Antioch on the Orontes opening her threshold either to Anatolia or Mesopotamia is considered as a city of a meeting place of many different civilizations. Being located at the easternmost end of Mediterranean coast and on the main trade route between Asia and Egypt, she eventually became the place of a great library and a noted school of philosophy in Roman period. She was the Queen of the East and played a key role in the development of myths, faiths and philosophies. In order to listen to the story of Daphne and Apollo, one goes to the suburb of Daphne (today’s Harbiye) which is five miles away from Antioch.
Daphne fleeing from Apollo
There are beautiful waterfalls to explore which are believed to be formed from the tears of Daphne. What a beautiful story to tell! Ancient Romans were telling these stories all the time and the artists adorned the villas with beautiful mosaics. One of well known theme was Daphne and Apollo.
This place also hosted the Antioch games (the Olympic Games).Later, in the first century AD, Antioch became a shelter for the followers of the Jesus Christ. St. Peter took refuge from the Herodian persecution and lived in Antioch till he left for Rome. His cave was later changed into a church by the Latin Crusaders.
St. Peter’s cave-church, Antioch
Orthodox Church located in the old city of Antioch
Long before, Antioch was part of the Hittite Empire (1900-750 BC). Besides the beautiful Antioch mosaics, remarkable Hittite remains were uncovered in the excavations and they can be visited at the archaeological museum of Antioch. In the entrance of the Hittite exhibition, you are immediately struck by the wide open almond shaped eyes (inlaid eyes made of white and black stone) of a colossal statue looking at you. This is the Hittite king Şuppiluliuma who is holding a single shaft of wheat in one hand and a spear on the other. Spear might represent his military power and defense against the enemies and the bunch of wheat being a symbol of fertility might signify the importance of agriculture to prevent his people from starvation.
Hittite King Şuppiluliuma, Archaeological museum of Antioch
After the Hittites, the most well known dynasty that ruled Antioch was the Seleucid empire. Their capital city called Seleucia Pieria was located 18 miles far away from Antioch. One can still explore the remains of the city. Among them, Vespasianus Titus Tunnel ( 1st century AD) is a must-see place located within the boundaries of the ancient city. The tunnel was built digging the mountain to divert the floodwaters threatening the harbour.
Vespasianus Titus tunnel
Outside the church of St. Peter