the synagogue which was reputed to contain the tombs of the Maccabean martyrs. The priest Eleazer, the seven Maccabean brothers, and their mother all had died as martyrs for their faith in die warfare between Antiochus Epiphanes and his Jewish subjects in Palestine. The relics of these noble victims had deeply venerated by the Jews, and in time, as Jewish notions of martyrdom had an important influence on Christian ideas, the synagogue had been converted into a There was some uncertainty as to the location of the relics, and according to another tradition they were preserved at Modeim in Palestine. 

Another landmark in this part of the city was the Gate of the Cherubim, the southern gate of the city on the road that led to Daphne. Here the Emperor Titus, after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, had set up, on the road outside the gate, bronze figures that were supposed to represent the Cherubim taken from the demolished Temple. Of course the original figures of the Cherubim no longer existed, but these were either an imitation of them or winged figures that maid be called Cherubim. Over the gate Titus set up a figure oi the Moon, which, with the Sun, was one of the representations of eternity in the imperial symbolism of that period. 

At the gate the visitor would see all the familiar figures that characteristically clustered about the entrance to a large city. A detachment of soldiers stood guard. There were beggars. loungers, and vendors of souvenirs; and a regular little market had grown up, peopled with sellers of fish, meat, fruit, bread, and other kinds of food, as well as cool drinks. Each man stood behind his little portable table, which he could carry suspended by a strap around his neck, and cried out his wares. Children played in the dust, and dogs wandered about looking for scraps. 

As he set out on the road to Daphne, five miles south of the city, the visitor passed on his left the oldest Christian cemetery of Antioch, a much-venerated spot which preserved the tombs of some of the best-known figures in the history of the Christian community. Buried there was St. Ignatius, the martyr-bishop of Antioch who was arrested in the time of the Emperor Trajan and sent to Rome, where he was executed by being eaten alive by wild beasts in the arena. His bones had been collected by the faithful in Rome and were later returned to Antioch for burial in the cemetery. Here too had been the tomb of St. Babylas, the bishop who was a martyr in the persecution under the Emperor Decius (A.D. 249-51). Under Gallus Caesar (A.D. 351-54) his body had been transferred to Daphne in an effort to put a stop to the oracle of Apollo there. A martyrium or martyr's shrine was built for him, and the presence of the saint's remains did inhibit the oracle; and so the pagan Emperor Julian (A.D. 361-63) had the body returned to the cemetery. Soon after Theodosius had come to the throne, Bishop Meletius had built a cruciform church in honor of St. Babylas across the Orontes, and the saint's remains finally came to rest there. There were many other tombs of local martyrs and holy men and women in the cemetery, and the Christian visitor would find there many objects of prayer and devotion. 

The walk to Daphne was one of the special pleasures of the people of Antioch. As soon as one passed through the city gate one found oneself among the charms of nature. The road at first followed the left bank of the river, and there, on the left of the road, one found a succession of orchards and gardens filled with roses and other flowers. Here and there, surrounded by trees and flowers, stood a country villa belonging to one of the wealthy citizens. The road gradually turned away from the river and slowly began to climb, for Daphne was higher than Antioch. Now, on both sides of the road one came upon vineyards and handsome houses. Everywhere there were gardens filled with the roses used in making the perfume for which Antioch was famous. At intervals the road crossed a small stream flowing down from the mountainside to the Orontes, and there were springs beside the road at which the traveler could pause for a drink of the water which had a characteristic and agreeable flavor given to it by the limestone rock in which it had been stored in natural underground pools. 

All along the road stood inns which tempted the traveler to pause and rest. These were sometimes one-storied, with a porch running across the front, sometimes of two stories, with a balcony built out from the facade of the upper level. On the grounds of the inns there were arbors formed of grape vines or rose bushes trained over trellises, forming out-door dining rooms. The visitor could sit at a table or recline on a straw mat spread on the ground, as he chose. Refreshments were simple—the local wine mixed with cool water, or lemon or orange juice served in water which had been cooled in an underground cellar or drawn directly from a cold spring. For those who desired something more substantial, there were pastries and fruit. The shade was always cool, and one could watch the tops of the trees as they blew in the wind which came up the river valley. 


