Antioch on the Orontes (Greek: Αντιόχεια η επί Ορόντου; Latin: Antiochia ad Orontem) was one of the most important cities of the Graeco-roman period. The ancient city stood on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is currently partly covered by the modern city of Antakya.
It was founded in the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator. Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East and played a particularly strong role in the late Empire.
The Colonnaded Street was the most famous thoroughfare in the city. I have seen it referred to as the Plateia in some writings but whether that was its official name is not clear.The only other street which comes down to us in the Singon (Σινγων or Σιγγων). Where this lay is not clear.
Ernest Renan makes reference to it:
"The basilica called " Ancient " or " Apostolic " in the fourth century was situated in the so-called street of Singon, near the Pantheon. But where this Pantheon was we do not know. Tradition and certain vague analogies would suggest seeking the primitive Christian quarter in the direction of the gate which still retains the name of Paul, Bab Bolos, and at the foot of the mountain called by Procopius Stavrin, which bears the south-eastern flank of the ramparts of Antioch. It was one of the parts of the town least rich in pagan monuments. The remains of ancient sanctuaries dedicated to St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John are still to be seen here".
He draws an inference that the Singon must have been in the far north of the city, but I would doubt that the Pantheon would have been that far from the city center. He obtains this reference to the Singon from Malalas.I have seen vague mentions of this street before, one seeming to indicate that it ran parallel to the Colonnaded Street, one block distant. Whether it was on the "highside" or the "lowside" of the main street is not clear.
Edmund Thomas in his essay in the book "Pantheons" states that the only evidence for a Pantheon earlier than that of Agrippa in Rome was that in Antioch. He says that said building was rebuilt by Julius Caesar. He dates Malalas' observation (Chronicle 242, v.11) that Paul and Barnabas gave sermons on the street called Singon to events in 40 AD. He goes on to speculate that the street's name may have been Siagon (Σιαγων or "jawbone").
Jack Finegan in his Archaeology of the New Testament says that Siagon derives from the Slavonic version of Malalas and that the "jawbone" may be a reference to the street's shape. This would be the first non-straight street in ancient Antioch that we have heard of, but it could be the case on the mountain slopes where there may have been a break in the rigid Hippodamian street layout. Though anyone who has visited the ruins of Priene will know that the Greeks did not let mere topography stand in the way of a rigid application of the rule.
We have noted elsewhere George Haddad's very thorough and enlightening thesis at the University of Chicago in 1948. This took as its subject the social life and population composition of the ancient city.
As many have noted, Antioch was regarded as a place of dubious morals and multiple temptations to the weak of will. One of the most startling comments from ancient times on the corrosive nature of the Antioch laisser faire style was made by the Roman orator (and tutor to two emperors, Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Pius), M. Cornelii Frontonis, commonly know as Fronto. He left a collection of letters which can be found at this interesting site. Fronto happened to visit Antioch and made the following comments of the army in Antioch in a rhetorical outburst to his onetime pupil, Marcus Aurelius:
"The army when you took it in hand was sunk in luxury and revelry, and corrupted with long inactivity. At Antiochia the soldiers had been wont to applaud at the stage plays, knew more of the gardens at the nearest restaurant than of the battlefield. Horses were hairy from lack of grooming, horsemen smooth because their hairs had been pulled out by the roots ; a rare thing it was to see a soldier with hair on arm or leg. Moreover, they were better drest than armed ; so much so, that Laelianus Pontius, a strict man of the old discipline, broke the cuirasses of some of them with his finger-tips, and observed cushions on the horses' backs. At his direction the tufts were cut through, and out of the horsemen's saddles came what appeared to be feathers pluckt from geese. Few of the men could vault on horseback, the rest clambered up with difficulty by aid of heel and knee and leg ; not many could throw a lance hurtling, most did it without force or power, as though they were things of wool. Dicing was common in the camp, sleep lasted all night, or if they kept watch it was over the winecup. By what regulations to restrain such soldiers as these, and to turn them to honesty and industry, did you not learn from Hannibal's sternness, the discipline of Africanus, the acts of Metellus recorded in history ?"
Soldiers will be soldiers but the plucked hairs add further evidence of the triumph of the beautician's art as practiced in the Capital of the Roman East! Clearly it was not only those devious mimes of which one needed to be wary.
Not much focus is given to the suburbs of Antioch. We have mentioned elsewhere the Fuller's Canal which was on the other side of the river from the city. This seemed to include an industrial zone. Libanius makes reference to the suburbs that can be seen from the palace looking across the river. There is a reference though in Procopius De Aedificiis, lib v, cap.5.
"Via, quae ex urbe Antiochia, iam dicta Theopoli, in Cilîciam ducit, adiacet suburbano, cui nomen Platanon".This makes reference to the suburb across the main bridge being called Platanôn.
We have not seen this fact mentioned anywhere else. No effort has been made to excavate this area. Neither is this one of the areas with a ban of development, as theoretically exists on the Right Bank.
Ernest Renan in the work "The Apostles" makes the following statement while speaking of the ethnic mix at Antioch:
"Besides the Greek population, in fact, which was nowhere in the East (if Alexandria be excepted) so dense as here, Antioch still counted a considerable number of Syrian natives, speaking Syriac. These natives constituted a low class, inhabiting the suburbs of the great city and the populous villages which formed .a vast urban area around it— Charandama, Ghisira, Gandigura, and Apate (Syriac names for the most part)".
Whether these are the names of the suburbs or the villages is not clear and where he sourced this information is not given.
Förster makes reference to a water reservoir and the Wilber/Downey shows it on his map. However, the map shows both a reservoir and an amphitheater in the same general vicinity. To our knowledge there are no remnants of either these days.
At least one of these structures still existed in 1898 when Förster visited the site. He makes the following reference to it in a footnote:
"Ein solches Wasserreservoir erkenne ich auch in der am Fusse der jetzigen Burgruine gelegnen Mulde von amphitheatralischer Form (Durchmesser: 70 Schritt), deren Umfassungsmauer aus Bruchsteinen mit einer Zwischenlage von Ziegeln besteht".
He goes on to quote Procopius in De Aedificiis:
"αλλα χαι βαλανεια χαι υδάτων ταμιεια εν τοις δρεσι πεποιηται τούτου του τειζουζ εντός"
And then notes that in Guidi's translation of the Vatican Arabic Manuscript (which he insists on terming Zeineddini) : "... nel monte di essa citta evvi una casa (serbatoio) di acqua, chiamato in lingua greca b. lût. sa (Balaneion?) e 'acqua ne scatusice da una rupe dura; chi si bagna in essaai 21 di Adar (Marzo), gli e giovenole, lo guarisce da elefantiasi e lebbra col permesso di Dio altissimo".
One can't think much of ancient hygeine (who does?) to find the victims of elephantiasis and leprosy bathing in the town reservoir as a "cure"!
Forster goes on to cite Malalas on the theme of this structure:"Theodosios hatte die von Caesar für das öffentliche Bad hier angelegte Wasserleitung abgebrochen".
He cites Pococke and Poujoulat's works as positing:"...berichten von einer Sage, dass die römischen Kaiser sich in diesem Bassin mit Kahnfahren vergnügt hätten."
Then Chesney claiming the site was:"...traditionally connected with the Pagan immolations to Jupiter".
Ritter in Erdkunde is mentioned as saying:"..hat daraus --ein Felsenamphitheater con 90 Fuss im Durchmesser, das die Sage einen Opfernplatz des Jupiter nannte-- gemacht und es in der Nahe des Charonion gesetzt".
