Sunday, January 23, 2011

Daphne - Poccardi's Map

We have been urged to add Daphne to our coverage and have finally relented. Daphne was so famous in its heyday that the main city was known as Antioch-by-Daphne as well as its more usual title of Antioch-on-the-Orontes. This is somewhat ironic as Antioch had somewhere between 200,000 to 500,000 residents and Daphne probably never had more than a few thousand.

The expedition of the 1930s spent a considerable amount of time at Daphne particularly in the latter years when the effort devolved into a mosaic scavenger hunt and Daphne was seen as more prospective than the city.

Here we reproduce the map in "Étude de la permanence de tracés urbains et ruraux antiques à antioche-sur-l'Oronte" by Jacques Leblanc and Grégoire Poccardi, published in the journal "Syria" T. 76 (1999), pp. 91-126 of the Institut Francais du Proche-Orient. Click map to enlarge...

Friday, January 7, 2011


Could there be anything "better than Antioch"? Is that not a loaded question?
After his subjection of the city in 540 AD the Sassanid King, Chosroes took the population of the city (supposedly in its entirety) off to his kingdom where he built for them a new city near Ctesiphon under the name of Veh-az-Andiv-Khusrau ("Khusrau's Better-than-Antioch"). Some reports include the juicy detail that he even took the flute-players,mimes and charioteers. He certainly knew the way to his captives' hearts!

In George Rawlinson's The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy (London, 1876, p. 395)he writes: “The Persian prince [Khosru I] after the fall of Antioch passed the winter in building and beautifying a Persian Antioch in the neighbourhood of Ctesiphon, assigning it as a residence to his Syrian captives, for whose use he constructed public baths and a spacious hippodrome, where the entertainments familiar to them from their youth were reproduced by Syrian artists. The new city was exempt from the jurisdiction of Persian satraps, and was made directly dependent upon the king, who supplied it with corn gratuitously, and allowed it to become an inviolable asylum for all such Greek slaves as should take shelter in it, and be acknowledged as their kinsmen by any of the inhabitants. A model of Greek civilization was thus brought into close contact with the Persian court."

Rawlinson adds in a footnote: "Here the Oriental accounts are in entire accord with the Greek. Mirkhond and Tabari relate at length the construction of this new Antioch in the vicinity of Al Modain, adding that the name given to it was Rumia (Rome), and that it was an exact copy of the town upon the Orontes".

In the history of the Sassanids, translated from the Persian of Mirkhond by Silvestre de Sacy, it is said of Nauschirvan, one of the Persian monarchs who resided at El-Madan, a city built on the ruins of the two famous ones of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, after describing his conquests in Jezireh or Mesopotamia,—" II fit pareillement la conquete de Kennasserin et d'Alep, villes de Syrie. Lorsqu'il fut arrive pres d'Antioche, la plus belle ville de la Syrie, elle lui plut tellement, qu'il la fait dessiner sur un papier, et ordonna qu'on en construisit une absolument pareille, sans la moindre difference, a peu de distance de Madain. Cette ville fut nommee Roumia; et quand elle fut achevee, Nauschirvan ordonna a tous les habitans d'Antioche de se transporter dans sa nouvelle ville. Les rues, et les places de ces deux villes, se ressemblerent si parfaitement, que chacun des habitans d'Antioche, une fois entre dans la ville de Roumia, se rendait, sans y penser, a sa maison. On dit qu'il n'y avait autre difference entre ces deux villes, si ce n'est qu'un blanchisseur de toiles, qui avait un arbre dans la maison qu' il occupait dans l'ancienne ville, n'en trouva pas dans la nouvelle. Ce trait est un de plus singuliers que l'on connoisse."—De Sacy, Memoires sur les Antiquites de la Perse. 4tO. Paris, 1793. p. 366.

This is an intriguing (and confusing) story because as this comment would seem to indicate the new city was reportedly an exact replica of Antioch. De Sacy here talks of Nauschirvan as the relocator of the population and builder of the "new Antioch".

How the replicated city plan could be possible is still not clear unless all he did was repeat the street plan. He certainly did not have a Mt Silpius at his disposal on the banks of the Tigris. What would excavation of this site (now in Iraq) reveal about the street layout of Ancient Antioch?
Warwick Ball in his book Rome in the East states that the population of the new city was around 30,000. Chosroes may have thought this "Better than Antioch" but really it must have been a pale shadow.

