among the most eventful, brilliant
and tragic in a region where such histories
Seleucus I Nicator (321-281),
successor to the empire of Alexander
laid out a plan for this city about 300 BC. It became
the capital of the Seleucid Empire stretching from
Macedonia nearly to India.
The empire facilitated trade, and
Antioch became an important point on
the Silk Road, with
caravans of luxury goods bringing fabulous
wealth and a scandalously sybaritic
lifestyle. Remnants of this can be
seen at Daphne (Harbiye). More...
Under the Romans, Antioch-ad-Orontes was
the capital of the province of Syria with
a population around 500,000. It became
one of the empire's greatest cities—only
Rome and Alexandria were greater—with
a considerable Jewish community.
Saint Peter came
here to preach, and Saints
Paul and Barnabas used it
as their base for missionary work.
Converts from the local Jewish community
were many, but it was here that the
saints decided to expand their
mission to Gentiles as well,
calling their followers Christians.
||Trove of gold
Antioch flourished under the Byzantines
until in the 500s a violent earthquake ruined
it, killing 200,000 people. Later overrun
by the Persians, then
the Arabs (700s) and
Turks (1084), it regained
importance under the Crusaders (1098)
as the capital of their Principality
of Antioch, but conquest by
the Mamelukes in 1268
saw its utter destruction.
What the Ottomans claimed
in 1516 was only a shadow of its former
self, and it later declined to just
After the collapse of the Ottoman
Empire following World War I,
Ottoman Syria, including Antakya,
was placed under French Mandate government.
By a plebiscite in
1939 it was returned to Turkey along
with the entire Sanjak of
Alexandretta, the province
now called Hatay.
—by Tom Brosnahan