The demise of the amphitheatre (Monomachio) is intriguing because Malalas speaks of it being demolished to build the Theodosian Walls: "Murum vero novum perduxerunt etiam ad Phurminum, quod vocant, fluentum, ex montis cavernis emanans; comportatis eo lapidibus ex Monomachio veteri, quod superius ad Acropolim stetit. Dirutus est etiam, quem Julius Caesar extruxerat, Aquaeductus, aquas ex via Laodicena ad Acropolim deferens, ad Ваlneum aquis supplendum, quod ad montem extruxerat, in usum Acropolitarum , qui sedes ibi olim posuerant, reliquique fuerunt ex eis, quos Nicator Seleucus, in planiciem deductos, adhortatus est, uti sedes, ubi et ipse ponentes, urbem a se conditam, Ântiochîam magnam incolerent".If this was demolished in Theodosius' time then what were the later travellers looking at?
All this information is typical of the garbled historical accounts. Wilber/Downey has the amphitheater way over near the Southern wall, the Charonion is on the north side on the city. The sacrificial place for Jupiter we have heard spoken of before as being near the Temple of Zeus Keraunios. This was in Iopolis (one of the "four cities" within Antioch) and presumably also near the Southern wall.
Was this a reservoir, an amphitheater (as was so common in Roman cities for gladiatorial combats) or a naumachia (a place for mock naval battles)? Antioch surely had an amphitheatre, but why should it have been perched on the side of the mountain? That is not traditional in Roman city building. Usually the amphitheatre was on the level terrain, frequently outside the city walls. We can see why it could be either a reservoir (serving double duty as a naumachia) due to the constant flow of water along the aqueducts arriving in the city from Daphne.
The so-called Charonion is a carved stone bust on the mountainside towards the Beroea Gate. It faces north and looks out over the city and river. We use the word "so-called" because the linkage to Charon, the god of the underworld, is mistaken.
The limestone carving in the rock is 4 1/2 metres high and wears a veil which comes down over the forehead and goes back over the crown and then hangs down on both sides of the face. For Forster the fact that it is beardless, and looks womanly, mitigates against it being a male god, particularly Charon.
On its right shoulder stands a (badly-weathered) smaller draped figure which appears to wear a calathus, a lily-shaped basket of a type carried in processions in honor of Demeter. Although most of its current battered state is due to damage,some posit that the bust was never finished. Forster in 1898 visited the sculpture and reported that its ears, nose and mouth were destroyed.
Chesney in his Expedition for the Survey of the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris reports seeing "in the vicinity (of St John) a colossal head, probably that of a Sphinx: also a full length Egyptian figure, both in bold relief, cut in the solid rock evidently at a very remote period". Ainsworth, another visitor in the mid-1800s refers to the carving as a Sphinx, maybe taking his lead from Chesney (or vice versa). Clearly the carving does not look like a sphinx, but it was more buried at the time (being fully uncovered by the Princeton team only in the 1930s) and they were not aware of what the full carving looked like.
According to Malalas, the figure was carved in an attempt to ward off a plague afflicting Antioch. After many people had perished from the illness, a seer named Leios commanded that a great "mask" be carved out of the mountain overlooking the city, "and inscribing something on it he put an end to the pestilential death. This mask the people of Antioch call the Charonion." How quickly such a "talisman" could be whipped up even by a team of sculptors is unclear.
No inscription is visible on the present sculpture, but it may well have been lost, as noted the face of the bust has been badly damaged and a portion of the chest is missing. It is difficult to determine whether the bulk of the damage is due to any purposeful destruction (iconoclastic perpetrators of Christian or Islamic persuasions) or simply to 2500 years of weathering.
The name Charonion may indicate that the carving was intended to represent a deity of the underworld who needed to be appeased to bring to an end the plague that had sent so many souls to Charon.
Guidi's translation of the "Arabic Description" relates "Al di fuori delle muri e un luogo chiamato Templo di Marte e sopra evvi una pietra scolpita che e un idolo chiamato La piangente". This implies that the figure was probably more identifiably female at the time of that author's writing between 600-1000 A.D.
Downey in his piece References to Inscriptions in the Chronicle of Malalas in the Proceedings of the American Philological Association (1935) comments:
"The use of a literary source is probably indicated also in Malalas's reference to the inscription on the Charonion, a bust carved on the side of the mountain overlooking Antioch. The diviner Laius had this relief made, in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, in order to put an end to a plague which was raging in the city. Malalas states that Laius placed an inscription on the monument, but does not quote it (205.12):
During the first campaign of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity, in 1932, the Charonion was cleared and studied by Professor G. W. Elderkin. No trace of an inscription was found on the monument itself, in the vicinity,or in the debris which had accumulated beneath the relief".