Baths of the Crusader Period

Readers must think we "protesteth too much" when we say we aren't interested in the Christian/Arabic era of the city's history and then publish a blizzard of posts relating to these themes.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, we have mined out most of the Imperial period information and secondly some of the latter period information may have relevance back to the Imperial period.

We could not help thinking this when recently revisiting the volume, East and West in the Medieval Eastern Mediterrean: Antioch from the Byzantine reconquest until the end of the Crusader principality, edited by Krijna Nelly Ciggaar, David Michael Metcalf. The wide ranging list of essays here had previously been touched upon in reference to the Al-makarim travelography of the city.

While rereading the chapter on Adaptation to Oriental life by rulers in and around Antioch by Krijna Nelly Ciggaar we found mention of bathing practices. She notes "This takes us to the baths in Antioch of which several are mentioned in various Crusader sources: the balnea Tancredi (1131, 1140), the balnea dicta Omar (1140) and the two baths of the Hospitallers. One is reported in 1140, another was bought in 1186 by Brother Renard de Margat from the Mazoir family. Other baths are likely to have existed without being mentioned in the sources, such as the baths in private palaces and mansions".

One of the reasons why Antioch was always so well supplied with bathing establishments was its ample water supply. This makes us suspect, in light of the "make do and mend" nature of the city post-528 AD, that the baths of latter periods were probably just rebuilds of the baths that had existed from the Roman times reusing the connections to the still-functioning aqueduct system. The 1930s excavations mainly threw up the expansive baths of the Island and northern part of the city, both of which had been abandoned/depopulated in the 300s and following centuries. Thus the baths being discussed most probably were located in the densely populated section of the city south of the Parmenios which remains largely unexplored.

More on the Circus

It is not often that Google Books throws up an important text of relatively recent vintage in full text mode. Thus we were very pleasantly surprised to find that John Humphrey's magisterial work, Roman circuses: arenas for chariot racing, University of California Press, 1986, for some reason or other now comes up in full text mode. We had used this as one of our sources for our previous comments on the circus.

His section (page 444-461)on Antioch's circus is extensive and well worth visiting for its rather unique maps and photos from the 1930s excavations as well as intense information on the construction materials and fate of the structure.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Byzantine Governors 976-1084

One of the least documented periods of Antioch's oft-undocumented history is the period of the Byzantine "restoration". After the city fell to the Arabs in the 7th century it was to spend 300 years under Arab domination. The Byzantines eventually managed to turn the tide and recapture the city in 969 AD as the Arabs struggled with the insurgent Turks fighting for dominance of the Islamic world. This gave the Byzantines their chance and they regained control.

Antioch was very much a fringe city during that period with virtually all the territory southwards, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa and to the East (Syria and Mesopotamia) remaining out of Byzantine control. Still Antioch merited being ranked the second or third city of the Empire (tussling with Thessalonica).

As such being governor (and holding the title of Duke or Catepan) was an honour and a position of power. This devolved quite frequently to the very well connected including close relatives and associates of the Emperor. Most of the terms were limited with only one to three years being spent in the role to hamper the ability of the position holder from building a power base in the fractious political tumult of the Empire.

In an interesting paper, La Chronologie des Gouverneurs d'Antioche sous la seconde domination Byzantine (969-1084) in the Melanges (Universite de Saint-Joseph), Beirut, Second Volume XXXVIII (1962), V. Laurent wote a major piece on the governorship during this period. We thought it useful to repeat here the Chronology of the governors that Laurent compiled from the extant sources. This includes only the years for which there is evidence of the individual governing and their title, thus there are discontinuities. We use his French version of the Greek surnames.

976 Michael Bourtzes (Duke)

976 (end) Kouleib (on behalf of Bardas Scleros - Duke)

977, 978 Oubeidallah (on behalf of Bardas Scleros then later Basil II - Duke)

985 (end) Leon Melissene (Duke)

986-987 Bardas Phocas (Duke)

987-989 Leon Phocas

990-996 Michael Bourtzes (Duke)

996-998 Damien Dalassene (Duke)

999-1006 Nicephore Ouranos (Duke/Catepan)

1011 Michael the Kitonite (Duke)

1022 onwards Theophylacte Dalassene (Duke)

1025 onwards Constantine Bourtzes (Duke)

1025 Constantine Dalassene (Catepan)

1026-1029 Michael Spondyles (Catepan)

1029-1030 Constantin Karantenos (Catepan)

1030-1032 Nicetas of Mistheia (Catepan)