As one approached Daphne the villas became more numerous, and one soon found oneself in the famous pleasure spot. Daphne was in some ways even better known than Antioch, and the city was sometimes known as "Antioch near Daphne." The region had a famous legendary history. It was reputed to have been founded by Herakles (an old name of the region was Herakleis), and Antioch took pride in the local legend that the Judgment of Paris, when Paris had had to decide which was most beautiful among the three goddesses—Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite—had taken place ac Daphne. 

The central part of the suburb was like any small town. There was a market place with public baths and temples, and the streets, laid out on a regular plan, were filled with spacious houses. At the southern end of the suburb one came to the greatest sights of this lovely spot—the ever-flowing springs, the ruins of the Temple of Apollo which stood just below them, the theatre, and the Olympic stadium. 

The Temple of Apollo, built by Seleucus the Conqueror, had been burned in the reign of the Emperor Julian, and now only its columns and parts of its walls were standing. Daphne In had been dedicated to Apollo, as Antioch was to Zeus. It Cs was here, according to legend, that Apollo had pursued the fat maiden Daphne, and that the maiden, to save herself from lir the god, was transformed into a laurel tree, which then became known by her name, daphne. The very tree into which oc the maiden had been changed was shown to visitors. In his disappointment—the story went—the god discharged all of his arrows from his bow. Then one day, after Seleucus had founded Antioch, the King was hunting on this spot, and his horse pawed the earth and revealed a golden arrowhead. This was shown by the god's name inscribed on it to have been the property of Apollo, and thus the King was given a sh plain sign that the spot was to be sacred to the god. When he ordered the construction of the temple below the springs, Seleucus also planted the grove of cypress trees which became famous throughout the ancient world. 

The springs were named Castalia, Pallas, and Saramanna. An oracle of Apollo had resided in the spring of Castalia. Flowing out of a cliff on one side of the plateau of Daphne, St- these springs had been beautified by successive rulers. The re water, flowing perpetually from its underground natural 10 reservoirs, gave this part of Daphne a freshness and coolness gr: such as could be found nowhere else. The water was caught in in large basins constructed of stone and then distributed through aqueducts to Daphne and carried along the mountainside to Antioch. 

The most elaborate installation at the springs had been designed by the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-38), who at Sara-manna, one of the largest of the springs, had constructed an ornamental reservoir, semicircular at one end, containing rows of seats surmounted by a colonnaded promenade, where people could sit or walk about and enjoy the sound of the water and its coolness. At the point where the water entered the basin of the reservoir Hadrian constructed a temple in honor of the Nymphs who inhabited the springs. In the temple the Emperor placed a statue of himself as Zeus, seated and holding the celestial sphere.  

The theatre had been built by the Emperor Titus with funds from the sale of the spoils of Jerusalem. It contained a Statue of Titus' father the Emperor Vespasian, as well as many other ornamental statues which stood along the front of the stage. 

What was in some ways almost the most famous monument in Daphne was the stadium used for the Olympic Games. There were twin towers beside the entrance, and within the stadium there was a Temple of Olympian Zeus, a well as a shrine of Nemesis placed in the curved end where the judges and other officials of the games sat. 

Daphne was full of interest. There was an underground shrine of Hecate, reached by 365 steps. There were numerous inns  and open colonnades in which one could find refreshments of all kinds. The Christian visitor would stop at the workshops of the martyrium of St. Babylas, where religious souvenirs were made for sale to travelers. One could also admire the imperial palace—smaller than that at Antioch—which had been built by the Emperor Diocletian. Above the walls of the houses along the streets one could see the tops of the trees with which the gardens and courtyards were ornamented. From the most fortunate of these villas there was a wide sweeping view across the valley of the Orontes to the mountains on the other side of the river, and during the daylight hours the view was constantly animated as the trees swayed in the wind. It was no wonder that the wealthy families of Antioch had their summer villas here. 

