Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Basilica of Anatolius

Despite its dry sounding title, Downey's article on the differences in interpretation of the words "stoa" and "basilike" contains more than a few important and unique pieces of information on the basilicae (or stoas) of ancient Antioch.

The comments on those located at the Forum of Valens are included in our chapter on that subject. Here however, we would draw attention to a later period basilica and we quote:

" Another basilike at Antioch, which may likewise have contained an open court, is said by Malalas to have been built under Theodosius II by the magister utriusque militiae per Orientem, Anatolius, who is first found in office in 438. Of this building, Malalas says (360, 7-15)):

He (Theodosius) also built in Antioch the Great a large illuminated basilike (....) very seemly, opposite the so-called Athla, which the people of Antioch call that of Anatolius, because Anatolius the stratelates supervised the construction, receiving the money from the emperor when he was appointed by him stratelates of the East. And for this reason, when he finished this construction of the basilike he inscribed on it in gold mosaic the following "The work of the emperor Theodosius," as was fitting. Above were [ representations of] the two emperors, Theodosius and his kinsman Valentinian, who ruled in Rome."

This is the only mention I have seen of either this basilica and of the Athla. Downey adds that this basilica was damaged in the earthquake of 526 AD and Theodora rebuilt it sending columns from Constantinople for the task. As for the Athla, its role and location are somewhat murky. It means either prizes given in sporting contests (where the word athletics comes from) and these were generally a helmet or a military harness. Or it can mean some magical function as detailed in Marcus Manilius' Astronomica [c 10 - 20 AD.]. The Twelve Lots in classical astrology correspond to twelve areas of life. Manilius describes them as the various Labours of the Round of Time, and relates that the Greeks called them Athla. Neither of these definitions makes much sense in the context of a building but then we cast our minds back to the reports we have mentioned elsewhere of a domed structure with astronomical symbols inside (which may have been part of Museion complex) and we maybe have in the Athla a more possible name for this proto-planetarium.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know I'm reading and interested. I wonder if I could ask for some advice: I've been trying to place Downey's map as an overlay for Google Earth, but right now my best guess has the Charonion in the middle of a field. Do you have any tips on the location of the Parmenios or Phyrminus?

Antiochian said...

The Charonion is more towards the top end of the map on the north-eastern side of the city. I have used googlemaps also.. The Parmenios is visible. It has now been channelised in concrete and what's more run several hundred meters north of the course shown on Downey's map. The course of the river changed after the earthquake of 528 AD and may indeed have changed several times over the intervening millennia. The Phyrminos I have not looked into but it was formerly the southern border of the Turkish town when it was still small (i.e. pre-1960s).