Perdrizet & Fossey's volume describes and illustrates rock sculptures near Antioch, unnoticed in the guide-books, though mentioned by both Chesney and Renan (C. R. Acad. Insc. 1865, p. 308), whose description is given in full. One of these sculptures is a colossal head covered probably by a Phrygian cap, but with the bust undraped. It is very badly mutilated, and Renan thought it draped. The other is a standing figure, also colossal, but not so large as the head, and apparently leaning on a lance, thyrsus, or inverted torch. Renan referred the head to a colossal Charon, said to have been carved in the rocks above Antioch to check a plague. It has been pointed out by several commentators that Charon cannot be beardless, that the two figures must belong together, that they are in a necropolis, and hence prefer to see in them Mithras attended by Attis. They prefer to explain the story in Malalas and Tzetzes as a popular legend, which had grown up after the passing of the old Greek or Asiatic mythology.
Our correspondent in Antakya, Jorgen Christensen-Ernst was prompted to comment:
"By the way, I read Malalas' explanation on Kharonion. It sounds like a "myth of origin" to me. Maybe the thing had a name that was close to Kharon. People in this corner tend to do things like that with names, some still believing in the basic magic that similarity equals identity.
I must say though that the immediate impression you get when you see the thing is that it is a man. Head covering is a matter of culture and that may have changed since it was made thus opening the way for "aberrant decoding" - to use Umberto Eco's term".
Whatever the original purpose of thec arving, it remains one of the few extant remnants of the ancient city and a chief claim to fame of Antakya to lure tourists.
Tom Elliot also led me to the Packer Humanities Institute Greek Inscription data base.. not so many Antioch references though. I found only these...However the search function was poor so discovery is by serendipity or sheer persistence in opening every link in the relevant province (i.e Syria).
I was kindly sent in the direction of two more databases of inscriptions by Tom Elliott. One of these was the Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby. A search under Antiochia ad Orontemthrew up the following 62 inscriptions. Some are a mere word, or pair of words, (even just one letter) but all is grist to the mill in helping to ultimately disprove Mommsen's, alas all too accurate, summing up of the dearth of Antiochene inscriptions. Some day he may be superseded but, 110 years on, he still holds true. Several of the longer inscriptions also feature in the Heidelberg Database. The "Cossutius" inscription is familiar as that inscribed on the aqueduct which inspired the 1930s team to name the aqueduct after him.
I stumbled on a new source, a database of Epigraphy at Heidelberg University. A search under Antiochia yielded the following eight inscriptions. Only one is given a site (the first being found at the Hippodrome).
D. van Berchem, MH 40, 1983, 185-196; pl. 1. (AB) - AE 1983.
D. van Berchem, BJ 185, 1985, 85-87. (C) - AE 1983.
Imp(erator) / Vespasianus Caesar / Augustus pontif(ex) max(imus) / trib(unicia) pot(estate) VI imp(erator) XII p(ater) p(atriae) co(n)s(ul) VI / desig(natus) VII censor / Imp(erator) Titus Caesar Augusti f(ilius) / pontif(ex) max(imus) trib(unicia) pot(estate) IV / [co(n)s(ul) II]II desig(natus) V censor / [[Domitianus]] Caesar / Augusti f(ilius) co(n)s(ul) III / M(arco) Ulpio Traiano leg(ato) / Aug(usti) pro pr(aetore) Dipotamiae / fluminis ductum millia(!) / passus tria cum pontibus / [pe]r milites legionum IIII / [III Gal]l(icae) IV Scyt(hicae) VI ferr(atae) XVI Flaviae / [ite]m cohortium XX / [item?] Antiochensium / [facien]da(?) curaverunt / m(ille) p(assus) I
Whilst cruising around new sources I discovered that the famous manuscript library of the St Gallen monastery in Switzerland is in the process of digitisation.
