Friday, December 7, 2012

Antakya (Hatay)

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. 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.