Monday, March 31, 2008

The Street Layout

It would be best to say that the layout of Antioch is Hippodamian "with a twist". In fact a number of "twists" or changes in direction.

It was long known that Antioch employed the classic Hippodamian grid. The explorations of the 1930s showed that the grid had a kink in it where it slightly altered course once it crossed the Parmenios. The colonnaded street's course veered slightly more towards the east.
The grid was on a per strigas basis with the narrow ends of the blocks facing the main street with the long sides facing the side streets. This means that there would have been a very large number of junctions along the colonnaded street.

Explorations at the Island, showed that the orientation there was totally different from the main section of the city. The new orientation there was signalled by the various baths, the "temple" and the hippodrome's positioning. Thus Downey and Wilber came up with their map showing the novel layout of the "new" town on the Island.

The research of Poccardi has thrown this latter assumption into question. He doesn't doubt the totally variant layout of the Island but he goes back to the aerial photos of the 1930s and notes that the still unexplored northern end of the Island would seem to have a street pattern more in line with that of the rest of the city.

This may suggest that originally the Island's layout was as one with the rest of the city and that a major urban renewal associated with the construction of the more grandiose civic infrastructure of the Island prompted a wholesale reorientation of the bulk of the Island in a Haussmannesque gesture.

Lassus points out in his Portiques study that the current street plan of 1930s (plus some of the layout of farms to the north) gives a clear idea of the block size of the city. After 2,000 years and with 11 metres of overburden, the street pattern of the village of Antakya still largely clung to the layout put in place in the days of the city's founders. These blocks were very sizable at 166m x 58m. Poccardi posits that the blocks on the Island (by utilising the "temple" as a form of measuring stick) were around 107m x 35.5m.

Assuming the side streets were nine metres wide, then the number of blocks along the colonnaded street would have been around fifty by our calculations. However, we came to examine in detail the map that Lassus provides in Portiques of Antakya in the 1930s. While almost all the blocks are equal (where they correspond to the ancient streets and even where a street is "missing"), there is one block, between Meydan Cd and Çarşı Cd (in the current street names) that is 50% wider than the normal blocks. This extra width is shown on both sides of the colonnaded street posibly indicating a different function in this block that necessitated a change in the block width (possibly an agora as the Bouleterion was thought to be around here). This might signal an interesting target to dig.

Poccardi's study also debunks the classical Downey layout of the Island and the case is very well argued. Overlaying the Downey map on the aerial photographs shows that the Downey orientation is just not correct and doesn't fit the physical evidence. The implications of this are to shift the main avenues, the tetrapylon and probably even the Imperial palace from where Downey/Wilber put them.

To prove Poccardi's point might be relatively easy with some minimal excavations.

Above is the Downey-inspired map through a few other iterations (it was used for the Antioch - The Lost Ancient City exhibition). As can be noted there are nowhere near fifty blocks shown along the length of the street.


marciocha said...

what do you know about porticoes from forum of Valens to the island, and on the island? When they were built? Tiberius, Trajan? their size? how do we know? only Libanios?

Bones said...

Thank you for your excellent research on Antioch, and that you have collected so many original pieces and sources to document the history of Antioch.