Sunday, November 16, 2008

Street Layout in the "Old" Seleucid City

A very interesting source for the issue of the street layout is Antioche - Essai de Geographie Urbaine by the noted French geogrpaher Jacques Weulersse. This was written in 1934. While it might seem a quaint snapshot of the city at this point in history (the population was only 30,000 at the time), in fact, it contains a wealth of hints and data that cannot be found elsewhere (even in the works of the Committee for the Excavation who were prowling the locale at the same time). It almost seems that they didn't meet for some of Weulersse's observations would have sent me scurrying in a different direction than that of the Princeton crew.

Later sources chiefly refer back to Weulersse in reference to his observations on the layout of the blocks of the modern city that coincided with those of the ancient Hippodamian plan. However, we also note the interesting fact that the Dort Ayak district of the town is Turkish for "tetrapylon" and moreover there were ruins of this structure visible at the junction of the main road (overlaying the colonnaded street) and two of the side streets (the modern Dogu Souk and Kubilay Souk). No-one in the expedition mentions this fact. Then we wonder if these ruins were apparent to Weulersse, how was this possible if the original street level was supposedly so far underground?

In Weulersse there are a wealth of maps of the city in the 1930s. We reproduce below one that shows the "old" city from the bridge to the edge of the town sprawl on the northern (really north-eastern) side of the city. He clearly shows the continuance of the ancient street pattern in the top left corner of the map (click to enlarge).

The "extra-large" block that breaks the uniform pattern of the blocks is shown where the Cheykh Ali Mosque is sited. At the bottom the darkly outlined areas are the khans and souks of the commercial district.

As we have noted elsewhere the block sizes between the Island and the "mainland" part of the city vary. However, we note here that the block lengths differ by which side of the colonnaded street they are on. The blocks on the river side are shorter than those on the mountain side of the main street.

Taking the width of the most "original" block (that marked "Croquis 7") we can then project the blocks to the south (i.e. the right) of the oversized block. If we do this we find that one of the streets produced runs down in exact line with the old Roman bridge.

Then taking the length of the "shorter" blocks to the west of the colonnaded street (i.e. towards the bottom of the map) and adding another two blocks of exactly the same length we find that one of the north-south streets produced meets the street mentioned in the previous paragraph exactly at the bridge. Thus the reconstruction of the streets in the "old" city might look as shown in the plan below (click to enlarge).

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