Seleucos Nikator

Seleucos Nikator, who was a general in the army of Alexander the Great, after the death of the latter, was given the control of Phrygia, Commagene and Cilicia where, in 300 BC, he buit a city at a strategic point in the fertile plain of the Orontes River (Asi Nehri). The city probably took the name of Antiochus I who was the son of Seleucos. In the 2C BC, the city was both a business and a leisure center where people lived in exuberant luxury. In 64 BC, the region was taken by Pompey and became a Roman province. Antioch remained an extremely important place. It played a great role in the spread of Christianity, because lots of Jews expelled from Palestine came to catechize the Jewish community of the city (who had come and settled at the time of the Seleucid prosperity, as well as the pagan population. Barnabas, later assisted by Paul, became the leader of this community whose members were called "christians" here for the first time. Peter also spent a few years in the city. Antioch witnessed some periods of persecution like the one that occured under the rule of Docletian.

Emperor Constantine

Under emperor Constantine, as christianity was now the official State religion, the Bishop of Antioch was at the time considered one of the spiritual leaders of the Church of Orient. In 526 and 528 an earthquake considerably damaged the city. As the Byzantines were unable to keep the city under their control, Antioch came in turn under the domination of the Arabs, the Armenians, the Seljuks, the Crusaders, the Mamelukes, then the Ottomans in 1516. After the First World War, Antioch was placed by the League of Nations as a mandated territory under French supervision. In 1920, it was united to the autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta before being incorporated to the Republic of Turkey in 1939.

The Mosaic Museum

Today Antioch is a quiet and picturesque city that holds one of the richest collections of Roman and Byzantine Mosaics in the world.The Mosaic Museum exhibits beautiful Roman and Byzantine mosaics from the 1st to the 5C AD. The Habib Neccar Mosque was a Frankish church transformed into a mosque. The Roman Bridge Haghios Petros Paulos is a charming 19C Syrian-Orthodox sanctuary. The Citadel from where there is a beautiful panorama over the city and the valley.


The Grotto of St Peter

The Grotto of St Peter, where the Apostle Peter is believed to have preached and where the first Christians met in secret, is considered to be one of the very first places of Christian cult. This unique place, which dates back to the very beginning of the spread of the New Faith, is holly for the Christian world. The Vatican designated the site as a place of pilgrimage and also as the first cathedral in the world. Every year on June 29, a special mass is celebrated here with the participation of clergymen and the faithful from all over the world.


The surroundings of Antakya

The Harbiye Waterfalls are located in the south of Antakya on the site of ancient Daphne among cypress and laurel trees. The place was known as the "delights of Antioch" and there was a temple and a holly wood dedicated to Apollo. It was forbidden to cut the trees because according to mythology, the wood nymph Daphne had been transformed into a laurel-tree by her father, as she was trying to escape from the grasp of Apollo who had fallen in love with her.

The Monastery of St Simeon Stylite the Younger, where in the 6C AD the hermit spent about 25 years of his life on the top of a column, is situated on mount Samandag. Samandag is the small seaside resort of Antakya. Very near is the archaeological site of Seleucia of Pieria (Cevlik), which was the ancient port of Antioch from which Peter and Paul set sail for Cyprus on their 1st missionary journey. The ancient city was built by Seleucos Nikator in 310 BC and was located at the mouth of the Orontes River (Asi Nehri) which, at the time, was navigable.The visit of the ruins is a good opportunity to a bucolic stroll along the stream, and to enjoy a nice panorama over the plain and the sea.

The ruins of Seleucia of Pieria include:

  • The Walls
  • The Monumental Gate
  • The Temple of Zeus
  • The remarkable Water Tunnel which now is dry and where it is possible to take a walk. It was meant to divert the waters of the stream in case of flood. An inscription attributes the construction to Vespasian and to Titus.
  • The rock-cut Necropolis

Two roads lead from Antakya to the Syrian border : one goes east through Cilvegozu (Reyhanlı) to Aleppo, the other one goes south through Yayladagı to Lattaquié and Lebanon