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.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Daphne - Poccardi's Map
Friday, January 7, 2011
Baths of the Crusader Period
Readers must think we "protesteth too much" when we say we aren't interested in the Christian/Arabic era of the city's history and then publish a blizzard of posts relating to these themes.
The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, we have mined out most of the Imperial period information and secondly some of the latter period information may have relevance back to the Imperial period.
We could not help thinking this when recently revisiting the volume, East and West in the Medieval Eastern Mediterrean: Antioch from the Byzantine reconquest until the end of the Crusader principality, edited by Krijna Nelly Ciggaar, David Michael Metcalf. The wide ranging list of essays here had previously been touched upon in reference to the Al-makarim travelography of the city.
While rereading the chapter on Adaptation to Oriental life by rulers in and around Antioch by Krijna Nelly Ciggaar we found mention of bathing practices. She notes "This takes us to the baths in Antioch of which several are mentioned in various Crusader sources: the balnea Tancredi (1131, 1140), the balnea dicta Omar (1140) and the two baths of the Hospitallers. One is reported in 1140, another was bought in 1186 by Brother Renard de Margat from the Mazoir family. Other baths are likely to have existed without being mentioned in the sources, such as the baths in private palaces and mansions".
One of the reasons why Antioch was always so well supplied with bathing establishments was its ample water supply. This makes us suspect, in light of the "make do and mend" nature of the city post-528 AD, that the baths of latter periods were probably just rebuilds of the baths that had existed from the Roman times reusing the connections to the still-functioning aqueduct system. The 1930s excavations mainly threw up the expansive baths of the Island and northern part of the city, both of which had been abandoned/depopulated in the 300s and following centuries. Thus the baths being discussed most probably were located in the densely populated section of the city south of the Parmenios which remains largely unexplored.
More on the Circus
It is not often that Google Books throws up an important text of relatively recent vintage in full text mode. Thus we were very pleasantly surprised to find that John Humphrey's magisterial work, Roman circuses: arenas for chariot racing, University of California Press, 1986, for some reason or other now comes up in full text mode. We had used this as one of our sources for our previous comments on the circus.
His section (page 444-461)on Antioch's circus is extensive and well worth visiting for its rather unique maps and photos from the 1930s excavations as well as intense information on the construction materials and fate of the structure.
Byzantine Governors 976-1084
One of the least documented periods of Antioch's oft-undocumented history is the period of the Byzantine "restoration". After the city fell to the Arabs in the 7th century it was to spend 300 years under Arab domination. The Byzantines eventually managed to turn the tide and recapture the city in 969 AD as the Arabs struggled with the insurgent Turks fighting for dominance of the Islamic world. This gave the Byzantines their chance and they regained control.
Antioch was very much a fringe city during that period with virtually all the territory southwards, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa and to the East (Syria and Mesopotamia) remaining out of Byzantine control. Still Antioch merited being ranked the second or third city of the Empire (tussling with Thessalonica).
As such being governor (and holding the title of Duke or Catepan) was an honour and a position of power. This devolved quite frequently to the very well connected including close relatives and associates of the Emperor. Most of the terms were limited with only one to three years being spent in the role to hamper the ability of the position holder from building a power base in the fractious political tumult of the Empire.
In an interesting paper, La Chronologie des Gouverneurs d'Antioche sous la seconde domination Byzantine (969-1084) in the Melanges (Universite de Saint-Joseph), Beirut, Second Volume XXXVIII (1962), V. Laurent wote a major piece on the governorship during this period. We thought it useful to repeat here the Chronology of the governors that Laurent compiled from the extant sources. This includes only the years for which there is evidence of the individual governing and their title, thus there are discontinuities. We use his French version of the Greek surnames.
