Friday, March 21, 2008


Justinian I (527-565 AD) renamed Antioch as Theopolis (City of God) in an attempt to curry divine favour and ward off further earthquakes. A fruitless effort indeed!

He also restored many of its public buildings after the great earthquakes of 526 and 528 AD, the destructive work of which was completed by the Persian king, Chosroes I, twelve years later. These tribulations (with plague thrown into the mix) had caused Antioch to lose as many as 300.000 people. Justinian made an effort to revive it, and Procopius describes his repairing of the walls (as quoted in the our section of the City Walls). He then expands upon Justinian's other construction activity in the city:

19 This, then, was what the Emperor Justinian accomplished concerning the circuit-wall of Antioch. He also rebuilt the whole city, which had been completely burned by the enemy. 20 For since everything was everywhere reduced to ashes and levelled to the ground, and since many mounds of ruins were all that was left standing of the burned city, it became impossible for the people of Antioch to recognise the site of each person's house, when first they carried out all the debris, and to clear out the remains of a burned house; and since there were no longer public stoas or colonnaded courts in existence anywhere, nor any market-place remaining, and since the side-streets no longer marked off the thoroughfares of the city, they did not any longer dare to build any house. 21 But the Emperor without any delay transported the debris as far as possible from the city, and thus freed the air and the ground of all encumbrances; then he first of all covered the cleared land of the city everywhere with stones each large enough to load a waggon. 22 Next he laid it out with stoas and market-places, and dividing all the blocks of houses by means of streets, and making water-channels and fountains and sewers,51 all those of which the city now boasts, he built theatres and baths for it, ornamenting it with all the other public buildings by means of which the prosperity of a city is wont to be shewn.52 He also, by bringing in a multitude of p173artisans and craftsmen, made it more easy and less laborious for the inhabitants to build their own houses. 23 Thus it was brought about that Antioch has become more splendid now than it formerly was. 24 Moreover, he built there a great Church to the Mother of God. The beauty of this, and its magnificence in every respect, it is impossible to describe; he also honoured it with an income of a very large sum. 25 Moreover, he built an immense Church for the Archangel Michael. He made provision likewise for the poor of the place who were suffering from maladies, providing buildings for them and all the means for the care and cure of their ailments, for men and women separately, and he made no less provision for strangers who might on occasion be staying in the city.

Procopius was of course at his obsequious best with phrases like "more splendid now than it formerly was" being very hard to believe. This was particularly poignant as the city had lost all the spectacular structures of the Island. No other accounts are so lavish in praising what must have been a much diminished and less intellectually and socially stimulating city drifting into a long period of religious orthodoxy and economic and political decline.

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