Daphne was supremely an embodiment of the rich tradition of the classical world. Its natural beauty, carefully preserved and thoughtfully enhanced, was justly appreciated as a setting for gods and goddesses. A place as beloved by the divinities as Daphne must needs possess sovereign powers for the human race, whose culture had been built up around the stories of the gods and goddesses; and if there were villas in Daphne which were frankly designed for the enjoyments in which the pagan world took pleasure, it was also true that the whole atmosphere of such a spot must also bring a milder and more benign satisfaction and refreshment to many of those whose good fortune it was to visit it. The sober guest would find repose, delight, and healing in this cool and quiet spot. No one reared in the classical tradition could see Daphne without perceiving its beauty in the terms of the classical literature which had been created and transmitted by men who wrote of the divinities who were thought to have dwelt in such a spot. 

By the time of the Christian Emperor Theodosius, of course, literal belief in the ancient deities was no longer universal and accepted; but the culture was still a living force, and Libanius and his friends who felt the power of this culture also felt a special power in Daphne. Thus at the close of his description of Daphne, Libanius put into words what every citizen of the classical world would feel there: 

"When a man sees this he cannot but cry out and leap for joy and skip and clap his hands and bless himself for seeing the sight, and, so to speak, soar on wings of pleasure. One thing from one side and one thing from another enchants and astonishes; one thing holds one and another tears one away, and :here pours upon the beholder's eyes an arresting brightness, the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Zeus, the Olympic stadium, the theatre which furnishes every pleasure, the number and thickness and height of the cypresses, the shady paths, the choruses of singing birds, the even breeze, the odors sweeter than spices, the stately aqueducts, the vines trained to form banqueting halls—these are the gardens of Alcinous . . . the horn of Amaltheia, a veritable Sybaris. No matter what bath von choose before the others to bathe in, you will overlook a more delightful one. The place is so helpful to the body that, if you leave after even a brief stay, you will go away healthier than when you came; and if you were asked by what you were the most pleased, you would be at a loss for an answer, for it is to such a degree as this that every pleasure in Daphne rivals every other pleasure. No suffering is so powerful or so unconquerable or so long-standing that Daphne cannot drive it out, but as soon as you come to the place, the pain disappears. If the gods ever really leave heaven and come to earth, I believe that they must come together and hold their councils here, since they could not spend their time in a fairer place". 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Water Clock Again? And a Street of Gold...

The sources get more obscure to find untilled ground in the historical record on Ancient Antioch.

Stumbling recently on an academic article on Academia.edu on the Julian the Apostate I did not expect any topographical detail but interestingly did indeed find something. In this case the paper was the "The Syriac Julian Romance And Its Place In The Literary History" by Alexei Muraviev which was originally published in the journal, Khristianskiy Vostok (XB), 1(7) 1999, pp. 194-206. 

The subject is a "romance" on the subject of the life of one of the most interesting of the later Roman emperors, who as I have discussed before spent the last part of his life in Antioch (before going to his death in battle against the Persians). His time in Antioch was fruitful and controversial. His Misopogon satire was the result of his squabbles with the local populace and his actions, and death, provided fertile ground for the literary works of his sometime tutor and admirer, Libanius. 

Syriac literature is not exactly a subject I find gripping but wading near the end of the paper there is a discussion of a story within the bigger romance about a certain Eleuthera, daughter of Licinius, whose belongings were stolen by Julian. She meets the demon of the clocktower by night in the street called "The Street of Gold", who offers her his help in getting back her property. Taking him for the watchman she accepts and prays the king to make Julian swear by the image that protects the city clock. Julian heard all this and hurried the same night with his friend the sorcerer (Magnus) to the clocktower, where the demon offers to Julian the mastership of all the earth. 

The interesting thing here (presuming all this took place in Antioch) is that it features again the clock which I have discussed elsewhere and gives us a new street name. If I recall rightly we have only ever encountered two other minor street names in the city (besides the Colonnaded Street). A Street of Gold is no surprise because most cities until recently had streets for the goldworking trades (which activity Antioch was famous for, amongst others). The past mentions of the water clock place it near the Regia in the oldest part of the city, which most probably had proximity also to the old agora, which would probably be near where the gold workers would be located. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Treatment of Idols in Antioch

I have mentioned idols before in the context of the magical properties that some, right up into the Arab control period, felt that the statues possessed.

