Antioch on the Orontes
Antioch on the Orontes
At one time Antioch on the Orontes was one of the three largest and most important cities of the Greco-Roman world, along with Rome and Alexandria (Egypt). Although Antioch faded from prominence centuries ago, the present city, with its population of approximately 150,000, is still a rewarding place to visit. The museum of the city, the Hatay Archaeological Museum, contains one of the best collections of ancient mosaics of any museum in the world. In ancient times Antioch on the Orontes was a part of Syria and thus is sometimes referred to, especially in biblical studies, as Antioch of Syria. (Fifteen other cities in the ancient world were named Antioch as well.) Today the city, now known as Antakya, is just north of the Syrian border, in the Hatay province of southern Turkey. The Orontes River (today called the Asi) connected the city to the Mediterranean Sea. Seleucus I Nicator, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, founded the city. At first Antigonus, another general, controlled Syria, but he was defeated in 301 by Seleucus and other leaders. Seleucus then gained control of Syria and established his own cities, including Antioch and its port city of Seleucia Pieria. Seleucus named the city, which soon became the capital of the Seleucid kingdom, after his father, Antiochus. Subsequent Seleucid rulers, including Antiochus I Soter (r. 281–261 B.C.E.), Seleucus II Callinicus (r. 246–225 B.C.E.), and Antiochus IV Epiphanes (r. 175– 164 B.C.E.), enlarged and enhanced the city. Tigranes of Armenia captured the city in 83 B.C.E., but in 66 B.C.E. he was defeated by the Roman general Pompey, who made Antioch the capital of the Roman province of Syria. Both Julius Caesar and Augustus visited the city, and both erected various buildings there. (The wedding of Mark Antony to Cleopatra likely took place in Antioch. Ancient sources indicate it occurred in Syria but do not specify the city. As the capital, Antioch was the likely location.) During the Roman period, Antioch was a large, cosmopolitan city, the third largest city in the Roman world after Rome and Alexandria.
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