976 Michael Bourtzes (Duke)
976 (end) Kouleib (on behalf of Bardas Scleros - Duke)
977, 978 Oubeidallah (on behalf of Bardas Scleros then later Basil II - Duke)
985 (end) Leon Melissene (Duke)
986-987 Bardas Phocas (Duke)
987-989 Leon Phocas
990-996 Michael Bourtzes (Duke)
996-998 Damien Dalassene (Duke)
999-1006 Nicephore Ouranos (Duke/Catepan)
1011 Michael the Kitonite (Duke)
1022 onwards Theophylacte Dalassene (Duke)
1025 onwards Constantine Bourtzes (Duke)
1025 Constantine Dalassene (Catepan)
1026-1029 Michael Spondyles (Catepan)
1029-1030 Constantin Karantenos (Catepan)
1030-1032 Nicetas of Mistheia (Catepan)
1034 Nicetas (brother of Michael IV) - (Catepan)
1034-1037 Constantine the Eunuch (Duke)
1037 & 1043 (between) Leon (Catepan)
1043 (around) Stephen (Duke)
1054 Romain Scleros (Duke)
1056 Kataklon Kekaumenos (Duke)
1056-1058 Michael Ouranos (Duke)
1059 Adrian (Duke)
1063 Nicephoros Nicephoritzes (1st) (Duke)
1063 Bekhd (1st) (Duke)
1067 Nicephoros Nicephoritzes (2nd) (Duke)
1067-1068 Nicephoros Botaniates (Duke)
1068 Peter Libellisios (Duke)
1069 Bekhd (2nd) (Duke)
1069-1071/2 Khatchatour (Duke or Catepan)
1072-1074 Joseph Tarchanoites (Duke)
1074-1078 Isaac Comnena (Duke)
1078 Vasak (Duke)
1078-1084 Philarete Brachamios (Duke)
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
An actual street address! (albeit Medieval)
One of the oddities of the rise of Open Access on the internet is that one can get access to some of the best of French writings on Antioch in recent times on sites like www.persee.fr with papers written by Poccardi, Saliou and Cabouret and yet the scholars of much farther back have largely remained in a vale of obscurity induced by primitive copyright laws. If consulted these long past authors would probably be thrilled to have their views aired more widely.
One such who has become difficult to access on the internet but who was a colossus in his day was Claude Cahen. Pitifully little of his work from the 1940s to the 1970s is accessible on the internet. However, as Persee advances inexorably, some pieces are being revealed to the waiting world. One such with the less than riveting title of "Un document concernant les Melkites et les Latins d'Antioche au temps des Croisades" that appeared in: Revue des études byzantines, tome 29, 1971. pp. 285-292 and has now surfaced on Persee.
This piece contained one of those gems we seem to stumble upon in the most obscure works. In this case the document was an Arabic text detailing a transaction in which the Latin Church sold an abandoned church structure in Crusader Antioch to the Melkite church. The document had been translated to a monastery in Sicily after the fall of Antioch to the Islamic forces and remained there for 600 years.
The derelict church under discussion was Notre Dame de Gethsemeni. While we do not traffic much in the post-Imperial Antioch this piece is worthy of mention because it gives us a localisation of a structure that is more precise than anything else we have seen excepting the Antiochikos of Libanius (which was not exactly a paragon of precision either). In this case, after much preamble, the writers of the contract to pass over the Church site get around to describing where the site was located:
"Ce lieu est limité des quatre côtés comme suit: à l'est par la rue qui l'avoisine; à l'ouest, la place et la ruine sous... le couvent ; au sud les maisons et le jardin de Yânî al-Kâmîdârî et le jardin de Yârî fils de Mardalâ ; au nord enfin la rue aussi et la terre de Sire (?)... aujourd'hui aux mains de son héritier le nomîkoûs Românoûs ; c'est de ce dernier côté qu'ouvre la porte pour entrer et sortir sur la rue bordiere en ce lieu".
While not exactly "X marks the spot" this is the closest thing that exists to a street direction that we have ever encountered for pre-1300 AD Antioch.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
More on the Basilicas
We came across this small comment in an article "Notes on Christian Mosaics: Lost Mosaics of the East" by A.L.Frothingham Jnr in the American Journal of Archaeology, Volume 4, 1888.
"BASILICAS OF ANTIOCH - Later in the century we hear of a group of four basilicas erected in the forum of Antioch by the Emperor Valens 364-79 and which the historian Malalas (lib xiv) tells us were decorated with mosaics and many colored marbles The same writer says that the prefect Anatolios in building the basilica in Antioch called by his name and surnamed "the luminous" (διαφωτοζ) placed in it the inscription in mosaic (Εργον Θεοδοζιον βαζιλεοζ) and above it the figures of the two emperors Theodosios II and Valentinian III"
On Caravans and Camels
Antioch was a great commercial centre in its heyday and a far cry from the soap and leather-focused provincial backwater that Antakya had become. To get an idea of the intense interchange of goods between Antioch and the rest of the Roman Empire and beyond, the best source is Commercial Syria under the Roman Empire by Louis C. West in Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association (Vol. 55 1924, pp. 159-189) Despite the work being amazingly detailed and encompassing, the one thing that author does not discuss is how the goods moved around.
The map below shows the chief trade routes of the Syrian region of the Roman Empire.
Antioch in its heyday was one of the chief entrepots of the Roman Empire as far as the China trade was concerned. Friedrich Hirth is his book, China and the Roman Orient, researches into their ancient and medieval relations. as represented in old Chinese records. Leipzig, 1885 sheds a totally new light on the Antioch story because he finds references to Chinese visitors who made it to the Roman Orient and carried back their views of what they had seen and put them to paper. An important component of this trade was silk, which arrived in Antioch and was then sent down to the Lebanese coast which was the main production centre for Tyrian Purple dyes for silk.