Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Dog Gate Excavations

In the excavation season of 1934 some attention was turned to the so-called Dog Gate (Porte du Chien) which had figured so prominently in the campaigns of the Crusaders to capture the city in 1098. The Dog Gate has been placed in some map versions reconstructing the street layout as the point at which the street running the length of the East side of the circus reaches the branch of the Orontes and then turns to meet the different orientation of the Hippodamian grid on the south-east side of the river.

We have discussed some aspects of this gate elsewhere but some more elucidation is now possible. The report from the season of that year in Volume I of the series Antioch-on-the-Orontes gives a scant paragraph to these efforts even though they went on for month at least:

"Other investigations carried on at Antioch included an excavation lasting about a month in the sector Antioch 12-N where, at an angle of the wall of Justinian, local tradition placed a gateway, known as Bab-El-Kelb, from the figure of a dog (?) carved on the stonework. During the past century the superstructure of the gate has been entirely removed by pilferers of stone, but the excavations revealed the fact that in antiquity there was, actually, a gate at this point."     

The recent release of the Princeton Photo Archives allows us to now see the images taken at the site during this work. Unfortunately the images are very small, without a click to enlarge component. However we have downloaded the thumbnails and readers can blow them up as best they can to see detail.


Porphyry columns under Byzantine level.

General view of the basalt pavement outside the city wall.

Detail of the basalt pavement outside the city wall.

Basalt pavement inside and outside the city gate.

Limestone staircase and pavement inside the city wall.

Limestone staircase, pavement and wall.

City wall and rough pavement.

Cement level under basalt pavement.

Detail of wall under late staircase.

Foundation of Justinian wall and more ancient walls.

View of trench west of basalt pavement showing retaining walls, pavement and pipes

View of trench west of basalt pavement showing foundation of cement pavement and walls.

West trench with brick walls.

West trench with brick walls.

General view of excavations in the West Trench.

Detail of brick walk in the West Trench

View of brick wall with big niche in the West Trench.

View of brick wall with big niche in the West Trench.

Trench following the remains of the ancient wall.

Marble entablature.

Marble entablature.

Also we might note that this extensive excavation effort was never written up with more than the scant comment above and so thus we would strongly suspect that the excavation notes/plans moulder away unpublished in some box in the basement at Princeton to this day. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Life After Baibars - A Sultan's Progress

Usually we try to avoid the more "recent" aspects of Antioch's history, but the city's relevance is popularly believed to have ended with the destruction wrought by Sultan Baibars in 1268.

I have stumbled upon an interesting text relating a progress made around his domains by the Sultan Qa'itbay in the mid-14th century. This translation and commentary was written by Henriette Devonshire in the Bulletin de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale in 1922.  BIFAO 20 (1922), p. 1-43 : "[al-qawl al-mustazraf fî safar mawlânâ al-malik al-Ashraf.] Relation d'un voyage du sultan Qâitbây en Palestine et en Syrie".

Qa'itbay was the Sultan of Egypt from 872-901 A.H. (AD 1468-1496).  He toured around the northern extremities of his domains that stretched as far as Antioch and Aleppo. After heading up the coast as far as Latakia, he headed inland to Antakiya. While Antioch is only briefly mentioned it does give some colour from a period where there are virtually no texts. 

"Nous trouvâmes dans cette ville d'immenses et solides constructions; les murs enormes et garnis de tours vont de haut de la montagne jusqu'a l'embouchure de la riviere, de sorte que la ville entiere avec ses cultures, ses champs, ses proprietes et sa riviere se trouve a l'interieur des murailles. La ville meme contient sept collines sur une desquelles se trouve une citadelle; la longeur des murs est de 12 milles; les tours sont au nombre de 136 et les creneaux de 24,000. Antakiya fut conquise par El Malik ez Zahir Beibars; elle contient beaucoup de boutiques, des marches, et la population en est nombreuse. Mais ce sont Turcomans peu civilises et leurs maisons ont des pignons dont les toits en pente sont de bois recouvert de fascines de chaume que l'on appelle bourda. C'est la que se trouve le Sanctuaire de Sidi Djib en Nadjdjar - que Dieu nous soit propice par ses vertus! - situe entre deux larges collines a pentes douces."

The report tells us what we already knew, that of all things, the walls and fortress of Antioch survived far longer than the structures of the graeco-roman city. However, it seems here that some 200 years after Baibars destruction of the city, the place was fairly lively with an active commercial life. This must be taken in context that what looked like a thriving city in the mid-1400s was all relative when many great cities had shrunk to small towns and so any conurbation of more than 10,000 people looked like a metropolis.   

The city had clearly become mainly Turkish by this point and that population lived in structures which struck the author for their flimsiness and their thatched roofs which were not common in urban settings in the Middle East at that time. 

The seven hills are mentioned for the first time we have heard. We cannot imagine what these are. It is notable though because both Rome and Constantinople had their "seven hills" and Qa'itbay did not come from that tradition of giving import to this topographical distinction.  

A river "inside the walls" is mentioned, presumably the Parmenios. We have what I think is the first mention I have found of the Najjar mosque.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Porphyrius and His Mob

The circus factions were as lively in Antioch as the other major cities of the Empire and in some ways Antioch was closer to Constantinople in suffering from fans of the Blues and Greens that went the extra mile in lootings, riotous behaviour and creating mayhem. They were the soccer hooligans of their day and more, bringing down governments and burning large parts of the cities went their enthusiasms got the better of them. 

Mostly they were led by individuals with a penchant for political maneuvering and the factions were the instruments of their wielding of power. These were not typically actual participants in the sport. However there are a few examples of chariot drivers becoming initiators in a fracas. Once such was a driver in the 6th century called Porphyrius, who was supposedly born in Africa (Libya), but was reared in Constantinople, where he began racing with the Blue faction while still very young but then changed to the Greens under the emperor Anastasius and back to the Blues under Justin I.

He continued to race even into his sixties and seems to have adopted Calliopas as his name later in life. As the epigrams proclaim, he was the first charioteer to have his statues erected in the Hippodrome while still competing and the first to have a statue (indeed, at least two) from each faction. Malalas records for the year AD 507 that Kalliopas (Calliopas, the name by which Porphyrius is addressed in five of the epigrams), "an ex-factionarius [the most senior charioteer who drove for either the Blues or Greens] from Constantinople....took over the stable of the Green faction, which was vacant, and was completely victorious".

The interesting thing from our point of view is that like an early version of Beckham he toured the known world exercising his charioteering skills and even led an attack on the Jewish synagogue in Antioch in AD 507. "They set fire to it, plundered everything that was in the synagogue and massacred many people," setting up a cross there and turning the site into a martyrium (Chronicle, XVI.6). Whether this was on instructions from a higher power or not is not recorded. 

However, Porphyrius was clearly partisan to the "powers that were" for in a fragment, Malalas also relates that Porphyrius helped rally support for the Emperor Anastasius during the revolt of Vitalian in AD 515 (cf. Epigram 350, where the emperor, "with the Greens to assist him, warred with the furiously raging enemy of the throne"). In appreciation, Anastasius, who, himself, favored the Reds, restored the privileges of the Greens and permitted them to erect a new statue of Porphyrius.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Princeton Antioch Photo Archive

The Princeton-led expedition to excavate Antioch in the 1930s produced a trove of photographs, the vast bulk of which have never been seen in public. Even sifting through the works that have been published over the decades since there is only a minute fraction of the total number. Sometime back we discovered that there is a catalogue of these photos which is available online here:

http://winscript.princeton.edu/rp/RPAntioch.php

We have engaged in some correspondence on the theme with Trudy Jacoby, the director of the Visual Resources Collection of the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton. Here are her comments on the progress they are making in bringing this material within access of Antioch scholars around the world:
"...the Antioch dig photographs are part of the Research Photographs Collection in the Department of Art and Archaeology. There are over 5,000 photographs and all of them have already been digitized....We will be adding thumbnails to the catalog listing in the future."

It is estimated that some of these thumbnails will start to appear in 2009. We shall highlight the fact when they start appearing. We have noted from perusing the list that there are many photos of some of the lesser digs that were undertaken which were never written up in the official five-volume report on the work of the Committee for the Excavation. Particularly exciting for us is the work at the Bridge Gate and the exploration around the Bab el-Kelb (the Porta Canis) from which we have never encountered any photographic record anywhere.

Quite literally.. watch this space...