Tempting the fates, I searched for Antiochia and, lo and behold, found a document from 1465 with references to the city. Moreover, I discovered a fairly stunning image of the city. The document concerned is described thus:
Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 658
Beat Matthias von Scarpatetti, Die Handschriften der Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen, Bd. 1: Abt. IV: Codices 547-669: Hagiographica, Historica, Geographica, 8.-18. Jahrhundert, Wiesbaden 2003, S. 301-303.
The image is on page 131 and like most medieval representations is somewhat fanciful and pretty much unhelpful, but it is so clear and colourful that I can't resist putting it up for general consumption amongst Antiochophiles. The indexers title it as "Darstellung der Stadt Antiochia".
The fate of Germanicus has been oft aired elsewhere, most famously in the I, Claudius series from the BBC. However, he remains one of the most famous Romans to have expired in the city.
Germanicus Julius Caesar Claudianus (24 May 16 BC or 15 BC–October 10, 19) was born in Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyon) and was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. At birth he was named either Nero Claudius Drusus after his father or Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle and received the agnomen Germanicus, by which he is principally known, in 9 BC, when it was awarded to his father in honour of his victories in Germania. He was the father of the Caligula, brother of Claudius and the maternal grandfather of Nero.
He had an illustrious military career, particularly in subduing rebellious tribes in Germania. Germanicus was then sent to Asia, where in A.D .18 he defeated the kingdoms of Cappadocia and Commagene, turning them into Roman provinces. During a sightseeing trip to Egypt (not a regular province, but the personal property of the Emperor) he seems to have unwittingly usurped several imperial prerogatives. The following year he found that the governor of Syria, Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, had cancelled the provincial arrangements that he had made. Germanicus in turn ordered Piso's recall to Rome, although this action was probably beyond his authority. However, it was generally thought to be more than sour grapes on Piso's part but a clandestine action by Tiberius to rid himself of a rival held in much higher esteem by the populace, and more importantly the army.
Tacitus relates on the demise of Germanicus:
"Meanwhile Germanicus, returning from Egypt, found that all his dispositions, whether civil or military, had been cancelled or reversed. For this he severely rebuked Piso; Piso retorted with equal acrimony. Piso then resolved to quit the province; but Germanicus taking ill, he waited on. News came that Germanicus had recovered : whereupon, as the people of Antioch were paying the vows offered for his restoration to health, Piso made his lictors drive away the victims, break up the sacrificial preparations, and disperse the mob in the midst of its rejoicings.
He then went down to Seleucia to await the issue of the malady, which had come on once more, and was aggravated by a conviction in the mind of suspicious Germanicus that he had been poisoned by Piso. Remains of disinterred human bodies had been found beneath the floor and in the walls of the house, together with spells and magical formulae; leaden tablets with the name of Germanicus inscribed upon them; charred and blood-stained human ashes, and other baneful substances by which people believe that souls may be devoted to the Gods below.
Piso was accused also of sending messengers to spy out unfavourable symptoms in the case. This roused the fears, not less than the indignation of Germanicus. If his threshold were to be beset; if he had to draw his last breath under the eyes of his enemies: - what would become of his unhappy wife and his infant children? Poisoning, it would seem, was too slow a process; Piso was in hot haste to be in sole command ofthe Province and the legions. But Germanicus had not yet sunk so low; nor would the murderer reap the recompense of his crime.
With that he wrote a letter renouncing Piso's friendship; many add that he ordered him out of the province. Piso set sail without further delay; but he proceeded slowly, that he might have the less distance to return in case the death of Germanicus should open up Syria to him.
