ANTAKYA, populous city of ancient Syria, since 1939 the chief town of
the il (province) of Hatay in southern Turkey, near the mouth of the Orontes
River (Turkish Asi Nehri). It was founded in 300 BC by the Greeks and
was the centre of the Seleucid Kingdom until 64 BC, when the Romans made
it the capital of their province of Syria. The city was one of the earliest
centres of Christianity, serving as the headquarters of
the missionary St. Paul in about AD 47-55. Antioch prospered in the 4th
and 5th centuries from nearby olive plantations and in the 6th century
developed a silk industry. That century also brought a series of earthquakes
and fires. Antioch was captured temporarily by the Persians in 540 and
611 and was absorbed into the Arab caliphate in 637. Under the Arabs,
it shrank to the status of a small town. The Byzantines recaptured the
city in 969, and it served as a frontier fortification until taken by
the Seljuq Turks in 1084. In 1098 it was captured by the crusaders and
was taken by the Mamluks in 1268. It finally fell to the Ottoman Turks
in 1517 and remained under Ottoman control until World War I. The activities
of the modern town are based mainly on the agricultural produce of the
adjacent area, including the intensively cultivated Amik plain. The chief
crops are wheat, cotton, grapes, rice, olives, vegetables, and fruit.
The town has soap and olive-oil factories and cotton ginning and other
processing industries. Silk, shoes, and knives are also manufactured.
Important archaeological discoveries have been made there.
Antakya, the biblical Antioch, is
situated on the Asi River (Orontes) in a fertile surrounding. Antakya was once the capital
of the Seleucid kings and the life they lead in Antakya was renowned for its luxury and
pleasures during Roman times. The city was the center of Christianity and had been visited
by St.Barnabas, St.Paul and St.Peter. The city was also famous as a center of artistic,
scientific and commercial activities.
The Hatay Museum deserves a
particular interest, in that it houses one of the richest collections of Roman mosaics in
A little outside the city is the holy site where St.Peter's
Grotto is situated. The cave church is the place where St.Peter preached and
founded the Christian community. It was declared as a holy place
by Vatican in 1983. The Iron Gate of Antioch is to
the south of the grotto among the ruins of the city. One can sense these far off times
since little has changed since that time. The Castle of Antioch
will give you a panoramic view over.
Antakya is steeped in history and mythology at every step
Harbiye, 8 km. after Antioch, is the place where Apollo fell in love with Daphne and tried
to have her, but Mother Earth, in order to save Daphne, turned her into an elegant tree.
The site is full of these trees accompanying the orchid gardens, and waterfalls where you
may have a pleasant meal. St. Pierre Church, Haron
Carving are the main historical remains.
For both beach and sightseeing opportunities Samandag
is perfect. Seleuica Pieria, 6 km south of Samandag, is the
ancient city which was a busy port at the time when Paul and Barnabas made their first
missionary journey from here. The Titus-Vespasianus Tunnel which was built to divert the
rain waters, even by today's standard, is a superb example of engineering. Near by there
are 12 rock tombs to be visited.
A drive to Kapisuyu village will
provide you with a fascinating scene from the Zeus Temple. There
is an excellent view from there of the harbor, sandy beach and fertile plain lying below.
There are many picnic and camping areas. Hunting, fishing
and thermal springs' facilities are the other attractions.
Antioch was the center of Christendom outside Palestine.
The apostles preached there before starting out on their missionary journeys, and in
Antioch the term Christian, designating converts of St. Paul, first came into use. In AD
260 Antioch fell to the Persians. Over the next 13 centuries it was conquered by Arabs,
Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, Frankish Crusaders, and Egyptians. The devastations of war and
persistent earthquakes, including one in 526 that reportedly killed 250,000 people,
reduced the once great city to relative unimportance.
Antioch, known as Antakya in modern history, was captured
by the Turks in 1516, and it remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until shortly after
World War I, when it was conveyed to Syria under a French mandate. The province of Hatay,
of which Antakya is the capital, became autonomous in 1938, and the following year it was
ceded to Turkey.
Although little of the ancient city remains, portions of
the high walls that girded the city and of catacombs and aqueducts still stand. An
archaeological museum houses a superbly preserved collection of mosaics dating from the 2d
and 3d centuries. Nearby is Saint Peter's Grotto, in which the apostle preached; a church
was built in the cave by Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries.