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.