In one of his postings Roger Pearse has dug up the evidence for the treatment of these relics of the pagan period. Some of the actions by zealots sounds more akin to the Inquisition than mere iconoclasm. Here is his posting verbatim...

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The next statement by Cyril Mango on the subject of the destruction of pagan statues in the lives of the saints is as follows:

At about the same time idols were subjected to popular derision by being hung in the streets of Antioch.

The reference is to the Vita S. Symeonis junioris, the Life of Simeon Stylites the Younger, d. 592, BHG 1689,[1] in the Acta Sanctorum, May, vol. 5, p.371B. The work is very long, in 259 chapters. Anyway, let’s have a look at this text in the Acta version also.

That item is online, and may be found here. It all concerns the actions of a certain Amantius, “judex severus” (=”a severe judge”), who was sent to the East by Justinian to administer punishment to various groups.

"And so it was predicted by Symeon; they had not interceded for four months when a certain man named Amantius [b], greatly concerned in the rule of the East, came to Antioch. He was a literary man, capable in government, strong in reasoning, constant in mind, liberal in mind, and primarily most studious of justice. He acted as much on behalf of virtue as against iniquity, and in both cases with the utmost zeal. Previously when he came to Antioch, he both put down iniquity in the East as much as he could in a similar way, and also more acutely with an sharp sword among those who held positions of authority. So that fear and trembling invaded everyone, when he was approaching: not only men who were nothing and malevolent, but also those for whom life had conjoined probity and good morals might feel dread, so terrible was his presence.

174. Here he arrested and imprisoned many of the pagans and atheists and those dedicated to observing the aspects and conjunctions of the stars, and indeed many standing against the divine providence, and especially carefully sought out the most illustrious. Moreover he collected all their books, from which they drew out false wisdom and novel ideas contrary to the truth; nor those alone, but likewise all the idols, in which they trusted as in the gods. They had made for themselves idols of silver, obviously, and of gold, and they had worshipped those which they had made with their own fingers, as was spoken by Hosea and Isaiah the prophets (Hos. 8:4, Is.2:8). And from the books he started a not inconsiderable fire, throwing them in the flames in the middle of the forum. But he openly demonstrated the impotence and imbecillity of the idols, hanging them up at the cross-roads and in the main streets, proving that they were no more significant than they seemed to be, i.e. works of hand and art; nothing more than the artificers had wanted them to be, so again I shall make use of the words of the prophets. Also a man, whom some time previously had appeared to Simeon in a vision, was standing in the presence of the Governor, called in for investigation; but a certain monk, very like Simeon, seized him from the threat of a justice made mild, when the Governor was called away".

The events recounted belong to 555-6, when Justinian sent Amantius to suppress the Samaritan revolt in Palestine, and then to suppress non-conformists in Antioch, some of whom were labelled as “pagans”.[2]

Update: I have just discovered a long translation from the Life online! It’s somewhat different, but probably from a better text than that of the Latin translation in the Acta Sanctorum — I have no details on the transmission of the text. It may be found in A.D. Lee, Pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity: A Sourcebook, Routledge, 2013, 135-136:

"7.2 Persecution of pagans in sixth-century Antioch: Life of the Younger St Symeon the Stylite 161, 164

The younger Symeon was a holy man who lived on one of the mountains near Antioch (521—92), and the modern editor of his biography considers it to have been written by one of Symeon’s disciples. Although this episode, probably from 555, is couched in high-flown language, the official at the centre of the investigations, Amantius, is known from an independent source which describes his involvement in the suppression of a Samaritan revolt (John Malalas Chronicle p. 487), and suppression of paganism is certainly a general feature of the emperor Justinian’s religious policies, as is book-burning (Maas 1992: ch. 5). Further reading: Trombley 1994: 182-95.