1034 Nicetas (brother of Michael IV) - (Catepan)

1034-1037 Constantine the Eunuch (Duke)

1037 & 1043 (between) Leon (Catepan)

1043 (around) Stephen (Duke)

1054 Romain Scleros (Duke)

1056 Kataklon Kekaumenos (Duke)

1056-1058 Michael Ouranos (Duke)

1059 Adrian (Duke)

1063 Nicephoros Nicephoritzes (1st) (Duke)

1063 Bekhd (1st) (Duke)

1067 Nicephoros Nicephoritzes (2nd) (Duke)

1067-1068 Nicephoros Botaniates (Duke)

1068 Peter Libellisios (Duke)

1069 Bekhd (2nd) (Duke)

1069-1071/2 Khatchatour (Duke or Catepan)

1072-1074 Joseph Tarchanoites (Duke)

1074-1078 Isaac Comnena (Duke)

1078 Vasak (Duke)

1078-1084 Philarete Brachamios (Duke)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An actual street address! (albeit Medieval)

One of the oddities of the rise of Open Access on the internet is that one can get access to some of the best of French writings on Antioch in recent times on sites like with papers written by Poccardi, Saliou and Cabouret and yet the scholars of much farther back have largely remained in a vale of obscurity induced by primitive copyright laws. If consulted these long past authors would probably be thrilled to have their views aired more widely.

One such who has become difficult to access on the internet but who was a colossus in his day was Claude Cahen. Pitifully little of his work from the 1940s to the 1970s is accessible on the internet. However, as Persee advances inexorably, some pieces are being revealed to the waiting world. One such with the less than riveting title of "Un document concernant les Melkites et les Latins d'Antioche au temps des Croisades" that appeared in: Revue des études byzantines, tome 29, 1971. pp. 285-292 and has now surfaced on Persee.

This piece contained one of those gems we seem to stumble upon in the most obscure works. In this case the document was an Arabic text detailing a transaction in which the Latin Church sold an abandoned church structure in Crusader Antioch to the Melkite church. The document had been translated to a monastery in Sicily after the fall of Antioch to the Islamic forces and remained there for 600 years.

The derelict church under discussion was Notre Dame de Gethsemeni. While we do not traffic much in the post-Imperial Antioch this piece is worthy of mention because it gives us a localisation of a structure that is more precise than anything else we have seen excepting the Antiochikos of Libanius (which was not exactly a paragon of precision either). In this case, after much preamble, the writers of the contract to pass over the Church site get around to describing where the site was located:

"Ce lieu est limité des quatre côtés comme suit: à l'est par la rue qui l'avoisine; à l'ouest, la place et la ruine sous... le couvent ; au sud les maisons et le jardin de Yânî al-Kâmîdârî et le jardin de Yârî fils de Mardalâ ; au nord enfin la rue aussi et la terre de Sire (?)... aujourd'hui aux mains de son héritier le nomîkoûs Românoûs ; c'est de ce dernier côté qu'ouvre la porte pour entrer et sortir sur la rue bordiere en ce lieu".

While not exactly "X marks the spot" this is the closest thing that exists to a street direction that we have ever encountered for pre-1300 AD Antioch.

On Cemeteries

I do not usually deal much with the Christian period in Antioch but a piece recently came to my attention that deals with the evolution of the Christian cemeteries and the martyrions that were located at Antioch or thereabouts. The texts in question are Eric Rebillard's piece "Tombe, Tombe Sainte, Necropole" in MEFRA 1993 (2).

Rebillard discusses the presence, or not, within the city of a "cemetery" in which the Martyrs were interred. The focus of the piece is a reference to a place called το κοιμητηριον which he refers to as a "cemetery par excellence". The main argument relates to John Chrysostom's sermon for a Good Friday. This speech was given in a place where the Church celebrated the Resurrection. Rebillard feels that this place was probably a special cemetery outside the city walls where their existed Martyrions, or shrines to the local martyrs. Prominent amongst these were Saint Babylas and Saint Ignatius but also some other saints who have lasted the distance in hagiographies.

The Romans and Greeks were not inclined to having burials within the city walls. In Rome we can see the Via Appia lined with tombs and the only interments within the walls, of note, being the Mausoleums of Hadrian and Augustus. Quite a number of the grave goods found in Antioch have been outside the walls along the roads approaching the city. It has long been felt that there was an extensive necropolis outside the Daphne Gate.

