Friday, March 20, 2009

The Vicus Agrippae

Marcus Agrippa was ascendant to a degree after the fall of Antony. According to Boucher he had visited Antioch with his former master: "....and, delighted with the beauty of the site, began the development of a new quarter, the Vicus Agrippae, outside the east gate. A spring was opened to supply the new public Agrippianon bath, lines of houses were built, and in the older city the theatre was heightened by the addition of another zone".

Malalas states that in his time the baths of Agrippa had become known as the Ampelinon baths. Malalas calls this new development zone the Agrippitai.

This gives some definitive evidence that urban development outside the city, as we have always thought of it, was more coordinated than some sort of random exurban evolution. It also would signal that the territory outside the Beroea Gate might be fruitful grounds for exploration.

Boucher also notes the Agrippa returned at a later date and "... probably during his eastern command, restored the circus of Q. Marcius Rex, which had become filled with rubbish as a result of various shocks, and witnessed there the performance of a spectacle of great variety and splendour".

Mottershead in his work "The Constructions of Marcus Agrippa in the West" states that Agrippa had two periods in Antioch, 23-21 BC and then 17-13 BC. He suggests "Agrippa's new quarter (Agrippitai) has been interpreted from Malalas as occupying an area of some 700 by 800 metres to the north of the city outside the Beroea Gate".

Fikret Yegul in his excellent essay on the baths of Antioch states that Agrippa built two baths, one in the quarter named after him and another near a spring in a lush quiet setting on the slopes of Mt Silpius. To support this latter baths he quotes Malalas 222.17. 20). We wonder whether these might just be one and the same bath.

A further twist is added in Carl Kraeling's article "The Jewish Community in Antioch" in the Journal of Biblical Literature (Vol 51, no.2 June 1932 pp 130-160) in which he suggests that the settlement of Agrippa may have been an outpost of the Jewish community which is normally sited in the southern part of the city. This theory and its evidence is elaborated upon in my comments on the Jewish quarter(s) of ancient Antioch.

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