For a moment Germanicus rallied, and hope revived; but his strength again failed, and as his end drew nigh, he thus addressed the friends who stood beside him :— If I were paying my debt to Nature, I might deem that I had a grievance even against the Gods for snatching me thus, so young, and before my time, from my parents, my children and my country ; but now that my days have been cut short by the guilty hands of Piso and Plancina, I leave my last prayers with you. Tell my father and my brother what cruel wrongs I have endured, by what artifices I have been beset: how I have ended a miserable life by a most unhappy death. Those who have shared my hopes those who are near to me in blood nay, even those who have envied me in life will weep that one who had known such high fortunes, and had come safe through so many wars, should have perished by the treachery of a woman. It will be for you to lay complaint before the Senate, and invoke the law: for it is the first duty of a friend, not to follow the dead with idle lamentations to the grave, but to remember what he desired, to execute what he enjoined. Men who knew not Germanicus will lament him; but if it was himself, rather than his fortunes, that you loved, you will avenge him. Sheiv to the people of Rome my wife, grand-daughter of the Divine Augustus; count over to them our six children. Men's pity will be with the accusers; and, if the accused plead that they were bidden to do the foul deed, none will believe, or, if they believe, forgive.
The friends swore, as they touched the dying man's right hand, that they would give up life sooner than revenge. Germanicus then turned to his wife. He implored and last her by the love she bore him, and for their children's his wife, sake, to tame her high spirit, to bow beneath the stroke of fortune, and when she returned to Rome, not to anger those more powerful than herself by entering into rivalry with them. This he said openly ; he kept more for her private ear, bidding her beware, it was supposed, of Tiberius. Soon after that, he breathed his last, amid the profound sorrow of the Province and the surrounding peoples. Foreign nations also, and their kings, bewailed him ; so genial was he to friends, so courteous to foes. His looks and his speech alike commanded respect; his manners had no arrogance, and provoked no ill-will; yet they had all the dignity and distinction which befitted his high estate.
No procession of images graced his funeral; but it was signalised by encomiums on his virtues. Some character compared him to Alexander the Great, because of his beauty, the age at which he died, the manner, nay, even the place, of his death, near to that where Alexander died. Both were handsome and high-born ; both died soon after attaining the age of thirty, by the treachery of their own people, and in a foreign land. But Germanicus was kindly to his friends, and moderate in his enjoyments; he had lived with but one wife, and had none but lawful children. And he was as great a warrior as Alexander, without his rashness: although he had been debarred, after striking down Germany by his victories, from completing the subjection of that country. Had he been the sole arbiter of events, had he held the powers and the title of King, he would have outstripped Alexander in military fame as far as he surpassed him in gentleness, in self-command, and in all other noble qualities.
The body, before being buried, was exposed to view in the Forum of Antioch, the place appointed for the sepulture; but whether it exhibited signs of poisoning or not, is uncertain. For according as men were inclined towards Germanicus by compassion and preconceived suspicion, or towards Piso by friendship, they arrived at opposite conclusions".
A correction is needed first that he was not buried at Antioch, he was cremated in the Forum and then his ashes carried off to Rome by his widow.
The interesting thing about Germanicus' demise was the reappearance of that recurrent Antiochene theme of the curse tablets and the dark magic arts, for which the city had a particularly strong reputation. Poison was not a local specialty, but clearly the collaborators of Piso were no slouches at those concotions either.
Tacitus also notes further along that:
"A sepulchre was raised at Antioch, where he had been burned, and a tribunal at Epidaphna, where he died".
"cum inscriptione rerum gestarum ac mortem ob rem publicam obisse, sepulchrum Antiochiae, ubi crematus, tribunal Epidaphnae, quo in loco vitam finierat".
What does this latter statement imply? Was there a significant monument to Germanicus in the city? Presumably this was more than a mere statue for no Roman city lacked those and it would scarcely be meritorious of mention. Was this in the Forum where the burning had taken place? Interestingly, the second comment on the tribunal (a rostra?) would suggest that Germanicus was dwelling at Daphne or thereabouts and not in one of the city palaces when he expired.
There were several theatres in Antioch with only the largest one in the city and that at Daphne having been located.Mary Sturgeon notes in her piece, that:
"...the theater at Antioch in Syria, originally arranged for by Caesar, was completed by Agrippa, then renovated by Tiberius, and later by Trajan after the earthquake of 114/115 AD, according to Malalas. Trajan put a statue of the Tyche of Antioch above the four columns of the "nymphaeum" of the theater, where Malalas' term "nymphaeum" seems to refer to the deep hemicycle of the porta regia."