In light though of the discovery of the Martyrion of Saint Babylas opposite the Island (and Palace) on the north bank of the Orontes, we might presume that the zone for "saints" was in this direction. Rebillard analyses Chrysostom's words and going back through his history of sermonising comes to the conclusion that his use of the word το κοιμητηριον is unique and represents not merely a necropolis but rather a very special location for saints and martyrs.

One might also presume that if the Martyrion found in the 1930s was a centerpiece of this complex then further excavations in this zone might throw up the tombs of lesser lights in the religious sphere.

He makes mention also of the fact that a migration of relics from this site outside the city began when the Christian tide started to overwhelm the old ways. Specifically he refers to the remains of Saint Ignatius being brought into the city and placed in what had been the Temple of Fortune. This sounds rather like the site of the famous statue of Tyche. Presumably the statue was displaced (and need we mention that Antioch's fortunes were never so healthy again). Rather intriguingly, Ignatius was said to have been martyred by being thrown the lions in the Coloseum in Rome. How he had any remains from this experience to be transferred back to Antioch is truly a miracle!

In other places there are accounts of the peregrinations of the remains of Saint Babylas that at one time had the Temple of Apollo in Daphne as their shrine, until Julian ousted them to be reburied at the original gravesite. It was after this that the substantial Martyrion was constructed for him.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More on the Basilicas

We came across this small comment in an article "Notes on Christian Mosaics: Lost Mosaics of the East" by A.L.Frothingham Jnr in the American Journal of Archaeology, Volume 4, 1888.

"BASILICAS OF ANTIOCH - Later in the century we hear of a group of four basilicas erected in the forum of Antioch by the Emperor Valens 364-79 and which the historian Malalas (lib xiv) tells us were decorated with mosaics and many colored marbles The same writer says that the prefect Anatolios in building the basilica in Antioch called by his name and surnamed "the luminous" (διαφωτοζ) placed in it the inscription in mosaic (Εργον Θεοδοζιον βαζιλεοζ) and above it the figures of the two emperors Theodosios II and Valentinian III"

On Caravans and Camels

When Jacques Weulersse wrote his work on the street patterns of Antakieh in the early 1930s the memory of the camel trains to the town was very fresh. In fact this means of transport had only faded away ten years before in the first year of the French Mandate when the break-up of the Ottoman Empire meant that "free trade" across the region was thwarted and the camel trains no longer connected together those far-flung parts of the faded Empire that used to buy and sell from Antakieh. In their sunset years, the camels had primarily moved soap, the main local product, to the four corners of the Ottoman domain.

The infrastructure was still in place and this consisted of the khans where the traders and their beasts stayed and the specialised souqs where the goods were traded. With the end of the camel trains came also the extinguishing of an activity that had been undertaken in the city since its founding in 300 B.C.

Antioch was a great commercial centre in its heyday and a far cry from the soap and leather-focused provincial backwater that Antakya had become. To get an idea of the intense interchange of goods between Antioch and the rest of the Roman Empire and beyond, the best source is Commercial Syria under the Roman Empire by Louis C. West in Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association (Vol. 55 1924, pp. 159-189) Despite the work being amazingly detailed and encompassing, the one thing that author does not discuss is how the goods moved around.

The map below shows the chief trade routes of the Syrian region of the Roman Empire.

Antioch in its heyday was one of the chief entrepots of the Roman Empire as far as the China trade was concerned. Friedrich Hirth is his book, China and the Roman Orient, researches into their ancient and medieval relations. as represented in old Chinese records. Leipzig, 1885 sheds a totally new light on the Antioch story because he finds references to Chinese visitors who made it to the Roman Orient and carried back their views of what they had seen and put them to paper. An important component of this trade was silk, which arrived in Antioch and was then sent down to the Lebanese coast which was the main production centre for Tyrian Purple dyes for silk.

Interesting to note also is that the Byzantine Empire moved silk production to Constantinople thus removing the middleman role of Antioch in this trade. Also we would note that the China trade fell off heavily after Diocletian when the Roman Empire ran short of gold to fund its purchases in what was mainly a one-way trade situation with China.

It would indeed be interesting to find "China goods" if ever excavations of Antioch's ruins can be revived.

With the waning of the Roman Empire and its demand for luxury goods there must have been a severe crimping of Antioch's role as a trade centre and as an industrial converter of raw materials from the East into products for the rest of the Empire. Such was the city's importance in its heyday that the traffic in camels must have been truly enormous through and around the city.