(161) Within a four month period of the holy man predicting all these events, that official arrived. His name was Amantius, and before coming to the city of Antioch, he destroyed many of the unrighteous found en route, so that men shuddered with fear at his countenance. For everywhere he suppressed all evil-doing whether in word or deed, inflicting punishment, including death, on those who had gone astray, so that from then on even those living a blameless life feared his presence. For he removed, as much as was possible throughout the east, all quarrelling, all injustice, all violence, and all wrongdoing. When this had happened, God showed his servant another vision, which he reported to us: ‘A decision has come from God against the pagans (Hellenes) and heretics (heterodoxoi), that this official will reveal the idolatrous errors of the atheists and gather together all their books and burn them.’ When he had foreseen these things and reported them, zeal for God took a hold of that official and after investigating, he found that the majority of the leaders of the city and many of its inhabitants were preoccupied with paganism (hellenismos), Manichaeism, astrological practices, automatism, and other hateful heresies. He arrested them and pur them in prison, and after gathering together all of their books — a huge number — he burned them in the middle of the stadium. He brought our their idols with their polluted accoutrements and hung them along the streets of the city, and their wealth was expended on numerous fines. … (164) … Then the judge took his seat on the tribunal and subjected to special punishments some of them, who had confessed to having committed many terrible crimes on account of their ungodliness; some he ordered to do service in the hospices, while others, who called themselves clerics, he sent to receive instruction in monasteries; still others he sent off into exile, while some he condemned to death. But by imperial command, the majority of them, who pleaded ignorance as an excuse and promised to repent, he released without further investigation. And so it came about that after being corrected, everyone was dispersed and none of them remained in prison, with the exception of one who had caused many disturbances during times of public unrest, on account of which he deserved punishment. So it was an appropriate time to recall the judgements of God and to sing the praises of his inexpressible benevolence towards us".

Few of us will read this account without a shudder. Such trials and punishments for wrong thinking are a sign of a decaying state. The fondness of the Byzantines for religious persecution was a feature of their state as long as they retained any vestige of power. Nothing in the account above is inconsistent with the policies of Justinian towards paganism or heresy.

I don’t know how historical this life is; but on the face of it, we do have clear evidence of Mango’s “derision”; although, if they were made of silver and gold, I suspect that they were not left unattended!

[1] A study exists of the Lives of this saint, but I have not seen it: Doran, Robert. The Lives of Simeon Stylites. Kalamazoo, Mich., 1992. ↩
[2] Matthew Dal Santo, Debating the Saints’ Cults in the Age of Gregory the Great, Oxford, 2012, 201 and nn.191 and 192. The work discusses the political role of the saint, which provoked opposition to his foretellings in various quarters. “Indeed, Symeon’s hagiographer suggested that it was in response to the saints’ prayers that the emperor appointed a governor for the region who violently persecuted those who did not adhere to the empire’s official religion and its Providential economy.” A reference is given to “Van den Ven, La Vie ancienne de S. Symeon le jeune, II, 167-8 n.1.” and to the Life of St Symeon the Younger, cc. 78, 141, 158, 184, 188, 190, 221, 223, 231. See also Peter N. Bell, Social Conflict in the Age of Justinian: Its Nature, Management, and Mediation, Oxford, 2013, 240: “Such survivals help explain the ferocious activities throughout the East of Amantius, whose action against the Samaritans we know of independently.[=Malalas 487] He allegedly found on arrival in Antioch (around 555) the ‘majority of the leaders of the city’, including clerics, preoccupied with ‘”Hellenism”, Manichaeism, astrological practices, automatism and other hateful heresies’. The style of this Life is high-flown; the wrongdoers probably also included Miaphysites—heterodoxoi (heretics) are mentioned—and Christians who used magic in private. Yet the references to the burning of ‘idols with their polluted accoutrements’, recalling the purge of ‘Hellenes’ and the burning of their books and religious paraphernalia in Constantinople in 562, as at Alexandria earlier in the century, suggest that Amantius’ victims included many Pagans. No surprises here: the Life contains numerous further references to prominent Pagans in the city.” ↩
Tags: Mango, Statues