However, Norris differs on this in that the statue was one of Calliope, seated like Tyche on the platform of Mt Silpius and with a depiction of the Orontes (the swimming youth). However the statue lacked the traditional turreted crown headdress of Tyche. Instead this theatre statue was being crowned by Seleucus and Antiochus. Both Julian and Libanius mention this statue as still extant in the 4th century. Norris also says it is not clear that Trajan built a new Nymphaeum (is this a catch-all term for a large fountain?) or maybe he just completed one already associated with the theatre.
This main theatre had some cursory examination in the days of the Princeton excavations but didn't get much more attention with the focus being on as yet unfound things.
It also features prominently in history as the place where the pleasure loving Antiochenes were enjoying a performance when Persians arrows started raining down upon them at the beginning of an attack. This story of such a "surprise" attack in such force has always struck me as rather fantastical.
The observer, Ammianus Marcellinus XXIII 5,3 relates "cum Antiochiae in alto silencio scaenicis ludis mimus cum uxore immiissus e medio sumpta quaedam imitaretur, populo venustate attonito coniunx "nisi somnus est", inquit "en Persae" et retortis plebs universa cervicibus exacervantia in se tela declinas spargitur passim".
It is very hard to believe that 10,000 or so gathered in the theatre represented anything more than a mere fraction of the population of the city and that the Persians can have come all the way down the valley, with an army, through well-transited and relatively densely populated areas to position themselves above the theatre with nobody having noticed...
Shown above is a photo taken in the 1930s of what Leblanc & Poccardi believe is one of the city's theatres on the slopes of the Silpius. Unfortunately this masonry group no longer exists today. It was located to the north-east of a semi-circular plaza in the Sofilar Arab quarter.
Above is a map that Leblanc & Poccardi produced on their conjectured site for the theatre by using aerial photographs from the 1920s and 1930s. They note that while large, the theatre (at letter T) is by no means the largest in Syria. This may help support the view that Antioch possessed a variety of theatres, rather than one exceptionally large theatre.
Libanius in his Oration X (On the Plethron) alludes to the existence of theatres, one dedicated to Jupiter and one to Dionysius.
In July 2006, the Bryn Mawr Classical Review carried a review of Le statut de l'acteur dans l'Antiquité grecque et romaine, edited by Christophe Hugoniot, Frederic Hurlet and Silvia Milanezi. Within the book was a chapter, in which Emmanuel Soler looked at fourth century Antioch, titled "Les acteurs d'Antioche et les excès de la cité au IVe s. ap. J.-C." The reviewer, John Jory, commented: "He first considers the hierarchy of the performers and finds that pantomimes were the 'aristocracy' followed by mimes and then actors of comedy and tragedy. Naturally pantomimes were also the wealthiest and therefore could employ the largest claques, among them even sophists. Their looks also empowered them and this leads to an investigation of the relationship between actors and prostitutes. While it was claimed that theatrical performances were licentious, Libanius defends the pantomimes and compares them favourably with dancers of the cordax, a performance which Julian singles out for an attack on the theatre at Antioch. Chrysostom is primarily concerned with the nudity of female mimes, whom he calls prostitutes, reflecting a common view of pantomimes also. According to both Chrysostom and Julian the mimesis essential to the performances corrupted the spectators as did even the songs sung by the various choruses. Finally Soler considers the links between actors and social, political and religious tensions within the city. Julian found himself impotent against the popularity of the theatre, and he forbade priests to attend performances or invite actors to their dwellings. Yet in exceptional circumstances he expelled a group of Phoenician performers from the city. Libanius demonstrates how governors were influenced by the theatrical claque and indulged it in return for their acclamation. Support of theatrical performers in the face of threats to leave was a constant drain on the resources of the city and its councillors and brought tensions between them. None the less, despite the attitude of the Christian Church, the theatre was indispensable for any city of the status of Antioch".